Singles by Future Islands
Thoughts: An album I was initially underwhelmed by, thinking they were a one-hit wonder, but which on repeat listens has crept under my skin. For me, unobtrusive and un-demanding synth pop music you could play in the background while you’re busy with other things. Seasons Waiting On You is among the best songs of 2014.
Favorite tracks: Seasons (Waiting On You), A Dream Of You And Me, Lighthouse, Doves, A Song For Our Grandfathers
Love Letters by Metronomy
Thoughts: I didn’t think it was that good on first listen. Really improves on repeat spins. I liked the variation in the instrumentation from track-to-track. Especially the first half of the album impressed me.
Favorite tracks: The Upsetter, I’m Aquarius, Love Letters, Monstrous
I didn’t love every song, but definitely an interesting album, with lots of variation. As Stereogum wrote, a reminder that experimental music and pop music don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
On her album, from NME, 3 Jan 2015: “I wanted to make a record that had enough groove so you could dance to it, but also enough heart so that you could have it with you in your vulnerable times (…) I was reading Miles Davis’ autobiography and he says the hardest thing for any musician is to sound like yourself. So I thought, yeah, I sound like myself on this record, I’ll call it St. Vincent.”
She got her name from the Nick Cave lyric:“And Dylan Thomas died drunk in St Vincent’s hospital”
Morning Phase by Beck
Thoughts: I’m sure there will be those who label this album monotonous, and those who label it tranquil. I would call it music you need to be in the right mood for. It really is a nice way to start your day, having it on the cd player in your car. A record for people who enjoy folk music. All 13 songs are set around dawn, and probably designed to wake up to.
A beautiful album, as if Beck has travelled back in time. NME calls it “A love letter to the late 60s and early 70s, as typified by The Byrds, Mamas and Papas, and Neil Young”. “Turnaway” has been compared to Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence, “Heart is a Drum” to Nick Drake.
Mojo describes the album as: “a search for stillness, peace of mind.” “Introspective, wonderfully alive to the way the days tender hours can flip over perceptions”.
Favorite tracks: Morning, Waking Light, Blue Moon, Unforgiven
Black Messiah by D’Angelo And The Vanguard
Thoughts: Released in mid December when many music magazines had already written their year-end lists. Really good from start to finish, and has gotten a lot of praise from critics. He’s not merely a Prince impersonator, though the influence is obvious.
Favorite tracks: Sugah Daddy, The Door, Another Life, Prayer, Really Love, Ain’t That Easy, Back to the Future (part 1), Betray My Heart
Lazaretto by Jack White
Thoughts: Perhaps I’m more excited and surprised about the album than his fans seem to be, because I’m mostly unfamiliar with his White Stripes output. Lazaretto was partly inspired by a collection of short stories, poems, and plays White wrote when he was 19 years old and rediscovered years later in his attic.
Favorite tracks: High Ball Stepper, Would You Fight For My Love?, Lazaretto, Alone in My Home
Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
Thoughts: Her voice is heavenly. When people look back at the 2010s, I think Lana Del Rey will be remembered. I just can’t connect emotionally in the same with many of today’s female pop artists such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Adele, Rihanna, Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys. I’m slowly warming to Lorde and Ellie Goulding. Lana Del Rey is my favorite to listen to of these female singers.
Took a few spins to get into her latest. Not as instantly catchy as her previous album Born to Die, but it gets better on each listen.
I enjoyed about 2/3 of Ultraviolence. “Old Money” sounds like a sequel to “Young and Beautiful”(a song from Great Gatsby soundtrack which I’m surprising she didn’t include here)
Tough to know which are real or made up situations on the album, I don’t think it matters, it’s just art/music.
On tracks like “Money Power Glory” and “Fucked My Way Up to the Top” I didn’t care for the seemingly disreputable messages she is communicating, even if the music sounds alright. Some would say Lana Del Rey isn’t condoning a situation, but simply describing one. “I was in more of a sardonic mood,” she says of writing “Money Power Glory”. “Like, if all that I was actually going to be allowed to have by the media was money, loads of money, then fuck it …What I actually wanted was something quiet and simple: a writer’s community and respect.” (quote from The Guardian)
I feel the lyrics are the weakest element of her music. That said, I think she has a talent for creating pop hooks, and the album has many highlights.
Favorite tracks: Brooklyn Baby, West Coast, Shades of Cool, Pretty When I Cry, Cruel World, Old Money, The Other Woman
Benji by Sun Kil Moon
Thoughts: Who says albums have to be listened to over and over? Sometimes an album arrives that you listen to once, just like a movie or a book, and that experience stays with you for life.
While it’s quite a morbid affair, about death and sadness, it is interesting how the singer created a family history, by having songs about his relationships to his mother, father, grandma, uncle, aunt, second cousin, neighbors. He documents girlfriends and pop culture he remembers from his youth, and life on the road as a musician. You really do feel you get to know the guy, because he’s so candid, and there’s no apparent filter in his musings. Sort of like reading his diary entries.
For what it lacks in variation in terms of instrumentation, it makes up for with relatable, vulnerable and heartfelt writing. Boy was it powerful and moving. Not something I’d listen to often though.
The title is a reference to the movie Benji (1974), which he explains in lyrics he saw in theatres.
Favorite tracks: Ben’s My Friend, I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love, Pray for Newtown, I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same, Clarissa, Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes
Lost In The Dream by War on Drugs
Thoughts: Probably the band’s finest collection of songs. Has been described by a critic as a springtime record-in how full of life it is.
The album’s title refers to a broken America, but it could just as easily describe the immersive qualities of the hazy, dreamlike music, which you can get lost in.
Favorite tracks: Under The Pressure, Red Eyes, Disappearing, Eyes To The Wind, An Ocean In Between The Waves, The Haunting Idle, Burning
Tough Love by Jessie Ware (Cruel) (Tough Love) (You and I Forever) (Say You Love Me) (Pieces)
Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen
Sun Structures by Temples
Turn Blue by The Black Keys
Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre
Luminous by The Horrors
G I R L by Pharrell Williams
Heal by Strand of Oaks
In Conflict by Owen Pallett
No One Is Lost by Stars
Innerworld by Electric Youth
Too True by Dum Dum Girls
Everybody Down by Kate Tempest
The Voyager by Jenny Lewis
Out Among The Stars by Johnny Cash
Dead by Young Fathers
Hallways by Homeboy Sandman
Classic by Joan As Police Woman
World Peace Is None Of Your Business by Morrissey
After the Disco by Broken Bells
I Never Learn by Lykke Li
Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini
To Be Kind by Swans
Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst
Blank Project by Neneh Cherry
Do It Again (EP) by Röyksopp and Robyn
Which are your favorite albums from 2014? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome. In case you missed it, I already shared my top 10 soundtracks of 2014