Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2014 in Music, Part 2

It's funny how much I agonize over a list of top albums.  Ask me in a month and the sequence would be different -- I'd be wondering what I thought was so wonderful about a couple of them and why I put three of them as low as I did.  Meanwhile, a couple of albums I don't know about at the moment would be clawing their way onto the list (despite my having reading gobs of end-of-year lists in a futile attempt to head off such an eventuality).  Ask me in two years and it would go well beyond such minor tweaks -- I'll be bored with an entire sub-genre represented here and one I reject right now would demand its presence in my 2016 look back at the albums of 2014.  And so, even though I know that this list is just a snapsnot of my brain, one that's unable to stand the test of time, I nevertheless spent weeks weighing every ranking, every inclusion and rejection, as though there's a right answer.

With that caveat, here are my Top 25 Albums of 2014:

1. Strand of Oaks -- HEAL
2. St. Vincent -- St. Vincent
3. Ben Howard -- I Forget Where We Were
4. The War on Drugs -- Lost in the Dream
5. Conor Oberst -- Upside Down Mountain
6. *Woods -- With Light and with Love
7. *St. Paul & The Broken Bones -- Half the City
8. Lydia Loveless -- Somewhere Else
9. Hozier -- Hozier
10. Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s -- Slingshot to Heaven
11. Hurray for the Riff Raff -- Small Town Heroes
12. *Drive-By Truckers -- English Oceans
13. Beck -- Morning Phase
14. Field Report -- Marigolden
15. First Aid Kit -- Stay Gold
16. Hard Working Americans -- Hard Working Americans
17. Jeremy Messersmith -- Heart Murmurs
18. Real Estate -- Atlas
19. Ty Segall -- Manipulator
20. The Donkeys -- Ride the Black Wave
21. La Sera -- Hour of the Dawn
22. Sean Rowe -- Madman
23. Ex Hex -- Rips
24. Jenny Lewis -- The Voyager
25. The Bones of J.R. Jones -- Dark Was the Yearling

* -- Artist I saw in 2014

I finish my year-end summary by sharing a playlist with over 11 hours of my favorite songs of the year (as I self-imposed a limit of one song per album, the list leaves out plenty of tunes I loved).  You'd think that a 172-song playlist would pretty much cover things, but I wish it were a bit longer, as Spotify doesn't have the rights to a couple of tunes that otherwise would have been included -- "It's Over" by Ty Segall and "Compassion" by Lucinda Williams.

May 2015 be as wonderful musically as 2014 has been!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 in Music, Part 1

2014 offered up a handful of fantastic albums, together with an incredible number of very good ones.  It was far easier for me to identify my 10 favorites than to figure out the next 15 -- over 40 different albums moved in and out of my Top 25.  Albums that I thought were Top 10 mid-year slipped out of the Top 25 by year's end.  Albums with a couple of songs I absolutely love dropped considerably if the rest of the album didn't measure up.  With so many worthy albums, I decided to lengthen my list beyond the length I normally do.  In fact I'm doubling it.  But for those albums outside the Top 25, I'm sticking with an alphabetical list -- trying to rank within this group proved far too difficult.  Here are the albums ranked between 26 and 50:

Ryan Adams -- Ryan Adams
Damon Albarn -- Everyday Robots
*The Apache Relay -- Apache Relay
The Autumn Defense -- Fifth
*Andrew Bird -- Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of...
Black Lips -- Underneath the Rainbow
*Benjamin Booker -- Benjamin Booker
Centro-matic -- Take Pride in Your Long Odds
EELS -- The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
Fear of Men -- Loom
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger -- Midnight Sun
Greyhounds -- Accumulator
*Hiss Golden Messenger -- Lateness of Dancers
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings -- Give The People What They Want
King Tuff -- Black Moon Spell
Mimicking Birds -- Eons
The New Basement Tapes -- Lost on the River
Pixies -- Indie Cindy
Damien Rice -- My Favorite Faded Fantasy
*Roadkill Ghost Choir -- In Tongues
Angus & Julia Stone -- Angus & Julia Stone
Sun Kil Moon -- Benji
*Tweedy -- Sukierae
Sharon Van Etten -- Are We There

* -- Artist I saw in 2014

I also want to say how fortunate I was to make it to so many shows.  In 2014, I went to one festival on my own, another two with my family, and 15 other concerts.  My favorite sets were offered up by Charles Bradley, Courtney Barnett, Frank Turner, Drive-by Truckers, and Michael Franti.

So between the albums and the shows, this has been a heck of a year for me musically.  

Part 2 of my year-end summary is coming soon...