At the end of each year all the major music websites release their picks for the best albums of 2014. So why should we be any different?
I always find it interesting to hear what people think. There’s no right answer, although you’ll notice some overlap on many lists. With our writers who have such a diverse taste in music, I find it even more interesting. I asked our writers to give a top 5 of 2014. I told them they didn’t have to be ranked, and they could include a non “indie” honourable mention. Some of them chose to include some reasons, others just gave a list. Here’s what they came up with.
- White Fence, For The Recently Found Innocent (Drag City)
White Fence aka Tim Presley, perfectly marries the beauty of the sounds of 1960s sunshine pop and psychedelia . Without any of that Hippie-Dippy peace and love bullshit. “Halls…” was a complete restart. Such an assertive and bombastic sound, light-years ahead of the super lo fi “Palm…” Perfect for a year like 2014.
- Fat White Family, Champaign Holocaust (Fat Possum)
There comes a time when you find a band with a sound that’s at the same time so alien, yet so endearing. You get that “Holy Shit… what is this?” and the “Where have you been?” For me, that’s this record by Fat White Family. Or “The British Black Lips” sonically currently Black Lips, lyrically early. From a incredibly diverse pastiche of influences, they manage to craft a sound that is at the same time, dark, murky and brooding. To one that is punchy, lively and aggressive. All the while maintaining the same, lurid, perverse and filthy subject matter lyrically. It’s wonderful gloriously dirty and a debut to boot!
- Ty Segall, Manipulator (Drag City)
Manipulator”, Ty Segall is channeling 1970s Tony Iommi through his guitar. His wizardry is bringing rock back to life—there’s no way you can listen to this album and claim rock is dead. Gene Simmons might still think so, but he also thinks music can only be rock if it makes you a billionaire with enough money to hire a personal ass-wiper.
- Cousins, Halls of Wickwire (Hand Drawn Dracula)
I got into Cousins after reading a review of their album “The Palm at the End of The Mind” in NOW magazine’s NXNE issue.The assertive and bombastic sound of “Halls of Wickwire” put it light-years ahead of the super lo-fi “Palm At The End The Mind”. With this album, Canadian garage rock might finally be getting as good on the East Coast as it is on the West Coast.
- The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers (Matador)
This super-pretty Canadian power-pop is like Sloan’s “Twice Removed”, but three times bigger in sound and scope. It may be short, but it was just long enough to get me hooked.
Honourable Mention (Re: Major Label):
The Orwells, Disgraceland (Canvasback/Atlantic)
Dumb name aside (and the band would be the first to acknowledge it), The Orwells are bringing ruckus back to rock and roll. Their latest “Gimme Danger”-esque effort is the perfect soundtrack for boozing, carousing, and rocking out. The band were even on Letterman, where frontman Mario Cuomo fell down on stage and proceeded to flop around and hump the air for a bit in front of all of America! Staged or not, some young-uns in saw it in Peoria or Missoula, and that shit blew their fucking minds.
(In no particular order)
- The Wooden Sky – Let’s Be Ready
- Wounds – Die Young
- Kevin Drew – Darlings
- The Jezabels – The Brink
- Noah Gundersen – Ledges
- Honourable Mention:
St. Vincent – St. Vincent (Released on a major label)
I was going to start writing a list of my top 5 favorite albums of this year but instead I decided to go on a rant. Since I’ve been a Hip Hop fan, every year I look forward to listening to all the different new albums but this year I was disappointed. In the words of A$ap Yams “Let’s be honest. This is the worst year of rap music ever. It’s just been allegiances and people hyping shit up. Man, that shit trash”(A$AP Yams in an interview with XXL Magazine). I couldn’t say it better myself, this year has been nothing but club singles. Just compare last year to this year it’s not even a compition last year takes the cake and the trophy. Look at this year’s grammy nominations for best rap album. Iggy Azelea: New Classic, Childish Gambino: Because The Internet, Common: Nobody’s Smiling, Eminem: Marshall Mathers LP2, Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron and Wiz Khalifa: Blacc Hollywood. After looking at the nominations try to come up with 6 more albums from this year that competes with those albums. I know you can’t I’ve been trying to do the same thing. And then you look at the nominations from last year: Nothing Was The Same, Magana Carta Holy Grail, Good Kid M.A.A.D City, The Heist and Yeezus. Now try to come up with 5 albums from that year that could have also been nominated, easy. Long Live Asap, Born Sinner, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Wolf, Hall Of Fame and Indicud. Should I keep going? It’s not like the music that came out this year was absolutely horrible but there was just so much fluff and no substance. Before you give up on the whole hip hop scene just yet, there is still hope for the end of this year. J Cole dropped an album “2014 Forest Hills Drive” on December 9th, A$AP Ferg released a mixtape and Big Sean is supposed to release an album at the end of this year or the start of 2015.
Okay now that’s over here’s 5 of my favorite releases this year in no particular order.
- Hoodie Allen: People Keep Talking
- Mac Miller: Faces
- Pell: Floating While Dreaming
- OCD: Living Out Loud
- Honourable Mention:
G-Eazy: These Things Happen (not independent)
- Lagwagon – Hang
I feel like I’m always promoting Fat Wreck Artists, but it’s just such solid music. Lagwagon came back with their first album in 9 years and it was everything you could have hoped for. By far my favorite album of the year. Check out “In Your Wake”
- Atmosphere – Southsiders
The album I keep going back too. So chill, so different. It seems like whatever’s big in the hip hop scene, Atmosphere is doing the opposite. It’s refreshing.
- Masked Intruder – M.I.
Masked Intruder has owned Pop Punk. The Genre’s over now. Nothing else can be accomplished that this album didn’t already do. Love it and move on.
- Say Anything – Hebrews
“Hey lets make a punk/alternative album…but fuck guitars” makes this one of the coolest things I’ve ever listened to.
- Angels And Airwaves – The Dream Walker
I know I’ve only had limited time to to listen to this one because it’s so new, but come on. It’s great and I feel like AVA gets overlooked sometimes because it’s Tom Delonge. With an award winning animated film, a comic and other things involved in this multimedia project, it’s amazing and the ambition behind it is admirable. Definitely worth a listen.
- tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
- Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
- Snarky Puppy – We Like it Here
- Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight
- Tweedy – Sukierae
(In no particular order)
- Streets of Laredo – Volume I & II
We often get emails about bands we’ve never heard of. When I heard the song “Slow Train” and watched the video, I knew I had to hear the album, and I wasn’t disappointed. This band has a bright future and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings for them.
- Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield
I always enjoyed Tokyo Police Club, but I was never a die hard fan. In fact the only album I own of theirs is their most recent album, Forcefield. But since the album came out last March, I must have listened to it well over 50 times. Maybe even 100. I streamed it online before its release, I bought it the day it came out, and I own it on vinyl and CD. It had been a while since they had released new music, and I sincerely hope that we don’t have to wait as long for more.
- Union Duke – Cash & Carry
I may be a little bias here, considering the fact that I know Union Duke personally. But it’s no surprise they were the headlining act at The Indie Blender’s 1 Year Anniversary Bash.
- Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
I jumped on the Against Me! train just after they released their last album, White Crosses, when Laura Jane Grace was still referring to herself as Tom Gabel. I fell in love. I got a hold of everything they had ever recorded and listened to it all the time. I was so proud of Laura for coming out the way she did, as if she was a personal friend. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is anthemic, in an Against Me! sort of way. Last year they had to deal with the departure of their drummer and their long-time bass player, Andrew Seward, but in 2014 they bounced back in an incredible way. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2015.
- PUP – PUP
There’s a little bit of a grey area here since the band technically released their debut album on Royal Mountain Records in October 2013. BUT they released it in physical form, after signing to SideOneDummy Records, in April 2014 – so we’ll go with this as a 2014 release. This band’s live energy, heavy touring and amazingly strong debut made for an incredible 2014. Their future in 2015 looks incredibly bright.
Honourable Mention (Major Label):
Arkells – High Noon
For those that know me, you know that any year in which Arkells released an album will undoubtedly also include that album on my best of the year list. This year is no different. One of the best bands in Canadian music.
And there you have it. Let us know in the comments section what your favourite independent albums were this year. Is there a band we should be keeping an eye on in the new year? Let us know that too! In the mean time, keep your eyes peeled for our list of favourite shows of 2014. Happy Holidays!
The Indie Blender