In last year’s music post I said I hoped to be paying more attention to my list then, since I kind of screwed up on the 2012 list. I think I did slightly better last year, but it’s hard to say since 2014 brought so much new music that I barely had time to keep up with it all.
My 2014 playlist in Spotify contains some 45 records, and I am sure I missed quite a few. I even deleted the ones I felt only slightly disappointed with (looking at you, De Kift, Angus and Julia Stone, and others!). There are records in there that I don’t listen to since they don’t add anything to my existing collection/playlist/experiences (the West of Memphis soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and the new Leonard Cohen record come to mind).
When I sat down to select the top ten records of the year it turned out to be slightly harder than I expected. Not so much to sift through the records, but to limit them to ten. The top 4 or 5 or so is easy to select but slightly harder to order. Then come some 15 records that could all fill out the top 10. Tough choices!
The general feel of the year is that I became a redneck. Or more precisely, I listened to more country music than I’ve ever done before. My excuse would be to state that the kind of country music I like is a little more modern and slightly less backward than you’d expect, but who am I kidding.
Still, my favorite albums consist of more than just redneck guitar picking with some pretty vile rock music, some lovely songstresses, and all kinds of things from all over the indie spectrum. While indie is a bit of a screwed up name, with almost all undefinable crap gathered in it and it varying from country to techno, more or less. Still somewhere in the middle sits a lot of the tunes I like.
#10 Marissa Nadler – July
Marissa Nadler is a singer songwriter that I’ve been listening to for years, but generally her earlier records (from before my top lists) are higher on my ranking. Until this one. Finally she’s made it into my top ten list. Not such an accomplishment for her (as in, I don’t think she cares about my list), but I’m very happy with it.
#9 Gem Club – In Roses
This is a bit of a weird one. I find Gem Club’s record very ambient and soothing, which sometimes helps quiet things down in my head when things go to crap at work. This just trickles forward with songs becoming one big stretch of record for some 45 minutes. Lovely. Well made.
#8 Swans – To Be Kind
If the Gem Club record is ambient, this one is more like a two hour punch in the face. This one’s loud, but also kind of organic. Songs vary from 5 to 32 minutes in length and most lyrics are hard to follow. I just love how Michael Gira does that with Swans. It’s actually fairly dark and also works well at work, but just to get slightly more on edge!
#7 Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Maybe the most indie record of this list, together with the #1 spot. Angel Olsen has a voice that might take some getting used to, and the record can hardly be called consistent, but it sure is fun with every song touching a different kind of indie music. Some slow and singer-songwriter-esque, others more towards punk. Well done!
#6 St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Half The City
This was my second biggest surprise of the year. St. Paul and the Broken Bones doesn’t look like a band I would enjoy and I’m not even sure how I found out about them. But, as it turns out, preachers’ sons / bank tellers can become very good soul singers. It’s even more surprising when it turns out to be a 20-something white kid. A great record with a certain sixties soul feel to it.
#5 Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
My redneck record of the year. I didn’t expect to like this one but for some reason I tried multiple times. Mostly because I kept seeing raving reviews about it on different sites. After about three or four tries I got it and haven’t looked back since. The songwriting is pretty good and Simpson’s voice fits the bill. It’s also quite catchy.
This is the division point. The above records were picked from a list with the ‘what else came out this year that I really, really liked’ category. The following four were the ones that I clearly wanted to be the top four.
#4 Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers
A good old ‘Americana’ record. This sits in the dead center of indie, country and singer-songwriter. It’s not loud, it’s actually fairly gentle and even though it took me a while to get the hang of this too, I keep putting this on more and more still. Highly recommended
#3 My Brightest Diamond – This Is My Hand
Every time My Brightest Diamond releases a record I listen to it. Every time it doesn’t get me. Until now. This one stuck right from the get-go. The vocals fit the music better than they did before, and the music is very well orchestrated. Even though it can be quite bombastic at times, it still has a very personal feel to it, and I like that.
#2 Andrew Bird – Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…
This record got a lot of flack when it came out. It consists of Andrew Bird covering The Handsome Family. All songs are from one band very well known for their great songwriting. And known to me for their inability to properly sing. Not sure what it is with The Handsome Family, but I just can’t listen to it. Except the intro for True Detective. It got flack because ‘they’ said that because the songs are so personal, they shouldn’t be covered and the songs lost their emotion. Not for me. I loved it.
Anyway, Andrew Bird is someone with a rather good voice, but who generally writes uninteresting songs (personal opinion here…) so the combination is cleverly done. The songs are all ridiculously sad and depressing and deals mostly with death, loss and longing, and the following depression. “Sometimes I flap my arm like a hummingbird, just to remind myself I never fly”. That kind of stuff.
I absolutely love this. Also because the songs are very personal and narrative. If you listen to these songs, you start to think you know the person who wrote them a little bit. That kind of intimacy seems to get me this year.
#1 St. Vincent – St. Vincent
And then there’s this. Annie Clark’s new record. I loved her previous one. When looking back I do not understand why it is not higher in my list of that year (#5 I believe). This one might not have songs as catchy as those but they’re superbly written. And Annie Clark is a ridiculously good guitarist too, which helps a lot. I also have developed a soft spot for her after seeing the live show in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. That was awesome.
I think the epicness of her previous record helped this one up too since there are quite a few songs of her in my favorites list on Spotify and somehow they pop up often. So, the thought of St. Vincent is never far off.
What is a good selling point is that this record came out pretty early in the year and I’m still listening to it a lot. Great stuff!
Here’s a playlist of the above ten records for Spotify:
Then the rest. There were so many records that I thought would make the top ten until they were simply forced out by the vast amount of great music that was released this year. The other records in my list, in no particular order. All are recommended listening, although they aren’t as good as the ones I mentioned above.
|Ryan Adams||Ryan Adams|
|alt-J||This Is All Yours|
|Old Crow Medicine Show||Remedy|
|Damien Jurado||Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son|
|Chet Faker||Built on Glass|
|Hurray for the Riff Raff||Small Town Heroes|
|Hundred Waters||The Moon Rang Like A Bell|
And then there’s the rest that I didn’t consider for a top 10 spot, but is still pretty good listening in its own right:
|Willie Nelson||Band of Brothers|
|Nick Cave and Warren Ellis||West of Memphis OST|
|Jenny Lewis||The Voyager|
|The War On Drugs||Lost in the Dream|
|Strand of Oaks||HEAL|
|Israel Nash||Israel Nash’s Rain Plans|
|Damon Albarn||Everyday Robots|
|Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings||Give The People What They Want|
|Merchandise||After the End|
|Alela Diane||About Farewell|
|Liz Green||Haul Away!|
|Joan as Police Woman||The Classic|
|Sharon van Etten||Are We There|
|First Aid Kit||Stay Gold|
|O’Death||Out Of Hands We Go|
|She & Him||Classics|
|Lana del Rey||Ultraviolence|
It’s funny that most of the records I bought during the year are not in the top ten. Some or not in the second list either and just dangle below everything else in the last stretch of cool music. I should just not buy records until the end of the year, it seems!
Oh, and the playlist of my complete 2014 playlist: