Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 100 Songs of 2014

Weird year for songs. 2014 felt like a solid year for well rounded and interesting albums, but less so for stand out on their own type tracks. At least more than last year perhaps.

That said, there were still some really fantastic songs written in 2014. I had planned to double or triple up on songs by certain artists, rather than having 100 songs by 100 different artists on this list, but opted for the latter after all.

Probably more songs over 5 minutes than I have had on here in any previous years, but let's not overthink that bit.

This list is also compiled as a playlist here for Rdio users.

99Hang UpPeter Murphy
96FeelThe Soft Moon
95AloneThe Foreign Resort
94Feel RealMovement
93CastlesGlass Towers
92Silly GamesTricky
91Two WeeksFKA Twigs
90Turn Me UpTwin Shadow
89Deep In My HeartThe Drums
88Shelter SongTemples
87WaterfallFear of Men
86Paper HeartChloe Howl
85TribeTheophilus London
84IllumeLust For LIfe
83You've Got A Lot On Your MindSloan
82Frozen BritainJames
81Pony RideNeil Finn
80You & I (Forever)Jessie Ware
79Frequent FlyerChromeo
78MikoThe Chain Gang of 1974
77Fall In LovePhantogram
76Every StoneManchester Orchestra
75Trainwreck 1979Death From Above 1979
73Left Hand Freealt-J
72Simple and SureThe Pains of Being Pure At Heart
71Figure It OutRoyal Blood
70Are You Gonna Be Someone?Knight
69LunaBombay Bicycle Club
68Coming Up For AirZoot Woman
67Dancehall DomineNew Pornographers
66Forever BeKelis
65D.R.E.A.M.Phraroahe Monch
64minipops 67Aphex Twin
63Coming DownClap Your Hands Say Yeah
62Garden GraysWIldcat! Wildact!
61Here So RainBlack Submarine
58Daddy's CarEno - Hyde
56This HazePatterns
55ParadiseWhite Hex
54After The DiscoBroken Bells
53West CoastLana Del Rey
52Land Of The BlindInformation Society
50Climb To MePattern is Movement
49ParisLittle Dragon
45Close Your Eyes (and Count To Fuck)Run The Jewels
44I Try To Talk To YouHercules & Love Affair
43Mess On A MissionLiars
42Love Stops HereThe Juan MacLean
41Uptight DowntownLa Roux
40Heavy Seas of LoveDamon Albarn
39Feels Like FireRyan Adams
38Boys In Her FanclubSweet Apple
37Don't WannaHowler
36DynamoJohnny Marr
35MilwaukeeThe Both
34WeightlessNeneh Cherry
33In InfancyMuseum of Love
32Do It AgainRoyksopp & Robyn
31Uptown FunkMark Ronson
30Dress UpSchool Of Language
29A Million VoicesEngineers
28Time BetweenBear In Heaven
27FaustI Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
26GougeEternal Summers
25fuckmylife666Against Me!
24GodivaEugene McGuinness
23I Don't Know You AnymoreBob Mould
22SprinklesWe Are Scientists
21Tough LuckEagulls
20Long HairDrowners
19Happy IdiotTV On The Radio
18Rimbaud EyesDum Dum Girls
17Do YouSpoon
16New York MorningElbow
15Digital WitnessSt. Vincent
14Can't Do Without YouCaribou
13It's Been So LongToy
12DrippingBlonde Redhead
11The Bullfighter DiesMorrissey
10DovesFuture Islands
8Broken Glass ParkSimple Minds
7Got Well SoonBreton
5Unkinder (A Tougher Love)Thumpers
4The MistakesArmy Navy
3A Simple Beautiful TruthWild Beasts
2Like An AnimalCymbals
1So Now You KnowThe Horrors

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Top 100 Albums of 2014

So I was only going to do a top 50 this year.

My list honestly started as a top 50 this year.

As with every year, the top 50 is really what was going to count this year.

People have been asking when I will be posting my top 100 this year.

I listened to a whole lot of cool new music again this year.

Looks like my list is a top 100 once again this year.


Nina PerrsonAnimal Heart
99Information Society_hello world
98MogwaiRave Tapes
97Pure XAngel
95BeckMorning Phase
94Sweet AppleThe Golden Age of Glitter
93The Pains of Being Pure At HeartDays of Abandon
92FKA TwigsLp1
91Hercules & Love AffairThe Feast Of The Broken Heart
90TrickyAdrian Thaws
89The New PornographersBrill Bruisers
88Neil FinnDizzy Heights
87Clap Your Hands Say YeahOnly Run
86Maximo ParkToo Much Information
85Pattern Is MovementPattern Is Movement
83Pharoahe MonchePTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
82EMAThe Future's Void
81New BuildPour It On
80Bryan FerryAvonmore
76TemplesSun Structures
75Philip SelwayWeatherhouse
74Theophilus LondonVibes
73Alt-JThis Is All Yours
72MonomythSaturnalia Regalia!
71Young LiarsTidal Wave
70MerchandiseAfter The End
69Ryan AdamsRyan Adams
68Lust For YouthInternational
67Fear Of MenLoom
66I Break HorsesChiaroscuro
65Jessie WareTough Love
64White HexGold Nights
63The DrumsEncyclopedia
62Her Name Is CallaNavigator
61Lana Del ReyUltraviolence
60Zoot WomanStar Climbing
58Echo & The BunnymenMeteorites
57Blonde RedheadBarragan
56The War On DrugsLost In The Dream
55Run The JewelsRun The Jewels 2
52Todd TerjeIt's Album Time
51School Of LanguageOld Fears
50Johnny MarrPlayland
49AsgeirIn The Silence
47Little DragonNabuma Rubberband
46EngineersAlways Returning
45A Sunny Day In GlasgowSea When Absent
43LambBackspace Unwind
41Aphex TwinSyro
40ToyJoin The Dots
39RoyksoppThe Inevitable End
38Thom YorkeTomorrow's Modern Boxes
37TV On The RadioSeeds
36SpoonThey Want My Soul
35Wildcat! Wildcat!No Moon At All
34ElbowThe Take Off & Landing of Everything
32Bob MouldBeauty & Ruin
31Black SubmarineNew Shores
30The AcidLiminal
29Eugene McGuinnessChroma
28Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots
26ErasureThe Violet Flame
25The Juan MacleanIn A Dream
24Neneh CherryBlank Project
22Museum Of LoveMuseum Of Love
21St. VincentSt. Vincent
20I Love You But I've Chosen DarknessDust
19Against Me!Transgender Dysphoria Blues
17Simple MindsBig Music
16We Are ScientistsTv En Francais
15InterpolEl Pintor
14La RouxTrouble In Paradise
13CaribouOur Love
12Dum Dum GirlsToo True
11The HorrorsLuminous
10MorrisseyWorld Peace Is None of Your Business
9PatternsWaking Lines
7BretonWar Room Stories
6Future IslandsSingles
4CymbalsThe Age Of Fracture
3Bear In HeavenTime Is Over One Day Old
2Army NavyThe Wilderness Inside
1Wild BeastsPresent Tense

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Best 5 Albums in August 2014

August was a bit light, and even some of these releases are not necessarily as strong as some from earlier months this year, but still some great writing and interesting songs on all of these.

Bear In Heaven - Time Is Over One Day Old

The three previous records by Bear In Heaven have all been rooted in dark synth tendencies, but on Time Is Over One Day Old, they really spend some time playing in a moodier sandbox. They never veer into the ranks of the downtrodden, but where I Love You, It's Cool saw them leaning a bit toward more upbeat electro pop, this one sees the Brooklyn lads exploring deamier and jammier stuff. Even with some of the sprawl, only a couple tracks cross up over five minutes. This is the most mature and focused Bear In Heaven have sounded to me. Like a band settling nicely into their skin after taking a few records to try some things.

Merchandise - After The End

Much has ben made of Merchandise's nods to late 80's Manchester bands. To be honest, it is probably what put them on my radar to begin with. Unlike some of their earlier material however, After The End  sounds borrowed from some of the less high profile Brit and Aussie acts from that era, like The Mission and The Church. Influences aside, Merchandise sound like a band more comfortable with who they are than a band of their tenure should. The record sounds polished enough that it could sit nicely on modern rock radio, and even make someone some money in the process, yet the melodies speak to artists past and present like Lloyd Cole or The Mighty Lemondrops, who had all the makings of commercial success, but maybe all the wrong timing. Regardless, a band this young from Tampa has no business producing a record this strong or this British.

JJ - V

Just about every month this year, since I started attempting to write a bit about five cool new albums each month, I have shamelessly ranted and raved about some great Swedish band or artist, with unapologetic hyperbole. Here is this month's version of that rant. This is the third release from JJ and like both of its predecessors, V manages to flow seamlessly from start to finish. Also like the two records before it, this one projects a listenability without ever veering into the over glossed world of modern cookie cutter club pop. The subtle hip and trip hop influences are still here, and their airy mystique hovers above just about every track. Lovely record from start to finish.

Spoon - They Want My Soul

One of the most common ways critics, reviewers, and fans choose to describe Spoon is consistent. The changes they make from album to album tend to be subtle, but each record ends up having its own sense of character, while never sounding like anything other than Spoon. Their last album, Transference,  was the first in a while that seemed to lack the solid song craft fans expect from Spoon. They Want My Soul sounds like a rested band getting back to what they do well. "Do You" is classic Spoon, yet they can also drop in a track like "Inside out" that really does not sound quite like any song they have written before. I was actually ready to not like this record. I had in my head and heart that maybe the boys were on the downside and their best years are past. To this view, They Want My Soul is actually proof that Spoon is still one of the most consistent and clever song focused bands of the last twenty years

Zoot Woman - Start Climbing

This is perhaps the least strong of the now four Zoot Woman releases, but it still speaks to a calibre of song and production in an electro pop group that sadly gets over shadowed by higher profile (quality) bands like Cut Copy and Hot Chip. The electro pop space seems more cluttered than when Zoot Woman started. When they sounded more like Human League crossed with Hall and Oates. Perhaps that is why Start Climbing might not sound terribly ground breaking in 2014. Nonetheless, on a track like "Silhouette", you can hear can the influence of the work Stuart Price has done with artists like Madonna and Pet Shop Boys. His penchant for 80's pop is still evident here, just perhaps made less outwardly obvious at every turn of the record. Still quality craft and warm production start to finish.

The New Pornographers - Bill Bruisers
Childhood - Lacuna
The Rosebuds - Sand + Silence

Saturday, August 23, 2014

5 Best Albums in July 2014

Summer months tend to be quiet, at least in terms of the volume of new music releases compared to other months, but this past July was an incredibly efficient month for new music, with some surprisingly strong records from old farts and exciting sounds from new kids on the block.

Morrissey - World Peace is None of Your Business

I had planned to be very much disappointed by this album. Contrary to popular belief, I do not fall into the blind following obsessive category of Morrissey fandom. I will say, time off serves him well. Much like after the five plus year layoff ahead of You Are The Quarry, Moz sounds refreshed and full of well earned signature pomposity. He still turns a phrase better than just about any young working lyricist, and has managed to infuse these songs with musical sounds not strictly explored on previous works. It feels like maybe it should be a swan song effort, but if one watches the daily press, he is still happy to run his mouth with unpopular opinions, perhaps in the strict interest of trying to remain relevant. So it seems unlikely he is done just yet. Morrissey makes it hard for a lot of people to like him, but this record is very hard to hate. As a friend said to me recently, "what else is he going to do? It's not like he would have any friends."

Army Navy - The Wilderness Inside

This is the third album by Army Navy. Like the previous two efforts, there is absolutely no incentive here to make anything weird, contrived, pretentious, or trendy. This is a guitar pop record. Army Navy make the best kind of guitar pop records. They stay in the song and they do not apologize for not kicking in any muscle or distortion to distract from their sincerity. Ironically, no matter how familiar these songs feel, there is nothing the least bit derivative about what these lads do, and against the current landscape of bands, there is not a single other relatively well known band doing anything like this. "The Mistakes" will inevitably end up in the top five part of my 100 favourite songs this year. No one makes this kind of music to get rich. They make this kind of music because they care about writing wonderful timeless pop songs, for people like me who care more than we should about bands who write wonderful timeless pop songs.  

Jungle - Jungle

I never feel strictly qualified to write thoughts on records like this, even though I do not even really write proper publication style music reviews. I think it has something to do with a perceived need for cred and legitimacy and for really knowing your electronic/club/dance/dj stuff. I feel on the periphery of most music like Jungle, so my angle with stuff like this is much more simplistic. For a couple Brit dudes who seem to know their way around a production board, they also seem to have a profound sense for how to pull in 70's inflected soul and funk vocals and grooves. This is unquestionably an album that belongs in 2014, but anyone with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye or Earth Wind & Fire albums can throw this on and feel not only like they belong here, but that were part of the experiences that went into these songs sounding the way they do. A tremendously consistent recording, with razor sharp focus yet it never feels anything short of organic and hand crafted.

Eugene McGuinness - Chroma

Apparently this bloke has made three records prior to this one. Based on how much this one resides smack dab in the middle of my power pop wheel house, it is sort of embarrassing to never have heard of him. Better late than never though as they say. A comparison to Halifax legends and Sub Pop signees, Hardship Post, would be lost on most, but the opening track unknowingly channels that very band along with equal parts Day Tripper and saucier Costello songs. This is a compact set of songs, full of hooks and bouncy bits. Occasionally it feels like he still has untapped potential, but keeping these songs on a proper even scale without the temptation to pump them full of dumb stadium rock swagger keeps this recording grounded in all the right stuff for the type of sound it initially promises up. 

The Acid - Liminal

In the circles where bands like The Acid get talked about, they have been described a number of ways, but "shadowy" is the one description that sticks with me when I listen to Liminal. This is a complex set of songs that engage with the listener for sure, but require effort and investment well beyond some of the other albums I am highlighting this month. There are some surprisingly soulful moments here, mostly in the vocal lines. There are not a lot of spikes in the style between tracks, yet not one of these songs is remotely similar. A song like "Fame" carries with it such a profound warm sadness, while something like "Red" feels much more vast and expansive with soaring synths and gorgeously blended vocals. This is a fascinating record. Perhaps not for everyone, but completely rewarding if you stick with it.

La Roux - Trouble In Paradise
Monomyth - Saturnalia Regalia!
The Raveonettes - Pe'ahi
Slow Club - Complete Surrender

Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Best Albums in June 2014

Another month passes and another bunch of wonderful albums get released to much or very little fan fare. The five I enjoyed most in June were mostly under the radar, except one, which kind of not surprisingly blew up the radar.

GusGus - Mexico

Over the last couple years, the electro pop type music space has seemingly become a bit cluttered with more mediocrity than previously. Lately though, it seems the proverbial cream is rising to the top a bit more. I have been only mildly familiar with GusGus over the years, so this is the first record where I have invested any proper listening time. I gather their shift to more straightforward electronic based pop songs has been recent, so Mexico feels like them getting very comfortable in that skin. The songs work well as headphone listening, but are very dance floor ready as well, as evidenced by the gem "Another Life." Electronic pop music made by real professionals.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent

This is the fourth album by this band, and for my money it is their best. I have always loved their fearlessness, but it always felt like they might be hedging on melody and covering things sometimes excessively and unnecessarily in reverb and warm sludge. It sounds like they tried some different things in terms of band member duties during the recording process, as well as taking a more studio based approach to production. What it means is a record that is far more engaging and focused, without completely losing their overarching fuzzed out dreaminess. The band sounds much more comfortable with the idea of songs with harmonies and verse chorus structures (nothing over 6 minutes this time) without abandoning any of their inherent need to be adventurous. 

Lust For Youth - International

To this brief point, Lust For Youth has been a prolific project for Hannes Norrvide, but for International, he has added two players, filling out the sound quite a bit. There is still very much a dark synth feel throughout, but it gets balanced with some wonderful pop hooks. Songs like "Illume" reside on the record as classic pop numbers with brooding vocals, rather than some of the post-punk influenced music out there, where the pop is sprinkled sparingly on top of the seriousness. A song such as "New Boys" sounds like the type of song Depeche Mode wish they could still write so effortlessly. A very consistent outing from start to finish, from an artist who is clearly charting a much more mature and deliberate path for where he wants to take his music. 

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

I am still not entirely sure I know what to do with LDR. It feels redundant to try and write anything briefly about her or even this record, which has not been written fifty different ways to the same ambiguous end. If you step away from all the hype, the press and worry less about what her angle is as someone in the celebrity eye, this becomes a pretty fantastic recording which stands completely on its own musically, artistically and aesthetically. I find the songs here far more rich and engaging than on her debut, of which I was only a lukewarm fan. Like the debut however, you would be hard pressed to find another record in 2014 so that sounds anything quite like Ultraviolence. This is a sum of its parts type record, where some songs stand out, but nothing strays far from a straight line of lovely moodiness. It will be interesting to see where her music takes her next, but any way you slice it, this is a quality recording for an artist of any tenure or motivation.

White Hex = Gold Nights

The post punk and dark synth descriptions are fair and obvious for GoldNights, but I would take it a step further and say there are elements of legitimate goth running through these songs. The guitar work brightens things up and pulls White Hex closer to the XX than Sisters of Mercy, but there is a level of angst and despair in these songs that keep them from being full on catchy pop songs with sombre vocals. "Paradise" is likely an accidental trick from the Cold Cave play book, and a song that balances the more wonderfully dreary tracks on the record. Compact at eight songs, this is a solid outing by a young Aussie duo who are doing a wonderful job at trying some things, borrowing some things, and finding their ways as an interesting new band.


How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart?
Lust For Youth - International
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Only Run