Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My favorite albums of 2014

I asked others to submit their favorites earlier this week, so here are my favorite albums of 2014. 

Damon Albarn - "Everyday Robots"
My four and five-year-olds, who love Albarn's Blur and Gorillaz, had a big impact on my favorite albums this year. My husband and I didn’t expect Damon Albarn's solo album to top both of our best of lists this year (he posts one at the Stoner Rock forum he frequents), but this quiet, intimate solo debut is stunning. My husband digs all the real life sounds Albarn sampled to create the music. I dig the incredibly personal lyrics.
Against Me! "Transgender Dysphoria Blues"
My 3 year old started singing the chorus to "True Trans Soul Rebel" in the cart at Whole Foods. I’ve found kids are a good filter for music. A  toddler has no preconceived notions from friends or  the press and very few outside influences when it comes to taste. So when one of the kids instantly picks up on new music, I pay attention. Aside from that "Transgender Dysphoria Blues," which followed the public revelation that Against Me! singer Tom Gabel was transitioning to frontwoman Laura Jane Grace is also a game changing album when it comes to transgender stories and acceptance. She manages to make her personal story universal. Anyone that’s felt like an outsider can identify with this incredible album.

Phantogram - "Voices"

"Black Out Days" is another Whole Foods buggy favorite of my now 4 year old, who first heard it on Siriux/XM. It was already a front runner before it was on repeat constantly in our car. The Brooklyn duo showed great promise on its previous work, but "Voices" is a more consistent and cinematic effort.
Cory Branan - "No Hit Wonder"
In a perfect world (or in the `70s) Americana's no hit wonder would be a country music juggernaut. On "No Hit Wonder" he writes ample hooks with lyrics that shift from funny to heartbreaking to somewhere in between. "While she sleeps I trace the places where your tattoos use to be" from "The Only You" is the kind of zinger that Taylor Swift might covet. Branan is also about the most charismatic performer you could meet, as he proved opening for Justin Townes Earle in November.
Nostalghia - "Chrysalis"
The first time I heard Ciscandra Nostalghia’s song "Sunshiny Milk" driving home from the Y last Spring, I got chills. It was like the musical equivalent to BBCA’s "Orphan Black." The band’s debut album is a rare unique find, combining gothic elements (of bands like Curve, Rasputina, and Switchblade Symphony) with classical and electronica and an other worldly delivery reminiscent of an industrial Bjork.
Taking Back Sunday - "Happiness Is"
I call TBS’ latest album a soundtrack to transition. I listened to it every morning my first week of grad school. The emo vets tackle grown up issues with gusto on tracks that are easily put to memory. It doesn’t hurt that it can stay on repeat for days.
Neon Trees - "Pop Psychology"
The first time I heard "Pop Psychology" I thought the Utah foursome had gone too pop, but after repeat listens the band's third album grew on me (and my kids). Singer Tyler Glenn, who came out this year, and the crew create an infectious and youthful dissertation on finding love and building real relationships in the increasingly impersonal digital age.
Lydia Loveless - "Somewhere Else"
This twangy Ohio singer-songwriter has become one of my favorite performers. As a lyricist and live performer she speaks with brutal honesty and a sense of humor. She’s like a riot grrrl gone country writing songs for modern, fickle relationships and independent thinkers.
Iceage - "Plowing into the Field of Love"
I heard this while shopping at Lunchbox Records without knowing who it was, but I’m a sucker for a manly baritone and bass that practically drags the ground. It’s not what I expected given 2013’s noisier no wave-influenced “You’re Nothing.” Those influences remain, but “Plowing into the Field…” is more accessible and, in some ways that makes it even weirder. The rockabilly shuffle of “The Lord’s Favorite” is as odd as is the sort of retro crooning of “Against the Moon,” but that’s why it works.
Glass Animals - ZABA

It may be dubbed “indie rock,” but this Oxford band veers pretty close to sultry R&B with a sort of visceral, tribal feel. Its soft-spoken funk, electronica, and trip hop mines the same R&B feel as Daley, but there’s an experimental world music quality that’s all its own.