Sunday, December 21, 2014

ST&SP: 2014 Year In Review

Not going to lie. 2014 was not an impressive year for music. Other than my #1 which I think I connect to on a more personal level, I don't think there were really any "game changers" that were released this year. Which, is totally fine I think there might be five truly iconic albums released per decade anyways. I didn't listen to that much music this year, normally I do twenty-five, but this year I'm doing ten mostly because I don't have the free time like I did when I was compiling these lists in college and high school, but also because I don't want to write about an album I only listened to once or twice just to stretch this list out. There are a bunch of artists I left out, and I will be adding a ton of them to my monthly PLAYLIST THAT YOU ALL SHOULD SUBSCRIBE TO. So let's get into it shall we?

1. Sun Kil Moon - Benji 
A lot of people think Mark Kozelek is an asshole. While I don’t normally pay attention to heresy tabloid stuff, I think his feud with War on Drugs was a joke that was originally done in good jest that the Twittersphere turned into something ugly. Luckily for us Kozelek just does not give a fuck, which is something many bloggers these days have forgotten the meaning of. Regardless of controversy, Sun Kil Moon’s new record Benji holds two accolades in my book; it’s the best album of the year and the most depressing album of the year by a longshot. I have friends who had a hard time listening to Benji because it bummed them out too much. I would argue that if an album made a person feel something even if it be pain and sadness that is the mark of a great album. I assure you, Benji is not all that scary. What we have here is a collection of some of the most lyrically vivid songs I have ever heard. Mark Kozelek paints songs that are so personal and familial to him, yet somehow the listener is able to find the common relatable truths behind them all. Take “Dogs” for example, which is a tale of a man recounting his sexual history through different girls he knew at various stages of his life. What the listener hears however is a man lamenting his inability to know what true love feels like after having thrown it away on casual flings so many times in the past. Then there’s what I consider to be the most poignant and controversial song I’ve heard in years, “Pray for Newtown.” A song that tells Kozelek’s history of what he was doing during many different shootings that led up to the tragedy in Newtown. Basically the song is a rallying cry that if people think these shootings need to stop,  then they need to actually give a shit and try to change things rather than caring for a few days then going about their lives. It’s a tough pill to swallow because it is so god damn true. The blunt truths found within these vibrant songs are what make Benji most appealing. Yes they’re sad, some are funny and others are cautionary tales. Sun Kil Moon has given us a stunningly beautiful album that shows all
the different shades and multifaceted layers that make up death.

 2. Flying Lotus - You're Dead! 

Flying Lotus is not afraid to challenge his listeners and that is 100% great with me. For being a respected DJ and Producer Flying Lotus has presented us with You’re Dead! Which is essentially a fusion-jazz album that is centered around two tracks featuring Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. It’s an erratic album full of varying knots of sounds, that aren’t afraid to go in a different direction at a moment’s notice. It’s a beautiful and terrifying and anxious and sometimes peaceful event, much like death.

  3.  Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels II

There has been a gaping void of musical artists willing to tackle important political and social issues as of late. Rage Against The Machine are gone, Public Enemy doesn’t make new music any more. Luckily for us El-P and Killer Mike have stepped up to the plate and have provided us an incredibly prolific and razor sharp album that highlights much of the pain and atrocities many Americans have been subjected to recently. Also it’s got the fortune of having El-P as a producer to provide the most massive beats possible. Leaps and bounds the best Hip-Hop album of the year.  

4. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

The War on Drugs return with their masterpiece Lost In The Dream. This is an album that combines Wilco’s alt-country experimentalism with Arcade Fire’s dirgey landscapes. Lost In The Dream is a record I imagine Tom Petty would raise his glass to. This is a sonically perfect album that chugs along with impressive guitar work throughout. The way “Red Eyes” and “An Ocean In Between The Waves” build makes them seem like instant classics, and who knows down the line they will probably played on the classic rock radio station as it is.

5. Spoon - They Want My Soul

Spoon have managed to bounce back with one of their most daring and eclectic releases to date, while still remaining true to the sound that got them to where they are. It sounds like every other Spoon album, but different, ya know? It sounds like a god-damn confident rock album.  


6. Amen Dunes - Love

If you had asked me three months ago if I had heard of Amen Dunes I would have given you a strange look and gone “Who?” or I would have flat-out lied and said “Yes” then immediately Googled it. This is a very strong bedroom freak folk album that fans of Devendra Banhart’s earlier pre-Cripple Crow work will eat up. Love is an intimate record that is deeply personal and introspective for singer-songwriter Damon McMahon. He employs members of Godspeed! You Black Emperor on a few tracks, but never floods these songs with too much background instrumentation. He lets the music seep out emotion in a confident and very pleasant way. 

 7. Swans - To Be Kind

If Nick Cave is Charon the ferryman of the underworld then Swans are hell itself. Swans are a band that takes pride with daring their audiences to listen to their records. To Be Kind is a sprawling two hours long with two scream filled eardrum clacking tracks clocking at over a half hour each. In this “app” based world we’re living in albums like this have gone the way of the dinosaur unfortunately. If you allow yourself to experience To Be Kind you’ll find moments of sheer terror and experience catharsis. There is no other band on Earth like Swans, mostly cause no other artist has as big of balls as they do. 

8. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell

I came across Hundred Waters recently, and immediately The Moon Rang Like a Bell felt like something special. This album is a melting-pot of so many different musical ideas. Take the single “Murmurs” for example, it will effortlessly shift between acoustic sounds and electronica without making you blink twice. Their music is too melodic and atmospheric to dance to, but feature many of the sounds you’d find in dance music today. Hundred Waters are like Imogen Heap and The xx meet Flume. It’s an odd pairing, but they pull it off and have created something entirely new as a result. Bravo.

9. Ty Segall - Manipulator

For his entire career, Ty Segall was churning out material like they were hotcakes. Last year he put out a blistering FOUR ALBUMS! All of which were good. This year, he decided to settle down and put his energy into one record. Manipulator  is Segall’s most focused and most varied record to date. Gone is the erratic spontaneous fuzz of his early singles, this is the new Ty Segall. He’s going to hit you heavy with longer and more powerful psychedelic rock jams. “Feel” is one of the hardest hitting tracks he’s ever produced. Long live Ty Segall, the punk rock savior.

10. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

Pitchfork recently turned in probably the douchiest read of all time concerning this record. I’ve heard people say that they’re starting to phone it in, and that the lyrics are just atrocious. To be fair, I don’t think anyone in history has become a New Pornographers fan because of them being skilled lyricists. They make blissful, bright and bouncy Jeff Lynne-esque pop music, and with their new album they knock that aspect out of the park. Brill Bruisers is a solid effort throughout and is worth multiple listens.