Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Halfway There

Well here we are, just about halfway done with 2014 already. It seems like time goes by progressively faster and faster each year. I am not going to lie, there is A LOT I haven't listened to this year. 2014 will forever be the year in my life where I discovered podcasts. And let me tell you guys, if you haven't made sitting down and listening to This American Life as a part of your weekly routine you are missing out. Regardless I did listen to some really good music so far. However only really my #1 album has truly blown me away. While the other four are still solid they continue to grow on me with each listen. Let's get into it!

1. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
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.

Listen: Truck Driver

2. 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.
Listen: Red Eyes

3. 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.

Listen: White Child

4. 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.

Listen: Murmurs

5. Future Islands - Singles
“Seasons (Waiting On You)” is my favorite song of the first half of the year. It’s an anthem that is great to sing-along to that has captured an energy of the music scene of today, even David Letterman thinks these guys are “it.” Future Islands will always and forever be remembered for their unforgettable live shows, but as an album Singles is the best release Future Islands has put out to date. It’s dance music that harkens back to the synth pop of the 1980s. While I think this album trails off in its 2nd half, the first five songs are impeccable.

Listen: Seasons (Waiting On You)

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