For the past two years, I’ve tried to make a best-of-the-year list, but I can’t do it. I realized I have to make a favorite-of-the-year list because there’s a ton that I didn’t hear that I’m sure is great (those will go on 2015’s discovered-this-year list). So that’s why some things that are very good didn’t make this list. These are the things that I listened to the most and could think of basically off the top of my head when I started. Hope u enjoi : – )
Weezer, Everything Will Be Alright In the End
I was suuuuuuper skeptical of this album when I heard about it. “Ha!” I [probably] said at some point, “they reissue Pinkerton AND the Blue Album and then put out ANOTHER LP?!” I expected it to be a sad attempt at the glory days of Weezer (i.e. 1994-2001 in my opinion). Then I listened to it. I was almost correct. Instead of a sad attempt at the glory days, it was a pretty darn good return to the glory days. Listening through it for the first time, “Lonely Girl” was the grungey track that made me realize, okay, this is not bad. “Back to the Shack” is a true story anthem of Weezer-man Rivers Cuomo’s plea to his Weezer-buddies to play rock and roll in the Weezer-garage like the old days. Released fairly near the end of the year, this album was a nice surprise that made me pretty happy to be a Weezer fan. Also, it’s nice to hear that Rivers is happy to be doing what he wants to do (and made up with his dad).
Favorite tracks: Lonely Girl, The Futurescope Trilogy: III. Return to Ithaka, Back to the Shack
Favorite lyrics: “Don’t wanna be mass consumed / I’m not a happy meal,” “Everything will be alright in the end”
Animals As Leaders, The Joy of Motion
I have my friends to thank for this getting on the list. I’m fascinated and amazed by lead guitarist and main songwriter Tosin Abasi’s technical skills and ease at which he performs them. He and other guitarist, Javier Reyes, both play 8-string electric guitars, which provide for the ability to produce low-end sounds as well as the usual 6-string guitar sounds. They’re like a Dream Theater-worshiping, speed-math jazz trio. The Joy of Motion is both intellectual and headbangworthy, and at a time in my life when I’m listening to kinds of music I never had before, this album brings new views on classic styles.
Favorite tracks: The Woven Web, Air Chrysalis, Physical Education
Favorite riffs: the slap-bass technique break in “The Woven Web,” “Crescent” at 1:16
Generationals, just two dudes (yep, you guessed it, the ones pictured on the cover), produced some catchy, drum machine/synth/guitar jams for their fourth LP, Alix, a disco dance album for the glasses-wearing, top-buttoning youth like myself. I fell in love with their previous release, Heza, for its captivating instrumentation and alto croons, and Alix did not let me down in that regard. The spacy reverb and echoes that effect all the parts remind me of an 80s record and that makes me happy. Instead of relying on programming—not that there’s anything wrong with that—Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer play their synths as real instruments in a refreshing showcase of songwriting ability.
Favorite tracks: Heart in Two, Black Lemon
Favorite lyrics: “I’m not about to fight until the last of me dies / I’ll be resting my eyes”
Serengeti, Kenny Dennis LP III
If there are two things to know about my affair with hip-hop, it’s that I love alter egos and I love stories. And at last, the third episode in the saga of Serengeti’s alter ego Chicago Bears fan, Kenny Dennis is here. This album chronicles the adventures of Kenny and his friend Anders Holm (from Workaholics) as they hit the road as Perfecto for a rap tour of small-town Illinois rec centers. I won’t spoil the plot, but their story is sad at times and happy at others, but all the while it’s funny and real. Musically, Serengeti’s style as Kenny Dennis is mostly free verse with quick, word association rhymes that make you feel like a real person’s talking to you. Odd Nosdam’s production is equally as interesting as it combines a classic vinyl DJ sound with effected samples, and I love it because they could easily stand alone as instrumentals.
Favorite tracks: Lose Big, Shidoshi, Tanya T
Favorite lyrics: “You’re a joke!” “Hot dog for lunch, hot dog for dinner,” “I am up to shit. I do a lot of things!” “Calm it down, pipe it down”
King Tuff, Black Moon Spell
This was the first King Tuff album I heard and, not that I was unpleasantly surprised, but I had some notion in my mind of what they sounded like and it was not this. With a love for metal guitars and hard-hitting drums, Kyle Thomas throws out the screams and drop-A chugs of Metallica and leaves an overdriven tribute to the mystic and evil. The King shells out dirty licks on his Gibson SG while keeping that pop sensibility that Vermont has become famous for. (Okay, that crack about Vermont was a joke, nothing against Vermont.) Seriously, though, I really admire King Tuff’s combination of heavy metal, classic rock, punk, folk, lo-fi, and baseball hats.
Favorite tracks: Black Holes in Stereo, Headbanger, Eddie’s Song
Favorite lyrics: “I learned more working at the record store than I ever did in high school”
Real Estate, Atlas
I owe my love of this album to the guitars. Real Estate writes memorable chord progressions and riffs with an old school, clean tone that reminds me of classic groups like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and the Beatles. Plenty of bands are playing their guitars these days, but Real Estate gives a comfortable set of laid-back melodies and grooves that sound honest, confident, and relaxed. It’s a feelgood record of dreamy east coast surf jingles that I can put on even when my mom’s around.
Favorite tracks: The Bend, How Might I Live
Favorite lyrics: “I might as well be talking backwards / Am I making any sense to you?”
To me, SOPHIE defines the sound of the future of electronic music. He’s well established in the underground pop music scene in the UK right now, which is super weird, but still familiar and danceable. SOPHIE also doesn’t use samples at all in his music, but synthesizes everything. In addition to sticking to these purist ideals, the secrecy about his identity intensifies the mystique and principles of SOPHIE. He’s an enigma, an entity of utopian pop music, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
A quote from his interview with Billboard: “… I think about physics and materials. “LEMONADE” is made out of bubbling, fizzing, popping and “HARD” is made from metal and latex — they are sort of sculptures in this way. I synthesize all sounds except for vocals using raw waveforms and different synthesis methods as opposed to using samples. This means considering the physical properties of materials and how those inform the acoustic properties. For instance — why does a bubble have an ascending pitch when popped and why does metal clang when struck and what is this clanging sound in terms of pitch and timbre over time? How do I synthesize this? Perhaps after learning about these things it might be possible to create entirely new materials through synthesis.”
Read the whole thing at http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6221915/sophie-producer-interview
alt-J, This is All Yours
Like their previous full-length, alt-J’s This is All Yours sounds like a journey from place to place. The music creates a path between environments not with the sounds of a real space, but with feelings. “Intro” rightly begins the mental track for the rest of the record and songs like “Choice Kingdom” and “Pusher” exemplify a calm rest before and after the majesty and raw emotions in “Left Hand Free” and “Every Other Freckle.” The 52 minutes pass like a dream, pushing and pulling through the many moods of love with their distinctive use of conventional and unconventional instruments to produce a unique sound.
Favorite tracks: Intro, Every Other Freckle
Favorite lyrics: “I’m gonna kiss you like the sun browns you,” “Love is the warmest color”
Mac Demarco, Salad Days
Mac Demarco reminds me of Kurt Cobain. Yeah, I know, but let me explain. He reminds me of Kurt Cobain because he’s got a weird, almost sick, sense of humor and sneaks in his jokes behind some pretty sophisticated talent. For example, the album’s eponymous first track begins with, “As I’m getting older, chip up on my shoulder / Rolling through life to roll over and die / La la la la la.” It’s comical. I wrote a similar lyric once—actually it’s pretty much exactly the same—but I digress. The songs feel classic and comfortable, but at the same time, new and strange. They’re sexy and smooth to listen to and new, sometimes off-putting elements, keep me interested—every song’s a ballad of love and a 24-year-old’s advice about life. Listening to this album makes me feel like I found an old reel-to-reel in the attic and was checking out some 80s pop songs recorded in the 60s by some kids that dress like dads in the 90s.
Favorite tracks: Salad Days, Brother, Blue Boy, Goodbye Weekend
Favorite lyrics: “You’re better off dead when your mind’s been set from nine until five,” “Tell her that you love her if you really love her”
Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else
Dylan Baldi, the brains behind pop punk/rock group Cloud Nothings, killed it with this one. He took the catchy pop-rock melodies from his self-titled and layered them on top of the anger of Attack on Memory, his third album, to create this emotional, matured record. Truth be told, I like it so much cause it’s eight songs and they all rock. Heh heh, it seems funny to say that, but this album is just constantly bombarding you with damn catchy punk songs that I sing along to but also want to break things and push people to. Not that I like hurting people, but if they’re pushing back, I mean, come on.
After finding Attack on Memory at the record store and listening to it over and over for a few years, I was eagerly waiting for my pre-order of Here and Nowhere Else to show up in the mail. I got my hands on the album a little early before a house show in Minneapolis on a midwest tour with my friends’ bands. Luckily, I had a flash drive with me and the nice guy that lived in the house generously passed on the torrent. Thanks college dude wearing a cycling cap! It did not let down my expectations (unlike Dads’ new album… BOOM) and I was happy to share it with my friends. I guess why this album was so important to me this year is that it made me remember how much I like loud guitars, yelling, and drums with a lot of cymbals. I’ve been getting into a lot of electronic music in the past few years, and I really do enjoy it, but it took my focus away a little bit from playing guitar and drums and listening to people who do that too. On top of that, being at college without my friends from home to play in a band with made it easy to forget how much I liked it. Inspired by this record, I started playing with some friends at school with the idea of it being a Cloud Nothings cover band, but we learned other tunes eventually, and it really got me excited about playing in a band again. So I’d like to thank this album. For reminding me of what I want to do and what I like. Also, it’s fucking good.
Favorite tracks: I’m Not Part of Me, Psychic Trauma, No Thoughts
Favorite lyrics: “It starts right now, there’s a way I was before / But I can’t recall how I was those days anymore / I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else / How to focus on what I can do myself”
- Ariel Pink, pom pom
- St Vincent, St Vincent
- Courtney Barnett, A Sea of Split Peas (Reissue)
- Tycho, Awake