This has been quite the interesting year musically. As mentioned in the previous post, I chose to branch out with where I got my music. I listened to Santa Clara University’s radio station KSCU for a good while, but I also listened to Boston’s Radio BDC, the various stations on our Sirius XM setup, and even used the good ol’ car radio to listen to KFOG, Live 105 and other terrestrial stations. I also kept up on the new releases being pushed by the various music blogs and magazines, and checked out the occasional streamed preview as well. It turned out to be quite an eclectic year in the process, with all kinds of genres seeping into my playlist over the course of the year.
JONC’S TOP MUSIC OF 2014
Old Bands, Awesome Releases: Still Going Strong After All These Years
—U2, Songs of Innocence. This album received mounds of grief when it came out because of its original iTunes release. The most vocal hated it purely out of spite, having been “forced” to add it to their collection without their say-so. Regardless…I still say this is one hell of a tight album. The songwriting is solid, the production is crisp and lively, and the band sounds reinvigorated here.
—Big Wreck, Ghosts. A band from my HMV years, having released an album in 1998 and 2001, they vanished for over a decade before returning with 2012’s Albatross. A lot of bands with that much of a stretch between releases don’t often have a follow up soon after, but these guys pulled it off with an even crunchier, heavier album. Well worth picking up.
—Failure, “Come Crashing” and “The Focus” singles. HOLY CRAP FAILURE GOT BACK TOGETHER?? SWEET! Love this band, and I was so happy to hear Ken, Kellii and Greg returned with not one but two solid new singles (both available on their Bandcamp site), a tour, and a possible new album in the works. I’m totally looking forward to hearing what they have in store.
—The Verve Pipe, Overboard. These guys have been under the radar the last few years, taking alternate routes in music. Singer Brian Vander Ark led an interesting solo career, balancing album releases with self-managed house concerts, and gathering the band back together a few years back for a few children’s albums. This album was a very welcome return to their more alternative rock sound.
Old Albums, Awesome Reissues and Remasters
—The Beatles, The US Albums box set. Yeah, I know…don’t I already own everything this band released in triplicate already? Well, when the band officially releases the CD versions of their US discography, especially on my birthday, I can’t help but jump at it. [And besides, I pretty much paid for it all via multiple B&N gift cards and a 20% off coupon I happened to have on hand.] The music source is the 2009 remasters, but the packaging was exquisite, including the original butcher sleeve for Yesterday and Today. It was like starting my collection all over again, thirty-plus years later!
—George Harrison, The Apple Years 1968-75 box set. Same could be said here, but it was well worth it for some new remasterings, great liner notes and packaging, and some of his best solo tracks.
—Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair Reissue/Remaster. Oh man, I LOVED this album back when it came out in 1985, so much so that it’s one of the few tapes I had that wore out. It’s great to hear this album again with such great sound, especially since the remaster was done by Steven Wilson, who seems to have turned into a remaster god as of late. Totally worth picking up, even just for the original album!
—Pink Floyd, The Endless Sea. Say what you will about this album, given that it’s leftover jam material from sessions for 1994’s The Division Bell, it’s a lovely ambient collection nonetheless, full of signature later Floyd soundscapes. David Gilmour’s somber “Louder Than Words” is a nice ending chapter to the band’s epic history.
Best Opening Tracks
—Beck, “Cycle”/”Morning”. When I listened to the streaming preview of his Morning Phase album on the NPR website, I knew right away that I would absolutely LOVE this album, even before I heard any other tracks. The string-laden “Cycle” and the drowsy “Morning” manage to capture the sound of an early rising sun and turn it into aural poetry, evoking the feeling that a new day and a fresh start had just begun.
—Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”. This track does double duty–first, it opens up El Pintor suggesting a newer, more melodic sound from the band. It’s almost summery, dreamy in a Beach Boys sort of way, something they captured perfectly in the video.
—TV On the Radio, “Quartz”. Like Beck’s “Cycle”, it’s more of an overture than a song proper, and it sets the mood for the rest of the album, which ends up being poppier, catchier and more emotional than previous releases.
Best Closing Tracks
—Alt-J, “Lovely Day”. A bonus track at the end of the album, it’s a lovely song that’s a perfect coda to the band’s moodier, darker second album.
—The Black Keys, “Gotta Get Away”. Sure, it’s a throwaway song that shouldn’t be taken that seriously at all. My favorite description of this song by a music blog suggested it sounds like one of those goofy music montages in the middle of a Scooby Doo or an Archies cartoon. It’s pure fun, just like the rest of the album.
—U2 feat. Lykke Li, “The Troubles”. U2 has often ended their albums on a somber note–“Wake Up Dead Man”, “Exit”, and “40” come to mind–and this track follows the lead to quiet yet chilling effect.
BEST ALBUMS OF 2014
[No particular order, top favorite in bold]
Alt-J, This is All Yours
AnaDaenia, Digital Scars
Beck, Morning Phase
Big Wreck, Ghosts
Elbow, The Take Off and Landing of Everything
The History of Apple Pie, Feel Something
The Horrors, Luminous
Interpol, El Pintor
Johnny Marr, Playland
Kaiser Chiefs, Education, Education, Education & War
Lamb, Backspace Unwind
Mono, The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness
OK Go, Hungry Ghosts
TV On the Radio, Seeds
U2, Songs of Innocence
BEST SONGS OF 2014
[No particular order, top favorite in bold]
Alt-J, “Left Hand Free”
Beck, “Blue Moon”
Big Data, “Dangerous”
Black Rivers, “Voyager 1”
Elbow, “New York Morning”
Failure, “Come Crashing”
Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
The Horrors, “I Feel You”
Interpol, “All the Rage Back Home”
Jungle, “Busy Earnin’”
My Goodness, “Cold Feet Killer”
Night Terrors of 1927, “When You Were Mine”
OK Go, “The Writing’s On the Wall”
Phantogram, “Black Out Days”
Robert DeLong, “Long Way Down”
Spoon, “Do You”
Temples, “Shelter Song”
tUnE-yArDs, “Water Fountain”
TV On the Radio, “Careful You”
U2, “Raised By Wolves”