As I did last year, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite albums from 2014. I’m fortunate to be able to listen to a lot of music and after putting it off for a few weeks, I’ve finally narrowed this list to ten or so albums that have really stuck with me. As always, it isn’t a set ranking of any kind, just a group of solid albums to check out.
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
When an album starts with “Blow your fucking brains out” you know you’re in for a trip. From Parts Unknown is the seventh studio album from Every Time I Die and they rock as hard as they ever have. It’s a departure from the band’s previous efforts. There’s nothing mid-tempo about this album, everything is played fast and heavy. Kurt Ballou’s production, and influence, is apparent from the get-go, as EDIT musically sounds a bit like Converge in these songs. Keith Buckley is a metalcore Bob Dylan, consistently writing some of the most interesting lyrics you’ll come across. The heaviest song on the album, “Moor,” is marked by an ominous piano creep before imploding into a full band midsection that brings the song to a peak. For a band that’s over 15 years in, Every Time I Die has, yet again, found a way to adapt their sound while matching the high standards that their older albums hold.
Recommended Songs: The Great Secret, Decayin’ With The Boys, Moor
Restorations – LP3
LP3 is everything you’d want from a modern rock album. You’ll find the soaring anthems, earnest lyrics and raspy vocal delivery. It’s all there, even an Eddie Van Halen-esque guitar solo in “No Castle.” “Wales” kicks off the album, with a slow build, adding instruments before unleashing into a full-fledged bruiser. It’s not a complex album by any means and that’s part of the appeal. It’s elegant in an understated way. Whether channeling The Hold Steady or Oasis (“It’s Not” closes out the album and would be at home on any 90’s Oasis album), Restorations put out an under the radar album that needs to be listened to.
Recommended Songs: Wales, Tiny Prayers, It’s Not
Bleachers – Strange Desire
Not content with conquering the world with Fun, Jack Antonoff put out Strange Desire and promptly found himself fronting 2014’s breakout band. Wrote during his time on the road, Strange Desire is 80’s pop-goodness for 2014. “Rollercoaster” has those 80’s synths and a warm bass line making it a surefire hit. “I Wanna Get Better” was inescapable, and is the perfect stand up and shout anthem for everyone. It’s not all pop hits though. The back half of the album sees Antonoff crafting more calming and introspective songs like “Wake Me” and “Reckless Love.” The whole thing is capped off by a Yoko Ono featuring “I’m Ready To Move On / Wild Hearts Reprise” which may be one of the best songs of the year. Antonoff is on fire right now, and the success of Strange Desire proves that Bleachers are more than a side project.
Recommended Songs: Rollercoaster, I Wanna Get Better, I’m Ready To Move On / Wild Hearts Reprise
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
There’s a laundry list of reasons why Run the Jewels shouldn’t work. Killer Mike and El-P are two middle-aged rappers. One’s black, one’s white. El-P produced the album without any of hip hop’s heavy hitters. Guest spots are rare, but they come from Zach De La Rocha, Travis Barker and Gangsta Boo. It was released for free and there isn’t a certifiable hit to promote. None of that should happen in 2014, but it did and Run the Jewels released the best hip hop album of the year. Steven Hyden’s review for Run the Jewels 2 sums up how this album is the nuclear option, socially conscious and unapologetic. The first four tracks make you want to lose your mind because of how good they are. If you read any music publications, you’ll see this album on a lot of lists. Don’t make a mistake and skip it, it deserves to be listened to because it’s that good.
Recommended Songs: Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Blockbuster Night Part 1, Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
There’s beauty in simplicity and Sunbathing Animal would be the proof. Parquet Courts have become indie darlings in 2014, playing festivals and gaining accolades from all sorts of publications, but the music is what matters and the band delivers. The genius of this album (and the band as a whole) is constant repetition. Listen to “What Color Is Blood” and “Always Back In Town” and try to get those riffs out of your head. It’s the same for “Sunbathing Animal,” with it’s four chords delivered at breakneck speed. It’s all so basic, and the band so opposed to embellishment, that anything else would seem out of place. Even when Parquet Courts want to get fancy, they opt for continuous feedback as opposed to flashy guitar solos. The album is a concise masterpiece, with simplicity being a breath of fresh air.
Recommended Songs: What Color Is Blood, Sunbathing Animal, Ducking & Dodging