Words About Music
The Music of 2014: Honorable Mentions
Well, the year is almost over, and AOTY season is upon us. Who put out the best album of 2014? The War on Drugs? Sun Kil Moon? Swans? Run the Jewels? Aphex Twin? Many publications have provided many different answers, but only one of them is objectively right. You’ll be finding that out in due time.
Until then, here are 25 albums that came out in 2014 that didn’t exactly rock my world, but they were all still pretty damn good and I think they’re all worth checking out if you get the chance. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Look out for the 50 best albums of 2014.
Adebisi Shank “This is the Third Album by a Band Called Adebisi Shank”
Adebisi Shank is an incredibly bizarre Irish trio that makes loud, noisy, upbeat instrumental post-rock. It sounds like a glitchy robotic punk rock band from space trying to emulate Mogwai by condensing its songs into 3-minute epics of sugary neon power-pop insanity. Did any of that make sense? Probably not. Check out Adebisi Shank’s lazily titled third album anyway, because its title is the only thing about it that may warrant an eye-roll or two.
Andy Stott “Faith in Strangers”
Andy Stott makes music for very particular moments in time. I especially found “Faith in Strangers” to be excellent while walking around Seattle by myself in the clouded rain. Stott’s dark, heady, ambient dance music makes for a surprisingly intense and tender album. It’s the British producer’s fourth album, and though it doesn’t make way for groundbreaking new sounds or textures, it’s still a highly enjoyable release for people looking for the next Burial.
P.S. He’s not the next Burial, but he’s pretty close.
Behemoth “The Satanist”
“The Satanist” is the 10th album by the Polish death metal veterans of Behemoth. Now, 10th albums are rarely masterpieces. Sure, it happens on occasion, but never quite to the extent of Behemoth’s accomplishment here. “The Satanist” may look and feel like your middle-of-the-road death metal album, but it’s a twisted, gorgeous record. I loved it more earlier this year than I do now, but I still gladly welcome “The Satanist” into my honorable mentions because it’s simply a great album that successfully blends black metal and death metal to the very best of Behemoth’s ability. In a year replete with incredible black and doom metal records, it’s good to have a death metal album worth listening to.
The Bug “Angels & Devils”
It’s been a long time since Kevin Martin put out a record under his moniker, The Bug. Six years, to be exact. That last album, “London Zoo,” is considered a modern grimy dancehall classic. The Bug’s personalized style involves the fusion of several different genres, including early dubstep, UK grime, and reggae. This time around, The Bug has split some of his varying styles into a double-sided album. Side A, “Angels,” features relaxed, hazy, ambient production, as well as vocal contributions from the likes of Grouper and Gonjasufi. Side B, “Devils,” does a complete 180 and instead features intense, energetic production more akin to the kind of stuff he was doing on “London Zoo.” Add an excellent angry Death Grips feature, and you’ve got a great album that suffers from lack of consistency, but prospers with its sheer amount of trippy soft-EDM tracks and glorious bangers.
The unfortunate truth is that “CLPPNG” is not as consistent, striking, or good as clipping.’s previous mixtape, “Midcity.” “CLPPNG” is the LA experimental hip-hop trio’s debut studio album, and it won quite a bit of buzz from a number of different publications. Amazing tracks like “Story 2,” “Body and Blood,” and “Work Work” give this album the amount of wow-songs it needs to be really good for me. “CLPPNG” is loaded with some great tracks. Unfortunately, other tracks on here aren’t quite as great. A lot of the harsh noise has been replaced with more of producers William Huston and Jonathan Snipes’ sample-based beats, and that’s fine. “CLPPNG” provides quite a bit of change from the trio’s far rougher “Midcity,” but I just prefer the roughness. Love it or not, you should all still give clipping. a listen. Confusing capitalization and punctuation aside, “CLPPNG” is a great debut, and it certainly gives me hope for the band’s future.
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten”
After a five year wait, beloved Midwest emo (revivalist?) band Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) came back with their sophomore album, the followup to the brilliant “What It Takes to Move Forward.” Think of the new album, “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten,” like lead vocalist Keith Latinen’s version of “Benji.” It’s a highly personal and confessional record that features some heartbreaking tales from Keith’s childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and marriage to bandmate Cathy. The dynamic instrumentation pulls you in and the damaged and beautiful lyricism keeps you along for the sub-40-minute ride. You can try not to cry, but you’ll probably cry a lot. In a good way.
Fucked Up “Glass Boys”
Canadian punk band Fucked Up’s previous album, “David Comes to Life,” was an incredibly hard album to follow. It was an 18-song, 70-minute metafictional punk rock opera that I personally consider one of the decade’s highlights. Probably one of the best punk albums of the 2000s as a whole. Rather than pull a Swans and make the next album even more intricate and insane, they toned it down quite a bit for “Glass Boys.” Instead of an odyssey, “Glass Boys” is a short story. It’s less experimental, but still a great record from one of contemporary punk’s most outstanding groups. If you enjoyed “David Comes to Life” as much as I did, then I maintain that “Glass Boys” is a decent, if not worthy, follow-up.
Full of Hell & Merzbow “Full of Hell & Merzbow”
Not all collaborative projects work. They sometimes suffer from obvious disparity, lack of chemistry, poor songwriting, etc. “Full of Hell & Merzbow” is not a collaborative project that is capable of failing, really. It only sets out to achieve one goal: Make as much noise in as little time as possible. In 11 songs that span 24 minutes, the hardcore punk band and the legendary Japanese harsh noise musician made as much noise in as little time as possible. This set of tracks is heavy, disgusting, terrifying; it’s like a garbage monster that just keeps shifting into horrible creatures. Powerviolence begets harsh noise until the two coalesce in terrifying manners. It doesn’t quite warrant repeat listens, but it is a sharp burst of angry energy for when you feel like hating everyone.
Future Islands “Singles”
Let’s face it: “Seasons (Waiting on You)” is one of the best, if not the best, songs of the year. It’s catchy, concise, and clever. It’ll get stuck in your head, but you probably won’t hate yourself for having it there. It’s also the opening track on an album with nine other songs on it. Rather than falter, synthpop group Future Islands instead released an album of 10 catchy, concise, and clever songs. None of them have quite the staying power of “Seasons,” but they all carry quite a bit of personality in them. The album’s biggest problem is its unfortunate mixing, but next time around I guarantee Future Islands will have one of the best albums of the year. I don’t think they have it quite right this time, but I think it’s going to happen.
Jason Feathers “De Oro”
Most of Justin Vernon’s side-projects don’t really produce super interesting music (I’m looking at you, Volcano Choir). But, occasionally, Vernon takes part in a musical endeavor that is really strange. Jason Feathers is one of those musical endeavors. Just think about this: While you’re waiting around for the next Bon Iver album, Justin Vernon is busy singing trashy autotuned choruses in a weird experimental hip-hop project featuring Astronautalis and S. Carey. We live in a universe where this album exists, and it’s surprisingly great. It’s funny, bizarre, catchy, and very well produced. The vocal pitch-shifting meshes well with the heavy bass and intricate drums. Jason Feathers is cool, Volcano Choir isn’t.
Julian Casablancas & the Voidz “Tyranny”
Okay, so none of us expected a Julian Casablancas project to produce anything really worthwhile. Those of you that dismissed this as another lackluster album from Julian should give this record a listen. “Tyranny” is, first and foremost, really intense and extremely weird. Rather than reattempt the garage rock of The Strokes’ glory days or reinterpret its new synthpoppy direction, Casablancas instead opted to completely reinvent his musical output. “Tyranny” is a harsh, hazy, industrial post-punk record that will make you want to mosh instead of bob your head in agreement. It’s a pleasant surprise, and probably a one-time thing, but “Tyranny” shows that Casablancas has a passionately experimental bone left in his weird body.
Lewis “L’Amour” (also “Romantic Times”)
If “L’Amour” had actually come out in 2014, it would probably be close to my album of the year. Instead, it’s actually much more interesting and beautiful. Lewis (real name: Randall Wulff) is a part-time musician who recorded a couple albums in the mid-80s before churning them out at a more sporadic rate. He didn’t bother with labels or fame. 30 years later, an indie label found “L’Amour” and re-issued it, unsure of the whereabouts of the musician behind the record. They found an equally brilliant record, “Romantic Times,” recorded around the same time and re-issued that, too. Both albums are composed of short, acoustic ambient indie synth-rock songs. The recordings are incredibly sparse, but the music has just enough atmosphere and beauty that it works. I know these albums were recorded and initially released in the ’80s, but they’re both so good I just had to give them a mention.
Liars has gone through several dramatic musical shifts throughout its decade-plus long career. They started out rocking the early 2000s New York dance-punk scene. Lead singer Angus Andrew started dating Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O (he’s the guy that “Maps” is about). They broke up. Now Liars is growing, shifting, and morphing across several years. Their least couple albums were good, but not quite phenomenal. “Mess” is the culmination of what feels like everything Liars has been trying to do recently. Darkwave synthpop, dance rock, and general creepiness pervade this LP. It’s a mess, but it’s a colorful, crazy mess that is so strange that you just want to laugh your way into a white room.
Milo “A Toothpaste Suburb”
I’ve been following alternative rapper Milo for close to two years at this point. His intelligent lyricism and continuous flow fit him right in with the backpack rappers without verging on preachy. Milo isn’t here to push any sort of agenda. He’s just a philosophy major who likes to rap and watch movies. He sounds like that buddy of yours that talks too much whenever he gets stoned. The songs on here are funny, sad, and pretty personal. They’re also incredibly bizarre and are told in a stylistic voice that could belong only to Milo. The cloudy and sophisticated beats add another layer of greatness to “A Toothpaste Suburb,” as well as an awesome verse from Kool AD that makes me miss Das Racist even more than I already do.
Punk that leans in a pop direction is in both an amazing place and a terrible place as of this year, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, I think that “PUP” is proof on its own that pop punk is in a great place. PUP fuses “Pinkerton” guitar licks, old school emo shout-along choruses, and golden era pop punk goodness into a delightful stew. This album has over-the-top guitar solos, cheesy lyrics, and time-signature shifts galore, but it’s also the best album Green Day was never sober enough to put out. It sounds like if the members of Rise Against weren’t 50-year-old libertarians. PUP mixes the good and the bad of contemporary punk rock music and makes it one catchy, fun new genre. If you like summer and guitars, listen to PUP.
Rome Fortune “Small VVorld”
One mixtape that caught me off guard not too long ago is called “Small VVorld.” The man behind it is Rome Fortune, and he raps over Four Tet, raps with ILOVEMAKONNEN, and raps about booty. This mixtape is bizarre, yet every track on here sounds like it could be a hit. It sounds like Friday night at Atlanta’s hottest club. Though Rome’s personality and charisma aren’t really defined quite yet, he is the mastermind behind some really hilarious, great songs. If the radio sounded like Rome Fortune (which it sort of does) the world would be a better place to live.
Strand of Oaks “Heal”
These days, I’m generally pretty weary about white dude beard-folk albums. While I personally don’t steer clear of awesome groups like The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver, I’ve heard my fair share of beard-folk records that just were not good. Having felt ambiguous about the new War on Drugs record, I decided not to check out another acclaimed record that was supposed to be similar: “Heal” by Strand of Oaks. Then, not too long ago, I decided to say “alright,” and I gave “Heal” a listen. Let’s just say that pretty much every complaint I have about “Lost in the Dream” is resolved on “Heal.” It’s a dynamic, instrumentally intensive folk-rock record that features passionate vocals and personal lyrics. In a world of bad beard-folk, Strand of Oaks is a beard-diamond in the beard-rough.
Thantifaxath “Sacred White Noise”
Finally, a black metal record that doesn’t suffer from being over-produced! I’m kidding of course, but also not really. “Sacred White Noise,” the debut from mysterious black metal group Thantifaxath, is one of those experiences for me when I feel raw authenticity from a record. This literally sounds like three kids got in a garage or dumpy recording studio, hit record, and played the songs through in their entireties. No time to try it again, just save it and print. “Sacred White Noise” is a terrifying metal album that features some classically awesome instrumentation as well as a general atmosphere of terror.
Timber Timbre “Hot Dreams”
Unfortunately, Timber Timbre doesn’t ever get much coverage. Their music is creative and strange, but no one ever seems to give them credit for consistently putting out awesome music. Well, now’s your time to shine, Timber Timbre. The group’s latest album, “Hot Dreams,” is a seductive folk-rock album for the kind of person whose favorite two artists are The National and Nick Cave. It’s a gentle, coy record that’s also not afraid to get tough when the time calls for it. It’s slow and authoritative and definitely worth your time. It’s also a slow burner, so don’t expect it to make sense after one listen. Give it some time, show it some love, and you might see the genius behind “Hot Dreams.”
Ty Segall “Manipulator”
Since like 2008, Ty Segall has put out at least one (but usually closer to three or four) great record a year. “Melted,” “Slaughterhouse,” “Goodbye Bread,” “Hair;” you can always rely on Ty. This time around, the garage rock demigod of California is back with his longest album ever. It’s composed of 17 songs that stretch the album’s length to a little over an hour. You’d be hard pressed to find a psych/garage rock revival band that can make a 30-minute album sound interesting all the way through. Yet here’s Ty Segall on this list. “Manipulator” is a truly great record that features some of Segall’s best moments. It’s like a mixtape of songs from different albums you made for someone to show them why Ty Segall is the best, but it’s all on one album. Its length is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness, but it finds a way to balance it. Not Top 50 material, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
Wild Beasts “Present Tense”
England is home to some awful bands. I’m not going for the low-hanging fruit like One Direction. I’m talking about every one-hit wonder late-90s Britpop band, and every Radiohead knockoff, and every Arctic Monkeys knockoff. There are some amazing bands in England today, but none of them seem to be popular. Wild Beasts is probably one of England’s best and most bizarre. For four albums now, the band has made experimental pop music that would put Alt-J to shame. Crazy vocal performances, odd lyrics, and standard pop conventions all combine on “Present Tense,” Wild Beasts’ latest album, and it’s pretty good. Not my personal favorite from the band, but it brings the band into a mature direction without turning them into Coldplay or Oasis or Muse.
Wolves in the Throne Room “Celestite”
For four albums, Pacific Northwestern metal band Wolves in the Throne Room has concocted beautiful atmospheric music that has been dubbed Cascadian black metal. It’s very transcendental, and you should listen to those albums if you’re into that music. “Celestite” isn’t a black metal album, though. It’s a 48-minute ambient drone record. It’s spacious, celestial, and broad. It’s the too-good soundtrack for that bad ’80s fantasy film you liked as a kid. It’s the world’s first vaporwave metal album. I don’t know what it is, but it’s great. If you’re looking for a Wolves in the Throne Room album like any you’ve ever heard, turn back now. No blastbeats to be found here, folks.
Woods of Desolation “As the Stars”
Black metal doesn’t have to come from Scandinavia, or Canada, or Seattle. It comes from the heart. Also, Australia. Woods of Desolation is a one-man black metal project led by a person who only goes by “D.” I can only assume this is D’Angelo Barksdale, who must have faked his death and fled to Australia where he fell in love with black metal and started his own musical project. And if it’s not him, that’s fine, too. “As the Stars” is an unflinching album that fuses aggressive black metal with swooshes of post-rock beauty. Woods of Desolation isn’t the first band to accomplish this, but it does so in such a compelling manner (in 35 minutes no less) that it really affects me. Great stuff, but not quite ambitious or fleshed out enough to warrant Top 50 material.
YOB “Clearing the Path to Ascend”
I first became familiar with YOB in 2011, a few years after it recovered from a short breakup. I quickly forgot about them, only to be reminded a few months ago of the band’s existence, as well as its incredible music. YOB hails from Eugene, Oregon, and the band makes doom metal so slow and scuzzy and demented that it’ll shake your entire house. This can make for some daunting listening, especially when the songs rarely shift or speed up, but “Clearing the Path to Ascend” proves that the band has still got it. The songs on here are pummeling, and Mike Scheidt’s vocals are horrifying. If you at all enjoy doom metal, give this extra-dark hour-long odyssey of torture satisfy your demented ears.
Yung Lean “Unknown Memory”
Much like with his debut mixtape, “Unknown Death 2002,” I did not love “Unknown Memory” at first listen. In fact, I was kind of disappointed and upset with it. How could Swedish rap sensation Yung Lean please my ears so thoroughly in 2013, but disappoint me so harshly in 2014. The problem was that I hadn’t listened to “Unknown Memory” enough. This album focuses more on the pop appeal of Yung Lean, which makes sense since this is a studio album rather than a mixtape. There are catchier hooks, cleaner mixes, and more accessible beats. In short, it’s Leandoer’s pop album. It’s not as untouchable to me as “Unknown Death 2002,” but if there was ever a philosophical debate in the years to come about whether “Unknown Memory” is a good album, I would stand up and say “Yes.” Because it is.
Stay tuned for the best albums of 2014, babygurls. 😉