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Best of 2014: Albums

It seems redundant to say “This year was a fantastic year in music.”  I feel strongly that if you are trying to enjoy yourself, you will find that you enjoy things.  Thats a silly way of saying, “Of course.”  Every year was a great year in music as long as new music was being created, performed, discussed, and adored.  The knowledge gained by engaging in any one of these actions alone is irreplaceable.

My year in music was shaped by my cyclical taste of music that relates almost completely to the weather.  Starting the year, because of some technical difficulties (read: living in the boonies), I spent a good chunk of time just catching up on new releases from Blood Orange, Haim, Mount Kimbie, King Krule, among others.  Typically my Winters are focused on brooding lyrics, dark sounds, and falsetto vocals, but circumstances trumped taste and I was stuck listening to burned CD’s from a new music dump some months earlier.  We’ll get back to Winter later, but in the Spring, I started a new job which allowed me significantly more music listening/blogging time.  So along with that came a re-investigation into the current state of music.  I found myself immersed in new artists that were creating noise I could get on board with.  To name a few, PHOX, Sylvan Esso, Glass Animals, Wet, and Ages and Ages all set me right.  So spring, as it is wont to do, was comprised of fresh starts and budding bands sure to blossom in the coming years.  In the Summer, I’m all shimmery/jangly/plinky guitar and synth indie-rock (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vacationer, The War On Drugs, etc).  As the summer fades to Fall, I delve into the pulsing layers and percussion of electro R&B (Caribou, Cathedrals, Peaking Lights, Flying Lotus).  In addition, my love of singer-songwriter/folk/Americana comes back around in full swing (Ages and Ages {again}, S. Carey, Bahamas).  This brings us right back around to Winter, which has got me locked in on a steady balance of indie pop and electronic oddness.  Songs like Emile Haynie – “Falling Apart”Lapsley – “Station”, and Human Heat – “Fever (feat. Tei Shi)” have been pushing me through the day with the promise of longer days and brighter skies.

On to the Fun Stuff

Brain Forest Top Albums of 2014

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Ugh.  This Album.  This is the one above all that I couldn’t let go of this year.  No matter what was going on in my life, this album resonated within me with such a frequency that I often wanted to cry.  This album honestly makes me sad.  But its such a beautiful sad that allows me to enjoy all the happiness in my life that much more.  The way I imagine parents feel as they pine over their children who just “grow up so fast…”  I’ve grown up a great deal this year, between moving twice, getting engaged,  promoted, and surviving a full year with a homicidal psycho jungle cat.  All of these things have wrought my life with emotions, many of which exude from the 47 minutes of music put out by Sharon Van Etten this year.  This album is for all intents and purposes, a break-up album.  This fact very well could be the reason it strikes me so hard when I hear it.  I am very much breaking away from my past.  I am moving on.  I am leaving the things that bound me and packing up everything I’ll need.

(at this point I’m afraid that any further comments on this album will either lead to a verbose diatribe that need not be published, and would possibly take away from you, the listener’s, ability to ingest this album without bias.  Thanks xx.)

Ages and Ages – Divisionary

This album came onto my radar as a result of the always stellar line-up at Newport Folk Festival.  I went to work digesting artists that I wasn’t already aware of and immediately this was a standout.  First and foremost, the title track “Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)” very well maybe my song of the year.  From the moment this song starts to build, it gets lodged in my mind.  I am a sucker for so many elements of this song, from the solo acoustic/vocal intro and handclaps to the choir harmonies and uplifting lyrics.  I love this song for the same reason I’ve obsessed over Avett Bros, the Lumineers, and now Ages & Ages.  The album as a whole is cohesive, exciting, well-orchestrated and unique.  Also, their live show was one of my top shows of 2014, mainly because the songs were performed with the same energy and accuracy that is captured on this album.  Truly a wonderful album from an amazing band.

Saintseneca – Dark Arc

Sometimes bands are flashed in front of my face too frequently too ignore.  I kept reading and hearing about this folk/punk/pop/Americana band from Columbus that was generating some buzz in independent circles.  Then they started popping up on summer/fall festival lineups that I had been planning on attending.  It was at this point I succumbed and gave their album a focused listen.  From the opening track Blood Bath, it was immediately apparent why so few reviews had managed to convince me to investigate these guys.  They have such an intangible sound.  Its every bit the multi-genre tag they had been dubbed.  The wailing tenor of the lead singer and the shaky falsetto of the female vocals on the album paint a scene in my mind that I can’t release when listening to this music.  A straight-through listen of this album is sure to take you somewhere.

Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

This album definitely wins “most anticipated album based on a single.”  When I first heard “Play It Right” I was really taken aback by how fresh it felt.  Amidst a sea of producer+female vocalist electronic duos, Sylvan Esso felt different.  The distortions of the synthesizers and samples give the backbone of this album a gritty natural feel that interlaces perfectly with the airy-yet-confident vocals.  It only got better when I realized that the voice was none other than Amelia Meath of Mountain Man, who I had been long familiar with from my folk/Americana obsession.  On top of that, the producer, Nick Sanborn, was the basssist from Megafaun, who I knew from their loose affiliation with Justin Vernon, who was bandmates with many of its members from DeYarmond Edison.  So in essence. for me this was a supergroup.  The whole album has so many new emotions for a work of its genre.  The texture alone is enough to keep me and the amazing vocal lines and harmonies are such that I can’t forget the songs long after they stop playing.

Rubblebucket – Survival Sounds

I owe this one completely to MidPoint Music Festival.  Every year I grab the lineup as soon as its announced and I begin compiling a playlist of a few songs from each of the artists and I get to listening.  The more I listen to the playlist, the more I whittle down the songs, removing unpleasant ones as I go.  Well in the case of Rubblebucket, I couldn’t drop a single song and I ended up going back and adding more.  The album is fun.  Throughout its entirety, you can hear lead singer Kalmia smiling whilst belting out anthemic choruses and lofty verses.  Every song on the album begs for a live performance, which is why this show was easily one of the most fun shows I saw in the past year.

Honorable Mentions

James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust

Landlady – Upright Behavior

SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

Rustie – Green Language

Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

Caribou – Our Love

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Adult Jazz – Gist Is

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

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