I’ve given up pretending that my limited sample size can say anything about whether a given year was a “good year” for music or otherwise. I am completely persuaded that every year is a good year unless you have extremely narrow taste, or if you simply happen not to hear the things that are probably out there which you’d like. There’s so much music out there, it’s difficult to imagine passing judgment on an entire year based on what you happen to have heard. I say this because, once again, I had a difficult time narrowing things down: some records were clearly outstanding, and some were clearly kinda meh…but a whole lot were in the top-middling area contending for second- or third-tier status.
Here are the very best of the year’s releases, in alphabetical order:
- The Both The Both
- Camper Van Beethoven El Camino Real
- The Caribbean Moon Sickness
- Ex Hex Rips
- The GOASTT (Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) (whatever they’re gonna call themselves) Midnight Sun
- Johnny Marr Playland
- The New Pornographers Brill Bruisers
- Popstrangers Fortuna
- Spoon They Want My Soul
Two of these bands are arguably the very best around in their genre: Spoon is probably the best rock band out there, and the New Pornographers the best pop band around. Both bands’ 2014 releases were slightly better than their prior (still very good) releases, too.
- Peter Matthew Bauer Liberation!
- Beck Morning Phase
- Neil Finn Dizzy Heights
- Interpol El Pintor
- Morrissey World Peace Is None of Your Business
- Owen Pallett In Conflict
- St. Vincent St. Vincent
- Temples Sun Structures
- TV on the Radio Seeds
- Scott Walker & Sunn O))) Soused
Several notable “comeback” releases here, from Beck, Interpol, Morrissey, and TV on the Radio…coming back either from absence or weaker recordings.
Still really quite good:
- Army Navy The Wilderness Inside
- The Black Watch Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy
- Body Futures Brand New Silhouettes
- Cymbals Eat Guitars Lose
- Joe Henry Invisible Hour
- The New Mendicants Into the Lime
- Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No Witness
- Outrageous Cherry Digital Age
- Split Single Fragmented World
- Three Minute Tease Bite the Hand
- Tom Vek Luck
And still very good: The Autumn Defense Fifth, Peter Buck I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again, Eno – Hyde Someday World and High Life, Field Report Marigolden, Doug Gillard Parade On, Guided by Voices Cool Planet, Sondre Lerche Please, Thurston Moore The Best Day, The Paul & John Inner Sunset, Peggy Sue Choir of Echoes, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters Lullaby and…the Ceaseless Roar, The Raveonettes Pe’ahi, School of Language Old Fears, Devon Williams Gilding the Lily, Wussy Attica.
And very good but with some reservations: Anton Barbeau Distortion Schlager, The Mike Benign Compulsion Here’s How It Works, Hospitality Trouble, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard Here Be Monsters, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks Wig Out at Jagbags, Medicine Home Everywhere, Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin, Pixies Indie Cindy, The Proper Ornaments Wooden Head, Teach Me Equals Knives in the Hope Chest, Sharon Van Etten Are We There.
Several good tracks but falling a bit short: Blonde Redhead Barragán, Emperor X The Orlando Sentinel, Literature Chorus, Maximo Park Too Much Information, Nømads Free My Animal, Real Estate Atlas, Sloan Commonwealth, Statuesque All Your Requiem Requirements, The Fassbinders Earthworm, Unicycle Loves You The Dead Age.
Several good tracks but either a handful of lame tracks or just decent without having many thrills…: Robyn Hitchcock The Man Upstairs, Laetitia Sadier Something Shines, Dean Wareham Dean Wareham, Wye Oak Shriek, Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. (I dunno…I’m not quite persuaded by the synth-heavy sound of that Wye Oak record…) And: S. Carey Range of Light, Cibo Matto Hotel Valentine, Dum Dum Girls Too True, Guided by Voices Motivational Jumpsuit, Graham Lewis All Over, Liars Mess, Merchandise After the End, Nothing Guilty of Everything, The Baseball Project 3rd (anyone else think this one really should have been called I Don’t Know?), Tweedy Sukierae.
A handful of good to excellent EPs: Anton Barbeau vs. The Corner Laughers A Battle to the Birth, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard Mars EP, School of Language More Fears, Self Super Fake Nice, Speedy Ortiz Real Hair, Vinyl Williams Trance Zen Dental Spa, The Zags Small Bags.
There were a number of records that I acquired too late in the year to really form an opinion of: Andrew Bird Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…, The Flaming Lips et al. With a Little Help from My Fwends, Parquet Courts Content Nausea and Sunbathing Animals, Philip Selway Weatherhouse (although I can say this is more interesting than his first release), Paul Smith & Peter Brewis Frozen by Sight, Zammuto Anchor (also better than his first one).
Next…the actual playlist of selections from the top titles…