Here we are again for our annual coverage of the best albums of the year. At Earbuddy, we pride ourselves in having one of the most eclectic lists on the Internet and as always, there are plenty of surprises to be found. For this edition of 100 awesome albums, the Earbuddy Senior Writing Staff (Nick Krenn, Alex Daniel, John Downey, Ryan Rogers, and Chris Foster) narrowed down a list of 125+ albums to a final, much debated even 100, which all contributing writers were allowed to vote on. Nominations for the list started in December 2013 and ended November 2014. This is to account for albums released during December when we’ve stopped considering albums for the list. Without further ado, here’s what Earbuddy writers dug the most in 2014.
100. Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather
99. Trust – Joyland
98. Lewis & Clarke – Triumvirate
97. The Orwells – Disgraceland
96. Volage – Heart Healing
95. Siinai – Supermarket
94. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d
93. Smoke Fairies – Smoke Fairies
92. Moon Honey – Hand-Painted Dream Photographs
91. White Arrows – In Bardo
90. Tomorrows Tulips – When
89. Be Forest – Earthbeat
88. Meatbodies – Meatbodies
87. Wax Fang – The Astronaut
86. Vessel – Punish, Honey
85. Curtis Harding – Soul Power
84. Doug Keith – Pony
83. United Nations – The Next Four Years
82. Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin
81. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
80. Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy
79. Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon – Break Line The Musical
78. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags
77. Actress – Ghettoville
76. Celestial Shore – Enter Ghost
75. Single Mothers – Negative Qualities
74. Lost In The Trees – Past Life
73. Dawn Landes – Bluebird
72. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
71. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood
70. Naomi Punk – Television Man
69. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation
68. Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside
67. Tobacco – Ultima Massage II
66. Jesca Hoop – Undress
65. Neneh Cherry – Blank Project
64. Linnea Olsson – Ah!
63. Wye Oak – Shriek
62. Hooray for Earth – Racy
61. Uncommon Nasa – New York Telephone
60. White Hinterland – Baby
59. Interpol – El Pintor
58. Tycho – Awake
57. Dum Dum Girls – Too True
56. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
55. Jack White – Lazaretto
54. Rustie – Green Language
53. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
52. Fear of Men – Loom
51. Lone – Reality Testing
On the first of two Parquet Courts albums (counting Parkay Quarts) released this year, Andrew Savage’s vocals have gotten a little more worn and loose, and he sounds not unlike Chuck Moseley from the early days of Faith No More. These songs, like Savage’s voice, may be a bit rougher than those found on their debut, Light Up Gold, though. The songs are a little less accessible, but they generally have one or two hooks that drive them forward. This band won’t be a game-changer (like what may have been hinted at with Light Up Gold), but good lord, do they know how to give the listener a fun listen.
There’s no denying that Iceage sounds so much better for spreading their wings. You’re Nothing sounded like the messiest parts of early ’80s punk revived, and Plowing Into the Field of Love makes its way through damn near every other permutation of “proper” punk, leaning especially hard on conjuring Social Distortion’s best material. The material present here is so much better than what was on their slightly-overrated sophomore album, and if all you care about in your punk rock is execution, this might be your album of the year.
‘90s indie rock that comes off as a cross between a restrained Titus Andronicus and a just as volatile Cymbals Eat Guitars. Still, the band’s rough-around-the-edges garage jam session style won’t make a fan of everyone; however, we found it gritty and endearing. Spastic vocal bursts seem to erupt out of nowhere from a maniacal frontman Tim Beeler, but it perfectly complements the band’s arrangements which often sound highly improvisational.
The Icelandic-based drone composer Ben Frost has been producing some of the darkest and ethereal music since 2001. Frost’s music as of late, can be described as a mixture between ambient, classical, drone and elements of metal and prog (basically the most calm genres mixed with the most harsh ones). Frost’s seemingly dissonant combination of sounds has led him in a secluded place in the music world. A U R O R A could be considered an industrial record in the most literal sense because it basically sounds like what a decaying and obsolete factory full of grinding, whirring machines during their final hour on earth before they are sent to the scrapyard.
Even though it’s clear that Alvvays are influenced by bands such as The Smiths, The Vaselines and Teenage Fanclub, they pay homage to them through crafting songs that are often on their level of greatness. This is not only true for the excellent pre-release singles, but for many of the other album tracks also, primarily “Next Of Kin” and “Party Police”. Their brand of jingle-jangle pop evokes all the happiness that makes the genre so great whilst adding more dimensions through their melancholic moments of lyrical genius. This record won’t change the world but it certainly makes mine a little happier, and therefore better.
45. Fennesz – Bécs
In terms of being a conceptual follow-up to Fennesz’ album Endless Summer, it can be argued that Bécs has the elements of it but not quite the cohesiveness. It’s a different construction using the same materials. Endless Summer is stuck in an endless summer, it doesn’t have a logical ‘follow-up’ point. Just consider the names of the two albums: Endless Summer is, by definition, a space out of real time, whereas Bécs (the Hungarian word for Fennesz’s hometown, Vienna) is a real, living, existing place that the artist is intimately acquainted with. It is natural that he would present the place where he was born, grew up and continues to live in a more realistic way. That is always going to be a difficult task; full of ugliness, beauty, frustration and contradiction; such is real life.
Since the early ’90s, Kevin Martin has been an integral part of London’s electronic music scene; he’s moved effortlessly through the throngs of cloying wannabes, wielding massive underground acclaim and influencing all sorts of disparate subgenres: digital raga, illbient, industrial dancehall, dubstep &c. Critical and commercial acclaim began to trickle in from outside the hazy confines of the Big Smoke following 2008’s London Zoo, and Angels & Devils marks the first real time that Martin is releasing an LP to a waiting global audience. Wider acknowledgement of his music has enabled him to recruit a few ‘well-known’ indie names from across the pond (Liz Harris bka “Grouper”, Death Grips, Gonjasufi) but that doesn’t mean that he’s abandoned longtime cockney collaborators such as Warrior Queen, Manga, or the inimitable Flowdan. As usual, he’s pushing boundaries but there’s still something inherently Bug-ish about Angels & Devils; Martin has confounded sonic expectations and utilised a bigger stage to create the essential Bug album, one that spans the range of his vast musical inclinations but stays true to a vision that only reveals itself when viewed in context, and as part of the whole.
Everything about Oxymoron feels grander in scope and more carefully constructed than ScHoolboy Q’s past albums (although there were some casualties due to sampling clearances including the third part of the “Druggies Wit Hoes” series with Ab-Soul). Following in the footsteps of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and Danny Brown’s Old, Oxymoron attempts to paint an auto-biographical portrait of the central character dealing with family, drugs and poverty in America. Some of Schoolboy Q’s most personal demons come out without any sugarcoating like on the two-parter “Prescription/Oxymoron” where he is too fucked up on prescription drugs to talk to his daughter and mother, which perpetuates his cycle of depression and hatred.
42. Makthaverskan – II
Swedish rock band Makthaverskan weren’t exactly a name on the tip of everyone’s tongues in 2014. Hell, their name is hard enough to spell. However, the project led by the fiery Maja Milner stole our hearts with DIY rock bordering into dream pop territory. Although they’re a foreign band (Earbuddy is based in the US), their music is accessible and features the best use of the word “fuck” probably all year.
Kishi Bashi’s latest album, Lighght, carries over many of 151a’s issues, the overall sound has been improved by just adding a little bit of direction. 151a suggested fun; Lighght conveys it.
And that’s it for today! Be sure to join us tomorrow as we take a look at our best albums of 2014: 40 – 31.