2014 was a pretty incredible year for music. I’ve grown to appreciate certain aspects of the listening experience more and more as time passes. All of the albums on this list were so endearing and pleasing to me that I was able to collect the recorded albums on vinyl.
This wasn’t a year that I spent too much time traveling to live shows. Instead these albums were the soundtracks to my creative progression over the past year and have helped inspire my creative endeavors while I spent a majority of my time at home working or commuting to work.
I’ve included a mix that has two songs I’ve chosen from each album to give you a taste of what’s been in heavy rotation for me this year.
Top Ten Albums Of 2014 .ZIP
10. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
I’ve been a fan of The New Pornographers for many years. I originally heard that Kurt Dahle, the drummer of one of my fave Canadian alt-rock bands Limblifter was in this band and sang back up vocals. Unfortunately this would be the last album he recorded with the band before he announced his departure. Needless to say, my affection for his musicianship lead me to this incredibly talented group of musicians. The album itself is so haunting, majestic and beautiful. It really was uplifting and brought out some unique emotions I haven’t experience in a while with music. The musicianship and vocals on this album are top notch, It’s one of their finest efforts in the recording studio. Niko Case once again hits a high note on her vocals on every track she’s present. I’m a little slow to jump on the Neko Case bandwagon. It wasn’t until this album and her latest solo record that I really started to become a fan. I know some people out there who try to melt your face with their Neko fandom, much to my annoyance. I hope this album gains longevity and inspires a lot more people.
I’ve added the songs “Backstairs” and “Marching Orders” due to their high energy and uplifting vibe that really stood out on this album. A.C. Newman and Neko Case really delivered some beautiful vocals and harmonies on these tracks & of course Ryan’s drumming is sooooo good!
9. Tycho – Awake
One of my most memorable experiences this year was being invited to the Tycho show by my friend Victor Pascual. His enthusiasm for this instrumental band I had never heard of really ignited that fresh feeling of getting out of my comfort zone and listening to something new. Not only was this show the perfect visual experience but it also set the tone of how I would explore music most of this year. More of a gut feeling and being encouraged by the tastes of my peers than trying to discover everything on my own. I was surprised and impressed on how good this band was live. The musicianship I experienced at the live show translated so well on the recording. This is a gorgeous array of sound that is masterfully performed.
The songs “L” and “Apogee” really stood out on this album. I kept returning to them whenever I played this record. The took me to a creative place of comfort and calmness. Deeply immersible soundscapes. I would often play the A side of this record before I went to bed or woke up. It hit all the right notes for me in terms of instrumentals that get me thinking of creative possibilities.
8. Gardens & Villa – Dunes
This band opened for Tycho at one my only and highly memorable live shows in some time. I remember having a conversation in a booth at the venue and I was more concentrated on listening to the songs than the banter between my friends and I. The instrumentation on this album was very diverse and right up my alley in terms of quirky synthesizer sounds. As much as I enjoyed and loved the Tycho experience. This band was the real highlight of that evening. I had listening to their previous album in the past and wasn’t really impressed with any of the songs except one. This album really put them on my radar and I’ve enjoyed the dark electronic landscape they’ve provided. This is a upbeat, dark and moody album that hits a lot of areas I’m interested in hearing in the musical landscape. I have fun listening to this record and I’m often inclined to dance or sing along.
The A side of this record is pure magic the songs “Domino” & “Echosassy” are really fun and engaging songs. I chose these two because they really set the tone of what I enjoyed most about their live show. Really surreal and eclectic electronic soundtrack to a good night with friends who love & live music.
7. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
This guy came out of nowhere and completely blew me away with this brilliant electronic mastery & instrumentation. The synths on this album are mind blowing and intricate. The percussion is highly engaging. I felt like I’m in a brand new world every time I hear this record. This album is so fun to listen to from beginning to end. It’s reaches to all these new levels of musicianship that I have been hoping for.
“Preben Goes To Acapulco” hits so many highs in terms of the music that I find most enjoyable. A lot of songs on this album hit this retro feel that is so engaging. I also chose “Alfonso Muskedunder” due to the fact it kicks so much ass and really feels like adventure in a place and time that only dreams are made of.
6. Real Estate – Atlas
This record is so dreamy. Everything about it was super pleasant to listen to in the background. It’s a very relaxing listen. They’re last album was superb and this stepped it up a notch. I loved every minute of this album. Truly one of those albums you can put on repeat and not even notice you’ve replayed it a dozen times. Martin Courtney has such a wonderful singing voice, it’s one of the highlights of this band. His style and range is beautiful to me.
The instrumental song “April’s Song” has a couple of particular sections of the song where it completely blows my mind on how good it sounds. The entire build up of this song is incredible. It’s so beautiful. Listen and see if you can pick out the sweet spots I’m talking about. “The Bend” has this amazing outro that caught me off guard. It’s already a good song then the outro really puts it over the top for me. It’s super dreamlike.
5. Ty Segall – Manipulator
I’ve been trying to see this guy live for a few years now and for some reason he eluded me, then he finally played Santa Fe. Another highly memorable live show here in the Fade in a very small venue that rocked our collective faces off. This record is so brilliant from beginning to end. I have all of his records and side projects and Manipulator really delivers some his best work ever. So many blissed out rock moments. By far this is his most put together album of his catalogue.
Pretty much every track on this album is at the repeat a single song level, but the first one on the album to achieve this for me was “The Singer“. The guitar, vocals and orchestral arrangement really put this particular jam on a whole new level of Ty Segall brilliance. “Susie Thumb” is such a rocking song that it also was on repeat. The intro drum fill, the instant gritty guitar sound and Ty’s vocals really built this song into a fierce ride that just kept getting better as it progressed.
4. Bracket – Hold Your Applause
Bracket has always been that band that I have loved that very few people I know have ever heard or really understood. This is their first release in 8 years and is some of their finest output ever. The album came out at the perfect time. Marty Gregori writes, sings and plays guitar some really simple, harmonious, endearing rock songs about relationships and life struggles that I totally related to on so many levels. The musicianship of the band, vocal harmonies and pure rocking out on this record reached an all time high for me. It was an entire band contribution over the course of a several years but I’m glad they took their time crafting these songs.
I put the song “Habit” first because it hit all these new areas in the Bracket music progression I haven’t heard from them yet. It was one of those sleeper songs that by the time I put this mix together I felt it best introduced their new frontiers but a hint of their past. I also wanted to build up the song “Fairweathered Friend” closing out this mix since it’s an earlier track on the album but a song that just floored me every time I listened to it. Emotional, kind of dark and aggressive. I love how they switch back and forth between narratives and catch you off guard with the chord progression. The harmonies really come together beautifully on this song.
3. The Drums – Encyclopedia
I asked the merch girl Irma for Paper Bag Records at SXSW a few years back which band she was really into at the moment. She said “The Drums”. I laughed and thought it was a clever way of brushing me off because I’m so inquisitive. I also thought it was a silly name for a band but I was curious to listen to the band because she seemed really cool and worked for one of my fave record labels based out of Toronto. A couple years later I finally got around to listening to them, I absorbed their first two albums and was sooooo impressed. I love this band. Everything about them is refreshing to me. I wasn’t aware that they were even working on this record when I found out it was released. I immediately bought it on vinyl without second guessing and couldn’t stop listening to it. It hit so many high notes for me and really exemplified what I love about discovering music that just transcends the standard I have for music listening. I’m super thankful for meeting Irma and knowing that she changed my life with a simple answer.
Oh man I could listen and sing to “Kiss Me Again” forevs. It’s so fucking good! So many elements to this song that just capture emotions I didn’t realize I could experience with music. I felt like I was brought back to a lot of personal moments in my life and this song was the soundtrack to those experiences. So much sound going on all at once and the timing of the beat. Being able to drop into a world of emotion is unusual for me when listening to music but this song “Break My Heart” really brought back some memories that I hadn’t really visited in a long time. This album is so good from beginning to end and It was a emotional ride for me. I get a little choked up listening to this song.
2. Mounties – Thrash Rock Legacy
When I heard that this supergroup of some of my most beloved Canadian musicians had combined and recorded this album together I knew that it was going to be very significant and possibly some of the best music I would appreciate this year. Such an impressive, fun and catchy debut album from these guys. I already loved Ryan Dahle immensely from his Age Of Electric and Limblifter days. Steve Bays was continuously kicking ass with each Hot Hot Heat record. I hadn’t dipped into Hawksley Worksman’s previous catalogue but I am now a bonafide fan of his musicianship. This album has been a mainstay on my turntable for most of the year or somehow ends up there. Mainly because of the two songs I’ve included on the mix
“If This Dance Catches On” is so catchy. I love everything about it from the drums to vocals to the layered synths. Each member is represented vocally and it has so many layers. It’s such a fun song to listen to and sing along. “Waking Up On Time” continuously impresses me. Once I heard it, I was hooked. I immediately had it on repeat. Everything about it just blows my mind. It’s so so beautiful and I absolutely loved playing it as soon as I woke up in the morning throughout this year. The intro, drums, vocal harmonies and the synths just put this song over the top for me. The narrative in the vocals are also a strong point on this record. Beautiful lyrics of a beloved relationship.
1. Teleman – Breakfast
Just when I thought the year was complete. Late in the year I finally backtracked and absolutely fell in love with this Teleman record. It just came out of nowhere. I loved Pete And The Pirates and was saddened that they had called it quits. Immediately afterwards I realized that they had materialized into Teleman. I usually chose my top ten albums on the criteria that the album must be good from beginning to end. I really struggled with this one choosing just two tracks from this record. It’s one of the most complete and lovable records I’ve heard in quite some time. Every note and every track hits a high note for me.
“Steam Train Girl” has so many elements of music that I love. Sweet vocals, twangy guitar, cute synth sounds sprinkled throughout and super upbeat build up. This song perfectly sets up the following track “In Your Fur“, which has some ethereal Thomas Sanders intro vocals and is super dreamy sounding, he’s a strong point throughout the record. It also builds up into a nice rock progression with some irresistible synths.