Jan 032015

Hello and welcome to 2015!

Although we Hallers don’t spend a whole lotta time discussing new music, I know you’re out there buying new music. Shall we have some further discussion about The Year In Music, 2014?

Here are my favorite 5 albums of the year, presented in no particular order. To make this list, each album had to feel coherent and have no throw away tracks. I’ve included a link to a track from each album for your tasting pleasure. Please raise your glasses to the following:
1. Steve Gunn – “Way Out Weather” The guitarist from Kurt Vile’s band, The Violators, is now singing along with his melodic music making. Aromas of Laurel Canyon, with some of the pong of David Crosby and John Fahey.
2. Spoon – “They Want My Soul” This album goes down easy, but with some quirky production Lindsey Buckinghamesque (really, it’s produced by Dave Fridmann a la Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips). While this album appears on so many Best Of lists, Britt Daniel continues to manage to dodge Rock Star Diva status and brings words of heartache (and notes of sour grapefruit) to the greater American People.
3. Real Estate – “Atlas” Melodic janglepop. Vanilla, oaky, earnest. Still a small vineyard production.
4. The Soundcarriers – “Entropicalia” For those of you who still mourn the loss of Broadcast and Stereolab, this fizzy concoction will get your toes tapping. Notes of The Free Design and Can.
5. Eno-Hyde – “High Life” No Miller canned shit, this is of English and African origin. Additional drone aromas and aged in a vintage “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts” cask.

Five additional albums were tasty but they didn’t make my Top 5. Included are links to live performances:
6. Cibo Matto – “Hotel Valentine” A new whimsical and thematic album from Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda and released on Sean Lennon’s label. This one’s not about food (see “Viva La Woman”) but instead relays the observations of a ghost girl (kawaii!).
7. Camper Van Beethoven – “El Camino Real” Another thematic album, and the twin to 2013’s “La Costa Perdida.” While the earlier album focused on NorCal, “El Camino Real” is a narrative of Southern California’s sights and people. Mellower than vintage CVB but with sharp, dead-on observations.
8. St. Vincent – “St. Vincent” I don’t care for Annie’s new blond hair, but this album yielded a couple of very good singles and live performances.
9. Tricky – “Adrian Thaws” More club oriented than some of his previous albums. Sexy and violent.
10. Deerhoof – “La Isla Bonita” More noise from that crazy formerly-of-San Francisco foursome. Spiky, melodic, poetic.

What were your favorite albums of 2014?


  41 Responses to “Return (of the Favorite 5)”

  1. 2000 Man

    I guess my favorites were:

    Reigning Sound – Shattered. Not Greg’s usual uptempo garage fest. He’s lost a few friends recently and this reflects that, but the more I’ve listened to it, the more I like it. He just writes great songs.

    Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home. Man, they just killed it on this. Wilko doesn’t sound quite as aggressive as he did in Dr. Feelgood, but Daltrey sounds better than he has in years. It’s an expensive record but the music is great and the booklet that comes with it is really nice.

    Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else. A little less rough around the edges than Indestructible Machine and I wasn’t expecting that since the Boy Crazy EP was mostly a train running off the tracks affair. She’s great, though.

    Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. There’s a lot of music here, and it’s just all really good. The band is unbelievable, and she sounds great, like always.

    Wussy – Attica! I think I mentioned that I certainly undestand why Oats likes these guys. I can listen to them all day!

  2. cliff sovinsanity

    The 3 albums from 2014 I played most often were:

    Beck – Morning Phase
    Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
    Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside

    The 2 albums from 2014 I’m still evaluating are:

    Jack White – Lazaretto
    Chuck Prophet – Night Surfer

  3. ladymisskirroyale

    I considered Jack White’s album for my not-so-perfect 5: despite it having one of my favorite tunes (“Lazaretto”), I think it’s uneven.

    An album we’re still evaluating is D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah.” Mr. Royale loves it but thinks it’s not as strong as “Voodoo.” I’m not a huge D’Angelo fan in the best of times, but there is some interesting production that stands out.

  4. Played most often for me were:

    Haley Bonar — Last War — a Midwestern folkie who put out a rocking little album.

    Black Prairie — Fortune

    Old Crow Medicine Show — Remedy

    The War On Drugs — Lost In The Dream — people say they channel Dire Straits, but I also hear some Rod Stewart too.

    Frazey Ford — Indian Ocean

    Two Harbors — The Natural Order of Things — I’ll put in a guilty pleasure plug for these Oasis-obsessed guys based in Minneapolis. Soundcloud has a free stream of the whole thing:

    also wore out the Beck and Lydia Loveless albums.

  5. diskojoe

    The 2 albums that impressed me the most in 2014 were Nobody Knows by the Len Price 3 & Miriam Linna’s girl-group tribute, which was a big surprise to me. Otherwise, besides the Wilko/Daltry & Jack White albums, it was Reissue City for me

  6. 2000 Man

    I got a lot of reissues this year, too. I’m sure the audiophile crowd thinks that was a huge mistake, but I’m happy with all the reissues I got this year.

  7. BigSteve

    That War On Drugs album sure made a lot of year-end lists.

  8. cliff sovinsanity

    Yes, but what everyone is curious about is whether D’angelo will be shooting any more semi-nude videos.

  9. ladymisskirroyale

    I heard one track which I really liked. I wouldn’t say it sounds like Dire Straits or Rod Stewart, but maybe it was just that one song.

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m happily awaiting my Go-Betweens reissue/boxed set.

  11. I haven’t heard Black Messiah yet, but I admire D’Angelo’s modesty. I just bought Voodoo this last year, after reading the Questlove memoir, and it’s really good.

  12. Can someone please explain The War on Drugs? They sound like Bruce Hornsby & the Range after listening to a binge of listening to U2’s giant late-’80s albums.

  13. Once again, I was one of the world’s worst new music buyers. I dabbled and bought a lot of individual tracks from new albums, but rarely did I take the plunge and simply buy an entire album. Among those I did buy are the following (in no particular order):

    Sloan, Commonwealth: Excepting a certain 2-band double-album I must recuse myself from listing, this is probably my favorite album of 2014. It’s nowhere near excellent, but Sloan returns to more of its groovier ’60s side on this one-album-side-per-band-member/condensed KISS solo album format. “You’ve Got a Lot on Your Mind,” by the tiny Al Jardine guitarist (sorry, I can’t keep their names straight) is a perfect early ’70s swimming pool jukebox number. I get a middle-school vintage boner just thinking about it.

    St. Vincent, s/t: There’s a lot I liked about this album, but I don’t warm up to many songs. Still, it’s interesting and has direct, active rhythms.

    I Think Like Midnight, Warm Seclusion Structure: I picked up my copy of the debut from Townspeople Tvox and Mrclean over the holidays. Eight measures into each song I’m still waiting for Jim Hostetter or Beth Filla to enter on vocals, but this instrumental album is plenty cool in its own right.

    Jack White, Lazaretto: As usual, White displays great talent and studio know-how, but I don’t like enough of his songs or, generally, what he’s about.

    Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal: This was a big disappointment – not that I expected to LOVE it, but based on some tracks I bought from their previous album I thought I’d get some latent retro-’90s kicks. Instead, this album just sounded like a fast-food dump from wolfing down a double-decker Pavement album. All the elements of the are there as expected, but I don’t give a shit.

    Favorite reissue: A Certain Ratio, Sextet: I’m not an expert on Factory Records and the productions of Martin Hannett by any means. Beside his work for ACR, I think the only albums I own that he’s produced are the Joy Division records, the first New Order record (if he produced that), the amazing ESG ep, and the Buzzcocks’ legendary (if lousy) Spiral Scratch. The other ACR records I own aren’t half as good as this one, which takes the production Hannett had in the works on Joy Division’s Closer to its next plateau. I don’t usually like UK space-funk, but Sextet and those disembodied “Charlie Brown teacher voice” horns that creep in unexpectedly get me every time. Sextet contains much of my favorite “Satan Rock,” right alongside the best of Psychic TV and Clinic.

  14. Let me second the Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows. I’ve really enjoyed each of their albums but this one finally transcends the Kinks/Jam aspects into something more their own.


    Looking over the year’s purchases there aren’t too many new issues that I can speak too highly of. Robyn HItchcock’s The Man Upstairs was satisfying but still not up to his usual standards. I also enjoyed the Secret Sisters’ Put Your Needle Down.

    And in a year that sees a Captain Beefheart reissue like Sun Zoom Spark, can there be any other contender for reissue of the year?

  15. BigSteve

    I love Sun Zoom Spark, but I would say the Basement Tapes (re)issue would have to be in the running.

  16. BigSteve

    The past few years I’ve been making end-of-year lists. They get pretty long, and I don’t rank them at all. This year I ended up with a top 40 albums list, and an additional top 30 reissues. I can post the whole lists if you like, but if I had a gun to my head and had to pick five, here’s what I’d say:

    Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
    Eno/Hyde – Someday World + High Life (I just consider this a double album)
    Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin
    Cooly G – Wait Til’ Night
    Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
    Aphex Twin – Syro
    Caribou – Our Love
    Pere Ubu – Carnival of Souls
    Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
    TV On The Radio – Seeds

    [Ok so shoot me, I can’t get any lower than ten, and that’s completely ignoring the reissues, which make up a lot of my listening.]

  17. I loved reading your full list, which you posted on some social network site, you butterfly you.

  18. misterioso

    I gotta say, the Daltrey album is quite a bit better than I would have supposed. Admittedly, this is setting the bar pretty low but that isn’t to say it isn’t a decent album. The guy can still sing rock and roll. I wonder if Pete can still write it, though.

  19. BigSteve

    I only have the ACR compilation called Early, which includes tracks from Sextet. But I did want to check in with a pince nez — Martin Hannett produced ACR’s first album, but Sextet is self-produced.

  20. WOW, all these years I’ve touted Hannett’s work on that album to be pince nezed? It hurts like hell, BigSteve, but I had it coming to me. Thanks for being square. I’m giving myself 5 minutes in the penalty box.

  21. ladymisskirroyale

    Hmm, the Caribou, eh? We’ve been eyeing that, and the one track I heard was ok. I liked their early Manitoba and first Caribou albums. Tell me what you like about the new one.

    Happy to see Flying Lotus and Damon Albarn on your list. Did you like the Damon Albarn/Tony Allen collaboration?

  22. ladymisskirroyale

    Would you list it here, too, please?

  23. BigSteve

    I love the new Caribou, but it’s very different from the early stuff. He DJs a lot now, and his music has gone in a much more electronic direction.

    I loved both The Good the Bad & the Queen and also Rocket Juice & the Moon, both of which had Albarn and Allen — the first just was with Paul Simonon on bass and the second had Flea. I’d listen to Tony Allen play drums anytime anyplace. He has a new album himself, and Albarn guests on a track. It made my year-end list, which I’ll put in a separate post.

  24. BigSteve

    Here’s the full list.

    2014 Top 40 Albums

    Beck – Morning Phase
    St. Vincent – St. Vincent
    The Notwist – Close to the Glass
    Tinariwen – Emmaar
    Tycho – Awake
    Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
    Da Cruz – Disco E Progresso
    Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
    Eno/Hyde – Someday World + High Life
    Actress – Ghettoville
    GusGus – Mexico
    Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin
    Jim Lauderdale – I’m a Song
    Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish
    Lucinda Williams — Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
    NRBQ – Brass Tacks
    Cooly G – Wait Til’ Night
    U2 – Age of Innocence
    Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
    DJ Spoko – War God
    Aphex Twin – Syro
    Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
    Prince – Art Official Age
    Caribou – Our Love
    Pere Ubu – Carnival of Souls
    Robyn Hitchcock – The Man Upstairs
    Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
    Orlando Julius with The Heliocentrics – Jaiyede Afro
    Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
    Bryan Ferry – Avonmore
    FKA Twigs – LP1
    Fantasma — Eye of the Sun EP
    DJ Rashad – Double Cup
    Tweedy – Sukeriae
    Objekt – Flatland
    TV On The Radio – Seeds
    Clark – Clark
    Githead — Waiting for a Sign
    Africa Express Presents – Terry Riley’s In C Mali
    Tony Allen – Film of Life

    2014 Top 30 Reissues/Compilations/Archival Releases

    Bob Dylan & The Band – The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series, Vol 11
    Haiti Direct – Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978
    Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1995
    Les Ambassadeurs Du Motel De Bamako, Vol. 1
    Balani Super Show Hits: Electronic Street Parties from Mali
    Hyperdub 10.1-4
    Miles at The Fillmore – Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3
    Nightmares On Wax – N.O.W. Is The Time (Deep Down Edition)
    Black Fire! New Spirits! Radical and Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1957-1982
    Francis Bebey – Psychedelic Sanza
    NME C86
    The Velvet Underground – s/t 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe edition
    Wire – Document & Eyewitness 1979-1980
    Soul Jazz Presents Disco: A Fine Selection of Independent Disco, Modern Soul and Boogie 1978-82
    Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra and His Arkestra: In The Orbit Of Ra [plus an honorable mention for Itunes and their project to resurrect Ra’s discography in a comprehensive way]
    Verckys & L’Orchestre Vévé – Congolese Funk, Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978
    Robert Hood – M-Print 20: 20 Years of M-Plant Music
    Captain Beefheart – Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972
    Kollektion 01: Sky Records (Compiled by Tim Gane)
    Hailu Mergia & The Walias – Tche Belew
    New Orleans Funk, Vol. 3: Two-Way-Pocky-Way, Gumbo Ya Ya and the Mardi Gras Mambo
    Bleep 10 (Warp Records 10th anniversay collection)
    Next Life (Hyperdub/Teklife footwork compilation in memory of DJ Rashad)
    Air Texture, Vol. IV (ambient compilation selected by Steve Hauschildt and BNJMN)
    Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee’s Full Up: Early Reggae Productions 1968-72
    The Bats – Volume 1
    Steve Roach — Structures From Silence (30th anniversary Deluxe Remastered Edition)
    Country Funk Volume II 1967 – 1974
    Horace Andy — Get Wise
    Brasil Bam Bam Bam: Gilles Peterson Presents Sonzeira

  25. No Top Albums to recommend, but my Song of the Year piece was published here:


  26. misterioso

    I take it this must be a list of everything that you heard last year? Otherwise it is hard to imagine the U2 album making anybody’s best-of list. And I speak as a huge fan and generally a defender of everything they have done (at least up until the last two records). The best I can say about it is that it is not as bad as No Clue on the Horizon.

  27. BigSteve

    No, I really liked the new album. I like U2. I’ve always liked them. I generally sit out backlashes.

  28. misterioso

    Yeah, I’m with you on the backlash thing, which has been going on with U2 in one form or another since at least, what, 1987? But a crappy record is a crappy record.

  29. BigSteve

    I admit that there’s some contrariness on my part in listing is as one of my top albums (and believe me lots of albums did not make my list), but when everybody was freaking out about the album being given away for free I kept putting it on and trying to figure out why people hated it. A lot of people (not you, misterioso) just hate U2 because they’re big rock stars. I really wasn’t expecting to like the album as much as I did, since all bands past a certain age are subject to the law of diminishing returns, but I just found that I loved the way it sounds. I especially love the song Volcano. And love the fact that something that sounds so expensively produced would cost nothing to acquire.

  30. misterioso

    I hope in time it grows on me. I figured in time No Line would, but it didn’t. Man, it just seems to me that they are overthinking things. Just make a record, lads. It doesn’t have to be so hard.

  31. Here is a guy who goes into A LOT of detail about why he likes Lost In The Dream:



  32. Here’s a guy who goes into A LOT of detail about why he likes Lost In The Dream


  33. Sorry for the double post!

  34. Thanks. That was well written and explained a lot. The author sounds like someone completely unlike me, so I can imagine him liking that band. The fact that the lead guy also seems completely unlike me adds up. Honestly, I’m not trying to be an asshole (I’ve already achieved that), just trying to understand stuff I can’t directly get my head around.

  35. I thought it was an awesome year for music, so it’s tough to narrow down, but here are my top five, sort of in order:

    Swans: To Be Kind
    Cloud Nothings: Here and Nowhere Else
    YOB: Clearing the Path to Ascend
    Ought: More than Any Other Day
    Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2

    Some others that I thought were great (keeping in mind that I still have 40 or so 2014 albums to listen to):

    Alvvays: Alvvays
    Clark: Clark
    Cymbals Eat Guitars: Lose
    Ex Hex: Rips
    Flying Lotus: You’re Dead!
    Fucked Up: Year of the Dragon
    His Name is Alive: Tecuciztecatl
    The Hotelier: Home, Like NoPlace is There
    Iceage: Plowing Into the Field of Love
    Joyce Manor: Never Hungover Again
    Lydia Loveless: Somewhere Else
    Mitski: Bury Me at Makeout Creek
    Pallbearer: Foundations of Burden
    Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal
    Perfume Genius: Too Bright
    Protomartyr: Under Color of Official Right
    Silver Mt. Zion: Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything
    Single Mothers: Negative Qualities
    Spoon: They Want My Soul
    St. Paul and the Broken Bones: Half the City
    Sharon Van Etten: Are We There
    White Lung: Deep Fantasy
    White Suns: Totem
    Wovenhand: Refractory Obdurate
    Xylouris White: Goats

  36. ladymisskirroyale

    Could one of you gents, who list a bunch of interesting stuff, maybe hone in on one or two and go more in-depth? I’m feeling like these days I hear the names but I need to hear more about them before taking the plunge.

    For example, several of you mentioned Lydia Loveless. Tell us more about her…

  37. 2000 Man

    I think Lydia Loveless is pretty super. She’s got a big, clear voice and she gets compared to Neko Case a lot, but I don’t think that’s very fair to her since Neko has so many different things going on anymore. Lydia has a drummer, a bass player (occasionally he plays an upright bass, so that’s always a plus!), a guitar player and she sings and plays guitar. She gets lumped into the alt country thing, but she seems to like a lot of different things and I think she’s got kind of a Punk attitude. So some songs are slow country ballads and some songs are off the rails and fast. She sings about drinking, sex, relationships and fucking up, so she’s got the right subject matter/

    I don’t think the radio plays her much because she isn’t very politically correct, she swears and it seems like every time she comes up with something that might be commercial, she makes it so radio stations won’t play it (like with Head, which is about exactly what you think it is). She’s got three albums, one of which is older and harder to find. What I’ve heard of that isn’t very interesting. Indestructible Machine is totally my kind of record. Most songs are faster or midtempo, and the sound is kind of live sounding. Kind of minimal trickeration. The she did an EP called Boy Crazy, which is similar to the first album, but slightly more polished. The newer record, Somewhere Else is pretty slick and kind of threw me at first. The songs are really good though, and it’s something I just play a lot. She seems like she really lets you in on how she feels. I think she’s one of a kind. If she made a new record every week I think it would be my favorite.

  38. ladymisskirroyale

    Excellent description and helpful information. I’ll check her out. Thank you!

  39. ladymisskirroyale

    BTW, have you listened to much Kristin Hersh? Lydia reminds me of her: country punk, multiple changes of hair color, lyrics about crappy relationships and booze.

  40. 2000 Man

    I’ve listened to a little Kristin Hersh, and I’ve always meant to actually check her out. I love her duet with John Doe, Ready. I don’t see her records around very often. I should probably pay more attention.

  41. ladymisskirroyale

    I’ve been a fan since her Throwing Muses days and due to her Rhode Island roots. Her first few solo records are performed a la acoustic guitar; she started adding more instrumentation (often played by her) along the way. Her voice is interesting but sometimes gets too warbly/Stevie Nicks for me. But I always enjoy listening to her, and she’s good live.

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