CBK Top Albums of 2014

bestalbums2014This list marks the fifth year end album list of mine posted on this blog! Woooo. If one wanted to get into heavy specifics, I did post my 2009 list on here, but that was after I had posted it on Facebook first, before I had my blog. SO I’M STILL RIGHT. I know people care that much to point that out for me.

Here are some bullets that make this list a bit more interesting than my other lists, in my opinion:

  • I spent all of 2014 as Music Director at my radio station, meaning I had a full year of people basically selling me records to listen to. This caused me to have new albums pouring into my life through work and leisure.
  • I made more music-minded friends this year at the radio station as well as people at other radio stations across the country. My other MD friends would help me catch records I might have missed in the thick of CMJ stuff, while my newer UConn friends would turn me onto more local projects that are totally cool and are gonna blow up.
  • Thought this year was pretty weak on the hip-hop front, with only Run The Jewels, Shabazz Palaces, Death Grips & Freddie Gibbs breaking onto my list. Ratking, Clipping. & Underachievers were also really good, but didn’t make my Top 50.
  • The albums I was hotly anticipating at the start of the year either blew me out of the water or left little impression on me. Hundred Waters, St. Vincent, Aphex Twin & Ty Segall all amazed me while Beck, Cloud Nothings, Tune-Yards & Real Estate really didn’t do too much for me by the end of the year.
  • This year a ton of smaller labels came surging into my list, with multiple appearances from Orchid Tapes and Double Double Whammy records.
  • I connected with lyrics a bit more this year, perhaps it’s a sign of me growing up or something. I dunno. Many of the lyrical themes dealt with growing up and other twenty-something bullshit. Maybe that’s why.
  • Most recent additions – Ariel Pink, Mitski, Dean Blunt & Run The Jewels.
  • Check out the honorable mentions list if you haven’t already // you want to yell at me about not listening to an album.
  • HOPE YOU ENJOY IT!

50. MakthaverskanII
49. Ricky Eat AcidThree Love Songs
48. Mac DeMarcoSalad Days
47. Twin PeaksWild Onion
46. LulucPasserby
45. WarehouseTesseract
44. Dean BluntBlack Metal
43. Frankie CosmosZentropy
42. Ava LunaElectric Balloon
41. Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
40. Emma Ruth RundleSome Heavy Ocean
39. Sharon Van EttenAre We There
38. Caribou Our Love
37. Celestial ShoreEnter Ghost
36. Death GripsNiggas On The Moon
35. MerchandiseAfter The End
34. Lydia AinsworthRight From Real
33. ArcaXen
32. The Juan MacLeanIn A Dream
31. TobaccoUltima II Massage
30. Ariel PinkPom Pom
29. FKA TwigsLP1
28. Radiator HospitalTorch Song
27. TrustJoyland
26. Marissa NadlerJuly
25. Shabazz PalacesLese Majesty
24. IceagePlowing Into The Field Of Love
23. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
22. ProtomartyrUnder Color Of Official Right
21. TOPSPicture You Staring

20. How To Dress WellWhat Is This Heart?
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I was not musically conscious in the 1990s for the breathy RnB cycle, but I’m trusting How To Dress Well here to bring that aesthetic back for another ride around the park, with a few modern flourishes here and there. The way that this album makes my body moves is banned in several countries.

19. Freddie Gibbs & MadlibPiñata
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Anything Madlib and I’m sold. Maybe it’s because we have the same birthday. That usually explains things, right? Truth be told, I’m not too familiar with Freddie Gibbs, but the storytelling on this album is just tops. The whole thing has a great, old school hip hop vibe to it, harking back to old Wu-Tang solo projects. Also with an A-list selection of guest artists, this album bumps.

18. White LungDeep Fantasy
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I wrote a little review of this album for my radio station this summer and it went like this: ” THIS ALBUM WILL CRUSH YOUR SKULL AND SPIT ON YOUR BRAINS. Blistering guitar lines, fiery vocals, splintering drums – it’s all here. PLAY THE SHIT OUT OF THIS STUFF, IT’S SO GOOD.” It still gets me as pumped as it did when I first heard it and I plan on it staying that way. It’s also one of the albums that kept me company on my long train commute days of this summer as well.

17. NothingGuilty Of Everything
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Unfortunately, I feel like this album flew under the radar of a bunch of people. Nothing are a great shoegaze rock outfit out of Philly that get loud as hell. All the classic shoegaze tropes are here, with huge swathes of guitar noise ranging from harsh to soothing, along with the whispery vocals that sound like nagging thoughts in the back of your head. I saw them at SXSW perform on a bridge and they were terribly loud. It was awesome.

16. LVL UPHoodwink’d
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Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like if I had never moved to Connecticut and gone to the University of Michigan. Would I have stayed the same as I was at the end of high school? What path of trajectory into careers would I have taken? What kind of group would I have associated with besides the loads of high school friends that went there? Anyways, I’m happy that I chose UConn. I’m lining myself up to hopefully have a career in something I love, so that’s all that matters. Also, my friends here really like this band and introduced them to me, so I have that too.

15. Mr. Twin SisterMr. Twin Sister
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When Mr. Twin Sister was just Twin Sister, I was not a fan. Sure, they had a few good singles here and there, but as a whole, I never found myself getting deeply into their albums. But when they added a male prefix, suddenly they’re creating a great album that I can’t stop listening to. That damn patriarchy. But seriously though, this album is one of those that intoxicates me while listening, totally altering my state of being while listening. The throbbing electronic songs paired against the slow, dreamy tracks really makes me feel some type of way.

14. MitskiBury Me At Makeout Creek
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Sometimes I wonder what I would have been like if I had never moved to Connecticut and gone to Michigan State University. I hope I would have joined their radio station, because they’re dope. I would have found out about Mitski probably about the same time I did now and fallen in love with her music as much as I would then. The only thing different would be all my friends, plus my parents would make fun of me for being a stinkin’ Sparty (My parents are hardcore UofM’ers, as am I). Anyways, this album rules and came at the perfect time. It covers the whole spectrum of emotionally wracking songs: delicate, lyrically driven songs; thrashing, diary-destroying releases; and confessions of the ordinary disguised as pop songs. This album shot to the near top of my list for good reason.

13. Future IslandsSingles
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I had a moment this year coming back from SXSW where I’m pretty sure I lost five years of my life due to stress. I missed my flight due to an error on the airline’s part and was put on standby, which basically means that if someone doesn’t show up, you get their seat. This whole process was so nervewracking because this flight was a connector to another flight. I had to wait for two hours (which felt like years) to get on a flight. When I did, I put on Future Islands, LOUD, and decompressed. They put on my favorite show of SXSW, so it was only appropriate that I went back to this album to make up for my least favorite moment of SXSW. It’s a fantastic triumph that brought a lot of much-needed attention to the group this year.

12. Have A Nice LifeThe Unnatural World
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This is the closest thing I have to a “local band” being on this list, which I think is pretty cool, considering their cult following. Have A Nice Life are a post punk/industrial/shoegaze group based in Middletown-area CT. This is their first album in six years and it’s spooky as hell, which is good. It sounds like punk version of creepy, New England buildings with an ugly history, especially with the warbly audio recording of an interview regarding the Pennhurst Asylum coming near the middle of the album. It’s a bleak collection of recordings that captures the spirit of dead winter days of gray sky, black trees and harsh winds.

11. Alex GDSU
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This dude Alex G set the new standard for sad dude/loner lo-fi bedroom pop records with DSU, a hypeworthy collection of unique-sounding songs, mostly dealing with the cookie cutter form of masculinity that men are expected to fit into once they reach a certain age, all with a mundane-yet-extraordinary flair. It’s the little things on this album that matter the most: the shaky, sometimes pitch shifted vocals, the noodly guitars, the scream in “Axesteel,” the goofy bass line in “Promise;” each song has little quirks about them that make all the difference at the end of the record. This thing is seriously great and I bet it has inspired a bunch of other young musicians to start recording their own stuff in hopes of becoming the next Alex G.

 10. Run The JewelsRun The Jewels 2
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This being my favorite rap album of the year was not a surprise. It was an devastating thunderclap that handily shattered all competition around it. Compared to the first Run The Jewels record, this has so much more depth – emotionally, instrumentally, lyrically & creatively. Killer Mike and El-P really know what they’re doing and all other rappers should either be scared or get on their good side, because this is the assertion of their possession of the throne.

9. Perfect PussySay Yes To Love
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When I saw Perfect Pussy this summer, frontwoman Meredith Graves started crying during their performance of their most critically popular song, “Interference Fits.” She prefaced the performance with “Alright, it’s time to cry.” I have a feeling she’s done that before. The emotional level of these songs is so high that the lead singer cries when she sings them. That should tell you something about this album. It’s a hurricane of noise, a flurry of emotion, a bare-all ledger of emotional transactions. It’s loud as hell, too.

8. Fear Of MenLoom
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Consistent sleeper hit label Kanine has been churning out lovely twee-charged indie pop records for a while now, with Fear of Men being at the front of the pack, in my book anyways. Their collection of singles Fragments was just short of breaching my Top 10 last year, but their debut album Loom had no trouble this year. This is some grade-A indie pop, with sweet, yearning vocals singing songs of intense philosophical meaning disguised as love songs, being backed up by  intricately arranged instrumental melodies. This really had no trouble sticking in my top 10 throughout the year.it effortlessly held a top-10 spot throughout the year.

7. SwansTo Be Kind
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The musical juggernaut that are Swans is still a bit difficult for me to hurdle, but there’s no denying the sheer intensity of Swans’ To Be Kind put forth through the facts. The fact that the band went out and wrangled live horses and sampled on that on their album really gives the indication that these dudes are not fucking around. The fact that there’s another cohesive 30+ minute track of theirs is astounding as well. The fact that you can feel the violence being put forth through every sneering remark coming from Michael Gira is a bit terrifying. The fact that their live show was one of the best I’ve seen from 2014, even at its unbelievable 2.5 hour, six song length. Woof. It wouldn’t be fair of me to put this as my #1, even though it most certainly deserves it, because there’s so much more about this behemoth that I’ve still not uncovered and appreciated yet. But for right now, it’s still sitting high and mighty in my Top 10.

6. Aphex TwinSyro
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5. Ty SegallManipulator
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I gotta be honest. I’ve listened to this album so much that I’m pretty sick of it by now, but hopefully by 2015 I’ll be cool with it again. What I did enjoy about this album was the length, the amount of quality songs, the range of song style (acoustic, crazy, bluesy, whatever), and that Ty fuckin’ Segall made it. It’s basically all the best parts of Ty rolled into one record. Sure, someone could be upset that it’s not him going full apeshit on the destruction like Ty Segall Band or going full pop song like on Melted, but if you know someone who has been wanting to get into Ty Segall or modern garage rock in general, this is where you should point them.

4. Todd TerjeIt’s Album Time
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I was talking to one of my friends about a month ago and I asked her if she could send me a record that she had been working to radio because I thought it would work well in a party setting. She thought that was cool, yet odd, that I just play records while people sit around my apartment and shoot the shit. I think it’s a great way to socialize and be involved with the music, since it has a physical presence in the room and gives consistency to an occasion, unlike an iPod that’s being passed around the room. Instead of someone putting on a track from their computer or something, listening to an entire record can morph the atmosphere of the room and the dynamics of conversation between individuals.

This relates to Todd Terje’s fantastic album It’s Album Time because when I put it on for two of my friends who had never heard it before, they instantly fell in love with it. Neither of these friends listen to electronic music that much, so when I saw their funk stank faces come on, I knew it had to be a hit. It morphed that laid back night into a jolly fun time, even though we were just sitting around my living room chatting about the mundane. We seemed to laugh more than usual, as if the speakers were pumping in some kind of comedic stimulant. We’d get up for a dance break where none of us would talk – we’d just let our bodies do the conversing. This was a Monday night, mind you, with a long ass week of senior year gruel ahead of it. This is all cheesy as shit, but it’s these little things that turn an average album into a memorable one.

3. St. Vincent St. Vincent
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In 2009, St. Vincent’s Actor was my #4 album of the year, ranked behind giants Merriweather Post Pavilion, Bitte Orca & Veckatimest. Good year. In 2011, St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy was my #1 favorite record of that year, followed by Panda Bear & M83. This year, St. Vincent continues her streak of appearances in my top 5 by clocking in at a very strong #3 position. This album held my #1 spot for the majority of the year, ultimately being passed by two stellar albums, but still cementing itself in the solid #3.

Possibly the greatest memory I have from SXSW this year was drunkely seeing St. Vincent with newly made friends at the NPR showcase. At that same show, I saw the eclectic selection of Perfect Pussy, Eagulls & Kelis, all while drinking beer and eating barbeque. Her set consisted mostly of songs from this record and Strange Mercy, which made for a glorious night of drunkenly singing along to some of my all-time favorite songs. I liked the album before, but associating those good feelings with all the fantastic stuff on here just boosts it even more.

2. SaintsenecaDark Arc
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If you were to tell 2013 Trevor that this album would be so high on my list, I’d probably be excited but skeptical. My only interaction with this band was seeing them at a small record store near UConn in the summer of 2013. They were the headliner band booked after two “punk” bands, which I thought was really bizarre. To see two head-ripping bands perform before this foot-stopping folk band really boggled my mind, as well as the people that got more amped up for this type of music and not the high-energy rock music.

That was my mindset back then; a naive mindset, I might say. I associated all stompy folk bands with group vocals and quirky instrument choices with the pop drivel of Mumford & Sons, etc, thus, they were not worth my time. I enjoyed the show enough to give this album a listen on it’s release which resulted in the biggest feeling of egg on face I’ve felt all year.

After I spent a good three months with this album, I saw Saintseneca at an actual venue and boy howdy did they rock my world. I can safely say that they put on one of the best shows I’ve seen all year, nailing every single group vocal harmony and keeping their tight instrumentation on point. I easily sang along with everyone else in the crowd to the raucous, folky songs and finally went full circle in getting more excited for Saintseneca than the shitty punk bands that opened for them.

1. Hundred WatersThe Moon Rang Like A Bell
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This album was my pretty obvious frontrunner from about May onward and I’m glad it was able to hold its spot for so long. To give a little history, Hundred Waters’ first album was a sleeper hit that mystified me with it’s innovative textures of organic instrumentation mixed with electronic undertones, plus Nicole Miglis’ great vocals. I felt like the album read like a storybook, narrating a tale of a lost wanderer, traveling through wondrous parts unknown.

On this album, however, the acoustic pieces are gone in favor of a more sleek, electronic package. With focus on one instrumental timbre as opposed to several, Hundred Waters were able to expand upon themselves into more creative and darker depths of the electronic spectrum. Hundred Waters implements dark bass on tracks like “Cavity” and hyperactive rhythms on “[Animal],” as well as tap into euphoric, bright bursts of synth action that can’t be held back by human capacity on tracks like “Out Alee” and “Seven White Horses.”

I also feel like on this album Miglis’ voice is used more as a driving force of the music, rather than being an added texture to the songs. There’s a more ambient section in the middle where this definitely does not apply, but for the most part, these songs are pushed forward by the fantastic, propulsive vocals and following electronic accompaniments.

Overall, I this was one of my most anticipated records of this year and it did not disappoint in the slightest. On the first few listens I was disappointed that they didn’t go for the whole organic/electronic mixture, but like I wrote above, I found something new altogether to admire about the band.

About Very Warm

Usually cool dude stuff.
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