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Sean’s Top 10 Albums Of 2014

I’ve said it many times before, but 2014 wasn’t a great year for music. A few big name artists had high profile flops; Coldplay released an album, or so I’m told, and people were more concerned with getting that U2 album OFF their hard drives then actually listening to it. Other established critical favorites like Spoon and Thom York, were content to tread water, ultimately just repackaging old ideas. Still, while 2014 lacked the seismic releases we’ve been privileged with in the past few years, it did have it’s big bright spots. Here are my 10 favorite albums of 2014.

1)Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal/ Content Nasea: A band releasing two excellent albums in 1 year wasn’t terribly common 40 years ago, and it’s all but unheard of today. This makes Parquet Courts two 2014 albums, Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea, all the more impressive. By reassembling old ideas, Parquet Courts melded the bratty strum of The Strokes with the jagged abrasiveness of early Talking Heads, with just a sprinkle of their native Texas twang. Parquet Courts had already established themselves as an exciting band with Light Up Gold, this year they announced themselves as one of the most unique and important rock bands of this decade.

Key Tracks: Pretty Machines, Instant Dissasembly,

2) St. Vincent – St. Vincent: One of the most exciting aspects of St. Vincent has always been the feeling that Annie Clark is just as unsure about what “St. Vincent” is really supposed to sound like as her fans. She decided to self title her fourth album because she felt like it was the first time she really knew what her identity was, and listening to St. Vincent backs up that assertion. No longer hampered by anyone’s expectations, St. Vincent is her most assured album to date. She let’s her formidable guitar playing loose in a way she never has in the past, while crafting her most assured and personal songs to date. While it is ultimately about on par with the unbelievably high standard she set on her previous two albums, St. Vincent is the first album where we’ve really heard what St. Vincent is supposed to sound like.

Key Tracks: Huey Newton, Severed Crossed Fingers

3) Real Estate - Atlas: Real Estate are the perfect example of a band that can continue to refine it’s sound to explore new territory. On Atlas, the band’s third album, the Jersey boys slipped into a more relaxed, mature pose to great effect. Taking the propulsive, echoey guitar sound they’ve always used and applying it to their most demanding riffs yet, Real Estate made an album that reflects the feeling of being just a little too old to party like you used to. Atlas is proof that as this band gets older, they continue to sound better than ever.

Key Tracks: Talking Backwards, The Bend

4) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2: With a few exceptions, 2014 was an unremarkable year for hip-hop. Fortunately, Killer Mike and El-P were determined to leave their mark on it. Riding on the wave of inspiration that gave us last years Run The Jewels, the duo were back with a sequel even greater than it’s predecessor. Built around El-P’s kitchen sink style production, Killer Mike spits righteous fire, as the album ebbs and flows in ways that few modern hip-hop records do. These two veterans were already regarded as major talents, but with their collaborations they’ve moved into the conversation for the best rappers out right now.

Key Tracks: Close Your Eyes, All Due Respect

5) Alex G – DSU: Since the explosion of home recording following the digital revolution, dreamy bedroom pop has become overabundant. This makes Alex G’s DSU all the more fascinating. Nothing about it seems that different from other band camp performers, but something about DSU just sticks. Whether it’s the eerie multi tracked vocals, Alex’s sleepy delivery, or the perfectly DIY production, something about DSU stands out, and makes the case that it’s a record people will be listening to when many of it’s contemporaries have been forgotten.
Key Tracks: Harvey, Black Hair

6) Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait EP: The LA scene that has sprung up around Kendrick Lamar has many intriguing rappers, but none more exciting than Vince Staples. Utilizing a deliberate flow while incorporation more complex internal rhyme schemes, Staples released the most exciting official debut of the year. Whether he was rapping about police brutality on Hands Up or the new luxuries his success has afforded him on Limos, Vince Staples gave Hip-Hop fans good reason to be excited. Kendrick is still the unanimous champion of the west coast, and probably Rap in general, but Vince Staples is making it known that Kendrick isn’t the only rapper worth caring about from LA.

Key Tracks: Blue Suede, Hands Up

7) Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else: It’s hard to believe that Dylan Baldi has been able to accomplish so much by age 22, but some song writers are just ready to go from the start. Following up 2012’s breakthrough Attack On Memory was a tough proposition. To follow up that album’s raw Pop-Punk perfection, Cloud Nothings let their songs breathe while also playing harder then they ever have before. The result wasn’t as catchy or instantly pleasing as Attack On Memory, but it pays dividends on repeat listens. Cloud Nothings may not have created a masterpiece with Here and Nowhere Else, but they showed how a band this good can change their sound without losing their magic.

Key Tracks: Psychic Trauma, Pattern Walks

8) A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea Went Absent: There probably wasn’t a more immediately startling opening to an album in 2014 then the first 5 seconds of Bye Bye Big Ocean. A wall of distortion over a steady marching snare, it set’s the tone for A Sunny Day In Glasgow’s triumphant Sea Went Absent. While Sunny Day have spent the better part of a decade making their specific and unique music, on Sea Went Absent they finally came into their own. A mix of My Bloody Valentine’s guitar experimentation and Stereolab’s post-rock bliss, Sea Went Absent is the sound of A Sunny Day In Glasgow finally nailing the elusive sound they’ve been searching for.
Key Tracks: Bye Bye Big Ocean, The Body It Bends

9)Hotelier – Home Like No Place Is There: It seems strange to say, but a band channelling second wave Emo like Taking Back Sunday and Alkaline Trio is just about the strangest move an artist could make in 2014. Home, like No Place Is There deals in the raw intensity of youthful emotion, but unlike so many of their “ouch my tears” predecessors, Hotelier imbue their lyrics with a wisdom and self awareness that keeps the record level. By the time Panic! At The Disco were fading away it seemed unlikely there would ever be another sincere revival of Emo, but here are the Hotelier in 2014, reminding us all why the genre was so enjoyable to begin with.

Key Tracks: Your Deep Rest, Housebroken

10) Sheer Mag – What Do You Want EP: It might be indicative of a weak year that I have a 4 song EP rounding out my top 10, but that does a disservice to just how awesome Sheer Mag’s debut EP is. Packing an entire album’s worth of hooks and riff’s into just under 13 minutes, What Do You Want announced Sheer Mag as the most promising new rock band of 2014.

Key Tracks: What Do You Want, Hard Lovin’

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