Welcome to Part 1 of the Best Of 2014. Part 2, the very best albums of the year, can be found here: The Best Music of 2014
For my official Best Of 2014 list, I wanted to be concise and honest, brutally direct. I trimmed the full list to just 14 albums that affected me in some grand fashion. This did not leave much room for the most of the amazing music I heard last year, became addicted to, and still listen to today. So, instead of making some sprawling list, I’ve crafted a full breakdown of my “Honorable Mention” albums of 2014. The music here is astounding, through and through. I just happened to love a handful of music even more than this. That list is coming soon.
I’ve included one song from each album, choosing a music video when available, and audio-only tracks for the rest. Click play and listen to these, especially if you’re totally unfamiliar. This is how new favorites are born!
Please let me know in the comments what albums you feel I may have missed, or share how you feel about what is here. I’d love the feedback.
Albums are listed by artist and title, with the record label below.
Skyramps is the combined efforts of Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never – loved here recently) and Mark McGuire (Emeralds), spinning electric gold through a tight 33 minute set. If you’re picturing the homespun sci-fi synthesizer burblings of the former soaking in the ethereal guitar ambience of the latter project, you’re on the right path. This is basically mana from heaven for those of us who happen to be fans of both.
Click the artwork to download the album as a zip file.
When I heard about this release, I practically shat myself. 2009 saw the rise of a more user-friendly, nearly pop natured breed of drone music the likes of which had never yet crossed radars. Drone for the masses? Not quite. But this is, for instance, far more palatable to your radio listener friends than a Final or Scorn, or even latter day Seefeel album. There’s more dynamic movement than the Gas discography and an airy, inviting tone accompanying the head-nodding foundation. Intertwining lush guitar melodies with Lopatin’s signature synth histrionics, the album soars and soothes in all the right places. The first two tracks feel almost like personal intros for the artists, opening with the prominent sounds of one and slowly adding a dose or two of the other until a fine balance arrives at the end. The second half of the album is where the alchemy truly shines with a blend unique to this recording, and is the gut-level satiating reward for those venturing into this eerie place.
The two obviously know their audience and the images these sounds tend to conjure: warm memories of genre films on tattered VHS (or better- Betamax!) tapes, doodling pictures of Spinners and Darkness, and the unshakable knowledge that anything electronic and/or spacey was the definitive way of the future. These four tracks evoke the optimistic pulse of accelerating full-bore into a strange land of colored light and skyscraping wonder. Maybe it’s not utopia but it’s different than here. More interesting. Lopatin and McGuire also seem to be acutely aware of how this earnestly nostalgic sensibility lends itself to parody and have pre-empted the inevitable jokes with a wonderfully tongue in cheek title: Days of Thunder. There aren’t many more emphatically day-glo versions of 1980s Western hubris than the eponymous Nascar thriller and another certain flick by director Tony Scott. Thankfully the album’s palette hews closer to brother Ridley‘s then-unparalleled visions of alternate realities.
Folks of a certain age, eat this up. You’ll be digging through dusty childhood crates and pre-ordering tickets for that new Tron movie in no time.
[although printed in a limited run of 75 cdr copies, there are a couple available via discogs for reasonable price, and of course, *elsewhere* in digital form]
*And seriously, watch that Tron trailer. It looks quite a bit more than alright!