This year I decided to do a top 10 list of my favorite albums rather than a top 25. For me there weren’t enough solid albums to be able put together a top 25, plus it takes a long time. But before I get to my top 10 I did want write about a few albums that didn’t make my list.
My two favorite albums in 2014 that came out in 2013 were Lorde’s Pure Heroine and Haim’s Days Are Gone. These two albums are a lot fun and come from artists who are just getting started. I’m really exiting to see what Lorde and Haim end up doing next.
Weezer released an album this year… and it’s not bad… seriously! In fact it’s their best album since Pinkerton. Everything Will Be Alright in the End isn’t ground breaking by any means, but it’s thoughorly enjoyable. If you’ve given up on Weezer, trust me, this one is worth checking out.
Sucre released a phenomenal EP back in September titled Loner. I was really hoping for a full length, but I’ll take what I can get. Loner is a lot more bombastic than their debut album and it really works. If you were a fan of their first album or a fan of Eisley or just a fan of music in general you need to give Loner a listen.
Great worship music continues to come out of the Pacific Northwest with Citizens & Saints (formerly Citizens) putting out Join the Triumph and Kings Kaleidoscope putting out Becoming Who We Are. While neither of these albums made my top 10 they are right up there with my favorite worship albums. If you’re looking for some upbeat worship with great lyrics, look no further.
Comeback Kid’s Die Knowing and Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There just got edged out of my top 10. Die Knowing is one of the best hardcore albums I’ve heard in a long time. It’s thoroughly heavy, catchy as hardcore goes, and has those great fist pumping positive lyrics Comeback Kid is know for. Are We There is Sharon Van Etten at the top of her game. The lyrics are dark and moody while the music is stunningly beautiful. It’s not hard to get completely immersed in this album. An another note, I’m pretty sure this is the first time ever Comeback Kid and Sharon Van Etten have been written about together.
And now with out further adieu, my top 10!
10. ’68 – In Humor and Sadness
I love heavy music and I love two piece rock bands. This year the band ’68 filled both of those criteria with their debut In Humor and Sadness. ’68 is fronted by Josh Scoggin formerly of The Chariot and Norma Jean and is know for adding a healthy dose of insanity to his music. This is true for the ’68 as well but being a two piece there is also an incredible amount of restraint on this album. And it’s the interplay of boarding on insanity and restraint that make this album so good. They sound like what the White Stripes would sound like if you set them on fire.
9. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
Upon first listen I wasn’t feeling Lykke Li’s third album I Never Learn. However, I decided to revisit it later in the year and realized my first impression was way off the mark. I Never Learn is arguably Lykke Li’s best album to date. She sings about heart break in a way that feels cinematic and provocative. Musically, I Never Learn is more striped down and raw than Lykke Li’s previous albums, but is still full of great pop hooks.
8. Real Estate – Atlas
I nearly dropped Real Estate’s Atlas from my top 10, but I remembered this is the one album I’ve probably listened to the most this year. Atlas is a very listenable album. It’s great background music and you could keep listening to it over and over and not get sick of it. Those characteristics don’t necessarily make for a top album and could possibly be seen as criticisms. However, what makes Atlas great is the attention to detail. Each instrument sounds perfect, from the guitar tones, to the precision of the drums and the mix is spot on. Not to mention each song is catchier than the next.
7. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Cloud Nothings’ Here and Nowhere Else is the best rock album of 2014, period. If I needed to get motivated or get my blood pumping this was the album I turned to this year. Cloud Nothings combine early punk with indie rock and even a little hardcore; throw in smart lyrics and you have an album that will keep you coming back for more.
6. Manchester Orchestra – Cope/Hope
Earlier this year one of my favorite bands Manchester Orchestra released their fourth full length album, Cope. Cope is a loud rock album that hits you in the face with a wall of guitar sound on every song. Conceptually the album is about the various ways in which people cope. I enjoyed the album, but it felt a little one dimensional especially compared to their previous work. Then the band did something rather unexpected, they released a second album later in the year titled Hope. Hope is reimagining of the album Cope. The songs and lyrics are the same, but the arrangements are completely different. Hope shows off Manchester’s softer side, with acoustic and piano driven songs. I loved Hope when I first heard it and kind of pushed Cope aside. Then I went back to Cope after having spent a lot time with Hope. I found that Hope made me appreciate Cope even more and that the two albums play off each other in a really cool way. In the end I felt like both albums work best as one body of work, which is the reason I put them together on this list.
5. Lecrae – Anomaly
Christian hip hop is not a genre I typically gravitate toward, but I’d heard a lot about Lecrae’s current release Anomaly, particularly that it hit number one on the Billboard charts. I decided it was worth giving a listen and it did not disappoint. Lecrae has managed to combine his faith and music in a way that diminishes neither. Despite being 15 tracks long the album never gets boring. The production is great and features a number of standout rappers and vocalists. Lecrae explores topics from politics, love, race, and his own personal struggles. His lyrics are honest, never preachy or cheesy and are delivered flawlessly.
4. Copeland – ixora
Copeland called it quits back in 2010, but left things open to possibly recording again in the future. The future turned out to be 2014 which found the band reuniting to record their fifth full length album titled, ixora. The time apart served the band well. They seemed creatively tapped out on their previous release You Are My Sunshine, while ixora finds the band reinvigorated. The music has a dreamy quality to it with each song building on the next. Lyrically the focus is love and works beautifully with the music.
3. Propaganda – Crimson Cord
If Lecrae is representing Christian hip hop in the mainstream Propaganda is representing Christian hip hop in the indie scene. Propaganda’s lyrics are smart, witty, and flow perfectly thanks to his background in spoken word. At times he’s straight up preaching the gospel and yet never sounds preachy. On the flip side he still knows how to get in your face on tough issues such as education and race. Propaganda’s passion is contagious and makes for great hip hop. Production by Beautiful Eulogy is once again incredible, which is the icing on the cake of an excellent album.
2. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties is the solo project of The Wonder Years frontman Dan Campbell. His debut album We Don’t Have Each Other is a concept album rolling a fictional character, Aaron West through a very tumultuous time in his life. The album is told from West’s perspective featuring very lyrical lyrics, which read much like a diary of sorts. Concept albums and literal lyrics don’t tend to work for me and yet Campbell has pulled off a story that is deeply compelling and moving. If you didn’t know the lyrics were fictional you’d think Campbell was singing about his own life. Thankfully he isn’t, as the story involves Aaron West losing his dad, he and his wife losing their baby and eventually divorcing, and his subsequent spiral into alcoholism and depression. Campbell brings so much emotion to the character through the lyrics and vocals. I found myself at times tearing up listening to this album. Musically the album is mostly acoustic which lends itself well to the story. This album is quite frankly really sad, however from what I can tell, the story has a happy ending. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but either way you can’t help being kind of blown away when you get through the last song.
1. Switchfoot – Fading West
Fading West is Switchfoot’s ninth full length album and I think it’s their best yet. Switchfoot are known as a rock band, but on Fading West they indulge their every pop whim. I love it when bands reinvent themselves and not every band can pull of a transition to pop music without sounding ridiculous, but Switchfoot totally made it work. Each song is upbeat and filled with great pop melodies and hooks. While some pop music sounds simplistic, what Switchfoot have done on Fading West really shows off their experience as musicians and song writers. In addition to the great music this album finds frontman Jon Foreman at the top of his game lyrically. His lyrics are moving, inspiring, and up lifting. This album was exactly what I needed when it came out and continues to have the same effect on me every time I put it on.