Writing a year-end top ten list was far more difficult than I thought it would be! It has been a fantastic year for new music and so narrowing the list to just ten is nearly impossible. After weeks of careful deliberation, I came up with a list of the ten records that characterized my 2014. I present to you my selections for music to listen to in the morning, while walking, cleaning, adventuring, being dull on a rainy day or maybe simply because you’re in the mood for something awesome. Because I couldn’t dream of selecting a #1, here are picks 1-5 in order of release. Stay tuned for Part Two!
- St. Vincent, St. Vincent –St. Vincent’s self-titled album isn’t just good – it’s amazing. Her guitar playing is technical and intricate, blending jazz and prog-rock with electro-pop, and her choruses are punchy and cut through the wiry guitar. Basically, she’s superwoman. Every song on St. Vincent is cunning and artful; there is no weak track in the bunch. This is a good one for any time there are people around because it’s so hard not to like it.
- Beck, Morning Phase – This would be my #1 album if I considered number of plays alone. This record is perfect for starting the day or anything that requires a calming background. I love the layers of this record; my somewhat obsessive brain could pick each song apart piece by piece, which explains why I didn’t tire of it after almost a whole year. Beck uses some really odd chords and progressions that give his record some really awesome colours. I have a feeling this one will be on a lot of ‘Best Of’ lists this year.
- Mac Demarco, Salad Days – In addition to being perfect for summery days in the park, Salad Days was on my iPod for the duration of the amazing European adventure I took this fall. This album is a really well balanced collection of songs. Each track different from the one before it but the laid-back dreamy guitars ties it all together into one unified piece. It provided the soundtrack to some of the most fun I’ve had ever, so I suspect I’ll have a soft spot for this album forever.
4. Chad VanGaalen, Shrink Dust – Van Gaalen’s music always has an element of weird – homemade instruments recorded in an at-home studio, videos featuring claymation creatures, and titles like “Diaper Island”, – and this is no exception. I find myself picking this one out when I’m working on something creative. “Monster” is all about a man morphing into a beast while “Cut off my Hands” brings to life imagery as grim as the title might suggest. Shrink Dust features soundscapes that are different from his past work (less folk, more psychedelic) with the type of songs and imaginative lyrics that could only be from Chad VanGaalen. It’s bizarre and accessible all at once.
- Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour – I wish I had kept count this past year of how many people I caught belting out a Sam Smith song, only to realize they were not alone and proceed to do a mediocre job of playing it cool. In the Lonely Hour is full of straight-ahead pop songs soaked in old timey soul. Sam Smith’s voice is smoky and smooth and so interesting that there’s no wonder why he had such a massively successful year. This record made my list because I sang along to it for a good portion of the showers I took in 2014.
A Few Honourable Mentions:
Man Man, On Oni Pond – Best by-accident find.
Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso – Biggest mind change of 2014.
Alvvays, Alvvays – Best beach music.