Favorites of 2014: Music

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There was a brief moment in time this year when I worried I wouldn’t have enough albums to constitute a “Best of” list. Boy, was I wrong! This was a great year in music, albeit quite different from years past.

One thought I had while narrowing down the choices was, do I compare one album against an artist’s entire catalogue or just among what was released that year? Lana Del Ray for instance, I really enjoyed her first album but her latest did nothing for me (it did show up on a few different lists, so I could be wrong). Would I have liked it on its own, without any expectations? I’m not sure.

As with last year’s selection, these albums are listed alphabetically not by preference. My favorite new discovery this year was the band, Alvvays. You can listen to all of my favorite songs (except those from T-Swizzle) on my handy Spotify playlist.

Alvvays | Alvvays
Jordan stumbled upon this album while casually searching the New Release section of Spotify. The album art stood out and he clicked for a listen. He liked what he heard and had to share with me. I have a thing for lovelorn/angsty/90s throwback music, ala The Cranberries. Alvvays hits the spot. I love the little production details on this record: like where Molly Rankin’s voice literally feels a little distant, muffled as though it’s being heard from an old record.

Favorite Song: “Archie, Marry Me” | iTunes

Amy Stroup | Tunnel
You might not know Amy Stroup by name, but you most certainly have heard her songs on CW television shows, national jewelry commercials or as Sugar in Sugar & The Hi-Lows. Amy quietly released Tunnel earlier this year and it’s the perfect blend of singer/songwriter honesty and dream pop stylings. “Sugar Amy” kills it.

Favorite Song: “Backburner” | iTunes

Ariana Grande | My Everything
Ariana Grande may be compared to Mariah Carey on a daily basis, but the girl has chops of her own. My Everything gifts us soulful pop songs that showcase Ariana’s powerful voice. It’s impossible not to sing along! Guilty pleasure? No, a straight-up pleasure.

Favorite Song: “Love Me Harder” | iTunes

Coldplay | Ghost Stories
From the first listen of Ghost Stories, filled with brooding songs of sadness and hope, I was mesmerized. Coldplay’s records have carried me through teenage angst all the way through present day. Can we just ignore the recent news that Coldplay is retiring after their next album. I am just glad that I’ve seen them live twice.

Favorite Song: “Midnight” | iTunes

Colony House | When I Was Younger
Some music I listen to strictly for the beat, sort of pushing the lyrics aside. Colony House is not one of those bands. Their music and lyrics are beautiful. For a debut rock album, I am continually drawn into the stories weaved throughout the album.

“Nothing is perfect, for that there’s no cure. So don’t you start to bury the good with the bad, and the ugly.” – “Silhouettes”

Favorite Song: “Caught Me By Surprise” | iTunes

Future Islands | Singles
Jordan and I went to see Future Islands right before we moved to Nashville. They put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite a while. Frontman Samual T. Herring’s persona has a level of energy that is beautiful and powerful all at once. The emotion behind the lyrics comes through the performance

Jeremy Larson from Pitchfork explains it this way, “His [Samual T. Herring] words are the sort of thing that would tumble out of your mouth if you were told to write a love poem right now in eight seconds. “She looks like the moon/ So close and yet so far” or “My sun every morning/ My star of the evening” are just two couplets that look slightly sappy on the page but sound so impulsively romantic when he sings them.”

Favorite Song: “Sun in the Morning” | iTunes

Jenny Lewis | The Voyager
Back before Spotify and legal digital downloads, I used to put CDs on my birthday wish list. I specifically remember the year I received More Adventurous. Jenny Lewis was the epitome of an effortless, chic California girl. It’s been six years since Jenny last put out a solo album. The Voyager is an album full of nostalgia, adventure and self-discovery.

“I never thought I would ever be here/ Looking out on my life as if there was no there there.” – “Head Underwater”

Favorite Song: “She’s Not Me” | iTunes

St. Vincent | St. Vincent
St. Vincent (aka. Annie Clark) has a very controlled, precise stage presence. At first this might be a bit off-putting, but the more I listen to her music the more she is a storyteller. This self-titled album is actually her fourth solo venture (previously she toured with Sufjan Stevens and as a member of The Polyphonic Spree) and is an exercise in pure Avant Garde rock. At first listen it might be difficult to embrace the controlled sound, but her lyrics tell a story worth hearing.

“Morning pry the windows open, Let in what’s so terrifying. Summer is as faded as a lone cicada call. Memories so bright I gotta squint just to recall. Regret the words I’ve bitten more than the ones I ever said.” – “Regret”

Favorite Song: “Regret” | iTunes

Sylvan Esso | Sylvan Esso
The man/woman duo to the 2000s+ has been what the 1990s was to boy band/girl band; a rat race, each trying to capitalize on their predecessor. Sylvan Esso (Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn) managed to create their own mix of electric/pop/folk that sounds fresh, amongst crowded airwaves. This album just gets better and better with each listen.

“…and when it comes time to throw on something at a summer gathering that’ll make people feel slightly hipper than they were when they arrived, Sylvan Esso will be a go-to.” Ian Cohen at Pitchfork.

Favorite Song: “Coffee” | iTunes

Taylor Swift | 1989
I have a confession to make. (Sigh) here it goes: In the recent past, I wasn’t the biggest Taylor Swift fan. I respected her artistry and career arc, but country music just isn’t my thing (minus my junior high obsession with Shania Twain). 1989 is my kind of Taylor: personal lyrics + pop tunes. Also, any girl who figures out a way to work with Imogene Heap is a winner in my eyes (she produced the song, “Clean”). Ms. Swift has finally won me over and I thank her for her persistence.

Favorite Song: “Blank Space” | iTunes

The War on Drugs | Lost in The Dream
The first few times Jordan put this record on, I found myself trying to figure out what it was exactly. At first listen, Lost in The Dream, sounds like a soundtrack to a road-trip movie. Once Adam Granduciel’s voice kicks in, I realize of course it isn’t a soundtrack. This album is not what you listen to while on a run, but it is exactly the type of record to listen to while pondering the meaning of life.

Favorite Song: “Red Eyes” | iTunes

TV On The Radio | Seeds
TV On The Radio reminds me of being young and in love (okay, I’m not exactly old yet!). Dear Science was released six months after we got married and was on constant rotation in our apartment. Anytime I hear a TOTR song, I am immediately transported to those car rides and apartment dance parties. 🙂 Seeds is TOTR’s fifth studio film and their modern rock n’ roll sound is still fresh and new.

Favorite Song: “Winter” | iTunes

Did any of your favorite albums of the year make my list?

/ / Here’s my playlist of favorite songs!

/ / Want to leave a reply?

14 thoughts on “Favorites of 2014: Music”

  1. Wonderful list, Catherine! I love, love Coldplay with such a special love, haha. I really adore Sylvan Esso, as well. I really hope Coldplay is just kidding about retiring…I have yet to see them and my heart will break if I don’t get too. Ah!

  2. Your review of War On Drugs is so spot on! When I read your description, I thought to myself, “Aha! THAT is EXACTLY how I feel when I listen to it as well!” I could just never quite articulate what that feeling was. : ) I’ll have to check out a few of these others. Great list.

  3. I love this, I’m always trying to find new music. I am with you on St Vincent — watching her perform is odd and unsettling to me haha but when I just listen to the music I really enjoy it!!

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