I Guess You Could Say I Enjoyed Some Music in 2014

brian

This year, I’m throwing convention to the wind. I tend to spend too much time deliberating, trying to narrow things down to a set amount of this or that. For 2014, much like any other year, I’m sharing a [very] large collection of what I enjoyed most in the world of music, except these lists will feature no valued ordering and no limitations such as the obligatory and ubiquitous ‘top 10.’

As noted, all the releases below are in no particular order. They’re simply the records and videos I enjoyed the most and spent the most time with this year. At the very least, I’d be thrilled to turn even one reader on to something new — and hopefully you’ll all share with me some things I may have overlooked as well.

I typically preface these year-end lists with some sentimental blather that’s best left for a yearbook I’ll never sign. I’m forgoing all that this time. Just read on and enjoy some good music with me in honor of another year that’s come and gone in a hurry.

full-lengths


Artist: Lantlôs
Album: Melting Sun
Label: Prophecy Productions
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Listen to “Melting Sun II: Cherry Quartz

Lantlôs is my favorite new find of the year. Melting Sun is an expansive musical edifice of post-metal, emanating hypnotic, shoegaze-y mists that form into clouds around the listener. It’s monumental really.

A confluence of slow-burning metal and soaring post-rock, this album has the ability to appeal to and empower a vast scope of rock and metal music lovers. Fans of everything from Alcest to Deftones should find something to get lost in on Melting Sun, an aptly titled and sonically epic release that’s hopefully not as overlooked as it appears to be.


rxb
Artist: RX Bandits
Album: Gemini, Her Majesty
Label: MDB Records
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Listen to “Stargazer

When RX Bandits announced that they were to release a new album following endless rumors and misconstrued quotes regarding their “hiatus,” my excitement was brimming. However, with …And The Battle Begun and Mandala being two of my favorite albums, I was admittedly worried that the California quartet might not be able to bring quite the same level of excellence — or that the new RXB, five years removed from their last LP, with each member working on several other projects since, might sound entirely different. After spending much time with Gemini, Her Majesty, I’ve found that little bits of this might be true, but most of it was me being far too anxious and pessimistic.

RXB’s newest is a blast through and through, with their most commercially accessible jams and production to date. For that, it feels a little more straightforward than past works from the boys, but it’s still every bit RX Bandits and every bit groovy and impressive. Even being a tad more structurally simple as a whole than the mostly frenetic and unpredictable latter section of their catalog, Gemini shreds- well, Matt, Steve, Joe and C-Gak shred. Always.


pup
Artist: PUP
Album: PUP
Label: SideOneDummy
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Listen to “Reservoir

Debut LP of the year? You betcha!

It appears that most people who notice a mention of PUP pretty much ignore them initially due to their odd moniker. I can’t blame them; I did the very same. As soon as you give them one good chance, though, you’re stuck with ’em. Like feeding stray cats on your porch. Or stray…pups? Whatever.

This album checks off every emotion on the list, even more so when combined with their handful of ridiculously awesome music videos (more on that later). Spanning every corner of punk and rock and grunge and fun and party and awesome, PUP have set the bar very high for their peers, but maybe more importantly, for themselves. Blame Canada.


tigers jaw
Artist: Tigers Jaw
Album: Charmer
Label: Run For Cover Records
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Listen to “Cool

I slept on Tigers Jaw for way too long. I’m ashamed of myself really. I checked out their “Hum” / “Cool” 7-inch early this year and was like, “Dude, what the hell? How did I miss this?” Then I finally listened to their contribution to Will Yip’s Off The Board comp, and with that in conjunction with the 7-inch, I was sold. I was highly anticipating Charmer.

Upon arrival, the album was everything I wanted and then some. It still warms me to no end. The dual vocal melodies, the fuzzy guitars, the pure catchiness and subtle yet raw emotion; it all melds so wonderfully. It’s an any-season album and those are hard to come by. It all sounds almost effortless and I love that. It’s grungy and beautiful and real.


ben howard
Artist: Ben Howard
Album: I Forget Where We Were
Label: Island / Republic
Release Date: October 20, 2014
Listen to “End of the Affair

Before this year, I knew next to nothing about Ben Howard. I had seen his name numerous times but I honestly don’t think I had ever heard a peep of his music.

Don’t be like me. Listen to Ben Howard as soon as you see his name. As in right now. Enjoy his gorgeously structured stories of love and woe and life and everything in between. Absorb the realness in his voice and in his words.

I Forget Where We Were is a warm blanket on an icy night. It’s a cool swim on a sweltering day. It’s simultaneously comforting and heartbreaking and altogether evocative. It might be my favorite album of the year but to nail that down would go against the purpose of the chaos of this list. Set aside some time to drink it in as a whole and see how it makes you feel inside.


aborted
Artist: Aborted
Album: The Necrotic Manifesto
Label: Century Media
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Listen to “The Davidian Deceit

The Necrotic Manifesto was the first metal album I fell in love with this year. It’s pure insanity. Ken Bedene’s drumming alone is worth traversing the lengthy track list.

The blast beats, the gutturals, the mosh-inducing thrash, the double bass, the breakdowns, the shredding solos — it all makes for one of the funnest tech-death releases of the year. It’s relentlessly chaotic, violent and heavy, and while the samples might be a tad cheesy in 2014, these guys have earned a pass with their twenty-year career. Eight full-length albums later and Aborted have still got it, maybe more so than ever before.


first aid kit
Artist: First Aid Kit
Album: Stay Gold
Label: Columbia
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Listen to “My Silver Lining

The Lion’s Roar made my top 10 in 2012, unexpectedly, and after countless listens, I felt like First Aid Kit would have troubles creating a better album.

Yet, somehow, with Stay Gold, it feels effortlessly more mature and cohesive, with a natural progression from the Swedish sister duo’s last effort. Stay Gold is a truly beautiful affair from beginning to end. The vocal melodies and songwriting never get old. There’s such confidence in the delivery. First Aid Kit are making the best music in the folk-pop world right now.

I can’t imagine the overwhelming presence of talent in these girls’ home as they grew up.


trophy scars
Artist: Trophy Scars
Album: Holy Vacants
Label: Monotreme Records
Release Date: April 21, 2014
Listen to “Qeres

Trophy Scars are in a league and world all their own. Any comparisons are reaching; plain and simple. This has never been more true than with the release of Holy Vacants, the band’s long-delayed but finally available fourth LP.

Jerry Jones’ distinctive vocals are front and center, telling an incredible, mythology-laden story fit for a Hollywood feature film, all backed by the band’s best songwriting to date. Perfectly chosen guest vocalists, extensive instrumentation, and expansive compositions all make for Trophy Scars’ most epic release yet, both in sound and scope. The merging of their post-hardcore roots with blues rock is undeniably impressive and memorable beyond belief.

My only issue with this album–which is hardly a complaint–is that it really works best when listened to as a whole, but at just over an hour in length, it’s not always an easy feat.


Print
Artist: Lyla Foy
Album: Mirrors The Sky
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Listen to “Honeymoon

This is a total sleeper hit of 2014.

Often with minimalist production, Lyla Foy explores indie-pop, folk, alternative rock and more on her full-length debut, all with an unforgettably haunting vocal presence and mesmeric flow.

It’s melancholic and lulling but picks up in all the right places, sometimes with subtle bleep-blooping electronics a la The Postal Service.

Perfectly balanced and arranged, Mirrors The Sky is a beautifully simple record from a true talent on the rise. I expect big things from Lyla Foy.


Manchester_Orchestra_Cope
Artist: Manchester Orchestra
Album: COPE
Label: Loma Vista / Favorite Gentlemen
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Listen to “Top Notch

COPE was settled in my year-end list shortly after its release before summer hit, but then Manchester Orchestra had to throw a wrench in my plan and release HOPE, a beautifully poignant and utterly redesigned counterpart to the former. So, in the end, I may have spent as much time deciding between those two albums as I did on this entire list, and I could have easily just included both — but even as irregular as this list is, I figured I’d have at least some kind of rule.

My reason for choosing C over H is that for one, I got to hear a lot of COPE in a live setting as Manchester Orchestra ripped through a lengthy setlist at The Fillmore in San Francisco to a sold-out crowd. Secondly, I really have to be in the mood for HOPE, whereas its companion piece really works for me at any time. To be fair, though, I did spend a lot more time with COPE this year, but that’s likely due mostly to the fact that it was released much earlier.


jenny lewis
Artist: Jenny Lewis
Album: The Voyager
Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Listen to “She’s Not Me

Before even hearing her music, there’s something noticeably affable about Jenny Lewis, something I still can’t place. Maybe it’s that jacket, or maybe it’s her confident smile placed just below her dark sunglasses. That likely doesn’t matter, but for me, it had me more drawn to The Voyager this year. I enjoy this album so much more than I ever expected to. I listened to it nearly non-stop once it was released, then I saw Jenny live just a couple weeks later and listened to it that much more.

The Voyager is overflowing with groovy indie-rock vibes and plenty of classic influence from some of the most important women in rock and roll music from decades past. Jenny balances the earnest and cheeky elements of her personality perfectly on the album, making it both fun and endearing with endless replay value. I see it growing into a classic. It has that kind of timeless feel.


pianos
Artist: Pianos Become The Teeth
Album: Keep You
Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Listen to “Ripple Water Shine

With an increasing amount of bands taking a shot at the La Dispute / Touché Amoré angle of scream-riddled emotional hardcore, I’ve actually already grown rather tired of the style. That’s one of the main reasons I couldn’t have been happier to discover the drastic change in Pianos Become The Teeth’s sound since The Lack Long After. Although “Hiding” from their split with Touché Amoré last year was a good indication of the transition, I don’t think anyone suspected that there’d be next to no screaming whatsoever found on Keep You. I’m confident in saying the album is all the better for it.

From beginning to end, backed by some of the band’s best instrumentation to date, vocalist Kyle Durfey shows that he can emit just as much emotional weight and resonance with a more relaxed vocal delivery. It’s impressive, and it’s just as heavy in an entirely different respect.


beyond creation
Artist: Beyond Creation
Album: Earthborn Evolution
Label: Season Of Mist
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Listen to “Abstrait Dialogue

Earthborn Evolution is my favorite metal album of the year.

With a fretless bass leading the charge, Beyond Creation rip through ten tracks of progressive, technical death metal. The weird thing, though, is that most of the album is actually somewhat sluggish in tempo. It’s smooth and jazzy but it sludges along with precision in its musicianship. This isn’t a complaint in the slightest; I just typically like my metal fast, and this mostly isn’t that. There are blast beats and driving guitar riffs and solos, yet it all flows steadily without haste.

There’s no reason to rush when your music is this good.


mo no mythologies
Artist:
Album: No Mythologies To Follow
Label: Chess Club
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Listen to “Glass

Considering Karen Marie Ørsted’s history with punk rock, the unabashed pop direction has been a somewhat surprising departure, but then again, she did have a common obsession with the Spice Girls as a child. Either way, the kid’s got swagger and soul and she’s having a blast; it’s all evident in her sound.

Following some stellar singles and last year’s Bikini Daze EP, No Mythologies To Follow features a lot of that same material with plenty more to satisfy our MØ needs. This album is overflowing with excellent production; some of my favorite beats of the year in fact. MØ’s powerful vocals and infectious choruses are complemented by inventive instrumentals and enough variation to keep the listener interested throughout. There’s even a surprising variety in her vocals, to the point where, at times, she doesn’t even sound the same from track to track. She’s got some pipes.

The Lana Del Rey comparisons will likely always be present, but frankly, MØ is more interesting, fun and exciting.


this will destroy yo
Artist: This Will Destroy You
Album: Another Language
Label: Suicide Squeeze
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Listen to “Dustism

With a three-year wait since Tunnel Blanket, Another Language is everything I hoped for in a new This Will Destroy You release. Having spent a significant percentage of my existence listening to TWDY nearly every single night while going to sleep from 2006-09, I anxiously await anything this Texas quartet puts out. Their music means a lot to me and their newest album is a perfect evolution from everything that’s come before it.

Continuously building with gorgeous ambience, fuzzy guitars and massive swells of aural emotion, Another Language is appropriately titled as it speaks to the listener, entirely void of a true vocal presence.


alt-J-This-Is-All-Yours
Artist: Alt-J
Album: This Is All Yours
Label: Infectious Records
Release Date: September 22, 2014
Listen to “Arrival In Nara

Ever since the first single dropped in June, Alt-J’s newest quickly climbed to the top of my most anticipated releases of 2014. Then, once it came out, I didn’t even listen to it till nearly two months later. I had been busy and distracted and saw some mixed reviews that were somewhat discouraging. With their debut, An Awesome Wave, placed toward the top of my 2012 ‘best of’ list, I was worried that I would be disappointed by the band’s second attempt.

The only thing I ended up being disappointed by was how long it took me to finally give the album the time it deserved. Now, I can’t stay away from it.

Featuring all the uniquely refreshing songwriting of their debut and then some, This Is All Yours picks up right where the band left off and adds even more gorgeous–and often peculiar– melodies and completely original instrumentation meticulously layered in perfect form.


perturbator
Artist: Perturbator
Album: Dangerous Days
Label: Blood Music
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Listen to “Humans Are Such Easy Prey

I watched Adam Wingard’s The Guest earlier this year, and immediately afterward I sought out the soundtrack and anything that resembled what was found on it. I inevitably came across Perturbator and his newest album, Dangerous Days. I was immediately transported to a dark, dystopian, alley and trash-ridden world not unlike the ones found in films such as Hobo With A Shotgun.

This album makes me want to roam the city at midnight with a hood up, seemingly searching for trouble but hopefully finding none too overwhelming.

“By the end of this journey you will meet your Maker, surrounded by all the desolation he created. A computer. Codename: Satan. Programmed to do only one thing: Erase all traces of the human race.”


armsandsleepers
Artist: Arms And Sleepers
Album: Swim Team
Label: Fake Chapter
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Listen to “Tiger Tempo

With a hiatus in the duo’s past, the prospect of a new Arms & Sleepers release had me endlessly excited, even without having heard a single bit of it at the time. Max and Mirza’s music has played a large role in my life for the better part of a decade, and if someone were to tell me that I’ve listened to their music more than any other act over the past ten years, I might not be able to argue it.

Swim Team is most certainly an A&S release, yet it might be their most accessible yet. Whereas most of their back catalog features complex layers of instrumentation, sparse vocals, and a hypnotic aural ether, Swim Team tightens things up with steady beats and a generally more uptempo nature. There’s a relaxed complacency to it all, and a genuine sense of contentment, sonically. It manages to simultaneously feel like reinvented and classic Arms and Sleepers.


Sling-Shot-to-Heaven
Artist: Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s
Album: Sling Shot to Heaven
Label: Mariel Recording Company
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Listen to “Hello, San Francisco

From 2006 till the middle of 2010, I was partially obsessed with Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s. The Dust Of Retreat, Animal! and Not Animal were constantly in rotation — whether listening to the albums in their entirety or putting numerous tracks from each on every mix CD I made during that time. Then, in the Fall of 2010, they released Buzzard, and I was torn. It, along with its 2012 followup, Rot Gut, Domestic, eventually grew on me, but still never filled the void left since their earlier works.

The Margot I loved is back, though. Sling Shot to Heaven is far more comparable to the band’s earlier works and I couldn’t be happier about that. Featuring more of the beautiful acoustic melodies and additional instruments I grew to love, their newest album showcases some of the band’s best material yet. Richard Edwards is at the top of his vocal game and his lyrics are as wonderfully insane as ever. However, this album also features much more straightforward writing as well, which will undoubtedly be more easily approachable for hesitant listeners.


code orange
Artist: Code Orange
Album: I Am King
Label: Deathwish Inc.
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Listen to “I Am King

I never expected to get as lost within this album as I did. Unrelentingly pissed off and assertive, I Am King delivers raw power and a furious presence, chock full of hardcore and death metal influences – all delivered by kids who are no longer ‘Kids.’

Simple-structured on the surface, I Am King is brutal and often raucous yet filled with obscure nuances in instrumentation that at times are smartly buried in the mix exactly where they should be. Many of the vocals are nearly indecipherable, due simply to the way they’re leveled, which ultimately adds to the eeriness and creative force of each track.

No Boxes. No Boundaries. No Fear. I Am King.


SomosAlbumCover_300dpi
Artist: Somos
Album: Temple Of Plenty
Label: Tiny Engines
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Listen to “Dead Wrong

Somos is another band I only discovered recently, to great excitement, as I personally didn’t love much in the world of pop-punk this year. Calling Somos pop-punk, however, is a bit of a stretch, but it’s apt. We’ll go with it.

Temple Of Plenty is an excellent debut and introduction to the band. While not overtly groundbreaking, it is wholly refreshing, offering enough originality to set it apart from similar releases this year, with Michael Fiorentino’s distinctive vocals, unexpected tempo changes, and lively, infectious choruses inherent to the genre. It’s fun and moving in equal measure, but most importantly, it’s memorable. Tiny Engines knows how to pick ’em.


crosses
Artist: ††† (Crosses)
Album: ††† (Crosses)
Label: Sumerian Records
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Listen to “Bitches Brew

Despite being a collection of the band’s previously released three EPs, Crosses smartly chose to rearrange the order in which the tracks appeared on the LP version. That might not sound like much, but it actually adds a significant element to the experience of listening through the band’s debut. There’s more cohesion and flow than fans expected from tacking EPs , ††, and ††† together.

I was originally drawn to Crosses like most, simply due to the fact it was a side project of Deftones’ Chino Moreno and Far’s Shaun Lopez. Once immersed in the eerie, spellbinding themes of the first EP, I was hooked. That feeling hasn’t left throughout the course of the subsequent two EPs and this full-length. It’s like all the best mellow parts of Deftones’ discography, with electronic beats and what appears to be a heavy horror influence. For me, there’s nothing to not enjoy about it.


side saddle
Artist: Side Saddle
Album: The Astorian
Label: Cedar Lodge Records
Release Date: September 15, 2014
Listen to “Halcyon

With the saddening loss of This Old Ghost, Ian McGuinness carries the torch under a new banner, one that’s not enough of a departure to alienate old fans, but offers enough variation and style to welcome new ones into the fold.

Conjuring a folkier sound than in his time with TOG, Side Saddle boasts beautifully layered instrumentation, striking choruses, unforgettable melodies, and McGuinness’ perfectly apposite vocal prowess. Fans of Good Old War should feel comfortably at home within the sounds of Side Saddle. As a fan of GOW myself, I feel all right saying that Side Saddle might actually offer more in way of depth, musically. The vocal harmonies are on point, too.


fallujah
Artist: Fallujah
Album: The Flesh Prevails
Label: Unique Leader Records
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Listen to “Sapphire

I’ve always been drawn to ethereal metal. Well, ethereal anything really. But, when technical death metal is integrated with spatial elements in sound, it makes for a juxtaposition unlike anything else in music. It’s dark and light existing concurrently; brutality and elegance, hand in hand.

Fallujah really pushed the envelope with this idea on their newest release, The Flesh Prevails. I was initially drawn to the album’s cover art, which perfectly represents the sound Fallujah have mastered in 2014, but was pleased to discover the music to be everything I’d hoped it’d be. It’s heavy and progressive, but alluring all the same. There are sprawling instrumental sections and bold, orchestral swells nearly drowning out the ferocious vocals of Alex Hofmann. There are shredding solos, brutal percussion, and driving riffs all complemented with soothingly delicate keyboard work. The Flesh Prevails is intense and dreamy and altogether satisfying.


rtj2
Artist: Run The Jewels
Album: Run The Jewels 2
Label: Mass Appeal
Release Date: October 27, 2014
Listen to “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)

Kanye West and Jay-Z are watching the throne from a distance. Killer Mike and El-P have usurped it; ‘RTJ’ etched into their crowns with cats flooding the throne room. They’re meowing in unison–in worship–along with the rest of the world.

It’s no secret at this point that when El-P and Killer Mike join forces, the rest of the rap game buckles at the knees. RTJ powers activate and listeners are in for El-P’s masterful production and the aggressive bars from both emcees, melding together to form bangers almost too explosive to allow near your ears. The duo’s second offering somehow trumps their first in most ways, which almost has me worried for the effect RTJ3 will have on what’s left standing of hip-hop.

If you’re sleeping on Run The Jewels, shame on you. If you’re trying to ignore Run The Jewels, good luck.


eps

cloudkicker
Artist: Cloudkicker
Album: Little Histories
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Listen to “Chameleon

Whether he’s crafting driving prog metal or soothing ambience, Cloudkicker mastermind Ben Sharp seems to always deliver. On his newest EP, he explores both ends of the spectrum, ultimately resulting in an effort comprised more of post rock slow-burns than heavy riffage or airy hypnotics. Including the bonus track, “Signal/Noise,” Little Histories serves up 26 minutes of some of the best rock music this year.

Ben Sharp just keeps getting better, and unless it’s in a live setting, he needs no helping hands to evolve or keep fans interested in his ever-progressing creations.


tap slip away
Artist: The Appreciation Post
Album: Slip Away
Label: Unsigned
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Listen to “Auxiliary Floor Toms

2014 was my first year with The Appreciation Post, a band that came as a pleasant surprise. They showcase all the things I love about pop-punk: huge anthemic choruses, undeniably catchy melodies, clever and often self-aware lyricism, and solid musicianship. The synth addition is just a bonus, but a much welcomed one.

This EP reminds me of high school, taking road trips with my best friends, listening to The Starting Line and Motion City Soundtrack. These four dudes from Boston are having a great time and I’m tagging along.


zella day
Artist: Zella Day
Album: Zella Day
Label: B3SCI Records
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Listen to “Compass

I’ve written about Zella Day at length this year, professing my love for both her voice and her music on numerous occasions. I’m yet to have any doubts that she’ll be one of the biggest names in pop music within the next couple of years, likely headlining festivals and scooping up awards by the armful.

She came out swinging with this EP, following a couple singles that surprisingly haven’t taken over top 40 radio (to my knowledge). With great production, songwriting, and a voice to be reckoned with, Zella Day is yet to disappoint me. This EP is as strong as a debut can get and my sole complaint is that it didn’t include her excellent single, “1965,” that served as the B-side to this effort’s lead single, “Sweet Ophelia.”


cardinal cardinal
Artist: Cardinal Cardinal
Album: Distant Lover
Label: 6131 Records
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Listen to “The Distance

I don’t mind Dads but they’re not a band I ever find myself seeking out to listen to. So to my surprise, I found myself gravitating to Cardinal Cardinal…over and over. For those who aren’t familiar, this is Dads drummer/vocalist John Bradley’s solo project. Distant Lover is his debut EP, and it’s really good. It’s not an unimaginable departure from Dads but it’s definitely smoother. I’d call it acoustic-driven emo/punk I suppose. It’s easily accessible and endlessly enjoyable.

John Bradley, I sincerely hope you continue working on this project.


little may
Artist: Little May
Album: Little May
Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Listen to “Hide

I first discovered Little May late last year when they released the gorgeous video for “Hide,” and I was pretty much waiting for this EP ever since.

These three Aussie ladies released some of the best material this year, with beautiful folk-pop gems that fans of City and Colour and Lord Huron will eat up and beg for seconds. Stellar songwriting and layered vocal melodies are only a couple aspects of Little May’s music that make this EP great. The lyricism, production, instrumentation and visual accompaniments are all impressive, too. I can’t wait for more Little May.


diamond youth
Artist: Diamond Youth
Album: Shake
Label: Topshelf Records
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Listen to “Red Water

Last year, for me, Topshelf Records was a dominant force in my year-end decisions, and while that’s not quite the case in 2014, it should come as no surprise that at least one TSR release would feature on my list.

Diamond Youth have this fantastic melodic rock thing going on, in the vein of earlier era Foo Fighters, and I for one can’t get enough of it. I still can’t believe they’re not blowing up the radio like Foo, or Queens of the Stone Age, or Muse honestly. Diamond Youth are destined for big things and I hope this EP is getting them some of the attention they deserve. Whatever attention last year’s Orange didn’t at least.


sianvar
Artist: Sianvar
Album: Sianvar
Label: Blue Swan Records
Release Date: January 5, 2014
Listen to “Sick Machine

Anyone familiar with the works of A Lot Like Birds, Hail The Sun, Stolas and Dance Gavin Dance likely knew exactly what to expect when the Sianvar project was announced. And for the most part, Sianvar is exactly what everyone thought it would be – only better…somehow.

The Anthony Green comparisons will never dissipate when it comes to Donovan Melero’s vocals, but that’s okay. This dude has a great vocal presence and it works flawlessly with the frenetic post-hardcore style found within his bands’ creations. There’s a lot of The Mars Volta/At The Drive-In influence here as well, which I’m sure no one is complaining about.


chrome sparks
Artist: Chrome Sparks
Album: Goddess
Label: Future Classic
Release Date: April 28, 2014
Listen to “ZzzzzZ

Jeremy Malvin makes some killer jams, and watching him totally vibe out to his own music is really something. You can’t blame the guy, though. He makes some of the most relaxing and groovy beats out there.

I listened to his Sparks EP a lot last year, and luckily he had another 6-tracker ready for this year in Goddess. Chrome Sparks gives you two options to choose from when listening: 1) sit back and lose yourself to the music peacefully with little to no action, or 2) stand up and lose yourself to the music in fervent dance. Either choice is the right one.


music videos

I don’t think the energy of this track could have been better expressed visually than with the video below. I might have watched this more than any other video this year and it’s still as hilariously absurd with each revisit.


Ben Howard’s directorial debut perfectly accentuates the title track off his newest album. Visually beautiful and chock full of metaphors, the video explores the things that can come between two people and what must be done to mend the rift.


PUP are seemingly incapable of making a bad (or boring) music video. I love pizza. I love reptiles. I used to play a lot of Destruction Derby 64. This video is super fun…and slightly sad.


This single smashes. This video is hilarious. I don’t have anything else to say. Just enjoy.


It’s such a simple and brilliant concept that I’m not sure how the hell it hasn’t been done before. Shot after shot of laughs. I’d never think to meld the worlds of Jason Voorhees and Lloyd Dobler. So many cover photos and wallpapers to be pulled from this.


I’m sure the star power is the carrying force of this video, but regardless, it’s simple and highly enjoyable. Seeing Kriston Stewart loosen up and let go a bit is pretty refreshing. Jenny Lewis is great and so is her sense of humor.


Ever since their first mysterious videos began appearing online around this time in 2009, Jonna Lee and her crew have continually impressed me with their ability to create gorgeous videos for each and every song they’ve recorded; over 40 at this point. Nearly all involving some form of nature theme, the visual quality is second to none (apart from maybe Sigur Rós’ Heima), with stunning shots of European landscapes and Lee’s consistently intriguing attire. Of all the videos they’ve released this year, it was hard to choose a favorite, but I knew at least one had to make the list.


This one’s brief, but again, such a smart and simple idea. A helluva ride.


I always love to see people at complete peace, doing something they appear to love. This video is so sweet, and filmed at some of my favorite locations near the Golden Gate.


This is one of the most cinematic videos of the year; beautifully shot and open to interpretation.


The one continuous shot effect in this video is a huge draw but it also has good editing, and it all lends itself to the simplicity otherwise present.


HAIM are having all the fun they deserve to and this video is evidence of that. Perfectly accentuating the ’80s-influenced jam, the sisters crafted a video flashback with choreographed dancing and an excellent stage setup. The song was catchy enough on its own, but when watching the video, it’s that much easier to get into it and feel as if you’re watching MTV as a child again.


As mentioned before, PUP make great choices when it comes to their music videos, and that’s precisely why they’re on this list twice. Whereas the video for “Mabu” was a little more fun and wild, this video is reminiscent of a coming of age story, a la Stand By Me. It’s a story of friendship, growing up, and the formation of the one and only PUP.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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