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Happy that you've started this thread, Joel; working on my Top 10 list right now, with the hope of posting it within the next day or two...

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I've been working on mine for a while as I catch up with some of the stuff I've missed over the past few months (and as I give some stuff already on my list some more spins). I'm surprised how different it looks now! Hopefully I'll have it up this weekend. 

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Some real humdingers, this year—including what may be the strongest Top 10 list I've ever had.

 

As usual, I will note that this list is meant only as a snapshot; I suspect that #1 is more or less etched in stone, but the subsequent entries may shift a bit from one day to the next. All are excellent, though—worthy of your time and engagement.

 

1. Joe Henry

Invisible Hour

 

Every Joe Henry album comes with its own lyrical and/or sonic conceit—not necessarily a formal concept, but a suggested framework, a recommended entry point for the listener. Invisible Hour is no exception: It is an album about marriage and committed love that views its subject at odd angles and from varying distances, love’s transformation felt in its absence as much as in its presence; it’s a folk album that manages to sound spare and lush at the same time, black-and-white in its rendering yet boldly widescreen in its scope. It is also his masterwork—and given how much I like his other albums, that’s saying quite a bit.

 

2. Miranda Lambert

Platinum

 

The Carrie Underwood duet aside—somethin’ bad, indeed—this is basically the pop album of my dreams: Rich in ideas, its songs in dialogue with one another, Platinum addresses fame and intimacy, time and nostalgia, feminine strength and vulnerability as two sides of the same coin. It has the spirit of a double album, if not quite the running time, and its sprawl encompasses country that is as hard and as pure as Sturgill Simpson’s, plus pop that is as sleek and modern as Taylor Swift’s. It’s an album that tries to offer something for everyone while still existing as its own thing—no small feat at all.

 

3. Leonard Cohen

Popular Problems

 

One album removed from Old Ideas, which fetishized death and preserved its mortal reflections in amber, Leonard Cohen comes roaring back with a surprising, lively, funny, poignant set of songs—as good as any he has ever put together, in fact, though what surprises the most about Popular Problems is that it’s actually musically interesting and inventive, at times almost lending the illusion of spontaneity. Stranger things have happened, but still: This one, much more than the last one (or for that matter, any Cohen album of the last couple of decades), is the one for his legacy.

 

4. Robert Plant

Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

 

I have no idea how much money Robert Plant has actually turned down by forsaking a Led Zeppelin tour in favor of following his muse, but I do know that I love him for it—especially since the muse continues to lead him in such strange and wonderful directions, here bidding him to pick up the strands of mystic folk that he first picked up on Led Zeppelin III, tying them together with the hushed warmth and haunted vibe of Raising Sand and the dusty Americana of Band of Joy. He takes the very concept of folk music—not just American—and remakes it in his own image, and the addictive results are as appealing as any music he’s ever made.

 

5. Flying Lotus

You’re Dead!

 

Mind-altering—and, much more than any album on the list, not normally my thing—Flying Lotus’ new album uses jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and electronica as its building blocks, but constructs from them something dizzying, otherworldly, and ultimately most moving. Its construction is masterful: From its dizzying and disorienting buildup it moves into breakneck catharsis with Kendrick Lamar, then shifts into a much-needed comedown—by turns spooky and comical, and perfect for the kind of reflection that this record demands.

 

6. Lucinda Williams

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

 

Craft isn’t a very rock and roll word, and it doesn’t exactly set the toes a-tappin’, but maybe it should—at least in the context of Lucinda’s double album, which really is a master class in craft, each song arriving as something compact, precise, evocative, catchy, and wonderfully earthy. For a collection that spans two discs, it’s amazing how economical it seems, how every word and note packs a punch. Each song is its own self-contained thing, but the cumulative effect is roaringly entertaining.

 

7. Jolie Holland

Wine Dark Sea

 

Country-blues as filtered through the prism of raw and raucous punk, Wine Dark Sea is noisy and electrifying—its cling and clatter, its punchdrunk dissonance forming the perfect soundscape for Holland’s boozy reflections on wild and reckless lovers. There is a real sense of danger here—a sense that this whole thing could come apart and blow up in our faces, and that feeling remains even after dozens of listens. Tantalizing, to say the least.

 

8. Spoon

They Want My Soul

 

This one taps into everything that’ great about Spoon: How their music seems so immaculate, so precise, so minimalist, yet so loaded with sensual pleasures; how the rich texture in their music is the perfect backdrop for Britt Daniel’s frayed nerves and bleeding heart. Sensual and lush and with a beat you can dance to, They Want My Soul is the year’s great rock and roll album.

 

9. Marianne Faithfull

Give My Love to London

 

Songs of Experience, we’ll call it; the story of the artist’s life, told through character acting and collaboration; tough as nails, funny as hell, delivered with the well-earned swagger of a true survivor. Faithfull has made a number of fine records over the last decade or so, but this one is my favorite: Playful and devastating in equal measure, it’s got the balance of wit and wisdom that only a true rock and roll sage can deliver.

 

10. The Roots

… and Then You Shoot Your Cousin

 

The strangest, boldest, most singular and uncompromising album to be released this year, or at least to be promoted so heavily on The Tonight Show, The Roots’ latest passion project offers layer upon layer of irony, satire, musique concrete, deep hip-hop references, and yes—underneath it all, some bangin’ hooks. (And all in half an hour’s time!) Purer art-rap than anything Kanye West has yet made, Cousin is demanding, though not necessarily alienating—and it’s as rich and rewarding as you care to make it.

 

11. Over the Rhine, Blood Oranges in the Snow

12. Jenny Lewis, The Voyager

13. U2, Songs of Innocence

14. Weezer, Everything Will Be Alright in the End

15. Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey, Going Back Home

16. Amy LaVere, Runaway’s Diary

17. Look Again to the Wind: Bitter Tears Revisited

18. Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes

19. The Bad Plus, Inevitable Western

20. Rosanne Cash, The River and the Thread

21. Beck, Morning Phase

22. Brian Blade Fellowship, Landmarks

23. St. Vincent, St. Vincent

24. Rodney Crowell, Tarpaper Sky

25. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

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Pretty much final draft of my playlist, sans commentary...

 

 

Fartbarf - Master of the 5 Count

 

Dry Bones - Dark Days

 

Sleater-Kinney - Bury Our Friends

 

LUXURY - Don't Feel Bad if You Don't Feel Better Right Away

 

Teen Daze - YVR

 

Sinead O'Connor - Take me to church

 

Stars - Trap Door 

 

Half-handed cloud - We Toil and Struggle

 

 

Nick Thoburn Bad Dream (theme from Serial Podcast) 

 

Sam Rocha - In the Self’s place

 

Nicki Minaj  - Pills and Potions 

 

The Rentals - Thought of Sound

 

Weezer - Anonymous

 

Frank soundtrack - I Love You All

 

Swet Shop Boys - Benny Lava

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I'm still in the process of ordering and listing, but here's my favorite songs of 2014 so far (in no particular order):

 

"Intro (Its Album Time)" - Todd Terje

"Tu hevur taer dyrastu perlur" - Gudrid Hansdottir

"Stay" - Seasurfer 

"Plains To Crash" - Damien Jurado (feat. Sisters of the Eternal Son)

"Good Shepherd" - Wovenhand

"Secant" - Ben Frost

"Tomorrow" - The Roots

"Windswept" - CFCF

"Solêr" - Otto A Totland

"Micheline" - Sun Kil Moon

"It Hurts to Say Goodbye" - The Choir

"Hard Wired" - Perturbator (feat. Isabella Goloversic)

"Old 45's" - Chromeo

"Foil" - "Weird Al" Yankovic

"The Body You Deserve" - HTRK

"Caught In Time, So Far Away" - You'll Never Get to Heaven

"Orion" - 2:54

"Shelter Song" - Temples

"Kelly" - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

"The Fog Closing In" - Desiderii Marginis

"Elena's Sound-World" - Sinoia Caves

"Fall" - Cheatahs

"Oblivion" - Deaf Center

"The Wings of the Dawn" - Remedy Drive

"Never Catch Me" - Flying Lotus (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

"Sparks Were Real" - Anilore

"This is All We Know" - Le Cassette

"Shadows And Light" - Turks & Caicos

"Museums In Decline" - Luxury

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Top 2 are the only ones in any real order

1. Lewis and Clarke - Triumvirate (the 7 year wait since their beautiful and amazing Blasts of Holy Birth was worth it. This album is a masterpiece.)

2. Luluc - Passerby
(Based on Jeffrey Overstreet's recommendation I have this folk duo a listen. Some of the most beautiful songs I've heard all year)

Peggy Sue - Choir of echoes

Wye Oak - Shriek

Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Warpaint - Warpaint

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Sea Wolf - Song Spells #1

Sally Seltmann - Hey Daydreamer

Orenda Fink - Blue Dream

Lo-Fang - Blue Film

Saintseneca - Dark Arc

I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

Haerts - Haerts

Future Islands - Singles

FKA twigs - LP1

First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Ballet School - The Dew Lasts An Hour

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks - Enter the slasher house

The Antlers - Familiars

Real Estate - Atlas

Secret Cities - Walk Me Home

Skygreen Leopards - Family Crimes

Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams

 

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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In no particular order, and with the inevitable feeling that I'm forgetting a great many artists/albums, my current draft of favourites from 2014:

 

 

Full length albums:

 

The Collection – Ars Moriendi

Kye Kye – Honest Affection

My Brightest Diamond – This Is My Hand

Wovenhand – Refactory Obdurate

Bill Mallonee – Winnowing

John Mark McMillan – Borderland

Grover Anderson – The Optimist

Joe Henry – Invisible Hour

Asgeir – In the Silence

War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Heath McNease – Among Thieves /

Sam Rocha – Late To Love

Liz Vice – There’s a Light

Lily and Madeleine - Fumes

Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems

Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band - Landmarks

Devin Townsend – Casualties of Cool

Grouper – Ruins

Zach Winters – Monarch

Copeland – Ixora

Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – Goliath

Luxury - Trophies

 

 

EPs

Jacob Montague – All Creatures Volume 1

Aaron Strumpel – Vespers III & IV

Sleeping At Last – Oceans

Bigfoot Wallace – Cup and Crown

The Cowards Choir – Cool Currency

Youngest Son – All Soul’s Day

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That Grouper album is slowly growing on me. "Clearing" will probably end up on my year-end list, too.

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My top ten albums of this year. May call my choices boring and predictable but this is what I have bought and loved this year. 

 

1) Elbow The Take off and Landing of Everything

2) Coldplay Ghost Stories

3) Robert Plant Lullaby And...The Ceaseless Roar

4) Simple Minds Big Music

5) U2 Songs of Innocence

6) Interpol El Pintor

7) Jimi Goodwin Odludek

8) The Call Featuring Robert Levon Been A Tribute to Michael Been

9) Deacon Blue A New House

10) Gazpacho Demon

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Woo hoo! Elbow is currently #2 on my list-in-progress. Glad to see somebody else loves it as much as I do.

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10. The Rails – Fair Warning
 

Richard and Linda Thompson made a half dozen of the best albums I’ve ever heard, featuring searing songwriting, jaw-dropping guitar work, and scintillating harmony singing. But that was 35 or more years ago now, and we’ll never get another one. And that’s why I’ll settle for the Thompson’s daughter Kami singing with her husband James Walbourne.

It’s not much of a hardship. Together, Kami and James call themselves The Rails. Kami doesn’t quite have Linda’s breathtaking voice, but she has a good one. James isn’t quite the songwriter or guitarist that Richard is, but he’s not far off, either. And they’ve clearly set out to do what their elders did before them: create a Celtic Rock hybrid that honors its ancient sources and reflects modern sensibilities. They don’t quite pull it off, but it’s close; close enough to call this the best Richard and Linda Thompson album you’ve never heard.
 

9. St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Half the City
 

An old fashioned Stax/Volt soul revue, complete with horn section, led by a pudgy white boy who wants to be Al Green, and who sounds uncannily like him. Nothing more. Nothing less. That’s enough.
 

8. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
 

The usual Shoegaze building blocks – the sweet melodies, the whisper-to-a-shriek dynamics, the sonic assault of overamped guitars – are here in abundance on the debut album from Nothing. But that’s the same formula genre pioneers such as My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, and Ride delivered 25 years ago. What sets this band apart is the decided metal pedigree of the rhythm section. Kyle Kimball, in particular, absolutely pummels his drum kit, effectively punching a hole right through the sonic gauze. This is as muscular and hard-edged as Shoegaze gets.
 

7. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
 

A seamless blend of jazz, electronic music, and, hip-hop, Flying Lotus’s You’re Dead sounds like Mahavishnu Orchestra, circa 1973, fronted by a bevy of hip-hop stalwarts. Kendrick Lamar is the biggest name here, and on the album’s single “Never Catch Me” he spits out dizzying commentary between the bursts of cosmic machine-gun fire from the band. And this band is really something to hear. Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus) is the producer/sampler/keyboard virtuoso, but the contributions from bassist and vocalist Thundercat, drummer Deantoni Parks, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and keyboard player Herbie Hancock (yes, that guy) are superb. Those with deep musical memories will catch the samples from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Queen, and Mahavishnu Orchestra too, but the real action is in the interplay between that great band and the hip-hop artists.
 

6. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
 

Mark Kozelek is an inveterate mopester and weaver of memories when he’s not bragging on his sexual conquests, so it’s not particularly surprising that Benji, his finest album since 2003’s masterful Ghosts of the Great Highway, should concern itself with songs about death, death, death, death, his dick, death, death, death, death, death, memory and loss, and death, respectively. The death and memory and loss songs are the best, and feature Kozelek’s uncanny ability to construct something universally moving from the most personal of sources. On “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same” he hop-scotches across the years, remembering his visceral adolescent reaction to the Led Zeppelin film of the title, beating up a kid in middle school and experiencing remorse, and his strange and inexplicably inappropriate reaction to the news of the death of his grandmother, all the while recognizing that those random, scattered memories are grist for the songwriting mill. No mention of his dick. That’s one of the good ones.
 

5. Saintseneca – Dark Arc
 

I might be biased. Columbus kids make good, and all that. So I’ll point out that, yes, they’re on a big-time quality record label, Anti- Records, and that the debut album more than holds its own with the likes of label mates Mavis Staples, Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, The Black Keys, Kate Bush, Joe Henry, and Mose Allison. It’s a label for people who know how to write songs, and the Columbus kid, Zac Little, doesn’t disappoint. For the record, I mostly hate the flannel-shirted, bearded wonders who make what passes for indie folk music today. But I like this band, and the songwriting is the difference. The crazed campfire singalong/stompalong “Blood Bath” gets my vote for Best Song of 2014.
 

4. Allo Darlin’ – We Come From the Same Place
 

The third album from London-by-way-of-Australia twee popsters Allo Darlin’ builds on the strengths of the band’s previous work. Lead vocalist, songwriter and ukulele strummer Elizabeth Morris still writes disarmingly sweet but off-kilter songs of romance found and lost (here she rhymes, impossibly and charmingly, “bar” and “Jaegermeister”), and guitarist and sometime vocalist Paul Rains still chimes in, quite literally, with a technique clearly inspired by Roger McGuinn and The Byrds. One might conclude from that pairing that Allo Darlin’ make pop music for nerdy Boomers, and one might be right. But there’s some real bite to the guitars this time out, and Morris continues to dazzle as the sweet girl next door who has memorized the thesaurus. As dad rock goes, this is strange and delightful.
 

3. Jolie Holland – Wine Dark Sea
 

Jolie Holland’s mushmouthed vocals will always be offputting to some. I’ll gladly live with them. On Wine Dark Sea, her sixth album, Holland sounds both deeply connected to the insistent heartbeat of traditional American song and completely untethered. Jolie is, at heart, a roots artist, and these songs have sturdy blues and folk sinews. But the guitars squeal and squall like some Sonny Sharrock experiment in a Manhattan loft, all free jazz and reverb run amok, and Jolie is very much up to the sonic challenge. She has Billie Holiday’s lazy drawl and ability to luxuriate between the notes. She has Robert Plant’s feral Led Zeppelin howl. I think she’s a hell of a singer, and this is her finest effort, a big, unconventional, stomping bruiser of an album.
 

2. The Number Ones – The Number Ones
 

Ten songs in 20 minutes is what we’ve got here, a bunch of short little punk pop bursts that recall the spirit of ’77. In this case, the spirit of ’77 evokes not so much The Sex Pistols or The Clash, but the tuneful cheekiness of The Undertones, like-minded Irish yobs who couldn’t get the girl but who were too good natured to sound particularly petulant or menacing about it. These kids can barely play their instruments, they don’t know any better than to write straightforward melodic songs with endless hooks, and they sing as if their lives depend on connecting with that cute chick in the front row. That’s what makes them great.
 

1. Joe Henry – Invisible Hour
 

Yes, I’m going to quote myself. It’s a long quote. Sorry.
 

Joe Henry doesn’t write love songs, although love suffuses almost every syllable he sings. He writes marriage songs, which are neither dewy-eyed odes to blossoming romance nor tell-all dispatches of domestic warfare, but rather something far more sly and wise and sweet. Forget the silly arguments about squeezing the tube of toothpaste from the top or bottom. Henry knows that the real work of marriage, and the real joy, involves the collision of two independent, willful, frequently selfish human beings, thrown together and destined to sort it out over the course of years and decades. What happens there—that strange and seductive alchemy that transforms and ennobles human lives, at least in the best of circumstances—cannot be summarized objectively, and perhaps can best be approached through the realm of gritty poetry, in words that bear witness to the scars, but still soar. That’s what Joe Henry has delivered on Invisible Hour, his 13th album.

And make no mistake, Joe Henry is a poet. He plays guitar (and guitar only; no piano on this album) and sings, and does his song-and-dance man shuffle, but more than any other contemporary songwriter, his words are luminous and mysterious, shimmering with the possibility of transcendence. Unlike Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks or Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky, poetic confessional singer/songwriter albums with which Invisible Hour can be legitimately compared in terms of overriding lyrical themes and extraordinary musical quality, this one doesn’t end in despair and heartbreak. But the emotional stakes are just as high, the psychic wounds are just as great, and the 11 songs here are just as vulnerable and raw. “Our very blood tastes like honey,” Henry sings on the opening track “Sparrow,” and that arresting image, both alarming and life-affirming, sets the tone for the tales that follow.
 

Invisible Hour is a folk record—surprisingly so, given Henry’s penchant for the lounge noir blurring of genres that has populated his catalog in the 2000s. Perhaps sensing the need for a different musical treatment given the intensely personal nature of these songs, Henry has stripped the accompaniment back to the bare folk basics: acoustic guitars, mandola and mandocello (with frequent collaborator Greg Leisz adding the filigree) and a restrained but empathic rhythm section. The instrumental star here, however, is Henry’s son Levon, who provides the equivalent of an entire horn section via multi-tracked clarinets and saxophones, and who works entirely outside normal jazz and R&B conventions. His conjuring of a sad, almost funereal mariachi band on the winding ballad “Sign” is a particular highlight. But the focus here is on Joe Henry and the songs. “I want nothing more than for you to hear me now,” he sings on the lovely “Plainspeak,” and Ryan Freeland’s intimate, closely-miked production is intended to facilitate exactly that.
 

And what we hear, in typical Joe Henry fashion, is the sound of mystery. So much for plainspeak. Although this is an album about marriage, it approaches its subject obliquely, circuitously, and Henry is far too much of a mystic and lyrical maverick to present any of this in a straightforwardly narrative fashion. The songs are full of strange portents: the end of days, the shadow of a hand on a mountainside, ghosts hanging in trees, the dead wandering the land. Time—its relentless passage, its irretrievable nature, its ability to heal and reconcile—haunts these songs in almost every line. The same imagery appears, slightly reconfigured, from song to song. And even when the songs borrow from standard singer/songwriter fare, with verses strung together into something resembling a story, as in the nine-minute epic “Sign,” what we encounter is something more like Dylan’s mid-‘60s surrealism and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical fantasy than journalistic reporting. In short, these songs demand not only that you pay close attention to them, but also that you wrestle with them, live with them for a while, let their disquieting images connect in new and unexpected ways. And when the straightforwardness comes, the effect can be startling. I want you to hear me now, indeed:
 

I take all this to be holy
If futile, uncertain and dire
Our union of fracture, our dread everlasting
This beautiful, desperate desire
 

That’s from “Grave Angels,” which serves as an opening salvo for the marital ruminations that follow. And that’s as clear as it gets. What remains are the glimpses of hope, the hard-won victories when victory itself seemed like a phantasmal fever dream, the shaky but growing recognition that the scars are badges of glory. That, and 11 impossibly beautiful songs. Invisible Hour is poetic singer/songwriter fare at its best, and this is Joe Henry’s masterpiece.
 

Honorable Mention
 

Alcest – Shelter

Allah-La’s – Worship the Sun

Alvvays – Alvvays

Angel Olson – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Beck – Morning Phase

Ben Frost – A U R O R A

Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker

Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was the Golden Age

The Delines – Colfax

Doug Seegers – Going Down to the River

Elbow – The Takeoff and Landing

Gold-Bears – Dalliance

Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Jackson Browne – Standing in the Breach

John Fullbright – Songs

Jose James – While You Were Sleeping

Imogen Heap – Sparks

Kevin Morby – Still Life

King Creosote – From Scotland, With Love

Lecrae – Anomaly

Lucinda Williams – Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Luluc – Passerby

Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else

Mary Gauthier – Trouble and Love

Mirel Wagner –When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day

The New Mendicants – Into the Lime

Polar Bear – In Each and Every One

Rosanne Cash – The River & the Thread

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Spoon – They Want My Soul

St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Temples – Sun Structures

Tord Gustavesen Quartet – Extended Circle

Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

Ty Segall – Manipulator

Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap

The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

Wilko Johnson – Going Back Home

Wussy – Attica!

 

Best Boxed Sets
 

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Complete Basement Tapes

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – CSNY 1974

 

Most Disappointing Releases
 

Note: This implies that I thought I might like it, but I didn’t, which is why you won’t see any pop divas here)
 

Augustines - Augustines

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (yeah, but …)

The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

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Some of you saw this on Facebook, I'm sure, but here it is again (and it's updated to include the new D'Angelo album). Still waiting to hear the album Freedy Johnston quietly released last week; since I didn't order it on Pledge Music, there doesn't seem to be a way to easily get it.

 

1. Alcest - Shelter

2. Joe Henry - Invisible Hour

3. Alvvays - Alvvays
4. Jessica Lea Mayfield - Make My Heart Sing….
5. Nothing - Guilty of Everything
6. Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
7. The Roots - ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
8. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
9. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
10. Brian Blade Fellowship - Landmarks

11. D'Angelo - Black Messiah

12. PUP - PUP
13. The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
14. Wussy - Attica!

15. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
16. The Antlers - Familiars
17. John Fullbright - Songs
18. Beck - Morning Phase
19. Owen Pallett - No Conflict
20. Liam Finn - The Nihilist
21. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire for No Witness
22. Bad Plus - Inevitable Western
23. Rodney Crowell - Tarpaper Sky
24. Rosanne Cash - The River and the Thread
25. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In the End
 

 

 

Honorable mentions (alphabetical)

 

The Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast
Sam Amidon - Lily-O
Army Navy - The Wilderness Inside
Caribou - Our Love
Centro-matic - Take Pride in Your Long Odds

Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE
Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans
Justin Townes Earle - Single Mothers
Flying Lotus - You’re Dead!
Hospitality - Trouble
Interpol - El Pintor
Damien Jurado - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
Miranda Lambert - Platinum
Bill Mallonee - Winnowing
Mastodon - Once More ‘Round the Sun
Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments to an Elegy
Strand of Oaks - HEAL
St. Vincent - St. Vincent
Taylor Swift - 1989
TV on the Radio - Seeds
U2 - Songs of Innocence 
Sharon Van Etten - Are We
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unraveling
Whirr - Sway

 

Favorite reissue: 
Bedhead - 1992 - 1998 (boxed set)

 

Biggest disappointments:

Sloan - Commonwealth
Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes
Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt
Spain - Sargent Place

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I want to spend the next week digging into all the albums mentioned above that I haven't heard.

 

The Lucinda Williams double album was my favorite of 2014 by a mile.

 

Everyone who reads music reviews knows to be suspicious of "return to form" or "best album since..." records, but four artists that I'd experienced diminishing returns with for the past few albums delivered new ones that hit all my buttons: Ryan Adams, Bill Mallonee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Drive-By Truckers.

 

I'm tempted to just put those four and Lucinda as my top five and call it quits, but that would leave out my second and third favorite albums of the year: Prince's Art Official Age/Plectrumelectrum

 

Other 2014 artists I listened to a ton:

 

Beck

Elbow

Pinnick Gales Pridgen

Real Estate

Spoon

Sun Kil Moon

Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil 

Tweedy 

Wussy

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Glad to see you mention Drive-By Truckers. I listened to that one again today, and while I came to their work a little late (2004) and don't have familiarity with their full catalog, this is my favorite of the records I've heard from them, with Brighter Than Creation's Dark a close second.

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Jeffrey, your list has everything that I look for in a year-end Top 10. It's diverse. It's personal. It has several titles for me to add to my must-hear list. And it has Joe Henry at the top. Perfect!

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I have a lot of catching up to do, but here's five albums I've really enjoyed this year:

The West - "Never the Place" This is a band out of Seattle that plays music that ranges from sort of a new wave electronic thing to tracks that sound almost like The Rentals. A fun album all around. They put out an EP in 2013 with a track called "All I Want Is This" that is a personal favorite. http://bandthewest.bandcamp.com/track/all-i-want-is-this

 

Tomo Nakayama - "Fog on the Lens" Another Seattle artist and member of Grand Hallway. This is his solo project, created while he was artist in residence at Seattle's Town Hall (a speaking/concert venue downtown). Beautifully lush music with introspective lyrics. Still spending my time working through the lyrics because I'm generally so distracted by the beautiful music. I recommend the track "Open Room." http://tomomusic.bandcamp.com/

 

Yellow Ostrich - "Cosmos" This is just my kind of alternative rock album. Lyrics lean on metaphors and are fun to dissect (imho). http://yellowostrich.com/

 

Flying Lotus - "You're Dead" I think everyone else covered this pretty well. Probably my favorite album of the year. I'm an absolute nut for Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock of the late 60s and early 70s, so this was right up my alley.

 

Alt-J - "This is All Yours" A divisive band among music nerds. I find their sound really appealing. This album is a great companion to their debut release, as it makes musical and lyrical references back to the first album. http://www.altjband.com/

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I've just updated my list-- now with 100% more D'Angelo!-- and also took the liberty of shuffling around a few other entries, if only to highlight the nature of these lists as snapshots in time, not meant as anything "definitive."

 

My updated list reflects the coming of Black Messiah, but also how much The Roots' album continues to grow on me:

 

1. Joe Henry, Invisible Hour

2. D'Angelo, Black Messiah

3. Miranda Lambert, Platinum

4. Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems

5. Robert Plant, lullaby... and the Ceaeless Roar

6. The Roots, And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

7. Flying Lotus, You're Dead!

8. Lucinda Williams, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

9. Jolie Holland, Wine Dark Sea

10. Spoon, They Want My Soul

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