Best Albums of 2014

What we’ve all been waiting for.  My list of the best albums of the year.  This year brought us releases by some of my favs, Spoon, TV on the Radio, and of course the man of all men…Moz.  I listened to every one of my top 10 at least dozens of time throughout the year but there can only be one #1 record.  Enjoy friends.  What a great year.  Thanks to Thom and Lindsey for their contribution.  Scroll down to read theirs…

1)  The War On Drugs- Lost In The Dream

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this album is from start to finish.  One of the most complete albums in years.  Heartfelt and complex, whatever the great Philly does next is something that we should look out for.  I dare you to put this record on (and on record preferably) and not be lost in Adam’s vocals.  Easily the best album of the year.The War on Drugs

2)  Sharon Van Etten- Are We There

I love everything she does.  If I had one complaint, 11 songs aren’t enough. Sharon Van Etten

3)  Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 2

The 2nd full length from the best duo in rap (definitely) but perhaps in all of music.  How they feed off of each other is incredible.Run the jewels

4)  Real Estate- Atlas

The latest from the Jersey boys.  My favorite of theirs.  And each one they make makes this list.real estate

5)  FKA Twigs- LP1

This album hits you at your very core and doesn’t let up.  Every song is incredible.fka twigs

6)  Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band- Landmarks

I didn’t know much about the Louisiana jazz musician.  I’ll know everything about him from now on.  This is beautiful music.brian blade

7)  Panda Bear- Mr. Noah (ep)

Normally I make a separate list for ep’s.  Not this year.  Probably my favorite musician working today.  His latest drops in January and I’ve heard it, guaranteed to make next year’s list.panda bear

8)  Wye Oak- Shriek

Love the completeness from a 2 member band.  A big fan since their debut.  This may be their best.wye oak

9)  Angel Olsen- Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Another album that I haven’t stopped listening to since I heard it.  One of the best sophomore efforts I’ve heard in years.angel olsen

10) Warpaint- s/t

What’s not to love by the all female band from LA?warpaint

11) Spoon- They Want My Soul

When you are a band for as long as Spoon has been and an album this complete happens you have to be considered one of the better Indie rock bands of all time.  I think a lot of people would agree.spoon

12) Morrissey- World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Moz.  One of his best in years.moz

13) Jessie Ware- Tough Love

As beautiful as her debut.  Exquisite vocals.jessie ware

14) Ex Hex- Rips

The great Mary Timony returns in a huge way.  Note to new musicians…this is how you make good music.ex hex

15) Shellac- Dude Incredible

‘At Action Park’ is one of the greatest Indie albums of all time.  This record kicks ass so hard.shellac

16) Peter Matthew Bauer- Liberation!

Anything anyone has to do with ‘The Walkmen’ is ok in my book.  A great debut.peter mattew bauer

17) St. Vincent- St. Vincent

Think this sums her up…

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

– John Keatsst. vincent

18) Protomartyr- Under Color of Official Right

Volatile, ferocious, oppresive post-punk from Detroit’s ‘Protomartyr’.protomartyr

19) Wild Beasts- Present Tense

Love this band.  wild beasts

20) Juliana Barwick- Rosabi (ep)

Juliana Barwick just makes beautiful music.  That simple.  Pair this with the equally impressive ‘Dogfish Rosabi Ale’ an exquisite imperial pale ale made with wasabi.  Yes, it’s even better than it sounds.c6ff2657

And the rest…

21) Flying Lotus- You’re Dead!

22) Fear of Men- Loom

23) TV On The Radio- Seeds

24) The New Pornographers- Brill Bruisers

25) Schoolboy Q- Oxymoron

26) EMA- The Future’s Void

27) First Aid Kit- Stay Gold

28) Mas Ysa- Worth (ep)

29) White Lung- Deep Fantasy

30) Zola Jesus- Taiga

31) Aphex Twin- Syro

32) Alt-J- This is All Yours

33) Lykke Li- I Never Learn

34) Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else

35) Jenny Lewis- The Voyager

36) Lia Ices- Ices

37) Perfect Pussy- Say Yes to Love

38) The Notwist- Close to the Glass

39) Painted Palms- Forever

40) Hamilton Leithauser- Black Hours

41) Ben Frost- AURORA

42) Courtney Barnett- The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

43) Sylvan Esso- s/t

44) Parquet Courts- Sunbathing Animal

45) Alcest- Shelter

46) Amen Dunes- Love

47) Clark- Clark

48) Foxygen- …And Star Power

49) Andy Stott- Fait in Strangers

50) Tune-Yards- Nikki Nack

Thom’s Best of…

1) Ryan Adams “1984” e.p
2) Crow Bait “Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate”
3) Ryan Adams “S/T”
4) Chumped “Teenage Retirement”
5) Perfect Pussy “Say Yes To Love”
6) Run The Jewels “Run The Jewels 2”
7) Jack White “Lazaretto’
8) Damien Rice ” My Favourite Faded Fantasy”
9) Taylor Swift “1989”
10) Dolly Parton “Blue Smoke “
Lindsey’s Best of…
1) Ned Doheney – Separate Oceans
Every single song on this album shreds.  Can’t help but sway.  Favorite tune, probably of the year, is his “Get It Up For Love”
2) The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Yeah, yeah, I know, but it really is one of my favorite albums of ALL TIME!  Even before we started dating!  My parents even love their tunes.  Such great driving/exploring music.
3) Natalie Prass – Bird of Prey
OMGGGGGG, her cover of Janet’s Anytime, Any Place….I can’t even handle it.  MW is featuring her in March btw.
4) Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Such an amazing voice.  Not my  favorite album of hers but still SO great.  I love her sh!tty sense of humor and sarcasm, for example “Hi-Five” about two friends in that got royally screwed in relationships.  Why not celebrate that?!
5) King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Oddments
Major Jimi H vibes here.  Totally psychedelic stoner rock.  Makes you ZONE out without even trying.  Fav tracks on this album are “Work This Time” and “Stressin”.  Very young and large Australian group.  By large, I mean LARGE….10 band members minimum at each show.  Nuts.
6) Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation!
Something about this dude’s voice, DIG IT! Fav tunes “Shiva the Destroyer” and “Liberation!”
7) Eccentric Soul – The Way Out Label
All Numero Group comps shred. Here’s their latest.
8) Foxygen – …And Star Power
Really didn’t like the album as a whole but “How Can You Really” is a great song….these kids are way ahead of the game.  If they can keep their sh!t together, I think they’ll be big time

Best Songs of 2014

Here we are…the end of the year.  The holidays are upon us, birthdays (ahem ahem) and year end best of lists.  Below are your songs of the year.  Each year it gets harder and harder to determine the ultimate playlist to encapsulate the great year in music.  And of course to provide all of you with THE playlist of 2014.  Here they are…the best songs of 2014.  Click on the link to listen and download the playlist via Spotify (except #20, sadly.) Enjoy my friends!

1)  Two Weeks- FKA Twigs

Just listen to the lyrics in this song.  I’m blown away by how someone can sing like she can and write as well.  NSFW for sure.

2)  Happy Idiot- TV on the Radio

TVOTR is back in a big way.  While this album isn’t the near perfection as Return to Cookie Mountain, this first single really kicks ass.

3)  Man of the Year- ScHoolboy Q (NSFW)

Love the attitude, the angst and the comedic bravado of this cat.

4)  Spinning Signs- Painted Palms

Just a great rock song.  Especially loud.

5)  Noah- Panda Bear

Is there a better musician working in music today than Noah Lennox?  It’s a rhetorical question.

6)  Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)- Run The Jewels 2 (ft. Zack de la Rocha) (NSFW)

If I said that the best featuring vocals for the year was on a rap song by the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine would you have believed it?  So good.

7)  Go (Blank Sea)- Zola Jesus

I am just in love with her voice.

8)  Inside Out- Spoon

From one of the most consistent bands of the past 20 years.  When you take a look at the oeuvre of this band you realize how astounding they are.

9)  Red Eyes- The War on Drugs

I could have picked any song off the 3rd full length album by the incredible Philly band.  An incredible soothing and almost dreamlike vocals.  Adam Granduciel sounds like a young Dylan.

10) Higher- Lia Ices

Is this the best pop song of the year?

11) Every Other Freckle- Alt- J

I can’t get over the voice of Alt-J lead singer.

12) Talking Backwards- Real Estate

Jersey boys done good!  The best single off of their best album.

13) Goshen ’97- Strand of Oaks

From start to finish an outstanding amalgam of midwestern rock and folk.

14) Simple and Sure- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

This band always seems to make beautiful pop/rock songs every album.

15) Wanderlust- Wild Beasts

The first song of of the latest effort from the awesome Wild Beasts.

16) War on the East Coast- The New Pornographers

One of the Dan Bejar sung songs from a totally underrated New Pornographers album.  Their first in 4 years.

17) Just One of the Guys- Jenny Lewis

I was a huge Rilo Kiley fan.  This brought me back a couple years.  Love her.

18) La.Tex- Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band

Put on your headphones and zone out to this 11-min opus from an unbelievable jazz album by the Lousiana native.  The album I want more people to listen to.

19) Taking Chances- Sharon Van Etten

Her beautiful voice has this resonating harmony to it.

20) Shake It Off- Taylor Swift

Ok, let’s hear it.  I say it all the time.  I love a good pop song.  Sadly this didn’t make the playlist via Spotify.  I’m sure you know why by now.

The rest…

21) Seasons (Waiting On You)- Future Islands

22) Hey Miami- Sylvan Esso

23) Drunk in Love (ft. Jay-Z)- Beyonce

24) Kong- The Notwist

25) Forgiven/Forgotten- Angel Olsen

26) My Silver Lining- First Aid Kit

27) I Wanna Get Better- Bleachers

28) Why- Mas Ysa

29) Alexandra- Hamilton Leithauser

30) Satellites- EMA

31) Precious Love- How to Dress Well

32) Johnny and Mary- Todd Terje (ft. Bryan Ferry)

33) Tough Love- Jessie Ware

34) Shriek- Wye Oak

35) Keep it Healty- Warpaint

36) Boom Clap- Charli XCX

37) Little Fang- Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks

38) Maidenhead- Protomartyr

39) Wait For a Minute- Tune-Yards

40) Don’t Wanna Lose- Ex Hex

41) Birth in Reverse- St. Vincent

42) Lampshades on Fire- Modest Mouse

43) Bright Eyes- Allo Darlin’

44) The Party Line- Belle and Sebastian

45) Black and White- Parquet Courts

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

47) Dude Incredible- Shellac

48) Queen- Perfume Genius

49) Slow Motion- Phox

50) Where No Eagles Fly- Julian Casablancas and The Voidz

51) The Grit in the Pearl- Clark

Best TV of 2014

An amazing year for TV.  And there are tons of shows that I didn’t see.  Of course I value your opinions and you are more than welcome to send me your thoughts, please understand that I honestly don’t have the time to watch EVERYTHING on TV.  But I think I (we) do watch quite a few things.  So here are my 10 favorite.  Sorry Chan, nothing from BET or E made the cut.  Maybe next year.  Enjoy!

1)  True Detective (HBO)

Everything about this TV drama/anthology was perfect.  From the brilliant casting of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey to the Louisiana setting to the perfectly told story.  Moving back and forth throughout 17 years, McConaughey gives the performance of the year as Rust Cole, and Harrelson is equally compelling as his partner Marty Hart.  They take us on a outstanding journey of a serial killer.  We start in 1995 with a murder case and then are placed back in the current 2012 where the case has been re-opened by the state of Louisiana.  Old wounds are opened and friendships are tested.  This is filmmaking and acting at its very best.  The second season will feature new characters and actors.

2)  Homeland (Showtime)

The 3rd season of Homeland was easily one of the more disappointing (and shocking ending) in this once great show.  This year, holy crap.  What the makers of this show have done is beyond good.  Gripping from its very beginning this has packed one wallop of a punch.  Each week is must see, and that is saying a lot.  An incredibly impressive 4th season.

3)  Parenthood (NBC)

I don’t know if there has been a more nuanced and perfectly told drama on national tv.  Ever (full disclosure, I never watched Friday Night Lights.)  But this year, unfortunately it’s last, has been just that.  It’s easy to become soporific and overly sentimental in a drama and especially one that’s made for NBC but the filmmakers keep the Braverman family alive and going strong.  This is a family drama that you get excited to watch, cry when watching and then discuss after.  Really impressive.

4)  The Affair (Showtime)

Another incredibly acted drama from Showtime (easily the best 1,2 punch of any night.)  Taking place in Montauk for most of the season and a little now in Brooklyn it’s the story of Noah and Allison, 2 people that meet in Montauk and have the affair of the title.  Both are married, both have family issues that they are dealing with and both are being interviewed by a detective in Montauk for a crime that I won’t mention here.  The premise had me hooked but what draws me back each night is the acting from both Noah (Dominic West) and Allison (Ruth Wilson) as well as their spouses, the underrated Joshua Jackson who plays Allison’s husband Cole and the great (and most beautiful actress ever) Maura Tierney who plays Noah’s wife, Helen, mother to his 4 kids.  I still am thrown for a loop as to how they’ll have a second season and what it will comprise of but man, I’m hooked.

5)  Mad Men (AMC)

This past season is the first part to the last season and man is this an impressive show.  I think if I have to put together a list of all the great TV shows that really are as good (if not better) than people discuss then this would easily make the list.  Nothing in Don Draper’s world surprises me anymore and I can’t imaging what will happen when part 2 happens this coming summer.  Without a doubt, one of the best television shows of all time.

6)  Girls (HBO)

Not at the top of my list for the first time since debuting in 2012.  Still one of the more innovative and brash shows we have.  Lena Dunham continues to create characters that while sad and despicable as they may be seem to make for great storytelling.

7)  Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

The second season of the Netflix dramedy (I hate that term) was much better than the first.  Piper continues to be a piece of work but her secondary cast on the show is probably the best on television.  The outstanding Lorraine Toussaint who as Vee is bound to get all the awards she can carry is the heart of this season.  And the last episode is one to be beyond words.

8)  House of Cards (Netflix)

The other Netflix show that made this list is another stunner of a tv show.  Kevin Spacey continues his role as Frank Underwood who now reaches his ultimate goal.  You watch this show and cringe at how creepy and despicable people in this world are.  I really hope politics isn’t this true to life.

9)  The Blacklist (NBC)

Ok, so I have a guilty pleasure.  So what.  James Spader is so friggin’ good in this.  Completely enjoyable television.

10) Silicon Valley (HBO)

The only true comedy on this last sadly.  Funny and awesome from the first episode of a group of 6 friends and the world of start-up companies.

Best Books of 2014

While I always think each year is a good year for novels, this one is no exception.  From outstanding debuts like ‘The Wallcreeper’ to the always amazing Haruki Murakami (2 books this year!)  Here they are, my favorite books of 2014.

1)  Boy, Snow, Bird- Helen Oyeyemi  Boy, Snow, Bird

While I was familiar with Helen Oyeyemi’s previous novel, ‘Mr. Fox’, I was blown away by ‘Boy, Snow, Bird’.  Recommended to me by the bookseller of the really cute Napa Bookmine bookshop in downtown Napa (and most of you know I don’t usually listen to many recommendations.)  A retelling of Snow White, Boy Novak is at the heart of this disparate and harrowing tale of her life from the young child living in poverty in New York City to the marriage of Arturo Whitman and her new infatuation with her step-daughter, Snow right onto the birth of her child, Bird.  While it may seem to span generations, the novel keeps the plot throughout the many faces of Boy.  And I swear to you, you will not be able to put it down.  An outstanding book and easily the best of the year.

2)  The Rise and Fall of Great Powers- Tom Rachman The Rise & Fall...

From the mind that gave us ‘The Imperfectionists’ comes his sophomore effort and it couldn’t be better.  Rachmann introduces us to Tooly Zellenberg and takes us on a journey through 3 time periods (the “current” 2011, 1999 and back to 1988 where she is a 10-year old in a foreign country).  A true tour-de-force and a sign that Rachman is a serious novelist to watch.

3)  The Wallcreeper- Nell Zink The Wallcreeper

I have never ever read a more impressive debut.  Nell Zink’s novel is an almost indescribable novel that leaves you aghast that words and thoughts can be written with such vigor.  An almost hallucinatory, stream of consciousness beauty.  Please read this.

4)  Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage and The Strange Library- Haruki Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

The first is the newest hit from Murakami (sold over a million copies in one week in Japan last year) and the 2nd is a beautifully written (and equally designed/drawn by Chip Kidd) novella called ‘The Strange Library’.  I shouldn’t have to say much more.  With the news that Philip Roth is deciding not to write any more books, Murakami officially takes over as my favorite novelists alive.

5)  10:04- Ben Lerner 1004

His first book ‘Leaving the Atocha Station’ was mesmerizing.  This is just as good.  A nameless author is enjoying the success of his critically acclaimed first novel and decides to write a follow up.  Meta-novel at it’s finest.  As hilarious as it is incisive.  Ben Lerner is a really good writer.  A “writers writer” would be best to describe him.

6)  Us Conductors- Sean Michaels Us Conductors

One of my 2 favorite publishers is Tin House, the great Portland based literary and book publishers.  Every year at least one novel tends to make my list.  This year is the beautifully told re-telling of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, the man who invented the theremin.  Sean Michaels takes us on a journey from Russia to New York City while Termen tries to make a name for himself and the world’s most interesting instrument, the theremin.  I really, really enjoyed this novel.

7)  The End of the Book: A Novel- Porter Shreve The End of the Book

I’m a sucker for the book-within-a-book theme and this is one of the better ones.  For any fan of literature and especially for those of Winesburg, Ohio the great novel by Sherwood Anderson.  An incredibly interesting and audacious novel by Porter Shreve.

8)  Praying Drunk- Kyle Minor praying drunk

The stories in this will completely knock you off your ass.  In the best way possible.  One of kind.

9)  In the Heart of the Heart of the Country- William H. Gass in the heart...

My other favorite publisher is the great New York Review Books.  The publishing house that reissues the great “lost” literature that is now out of print.  One of the year’s releases is this novella and short stories by William H. Gass.  The opening novella entitled, ‘The Pederson Kid’ is one of the more remarkable novellas you’ll ever read.  Reminiscent of Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ (which is a pretty good compliment seeing that is the greatest novel of all time.)  I tend to read a handful of the NYRB books each year and I always think the same thing, how is it that these great “lost” novels are just coming back into print after decades while some of the truly crappy books in the world are still everywhere to be found.  Those not familiar can check out to see which ones you may like.  From classic literature to historical non-fiction, there is no better place to educate yourself on anything books.

10)  Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?- Dave Eggers Your fathers...

Another of my favorite writer’s alive.  While this wasn’t the perfection of some of his earlier novels (or even the extremely underrated ‘A Hologram for a King’) this treatise on self-righteousness was a good piece of writing.  An extremely quick read written entirely in dialogue (would make a decent play.)  If you’re a fan of Eggers then worth your time.

And 5 more…

11)  In Paradise- Peter Matthiessen

12)  To Rise Again at a Decent Hour- Joshua Ferris

13)  This Dark Road to Mercy- Wiley Cash

14)  Broken Monsters- Lauren Beukes

15)  High as the Horse’s Bridles- Scott Cheshire

16)  A Brief History of Seven Killings- Marlon James

The only reason I have this at #16 is the fact that I just bought it on Saturday.  After reading lots on this opus in the past couple of days, I was at the great Three Lives & Co bookstore this past Saturday and heard the insanely well read bookseller there recommend it to one of the many customers.  I picked it up on the spot, went home and am on p. 126.  Thrilling to the core so far.  And there’s 500+ pages to go.  Can’t wait.