Apr16 | 2014
categories: Music, Music Reviews, Stuff We Love | tags:

The Best Albums Of 2014 (So Far)

Who wants to wait until the end of the year to find out what new music to check out? Here are the records that have us excited so far this year. Read our capsule reviews, or skip to the bottom to check out the playlist on Spotify!

Beck, Morning Phase (2014, Capitol Records)

Ethereal, disconnected songwriting, softly strummed banjos, gently plucked guitars, warm shimmery production? Why, it must be Beck’s new album Morning Phase. As with 2002’s beautiful, heart-breaking Sea Change, Beck proves again that if you like his music, it’s because you like the music he creates, not a specific sound, and the music of Morning Phase is as challenging and complete as it has ever been. ^Daniel

Dinosaur Pile-UpNature Nurture (2014, So Recordings)

One of the few unabashedly-real rock and roll records I’ve heard in a long time, Dinosaur Pile-Up’s Nature Nurture comes from the across the pond on an enormous riff ship, fueled by enormous chords, killer vocals and harmonies and a rhythm section that pumps. And there are only three of them in the band. If you’ve got a rock itch to scratch, Dinosaur Pile-Up will not disappoint. My advice? Listen to Nature Nurture loud. ^Miles

DrownersDrowners (2014, Frenchkiss Records)

Drowners’ self-titled debut starts off slavishly, shamelessly knocking off the Strokes . . . not that that’s a bad thing. It’s also a lot harder to pull off than you’d think (Hell, even the Strokes have had a hard time sounding like the Strokes lately), and by the end of the record, the band’s songs have softened into something softer and more personal. It’s a pop guilty pleasure that you don’t have to feel guilty about! ^Mike

EagullsEagulls (2014, Partisan Records)

Another self-titled debut that owes a debt to the past, Eagulls find the middle ground between the cold distance of Joy Division and early-Cocteau Twins and blends it with the roaring, wall-of-sound canvas of Jesus & Mary Chain. The result is exhilarating. ^Mike

Ex Hex“Hot & Cold” (2014, Merge Records)

Deliberate, martial, and drenched in echo, the first single from Mary Timony‘s new band, Ex Hex carries over all the tuneful rock and roll of Timony’s recent work with Wild Flag, but wraps it in a girl group shimmer that’s hard to resist. ^Mike

Ponychase, Parade of Youth (2014, self-released)

The first LP from Nashville based Ponychase blends the poignancy of childhood with the complexity of adulthood. It makes me nostalgic for all the hours I spent circling the roller rink, soda fountain “suicide” waiting for me on the sticky plastic tables, Cyndi Lauper blaring from the looming speakers, while the lyrics make me understand what it means to be an adult. Adulthood is messy, difficult, complicated, annoying, sad, beautiful, artistic, and precious, and the songs from Parade of Youth make me appreciate all of it. ^Daniel

School Of Language, Old Fears (2014, Memphis Industries)

Frontloaded with falsetto melodies and absurdly catchy synths, School of Language’s second LP will have you dancing in your chair if you’re not careful. Nominally an attempt to bridge the gap between the R&B of songwriter David Brewis‘ childhood (Shalamar, Chaka Kahn, Michael Jackson) and that of his adulthood (Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland), Old Fears is an infectiously odd confection that will have you dancing in your chair and scratching your head. ^Mike

TemplesSun Structures (2014, Fat Possum)

It’s so refreshing to hear a band use the studio as a part of their instrumental ensemble – plate reverb, Mellotrons, hard panning from left to right – especially in a time when most of the music we hear is made from a formula and no creativity, whatsoever. Temple’s Sun Structures is an brilliant performance by three guys from England, utilizing both conventional methods and nods to the more psychedelic. It is my firm belief that Temples exist because we need our lids flipped. Consider mine flipped. ^Miles

Vertical Scratchers, Daughter of Everything (2014, Merge Records)

With 15 songs that barely amount to a half-hour, Vertical Scratchers debut LP has the fierce economy of punk rock but with an skewed outsider-pop sensibility. Comparisons to fellow-Ohioans Guided By Voices come easily, especially considering GBV’s own Robert Pollard‘s guest turn on “Get Along Like U”. ^Mike

War On DrugsLost in the Dream (2014, Secretly Canadian)

“Imagine driving up Highway 1 on the California coast in a convertible, in the 1970s, orange sunlight, listening to FM radio, kinda Dylan-y, but has phrasing like The Boss. Oh yeah, and there are fuzzy guitars.”

That’s a direct quote from a friend, two days before The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream was released last month, and it has been on heavy rotation in my car, stereo at home, and while I’m working, ever since. ^Miles

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