Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 20 Songs of 2014: George Ezra - Budapest



My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest,
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo

You
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all

My acres of a land
That I've achieved
It may be hard for you to,
Stop and believe

But for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd Leave it all

Ooh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My many artifacts
The list goes on
If you just say the words
I I'll up and run

To you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all

Ooh, to you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My friends and family
They don't understand
They fear they'll lose so much
If you take my hand

But, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd lose it all

Ooh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd lose it all.

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

Give me one good reason
Why I should never make a change
Baby if you hold me
Then all of this will go away

My house in Budapest
My, my hidden treasure chest,
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo

You
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all.

Ooh, for you
Ooh, you
Ooh, I'd leave it all

Top 20 Songs of 2014: Sylvan Esso - Hey Mami


Sylvan Esso are extraordinary. A year ago the North Carolina duo—made up of Amelia Meath and Nicholas Sanborn—dropped "Hey Mami" on soundcloud. The layered melodies were plush, the instrumentation pleasingly spare, with Amelia's vocal acrobatics key to their appeal. And then there was that synth drop at the midway point. It was the first taste of Sylvan Esso and it had everyone with ears hooked.

Recently the duo joined us on a Brooklyn rooftop with a four-piece horn section (and a dude playing a wine bottle) for a never before performed acoustic version of "Hey Mami" which is both stripped back and souped up. Plus Amelia confessed the inspiration behind the song involved an unfortunate encounter with an oversexed cat-calling asshole.  vice


Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami

She walking so fast, she walking so fast, she walking so fast
Oh our lady she don't know how she go
She walking so fast, she walking so fast, she walk like a babe, hey
Her image it lasts and I know
She floats along as she goes
She owns the eyes as she flies right through the sound
Moving her body all around town
Hey, hey mami, hey, hey mami
I know what you want, I know what you want, I know what you want
Sooner or later the dudes at bodegas will hold their lips and own this shit
Curlin their toes on a shivery tip
But out here oh she don't know the gravity she owns
As she pulls on the eyeballs of all the kids standing tall

Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami
Hey mami, I know what you want, mami

She walking so fast, she walking so fast, she walking so fast
Oh our lady she don't know how she go
She walking so fast, she walking so fast, she walk like a babe, hey
Look at that ass and I know
She floats along as she goes
She owns the eyes as she flies right through the sound
Moving her body all around town
Hey, hey mami, hey, hey mami
I know what you want, I know what you want, I know what you want
Sooner or later the dudes at bodegas will hold their lips and own this shit
Curlin their toes on a shivery tip
But out here oh she don't know the gravity she owns
As she pulls on the eyeballs of all the kids standing tall


Top 20 Songs of 2014: Neighbors - Wild Enough




The Brooklyn-based songwriter/producer emerged from a hail of other bands and bedroom projects in 2012. We shared "Diamonds," from his indietronic debut Good Luck, Kid, but he's aiming for a sound much bigger this time around. Case in point: "Wild Enough." The new single, witnessed above, finds Stitleman cooing over a massive wave of thick synths, tropical drums, and airy effects pushed forward by the occasional ripping guitar solo. The accompanying video is equally ambitious and instantly enjoyable. Helmed by commercial director Philip Van (YSL, Chevy) and choreographed by Celia Rowlson Hall (MGMT, Chromeo), the VHS-filtered clip casts our host as a mad scientist conducting a series of strange yet beautiful tests on his unwittingly coordinated subjects. Failure was produced by Kyle "Slick" Johnson (Modest Mouse, the Hives). Spin

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Magician - Sunlight


A little tune to get us going for the 31st...

The Drink - Company - 2014


Dearbhla Minogue, Daniel Fordham and David Stewart are The Drink. They play odd guitar pop with a dark folk undertone and have been compared to Throwing Muses, Deerhoof and "The Mamas & The Papas on 4AD".

"One of the best debuts of the year" - NME
"A fascinating first shot, packed with potential" - UNCUT
"As unique as it is beguiling ... one to watch" - Independent
"Straddles the dream pop of Warpaint and the roaming melodies of British folk" - Observer
"Gloriously weird indie folk pop ... flashes of blackness and oddity" - The Line Of Best Fit
"Up there with the best indie-pop songs of 2014" - Drowned In Sound
"4½ / 5" - Independent on Sunday
"4 / 5" - The Times

Lowpines - Lowpines - 2014


“a slow-burning torch song”
Q Magazine – Tracks of the week

"Beautiful" Lauren Laverne 6Music

"joyous!" Steve Lamacq 6Music

"just gorgeous" Simon Raymonde Amazing Radio

"Mesmerising" God Is In The TV

"Sombre and sultry... we were blown away" The Upcoming

"Gorgeous lo-fi folk" Wake The Deaf

"Stunning..." GoldFlakePaint

"dustily defiant americana" Mad 

Little Tornados - We Are Divine - 2014


"twinkling instrumental that borders on kosmische-country; like day-glo highlighting in a used Guy Debord textbook” PITCHFORK 

"for them the true revolution is a revolution which surpasses identy for it's own sake. their Utopia is set comfortably in their music, who's excitement is worth the while" ROLLING STONE, GERMANY 

"the band balance polemic with playfulness, whether exploring the cosmos...or weaving a child’s starry-eyed whispers into delicate prog 
explorations” THE SKINNY

David Thayer, Laetitia Sadier, Emmanuel Mario, Bjoern Magnusson, Marlen Groher, Ben Peeler, Lucy M. Sutter

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Top 20 Songs of 2014: Buddy - Boxing Elbows


Boxing Elbows is probably one of my favourite this year... the build, the musicality, the swagger, the poppy goodness is so good. The harmonies at the end of the track is what sold me on this one... Again, again again...


From the opening chords of “Weak Currents,” the album’s first single, the hand of Phil Ek is immediately evident. Ek, who mixed the album, is best known for his work with acts such as Band of Horses, Built to Spill, and the Shins, all of which Buddy’s sound could easily be likened to. The juxtaposition of the simple acoustic guitar part with the distant, kaleidoscopic, feedback provides a lush soundscape that is the perfect bed for the pretty vocal melody to lie upon. On this song and throughout the album, the backing vocal harmonies (at times augmented by guest artists Michelle Branch, Cary Brothers and Holly Conlan) steal the show, betraying a bit of Crosby, Stills, and Nash by way of the Fleet Foxes (another Ek pet project). This song is followed by “Slow Light Down,” which, though it never strays far from Indie rock orthodoxy in terms of its chord progression and melody, does make memorable use of overlapping background vocals, haunting guitar trills, and one of the standout lyrics on the entire album: “Despite what they say it isn’t love if you’re not ashamed.” BBS

Top 20 Songs of 2014: St. Vincent - Digital Witness


What can I say, this song is a wonderfully, sexy, poppy, electronic exploration into our digital self!


Get back, to your seat
Get back, gnashing teeth
Ooh, I want all of your mind

People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window, yeah
People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window, yeah

Digital witnesses, what's the point of even sleeping?
If I can't show it, if you can't see me
What's the point of doing anything?
This is no time for confessing

I want all of your mind

People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window, yeah
People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window, yeah

Digital witnesses, what's the point of even sleeping?
If I can't show it, if you can't see me
Watch me jump right off the London Bridge
This is no time for confessing

People turn the TV on and throw it out the window, yeah
Get back to your stare
I care, but I don't care
Oh oh, I, I want all of your mind
Give me all of your mind
I want all of your mind
Give me all of it

Digital witnesses, what's the point of even sleeping?
If I can't show it, if you can't see me
What's the point of doing anything?
What's the point of even sleeping?
So I stopped sleeping, yeah I stopped sleeping
Won't somebody sell me back to me?

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Marko Stamatovic / VELUX Lovers of Light 2014

gorgeous bully - Love Song For Someone Else - 2014


Minimalist pop with a rock soul on this single out of Manchester.

Andrew Jackson Jihad Folkadelphia Session - 2014


Folkadelphia Sessions are completely free, just enter $0 when prompted. Any donation you give here on our Bandcamp site will be used to help us bring you more exciting projects & developments from Folkadelphia!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 20 Songs of 2014: Leonard Cohen - Samson in New Orleans


How could a Leonard Cohen come out and it not get a nod; he is after all a huge influence on just about all I listen to... Samson in New Orleans's is a beautifully bitter lament on the power of nature on humanity and biblical references are obvious...
Cohen invokes Hurricane Katrina in "Samson in New Orleans," lamenting the destruction of jazz's birthplace: "You said you loved her secrets / And her freedoms hid away / She was better than America / That's what I heard you say."


You said that you were with me
You said you were my friend
Did you really love the city
Or did you just pretend

You said you loved her secrets
And her freedoms hid away
She was better than America
That’s what I heard you say

You said how could this happen
You said how can this be
The remnant all dishonored
On the bridge of misery

And we who cried for mercy
From the bottom of the pit
Was our prayer so damn unworthy
The Son rejected it?

So gather up the killers
Get everyone in town
Stand me by those pillars
Let me take this temple down

The king so kind and solemn
He wears a bloody crown
So stand me by that column
Let me take this temple down

You said how could this happen
You said how can this be
The chains are gone from heaven
The storms are wild and free

There’s other ways to answer
That certainly is true
Me, I’m blind with death and anger
And that’s no place for you

There’s a woman in the window
And a bed in Tinsel Town
I’ll write you when it’s over
Let me take this temple down

Top 20 Songs of 2014: Happyness - Baby, Jesus


Happiness is a great feeling; Happyness is a great band. The South London trio specializes in lush-yet-breezy indie rock that conjures all sorts of wistful feelings then takes the piss out of them with wry puns and punchlines. Think of it as Sparklehorse’s mournful dream-pop pocket symphonies infused with Pavement’s winking ironic sensibility, or Yo La Tengo if their public sense of humor seeped into their records more often. It’s gorgeous, gregarious stuff, music that immediately ingratiates itself but continues to reveal new layers of beauty with time.


It opens with ‘Baby, Jesus (Jelly Boy)’, which contains lyrics as weird as the title suggests. It’s a beautifully simple and almost idyllic sounding track, letting the guitar drip in like melting icicles. The vocals are whispered over the top, with the line “I’m the motherfucking birthday boy, don’t steal my thunder baby Jesus” standing out amongst the quiet backing. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 20 Songs 2014: Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Body Electric


Small Town Heroes may not sound like what you’d expect from a New Orleans album, yet it is anchored in that city’s sense of musical adventure. Segarra learned her trade playing in street bands and busking on corners, which has given her a broad musical vocabulary. She arranges and produces these songs as eloquently as she writes them, often using just a few instruments to convey a surprisingly full sound. “Blue Ridge Mountain” opens the album with her clawhammer banjo and what sounds like a clogger working together as a makeshift rhythm section, with Yosi Perlstein’s spry fiddle dancing around them. “No One Else” is built on a folk-rock foundation, yet it pitches and yaws on a rolling piano bassline that might have been learned from an old Fats Domino or Professor Longhair record. PF




Said you're gonna shoot me down, put my body in the river
Shoot me down, put my body in the river
While the whole world sings, sing it like a song
The whole world sings like there's nothing going wrong

He shot her down, he put her body in the river
He covered her up but I went to get her
And I said, "My girl, what happened to you now?"
I said, "My girl, we gotta stop it somehow"

Oh, and tell me what's a man with a rifle in his hand
Gonna do for a world that's so sick and sad?
Tell me what's a man with a rifle in his hand
Gonna do for a world that's so gone mad?

He's gonna shoot me down, put my body in the river
Cover me up with the leaves of September
Like an old sad song, you heard it all before
Well, Delia's gone but I'm settling the score

Oh, and tell me what's a man with a rifle in his hand
Gonna do for a world that's just dying slow?
Tell me what's a man with a rifle in his hand
Gonna do for his daughter when it's her turn to go?

Top 20 Songs 2014: Modern Baseball - Two Good Things


Like pretty much every guitar band these days that doesn’t immediately scan as “indie rock,” Modern Baseball have been lumped into “emo”—and yes, considering Modern Baseball are probably Weezer fans and are caught up in girl problems of their own making, that label sticks to an extent. Thing is, the actual music of You’re Gonna Miss It All is just about everything but emo, mostly some code-splitting of the pop-punk double helix. There’s shout-and-whoa power-pop (“Charlie Black”), prim twee (“Going to Bed Now”), folky punk (“Your Graduation”), all built around sturdy choruses. One thing Modern Baseball do have in common with their trendpiece peers is that they’re getting attention because they’re much, much better at making music than they were two years ago. This is evident in the songwriting, which is more confident and ambitious, but just as importantly, the production. You're Gonna Miss It All was mastered by Will Yip (basically the Steve Albini of this scene) and engineered by Jonathan Low, a guy who’s worked on the National’s records. So needless to say, it’s going to sound a lot more professional than Sports, a charmingly amateur affair that seemed content to be passed around amongst Modern Baseball’s Facebook friends. PF


Trying hard not to look like I'm trying that hard
Failing miserably at everything, including that
Making plans in my head right before I go to sleep
Trying to think of who could make a better me than me
Maybe I'll shoot him an email
Maybe he'll give it a go
Then I'll be free to just evaporate, disperse, or implode
Picking at holes in my jeans
There's so much God in my gene pool
Not feeling lonely, I just like being alone

I've called A through F already but no one knows
Why one girl, one band, two paychecks are more than I can handle
Mathematically that can't be more than one end of a candle
Bottom of the ninth, can't find my socks

Lord knows
I'm stuck between two good things, but I just wanna get out
Mom knows
I should have been home an hour ago
But I'm still outside, not doing anything wrong
Just walking in circles, replaying high school songs in my head
Because it's better than lying awake

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Twin Oaks - Animal // Clarity - 2014


Twin Oaks is a dream pop/folk band based in Los Angeles, CA.

"A collaborative duo whose doleful, soft-spoken brand of shadowy folk pop conveys a bevy of emotions with minimal resources." - The Deli Los Angeles

Brown Bird - The Brown Bird Christmas Album - 2014


Philippe Tremblay thumbnail
Philippe Tremblay For me, this is the only Christmas album worth owning.Favorite track: Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow.
Stirling Everly thumbnail
Stirling Everly A really genuine Christmas album. Despite the fact that Brown Bird dabbled in some different styles, all of the songs still have the Brown Bird feel.Favorite track: Seraphim and Stone.
Ryan Valeri thumbnail
Ryan Valeri the release of this album has given me an unexpected dose of what can only be described as the Christmas Spirit, thank you for sharing!!!!Favorite track: Seraphim and Stone.




One night in mid-December of Dave's and my first year together, we were snowed in, drinking strong eggnog and dressing up in each other's winter clothes when we decided to take our silliness one step further and write a holiday song. "The Old Church Bell" was the first song we ever co-wrote. We had so much fun with it that that same night we recorded a version of "Silent Night" too, using almost every instrument we had in the house- just having fun with it and each other. Every winter since then, we kept the tradition of recording a few Christmas songs, which we would hand-package and give as gifts to our families. This year, I thought it'd be special and important to make these songs available to our extended family, in an effort to send something fun into the world and keep Dave's cheerful, fun-loving spirit alive. 

The Brown Bird Christmas Album features artwork by our friend Ryan McLennan, and is only available at brownbird.bandcamp.com for a limited time. 
Happy Holidays! 

Soft Fangs - 2014


Clean guitar lines accompany down-tone dub vocals creating a sweet lo-fi release.

Firestations - Never Closer - 2014


A London five-piece that includes members of Astronauts, Dark Captain, Quickspace and Left With Pictures. They mix scuzzy indiepop hooks with spacey folk into a dreampop combination of Veronica Falls, Pentangle and Sparklehorse


"Sunken, serene guitar pop". DIY
"Warm and lazily inviting". The Line of Best Fit
"An upbeat, dreamworld take on indiepop". Sound of Confusion 

Top Songs of 2014: The New Mendicants - Sarasota


You don't have to be a genius to guess what a collaboration between Joe Pernice (Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) is going to sound like. Might there be ringing guitars? There very well might be. Could there be an undertow of melancholy? Indeed. And will there be harmonies on the choruses? Naturally. Although all the songs are credited to both, plus drummer Mike Belitsky, half the fun comes from guessing who's the lead writer on the songs, even though Pernice sings almost all the leads. Sarasota and If You Only Knew Her have the stately despair characteristic of Pernice's writing... The project began as an attempt to soundtrack a movie adaptation of Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down, and what appears to be one of those songs is one of the highlights. High Above the Skyline swoops and soars, precise and perfectly measured, both downcast and hopeful.


My Top Bandcamp Discoveries 2014


Katie Deter pens simple yet lovely tracks. I really got into this little release in 2014, it really brought me back to thinking about my beautiful daughter, growing up in a cold world. The music is fairly straightforward but the lyrics are adorable and innocent; her voice is the kicker, so unique and distinct it got me coming back again and again. And it is free too... Well if you feel like scrooge that is! Awesome release. 
I can't wait till she matures only slightly and pens her next release.



adult mom is again a wonderful little release, however there is a tad more of an edge to these short and fast paced songs. The backdrop has more of an indie garage feel, but the lyrics again are great; maybe because of my daughter getting older, after all these are growing up songs... 
Raw, true through and through!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lisa/Liza - The First Museum - 2014


Recorded live with Peter McLaughlin, drummer for Portland alt-country sweetheart’s The Milkman’s Union, The First Museum was not made for modern laptop speakers. Fluctuating freely from confessional quaintness to sorrowful nostalgia, her rudimentary guitar playing makes the record that much more dynamic and organic. This is an album that should be enjoyed on a good set of headphones. The PP

Cat Cat - Trees - 2014


Four sparkling guitar pop gems from Melbourne band Cat Cat, recorded in 2012 and now finding a home in the form of a Whalesmouth tape. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grandaddy & Band of Horses - Hang an Ornament - 2014


Band of Horses are currently working on a new album with producer Jason Lytle of Grandaddy. In the meantime, the collaborators are celebrating the holiday season by releasing a Christmas track from both Band of Horses and Grandaddy. 
The tune is called "Hang an Ornament" and begins as whispered acoustic ballad. It takes a turn for the dramatic after the one-minute mark, as electro-orchestral textures swell up and push the track towards a densely layered, cinematic crescendo that lasts for much of the five-minute-plus track.  Exclaim!

Top 20 Songs of 2014: Sharon Van Etten - Every Time the Sun Comes Up


Pace mine for for you
Hold my horses, patient
Hey man, tricks can't wait to hear my emotions

Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble
Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble

People say I'm a one-hit wonder
But what happens when I have two?
I washed your dishes, but I shitted in your bathroom

Even when the sun comes up, I'm in trouble
Even when the sun comes up, I'm in trouble

We broke your glasses, but covered our asses
Take time silently, feel real room hi-fi

Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble
Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble
Yeah, every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble
Imagine when
Every time the sun comes up, I see double


Live session on NME


On Letterman

Top 20 Songs 2014: Lily and Madeleine - The Wolf is Free


The Wolf is Free is off L&M newest album, entitled Fumes. I really fell in love with this song when they released the music video. The song is so perfectly represented in the images - its' mysterious sounds, its' simple lines, its' angelic harmonies all combine to create a wonderful tune. 
Simply beautiful...






Some crippling dream
I know whose fault it is, I know it isn’t me.
The wolf is free.
I wanna chase him down and drown him in the sea.

The innocent flock like sheep
Their efforts are in vain, the wolf is back again
I hope he comes for me
I’m not out-running him and I’m not gonna scream.

I’m gonna follow him
I know his name,
I know his name.

The wolf is free
His eyes are narrowing, it is a scary thing.
And some fears run deep
There is a change in him, there is a change in me.

I’ll put you to sleep.
My fingers through your hair, into your skin, I’ll be,
Ten fingernails deep,
And I won’t let you go, you will not bury me.

How Scandinavian - Drowning In Myself - Single 2014


Slacker rock all the way... A two song release for all those that miss the days of Pavement, Sonic Youth and so on and so forth...

Pitchfork Top 50 Albums



44

39

24

19


14


5


3

wonderfuls - Only Shadows Now - 2014


Dark and heavy music carries an almost spoken word like somber voice through this experimental voyage to the depths of tragedy.



Wonderfuls started as post psych ward therapy, 10 years later - two LPs + two EPs, Robert has placed himself in plain sight with cousin Dan McGirr, who together, produce quiet, hard hitting songs about living and struggling in Australia's working/under class, isolated small town communities, wasting away in the suburbs - the need for escapism and the costly price it brings at the end! 

Consequence of Sound Top 50 Albums


Every year has its share of tragedies and darkness, but 2014 has felt particularly tough. On global, national, and community levels, death, devastation, and darkness have plagued the nightly news in a particularly frustrating and seemingly senseless way. Perhaps that feeling is amplified by the omnipresence of technology that has made each and every pain felt by a larger audience and then replayed on an endless loop. It could also be that this has been an especially broken year, a theory supported by the fact that so many of 2014’s best albums are fueled by artists facing harrowing struggles.

45. ALEX G – DSU

Arctic Monkeys AM artwork
Alex Giannascoli, a North Philadelphia native and Temple University student, makes low-key but lovely bedroom pop under a shorter version of his name. Quietly prolific, Giannascoli has seamlessly blended the gentle and the off-kilter through releases like 2012’s TRICK and RULES. Now, with DSU, his first ever mastered full-length (and Orchid Tapes debut), he refines his formula while maintaining his charm. The album’s best songs, like “Boy”, “Sorry”, and “After Ur Gone”, feature a simple combination of muted acoustic guitars, droning but heartfelt vocals, bass, a steady drum pattern, and the occasional piano. Even with his rudimentary pieces, Alex G is a deft songwriter, able to pack tons of sugary hooks, emotional resonance, and smart flourishes into such simple compositions. –Josh Terry

39. MODERN BASEBALL – YOU’RE GONNA MISS IT ALL

earl doris
Modern Baseball is a rocket back to my high school days of listening to The Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring. At the time, though, I didn’t want people to hear just how sad-sappy-sack the music and lyrics were. Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All is the kind of album I actually wanted at that time. The lyrics tell hilariously awkward tales of dealing with whatever the fuck life in your late teens and early twenties is, and the music takes on the catchiness from those early bands, but without every awkward blemish Photoshopped away. The Philadelphia rockers have the realism and wordplay I wanted, using the words I was too ashamed to write. It’s a damn near perfect combination. –Nick Freed

16. WEEZER – EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END

rplusseven
A mother says the title of Weezer’s ninth album in the first track’s opening moments, comforting her child. If this album were the end of the band’s career, it would indeed be “alright.” But, fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Everything Will Be Alright in the End. The band’s return to form is a reminder that Rivers Cuomo and co. still have much to offer the alternative rock universe, whether it’s fashionable to like them or not. In this light, the new record comes across strangely comforting. Cuomo once said about his band’s classic sophomore record, Pinkerton, “I’m not coloring anything or softening anything. This is who I am and if you don’t like it … well, we should probably part ways, and I’m just gonna tell you the very worst parts of myself.” That Cuomo seems to be back on Everything Will Be Alright in the End, with single “Back to the Shack” stating, “I had to go and make a few mistakes so I could find out who I am/ I’m letting all of these feelings out even if it means I fail.” Those lyrics could easily describe his band’s last five or so albums, and delivering this record, with that apology, puts the entirety of Weezer’s career in a different, much more favorable light. –Philip Cosores

12. OWEN PALLETT – IN CONFLICT

JuliaHolter_LoudCitySong
This was an apex year for Owen Pallett. Arcade Fire’s most reliable five-tool collaborator received an Academy Award nomination for the Her soundtrack. He also bared hidden turmoils across In Conflict. The album entertains apathy but still gets excited about venturing into parts unknown. “Song for Five & Six” and “Soldier’s Rock” reinforce the notion that it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on. But move on where? And to what end? Tracks like “The Sky Behind the Flag” also offer up Pallett’s bittersweet composition with a bunting of tones that unfurl into a vast aural tapestry. The music is ripe with all manner of blips, blorps, and impassioned introspection. The latter half of In Conflict then races toward an anxious albeit encouraging end, with high intensity cuts like “The Riverbed” and “Infernal Fantasy” upping both the tempo and the stakes. The biggest highlight is Pallett’s enchanted vocals, which pair incredibly well with his meditations. They’re like a siren song of contrition warning others to avoid the emotional rocks and hazards that scuttled a life once sweet. In 2003, The Postal Service hurried down a similar route with Give Up. Now, in 2014, these poignant barbs arrive with more complexity, like forlorn packages dropped off by a guided quadrocopter. –Dan Pfleegor

6. AGAINST ME! – TRANSGENDER DYSPHORIA BLUES

The_Knife_-_Shaking_the_Habitual
“Your tells are so obvious,” shouts Laura Jane Grace in what’s maybe the most triumphant opener of the year. “Shoulders too broad for a girl.” It’s the first time she’s kicked off an album since she took her own name, her real name, since she told it to the rest of the world. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, from the album of the same name, might boast the most devastating first verse of an Against Me! record since Grace sang about her grandparents back in 2002 on “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”. It carries the same weight. Transgender Dysphoria Blues never shies away from that heaviness, but it also never stops feeling like a victory. Grace packs so much fear into these songs: fear of violence, abandonment, disappointment, change, and death. These aren’t rare shadows for people working through a transition, especially for women who were told for years that they were men. Grace stares them down with a fire that lights up hope in its wake.
Strangely enough, the album’s most hopeful song takes place in a pair of caskets. Grace wrote “Two Coffins” for her young daughter as a reminder that even if not all love is unconditional, hers would last through death. Is that morbid? A little — you don’t get too many songs about a beloved child’s “little moon face” that also imagine that face sealed underground. But death sticks around whether we imagine it or not. For Grace, embracing the possibility of the worst is a cornerstone of her courage. The sixth Against Me! album is a landmark for a number of reasons — their first since dropping their major label, their first since Grace’s transition — but it’s also a massive declaration of triumph and, most of all, freedom. We close our own cell doors, or the world closes them for us. From the album’s first words, we know Grace has decided to kick hers down. –Sasha Geffen

1. THE WAR ON DRUGS – LOST IN THE DREAM

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Pressure is a cruel mistress. Its impending presence is both the wild animal that chases us when we’re running our fastest and a trigger that, like nothing else, can tempt us to stop moving altogether. Some, like Adam Granduciel, can’t help but see this paradox everywhere, so it makes sense that it’s the figure in the crosshairs of the best album he’ll likely ever make.