Top 10 albums of 2014 so far (Jan-June)

To Be Kind by Swans
NME: "To Be Kind' is not easy or pleasant; it will probably repel and confuse as much as it inspires. It’s a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, impossible to tear your eyes away from despite the grotesque atrocities it depicts. Because in the modern world, where The Human Centipede and Anal Cunt are a part, however small, of popular culture, this album still has the ability to shock and scare. It’s an insane and challenging, ambitious and exceptional work of art."

Thoughts: Experimental rock. In terms of ambition I'd give the album a 10/10. Dark, angry and intense, takes you on an epic journey. I'm unfamiliar with the band's output, and it's different to anything I've ever heard before. Takes you out of your comfort zone, that's for sure.
The singer is like a grown man who is as scared as a baby. Perhaps he is remembering ugly moments in his life. The most haunting moment perhaps is on 'Just A Little Boy' when he sings "I need love" which is followed by laughter, that particular track reminds me a little of David Lynch's music.
For me, disc 2 is weaker, although the final track was pretty stirring. I wish he didn't end several of the tracks with thrash-metal. A bit overlong(was disc 2 necessary?), my ranking is mainly in acknowledgement of the extraordinary opening 27 minutes of disc 1.
Favorite tracks: Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett), A Little God In My Hands, Screen Shot

Love Letters by Metronomy
Thoughts: I didn't think it was that good on first listen. I was wrong. Really improves on repeat spins. I liked the variation in the instrumentation from track-to-track. Especially the first half of the album impressed me.
I'm pretty certain Aquarius (Let the Sunshine in) by The Fifth Dimension was an influence.
Favorite tracks: The Upsetter, I'm Aquarius, Love Letters, Monstrous

Too True by Dum Dum Girls
Thoughts: Thanks to Steven at Surrender To The Void for the recommendation. An impressive album that I completely overlooked, full of powerful tracks. While some of the lyrics are a bit repetitive, you sort of forgive that, because the sound is so well-produced. Has been talked of as a career pinnacle for the band.
Favorite tracks: Cult of Love, Lost Boys And Girls Club, Too True To Be Good, Rimbaud Eyes

St. Vincent by St. Vincent 
Thoughts: The bizarre album artwork pays homage to a favorite film of hers, The Holy Mountain (1973), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
I didn’t love every song, but definitely an interesting album, with lots of variation. As Stereogum wrote, a reminder that experimental music and pop music don't have to be mutually exclusive. An album I’ll be going back to.
Favorite tracks: Digital Witness, Prince Johnny, Every Tear Disappears, Psycopath, Severed Cross Fingers, I Prefer Your Love, Rattlesnake

G I R L by Pharrell Williams 
Thoughts: Not as great as 2013's Random Access Memories. Still, there are a number of catchy tunes. As a critic wrote: "it's a lot better than most crap on the pop radio nowadays". "Happy" is a contender for best song of the year.
Favorite tracks:  Happy, Marilyn Monroe, It Girl, Gust of Wind feat. Daft Punk

Salad Days by Mac Demarco
Thoughts: An artist I was not familiar with, and had no expectations for. The album is quite addictive, and at only 30 minutes, a quick listen. Apparently his previous output is supposed to be just as good or even better, so I'll be seeking that out. I don't know if the tracks work individually, as a full length listen the record works really well.

Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre
Thoughts: An album with few weaknesses that I don't get bored of. I don't skip over any of the tracks. Has been described as the bands strongest album to date. Atmospheric, brooding sound. To do the album justice, you really have to listen to the whole thing in its entirety. If you're looking for big hits, you'll be disappointed. What you get is a very cohesive set of tracks. Like a companion piece to the 2012 album All Hell by Daughn Gibson.
Favorite tracks: Hot Dreams, The New Tomorrow, Run from Me, Curtains,

Benji by Sun Kil Moon
Thoughts: Who says albums have to be listened to over and over? Sometimes an album arrives that you listen to once, just like a movie or a book, and that experience stays with you for life.
While it’s quite a morbid affair, about death and sadness, it is interesting how the singer created a family history, by having songs about his relationships to his mother, father, grandma, uncle, aunt, second cousin, neighbors. He documents girlfriends and pop culture he remembers from his youth, and life on the road as a musician. You really do feel you get to know the guy, because he's so candid, and there's no apparent filter in his musings. Sort of like reading his diary entries.
For what it lacks in variation in terms of instrumentation, it makes up for with relatable, vulnerable and heartfelt writing. Boy was it powerful and moving. Not something I’d listen to often though.
The title is a reference to the movie Benji (1974), which he explains in lyrics he saw in theatres.
Favorite tracks: Ben's My Friend, I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love, Pray for Newtown, I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same, Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes

Luminous by The Horrors
Thoughts: An album I was underwhelmed by on first listen. It took a bit of time to get into the music, I feel the record holds up to repeat plays. Tough to pinpoint what genre the music is, has been described as dreamy synth-goth/pop. I like the production and layers of sound
Favorite tracks: So Now You Know, I See You, In And Out Of Sight, Chasing Shadows, First Days Of Spring

Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
Thoughts: When people look back at the 2010s, I think Lana Del Rey will be remembered. I just can’t connect emotionally with many of today’s female pop artists such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Adele, Rihanna, Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys. I’m slowly warming to Lorde and Ellie Goulding. Lana Del Rey is my favorite to listen to of these female singers.
Took a few spins to get into her latest. Not as instantly catchy as her previous album Born to Die, but it gets better on each listen.
I enjoyed about 2/3 of Ultraviolence. "Old Money" sounds like a sequel to "Young and Beautiful"(a song from Great Gatsby soundtrack which I’m surprising she didn’t include here)
Tough to know which are real or made up situations on the album, I don’t think it matters, it’s just art/music.
On tracks like "Money Power Glory" and "Fucked My Way Up to the Top" I didn’t care for the seemingly disreputable messages she is communicating, even if the music sounds alright. Some would say Lana Del Rey isn't condoning a situation, but simply describing one.
"I was in more of a sardonic mood," she says of writing "Money Power Glory". "Like, if all that I was actually going to be allowed to have by the media was money, loads of money, then fuck it …What I actually wanted was something quiet and simple: a writer's community and respect." (quote from The Guardian)
I feel the lyrics are the weakest element of her music. That said, I think she has a talent for creating pop hooks, and the album has many highlights.
Favorite tracks: West Coast, Shades of Cool, Brooklyn Baby, Pretty When I Cry, Cruel World, Old Money, The Other Woman.

American Hustle by Various Artists
Thoughts: Technically from 2013, according to amazon released December 24th. Terrific soundtrack of 70s music. A Horse With No Name by America, played in the opening scene when he adjusts his hair. Other favorites are, I Feel Love by Donna Summer from the disco scene, and 10538 Ovature by the Electric Light Orchestra, when they walk out of the plane. Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin is good too. And I haven't even mentioned Live and Let Die, which is possibly the best song Wings ever created.

Lost In The Dream by War on Drugs
Thoughts: An early contender for best album of the year. Probably the band’s finest collection of songs. Has been described by a critic as a springtime record-in how full of life it is.
The album's title refers to a broken America, but it could just as easily describe the immersive qualities of the hazy, dreamlike music, which you can get lost in.
Under the Pressure, what an epic opener, with a terrific beat.
Favorite tracks: Under The Pressure, Red Eyes, Disappearing, Eyes To The Wind, The Haunting Idle, Burning

Honorable mentions:
Sun Structures by Temples
Blank Project by Neneh Cherry
Morning Phase by Beck
Lazaretto by Jack White
Turn Blue by The Black Keys
In Conflict by Owen Pallett
Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini
48:13 by Kasabian

Which are your favorite albums of 2014? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome


  1. I can't get X but Ed Sheeran out of my head. Brilliant album.

    I haven't heard of most of the albums on this list, but I'm dying to seek them out now!

    1. @Fisti: Hopefully you’ll enjoy most of these albums!

      X by Ed Sheeran has been recommended to me a few times, I like the album, don’t love it. The Pharrell produced single ”Sing” is really good though.

    2. LOL, and Sing is my least favorite track on the album!

    3. @Fisti: Really? That surprises me.

  2. Just started listening to Too True by Dum Dum Girls... loving it. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. @Alex Withrow: Funny thing is Dum Dum Girls was the album I was most doubtful about including, a few tracks annoy me such as ”Are You Okay?”. I’m glad the album worked out for you!

  3. After listening to Ultraviolence a few times, the album just loses me sometimes. It'll just turn into background noise and I'll forget about it. While, sometimes that's nice, it doesn't grab me as much as Born to Die.

    1. @Jaina: I can see why you’d feel that way. Ultraviolence is not as memorable as her previous album, and the instrumentation is quite similar from track-to-track. Even so, it has grown on me.
      Born To Die was her big breakthrough and has stronger singles, in fact the Paradise Edition is currently my #1 album of 2012.

  4. I haven't been listening to not of new releases. So far, the albums are I like are the Dum Dum Girls, St. Vincent, Beck, Angel Olsen, EMA, Lykke Li, the Shoe, Warpaint, and Tuneyards. The one that I really want to get right now is Mastodon.

    1. @thevoid99: Thanks again for recommending Dum Dum Girls. I am with you about St. Vincent.
      Not feeling an urge to return to Beck’s new album, besides a couple of tracks, which is why it missed out on the top 12.

  5. I guess I better try to listen to Lana Del Ray's new album, hmm

    1. @Andina: I hope you enjoy Lana’s new album!

  6. I gave that Swans album a listen. It's pretty impressive, but man is it dark. I definitely have to be in the right mood for it.

    Will have to check out the rest now!

    1. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Swans album is pretty dark and intense! I agree about the mood has to be right, and I wouldn't listen to it everyday.

      Enjoy the rest!

  7. 10. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
    9. The Men - Tomorrow's Hits
    8. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Pinata
    7. Lykke Li - I Never Learn
    6. Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else
    5. The Menzingers - Rented World
    4. The Orwells - Disgraceland
    3. Future - Honest
    2. Cloud Nothings - Here And Nowhere Else
    1. The Hotelier - Home, Like Noplace Is There

  8. @Zach Murphy: Interesting, your top 10 is quite different to mine. Glad Lana made the cut!

  9. Nice picks! I love that you have the American Hustle soundtrack so high. That movie did have great music. Great to see Pharrell and St. Vincent in the top 10 as well.

    1. @Josh: Love that soundtrack, and I think really elevated American Hustle. Has inspired me to explore the music of the 70s further.
      I believe I heard Guardians of the Galaxy also has a 1970s soundtrack(at least part of it anyway)

  10. All are good, i like the most is Pharrell Williams's GIRL

    1. @Ayush Chandra: Thanks. Pharrell’s album is catchy, glad you like it as well!


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