my top 50 albums of 2014...

Posted by Brad Schelden, December 11, 2014 09:30am | Post a Comment

#1 Douglas Dare - Whelm (Erased Tapes)
There are always a couple of albums like this every year. And I always just patiently wait for them. I just never know where they are gonna come from. I loved this album after the first listen. This album would clearly end up on the top of my most listened to albums of the year. Which naturally makes it my favorite. It is one of those albums that I prefer to listen to by myself since I am never sure if anyone is gonna like it as much as I do. Your favorite albums are the ones you keep going back to. The ones you want to start over as soon as they end. This is that album for me. An album I will always have close to my heart. This album is basically just Douglas stripped down bare with his songs and his piano. It is beautiful and heartbreaking. A fantastic debut album.

#2 Mac DeMarco - Salad Days (Captured Tracks)
Mac DeMarco's second album was one of my favorites of 2012. Here he is again with his fantastic third album. I am still not exactly sure why I can't stop loving this dude. I actually will forget how much I love him until I go and put on his albums again and then fall in love all over again. This new album is another perfect mellow pop album. Perfect for a lazy day. It gets under your skin and becomes part of you. There is just no denying the talent of this dude. I can't help but feeling sometimes that he has somehow tricked my into liking him. You seriously can't help but love this album. There is nothing upbeat about this album. However it still manages to make me so happy every time I listen to it.

#3 A Winged Victory For The Sullen - Atomos (Kranky)
This is the collaboration between the brilliant Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Wiltzie from Stars of the Lid. A minimal mix of strings and piano. This could be the soundtrack to a BBC production of Twin Peaks. A mellowed out minimal version. A beautiful and triumphant album. This is another of those instrumental albums that I need in my life every year. I always get worried that I won't find them. But somehow I always do.

#4 Merchandise - After The End (4AD)
There was no way to get around the fact that I was going to love this record. It falls somewhere between Echo & The Bunnymen and This Mortal Coil. The band have changed their sound a bit over the years. They now fit nicely on their new label 4AD. Carson Cox has that perfect dark and dreamy voice. It is like new romantic soft rock. This was another album I kept going back to this year. Forgetting how much I liked it until I went back and rediscovered it over and over again.

#5 Aphex TwinSyro (Warp Records)
I never thought I would have Aphex Twin back in my life. I was very obsessed with Richard D. James and all things Aphex Twin back in the 90s. I still listen to Selected Ambient Works Vol 1 & 2 often. I was obsessed with both ...I Care Because You DoRichard D. James Album. And even I was worried we were making too big of a deal about the return of Aphex Twin this year. But I am so happy he is back. He will never ever be able to get me like he did back in the early and mid 90s with those albums. But this new album offers us some more of the same and makes me remember why I got so obsessed with him back then. He manages to mash up all the different sub-genres of dance and electronica into one seamless beautiful album. It is like welcoming an old best friend back into your life.

#6 Sun Kil Moon - Benji (Caldo Verde)
Mark Kozelek has been a busy man the last couple of decades. He created some of the most beautiful heartbreaking albums as Red House Painters & Sun Kil Moon. He also has released solo albums, collaborations, tributes, live albums and Christmas albums. Mark Kozelek is one of those artists at the top of my list of favorites. I have been a fan for a long time and seen him live many times. But I will never get over this guy. He might break your heart with every song he writes. But I can never get enough. This album is what we have come to expect from him over and over again. You sort of have to be emotionally prepared to dive into a Mark Kozelek album. I am just always so happy to have another album like this to have in my life.

#7 The Tower of Light - The Tower of Light (Felte Records)
I listened to this album a lot this year. I can't stay away from it. This is like something from the darker side of shoegaze. An album that would fit nice between your albums by The Mission and Piano Magic. It is dark and gothy with bits of dream pop. The darkness of this album can be a bit overwhelming. But it is so tempting to keep going back to this album. It is perfect for those gloomy days when you want to feel sad. Or for those days when you need an album to bring that sadness out.

#8 Sharon Van Etten - Are We There (Jagjaguwar)
Sharon Van Etten is another one of my favorites back from 2012 with a new album out this year. I was eagerly anticipating this album since I loved her last album so much. Another of my favorites with that voice that just gets me every time. This is dark and dreamy folk music. She really just keeps getting better and better with each album. Her albums are like a little musical journey you take with her. You sort of forget about everything else when you are hanging out with Sharon Van Etten.

#9 WhirrSway (Graveface)
Nick Bassett has been a busy man lately. And I keep loving whatever he is doing. He managed to put out an amazing EP by Death of Lovers with Dominic Palermo from Nothing earlier this year. And he also plays bass in Nothing. Another one of my favorites of the year. This new Whirr album is straight up shoegaze. I have no problem with albums sounding like early 90s shoegaze. Not when they are this good and dreamy. I will never get tired of these albums. I hope Nick Bassett and his collaborators keep on keeping on with these albums.

#10 Ariel Pink - pom pom (4AD)
I don't think I will ever love an Ariel Pink album as much as I loved Before Today back in 2010. But this album comes pretty close. There is really nobody like Ariel Pink. I usually don't like my music too weird but he is just the right amount of weird for me. I think most people tend to love or hate this guy for some reason. You either get him or you don't. I love how he manages to combine being a weirdo with writing really addictive new wave style soft rock sort of pop anthems. The songs are always weird and might scare off some. But I love this dude and always looks forward to see what he will do next.

#11 FKA Twigs - LP1 (Young Turks)
It took me some time to warm up to FKA Twigs. I liked the videos but I wasn't sure I was gonna really like the album or not. But it grew on me. I think I always wanted it to turn into something it wasn't. It just sort of stays where it is supposed to be. Think of her as a modern version of some mix of Bjork and Kate Bush. If those things scare you then you should probably stay away from her. But I warn you that "Two Weeks" is a very addictive song.

#12 Lust For Youth - International (Sacred Bones)
This is their third album but my favorite so far. Dark synthy pop from Sweden. Reminds me of some of my favorites like Human League or Depeche Mode. Or maybe Alphaville and Anything Box. Those were all bands that could combine the darker sides of New Wave with great pop songs. There was a point a couple of years ago when I felt like I was only listening to bands from Norway and Sweden. So I am always happy to relive those moments with bands like this.

#13 Zola Jesus - Taiga (Mute)
It really seems like it has been too long since we have had a proper album from Zola Jesus. I fell in love with Zola Jesus after Conatus came out in 2011. She has changed a bit on this new album. Her songs are bigger and fuller and maybe more powerful. I am still not sure why she isn't as popular as Bjork, Goldfrapp or Lady Gaga. Maybe she is still a bit too weird and dark. But I like her just how she is. There is really nobody out there like her.

#14 The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)
These guys always make me think of Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. There are songs on here that sound like big anthems. The kind of songs that could get a huge crowd up on their feet. They are like the indie rock version of John Mellencamp. This is one of those perfect albums that seems put together perfectly. Adam Granduciel has one of those near perfect voices. Like Mark Kozelek or Mark Lanegan. It gets a hold of you and doesn't ever let go.

#15 Horsebeach - Horsebeach (Alone Together)
These are my favorite kind of albums. They seem to come out of nowhere and become your favorite as you are listening to them for the first time. You suddenly can't figure out how you survived without them. These guys are dreamy and jangly and just the perfect amount of everything I love. This is Manchester's version of Real Estate. I have been in love with Manchester since I first discovered Joy Division and The Smiths. But it is nice to have a reason to be in love with it again. I can't stop going back to this album. And I can't get it out of my head.

#16 Real Estate - Atlas (Domino)
Another great album by Real Estate to equal their last album from 2011. You really can't go wrong with an album by these guys. Each song is like a beautifully woven jangly masterpiece. Even their darker songs still feel fluffy and light. Smooth and beautiful harmonies. They are the Indie rock version of the Grateful Dead. Which might sound like a nightmare. But they pull it off.

#17 The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave (Fat Cat)
I sure do love this band. I get excited whenever they have something new out. I just can't get enough of that Scottish accent. There albums are always intense, dark and heartbreaking. They sit somewhere between post punk, new wave and shoegaze. I feel like they are my long lost grandfather telling me stories from a different time. But the stories are always still relevant to my own life. They are just one of those bands that I am so thankful to have in my life.

#18 Grouper - Ruins (Kranky)
Liz Harris is another one of those artists that I always look forward to. I always can't wait to here her next album. This is just more of the same of what we have come to love from Liz Harris AKA Grouper. Her albums are always so quiet that you just might miss them go right by you. But once you sit down and spend some time with it you realize how great it really is. Grouper is not for everyone. But this is what makes her so great. Those of us that love her keep coming back for more. There is always a simple beauty to these records. And there is a feeling that I get while listening to this album that I really can't get from anything else.

#19 HTRK - Psychic 9-5 Club (Ghostly International)
This band makes me nostalgic for bands like Gravenhurst or Bark Psychosis. Now imagine those bands mixed with Everything But The Girl. Moody and atmospheric. Dark and dreamy. Some of these songs are slow moving and feel like they never really get started. But I do keep coming back to this album.

#20 Dean BluntBlack Metal (Rough Trade)
This is one of those albums that honestly could have been my favorite of the year. This is another album that I can listen to over and over and never get sick of. If you played this album for somebody for the first time it would be hard to figure out when it came out. At times is sounds like an 80s dream pop record. At time like a 90s experimental twee album. A beautiful record it is for sure.

#21 Otto A. Totland - Pino (Sonic Pieces)
Totland is the piano player from Deaf Center.  Deaf Center also put out a great EP this year called Recount which you should probably listen to. This new Otto A. Totland is simply a beautiful album of piano music. Perfect minimal background music.

#22 Trust - Joyland (Arts & Crafts)
I am still recovering from the first Trust album. I just fell really hard for that album like anyone else did who heard it. Trust is back and has brought us another great album full of dark and synthy anthems. Don't be afraid of the singers dark and haunting goblin like voice. These songs are like the best of goth and 90s dance music combined into one big dance party.

#23 nothing - Guilty Of Everything (Relapse)
Another great shoegaze album in 2014. Like most great shoegaze albums I have no idea what these guys are singing about most of the time. Loud and beautiful guitars over dreamy vocals. I am always amazed when bands like this manage to somehow create catchy songs beneath all the noise.

#24 Craft Spells - Nausea (Captured Tracks)
More dreamy and catchy pop from this Captured Tracks band. I was put under the spell of these guys back in 2011 when their first album Idle Labor came out. They still have me under their spell in case you were wondering. In a year without a new Wild Nothing or Soft Moon album it is nice to have these guys around to keep me company.

#25 Hauschka - Abandoned City (Temporary Residence)
Before I even knew what a score was, I was always drawn to the music in the background of films. I often love a movie more for its score than anything. So, I always love artists like these who make their own little scores without the movie. I usually listen to an album like this at least once a week or so. I need it. I have been following the career of Hauschka AKA Volker Bertelmann for a while now. This might be my new favorite by him. It is dark and tense and beautiful piano music. Everybody needs some music like this in their life.

#26 Bing & RuthTomorrow Was The Golden Age (RVNG International)
Minimal ambient classical from this New York City Ensemble. A beautiful little album. I can never have too many of these albums in my life. They give me time to calm down for a second and reflect.

#27 White Hex - Gold Nights (Felte)
Its nice that the label Felte has given me a couple of albums to enjoy this year. Italians Do It Better has sort of put a void in my life by not releasing any albums the last couple of years. White Hex would sit nicely next to Glass Candy and Desire. Dark and synthy. A perfect album for driving around LA after the sun goes down.

#28 S - Cool Choices (Hardly Art)
This is Jenn Ghetto from the great slowcore band Carissa's Wierd. I know I say that I love a lot of things. But I love Carissa's Wierd and I love Jenn Ghetto. I love her voice. I love her songwriting. Her songs are heartbreaking. Jangly pop confessional love songs. Who needs more than that. I will wait patiently for that Carissa's Wierd reunion tour. But in the meantime I am happy to have Jenn Ghetto back in my life.

#29 Jeremy Jay - Abandoned Apartments (K Records)
I was a big fan of this dude back in 2007 when he put out A Place Where We Could Go. I think that was the first first year I moved back to LA. I couldn't be more happy that Jeremy put out this new album earlier this year. But I still can't figure out why more people don't love him like I do. Maybe they do and I just don't know it. But I always feel like he is my secret artist only I know about. There is a mellow new wave sort of vibe to this album. Combined with an artsy sort of singing style.

#30 Ashrae Fax - Never Really Been Into It (Mexican Summer)
This band is sort of what would happen if you combined Switchblade Symphony with Chapterhouse. Or maybe Siouxsie as the singer for Lush. Dreamy Gothy shoegaze. Hard to believe this band is from North Carolina and not from some rainy industrial town in England. This record grew on me real quick.

#31 Arca - Xen (Mute)
Listening to this album at times feels like you are in the middle of some dystopian sci-fi horror film. The album is frightening at times. But there are moments of beauty found throughout the album. An exciting new album by the man behind some of the production of FKA Twigs and Yeezus. And of course we are all waiting to see what he will do with the new Bjork album.

#32 Future Islands - Singles (4AD)
This is the band's fourth album but the first time most people have heard of them. If you have not heard them yet you should. Imagine Tom Waits singing with the Human League. The singers raspy voice somehow works with their dancey new wave songs. These songs are undeniably catchy.

#33 She Sir - Go Guitars (Shelflife)
Jangly pop meets shoegaze is often all you have to say to make me check out an album. I also usually like anything Shelflife puts out.  It didn't take long for me to figure out I was gonna like this one. Catchy and breezy shoegaze from Austin Texas. Real Estate meets Pale Saints.

#34 Electric Youth - Innerworld (Secretly Canadian)
I first heard these guys when their track was included on the Drive soundtrack. That song is also on this album. But there are many more to make you happy. For fans of Kylie Minogue, Goldfrapp, M83 and Sally Shapiro. Catchy synth pop.

#35 Raveonettes - Pe'ahi (Beat Dies Records)
I can always count on these guys to give me a good record. Imagine Phil Spector producing a shoegaze album. Their songs are always so addictive and catchy to me. I always want more Raveonettes in my life. As long as I have a new Raveonettes album every couple years I will always be happy.

#36 Ritual Howls - Turkish Leather (Felte)
Dark post-punk from Detroit with vocals somewhere between Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave and Peter Murphy. This album is super dark and dreamy. It sways back and forth from industrial to dreamy goth pop. This is yet another album that got a hold of me this year and made me keep coming back for more.

#37 Alvvays - Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
Another album I couldn't resist liking. I tried but I just couldn't resist. Toronto twee in the spirit of Best Coast and Vivian Girls. Twee is often too cute and sincere for some people to handle. But I will always have a special place in my heart for these bands.

#38 LiteratureChorus (Slumberland)
This band sounds something like a Sarah Records version of The Housemartins, The Smiths, James and The Lightning Seeds. But of course they are from Philadelphia and not the UK. Catchy and melodic twee style pop.

#39 Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
I was pleasantly surprised when I first listened to Angel Olsen. She sort of sounds somewhere between a Joanna Newsom mixed with a Cat Power. She uses her voice in a way that is both gentle and powerful similar to Chan Marshal of Cat Power. I think everyone is falling in love with Angel Olsen this year.

#40 Fear Of Men - Loom (Kanine Records)
The Cranberries are back! Actually this is just Fear Of Men. But they could easily be mistaken for the vocals of Dolores O'Riordan. The album is a sort of perfect little pop masterpiece. Takes me back to the indie pop 90s when there were more bands like this. The Sundays, The Softies, Heavenly and Velocity Girl.

#41 Lemonade - Minus Tide (Cascine)
I was also a fan of their last album a couple of years ago. I am pretty much happy when anyone decides to combine 90s dance music and 80s synthpop with 70s soft rock. The vocals are smooth and silky and the music is dancey and beachy. I love these guys and am just glad somebody is making music like this.

#42 Brett - Brett (Cascine)
Cascine has another great band in their hands. Brett is another 80s synth influence band. Like a 90s version of Human League or Erasure. Like a more ethereal version of Holy Ghost! A perfect album for summer to go along with Cascine label mates Lemonade.

#43 The Proper Ornaments - Wooden Head (Slumberland)
Slumberland rarely lets me down. These guys are like The Lemonheads combined with The Jesus & Mary Chain. A shoegaze Pavement mixed with a Psychedelic Simon & Garfunkle. It should be no surprise that this band features one of the member of Veronica Falls.

#44 Cherry Glazerr- Haxel Princess (Burger Records)
So this band is of course named after the great Chery Glaser of NPR. It is a great name and I am glad somebody named themselves after her. This might be California's version of Veronica Falls. A garage dream pop hybrid. An incredibly addictive band with a perfect name.

#45 Flowers - Do What You Want To, It's What You Should Do (Kanine Records)
Angelic vocals mixed with jangly pop. A bit of shoegaze mixed with a bit of 90s twee. This band is not too different than there UK label mates Fear of Men. Maybe without the Cranberries vocals. This was the music of my college days so or course I will keep coming back to it. I just can't resist these catchy songs.

#46 VANIISH - Memory Work (Metropolis)
VANIISH features members of Soft Moon and Wax Idols. They sound like Joy Division & Pornography era Cure mixed with The Death Cult. Dark wave spooky synth rock. Another good late at night driving album.

gold zebra#47 Gold Zebra - Gold Zebra (Visage Musique)
They might be Montreal's version of The Chromatics. Dreamy breathy vocals over dark synthy electronics. A Beautiful put together album full of spooky late night songs. Most of the album is in English but there is some french dreamy vocals on some of the songs.

#48 A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent (Lefse Records)
I always end of feeling like I am in a druggy haze when I listen to this record. Similar to LA shoegaze pioneers Medicine. Dreamy and loopy songs that seems to take you over as you start listening to them. This is the bands fourth album and I have been following them since they started with Scribble Mural Comic Journal in 2007. Always happy to jump into one of these albums.

#49 Donovan BlancDonovan Blanc (Captured Tracks)
I really liked this album when it came out this summer but I almost forgot how much I liked it. Melancholy pop music that somehow combines a sort of 70s pop feeling with a modern twist. The songs are all beautiful and atmospheric. Another great album brought to you by the great label Captured Tracks.

#50 Sleep Thieves - You Want The Night (Minty Fresh)
A fantastic album of synthpop from Ireland. Features a super fun mix of 80s soundtrack era style songs and dark wave. Singer Sorcha Brennan could be the Irish version of Robyn or Kylie Minogue. A dream pop version of Crystal Castles.


Relevant Tags

Aphex Twin (12), Mac Demarco (35), Best Of 2014 (20), Lists (63), Douglas Dare (3), Sharon Van Etten (9), Ariel Pink (33), Zola Jesus (24), Fka Twigs (10), The War On Drugs (14), Real Estate (14), Grouper (11), Dean Blunt (4), Craft Spells (8), Future Islands (10), Angel Olsen (7)