Friday, January 16, 2015

Best of 2014 - Broke With Expensive Taste - Azealia Banks

Best of 2014

Song: Soda
Artist: Azealia Banks
Album: Broke With Expensive Taste

My favorite album of 2014.

It was a long road to getting Azealia Banks' long-delayed debut album, and given the label issues, odd single choices, and her umm... difficult social media presence, it was a wonder we got Broke With Expensive Taste at all.  But even less likely it turned out as good as it did.

The young Harlem rapper with the seemingly wasted potential finally dropped a genre-hopping manifesto full of her filthy bravado, insane flow, and ear for a killer dance beat.  This record is non-stop amazing.

Broke really lived up to the promise of her amazing debut EP 1991, includes her most well known track "212," but also surprised with unknown layers of her talent both off-the-wall ("Nude Beach A-Go-Go") sonically ("Gimme a Chance," "Ice Princess") and most surprising, a level of personal, deeper, lyrical content as evident with the breathtaking "Soda."  I loved the girl, but didn't think she had that in her.

But that's always been the exciting thing with Azealia Banks; the element of the unknown.  Who knows where she's going to take us next, how she's going to challenge us next, or how she's going to thrill us next.  But I know she will.  Listen to this album NOW.


Well that's all my favorite shit from 2014.  If you're on Spotify you should follow me!  And then you can hear my favorite albums of 2014 playlist, and favorite songs of 2014.  As always, enjoy.

Gimme a Chance

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Best of 2014 - Trouble in Paradise - La Roux

Best of 2014

Song: Sexotheque
Artist: La Roux
Album: Trouble in Paradise

Some things are worth the wait.

Five years after hitting the scene with their very successful self-titled debut, La Roux finally return with "their" sophomore album Trouble in Paradise.  It's a tight, short and very sweet, nine tracks of bubbling, catchy, and emotional electropop that reveal new pleasures both aural and emotional with each listen.  It's a better record than their debut, which is really saying something.

Trouble is a warmer record than the first record, and yet more mysterious.  Singer-songwriter Elly Jackson's lyrical obtuseness is retained here at points, adding to the mystery yet wrapped in super catchy little packages.  Just a fantastic record.


Uptight Downtown
Tropical Chancer

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Best of 2014 - Ultraviolence - Lana Del Rey

Best of 2014

Song: Black Beauty
Artist: Lana Del Rey
Album: Ultraviolence

With her sophomore album Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey proved to be the artist I thought she might be.  Her debut Born to Die was great, but Ultraviolence showed a new dimension to her songcraft and abilities at creating full, dramatic moods with honest emotion and storytelling prowess out of her Lynchian, Hipster death-spiral "Narco Swing."

Huh?  (Just listen to Ultraviolence.)

Ultraviolence casts such an enchanting spell I wonder how she can follow it up.  But then again, I couldn't have imagined Ultraviolence after Born to Die.  This is a special record, can't wait to hear what she does next.


Black Beauty
Shades of Cool

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Best of 2014 - Sirens - Gorgon City

Best of 2014

Song: Here For You
Artist: Gorgon City
Album: Sirens

After 2013 and the rise of Disclosure, this was the year that House went pop.   A lot was 90s influenced, and UK electronic group Clean Bandit scored a pretty big hit with singer Jess Glynne, the Pop-House smash "Rather Be."

As albums go, I really fell for production duo Gorgon City's debut Sirens.  It's a strong collection of catchy, radio-friendly House music with a slew of different vocalist keeping the song-cycle fresh.  The songwriting is really strong on this one, check it out.


Here For You
Coming Home
Go All Night

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best of 2014 - Supernova - Ray LaMontagne

Best of 2014

Song: Drive-In Movies
Artist: Ray LaMontagne
Album: Supernova

It took a slight re-invention but in 2014 I finally "got" Ray LaMontagne.  A lauded folksy singer-songwriter since his early 2000's start, Supernova is the man's fifth studio album, and a bit of a 60s psychedelic soul departure from his typical straight-up country-tinged folk.  Produced by The Black Keys Dan Auerbach.

Supernova was my Summer album, played a lot while out of the city and reconnecting with my past, being with family, and dealing with mortality.  For that I may have elevated the album a bit given personal reasons, but it's also such a true look back musically, with the hooks and songwriting to match, it's hard to dislike.

Album-closer "Drive-In Movies" really summed up everything for me.  A punchy, jubilant track about tiny hometowns, dreaming of being an adult, and the fantasy of what that means with the acknowledgement of reality given time.  I did a lot of dreaming at drive-in movies my Dad took me to as a kid and this song really tied a lot of that together.  Great record.


Drive-In Movies

Friday, January 09, 2015

Best of 2014 - Sucker - Charli XCX

Best of 2014

Song: Famous
Artist: Charli XCX
Album: Sucker

Charli's 2014 was like watching a friend get famous.  Well... okay that's a little overboard, but I've been following the young British singer for a while, championing her major label debut while few were paying attention, and then watching her become hook girl for the biggest song of the Summer, getting a hit of her own, and then releasing her fantastically bratty third album Sucker, which is non-stop amazing.  Proud tears.

While a seeming lyrical setback from True RomanceSucker is an intentionally juvenile record taking it's cues from 80s-era guitar-driven pop-punk a-la Kim Wilde.  She even covers the Flying Lizard's version of "Money (That's What I Want)" as a bonus track.  The album is filled with upbeat, thrashy, pop tracks that nod to that bygone era while still keeping things modern.  "London Queen," "Breaking Up," and the title track really exemplify her aim with the record.

Repeated listens to Sucker reveal each track to be rather essential, from the catchy bombast of "Break the Rules" and the laid-back vibe of "Gold Coins," as well as the New Wavish upcoming single "Doing It" (which is adding Rita Ora for the single/video version) and the Weezer-biting "Hanging Around" that yes... includes writing and guitar work by Rivers Cuomo.  Fans of "Boom Clap" will find the big Summer single (originally from The Fault in Our Stars Soundtrack) and the similar "Caught in the Middle," also fantastic.  This girl can really write a hook.  [related, check out Aeroplane's excellent remix of "Boom Clap."]

Charli had mentioned she got a lot of pressure from her label to repeat the sound (and success) of her biggest hit she's written, Icona Pop's "I Love It," and while she rejected the assignment, I feel she does it (and tops it) with the brash, uber-catchy "Famous," my hands-down favorite track on the record.  I hope it becomes a single.

This is a high-profile pop record that's actually filled with youthful exuberance, and one even aging pop fans can bop to.  Dig dig dig.



Breaking Up
Need Ur Luv

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Best of 2014 - Tough Love - Jessie Ware

Best of 2014

Song: You & I (Forever)
Artist: Jessie Ware
Album: Tough Love

British R&B singer Jessie Ware avoided the sophomore slump this past year with an even better album than her fantastic debut.  Tough Love didn't go the more upbeat route as hinted by Devotion re-release single "Imagine it Was Us" hinted, the atmosphere remained the same but the songwriting got a little tighter with a stronger focus on each tracks melodies.  Still sexy as hell, just MORE.

Ware's vocal range is a highlight once again, but the production on Tough Love is also noteworthy, using a modern take on Prince's sexiest tracks and truly running with the "new Sade" comparisons by updating her lush, sensual vibe into something new.

Favorite tracks include singles "You & I (Forever)" and "Say You Love Me," which got an excellent remix from Gorgon City, as well as "Cruel," "Sweetest Song," and the opening title track.  But it's honestly good start-to-finish.


You & I (Forever)
Say You Love Me

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Best of 2014 - Songs of Innocence - U2

Best of 2014

Song: Sleep Like a Baby Tonight
Artist: U2
Album: Songs of Innocence

One of the biggest head-scratchers of 2014 was the outrage U2 got for partnering with Apple and making their 13th studio album a "free gift" as part of the companies product-launch event in September.  Music fans felt "violated" when the album showed up in their iTunes "without consent" and musicians argued that U2 had "devalued music" by giving the album away for free, despite the reported $100 million they received from Apple for this "free gift.".

I really didn't get it.  It was... awesome.  And they one-upped BeyoncĂ© to boot.

But all of that is inconsequential because Song of Innocence is the best record they've released in over a decade, leaving their last, the okay but U2-by-numbers No Line on the Horizon in the dust and mining more private, personal depths than they ever have before in their thirty-eight year history.  It feels like a rebirth of sorts but more importantly, it has some of the bands most crackling songs of their career.

The "rock" songs of Innocence also take some exciting turns in terms of production thanks in large part to Danger Mouse who handles the majority of the album's tracks (along with Flood and Ryan Tedder.)  The band sounds so alive on tracks like "Raised by Wolves" and "Volcano," and explore layered, creepy depths with the sinister "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight."

And yet if it's classic U2 you're looking for go no further than track two's "Every Breaking Wave," a gorgeous, BIG track about the difficulty of giving yourself completely to someone else.  It's the U2 the world fell in love with in the first place.

I tend to like an underdog so admit that the hate spewed at this record and the band may have influenced me a bit but ultimately, Song of Innocence has made me LOVE U2 again, something that hasn't happened since the early 00s.


Sleep Like a Baby Tonight
Every Breaking Wave

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Best of 2014 - Quack - Duck Sauce

Best of 2014

Song: Ring Me
Artist: Duck Sauce
Album: Quack

It's been nearly five years since we heard "Barbra Streisand," a pretty long gestation period from debut single to album, yet A-Trak and Armand Van Helden of Duck Sauce have filled that time with singles and EP's all leading up to their debut album Quack, which was finally released this past April.  Disco samples, ravey synths, huge hooks, mildly irritating skits, and the sweat of New York City nightlife nostalgia are all over this off-the-wall album.  It's a non-stop party record and one of the most fun of the past year.

Despite the head-scratching omission of some singles ("Big Bad Wolf") and great EP cuts ("Louie the First"), Quack rounded itself out with some killer new tracks which sure made the wait seem worth it.  From the one-two punch of openers "Chariots of the Gods" and "Charlie Chazz & Rappin Ralph," to the disco-sample heaven of my two favorite tracks "Goody Two Shoes" and "Ring Me," Quack delivered.

Party record of the year for sure.


Ring Me
Goody Two Shoes
It's You

Monday, January 05, 2015

Best of 2014 - The Voyager - Jenny Lewis

Best of 2014

Song: She's Not Me
Artist: Jenny Lewis
Album: The Voyager

After loving her solo debut and the last Rilo Kiley record Under the Blacklight, I had a bit of a drought with loving Jenny Lewis.  Her sophomore solo record Acid Tongue didn't grab me and neither did 2010's I'm Having Fun Now with boyfriend Johnathan Rice under the name Jenny & Johnny.  So it was quite the nice surprise, after several years off from recording, that Lewis returned with The Voyager, a return to the Fleetwood Mac, Southern California guitar-pop that seems meant for her.

The Voyager is a great record, a return to form, and possibly her best work yet.  Lewis works mature, pushing-forty themes with an upbeat sound that's enjoyable yet thought-provoking.  One of my absolute favorite records of the year.

The Voyager wrestled with Beck's Morning Phase as tenth favorite album on my list, which you can find on my Best Albums 2014 list, which will be complete at the end of next week:


She's Not Me
Head Underwater
Just One of the Guys