Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

50 Albums of the Year

Every year I seem to change up how I post my list of favorite albums and songs.

2014 was a good year. I had a hard time selecting my favorite albums. Picking the top album was easy. Sturgill Simpson ran away with it this year as far as I’m concerned. His is one of the few albums where, after a full listen or two, I don’t pick out a few favorites and stick to them. I’ve listened to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music from start to finish countless times this year, and I plan to do it more in the coming years. I haven’t had an album hit me like this in a long time. From there the next ten are pretty close. In fact, the top 20 divides into four groups: 1) Sturgill Simpson is in a group to himself; 2) 2–11; 3) 12–15; and 4) 16–20. I could shuffle 2-11 around and be happy. But I am returning to Glass Animals’ ZABA more than the rest. It is rising above the other nine in this group, so it gets the #2 slot. After that 12-15 are only slightly behind 2-11. Here too I’d be satisfied with a different order. Same for the last five.

There were so many good albums this year I put together a supplementary list of thirty more. One of the things different about this year’s list is that I’ve provided recommendations for all 50 albums. There’s a link at the end of the post to a Spotify playlist with all 126 recommendations. I think my tastes are pretty eclectic. But you will not find any hip-hop or metal (and probably some other lesser known genres). I like hip-hop. Not as much as I did in high school and college, but I still listen to a good deal. I don’t know if it is my age or becoming a parent or what, but I have a hard time with too much violence, bravado, sexism, and other things that too often tend to fill hip-hop albums. I play music a lot at work, making Spotify playlists that then get played at home. Because of this I don’t tend to put hip-hop songs into my playlists for fear of 4- and 7-year-old ears paying attention to what Papa is playing. (They hate Sturgill Simpson, by the way. I’m worried about them.) I’m not completely opposed to violence, bravado, sexism, and such in songs, as you will hear if you happen to listen to the recommendations playlist. And, if I get around to putting together my favorite songs of the year, there is likely to be a hip-hop song or two in the list. As for metal, I simply don’t like it. Never have.

Top 20 Albums of 2014:

  1. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (THE WHOLE ALBUM!!! If you need a place to start, try “Turtles All the Way Down,” “Life of Sin,” “Long White Line,” and “The Promise”)
  2. Glass Animals – ZABA (“Black Mambo,” “Pools,” “Gooey,” “Hazey,” “Toes,” and “Wyrd”)
  3. Hozier – Hozier (“Take Me To Church,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “From Eden,” “Work Song,” and “Like Real People Do”)
  4. Black English – NO (“Leave the Door Wide Open,” “Monday,” “There’s a Glow,” “Last Chance,” and “Hold On”)
  5. SOHN – Tremors (“The Wheel,” “Artifice,” “Lights,” and “Veto”)
  7. Thief – Closer [EP] (“Closer,” “Broken Boy,” ‘Don’t Believe You,” and “Cold”)
  8. alt-J – This is All Yours (“Every Other Freckle,” “Left Hand Free,” and “Hunger Of The Pine”)
  9. Beck – Morning Phase (“Heart Is A Drum,” “Blue Moon,” and “Turn Away”)
  10. Duologue – Never Get Lost (“Forests,” “Sibling,” and “Drag & Drop”)
  11. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (“Small Things,” “She Treats Me Well,” and “Time Is Dancing”)
  12. Kishi Bashi – Lighght (“Carry on Phenomenon,” “Once Upon a Lucid Dream (In Afrikaans),” and “Hahaha Pt. 1”)
  13. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso (“Hey Mami,” “Dreamy Bruises,” and “Could I Be”)
  14. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love (“Scream (Funk My Life Up),” “Better Man,” and “Looking For Something”)
  15. Young & Sick – Young & Sick (“Ghost Of A Chance,” “Glass,” and “Valium”)
  16. Dry the River – Alarms in the Heart (“Hidden Hand,” “Gethsemane,” and “Everlasting Light”)
  17. Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old (“Autumn,” “Time Between,” and “If I Were To Lie”)
  18. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half the City (“Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Broken Bones & Pocket Change”)
  19. Jack White – Lazaretto (“Lazaretto” and “Would You Fight For My Love?”)
  20. TV On The Radio – Seeds (“Careful You” and “Happy Idiot”)

30 more in alphabetical order:

  • Arthur Beatrice – Working Out (“Midland” and “Carter-Uncut”)
  • Bad Suns – Language & Perspective (“Dancing On Quicksand” and “Salt”)
  • Broods – Evergreen (“Mother & Father” and “Bridges”)
  • Chet Faker – Built on Glass (“Talk Is Cheap” and “1998”)
  • Chris Staples – American Soft (“Hold Onto Something” and “Black Tornado”)
  • Deptford Goth – Songs (“Relics” and “We Symbolise”)
  • Fink – Hard Believer (“Hard Believer” and “Looking Too Closely”)
  • Gramercy Arms – The Seasons of Love (“Always in Love” and “Winterlight”)
  • The Hoosiers – The News from Nowhere (“Somewhere in the Distance” and “Make or Break – You Gotta Know”)
  • Horse Feathers – So It Is With Us (“Violently Wild” and “Why Do I Try”)
  • Horse Thief – Fear in Bliss (“Devil” and “Let Go”)
  • How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart? (“See You Fall” and “Repeat Pleasure”)
  • Jessie Ware – Tough Love (“Tough Love” and “Sweetest Song”)
  • The Kooks – Listen (“Forgive & Forget” and “Down”)
  • Kyla LaGrange – Cut Your Teeth (“Cut Your Teeth” and “The Knife”)
  • Lo-Fang – Blue Film (“Look Away” and “When We’re Fire”)
  • Lost in the Trees – Past Life (“Past Life” and “Rites”)
  • Matthew And The Atlas – Other Rivers (“Into Gold” and “Counting Paths”)
  • MØ – No Mythologies to Follow (“Maiden” and “Glass”)
  • NEEDTOBREATHE – Rivers In The Wasteland (“Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now” and “Brother”)
  • Owen Pallet – In Conflict (“I Am Not Afraid” and “In Conflict”)
  • Owl John – Owl John (“A Good Reason To Grow Old” and “Red Hand”)
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days of Abandon (“Kelly” and “Life After Life”)
  • Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant (“TV Song” and  “Only Lies”)
  • Stars – No One Is Lost (“From The Night” and “Look Away”)
  • Submotion Orchestra – Alium (“Time Will Wait” and “Rust”)
  • The Trouble With Templeton – Rookie (“Whimpering Child” and “Glue”)
  • Vance Joy – Dream Your Life Away (“Riptide” and “Best That I Can”)
  • Walk The Moon – TALKING IS HARD (“Shut Up and Dance” and “Avalanche”)
  • White Sea – In Cold Blood (“Prague” and “Future Husbands Past Lives”)

Playlist of the 126 recommended songs.

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