“Black Messiah is a study in controlled chaos. The nightmarish chorus of “1000 Deaths” arrives late and fierce, as though the band unfurled its crunchy, lumbering vamp just long enough to violently snatch it out from under us. “The Charade”‘s Minneapolis sound funk rock follows, every bit as bright as the previous track was menacing until you zero in on the threadbare heart-sickness of D and P-Funk affiliate Kendra Foster’s lyrics. Black Messiah pulls together disparate threads few predecessors have had the smarts or audacity to unite. One song might channel Funkadelic, another, the Revolution, but the shiftless mad doctor experimentation and the mannered messiness at the root of it all is unmistakably the Vanguard. Black Messiah is a dictionary of soul, but D’Angelo is the rare classicist able to filter the attributes of the greats in the canon into a sound distinctly his own. It’s at once familiar and oddly unprecedented, a peculiar trick to pull on an album recorded over the span of a decade.”
9.4 Best New Music / Pitchfork
Release Date: Feb 10th
Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime want to Dance
Now after almost twenty years of recording, Belle & Sebastian have made the biggest stylistic leap of their career. Forget all the descriptors you previously associated with the Glaswegian six-piece. Their ninth album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, doesn’t so much re-invent them, it practically serves as a reboot.
Opening with ‘Nobody’s Empire’, easily the most personal song bandleader Stuart Murdoch has ever written, it brings the Belle & Sebastian story to its origin, detailing Murdoch’s struggle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome). For almost seven years he was unable to work and has stated that this isolating experience was the key factor in encouraging him to pursue a career as a songwriter. Melodies came to Murdoch, characterised here as “a girl who sang like the chime of a bell / she touched me when I was in hell.” Music became his focus and ultimately, along with faith, saved him from a fate that – lyrically at least – he compares to death. Read the full review on the 405
Dememberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
Things begin with “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, an acoustic ballad/metacommentary on the expectations and experiences of the Decemberists. Similar to how Panic! at the Disco begins Pretty. Odd. with “We’re So Sorry”, this piece finds Meloy literally speaking of the changes the band has gone through over the years. With his typical tinge of melancholy, he reflects, “We know, we know, we belong to ya / We know you grew your arms around us / In the hopes we wouldn’t change / But we had to change some / You know, to belong to you.” Strings and vocal accompaniment soon complement his self-aware lament, and by the end percussion and various dissonant sounds combine with a luscious chant, creating an anthemic encasing as only the Decemberists can provide. In short, it’s a phenomenal way to begin. Read the full review on Pop Matters
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Viet Cong count two members of Calgary-based ex-band Women among their number. Band in “emerging from other band’s ashes” shocker, etc. Of course, this is not a piece of information that should direct any anticipation towards receipt of Viet Cong’s debut album, and nor would they likely appreciate a fairly detailed examination of why it’s a Very Exciting Thing that this album exists, but here we are. Women were a very fine band that didn’t work for two main reasons: one was a notorious, slappy mid-show bust-up between brothers Matt and Pat Flegel which signaled the personal demise of the band; the other was the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer in 2012, which signaled the ultimate demise. Both of the albums that Women succeeded in making before those circumstances overtook them, especially 2010’s Public Strain, were perfectly diseased gems of invention, works of surf-pop breeze tuned down and flawlessly emaciated, leaving only the barest shards of loveable pop for a listener to dangle from. Read the full review on the Quietus
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
No Cities to Love represents a union of Sleater-Kinney’s past, a fiery rebirth from riot grrrl ashes. Every S-K album is represented here — the early roar, the eventual popcraft, and ultimately, the technical virtuosity. Tucker and Brownstein’s lyrics make this connection explicit, with No Cities being, foremost, a reflexive celebration of their return to music making (see, for example, the one-two punch of “A New Wave” and “No Anthems”). The personal (“Hey Darling”) and the political (“Price Tag”) find their way in, but No Cities is more interested in the professional (which, in this hall of mirrors, also consists of the personal and political). Winking references come in rapid-fire succession, keeping the album’s thematic scope from being much more than a self-conscious comeback. Still, what a breathless — and breathtaking — comeback it is. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing
frankie cosmos - quick songs adumbrative of the mundane, this quick album will leave its listener with a quiet reverence of toothpaste and family life. // Greta Kline is keeping the punk ethos alive in the bedroom with kitschy freak folk.
parkay quarts - sunbathing animal Meandering and meaningless, it turns me on! // 1974, met lou reed in china town book store, flipping through anna karenina, frowning, he said to me: peasants grow a garden, pedants ruin a book. jealously I cracked: took nine hundred pages to reach that emotional depth, lou. this album knows where its influences lie. nyc cool, druggy and scenic.
ronald paris - ronald paris [split tape] The very first telegraph beeped Morse, "what has Aaron Maine wrought?" As a singer/songwriter, this pliable talent has recorded deeply depressing, yet hauntingly beautiful music. His penchant for distressing his listeners hasn't been lost under the new moniker, but has been cloaked under an urban aesthetic. Think carnival rather than funeral. Through this character, one learns that there is nothing more depressing than the pursuit of happiness. // In some sense, A.M. has pulled a Father John Misty on us. In both projects the deep toned, masculine archetypes of romanticism abandoned their attempts at melodrama to shed light on Generation Y's self-indulgent self-loathing by personifying this very phenomenon. Our trivial pursuits, our hypocrisies, our steadfast ironic pretense are brought to light as these men trudge through the surreal to find out exactly what is real anymore. The difference is that "Ronal Par-ee" has accomplished this in three songs, whereas F.J.M. has become a parody of himself.
ty segall - manipulator ...and on the seventh album the melodies had shined forth from the fuzz, and it was good. //
BOYTOY - BOYTOY Although this one kinda flew under the radar, BOYTOY is definitely a band to watch. They are like if Nirvana had a baby with Bikini Kill, but it was raised by the Ramones. Or in other words, they are grunge/riot grrrls by nature, but a pop-punk blitzkrieg by nurture. The songs reflect a deep maturity in craftsmanship, while still being childlike and carefree in execution. From start to finish this album kicks ass. // This album has enough electricity to power a prius.
DGK is a student of philosophy here in Vermont.
Charlie Shatters loves lists almost as much as he loves shitty esoteric music.
Nicholas Allbrook – Ganough, Wallis & Fatuna
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Bass Drum of Death – Rip This
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
The Dead Milkmen – Pretty Music For Pretty People
BANKS – Goddess
Julian Casablancas & The Voidz – Tyranny (it’s like, abysmal… but also enchanting)
Sun Kil Moon - Benji Everyone likes to hate on Mark Kozelek, but regardless of the stupid shit he said about The War on Drugs, he still produced one of the best albums of the year, not to mention of his career.
Perfume Genius - Too Bright In which Mike Hadreas turns himself inside out and reveals something slinky, mean and glamorous.
Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness Raw and sprawling, imperfect and full of deeply kept secrets. A Late night, dancing/crying on your own sort of thing.
Mac Demarco - Salad Days Summer jams for the slanted and enchanted.
Grouper - Ruins Liz Harris strips her sound down to the basics of her voice, a piano, some drums, and the frogs, birds, and space around her. Enchanting.
I’m a long time Pure Pop employee and freelance web developer. I live north of wherever you live.
White Suns - Totem Dark, powerful, and crawling with terrifying nuance. Riffs you didn't even know were riffs dragging you further down into hell with each listen. Lots of negative space to freak you out in the meantime. These guys are well adept at harshing everyone's mellow with cacophonous panache. Fuck yeah.
Antemasque - Antemasque This one was kind of a sleeper hit this year, and it sounds like the record that should have been made after the dissolution of At the Drive-In. Cedric and Omar are at their best here - however you feel about Mars Volta, these tunes are tasty and Antemasque is a no-brainer for fans of classic ATDI.
Psalm Zero - The Drain One part Charlie Looker (Extra Life), one part Andrew Hock (Castevet, Feast of the Epiphany), this stuff is hypnotic, medieval, and HEAVY. Atypically brutal with some really memorable hooks. Nothing else really sounds like this.
Sun Kil Moon - Benji Forget all the bullshit surrounding his beef with The War on Drugs. Focus on the tunes and this stuff is golden. Incredibly evocative acoustic storytelling with Mark Kozelek's classic rambling approach. Tried and true SKM themes of death, loss, melancholia, childhood, with a real sense of place (in this case, Ohio). This one might actually be his best. For a softy, he's pretty damn hard.
Kayo Dot - Coffins on Io The best thing I heard this year comes from Kayo Dot, under-the-radar veterans of NYC's ''Brutal Prog Collective.'' Individually, these guys have mountains of material under the belts, and Kayo Dot has always been at the scene's center. Coffins on Io was born out of weekly karaoke meetups and is kind of a wacky turn from their previous releases informed by harsher realms of the metal world. These songs show incredible restraint and masterful composition, each with the feel of a send-up to forgotten 70's prog and fringe pop music. Each listen reveals new layers, especially if one is familiar with these guys' typical M.O. of fucking with the listener's comfort at almost every turn. Don't sleep on this.
I’m a Vermont native with a deep respect and admiration for Pure Pop Records. Currently living in San Francisco, listening to as much weird shit as possible and keeping my ear to the ground. I deeply believe in the power of close listening and the preservation of physical media. Keep buying records and supporting local!
Thee Oh Sees - Drop Groovy, man.
Shellac - Dude Incredible Apes hunting, mating, and fighting OR drunken frat guys out on the town? Either way, holy shit.
Ty Segall - Manipulator I like double albums, Ty Segall, and this song.
Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal I probably listened to "Instant Disassembly" more than any other song this year.
Swans - To Be Kind It's just huge, fantastic, intense, and beautiful. It's amazing that it even exists.
The other day I saw a copy of KISS Alive! at FYE for $60. What the fuck is going on?
Shellac - Dude Incredible You don't know it (because you haven't read my other entries yet), but this album is the goose in a room full of ducks. Shellac brings the joy of riding bikes to the masses, and I guess they play some good music too. If you're having a rough day and you feel like taking a bath in building aggregate, this album hits the spot.
Bop Alloy - Winter Breaks EP This EP (I know, I know, it's not a full album) was released relatively recently, but it's been in heavy rotation since then. In the spirit of giving, Substantial and Marcus D brought to us 6 tracks a laying. This is a calm, smooth hip-hop take on the holiday season, and all of the sentiments ring true.
Von Pea and The Other Guys - To: You I'm so East Coast. And hey, so are these guys. Von Pea (of Tanya Morgan) comes together with The Other Guys to bring some solid hip-hop to the masses. Classy beats, classy rhymes.
Speak - Gnarly Davidson vs. The Marlboro Men Man, this was a difficult decision. I enjoyed listening to this album more consistently than anything else this year. But is that what I want to constitute my album of the year? Yes and no. Speak is technically awesome, the beats are on point, and there's enough variety and comedy on the album to come back time and time again. Read about my #1 choice to find out why this isn't at the top of the podium.
Mystic - Beautiful Resistance Number one. Numero uno. I was really happy to learn that Mystic would be releasing her second album this year. Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom was released 13 years ago and it was about time the second album came out! She's still one of the few rappers that can make conscious, intelligent rap engaging and not gimmicky. As much poetry as it is rap, this album makes me confident and hopeful in humanity. And that's not a feat so easily achieved in our age of youtube comments (ask me about this if you see me around). (The song I'd like to choose is not on youtube, so please accept the bandcamp link as a substitute.)
I’m Brendan. I ride bikes. Because it’s fun. In closing, I’d like to let folks know that music is good.
Peace out cub scouts.
Karen O / Crush Songs This is the album that got me through my divorce. The songs are short, gritty, and packed with old school love. They feel like they were accomplished with just a little bit of heartbreak, a tape deck and a dollar store microphone. It makes you believe love can still feel as hopeless as it did in high school. If my heart could make an album, this would be it.
Dum Dum Girls / Too True The Dum Dum Girls feel like visiting an era not so long ago. They sound like sun and surf and cherry red lipstick in a matching convertible, playing with the wind and passing palm trees. This album was made for awkward sidewards smiles across a long room, running your hand through your hair and working up some nerve. This album lets you know. You've got this.
The Kooks / Listen I mean, firstly, it's The Kooks. Just listen to the hook of this song, followed by the nearly tribal drums and oft repeated ooh ooh oo-ooh, just listen and try not to move. Don't tap your foot, bob your head... it's impossible. This is just the catchiest thing of the year. It's an ear worm you'll be totally alright with.
Paloma Faith / A Perfect Contradiction You have BBC, right? I mean, it's 2014. It's 2014, and you have BBC, and you DON'T KNOW Paloma Faith? You're wrong. She's Amy Winehouse, had Winehouse actually been good. She's soul and pop and... not a big voice... but a voice that towers, tumbling over supposed mountains, people wishing they could have been this good. She's just... truly wonderful.
Childish Gambino / STN MTN/Kauai Mixtape Imagine, if you will, a well established rap artist trying something COMPLETELY different, wholly experimental, with singing, free flow jazz style spoken word poetry, and some of the most imperfectly perfect production ever. This feels, as it should, like a mixtape, it feels like someone trying something new, and doing it well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is music as art, a near forgotten form of music altogether.
My name is Tyler and my music taste is widely varying. I got divorced this year, so, obviously, as is generally the case, I have tried and tried to devastate myself and crush my soul with music. That’s probably reflected in my choices here. I can’t tell you, though, how upset I was to find Woodkid’s The Golden Age came out last year. That would have been my number 1 had that not been the case. I just… I just hope some people out there will benefit from this list. Listen to something new today. And every day.
Diamond District - March on Washington In a year where we've learned a lot about how much we need to learn about race relations, this album feels all too relevant. While situated in Washington, D.C., the themes of translate perfectly to the national level. Member Oddisee's superb production adds a variety of sonic elements that provide for a very full listening experience. The camaraderie amongst the three emcees (Oddisee, Uptown XO, and yU) makes the album that much more enjoyable.
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There Beautiful Enchanting Yearning Vulnerable Heartbreaking Bedroom Music
Swans - To Be Kind Music for masochists. Over two hours of demented, carnal, pulsating noise. Singer Michael Jira amuses, terrifies, and captivates all at once. There's too many kind things to say about To Be Kind. So, I won't say anything more.
St. Vincent - St. Vincent A kaleidoscopic adventure Colors, textures, tasteful nuances, carefully stacked on top of once another Undulating, frantic, sexy, moving It's like trying to eat one of those big, sugary jawbreaker things... Except enjoyable. Some of Annie Clark's most ambitious material yet.
Real Estate - Atlas This was my driving music This was my lounging around in bed music This was my Sunday morning coffee music This was my writing music This was my reading music This was my eating music This was my rainy day music This was my fun-in-the-sun music This was my hang-out music This was my hangover music This was the soundtrack to my 2014. Martin Courtney's lyrics bleed existential on this album, but in a refined, mature way. The album is at times reflective, contemplative, and also eager. The dreamy instrumentation shimmers, the rhythms intoxicate, and the melodies are intimate. This is a wonderful album, and--in this guy's opinion--the band's best work to date.
I’m Justin. I’m a student financial aid counselor, avid homebrewer, frequent concert-goer, amateur writer– and well, amateur person, for that matter. Honorable mentions in music this year include:
Run The Jewels – RTJ2
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Sylvan Esso – (Self-Titled)
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Swale – The Next Instead
It’s been a pretty good year.
Shiina Ringo - Gyakuyunyū: Kōwankyoku Shiina Ringo may just be the most talented songwriter I've ever heard. Her work has spanned everything from pop punk to noise rock to jazz to pure J-pop, and virtually every phase of her career is on display on this record. Gyakuyunyū is a collection of sorts, featuring exclusively renditions by Shiina of songs she has written for other artists. With these tracks ranging from 1998-2012, there is an incredible breadth of work on this album. In the first 6 tracks, she goes from swinging jazz-rock to drum n bass to J-pop to a power ballad to Prince-esque Minneapolis funk to bombastic instrumental big band music, all without skipping a single beat. And that's only the first half of the album.
Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2 Even better than the first album. Who would've guessed?
Lantlôs - Melting Sun Lantlôs, like fellow blackgazers Alcest, made the jump this year to completely cut their ties with the black metal scene and embrace their shoe gaze roots. Of the two, however, this was easily the more successful record. Immense guitars, thick production, and great songwriting make this one of the best albums in Lantlôs's catalogue.
Morbus Chron - Sweven Swedish psychedelic death metal seems to be a thing now, with Tribulation's debut last year and now Morbus Chron's Sweven in 2014. It may sound like an odd combo, but it works out extremely well. Often times clean guitars on a death metal album completely ruin the vibe, but here they actually enhance it. If these guys can continue to build off of this record, they have the potential to become one of the Swedish metal greats.
Behemoth - The Satanist Oddly enough, I never really got into Behemoth. I know tons of people who have always loved them, but I guess I just skipped the Behemoth phase when I was getting into metal. The Satanist, however, has convinced me that their fame is well-deserved. The also happened to put on one of the most incredible live shows I've seen. This one is already at the top of many year-enders, and as much as I'd like to make my list more unique than everyone else's, I can't justifiably put this anywhere but number 1. Just a great album through and through.
2014 was really a pretty weak year. There were lots of good albums, but not many great albums. That made it hard to make this list, as, outside of The Satanist this year, there are about 15 or so records that I could’ve put in the other 4 slots here. Those other albums are:
Deep Mountains – Lake of Solace
Alcest – Shelter
Anathema – Distant Satellites
Fire! Orchestra – Enter
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-li
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
Gridlink – Longhena
Swans – To Be Kind