Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 30 Records of 2014: 30-21

2014 was another great year for new music, unfortunately for me I had a really hard time keeping up with it all.  Because of that, my end of the year list includes both EPs and full-length records.  Maybe next year I’ll do a better job at keeping up with everything that comes out.  In the meantime I’ve broken down my Top 30 Records into three posts, plus an honorable mentions post.  So without any further ado, I present to you the best music of 2014. 

30.  If I Stay [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] by Various Artists
If I Stay was my favorite movie of 2014 for a number of reasons (excellent acting, top notch directing, great script, etc.) but what really drove the film home was its use of music.  The story revolves around high school senior Mia (a concert cellist), her boyfriend and budding indie rock star Adam, and her family (her parents were both punk rockers, with her dad having been a drummer of a local band).  A terrible car accident kills her family and leaves Mia in an out-of-body experience where she must decide whether or not she wants to live or die.  Much of the film consists of flashbacks, including multiple performances by Adam’s band Williamette Stone.  It’s that band’s songs that make this soundtrack something special.  The band that you see in the film is the same band that recorded and performed the songs that you hear on the soundtrack and holy crap are they good (especially the moving folky rendition of the Smashing Pumpkins “Today” which appears in one of the film’s most pivotal scenes). 

29.  Spin It by The Forty Nineteens
From my review
The Forty Nineteens’ sophomore full-length Spin It takes the foundation the band laid with their brilliant debut No Expiration Date and builds on it adding power pop savvy to their unique band rock ‘n’ roll.  Still there are the elements of college rock, alt country, indie, and punk rock but this time around the pop is front and center.  While No Expiration Date was the sound of a band expressing their devotion for Dramarama, Spin It is the sound of a band articulating their admiration of early Elvis Costello. 

28.  The Royal We by Seagulls
From my review
Atlanta, GA’s Seagulls’ sophomore EP The Royal We is five songs of gravelly vocal, punk rock anthem goodness (six including the bonus track).  These are the kind of catchy songs that bridge that gap between pop punk, street punk, Midwest punk, and the like; in other words they should appeal equally to fans of Teenage Bottlerocket, U.S. Bombs, and Dillinger Four.  Seagulls’ greatest strength is in their ability to craft a great hook and a chorus that pulls you in and dares you to not sing along.

27.  Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
Sonic Highways is Foo Fighters ode to the history of some of the greatest music cities in America.  Each song on the record was recorded in and inspired by a different city from Austin, TX to New Orleans, LA; from Chicago, IL to Washington, DC; Los Angeles, CA to Nashville, TN; and Seattle, WA to New York, NY.  The band also recorded a documentary for each song/city which was released on HBO.    

26.  Full Speed Ahead by Crosshatch
From my review
...Crosshatch plays a highly energetic form of 90s influenced indie and punk rock.  The band's seven song debut EP, Full Speed Ahead, is nothing short of brilliant.  The songs a filled with killer hooks, thunderous basslines, and top notch drumming that takes equally from the indie rock of the early 90s (ala The Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom) and the pop punk of a couple of years later (ala Sicko and Pinehead Gunpowder).  YR Magazine described Crosshatch's music pretty perfectly -- "With appreciation for the pop sensibility of The Bouncing Souls, the lyrical integrity of Iron Chic, and the energy of early Green Day - they play with feeling, substance, and emotion."

25.  Souvenir by Banner Pilot
From my review
Banner Pilot’s fourth album Souvenir plays true to form in that it is a collection of incredibly catchy, hooked laden Midwestern punk tunes.  The band’s familiar sound pulls heavily from the likes of Dillinger Four, Jawbreaker, Pegboy, and Hot Water Music, but their passion and intensity is what really makes their music stand out (not that one could ever really go wrong following in the footsteps of those punk rock giants, IMHO).  While the 12 songs on Souvenir are undeniably Banner Pilot (especially with those thundering basslines), this isn’t simply the same record all over again.  Simply put, Souvenir is a stellar record that proves that not all great punk rock (or music for that matter) is from the past.

24.  Famous Graves by Cheap Girls
From my review
The band’s fourth album Famous Graves is yet another top-notch collection of power pop punk indie rock anthems that sound just as at home when played next to the likes of modern acts like Candy Hearts and The Thermals as they do alongside classic acts like Superchunk and The Replacements.  Over the years the band has been compared to the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and the aforementioned Replacements but to me Cheap Girls’ closest cousin from years gone past is Buffalo Tom.  And like the Boston power trio, Cheap Girls hit you with great hooks and melodies driving heartfelt and honest lyrics that speak directly to the soul and inner teenager.  Famous Graves does not chart any new territory but it doesn’t need to.  This is a rock ‘n’ roll record driven by heart and hooks, which is exactly what Cheap Girls have been knocking out since day one.

23.  Teenage Retirement by Chumped
From my review
Chumped channels the purest elements of youthful angst and rage, joy and fun in their full-length debut Teenage Retirement.  Lead by sharp wit and razor tongue of singer/guitarist Anika Pyle, Chumped have produced an album of pop punk brilliance that harkens back to the genre’s glory days in the early to mid 1990s while at the same time sounding fresh, modern, and vibrantly young.  More than maybe any other genre or sub-genre, pop punk lends itself to the unadulterated exuberance of youth and Teenage Retirement is the absolute perfect expression of the hope and desire and desperation that comes from being young.  

22.  Fistful of Hollow by Swingin’ Utters
From my review
The Utters’ latest album, Fistful of Hollow is a testament to the never-ending growth and development of the band.  While still sounding like a Swingin’ Utters’ album, Fistful of Hollow adds another layer to an already complex musical history that has flawlessly mixed elements of punk, oi, folk, country, power pop, and college rock.  With the lineup solidified and bassist Mike Peck and guitarist Jack Darlymple now completely entrenched in the group, the Utters’ have forged a path with a strong and cohesive record that remembers the past while looking towards the future.  Fistful of Hollow proves that the Swingin’ Utters are far from being a nostalgia act and far from being done.

21.  Fatten the Leeches by Cancers
From my review
Cancers’ full-length debut Fatten the Leeches is a blast of grunge-guitar driven, unforgettably catchy, rich power pop that harkens back to the glory days of the early 1990s.  Formed by Ella Kasper and Lenny Miller, Cancers’ sound is reminiscent of the pre-(and very early post)Nirvana underground music scene without sounding cliched or overtly nostalgic.  Love of the era of Kurt Cobain is in full swing and that has unfortunately brought us a lot of acts that simply mimic or pilfer the music of two decades ago.  That is not the case with Cancers.  Fatten the Leeches is a brilliant album with a timeless feel that makes it sound like it could have been released in 1991 or 2014.  Aside from the crunching guitars and perfect pop hooks, what truly makes this record excel is Kasper’s lush and sensuous vocals.  From top to bottom Fatten the Leeches is an excellent record...

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