Welcome to my annual list of my favorite records of the year. I heard probably .000000001% of what was released this year, so there is nothing scientific about this list–it’s just records I love that I want to share with the world (our eight readers). I did not listen to enough female pop music–Jhene Aiko, Banks, Tinashe, and Jessie Ware will all get some attention in the coming weeks. If there’s something I should hear, by all means, add it in the comments.
1. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
Somewhere Else was of the first great records I heard this year, and I never stopped listening to it. In fact, my obsession with it increased, and I could be seen all year blasting “To Love Somebody” in my car while singing along poorly or telling a friend about the cunnilingus anthem “Head.”
2. Nude Beach, 77
You probably missed it, but Nude Beach has released the best power pop record of the past decade. Sometimes it sounds like the most classic Tom Petty tunes of the 80s and other times it makes me want to rock out like Cheap Trick. It takes a very special record without any female involvement to make it into my top 10 and this is definitely it.
3. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness
I’m thrilled that BYFFNW is getting placed on prestigious end-of-year lists above buzzy juggernauts like War on Drugs and Run the Jewels (though I LOVE both those LPs too). Angel spends most of the album encouraging us to wallow in her sadness but it ends with “Windows,” where she coos to us to open up the windows and let the light in. YES, PLEASE.
4. Perfect Pussy, Say Yes to Love
Unquestionably, Perfect Pussy released the most important record of 2014, as it introduced the new voice of Meredith Graves. Her lyrics are confessional but also about bigger ideas, which is exactly how she presents herself in countless interviews and essays.
5. Frankie Cosmos, Zentropy
I wrote this off a little when I first heard it–juvenile, silly, forgettable. But Zentropy stuck with me all year, and I put it on again and again when the craving for cute pop songs struck me.
6. The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers
After I finished grad school, I decided to cut back on the booze and exercise more. This record was the soundtrack to my long, meandering walks through my neighborhood and into the large city park nearby. It is a buoyant album that will probably endure as my favorite of all the NP’s output.
7. Radiator Hospital, Torch Song
Sam Cook-Parrott is a totally underrated songwriter. He continuously releases tons of super catchy, lo-fi songs on his bandcamp page, so fast I can barely keep up. But like last year’s Something Wild, Torch Song was recorded professionally (ie not in his kitchen), where his songs are given more life with his bandmates and guest vocalists (Allison Crutchfield, who put out her own awesome lo-fi music this year with Sam).
8. Ex Hex, Rips
Mary Timony is the fucking coolest. I met her this year when Ex Hex played Richmond when I bought a tee shirt and was kind of an asshole to her, but that’s because she makes me so nervous. Rips is ALSO the fucking coolest, the LP we all want at our late night dance parties to go along with our cheap beer and tight jeans.
9. The Unwound box set reissues on Numero; Rat Conspiracy and No Energy
Sure, it is cheating to put a reissue on this list, but these are just so good. Both box sets included two of the bands’ full length LPs, one rarities collection and a stunning book of pictures and well written accounts of what it was like to be unsung rock and roll heroes.
10. Mitski, Bury Me at Makeout Creek
I worry so much about records that have a song I love as much as Mitski’s “Townie.” I hate when everything else that doesn’t sound like that one song feels like a failure. Luckily, Mitski avoids this trap by writing a mixture of songs that are folky, poppy, and experimental.
11. Weyes Blood, The Innocents
Weyes Blood AKA Natalie Mering, writes music that doesn’t deserve to be pigeonholed. I think as I listen to this literary, lush record even more I will love it even more deeply.
12. Shamir, Northtown EP
I have a thing for new voices this year: like Meredith Graves, Shamir is something original, combining so many genres into a record where he throws his heart into every song. Recently signed to XL, he is the future. Don’t miss this one, please.
13. LVL UP, Hookwink’d
I hope I am not trying to relive my college years by listening to so much that reminds me of the 90s. This time, however, the pop punk is smarter and less whiny. I did not expect to fall in love with Hoodwink’d so fast but the songwriting it just so good. This is the third record on my list from Double Double Whammy (Frankie Cosmos & Mitski are the others), a label you should start following.
14. Tacocat, NVM
NVM features a song about menstruation (“Crimson Wave”), one about being harassed on the street (“Hey Girl”), and eleven other songs that make me so happy that this band exists. They also did this, which is genius and wonderful.
15. One Direction, Four
I had been planning to do this post where I rank all the songs on 1D’s fourth record. Trust me, it was going to be hilarious. But when I expanded my list to 15 records (ok, just this morning I decided to change), I knew I wanted to include Four, which includes several songs (“Girl Almighty,” “No Control,” and “Fireproof”), that if they were by different artists, would be huge indie hits. And hey, Lindsey Zoladz agrees with me.
Other things I loved: Grouper, Hamilton Leithauser, Run the Jewels, Literature, Gold-Bears, Sylvan Esso, Tiny Ruins, Curtis Harding, and lots of records that did not come out in 2014.
Songs from all of these records and more can be found on my Spotify playlist: