Better Late Than Never
Rooster Roundabout’s Top 5 albums of 2014
For about a year and a half, this column has been a nice way to relay what's new and exciting in music. And what better way to learn about different goings-on in the music-sphere than to read it from someone like you, someone who is genuinely interested. Having said that, 2014 was an excellent year in aural exploration. We saw many releases from a wide array of talent. Don't get me wrong; there were also some shit-storms that don't need mentioning. But here are my Top 5 albums of 2014. NOTE: Not all of these albums were released in 2014; these are just the top picks that I listened to throughout the year. Enjoy!
I'm gonna go out on a limb with this one, but the first time I heard Aly Spaltro's record, my initial reaction was, “Who is this girl? The female Jeff Mangum or something?” It wasn't until I began to investigate her, read her interviews and such, that I read what a profound influence Neutral Milk Hotel was on this guitar-toting, poetic songstress. It makes sense. This record is phenomenal from start to finish. From all-out guitar rockers (see: “Bird Balloons” and “Crane Your Neck”) to folk-inflected manifestos (see: “Regarding Ascending the Stairs” and “Florence Berlin”), this album just doesn't stop. The great thing to note about it, though, is that these tracks aren't your typical verse/
If you didn't read my review on St. Vincent's fourth, eponymous album, it's not necessary. Because I'm about to say (again) what I loved so much about it. Firstly, St. Vincent's tunes can get weird (see: “Bring Me Your Loves”), but that doesn't stop Annie Clark from venturing toward Earth once her space ship has run low on fuel. This album is easily her most accessible effort, which is evident when you hear the poppy grooves of “Digital Witness.” But as I said before, she’s not afraid to get weird. Hell, she even referred to the album as a “party record you could play at a funeral.” If that doesn't give you some semblance of the vibe she was going for, I don't know what will. Each track is incredible; however, my personal favorite is album closer “Severed Crossed Fingers.” It just sort of brings the mayhem back to a place of feeling ... you know feeling the mayhem ... or some such disease.
I was skeptical about this one. Not only because the band had announced their “hiatus” before the record even came about, but also because you have to assume that with how much they record, they're bound to run out of steam at some point. Well, John Dwyer and company proved me wrong. While the album had a more whimsical bent than previous album Floating Coffin, it still retained their psychedelic/garage tendencies, making this somewhat of a new frontier for the band. Therefore, this record proved that a group can experiment with their sound without forgetting what makes them good in the first place. (This is why The Strokes suck now.) “Encrypted Bounce (A Queer Sound)” was my anthem for a good month. The blippy guitars, the catchy beat, Dwyer's falsetto; it all culminates into a perfect mess of a song. But don't take my word for it. Other notable tracks include “Savage Victory,” “The Kings Nose” and “The Lens.”
Oh, the early sounds of protopunk. If there was ever a band that had that shit on lock, it was The Sonics. Though they still tour occasionally, this LP was them at their height. Granted, it was their first album—and almost all of the songs are covers—the energy on this record is palpable. I first encountered this album in high school, thanks to these two crazy Colombian sisters, and have revisited it many times over the years. Their take on such numbers as “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Have Love Will Travel” and (my personal favorite) “Walkin' the Dog” are enough to get any party going. I even attended a soiree in the Duke City where they played dubstep, and everyone kind of just stood around. Taking over the stereo system, I plugged in my iPhone and played this record, and the tone of the party changed. People danced! If that's not total proof of the power of good music to change the world (or at least inspire a dance party), then I don't know what is.
I found this little number in my MOJO Compendium of Greatest Albums from 1950-2010 a few years ago. And 2014 was a year that I rediscovered it in my CD booklet and had it on repeat for a good month or so. It's that good. At the time his debut album was released, Billy Fury was considered England's answer to Elvis Presley. I can see why that comparison exists, but the important thing to know about Fury was that he was an excellent songwriter who got famous off his own merit. He wrote every song on The Sound of Fury, including my personal favorite “You Don't Know,” a heartbreaking tune that calls out to the woman he yearns for to understand how much he needs her, though she’s unaware of his feelings. It's real stuff. Other notable tracks include “Turn My Back On You,” “Phone Call” and “It's You I Need.”
That’s it, folks! Hope 2015 brings some mellifluous sounds!