There’s something that I have been doing in the past year that has made my life better on so many different levels that I can’t begin to explain the joys I feel when doing it. Or as you kids say nowadays “the feels I feel”.
I’m, of course, talking about playing an album from start to finish. When’s the last time you listened to an album, cover to cover? Exactly, you haven’t! You’ll listen to a few songs here and there, but most of us don’t like all the songs on an album or don’t download all the songs on an album, let alone find those hidden gems at the very end of an album (I’m talking to you, Golden Slumbers/Carry the Weight/The End) till much later when we’ve heard all the hits a hundred times.
So I thought I’d give my take on the best albums from 2014 that were the best from Come Together to Her Majesty. These are in order, by the way, from number five to number one, so please, I eagerly await your hate mail.
5: Taylor Swift – 1989
Shut up! I know. We can all hate, judge, ridicule and just plain shame each other all we want, but this album has it all: self-awareness, sass, pop, feel-good vibes, and most importantly, Mademoiselle Swift being sexy. That’s right, Little Miss Teardrops On My Guitar still has southern charm and it’s hot; from the fast-paced slow jam that is ‘Blank Space’, to the heat charged ‘Shake it Off’, Taylor Swift is trying to seduce you.
This is probably the best album since her self-titled debut but it couldn’t be farther from it. The entire album feels like a sex-charged drug binge, but in a good way. With an instant Taylor-classic in ‘All you had to do was Stay’ and a far-from-Taylor-classic ‘Bad Blood’, this is one you just have to listen to all the way through.
A perfect example of a group of songs that just feels at home together, 1989 never really feels like it’s changing pace on you, although it’s climbing right in front of your eyes, or ears in this case. I could listen to this entire album and not even realize the pause in between each song, and believe me I have.
Best Song: ‘Blank Space’
Hidden Gem: ‘How You Get The Girl’
4: Spoon – They Want My Soul
For the rest of you, Spoon has been around for twenty years and this is their Mona Lisa.
First you’re hit with the heavy ‘Rent I Pay’ and it doesn’t really let up from there. You’re then dragged into the inside of ‘Inside Out’, which will just continue the simply fantastic beat that is ever-present in throughout all of ‘They Want My Soul’.
All of it just makes you want to get up and dance, and I don’t say that often. It’s a fuel-injected feel and you just can’t get enough; from the fun ‘Do You’ to the flawless title track, all the way to ‘Let Me Be Mine’, if you need an album to listen to at the gym, in the car, at a party, and anywhere good times are to be had, this is it.
Don’t stop until you’ve had your ‘New York Kiss’.
Best Song: ‘Do You’
Hidden Gem: ‘Let Me Be Mine’
3: The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Ah the bronze medal. I know I said these were in order, but at this point it’s just a matter of opinion. I had this flip-flop with my number two entry for most of the summer and it basically just came down to the number of tracks. When I was first introduced to The War on Drugs in January, I thought I was late to the greatest band of the ’80s.
I was late to the party, just by three years, and not three decades. Eight, if you count the Kurt Vile years. ‘Lost in the Dream’ is a return to the great albums I listened to as a kid, such as Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding, Dire Straits’ Dire Straits and, dare I say, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.
Don’t ever stop or skip a single song; it’s a pure ear-gasm. The same way Lennon is reincarnated in Tame Impala, Dylan is young again in the album. More emotional than political, the voice is undeniably familiar and each song makes you feel like you’re driving home for Thanksgiving. Nostalgic and perfect for a road-trip, you’ll be singing all the words by the time you get to ‘Eyes to the Wind’ for the third time, and you will get to it for a third time. This album just cries out to be played on repeat every Sunday afternoon of your life.
Best Song: ‘An Ocean In Between the Waves’
Hidden Gem: ‘In Reverse’
4: Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time
Deliciously dark and soulful at the same time, it almost plays out like an old story passed down through many generations. The sophomore effort from the Carolina couple really builds on the charm and beauty that their voices displayed in ‘O Be Joyful’. Exploding with heavy vocals, simple drum hits and the occasional distortion, this album will have you fall in love with the dark side of southern folk.
‘The Devil is All Around’ will start off your adventure and, lyrically, it’ll fall into the sinful ‘Evil’ and ‘After the Storm’ and you’ll hop off of Huck’s raft to dance at the fair to ‘Coping Mechanism’ and ‘Pinned’. But you’ll be back down the Mississippi for ‘Swimmin’ Time’ and you’ll hear of the beautiful horrors of ‘Ohio’ until you finally find love with ‘Mary-Ann & One-Eyed Dan’ where you’ll spend the rest of your life living happily ever-after for the rest of the album.
Each song’s tales are told through this fantastic duo’s wailing voices and, oh boy, you’ll never tire of hearing these rich narratives. Trust me, it’ll be the best hour and five minutes you hear for the rest of the year.
Best Song: ‘Ohio’
Hidden Gem: ‘Mary-Ann & One-Eyed Dan’
1: Mounties – Thrash Rock Legacy
And who better to be on the said mountain then the Mounties themselves.
The love child of Hawksley Workman, Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays and Limblifter’s Ryan Dahle, this album is more than just ‘Pretty Respectable’.
Workman provides one of the best performances on drums that I’ve ever heard, almost Bonham-esque. The vocal duelling that goes on between the guys really makes for a fantastic mix that makes each new song a mini adventure. With catchy keys and thick bass in each song from ‘Headphones’ to ‘The Twig and the Tree’ to ‘Guaranteed Blonde Enough’, TRL is to die for.
Not to be out-done by fast-paced songs kickers like ‘Made Up My Mind’ and solid anthems like ‘Minimum Effort’, Thrash Rock Legacy really puts up a quality argument for the Grammys and is a guaranteed lock for all the Junos.
There’s nothing more you could possibly want in album, it even has a catchy tune entitled ‘Hall & Oates’ just for fun, and you’re goddamned right you’ll sing along to it. To boot, ‘Latch Key Kids’ is thrown in the end to give you just a little taste of something unusually lovely. ‘Late Nights’ is officially the last song on the album, but it’s really the middle because you’re not stopping at one full play-through.
Thrash Rock Legacy. Get it now. Thank me later.
Best Song: ‘If This Dance Catches On’
Hidden Gem: ‘Feeling Low’