2014 was an eclectic year of new releases from bands both new to me, and just fresh out the gate of their careers. Some old faithfulls, as well as some new torch carriers and noise makers. As per usual, my favorite records of the year all over the map, sometimes I even confuse myself to be completely transparent. My note pad tends to end up looking like a John Madden play breakdown, complete with gravy stains. Next year I've decided to implement the NCAA football playoff algorithm, deciding the best record with a flip of my unlucky coin. Until then, 2014 housed some exceptional life experiences for me, and my list is no doubt a look into to where my head is, and has been all year. Thanks for taking the time to entertain my meaningless opinions!
Honorable Mentions: Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound - Self Titled, Chuck Ragan - Till Midnight, Centro-matic - Take Pride In Your Long Odds, Dead Volts - We Are Already Dead
Philly's sonic-indie hero's delivered another power punch to succeed they're near perfect last album, Slave Ambient, back in 2011. I've been a fan of the band since well before Kurt Vile's departure after Wagonwheel Blues. I have to admit I've been a definite fan of the bands evolution erstwhile. Secretly Canadian and it's ever growing stable of artists never disappoints.
Even the album name is a Springsteen lyric and there are plenty of ways to compare. Josh is a truly gifted songwriter and guitar player. This album is his debut effort, put out and recorded on his own with a little help from friends via fan funding measures. I hear he'll be on the road most of 2015, can't wait to get another record out of him. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/josh-nolan-fair-city-lights
Hands down one of the best country albums of the year, I don't think there's too many singer/songwriters with the amount of soul this man puts into songs every time he picks up a guitar. Superb songwriting, an endless appetite for the road, Matt Woods is personally making sure that Matt Woods is on the map. Taking part in that mission, you're missing out if you don't own this album. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/matt-woods-%E2%80%93-love-brushy-mountain
The band's 6th studio album is a bonafide keeper. Chock full of Mark Kozolek trade mark sad songs with plenty of loud guitar rock and weirdness. Eccentricities and curmudgeon status aside, Kozolek is a phenomenal song writer and Benji is yet another example of his prolificness and masterful nylon-stringed guitar prowess.
Wussy's 5th studio effort is just...wow. Chuck Cleaver, Lisa Walker, and Company have crafted a masterpiece, now with pedal steel guitar player John Ehrhardt to boot. Such a valuable commodity to the Wussy sound, certainly adds a whole new variable. Love this record from start to finish, up and down, in and out.
The songs this man crafts are simply superb, they chew you up and make you have all these feelings and stuff. Don't get it twisted, Caudle can out rock you too, but PALOMH is a collection of heart-stirring, alt-country gems. A super talented singer/songwriter whom I have it on good faith, is writing up a storm as of late. Definitely can't wait to hear the new songs. Looks like label This Is American Music will be busy this 2015. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/caleb-caudle-paint-another-layer-my-heart
I some how spaced on Denver's self-titled debut, I will never space on anything Denver again. Portland's "ramshackle all-star country band" has a bonafide gem with Rowdy Love, now I need to find a way to get them to play some east coast shows. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/denver-rowdy-love
Another one of the best country records I've heard, not only this year but in a super long time. Jp and Company take it back where it belongs but in no way as a mockery. There's an almost punk edge to it but I'm not certain that doesn't come from people judging upon appearance. Whatever it is, I love this album and the first record, I'll Keep Calling, is no slouch either. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/jp-harris-and-tough-choices-%E2%80%93-home-where-hurt
The first time I set the needle on this record I got that mdma-esque rush that raises your neck hairs and such. I couldn't turn it loud enough and it's beyond bull shit, descriptive jargon like breath taking, it's a seismic ride through southern politics and history, running on hell-fire, dual guitar absurdity. It's so good it's scary and some of the smartest and well read lyrics although it'll take you a few listens before you even get to that layer because...guitars.
Stu Simpson may be the savior for real country music, albeit reluctant to carry that burden. The man simply loves writing and playing music. And if you've seen him live like I have, there is no doubt in your mind. A sound all his own that will appeal to Waylon and Wynn fans as well as ZZ Top and Queen fans, how's that for bridging a gap?
Another solid full-length from North Carolina by way of San Francisco's MC Taylor and friends as Hiss Golden Messenger. The follow up to just last year's Haw picks up right at the end of that rail. Almost a continuation it not only sound but also emotionally. A true veteran of the music business hitting his musical stride in olympic equine measures -- simply an awesome record. Original review from No Depression: http://nodepression.com/album-review/hiss-golden-messenger-lateness-dancers
Ahhh Lydia. That sultry, soulful voice never gets old, and I've listened to this record more than a lot. The title track could be my favorite song of the year too. The band sounds incredible and the songs more so. You would never guess that voice and lyrical prowess are emitting from a beautiful women in just her mid 20s, not to mention already a prize in the Bloodshot Records stable. Beautiful record.
1. Spoon - They Want My Soul:
The Austin, TX quintet shattered all my expectations with this album. I was slightly not in love with the last record, Transference, and was praying for something with more of an edge like albums past. Thanks to answered prayer, Spoon delivered it's special recipe of indie-art noise rock culling some sonic sound waves and samples along the way. Whats left as a perfect rock album that I haven't let rest since it's inception. A little off of my usual tastes as far as 'ssktda' goes, but I've been worshiping at the foot of Spoon for many a year, and are easily one of my favorite live bands to date. Thanks Britt, Jim, Rob, Eric, and Alex for my favorite album of 2014 by a landslide. Enjoy the slice of awesome posted below and happy new year and whatever holiday you celebrate when it's cold out to all y'all. . .
Scott Zuppardo // (ssktda)
NJ // USA