Class of 2014: The Overachievers

2014-Overacheivers

2014 was a very good year in music. I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was very good. There were only a few perfect albums, but there were countless attempts that came close to hitting the mark. It was the year of introspection. It was the year of the singer-songwriter. It was the year of stories (as is evident from my #1 pick). It was also a great year for female artists. What follows is my list of the 40 albums that defined my year. They are ranked by my tastes during the process of making this list, which is to say that they are not necessarily ranked by musical excellence or artistic merit, and that the order might have been different if I had done this a week earlier, or a week later. The rankings are not set in stone. But that’s true with any year-end list, right? They’re all subjective. Not only are the lists based on one person’s tastes, those tastes can change depending on that person’s mood from day-to-day and minute-to-minute. This list is no exception.

This list is flawed, as they all are, but I seriously believe that although I might regret the order as time passes, I will stand by my picks. There isn’t anyone out there who will agree with this list in its entirety, but that’s not really the point. This is my list. Mine alone. These are the albums I spent the most time with in 2014. These are the albums I spent (or will spend) my money on. I just hope you take the time to browse through it. I hope you take the time to find something you didn’t know about. I hope you agree with some of my picks. I hope you make fun of some of my picks. Let’s start a conversation…only then will we both get something out of it. But if not, no worries, this will just serve as my personal document of another year listening…so others don’t have to.

I did separate my Top 30 Extreme Albums this year. They can be found here.

Jenny Lewis

#40. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
(Warner Bros)

if you wanna get to heaven, get out of this world

Jenny Lewis – Just One Of The Guys

Lana Del Rey

#39. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
(Interscope/Polydor)

the West Coast, they got their icons

Lana Del Rey – Brooklyn Baby

Kevin Gates

#38. Kevin Gates – Luca Basia 2/By Any Means (my own mixtape of the best tracks)
(Breadwinners Association)

who tha fuck dat dair…I done caught amnesia

Kevin Gates – Don’t Know

Perfume Genius

#37. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
(Matador)

wear my body like a rotted peach

Perfume Genius – No Good

Merchandise

#36. Merchandise – After the End
(4AD)

stuck here on the wrong side of the world

Merchandise – Green Lady

Damien Rice

#35. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy
(Warner Bros.)

when you left, you left the blame

Damien Rice – The Greatest Bastard

The New Pornographers

#34. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
(Matador)

we could save lives, if we don’t spend them

The New Pornographers – Champions Of Red Wine

FKA Twigs

#33. FKA twigs – LP1
(Young Turks)

you’re younger than I am broken

FKA twigs – Two Weeks

Leonard Cohen

#32. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
(Columbia)

have to die a little between each murderous thought

Leonard Cohen – Almost Like the Blues

Jessie Ware

#31. Jessie Ware – Tough Love
(Universal Island/PMR)

speak louder than the words you sowed

Jessie Ware – Tough Love

Drive-By Truckers

#30. Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
(ATO)

staring through his own taillights and gathering speed

Drive-By Truckers – First Air Of Autumn

Benjamin Booker

#29. Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
(ATO)

the future is slow coming

Benjamin Booker – Violent Shiver

TVOTR

#28. TV on the Radio – Seeds
(Harvest)

a hot night on the bridge, the one you’re burning

TV on the Radio – Winter

Lagwagon

#27. Lagwagon – Hang
(Fat Wreck Chords)

not getting through to you in a song

Lagwagon – Reign

Beachers

#26. Bleachers – Strange Desire
(RCA)

counting seconds through the night and got carried away

Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better

Wovenhand

#25. Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
(Glitterhouse/Deathwish)

the thaw reveals what the ice has hidden

Wovenhand – Corsicana Clip

Against Me

#24. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
(Total Treble)

we can’t choose how we’re made

Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel

Have A Nice Life

#23. Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World
(The Flenser)

never thought life would last this long

Have A Nice Life – Burial Society

Lucinda Williams

#22. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
(Highway 20)

the world gonna stay, and go without me

Lucinda Williams – Big Mess

Nikki Lane

#21. Nikki Lane – All or Nothin’
(New West)

ain’t looking for love, just a little danger

Nikki Lane – You Can’t Talk To Me Like That

D'Angelo

#20. D’Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah
(RCA)

shut your mouth off and focus on what you feel inside

D’Angelo – Sugah Daddy

Caribou

#19. Caribou – Our Love
(Merge/City Slang)

your kiss and your touch are both like a poison

Caribou – Silver

EMA

#18. EMA – The Future’s Void
(Matador)

feel like I blew my soul out across the interwebs

EMA – 3Jane

Run The Jewels

#17. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
(Mass Appeal)

and I love Dr. King, but violence might be necessary
cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary
you might have to pull your AK, send one to the cemetery

Run the Jewels – Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)

Emma Ruth Rundle

#16. Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean
(Sargent House)

come here wasted and with selfish, saddened things

Emma Ruth Rundle – Shadows Of My Name

Mitski

#15. Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek
(Double Double Whammy)

love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony

Mitski – Townie

Angel Olsen

#14. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
(Jagjaguwar)

keep our hands, our legs, even our lips apart, but I’m giving you my heart?

Angel Olsen – Windows

Caleb Caudle

#13. Caleb Caudle – Paint Another Layer On My Heart
(This Is American Music)

home doesn’t share you with the places you’ve been

Caleb Caudle – Miss You Like Crazy

The War on Drugs

#12. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
(Secretly Canadian)

just livin’ in the moment, making our past, losin’ our grasp

The War on Drugs – Suffering

Sharon Van Etten

#11. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
(Jagjaguwar)

steal my soul so I am one with you

Sharon Van Etten – Afraid of Nothing

Taylor Swift

#10. Taylor Swift – 1989
(Big Machine)

darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Taylor Swift – Out of the Woods

Future Islands

#9. Future Islands – Singles
(4AD)

the winter will wash what is left of the taste

Future Islands – Fall From Grace

Sturgill Simpson

#8. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
(High Top Mountain)

you might go crazy, but then again it might make you go sane

Sturgill Simpson – Just Let Go

Arlo McKinley

#7. Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound – Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound
(self-released)

like gunmen and gamblers, outlaws and ramblers, I have moved through this world all alone

Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound – Time In Bars

Strand of Oaks

#6. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
(Dead Oceans)

on a long desert train, with a knife in my bag, I had your sweet tunes to play

Strand of Oaks – Goshen ‘97

Lykke Li

#5. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
(LL)

love me like I’m not made of stone

Lykke Li – Just Like A Dream

James Vincent McMorrow

#4. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
(Vagrant)

time wasn’t the only coward

James Vincent McMorrow – Red Dust

Beck

#3. Beck – Morning Phase
(Capitol)

these are words we use to say goodbye

Beck – Blue Moon

Lydia Loveless

#2. Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
(Bloodshot)

got a bad idea and that’s all I really wanna do

Lydia Loveless – Verlaine Shot Rimbaud

Sun Kil Moon

#1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
(Caldo Verde)

you don’t just raise two kids and take out your trash and die

You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t add commentary around any of my picks this year. There were a couple reasons for that. First, I wanted the music to speak for itself. Sometimes I read reviews of albums that end up skewing my own opinion of the music within. I didn’t want to do that for these releases. Second, I really just didn’t have the time. That being said, I felt the need to explain why I picked Benji as my album of the year. I have been a fan of Mark Kozelek ever since my sister’s boyfriend burned me a copy of Tiny Cities back in 2005. I had always been a Modest Mouse fan, but the way Koz stripped those songs down to their bare essentials made me appreciate the lyrics that I had hardly noticed before. He had a way of extracting the stories buried in those songs. His original material is even more compelling. Whether he is recording on his own, with various collaborators, or as Sun Kil Moon, the man defines the gift of storytelling — and Benji just might be his masterpiece. It essentially sums up a life in 11 songs. When I first started listening to this album I thought it was too drawn out and depressing, even for a Mark Kozelek album, but as I spent more and more time with it, the genius of the whole thing became apparent. Parents, family, significant others and the death of those close to you will always weigh heavy on your life, but it’s also the small things that define you– things like seeing a movie in the theater, or a deep seeded guilt for adolescent actions that only you remember, or a neighbor girl who had a crush on you, or even the first time you learned that true evil exists in the world via the nightly news. Some of the most important life events don’t seem so important at the time, and they arn’t to anyone else, but they find a special hiding place in your mind and influence everything about who you are. That is something I never really thought about until I listened to this album. Koz shone a light on all my little (extremely important) things by sharing his own. And I think that’s the point of this album He didn’t name it after his mom or dad, or cousin or uncle, even though they are cast in leading roles on this album. He named it Benji, because something about seeing that film affected his life. In the same way that Facebook will never be able to sum up the highlights of your year using some algorithm, nobody will ever know your life story except for you. Koz did his best to present his story with this album, and in the process he helped me uncover my own.

Sun Kil Moon – Jim Wise

Favorite Albums of 2014:
#40. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
#39. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
#38. Kevin Gates – Luca Basia 2/By Any Means (my own mixtape of the best tracks)
#37. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
#36. Merchandise – After the End
#35. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy
#34. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
#33. FKA twigs – LP1
#32. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
#31. Jessie Ware – Tough Love
#30. Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
#29. Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
#28. TV on the Radio – Seeds
#27. Lagwagon – Hang
#26. Bleachers – Strange Desire
#25. Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate
#24. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
#23. Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World
#22. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
#21. Nikki Lane – All or Nothin’
#20. D’Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah
#19. Caribou – Our Love
#18. EMA – The Future’s Void
#17. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
#16. Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean
#15. Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek
#14. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
#13. Caleb Caudle – Paint Another Layer On My Heart
#12. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
#11. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
#10. Taylor Swift – 1989
#9.   Future Islands – Singles
#8.   Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
#7.   Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound – Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound
#6.   Strand of Oaks – HEAL
#5.   Lykke Li – I Never Learn
#4.   James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
#3.   Beck – Morning Phase
#2.   Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
#1.   Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Class of 2014: The Soundtrack
Class of 2014: Children of the Damned
Class of 2014: The Performers
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Favorite Albums 2014