You would think that compiling an end of year best-of list would be simple enough. For most of us, that's the easy and logical way out. Truth be told, that model is becoming more and more flawed for me, as I invariably discover my favorite release of any given year the year after, and in some cases years later, thereby nullifying the supposedly "static" ranking I routinely prepare at the end of December. To give you a more honest representation of my annual soundtrack, my sequence for 2014 is based roughly on how often I listened to a piece of music. Albums from the year passed feature prominently (nineteen by my count), but older titles that I either recently learned of and/or didn't give a concerted listen to when I initially purchased them also made the cut, based largely on the frequency they occupied my stereo, earbuds, etc. Too idiosyncratic for my own good, I know. If I've already confused/alienated you I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe I'll just skip the list thing in the future altogether, but I digress.
2014 turned out to be the year of Philly for some reason. I would say that a recent trip there prompted me to dedicate four slots to bands from the city of brotherly love, but truthfully, my awareness of Marietta and The A's predated my journey, and the Wonder Years and Beach Slang didn't make it onto my radar until months after returning home. My number one pic is a prime example of me discovering my "album of the year" posthumously. Marietta's debut, Summer Death is everything a legitimate emo record should be - sincere, skittish, cathartic, and even a tad tone deaf albeit oddly melodic. A sophomore record is sure to follow, but I question their ability to top this one. The Wonder Years are a guilty pleasure fit for the Warped Tour circuit. Nonetheless their second album, The Upsides (which I found at a thrift shop for a mere $1) is one of the most invigorating examples of post-adolescent angst to ever grace my jaded, aging ears. As for Beach Slang, I think we'll be hearing plenty more from them in the coming months. Check out the link.
Were it not for having my mind blown via Passion Pit's Manners in 2009, electronic-based music would have been as irrelevant to me in 2014 as it was in say, 1994. Thankfully I wised up. Porter Robinson's Worlds was pretty much at the pinnacle of the laptop-cum-snyth heap this year, wielding a dizzying array of glitched-out grooves and Auto-Tuned trix. The devastatingly infectious Great Good Fine Ok, had a more saccharine take on the whole techno-pop bag, while slightly bygone digital delights from Desire, Postiljonen, and Breathe Carolina also rolled into the same wheelhouse.
As for the new(ish) crop, Cheatahs, Lees of Memory (that's Johnathan Davis of Superdrag's newgazer outfit), Eagulls, and The Hobbes Fanclub all dazzled with winsome indie-guitar rock albums that delivered on the strength of 2013 singles and eps. Bravo to Literature for their unsuspecting sophomore disk Chorus, and to Dinosaur Pile-Up for one of the most visceral power-chord motorcades this side of the Foo Fighter's Wasting Light. Brooklyn's pedal-hopping Regal Degal dazzled me when they opened for DIVV this summer, and I quickly absorbed their back catalog. What Moon Things issued a devastating declaration of revivalist post-punk, and Imaginary Cities crafty pop persuasion could simply not go unmentioned.
Don't call them a comeback: The Manic's Futurology went a long way in rectifying 2013's limp and underwhelming Rewind the Film. Elsewhere, Interpol's latest humdinger, Elpintor, was the most impressive thing they've put their stamp on since Antics, Floor's concussive, bludgeoning Oblation shoved me off the fence and into their demi-stoner camp, while Lagwagon ended a nine-year LP drought with the blistering, metallic k.o. of Hang.
It was also a year for some exceedingly belated discoveries, key among them New Model Army (in their early prime I might add). Speaking of Britain, I also uncovered a thoughtful reissue of an arcane but superlative female-fronted post punk set who went by the moniker of Indian Dream, and then there was Seattle's Queen Annes, whose Something Quick collection revealed a bevy of fantastic and multifaceted tunes far outdoing the single I shared by them years ago. The New Dylans' twenty year ol' Warren Piece was my retro pure-pop platter of choice for '14, and wouldn't you know it, they're just getting around to assembling their third LP due in the new year. Finally, Italy's Victrola, whose 1983 Maritime Tatami 12" single was revived thirty years after-the-fact, dominated my coldwave playlist for the past twelve months.
In the "I had it lying around for some time now, but just got around to it" file, I shed overdue light on scintillating records from Lowest of the Low, Heatmiser, Moss Icon, Death Cab, and Philadelphia's long defunct power pop-purveyors The A's.
After the list, you'll find a link to a mix of songs from exactly half of the roster outlined below. It skews more towards the newbies, but that's the only clue I'll concede. There's no track list, and the songs aren't presented in any particular order, so cherry pick to your heart's content. This was my 2014 soundtrack in a nutshell - a haphazard, top-40 countdown that only a wilfully obscure nutjob like myself could conceive. Enjoy (or not).
01. Marietta - Summer Death (2013)
02. The Wonder Years - The Upsides (2010)
03. Porter Robinson - Worlds (2014)
04. Postiljonen - Skyer (2013)
05. The New Dylans - Warren Piece (1994)
06. New Model Army - Vengeance - The Whole Story 1980-84
07. Merchandise - After the End (2014)
08. Trevor Keith - Melancholics Anonymous (2010)
09. Lees of Memory - Sisyphus Says (2014)
10. Great Good Fine Ok - Body Diamond ep (2014)
11. Beach Slang - Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street ep & Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken ep (2014)
12. Lowest of the Low - Hallucigenia (1994)
13. Imaginary Cities - Fall of Romance (2013)
14. Orange Roughies - Detroit (2012)
15. Floor - Oblation (2014)
16. Victrola - Maritime Tatami 12" (orig. 1983, reissued 2013)
17. San Angelus - Soon We’ll All Be Ghosts (2014)
18. Moss Icon - Complete Discography (2012)
19. Breathe Carolina - Hello Fascination (2009)
20. The Bon Mots - Best Revenge (2014)
21. The A's - The A's/A Woman's Got the Power CD (1979/1981)
22. Cheatahs - s/t (2014)
23. Eagulls - s/t (2014)
24. Desire - Desire II (2009)
25. The Square Root of Now - Bent Around Corners (1987)
26. The Queen Annes - Something Quick 1980-85 (2014)
27. The Wake - s/t ep (1985)
28. Death Cab For Cutie - The Photo Album (2001)
29. Manic Street Preachers - Futurology (2014)
30. Lagwagon - Hang (2014)
31. What Moon Things - s/t (2014)
32. Hobbes Fanclub - Up at Lagrange (2014)
33. Interpol - Elpintor (2014)
34. Dinosaur Pile-up - Nature Nurture (2014)
35. Heatmiser - Mic City Sons (1996)
36. Literature - Chorus (2014)
37. Indian Dream - Orca (1989)
38. Regal Degal - Pyramid Bricks ep (2013)/Veritable Who's Who (2012)
39. Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band - s/t (2014)
40. Popstrangers - Fortuna (2014)