Thursday, February 26, 2015

Albums of the Year 2014

Beck : Morning Phase
I don’t wish those extended periods, bordering on depression, possibly depression, on other people. I might wish them dead, but not depressed. Still, when an album maps to your mood, that’s when they find an important place in your collection.

D’Angelo : Black Messiah
In the mid/late 90s D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill were Adam and Eve for a new era of soul music. Hill’s vacation from music and public life was governmentally imposed. D’Angelo’s demons came in a bottle. Their returns matter.

The War on Drugs : Lost in the Dream
Restless and tense and not concerned with genre. The band’s maturation laid bare across each track culminating with the cathartic “In Reverse.”

Lucinda Williams: Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone
Book-ended by her father’s poem turned to song and a JJ Cale track and packed with 18 original songs that remind us that Williams is more force of nature than mere musician.

St. Vincent : St. Vincent
Despite the acclaim, I never felt I “got” her music. A cold veneer seemed to shut me out. With this self-titled album, she seems to use the cold as part of the appeal. She’s called it a “party record you could play at a funeral” and who am I to correct her.

Mary J. Blige : The London Sessions 
I’m not sure if Blige needed to leave the states to make an album this delightfully diverse, but I’m glad she did. On Santana’s Supernatural someone once said it’s amazing what you can do with 11 producers and 9 guest artists…
Sturgill Simpson : Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 
Pushing Simpson’s neo-traditional brilliance and authentically great songs to the side, he covers “The Promise” and it fucking rules.

Rosanne Cash : The River and the Thread
She’s been releasing critically acclaimed albums back to back recently, but its taken this release to find more Grammy love. The album isn’t instantly gratifying, but ages really well.

Mac DeMarco : Salad Days
Loose, sometimes rollicking, singer-songwriter’s paean to everything weighing heavy on his mind, with no theme other that exorcising some demons. It stakes its claim between the grittiness of the Mountain Goats and the polish of Frank Turner.

Neneh Cherry : Blank Project 
25 years ago she released an audacious debut that would become one of the defining blueprints of hip hop for decades. With her fourth album she goes minimal in an aggressive way. Aggressively minimal, is that a thing? It probably will be.