Best Music of 2014 [I Ran Out of Time]

2 Jan

This is supposed to be a post about my top 10 newly released albums of 2014.  As you know, I still haven’t posted 2013’s because I ran out of time then too.  Maybe I’ll just post the unfinished version since I’m now 2 years behind on it.  But this year I was not about to (totally) fail again!  So I just wrote a little blurb about each artist that ended up on my somewhat-narrowed list from throughout the year.  It’s not a true top 10, but gives you an idea of the ones that I found good enough to make my list.  The number of songs are the actual songs that made my list’s cut.  And number of songs I liked is an indication of how well I liked the 2014 album, but isn’t always indicative of a true spot on the list–some artists just had longer or shorter CDs.  So there you have it–and I hope you have the stamina to read this all the way through!

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Imogen Heap (21 songs) had a long album, but the instrumental music was interesting.  I like things I can study to, or work without distraction to, and this fit the bill nicely.  It’s not my absolute favorite of the year, but it gets the job done.

Phillip Phillips (12 songs) was one of my favorite albums of 2014.  He has the characteristic foot-stomping sound and who wouldn’t like that?  “Thicket” had a nice instrumental background that added layers to the sound.  Aside from depth, it made the whole effort seem less poppy and more substantial.  I wish Behind the Light was more lyrically complex and less repetitive though.  I’d like more depth throughout the next record.

Mariah Carey (10 songs) has always been a favorite of mine–that gal can really belt it out!  And I can always FEEL what she’s singing about.  The long-title of the album sucks, but the songs are solid, featuring her characteristic range and emotion.

OK Go (10 songs) is in a top spot, but there are less favorite songs only because their album was shorter.  I think they’ve grown musically, and become less poppy (not that it was ever a bad thing for them).  Hungry Ghosts is still as catchy as ever, but their is an added layer of seriousness to them.

James Vincent McMorrow (10 songs) was a fortunate find.  The music is mellow like Bon Iver and just as easy to listen/study to.  Though the songs aren’t heavy, they bare no less weight.

Boys II Men (9 songs) are back!  I can truthfully say I enjoyed Collide as a present day effort–not just a retro throw back to my middle school years.  It even surpassed some of my staple-bands in 2014.  They have nice harmonies and developed a lot of emotion throughout the album.  “So What” was a soulful ballad of longing that moved me.  “Talkin Under Water” was another standout song.

Eric Clapton (9 songs) obviously knows how to make a successful record.  And Eric Clapton & Friends is no exception.  It has blues, rock, and country and features a smattering of other greats.  I especially liked the old-country “I’ll Be There.”

Jason Mraz (9 songs) is a sentimental favorite of mine since he was my very first concert.  YES! is quieter then his usual pop, and I can’t imagine what the single must have been because it lacks that one super-catchy tune.  I liked the more emotive depth and think it shows maturity.  It’s more serious, but I think with a few listens, all the songs would become favorites.

Spoon (9 songs).  I have always liked Spoon, and this album did not disappoint.  It’s relatively harder then their last effort, which was great to study to.  This one seemed to speak a little louder, but I could still concentrate on other things as I listened.  And instead of only one catchy song, there were a few on They Want My Soul.

Sarah McLachlan (9 songs) was much of the same.  Which is good, but sort of blah too.  I’ve always liked her low-key, feminine sound, but I wish she would take some more risks in her career.  “Monsters” did speak to me, and was my 2nd favorite track on Shine On.  The closer, “In Your Shoes” was my very favorite, because it had a very positive, and uplifting message behind a singable melody.

Lilly Allen (9 songs) has a smattering of different sounding sounds–which I liked.  “Hard Out Here” a feminist anthem, especially resonated with me.  And her cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” surprisingly–hit the mark.

Colbie Caillat (8 songs) put out one of my favorite 2014 albums, Gypsy Heart.  It was sassy/feisty, it was sweet, it was uplifting.  I thought it had good voice throughout the duration, and you know how I like the more bitter samplings, which were provided also.

The Script (8 songs) was never really on my radar before.  I only listened to No Sound Without Silence out of obligation because I recognized their name.  Surprisingly, it was of my favorite offerings of the year.  There was a wide vareity of sounds, from soft, to rocking, to an Irish-sounding fight/drinking-style song (“Paint the Town Green”).

Little Big Town (8 songs) is an eighties band, right?  I recognized the name, but not the sound.  I like the country-pop, the harmonies, and especially–the cheekiness.

Weezer (8 songs) has to be listened to as a collection.  The songs do best as an album unit, not really singing (pun) individually.  It’s a relaxed album, but also has punchy spots like “Cleopatra’s” number shouting segment.  Weezer is always catchy, but I like the range and harmonies highlighted here.  PS–I just love the cover art.

The Kooks (8 songs) are, I swear, a band on my “Feeling Groovy” CD of 1960s hits.  Is that accurate or is this a different band?  It reminds me of hipster music, actually.  Something I might hear at SXSW.  It’s got a quiet, cool, vibe so it’s good.

Jason Derulo (7 songs) had one of my favorite 2014 albums with Talk Dirty.  He jumped from the romantic “Will You Marry Me” to sexy club sex-staple “With the Lights On” flawlessly.  And “The Other Side” proves Jason can sing!  I love the high-notes and think it makes for a perfect single.  I like when an artist can display this range.

Maroon 5 (7 songs) was a long-awaited release for me.  But it spoke to me less then their past efforts.  Maybe it was the hype that let me down.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, I just thought it would be in the top two for the year.  “In Your Pocket” was a standout musically.  It’s the type of song that will get stuck in your head, and it showcases their vocal range and layers.  Unfortunately, I think the concept/lyrics are stupid.  Cheater, show me your phone?  Is this a thing now?  It may be because I’m anti-phone, but this seems random and lame.  “Sex and Candy” was successful–I like the Marcy Playground version more, but this slow, smoldering version was nice in a different way.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (7 songs), aside from having an obnoxiously long name was a decent listen.  Though they sound very much like Ben Kweller to me.

Tim McGraw’s (7 songs) album started out quiet and I was disappointed he got a little old a tired.  BUT about halfway through the songs gained speed, and he cemented his place as one of the top country artists of today.  Anthems, love, drinking, and sing-alongs are all represented here.

Green Day (7 songs) probably should have ranked higher in my list.  I have very high expectations, because Dookie was amongst my first 12 CDs ever (BMG Music Club) and “Basket Case” is one of my all time favorite songs of ever.  So having said that, Demolicious was good.  And a good concept for between new release albums–just not enough.

Counting Crows (7 songs) talks through the songs too much, which is, apparently, a major pet-peeve for me.  I did like the songs though they were much like they always are.  I’d like to hear something refreshing, while still keeping to their roots.  “Scarecrow” was my favorite on Somewhere Under Wonderland.

I liked Train’s (7 songs) last album better.  It was catchy and had a couple stand-out songs.  This one has a sense of desperation and sadness to it.  Also, I feel like they tried to include a peppy/catchy song, but “Just a Memory” and “Angel in Blue Jeans” just comes across as poor renditions of “Drive By” sometimes crossed with “Somebody I Used to Know.”  I mean, it’s good, but it’s not really a happy sound–or original.

Enrique Iglesias (7 songs) had a star with “Heart Attack.”  I usually don’t like spanish-language albums, because I don’t know what they’re saying and lyrics are the major reason I love most music.  But his primarily spanish, SEX AND LOVE (are these all-caps Spotify, or a thing?) had a lot of longing behind the mystery lyrics, and as I said, the stand out song made this a keeper.

Lenny Kravitz (7 songs) has a solid 2014 contribution, but no song became my favorite.  I really liked his 2006? CD, so every following album seems a disappointment by comparison.  Strut was fine though, and it lacked nothing that I can put my finger on. . .

John Butler Trio (6 songs) transcends genres and I love that!  Blues, calypso, etc. . .  I liked the variety on Flesh & Blood best of all.  I also liked the low-key singing and the background music.

Lady Antebellum (6 songs) is so fun!  I love to listen to them, whether it’s when I’m chilling, in the car, or running.  And I liked 747 so much I consider it in my top 3 (probably, and we’ll see).

Weird All Yankovic (6 songs) is played out.  But is he?  Judge as you will, but I like him and think he’s clever.  I also like Vitamin String Orchestra, if that puts my mentality in perspective.  I saw a biography talking about how hard he works to find the perfect word replacements, and I respect that.  And yes, he’s not technically conceptualizing songs or writing music, but his job is not EASY.  I give him props for coming up with a fresh new spin on the Top-40 songs for decades.

Kristen Chenowetch (6 songs) sings some sort of show-tunes or opera–I’m not sure how you categorize it.  Anyway, it goes in my top selections, for sure.  I heard pure talent. . .  Once my initial shock and trepidation wore off.  I’m glad I listened through the whole album, instead of turning it off for genre-aversion reasons.  Small gal, BIG voice, and big talent.  Color me impressed.  If nothing else, check out, “Popular” which features multiple languages and humor.

Karmen (6 songs) seems like an anomaly to me–the style of music sounds immature.  Not as in novice, or bad–just like Ke$ha–like low maturity members.  But the beats are slammin’, the rapping impressive, and melodies stay with you.  Nothing immature about the production value of this album.

Melissa Etheridge (6 songs) obviously has to be mentioned for This is M.E..  I felt like she was past her prime and trying a little too hard.  The songs seemed contrived and formulaic.  An example, “A Little Bit of Me” with it’s sappy lyrics and na-na-nas had no edge at all–it was Disney, for lack of better word.  Still, after such a long career, the artist didn’t have a total miss.  Songs like “Ain’t that Bad” redeemed the 2014 effort with a raucous rock about lesbianic drama.  And “A Little Hard-Hearted” a lament about love-long-gone with meaningful lyrics spoke to me.  P.S.  Melissa SING, don’t talk through your tracks.

Timber Timber (6 songs) is kinda weird and discordant.  But I can get onto it.  It reminds me of listening to a Donnie Darko sort of thing.

Ray LaMotagne (6 songs) wasn’t as good without Brandi Carlile’s featured vocals, but it was an easy listen all the same.  I like the low key vibe–pre the usual.

Fray (5 songs) is a band I expect a lot from, and I was a little disappointed until the closer, “Love Don’t Die.”  The prior songs were fine, they were good–but not like before.  But the last song was so great it mostly made up for the lack of stand outs.

Shakira (5 songs) has that disgruntled ex-girlfriend vibe on her self-titled album.  In a dancable way–of course.  I especially liked “You Don’t Care About Me.”  Obviously, it’s one of my favorite releases of 2014.

Blake Shelton (5 songs) makes me feel like I’m at the only tavern in town.  “Neon Lights,” especially, made me reminisce about my small-town upbringing.  Bringing Back the Sunshine as a whole was that way–I had fun imagining myself in the middle of nowhere listening to some real country.

Likin Park (lost count) had a cool concept.  I thought it was neat that they released vocal tracks and instrumental background tracks in addition to the full songs.  Though, because the band has been one of my staples for a long time now, I didn’t really feel this album was up to par.  I couldn’t pick out a song that spoke to me as I usually can, let alone multiple songs. . .

311 (5 songs) is good syncopated, robot rock.  I like the slightly less edgy sound of Stereolithic.  Though it has wisps of POD, I think this band found some maturity, while still staying true to their main thing.

Bush (5 songs) always has their own distinct sound which is true of Man on the Run.  I like the rock, like the beat, and feel the industrial vibe they convey.  It’s not Razorblade Suitcase quality, but it’s not a loser either.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (5 songs) are a staple–obviously.  They’re also older, and settled into their careers, not necessarily striving to produce the most popular album of the year.  Still, they took risks with “Hypnotic Eye” and had a more bluesy sound that was interesting.

Johnny Cash (5 songs) posthumus album brought mixed feelings.  Was it released for the money or because the songs are too strong to remain unheard?  Unfortunately my opinion leans toward the former.  Though I did like the more country feel, and especially liked the actual singing, rather then talking through songs.  At least check out “She Used to Love Me a Lot” as I think it’s the best of the bunch.

Lana Del Ray (5 songs) sings. . .  Pouty music.  Is that a thing?  I feel it’s an accurate description for the dreamy, waif, sound she brings to the table.  I do like it because it’s easy on the ears and I always like anything that I can play while studying.

Beck (5 songs) was not an album I’d call a star–it was mostly just innocuous.  I feel like in the past, Beck shared his point of view, but these songs were quiet and a little meh. . .

Nick Jonas (4 songs) had many things going for him:  Catchy, singable, dancey, and that bitterness I like so well.  His self-titled album is at the top of my list for 2014 efforts, even though I only love-loved 4 of the songs.  Those few were so good, that the album rose above some other artists.

Mary J. Blige (4 songs) sang the songs of a spurned lover on Think Like a Man Too soundtrack.  Though this is her go-to genre–the brokenhearted, bitter ex–she is awesome at it.  And this is probably my favorite type of music just because the lyrics are meaningful and it evokes so much emotion.  Someone dispassionate or out to make a buck just can’t pull it off, so I liked this 2014 offering.

Christina Perri (4 songs) is one of THE best singers out there, but head or heart got a very slow start.  She didn’t show her chops until “i don’t wanna break” and into “Only Human.”  When she does her stuff, though, she does it well.  “be my forever” is another favorite song in the bunch, and one that will stay with you awhile.  PS–I’m not a fan of lowercase titles, just so you know lack of grammar doesn’t make you cool or give you edge–it just makes you look ignorant.  Speak English, not text–rant over.  And excuse any of my own spelling errors in this entire post-ha!

Jennifer Lopez (4 songs) has a very different, more mature, sound in all but “AKA.”  I like it a little better, actually, then the club and R&B/Rap pop stuff she used to do.  She shows amazing vocal range as well as heart, in “Let it be Me” and “Never Satisfied” is a pretty little song.  I like J-Lo 2.0.

The Doobie Brothers (4 songs) are legend.  But I thought Southbound was some sort of re-release because I already knew the songs.  After further investigation, I realized each song featured a current artist.  And it did breathe new life into old staples.  Good concept, good way to re-enter the spotlight.

Santana (4 songs) is a lot like DMB in that you can’t be a partial-fan.  You have to listen closely for subtleties in the music to appreciate it.  As a partial-fan, the album begins to blend together for me.  I can tell Santana knows what he is doing on that guitar.  And I like all the featured artists.

Annie Lennox (4 songs) had a good concept for Nostalgia.  And it’s a good way to get back out there, put out a new record, without all the hassle of conceptualizing and writing your own new material–despite sounding sarcastic, or snarky–I don’t mean it that way.  I feel she gave respect to the songs, and put her own bluesy stamp on each of them.  She especially gave a respectful and haunting version of “Strange Fruit” which is a brave thing for a white person to sing.

Nickelback (4 songs) found some maturity.  I especially like the uplifting vibe of “What are You Waiting for?”  They’ve all but abandoned their objectification of women and sexualized hard-rock for a still-rocking sound.

Better Than Ezra (4 songs) reminds me of the Blacked Eyed Peas combined with. . .  Something less dancy and lower key.  I could get on to this.  I felt like “Dollar Sign” was a nice message about appreciating the important things-not just being capitalistic.  I like the sentiment.

Cold War Kids (4 songs) are a little too. . .  Whiny.  Maybe that’s the word I’m going for here.  They have this pleading sound that’s a bit dramatic and off-putting, but I like the TYPE of music they do.

Foo Fighters (4 songs) were also among the artists who grew up in 2014.  They still rock, but it’s a little LESS hard–soft is not accurate.  I didn’t fall in love with any particular song though, so they’re toward the bottom of this list.

Hard Working Americans (4 songs) has a gravelly voice and feeling in their album.  It was similar to John Mellencamp–but with actual singing.  The idea of blue-collar rock music is a good one–especially when the vocals are executed properly.

Kenny Chesney (4 songs) is not someone I usually listen to.  “Rock Bottom” and “American Kids” are both really catchy and I liked the easy-listen.

Joan Osborne (4 songs) is still around–I’ll bet you didn’t realize that.  She had more of a beat and a jazzy feel then her “God is One of Us” days, and it works for her.  I always picture a Southern jazzy club when I listen as it’s smoky and bluesy in a folksy way.

Tori Amos (4 songs) is more of the same.  I like piano, but I’m never super-excited to listen to her.  And I’m not sure why, because she’s a feminist, she sings with heart and a message.  But it’s a little show-tunes, for me and sometimes comes across. . .  whiny.  I did like “Wild Ways” pretty well though.

Coldplay (4 songs) kind of pissed me off last year.  For the longest time ever, they refused to put their music on Spotify.  Which is super-lame, because the ads mean the artists get their money.  So I saw that as greedy-greedy and pointless.  Because they are RICH mo-fos.  But once I was able to hear the songs, I thought they were less than par with previous efforts.  So I’m not sure what all the secrecy was about.  Call me unimpressed.

Bruce Springstein (4 songs) is not a good singer.  But it’s not always just about vocal prowess.  I like the community feelings invoked throughout High Hopes.

Kid Ink (3 songs) “Hello” is amazing.  I had to mention this album for primarily that song, but I did like 2 more as well.

Lee Brice (3 songs) is a good-time good ‘ol country boy.  I like his softer country, especially his blue collar anthem, “Drinking Class.”

Ariana Grande (3 songs) sounds a lot like J-Lo–at least her voice does–to me.  I love an empowered, bitter rant song and “Problem” perfectly fits that bill.  Watch this gal!

Against Me! (3 songs) can be described in 2 words:  Cheeky and honest.  I liked the direction of Transgender Dysphoria Blues, and everything the title and the front artist stand for.  I think this album would be a bit stronger if a few earnest, slow songs were mixed in with the angry punk-rock vibe.

Pixies (3 songs) are new to me.  I thought they were a neo-punk band, but it’s more like The Foo Fighters after a hangover.  It’s rocking, but not with the strength behind it–a little toned down.

Manchester Orchestra (3 songs) was, as far as I knew, a Christmas thing.  But “HOPE” is not x-mas, it features nice harmonies and a quiet simmer of songs.  It’s a little bleak, but substantial all the same.

50 Cent (3 songs) primarily made my list for. . .  The cover art.  I know, I know, but it’s a pretty awesome-looking lion.  I also like the sentiment, toughness, and growl in “Animal Ambition,” the title track.

Toni Braxton (2 songs) is back!  Sort of.  You know how I love a bitter anthem, and she provides a good one with “I Wish.”  In it, she says what every ex thinks–and it’s a little bit of awesome.

The Vamps (2 songs) have a couple of stand out songs.  “Wild Heart” is a foot-stomping anthem of sorts.

Ryan Adams (2 songs) is a little depressing to listen to.  I’m not sure if that’s the intention or not.  I did like “Stay With Me,” so I thought this self-titled album deserved mention.

Pharrell Willimas (1 song) had a good album, but got edged out of the top 10 by the strong competition.  The standout, “Happy” is a catchy, danceable song with a positive message that I think deserves mention.

Young the Giant (1 really good, and all listenable songs) sounds (to me) like a cross between Arcade Fire and Keane. It’s chill enough to study to and a nice listen. It just isn’t assertive enough of a sound to be a contender for the top spots. They need to find their voice, and it needs to say more.

Mya (1 song) spoke to me on the album, I felt “meh” about the rest.  But “M-O-N-E-Y” is worth mention (pun!).

The Black Keys (1 song) had a superb last album, but Turn Blue was a disappointment.  Only one song, maybe two even made my list, and not because they were super-outstanding.

President’s of the USA (1 song) seems played out to me.  Maybe I’m past their target audience?  I only partially liked “Electric Spider” but found the rest of the album silly and tiresome.

Honorable mention:  The Flaming Lips.  The concept–a re-do of the Beatles–is outstanding!  I really love the idea.  Trouble is, With a Little Help from My Friends is largely unlistenable.  It’s hard to take a psychedelic, out-of-the-box hit like Sgt Pepper. . .  to a crazier state without crossing the line.  And cross the line, the Flaming Lips did.  I wanted to love it, but it’s just too much.  I love their bravery and their creativity though.

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