December is here, which means it’s time for me to reflect back on my year in new music with my fourth annual Most Listened to New Albums list. About 90% of the music I listen to scrobbles to my last.fm profile. Since 2006 I’ve logged almost 150,000 plays from over 3,400 artists. The site also provide an analytical look at your listening history, so back in 2011 I got the idea to write a post about my most listened to albums of the year.
This is not a “Best Of” for 2014. They may not be my favorites and they may not be the most satisfying records front-to-back. They are, objectively, the albums which I listened to the most this year. This is another take on my “Best Of”, voted for democratically. Queens of the Stone Age’s … Like Clockwork took the title home in 2013. Purity Ring’s Shrines got most of the plays in 2012, and The Joy Formidable’s The Big Roar kicked off my 2011 list.
Here is 2014’s.
Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
Ben, Max, and Alex have had an absolutely killer year. This self-titled debut album took them on European tours, summer festivals, and even a network television debut on Letterman with Paul Shaffer on keys. NPR, Rolling Stone, Conan – a year ago they were playing to handfuls at local clubs and this year they’re opening for Jack White on his summer tour.
This album is a powerhouse. Side A starts off fast with “Violent Shiver” and doesn’t drop the tempo until the final hit of “Have You Seen My Son?” Side B is no slouch, where the songs take a step back but still come heavy. Some of my current favorites come back to back in “Old Hearts” and “Kids Never Grow Older”.
There isn’t a single track on this album that doesn’t ask you to turn it up. I could easily name this as my favorite album of the year, as well as the one I listened to most.
Full disclosure: These guys got me backstage to one of their Jack White performances in Detroit. Watching the three hour set from the side of the stage was one of the best concerts I’ve been to, and I have these guys to thank for getting me there.
PAWS – Youth Culture Forever
I’m not sure how PAWS came on to my radar, but I’m sure glad they did. This Scottish trio’s second full length is right in my wheelhouse; droning guitars, lo-fi aesthetic, catchy hooks, and an extra layer of fuzz on top. Their debut Cokefloat! was previously in my collection, but I only recall listening to it once or twice. Name recognition or Rdio’s “New music from artists in your favorites” turned me on to album over the summer, and it’s gotten a lot of spins since.
You can find The Pixies’ patented “loud, quiet, loud” dynamic range in “Erreur Humaine”. The drum fills in “Give Up” will get your blood pumping. “War Cry” immediately became that one song PAWS has to close every concert with. The lyrics instantly take me back to my early 20’s.
This album wasn’t written for me, but it was written for dudes just like me.
Beck – Morning Phase
Released back the “cold” month of February, this slow growing spiritual successor to Sea Change is a perfect long night spin. For an artist who mixes up his sound so much from album to album, revisiting one of his best releases was an odd, but welcome, choice. I’ll listen to Guero if I want to get funky, Midnite Vultures if I want to go wild n’ out, or Modern Guilt if I want to jam. Morning Phase works when you just want some good tunes played at a reasonable volume. Layers upon layers of instrumentation and vocals kept me toasty through the winter and soothed throughout the summer.
This album was not was I was expecting, but everything I wanted in new Beck.
Jack White – Lazaretto
Lazaretto would not have made my subjective Top 10 albums of the year list. It’s a good album, but like all of Jack White’s projects, the songs are hit or miss for me and I rarely listen to the album from front to back. His slower, folkier, acoustic driven tracks don’t rock my boat, but his faster, rowdier tunes absolutely kill it for me. He could have released a 4 track EP with just the title track, “Three Women”, “High Ball Stepper”, and “That Black Bat Licorice”, and I would have been happy with that.
But those four tracks didn’t warrant this album’s placement on the list – it was Jack White’s unbelievable live show that won me over. I mentioned it briefly in the Benjamin Booker post above, but you can read all about the show that did it (and check that setlist!) over at Consequence of Sound. That set turned me in to a life long fan, even if I like some songs more than most. Since then I’ve had listened to more than my fair share of solo albums, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and The White Stripes.
LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye
Go on a farewell tour and play your last show in 2011. Release a documentary about said last show in 2012. Then release a live album of the entire last performance in 2014. Even though we will never get any more new LCD Soundsytem, I’m okay with them trickling out the last bits over time. They’re a band that I did not start to appreciate until it was too late, but this love letter/greatest hits of a live album will hold me over for the foreseeable future.
When this album was released, I thought that I would never be able to make it through all 28 songs spanning over 3 hours of music in one sitting. But I did – and I’ve done it again and again every few weeks since the album release. Every track just has so much damn energy that I can’t be in a bad mood or sit still whenever this album is on.
The Long Goodbye is a fitting swan song for a great band.
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Cloud Nothings had the heavy task of following up 2012’s fantastic Attack on Memory. Here and Nowhere Else takes a more straightforward approach to the formula that worked so well on their last album, foregoing most of the dynamic changes and wandering distortion solos in favor of a more stable structure. The 8 tracks don’t let up in the 31 minute runtime. They distilled their older catalog and put out a lean, heavy rocking album.
This was another album release that was accompanied with a killer live show this year. Their drummer is a mad man who, if he played any faster, could have set those skins on fire. They are a must-see if the come near your neck of the woods.
Gnarwolves – Chronicles of Gnarnia
Straight up summer music. Or maybe “Party Jams”. I was surprised to find this album make it’s way on this list. I don’t normally listen to a lot of traditional punk music, but Chronicles of Gnarnia brings a little more to the table that simple power chords.
Not actually a traditional album, but a compilation of the band’s first three EPs, Chronicles is all thriller, no filler. This made it the perfect album for day drinks, beach drives, and good hangs. I did a lot of that this year, so this was often my soundtrack.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half the City
Scroll down a bit and listen to the intro and the first verse of “Don’t Mean a Thing”. The song does a righteous job of reeling you in right from that first horn line, and it’s hard to not listen to the track all the way through. These fellas are one of the few bands that sound better in live performances than on the album, and I’m not the only one who recognized that – Youtube is lousy with professionally recorded sessions of theirs.
In my year with The Sh-Booms, I’ve been on the lookout for modern soul outfits, as well as rediscovering old staples. St. Paul & The Broken Bones are the former, sounding like that later, on their debut Half the City.
They are going on tour in the new year. Catch them live and look for me two-steppin’ at the Orlando stop.
Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
Strong female singers harmonizing with themselves on top of the beeps and boops coming from dudes on stage with a laptop seem to be a trend in bands lately. A similar band, Purity Ring, topped this very list two years ago. This year, Sylvan Esso came along with their own take on the same formula, but made it their own by relaying so heavily on her voices and leaving the drum tracks to accompany, rather than lead the tracks.
All Songs Considered turned me on to one of their singles a ways back. I had forgotten about the band until my record club claimed their debut as album of the month back in July. I don’t remember listening to it this much, so it must be a great background/productivity album that you can put on without getting in the way.
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Another recommendation from a friend and another Vinyl Me, Please Record of the Month, this modern day Dire Straits album is super dreamy. Heavy chorus and reverb’d guitars sail away with the singer’s lofty voice.
The album’s release back in March helped it climb this chart. Lost in the Dream isn’t an album that gets stuck in your head or leaves you wanting more. It’s solid songwriting mixed with adventurous arrangement, served over nostalgic production with a heavy-handed dash of Mark Knopfler. Turn it on and tune out.
These albums are still real good. They may not have made the above list, but they are still albums released in 2014 that deserve a spin.
Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt | The Budos Band – Burnt Offering | Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! | Interpol – El Pintor | The Juan Maclean – In a Dream | Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband | Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams | Stardeath And White Dwarfs – Wastoid | St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Another year in the books. Check out my last.fm to keep track of my plays. If I don’t buy it on vinyl, I’m listening to it on Rdio. Cheers to my friends for the music recommendations, as well as NPR’s All Songs Considered and Vinyl Me, Please for the new tunes.