These aren’t necessarily my top four favorite albums of the year, although all of them would certainly place in my Top 10. Instead, these are records that I consider to be excellent but haven’t been talked about much as being among the year’s best. Other records I loved this year include “Guilty of Everything” by Nothing, “Mourn” by Mourn, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me!, “NVM” by Tacocat and “Run the Jewels II” by Run the Jewels.
I’ve noticed a few trends with some of the albums I’ve loved this year. For a few years, I was bored of traditional guitar music, but this year it dominates my list. Additionally, most of my favorite records of 2014 have a sound that harkens back to an earlier era of music.
Gerard Way, “Hesitant Alien” – The former My Chemical Romance leader’s transition from pop-punk pinup to throwback fuzz-rock hero isn’t as drastic as some observers might believe. Way has always worn his influences of 90s indie icons like Helium, Superchunk and Pulp even in his MCR days. Although, in the band’s later years, they often came pared with an affinity for symphonic arena grandiosity. On his solo debut “Hesitant Alien,” Way finally lives his dream of being a mid-90s British rock magazine cover star. Songs like “No Shows” buzz along in a rich haze of feedback and should impress tastemakers that had unfairly scoffed at MCR in their heydey.
Iceage, “Plowing into the Fields of Love” – This Danish hardcore punk band strikes gold by trying something a little different on their latest release. Fully realizing some of the goth rock influences apparent on their spiky early releases, “Plowing into the Fields of Love” sees them transitioning away from breakneck hardcore and into streamlined, darkly romantic post-punk. The highlight here is “The Lord’s Favorite,” with its rockabilly guitar riff punctuated by the breathless vocals of Elias Bender RÃ¸nnenfelt. Fans of the Smiths are likely to find a new band to love here.
Lake Street Dive, “Bad Self Portraits” – The left field surprise of the year is an album that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the late 1970s. A throwback to vintage blues and jazz rock, Boston’s Lake Street Dive offers wry, soulful pop on their third full length set. Singer Rachael Price’s voice recalls that of Bonnie Raitt and is the highlight of each song. The other band members with their adeptness at their instruments, especially on songs such as “You Go Down Smooth” and the title track.
Mean Creek, “Local Losers” – The fourth record by Boston power pop quartet Mean Creek is only 20 minutes long. However, each its eight songs pack massive hooks into two or three minute pop nuggets. One of those songs, “My Madeline,” Â is my favorite song of 2014. It bursts with energy, and its giant chorus is an unstoppable earworm of early Weezer proportions. I had the thing lodged in my head all summer long. “Local Losers” is the kind of record you thought stopped being made at the turn of the last century. In a just world, its songs would have been all over rock radio this year.
Gibbs’ 10 Favorite Songs of 2014
- Mean Creek, “My Madeline”
- Tacocat, “You Never Came Back”
- iamamiwhoami, “Hunting for Pearls”
- Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting for You)”
- Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
- Iceage, “The Lord’s Favorite”
- Tweedy, “Low Key”
- Ex Hex, “Don’t Wanna Lose”
- Against Me!, “Black Me Out”
- Clean Bandit, “Rather Be”