Album of the Year: Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork
Going from Era Vulgaris to …Like Clockwork is almost night and day. Queens of the Stone Age made a modern rock album that can be an emotional roller coaster at times. It would change up on a dime – slow and dark piano ballads, to catchy rock songs that happen to harken to Moulin Rouge. From top to bottom, …Like Clockwork flows majestically, hitting no bumps along the way – making it the perfect rock album, not just of this year, but Queens of the Stone Age’s entire career.
Single of the Year: James Blake’s “Retrograde”
Mellow, dark, and sexy are the only three words that come to mind with Blake’s gorgeous slow jam. His beginning hum carries this rather hypnotic song the entire way – it feels like a short song instead of its rather lengthy time. I had this song on repeat all year, and played it for anyone who would listen.
Favorite Find: Driver Friendly
With some of my favorite bands disbanding this year, or flat out released nothing (I’m looking at you, Brand New), it was time to find someone new and exciting. That’s when Austin seven piece Driver Friendly entered my musical universe. Upbeat, fun, and unique in how they play, they remind me of Bleed American Jimmy Eat World plus Tell All Your Friends Taking Back Sunday, plus some Motion City Soundtrack-esque quirk. I don’t know when a full length will come out, but rest assured I’ll be looking out for it.
Most Anticipated Album of 2014: La Dispute
I’m three months away from my most anticipated album of the year, and I have no clue what I’m going to get. La Dispute’s last album Wildlife was damn near perfect, so call me skeptical when it comes to their next release coming out in March. Fingers crossed.
Album of the Year: Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
With their newest album, Vampire Weekend has created a deeper and more nuanced album while rediscovering the catchy song composition that made their first album so much fun. What else could you ask for? The main reason that Modern Vampires of the City got the edge over the first runner up is because of the diversity of the songs on this album. Each song takes you in a new and exciting direction. Possibly for the first time ever, I am unable to pick a favorite or least favorite song on an album. When the singles were released I was underwhelmed, but after listening to the album as a whole, it slowly became my favorite album of the year.
Album of the Year Runner-ups: Typhoon’s White Lighter; Local Natives’ Hummingbird
Song of the Year: Typhoon’s “Young Fathers”
As a young father, it is possible that I am the target demographic for this song. As a mild optimist, I’m not sure why I am so captivated by a depressing and poignant examination of modern society and childhood:
They say our comforts they come with price tag
We cured the cancer but discovered a new plague
They say just think of the children
And imagine the world that we’ve willed them
All populated with weirdos to kill them
And break their hearts
The song takes exciting and unexpected turns as lead singer/songwriter Kyle Morton appears to be searching for answers and coming to terms with his own childhood. These pessimistic lyrics are a perfect counterbalance for the uplifting blend of instruments and group vocals. The unique combination of these factors creates a fantastic and memorable song.
This song was featured on my second favorite album of the year (White Lighter). Their blend of guitar, horns and biting vocals remind me of one of my favorites, Modest Mouse. Like Modest Mouse, Typhoon’s lyrics are very well crafted and interesting. Typhoon has also mastered the use of group vocals, so maybe it is more like Modest Mouse teamed up with Polyphonic Spree, but everybody lost their faith in humanity. How can you say ‘no’ to that?!
Song of the Year Runner-ups: San Fermin’s “Renaissance!”; Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” (apparently punctuation is a theme)
Album that I Wish I Could Hate, but I Actually Enjoy: Kanye West’s Yeezus
After a quick listen to Yeezus it is clear that you are listening to someone that thinks he is “the nucleus of all society.” Whether it’s desecrating cherished civil rights anthems, being extremely sexist, or trying to settle petty disputes, this album features plenty of groans. Having said that…the album sounds really good. (My first ever use of the HST preface!) As a result, the James Franco and Seth Rogen frame-by-frame recreation of “Bound 2” is perfect. You can make fun of West while listening to him.
Best Music Video: Grouplove’s “Ways to Go”
While this is a great song, it is an even better video. It asks the question what would happen if a 12-year-old Kim Jong Un woke up one day and decided “this isn’t the life I want.” The young leader ceases interrogations and executions and then follows his internal mandate, beckoning him to DANCE!
Favorite Overall Album: The Head and the Heart’s Let’s Be Still
The Head and the Heart released their sophomore album this year, and once again, I’m in love. Don’t ask me why, but until this year, I thought the Head and the Heart was a two person show, thinking to myself, “Hmm, I wonder which one is the head, and which is the heart?” But when I saw them in concert this year, lo and behold there were six band members on stage. Six! And then when I listened closely, I could tell that many times, the fullness of the vocals come from two males singing, with female accompaniment. I think that’s partly what gives this band such a rich vocal sound. The standouts of Let’s Be Still are “Gone,” “Josh McBride,” “Shake,” and “10,000 Weight in Gold.”
Runner Ups (in order!): Sleeping at Last’s Atlas (both Light and Darkness), Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City, Grouplove’s Spreading Rumours, OneRepublic’s Native, Sara Bareilles’s The Blessed Unrest, The Civil Wars’ The Civil Wars, Avicii’s True, Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel, The Neighborhood’s I Love You, and Half Moon Run’s Dark Eyes
- “She Wants to Know” from Half Moon Run’s Dark Eyes
- “Addicted to You” from Avicci’s TRUE
- “On The Way Home” from John Mayer’s Paradise Valley
- “Eavesdrop” from The Civil Wars’ The Civil Wars
- “Riptide” from Vance Joy’s God Loves You When You’re Dancing
- “Cassiopeia” from Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest
- “Ways to Go” from Grouplove’s Spreading Rumours
- “Ya Hey” from Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
- “Counting Stars” from One Republic’s Native
- “Gone” from The Head and the Heart’s Lets Be Still
- “Heirloom” from Sleeping at Last’s Atlas
- “House of Gold” from Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel
- “Sweater Weather” from the Neighbourhood’s I Love You.
- “Let’s Get High” from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
- “Lock Your Heart Down” from Churchill’s The War Within EP
- “Morning Song” from The Avett Brothers’ The Magpie and the Dandelion
- “Young and Beautiful” from Lana Del Rey on the Great Gatsby Soundtrack
- “Get Lucky” from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories
- “More Than Just a Dream” from Fitz & the Tantrums’ Out of my League
Most Disappointing Album: Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (Part 1)
What happened, Justin? No, I wouldn’t say his music has always been incredible, but it was a lot of fun and, let’s be real here… JT is hot. But his last album was just AWFUL. I tried giving it multiple chances, wondering, am I just completely missing something that everyone else seems to be so enamored with? The rhythmical dance tracks gracing his last album were nowhere to be found, and everything just seemed so repetitive and ridiculous. I mean strawberry bubblegum? Really? After being so thoroughly disappointed by part one of The 20/20 Experience, I still haven’t been able to work up the resolve to listen to part two, which I heard I should, because apparently that is the more “danceable” of the two, so to speak. So I guess the verdict is still out, but I don’t have high hopes.
Favorite Album: Paramore’s Paramore
The one bit of breakup news that hit me worse than that of The Civil Wars came when I heard that Paramore was on the outs, so much so that I even remember where I was and why I was there when it happened. But then they were back, with just fewer band members, so all was right in the world, right? Nervousness was still to be had, and when the first single was released I started to worry even more before reminding myself that the first single from each of their albums is usually one of my least favorite songs. Then the second single came out and I became even more worried. This song eventually grew on me somewhat, but even if it hadn’t the good news is that Paramore has still got it, delivering a strong album that keeps with a sound that will not disappoint all of the fans put in a position of terror like I was. Even the interludes are great.
Runner Ups: Avicii’s True; The Head and the Heart’s Let’s Be Still; OneRepublic’s Native; Sara Bareilles’s The Blessed Unrest; Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel; Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
- “Wake Me Up” from Avicii’s True
- “Cassiopeia” from Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest
- “London Calling” from Michael Giacchino on the Star Trek: Into Darkness Soundtrack
- “Say Something” from A Great Big World
- “Another Story” from The Head and the Heart’s Let’s Be Still
- “Make This Leap” from The Hunts
- “Casual Affair” from Panic! At the Disco’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
- “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” from Paramore’s Paramore
- “Car Radio” by Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel
- “The Way We Touch” WE ARE TWIN’s We Are Twin
- “Yesterday a dolphin kissed me, but I just don’t feel no different.” From Kate Nash’s “OMYGOD!”
- “Let ‘em spill their guts, cuz one day they’re gonna slip on ’em” From Paramore’s “Interlude: Moving On”
- “You were my picket fence.” From Fall Out Boy’s “Miss Missing You”
Biggest Album Disappointment: Kate Nash’s Girl Talk
This album has a punk garage band sound that is good if I want to delve into a daydream about creating an alternate soundtrack to Whip it!, but it is far from Made of Bricks, one of my all time favorite albums. It’s fine for an artist to change and work towards evolving their sound, so I can’t hold it against her; I just miss the quirky and fun storytelling of the songs on her debut album.
Runner Up: The Civil Wars’ The Civil Wars – Maybe it is in large part due to the duo breaking up that put the bitter taste in my mouth, but this album just doesn’t compare to their first album and how much I love it.