Audiohammock's Top Albums of 2014

2014 was a great year for music of all genres. Here you will find our staff picks for our favorite releases of the year. Unordered and unadulterated, just a delicious list of albums for your enjoyment.

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Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Genre: Indie

A woman wronged but unbowed by love, Angel Olsen wanders from slow Leonard Cohen melancholy to Roy Orbison-style achy breaky hearted "Hi-Five" and then to a California garage circa 1960, but with the constant of her searing voice. -Dylan Brown

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

Genre: Indie/Rock

This is the best album I've heard this year, let alone the last five. Lost In The Dream is an honest hour of emotional mania, dejection, and self-identity coupled with a sound that reverberates classic Springsteen era arrangements with disbursements of post alternative adolescence that reminds you you're not quite in the '80s. -Russ Bashaw

You shouldn't feel this conflicted about your favorite album of the year, but I've come to terms. The fact that such swirling soundscapes overcame any queasiness brought on by echoes of Tom Petty is a testament to the record's power. And it's second to none if you need a soundtrack for moving across the country. -Dylan Brown

Steve Gunn - Way Out Weather

Genre: Rock

In wonderful way, Way Out Weather teeters on the edge of becoming an instrumental record. Big guitar interludes give your mind plenty of time to wander happily off into the "Atmosphere," a song that echoes of something decades past. Between the minutes-long jams, Gunn's subdued, restrained voice enters to keep the story on track, but at a leisurely pace. He's not real excitable, just a steady hand on the wheel. Way Out Weather is a treasure. -Dylan Brown

Ty Seagull - Manipulator

Genre: Rock

Manipulator is Ty Seagull showing off all that he’s learned since he started in 2008 and then turning it up a couple more notches. It’s a sprawling, rousing thing where every guitar lick sparks and ignites and leaves its listeners bathing in the glow of rock, eyes closed, much like the cover. -Bryan Kocurek

Boris - Noise

Genre: Metal/Hard Rock

Most hard rock and heavy metal fans have never heard of Boris, yet the bands discography stretches back almost twenty years with nineteen, yes, nineteen studio albums under their belts. This is definitely a dark horse in hard rock and heavy metal albums of the year but the album is accessible enough that even a new Boris listener will enjoy all that the record has to offer. This is not one to miss. -Anthony Saia

Angus and Julia Stone - Angus and Julia Stone

Genre: Indie/Folk/Pop

Although decisively less folk or acoustic than either A Book Like This or Down the Way, Angus and Julia Stone is flattering in and of itself as an album that still comes across as genuine in both emotion and appeal. Producer Rick Rubin's presence is immediately felt on the first track "A Heartbreak," an exceptionally produced drum based track that recants anecdotal failed relations that no doubt tie into Angus and Julia's personal lives. I really haven't sensed the ethos of a duo this profound save for Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars who are sadly no longer together. -Russ Bashaw

Mogwai - Rave Tapes

Genre: Post-rock

This album is a departure from Mogwai's previous sound, in a good way. The record seems to ebb and flow between the guitar-driven tracks and the synth laden, beautiful mess that Mogwai has created. Each song is dripping with gooey-synth, tribal-like drumbeats and acid-trip guitar riffs. -Anthony Saia

Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Genre: Indie

Just pay attention to Sharon Van Etten’s wavering voice. Tack on her confident abilities as a folk rock artist to craft poignant songs and heartbreaking ballads, her intelligence as a lyricist, the additional piano numbers, and even the country twang peppered throughout. But, please God, for Are We There, stay for that voice. -Bryan Kocurek

Rodrigo Y Gabriela - 9 Dead Alive

Genre: Acoustic

Great music is truly emotive and 9 Dead Alive offers it in bunches. Here are nine fantastic tracks featuring rythmic and complex acoustic work that start as relaxing pieces at first listen and slowly morph into absorbing history lessons for those eager to learn. -Russ Bashaw

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

Genre: Hip Hop

Killer Mike and El-P should speak for themselves: "One black, one white, we shoot to kill." "Last album voodoo, proved that we was fuckin' brutal. I'm talking crazy, half past the clock is cuckoo." "Murder, mayhem, melodic music." -Dylan Brown

Run the Jewels 2 is the material mixtapes are made of: bombastic noise and infectious vocal samples that enhance the rapper’s delivery, and lyrics that instantaneously connect with all hot-blooded adventure seekers. El-P and Big Mike’s time together has been short, but their chops as pop artists with an eviscerating ethos will remain timeless. -Bryan Kocurek

Wye Oak - Shriek

Genre: Indie

In this year of the slow-burner, Shriek landed with a whisper, but gradually demanded listen after listen. Subdued compared to 2011's fabulous "Civilian," Jenn Wasner's guitar and vocals remain imbued with the same bite and the rest - lovingly textured synth and drums -- are provided by humble one-man wonder Andy Stack. -Dylan Brown

Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

Genre: Punk, Post-punk

Iceage: While already revered as adept punk rockers with an industrial edge, Danish rock group Iceage truly excelled with their third album, Plowing Into the Field of Love, by taking a more experimental, wide-reaching approach to their songwriting- brass, strings, and banjo add new shades to their already sharpened sound. Combined with lovelorn lead singer Elias Ronnenfelt’s vocals, the powerful arrangements see the band bursting with musical rapture. -Bryan Kocurek

Fear of Men - Loom

Genre: Indie Pop

"Trust in me completely," sings Fear of Men lead singer Jessica Weis on "Waterfall." With music this good it's a no brainer. Loom is an engaging listen of comforting dream pop songs layered amongst racing drums and melodic guitar. Loom and Sun Structures by Temples are my top debut albums of 2014. -Russ Bashaw

D'Angelo - Black Messiah

Genre: R&B, Neo Soul, Funk

While Benji is the tortured center of 2014, the rich, soulful Black Messiah is the perfect comedown. Politics and race in music is complicated ground to cover in pop music, but D’Angelo’s masterful songwriting abilities allows the whole world to move along to his coos and grooves. “Ain’t That Easy”, “Really Love”, and “Another Life”. Isn’t this what R&B is meant to sound like? On a personal level, Black Messiah is a breakthrough in the genre. By the time you read this, I will have listened to this thing a dozen more times. -Bryan Kocurek

Kodomo - Patterns and Light

Genre: Electronic, Ambient, IDM

While Kodomo translates to “child” in Japanese, aside from his name, this music is not Child’s play. Chris Child brings IDM to a higher state, riffing off of contemporaries Kwes, Four Tet, and even using his influences such as Vangelis and Orbital to create something truly unique. -Anthony Saia

Aphex Twin - Syro

Genre: Electronic

While the pioneering electronic artist hasn’t released an album in over 13 years, I’ll put up the entirety of Syro against any other great electronic album over the past five years- Cosmogramma, Black Noise, anything by Oneohtrix Point Never- as being the most cohesive, intelligent, and most confident, made all the more triumphant by his sheer lack of experimentation. -Bryan Kocurek

Temples - Sun Structures

Genre: Rock

Led by James Edward Bagshaw (vocals, lead guitar) and Thomas Edison Warmsley (bass), Temples is a throwback to sixties psychedelia. The '60s may be long gone but Temples are exuding kaleidoscope esque gems like the best of them. -Russ Bashaw

Opeth - Pale Communion

Genre: Metal

I was not surprised when I was met with prog-jazz licks that ended up being all over the record. The record balances these sounds and the exploratory work on the band's previous release Heritage and solidifies the progressive strains that we've heard from the band since their humble beginnings twenty years ago. This record solidifies that Opeth might just have the best guitar tone in the universe. -Anthony Saia

Dum Dum Girls - Too True

Genre: Indie Pop

Dee Dee's voice propels Too True to resonating greatness. The omnipresent drum machine may turn off a few fans but I'm of the opinion it serves catalyst to a short and sweet often retro sounding album that you'll return to multiple times. -Russ Bashaw

Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Genre: Electronic/Hip Hop

Flying Lotus is able do what so many artists don't get the luxury to do - experiment. The album has few lyrics and it's almost like Ellison's swapped their role, turning them into the interludes for his snippet-length explosions of sound. Mostly You're Dead! is a complex tangle of sound. But it's also as mordant as it's theme. It's almost like Flying Lotus has found and drank the Bitches Brew. Almost. -Dylan Brown

The textures, colors, and melodies found in the songs on You’re Dead! even out the weighty subject matter: death. Electronic, ambient, dubstep and now jazz artist Flying Lotus- with a power to create portals into other dimensions with a sly smile- plays music that can’t help but shock and amaze. -Bryan Kocurek

Warpaint - Warpaint

Genre: Indie

For those unfamiliar with Warpaint they're an excellent cocktail of subtle psychedelia and progressive indie. When I do say subtle that is exactly what I mean as Warpaint is a slow burner full of rhetorical intrigue and despondent remoteness that sinks deep. Casual listeners should and will be turned off entirely with certainty. -Russ Bashaw

Future Islands - Singles

Genre: Pop

My guilty pleasure of 2014 and an album I continuously return to. Samuel T. Herring's vocals seemingly belong in a metal band but the layers of glistening pop behind it make this band unlike any other. Check out "Seasons," "Sun in the Morning," and "A Dream of you and Me". -Russ Bashaw

Broken Bells - After The Disco

Genre: Indie Rock/Pop

Once again, because it keeps popping up like a polyester whack-a-mole, disco is dead and it should stay that way. However, while some lazier efforts return it to the stratosphere, but the trajectory of After the Disco is only tangentially related Earth. -Dylan Brown

St.Vincent - St.Vincent

Genre: Indie

St. Vincent’s self-titled album may be more of a hipster choice than anything else on my list, but much of St. Vincent is art rock at its purest: angular guitar riffs, from “Rattlesnake” to “Bring Me Your Loves”, lively percussion, psychedelics, and a little bit of glam rock thrown in. Listen to “Queen” by Perfume Genius, and you can hear the lingering influence of St. Vincent. He’s surely one of many of her peers taking down notes. -Bryan Kocurek

Beck - Morning Phase

Genre: Rock

Where Sea Change was your evening post-relational indulgence Morning Phase is the good natured pat on the back at daybreak. Moments of glistening early morning feel good lay sequestered amongst the optimistic desolation providing a plethora of memorable tracks. -Russ Bashaw

Beck is Beck. Again. And that's just swell. -Dylan Brown

Todd Terje - It's Album Time

Genre: Electronic Funk, Nu-disco

Good time feels coming out of Norway courtesy of Terje Olsen. It's Album Time just drips with danceable style. Exquisitely layered, this is disco for the new generation and you'll hear Giorgio's influence all throughout this record. Modern production meets the best of the '80s (sorry hair band fans). -Russ Bashaw

Drive By Truckers - English Oceans

Genre: Rock

Distilled down to the moonshine, the Drive-By Truckers are nothing short of themselves with an album as underrated as their last — fitting for a blue-collar band. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are getting older, but still rock hard and angry, while also telling the middle-aged tales of divorce and failed careers. -Dylan Brown

The Budos Band - Burnt Offering

Genre: Instrumental Rock, Psychedelic, Jazz Funk

No frills. No gimmicks. You’ll hear some true musicians who like to play some psychedelic, acid rock worthy tracks that contain anthemic horns, hazy guitar riffs, thumping non-electronic bass work and some truly eerie organ work. -Anthony Saia

Alt-J - This Is For You

Genre: Indie

When years have passed and old hipsters smoke recyclable cigarettes in oxygen bars they will reference days of youth and speak of bands of considerable prowess, all the undeniable bands of cross-continental acclaim will be in the discussion: Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Sigur Rios to name a few. On that top shelf with them will sit Alt - J. -Russ Bashaw

Mark Lanegan Band - Phantom Radio

Genre: Rock

What we hear here is that Lanegan is continuiing to break down musical barriers that were kept in the early '90s, allowing him and the band to expand their sonic pallets. Mark Lanegan Band have achieved what they were setting out to do - write a record that flows compositionally, and expresses a mood that, although on the darker side, gives the listener an opportunity to experience the songs deep into their bones. -Anthony Saia

FKA Twigs - LP1

Genre: Trip Hop, Alternative Electronic

Love is found at world’s end and whoever sings these slender, fluid works of art is on the verge of a reckoning. FKA twigs, s pending years working in the background, sounds like she’s unearthing these lustful, urgent sounds and feelings that have been lying dormant until now. Sexy doesn’t even begin to describe LP1. -Bryan Kocurek

Spoon - They Want My Soul

Genre: Rock

They Want My Soul is an album that offers no gimmicks. Here lies guitar, bass, and drum driven music (meticulously so) at the core of a genre that is keen on obsoleting it. While some tracks are not as strong as others ("Outlier" comes to mind), Spoon has crafted a meritorious album that has a number of fantastic tracks that take more than one hand to count. Think Arctic Monkeys without all the sexual innuendos. -Russ Bashaw

Miles Tackett - The Fool Who Wonders

Genre: Jazz Rock, Psychedelic

This record sounds like some of Tackett’s contemporaries such as Gary Clark Jr. and indie darlings Tame Impala while also giving nods to Jeff Buckley from time to time. Great songs by a great musician. -Anthony Saia

Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal

Genre: Rock/Post-punk

Unlike indie rock staples similar to the chic Grizzly Bear or the post-punk Savages, Parquet Courts are opening their hearts and want their fans to join in all the fun rock and roll, a dirty art form obsessed over by its followers, though still desperate enough to stick to grimy venues. Though not quite as quick and effortless as Light Up Gold, Sunbathing Animal's songs help show the best of what's coming for the foreseeable future in the musical landscape. These are quality rock songs, and you need to listen to them now. -Bryan Kocurek

Swans - To Be Kind

Genre: Experimental rock

Quite possibily the best album we didn't review this year, To Be Kind is an engrossing mix of chamber rock, monk chanting, and deceptively slow building experimental rock gems full of chaotic moments offset by soothing landscapes that sway back and forth between the former and the latter. Michael Gira and company have created a 2 hour excursion worthy of all your attention. -Russ Bashaw

When encountering a peerless album as earth-shattering as To Be Kind, all listeners need to do is skip past the occult vocal chants, the medieval dynamics of no wave and noise, the surges of guitar, and the haunting piano lines. Skip to the 9:17 mark on the 34-minute track “Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture”, right when the entire band screams “Sun!” and the earth collapses under the listener’s feet. At that point, and over the next 24 minutes, just try not to get sucked into the glorious ecstasy of their all-encompassing sound. -Bryan Kocurek

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Give The People What They Want

Genre: Funk, Soul

Cementing an already strong foundation, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings extend their musical prowess with Give The People What They Want . Retreat! Sassy vocals, accompanying horn and groovy rhythms set the tone for a revival of soul so prominent in the '60s and '70s. -Russ Bashaw

Mac Demarco - Salad Days

Genre: Indie, Slacker Rock

I had the pleasure of seeing Marco perform choice cuts of Salad Days live and the only thing more genuine than the music was the pizza he ate in the middle of the show and passed out to fans. It's that perspiration of lackadaisical charm that elevates Mac and Salad Days to a new "high". -Russ Bashaw

TV on the Radio - Seeds

Genre: Indie Rock

Sure Seeds retreads a lot of TV on the Radio's familiar sounds, but the the hand claps, "oohs" and "yeahs" never seemed bent on achieving some lofty status of cool. The goal always seemed to aimed at making sure each and everybody at the show had a damn good time. In line with bands like the New Pornographers, TV on the Radio won't make a bad record unless they ever cease having a damn good time. -Dylan Brown

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie

Genre: Rock

Rival Sons continues to be driving guitars, pounding drums, lengthy solos, and a vocal powerhouse; a subliminal checklist of all things '70s classic rock. This is THE defacto retro rock band cruising the globe -Russ Bashaw

Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Genre: Acoustic

Benji was focused, blunt, and mellifluous. We needed him in this aimless year, in spite of his recent actions. The album stood there in all seriousness. Mark Kozelek sang his listeners to sleep and kept them awake. The size of its many themes, death and mortality to name a few, was unquantifiable. It gave folk music a much-needed breath of life and a bit of nostalgia. In fact, between “Carissa” and “Ben’s My Friend”, Benji seemed to be life incarnate. -Bryan Kocurek

Crudely composed, confusing and squirm inducing at times, but necessary. An oft-trite phrase in music, "brutally honest," for once acts as an understatement as Mark Kozelek starts his latest album with one of two deaths by aerosol fire. The record is sometimes melodramatic, but in it's brutally-honest entirety, necessary to at least to try. -Dylan Brown

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