Tag Archives: Sharon Van Etten

Top 30 Albums of 2014

“It’s been a long time baby and it has been a rough road.” – Mariah Carey, Home Shopping Network

I feel like this quote from the elusive chanteuse herself (whose latest album effort is most definitely not included in my top 30) adequately sums up the year in music, as well as most things in my life, like putting together this list of my Top 30 Albums of 2014.

This list is all over the place, as expected. There were releases from artists that I knew, even before hearing, would end up in the top 10. There were releases from artists that I thought would end up at the top that didn’t even stick. There was one release from a particular Canadian artist that I knew I would love, but didn’t expect to be my favorite album of the year.

And so, as we turn down the lights on 2014, I’m looking at this list and I’m liking a lot of what happened. Here’s hoping you did too.

30. Damien Juardo – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun

Damien-Jurado-Brothers-And-Sisters-Of-The-Eternal-Son-608x608

Damien Juardo said this album “is about a guy who disappears on a search, if you will, for himself and never goes home,” which is kind of like what happened to me when I moved to Boulder, so that’s fun.

Favorite Track: “Silver Katherine”

29. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

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I feel like most people have written off this album. While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, there’s a familiarity in Mr. Oberst’s vocals and subject matter that, along with the sprawling, dusty guitars, makes flipping this record akin to sliding into your favorite boots. Whatever.

Favorite track: “Double Life”

28. Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)

Best straight pop album of the year. WHATEVER T-SWIFT.

Favorite track: “Elastic Heart”

27. Glass Animals – Zaba

Zaba

It’s just like chic and funky and consistently groovy, front to back.

Favorite track: “Cocoa Hooves”

26. Interpol – El Pintor

interpol-el-pintor

Yes, while El Pintor is a return to form (finally) for Interpol, the album sees the band falling back on old tricks. Nothing is new or exciting about most of this material, and yet it’s the band’s strongest effort in a long, long time, with a few of the songs being able to sit on the same shelf as the best work they’ve ever done.

Favorite track: “My Blue Supreme”

25. How To Dress Well – Where Is This Heart?

What Is This Heart

Like, one minute it’s dance-y and fun (“Repeat Pleasure”) and then it’s like, really spooky and scary and sad (“Face Again”). I’m in.

Favorite track: “Repeat Pleasure”

24. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Tomorrows Modern Boxes

A very welcome surprise from Mr. Yorke, who continues to be prolific behind the scenes while we all wait for Radiohead’s next masterpiece.

Favorite track: “Nose Grows Some”

23. Sisyphus – Sisyphus

Sisyphus

I’m biased because it’s love. Sufjan and I share a very special bond, so I couldn’t not include an album on this list that he’s (heavily) involved in. While in theory this album shouldn’t work, it works well. Really well. Sufjan’s orchestral flourishes along with Son Lux’s melodies prove to be the perfect backdrop for MC Serengeti’s rhymes.

Favorite track: “Rhythm of Devotion”

22. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

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Perpetually delayed, and now perpetually great. I’m nervous I’m summoning something dark from the underworld when I listen to tracks like “Heavy Metal And Reflective,” or summoning something really, really chic while listening to “Ice Princess.” Even though most of the material is years old at this point, Ms. Banks still sounds fresh to death. Gays are flying everywhere.

Favorite track: “Wallace”

21. – TV On The Radio – Seeds

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TV On The Radio are a happy band now and it sounds great on them.

Favorite track: “Right Now”

20. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

You're_Dead!

But like really? It’s like candy coming out of your speakers.

Favorite track: “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

19. The Antlers – Familiars

FamiliarsAlbumCover

I don’t think The Antlers will ever get to a place as good (or depressing) as Hospice, but with each release since that defining record, they continue to evolve and surprise, still able to deliver an emotional punch with those freakin’ horns in a way that few others can.

Favorite track: “Surrender”

18. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

RunTheJewelsRTJ2

 

Like, K. Album of the Year on many other’s lists. Not as high up on mine, but still, earth shattering.

Favorite track: “Early (feat. Boots)”

17. FKA Twigs – LP1

LP1

Chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiic.

Favorite track: “Pendulum”

16. Spoon – They Want My Soul

They Want My Soul

I met Britt Daniel this past Sunday. Oh, this album is good. Spoon by the numbers, but that’s like, way better than most bands’ by-the-numbers shit.

Favorite track: “Knock Knock Knock”

15. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise

La_Roux_-_Trouble_in_Paradise

Maybe it’s because I’m gay. Maybe it’s because the live show blew my mind (even though I was alone, which was chic but also not chic). I keep coming back to this album when I need to shake the stress away, one of the many magical powers of music. La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise does it better than many others – there’s no need to skip to the next track on this one.

Favorite track: “Cruel Sexuality”

14. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

Mac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Is Mac DeMarco good looking? Not good looking? What would happen if he fixed his teeth? Can he get naked more often in music videos?

Favorite track: “Let My Baby Stay”

13. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

Post_Tropical

Murked me all last winter, and I’m ready to let it murk me all over again during this snowy season. McMorrow turned up the bass for his second LP and it sounds really great.

Favorite track: “Red Dust”

12. Future Islands – Singles

Singles

I mean there’s really not much more I can say about Singles that hasn’t already been said. This was Sam’s year.

Favorite track: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

11. Caribou – Our Love

Our Love

Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike. Yes. Also, Owen Pallett contributed a lot to this one. More on him later…

Favorite track: “Back Home”

10. PHOX – PHOX

PHOX

Ok, honestly I really didn’t want to like this album as much as I did, and still do. First, it was pushed on me BY THE STARBUCKS APP. Red flag number one. And then just look at that album art. CUTE AS FUCK. Also, their name is a stylized spelling of fox, an animal that is plastered all over my favorite Pierrepont Hicks tie. There’s no way the music can be that good. Then I learn this Baraboo, Wisconsin-based band recorded this album at Bon Iver’s April Base. BAIIIIII. And then I gave in and laughed and cried and wow it’s just kind of perfect. Does this make me basic?

Favorite track: “Satyr and The Faun”

9. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

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Dead. I’m dead by how perfect this album is. Really Sharon, stop it.

Favorite track: “Break Me”

8. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Slay Annie.

Favorite track: “Regret”

7. Lykke Li – I Never Learn

Lykke_Li_-_I_Never_Learn

Jesus, this album. I mean when the preview video was released, I was sobbing at my desk. TALK ABOUT DEVASDATING! Apparently she wrote this album after the most painful breakup of her life. “This album is about the shame and the guilt and the sadness and the regret you can experience after leaving someone,” she told Pitchfork. Like, sadness chic to the extreme. And that voice, that voice that can pierce anything. Really though, if you’re having a bad day or you just fought with your girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate or just want to feel feelings, this is about as cathartic (and brilliant) as you can get. I mean during the chorus of “Gunshot” it actually feels like the music is shooting you. How great is that?

Favorite track: “Gunshot”

6. Beck – Morning Phase

Beck-Morning-Phase

The return of Beck was great for me, and great for 2014. Seeing Beck at Pitchfork Fest this year really cemented how great this album is; who knew “Blue Moon” was such a sing-along anthem? “I’m so tired of being alooooneeeee.” Sing it boy.

Favorite track: “Waking Light”

5. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

Ultraviolence

I don’t think I anticipated an album more this year than Lana’s- the one on which she had to prove to everyone she wasn’t a flash in the pan, she wasn’t her SNL performance, which honestly wasn’t that bad. The girl that everyone loved to hate became the subject of countless think pieces both defending and defaming her (once again). But Lana doesn’t care about any of that, and Ultraviolence is amazing. The album sounds like old Hollywood, curated by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and brought home by Lana’s vocals, which are stronger than ever. She revels in being the other woman, looking pretty when she cries, smoking hydroponic weed in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. And she’s cooler than him. Duh.

Favorite track: “Sad Girl”

4. Tweedy – Sukierae

Sukierae

What could have been a toss-off is instead one of the most captivating releases Jeff Tweedy has put out in a while, with or without Wilco. It’s long, yes, but none of the tracks are throwaways. Instead, we get a look into how a singer/songwriter deals with family issues (his wife’s cancer), and learn that Jeff’s son, Spencer, is a skilled drummer, which isn’t that much of a surprise. Songs like “Fake Fur Coat” evoke solo Dylan material, while “Low Key,” “Pigeons,” and “Honey Combed” take their place along with the best that Wilco or Tweedy have ever done. A treat, for sure.

Favorite track: “Low Key”

3. Real Estate – Atlas

Atlas

Real Estate have established a pretty niche sound, and while that doesn’t change much with Atlas, the band has evolved that sound to drape around some forlorn subject matter. “I’m out again on my own, a reflection in the chrome,” sings Martin Coutney on the opening track, singling that not all is beachy keen in New Jersey. This sentiment continues throughout the album. Lyrics like “I cannot come back to this neighborhood without feeling my own age,” on “Past Lives” and “I’m just trying to make some sense of this before I lose another year,” on “The Bend” hit home for many who are watching their own lives evolve before their eyes, but also reinforce that change can be a beautiful thing.

Favorite track: “The Bend”

2. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream

Lost in the Dream

It’s perfect. Really. Like, almost too perfect. The best part is Adam Granduciel and company make it all sound (and look during live shows) so effortless, like this kind of material is easy to conjure. I’m guessing it isn’t, so bravo.

Favorite track: “Red Eyes”

1. Owen Pallett – In Conflict

In Conflict

“I’ll never have any children. I would bare them and confuse them, my children.”

Oh Owen, aka Final Fantasy, aka master of the violin and loop pedal, aka the strings genius behind The National, Arcade Fire, Beirut and the Oscar-nominated Her soundtrack. On In Conflict, Owen the collaborator collaborated with Brian Eno to release his most personal album yet. One minute, this thing sounds like you’re on the moon (“In Conflict”), the next, you’re almost uncomfortably close to a past sexual encounter that’s at once eerie and beautiful (“The Passions”). I knew In Conflict would be good, but I had no idea that this album would grow on me to become my favorite of the year. Finally eschewing the guise of a stage name and signing about fictional characters like he did on Heartland, Pallett opens up and sings about his life, which is beautiful, messy and yes, gay.

When he sings that line, “I’ll never have any children,” you can almost hear the sadness in his voice, but he’s also come fully to terms with that fact. On “The Secret Seven,” Pallett sings, in defiance to Dan Savage, “It won’t get better,” before offering up his own telephone number and an ear to those that are experiencing “the hunger” and the rising water that can be navigating the gay lifestyle. The arrangements are complex yet playful, with added electronics, on display during “The Sky Behind the Flag,” and others, fleshing the whole thing out. I’m just rambling at this point, but the point is that I couldn’t escape In Conflict even if I wanted to.

And I don’t hate that.

Favorite track: “Song For Five & Six”

 

 

 

 

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Top 30 Albums of 2012

Many things have influenced this list, most notably my move to Chicago in April. Being in a new city and getting to know music through headphones while riding the L instead of long drives around the chain of lakes in Minneapolis has certainly been a different experience, and a welcome change of pace. I’ve been truly falling in love with an album or bands because of my experiences at live shows in totally new venues to me. When it all ads up, I feel like this list would look a little different if I had stayed in Minneapolis.

I’ve also been nostalgic (story of my life), which is why the list is also a little #dark and emo – musicians like Andrew Bird and bands like Ben Folds Five “bring me back” and it feels weird/sad/good all at the same time. I mean does this even make sense?

This was also a weird year in music because nothing like, totally blew my fucking mind. Don’t get me wrong, every album on this list has definitely given me super fragrant moments, but nothing was really a revelation in terms of being something sounding completely different and new. I mean, Animal Collective released a new album and it didn’t even make my list. What? There are also two Minneapolis-based bands on this list. Double what?

At the same time, it almost made it harder to arrange this list, as a lot of albums could have been traded out for others equally as worthy – it’s just one song or a personal experience or another thing that determined which album one which slot.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll feel differently about this or would have added other albums and will want to eat my own words six months down the road from now, because that always happens and I’m constantly discovering new music no matter what year it was released. So with all of that, here goes:

30. Poliça – Give You the Ghost

Polica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust, I have lots of issues with this band, this album (I tweeted something to the effect that it basically sounds like GAYNGS 2.0), but damn if “Wandering Star” doesn’t take me places every time I hear it. Whatever.

29. Sun Kil Moon – Among the Leaves

Sun Kil Moon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A kind album with kind music made for shuffling down Lincoln Avenue in the crisp air, especially while listening to “Sunshine in Chicago.

28. Yeasayer – Fragrant World

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This album kind of kicked off a theme of big names releasing albums that were good, just not great, or as great as their previous efforts. Sorry Yeasayer, I’m talking about you. But this was still decent, and album closer “Glass of the Microscope” does really nice things to me.

27. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

Perfume Genius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s pretty. It’s depressing. It’s pretty depressing. I like it.

26. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

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Really solid album, with a live performance at The Cedar to put it over the top for me.

25. Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game

Rufus Wainwright - Out Of The Game Lyrics_monsterlyricsblogspot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Certainly not Rufus’ best work, but still enjoyable. This one may be more of a nostalgic pick for me, but you can’t deny the man’s skillz.

24. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit

Delta Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry I’m not sorry.

23. Woods – Bend Beyond

Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very prolific band who released their best album yet this year.

22. The Shins – Port of Morrow

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Although I’d prefer to be a little bit more emo when spending time with The Shins, this is a solid album for a return.

21. Ben Folds Five – The Sound of the Life of the Mind

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I mean hiiiiiiiii, grade school, high school and college memories smacking me in the face. I really, really enjoyed this album.

20. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Kendrick Lamar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.

19. Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship

Here We Go Magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A personal favorite of mine. I just love everything about this band. As for the album, it’s all fantastic, but “How Do I Know” is just pure fucking genius.

18. Shearwater – Animal Joy

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Again, I was honestly expecting something just a little more from Shearwater, especially for a debut on Sub Pop. Little gripes aside, I Shearwater are a great band and Animal Joy is still a joy.

17. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

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These ladies kinda came out of nowhere for me, but The Lion’s Roar is a sweet album filled with thoughtful songs that tug all the right heartstrings.

16. Passion Pit – Gossamer 

Passion Pit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After reading that Pitchfork feature, I think everyone just wanted to give Michael Angelakos a big hug. So I’m already emotionally vulnerable and then we learn all of that #dark stuff and then we have an album that sounds like a party on the surface but is actually just super sad? Sign me up Oh, also, my twin is in the band.

15. The Walkmen – Heaven

The Walkmen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaaand again, not my favorite album by The Walkmen, but Heaven still definitely has its moments.

15, Horse Feathers – Cynic’s New Year

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This isn’t groundbreaking music, but frontman Justin Ringle’s voice is just so nice, and these folk tunes are simple yet gorgeous at the same time, welcoming repeat listens for whenever you want to feel cozy. Yeahhh.

 

13. Grimes – Visions

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My goal in life is to become a Grimes backup dancer. Holy chic.

12. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Tame Impala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what more I can add to the discussion of how good this album is, other than to say how good it is. It’s really good. “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control,” is one of the best songs of the year.

11. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

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I don’t know if people just forgot about how good this album is, but In Our Heads has been snubbed on many other lists. Again, it’s nothing totally radical for Hot Chip, but it is some of their best work yet.

10. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

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LEAVE LANA ALONE!!! But seriously though, I really love this album, including the new songs added to the Paradise edition. Just give into it already.

9. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory

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The lovely Mr. Bird returns with another lovely album.

8. The xx – Coexist

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I guess I’d call this album dense, in the best way possible. You just kinda get enveloped in the whole thing. The xx just keep getting better.

7. Lost in the Trees – A Church That Fits Our Needs

Lost in the Trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This album is about the suicide of lead singer An Picker’s mom. She also had cancer. Just know that going into this. The brilliantly arranged strings that swirl around these folk-tinged songs do Picker’s mom justice. It’s not the happiest album of the year, but there can be beauty in death, and A Church That Fits Our Needs emotes that in the best way. I saw a lot of shows this year and I think Lost in the Trees’ performance at Lincoln Hall was my favorite.

6. Grizzly Bear – Shields 

Grizzly Bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted something just a little more from Grizzly Bear, but again they get away with sounding like they’re playing by the numbers, because by the numbers for Grizzly Bear is extraordinary.

5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Frank Ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pyramids.

4. Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who

Dark Dark Dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best breakup album in recent memory.

3. Beach House – Bloom

Beach House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach House never disappoint. Another situation where a band just keeps getting better. Put on “On the Sea” if you wanna see me cry in public.

2. Father John Misty – Fear Fun

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A nearly perfect album. It’s funny, touching and beautiful at the same time, with harmonies for days. You can listen to it over and over and it never gets old. The songs just drill in your head even deeper. The man can also dance.

1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean have we met? We’ve been waiting for a while for this one. I’ll admit I was a little nervous when I heard she hadn’t really teamed back up with Jon Brion – the songs are some of the most stripped down and spare in her career – but this just highlights Fiona’s voice and the subject of each masterpiece. Sure there are musical flourished but only where they absolutely need to be, hitting at the perfect place to really pull at your heart, or head. She’s one of the finest songwriters around. The Idler Wheel was worth the wait and more. It was the best album of 2012.

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