In the midst of the general chaos that is my every December, it is a genuine pleasure to revisit the year in new music and spend a few hours going through all the wonderful album releases I have enjoyed in 2014, in part because this task also involves some spirited chair dancing and tasty eggnog. My selection parameters are these: the albums must be new music released in 2014 (but, hey, don't miss out on The Kinks 5-CD set  The Anthology 1964-1971), and that they must have contained songs that left a lasting impression and kept me singing, dancing, rocking, and thinking all year. I kept coming back to these albums for moremoremore, and invite you to discover them for yourselves if you have not already! Let's go!


Bass Drum of Death - Rip This (Innovative Leisure) 

I don't know about you, friends, but I require a certain amount of RRRRRAAAAAAA in my musical smorgasbord. This I find very therapeutic. These three bands take an essential punk structure and add plenty of personality to make very distinct differences in a genre where there are plenty of hollow, unfocused wannabes. Australia's youthful Ausmuteants add in some cheap Casio-style keyboards, frantic guitar, and coyote-yelp vocals, veterans Death From Above 1979 walk the line between alt and punk with confidence and a smart ear for song construction, and Bass Drum of Death continue to be one of the coolest young bands anywhere, and sound like they want to conquer the world.

Ausmuteants, "Freedom of Information"

Death From Above 1979, "Trainwreck 1979"

Bass Drum of Death, "For Blood"


After all that RRRRAAAAA, at times it is good to switch gears to something a bit less primal and more reflective. This is not to say these records are mushy and marshmallow; indeed, each one is thought-provoking and still dance-worthy, although more of a sway than a pogo. Real Estate has a sound that they stick to closely -- ethereal and pretty, with melodies that make you hum along without even realizing it and lyrics that speak of longing, isolation, and hope. The father-son team of Jeff and Spencer Tweedy have crafted an album that, while strongly anchored by its Wilco roots, surprises with interesting fills and punctuations from Spencer's drums, and a more immediate and less-structured approach that is darn charming. Melbourne, Australia's Twerps have a bedroom-recording sound that also warms the heart with simple, sparse songs that are short on pretension and long on memorable hooks and melodies -- cute without being too pop sweet.

Tweedy, "Low Key"

Twerps, "Heavy Hands"


The perfect mix in music for me is: garage rock + smart, clever, provocative lyrics + an element of surprise. These three releases satisfy each requirement. Our Young Master Segall, a fixture on my end-of-year favorites lists, has once again delivered bigtime. Manipulator melds Ty's fuzzy garage psych with (his other project) Fuzz's mighty jackhammer rumble, sneering, brash, and fun. Parquet Courts seemed to just fly out of the box already a success, and Sunbathing Animal continues to offer a quirky post-punk jam that is incredibly infectious. Foxygen takes it all over the top with their double album that has the balls to channel influences as divergent as Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, bubblegum rock, The Fall, and the Starland Vocal Band. Indulgent? Maybe a little, but the results sound glorious.

Parquet Courts, "Black and White"

Foxygen, "Star Power III - What Are We Good For"


Childbirth - It's A Girl (Help Yourself)
Tacocat - NVM (Hardly Art)
wimps - Party At The Wrong Time (Help Yourself)
wimps - Couches (self-released)

Damn, I am lucky to live in the Seattle area. I'm sorry to brag, but it's just true -- the music scene here is rich with talent, a collaborative spirit that fuels it, and that brings forth great stuff. Rumblings and changes are happening now similar to what San Francisco and other cool big cities are experiencing -- tech bros and Big Money moving in and changing the character to Big Box stores and EDM Nights, bleah -- but I am confident Seattle's musicians will not be displaced for long. I'm honored to know most of the people that make up these three bands, as they are awesome, and they bring so much jaw-droppin', hip-shakin' fun in whatever they do. You should buy their records if you like fun and also good music. If you don't like fun and good music, stop reading this right now and go rub yourself with old pine needles and listen to a 10-hour loop of tire screeches.

Childbirth is a trio that performs in hospital gowns and has absolutely no social filters, which is AMAZING and NEEDED. They manage to deliver a strong feminist message while being fun, funny, and relevant, laser-sharp and fearless. Tacocat similarly has a feminist stance, but takes it more pop, like a weird, colorful Japanese commercial that draws you into another world. I've been singing "Let's build a bridge to Hawaii-EEE-eee-eee-eee-ahh-AHH-ahhhh" most of the year. And then we have my beloved wimps, where the * after ALBUMS comes in the title of this post. Technically, wimps didn't record an album this year but did release two separate EPs, which contained enough material for an album, so because THIS IS MY LIST I combined the two and SO THERE. Bless you, wimps, for singing about the stuff that needs to be sung about like dog pills and naps and couches.

Childbirth, "How Do Girls Even Do It?"

Tacocat, "Bridge To Hawaii"

wimps, "Dog Pills"


King Tuff - Black Moon Spell (Sub Pop)
Mac De Marco - Salad Days (Captured Tracks)

These two rather amaze me. I never expected to hear the sounds of '70s AM radio, which could range from total cheese to brilliance, in some of the hottest college radio artists of 2014. This is because I am not psychic. So I smile when I hear the bratty vocals of King Tuff, the doubled riffs and phased-out guitar of Mac DeMarco, and the killer pop song construction gifts they share. You will see both these albums on a LOT of end-of-year lists, I predict, even though I am not psychic.

King Tuff, "Eyes of the Muse"

Mac DeMarco, "Treat Her Better"


White Fence - For the Recently Found Innocent(Drag City) 

As soon as I finished my first listening of this album by Tim Presley and produced by the aforementioned Ty Segall, I was confident that it would end up being my favorite album of the year. It's a captivating listen all the way through, and that's how I've been playing it, the full album in sequence, over and over. Segall has a way of highlighting all the best qualities of Presley, a prolific and thoughtful songwriter who can go down a bit of a one-man-only rabbit hole shouldering all his writing, performing, and production tasks on his own. With a friend with a very similar sensibility by his side, Presley brings us an album that shows him honing and appreciating his considerable talents. Every song is a little gem, fully realized and emotionally resonant, with a hazy California vibe that is both familiar and new. A little Love, a little Syd Barrett, a little snotty punk, and you've got a really wonderful record. I love it, and I think you will, too.

White Fence, "Like That"


White Fence also released a marvelous split single on Famous Class Records this year, with proceeds going towards charity. When I heard it, I instantly got an idea for a video and so my daughter and I took a Saturday to film and edit it, and it was one of the most fun things we did all year. Please follow the link in the video to buy the track -- it's a great song and good cause! Thanks!

White Fence, "Nero (Has A Lot To Think About)