KCSU DJs Share Their Favorite Records of 2014
After the station’s two music directors got to wax poetic over their top album picks of the year, we thought it only fair that we gave the DJs the chance to do the same. Top ten lists galore!
DJ B-Rad (Brad Lanphere)
- Russ Liquid – In Love
- Papadosio – Night & Day
- Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – Psychology
- Twiddle – Live at Nectar’s
- Umphrey’s McGee – Similar Skin
- Mac Demarco – Salad Days
- Levee Daze – Levee Daze
- BoomBox – Filling in the Color
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
- Late Night Radio – SoapBox
- Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
- YAMN – Unity of Opposites
- Manic Focus – Cerebral Eclipse
- RL Grime – VOID
- Dopapod – Never Odd or Even
- Real Estate – Atlas
- Tauk – Collisions
- ODESZA – In Return
- Thriftworks – Fade/Fader/Fadest
- Rustie – Green Language
Another great year of music is in the books. Russ Liquid brought his extraordinary talent on the piano, flute, trumpet and saxophone to make a glitch-hop jazz album from the future. Papadosio’s album was flawless with each track being better than the last. An added bonus is that Night & Day was recorded live in a studio in the hills of North Carolina. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong made a massive funk album that is a trip to listen to. If you like psychedelic funk, give it a listen. Twiddle’s Live at Nectar’s album brought old and new Twiddle tracks to the surface of this awesome live album recorded during their residency at Nectar’s in Vermont. Umphrey’s McGee never fail with their studio releases, and their eighth album did not disappoint. It was nice to hear some live favorites they’ve been playing for a while, mixed nicely on an album. The rest of the list is awesome as well ,with highlights from #s 6-20 being Filling in the Color, Run The Jewels 2, Unity of Opposites, Collisions and Fade/Fader/Fadest.
DJ Jericho (David Jarvis)
While all of these albums are great, Cilvia Demo and Days Before Rodeo are far and above the best. Isaiah Rashad brings out the best in hip-hop with his rooted style and beats. His new take on old style shines among the over production prevalent in hip-hop today. Travis Scott’s album, on the other hand, is the best overall production of the year. His chimes with single words and catchy rhyme schemes show he has a potential for great things, and his features absolutely destroy their parts. Overall the best mix tape of the year.
Top Hip-Hop Albums of 2014
- Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
- Travi$ Scott, Days Before Rodeo
- Big K.R.I.T., Cadillactica
- YG, My Krazy Life
- Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2
- Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron
- G-Eazy, These Things Happen
- T.I., Paperwork
- Vince Staples, Hell Can Wait
- Young Jeezy, Seen It All
DJ Luna (Olivia Smith)
- Jungle – Jungle
This is my most played and most enjoyed album of 2014. From “Busy Earnin'” to “Drops,” there’s a solid variety of funk tracks. Additionally, they have these amazing videos to accompany the tracks that bring it full circle for me.
- FKA twigs – LP1
Obviously the album is amazing, her voice is silky smooth and so so sexy. No way could this be any less than the first runner up for 2014.
- Gardens & Villa – Dunes
I had to reach way back for this one, since it was released very early in the year, but it truly was one of my favorite releases. I could listen to this album on repeat and ride the electrowaves forever.
- Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Talk about variety – this album is all over the place and yet still one complete piece. This music is a complete departure from Gorillaz and Blur and proves just what an incredible musician Albarn is. +10 for choir use and a song about an elephant.
- Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I first heard ‘Hey Mami’ I had no idea what the rest of the album would bring, but I was so impressed. As Zach has said, ‘They get the electropop job done’ – maybe better than almost anyone else.
- Real Estate – Atlas
Bangerz are great, but Atlas is an incredible, lo-fi journey that only Real Estate can take you on. I’ve been a huge fan, and this album only solidified my love of these surf-side, contented tracks.
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
A collection of short, jazz-infused, genre-less pieces to the story of FlyLo’s brushes and experiences with death this past year or so. Nothing like you’d expect but everything you needed and wanted.
- St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Most people have ranked this higher, but I feel strongly that it’s top ten, but maybe not five for me. ‘Digital Witness’ was one of my favorite self-aware tracks of the year.
- Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
A great album with lots of surprises and a strong step forward to opening doors for more people to get into hip-hop and rap.
- Royal Blood – Royal Blood
The baby of Jack White, Black Sabbath, and dark happiness, this album completely blew me away – it’s their debut!
- Taylor Swift – 1989
- TV on the Radio – Seeds
- Generationals – Alix
- Interpol – El Pintor
- Spoon – They Want My Soul
- Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
- Alvvays – Alvvays
- Jack White – Lazaretto
- Temples – Sun Structures
- Metronomy – Love Letters
Thrillington (Trevor Lombardi)
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
The Heartbreakers’ 13th studio album is surprisingly the first number one release from Tom Petty’s catalogue. The LP contains some of Petty’s best songwriting since The Last DJ (2002) while still capturing some of the sound from 2010’s Mojo.
- The Black Keys – Turn Blue
The Black Keys’ 8th studio album is the best material from the duo yet. Written during Dan Auerbach’s divorce from his wife, the songs are painfully honest without being completely upfront. The tone and lyrics from that notion make Turn Blue the darkest Keys album yet.
- Ray LaMontagne – Supernova
Produced by Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Studios in Nashville, LaMontagne released this psychedelic/garage rock/soul throwback album that harkens back to the vintage sounds of the mid-to-late 60s. With funky grooves and killer organ riffs, Supernova is easily LaMontagne’s strongest release yet.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – CSNY 1974
This long awaited release has been 40 years in the making. This 3-disc release captures the best audio of what was assumed to be unlistenable live material from the group’s troubled 1974 stadium tour dubbed the “Doom Tour” by David Crosby.
- Paul McCartney & Wings – Venus & Mars [2014 Deluxe Edition Remaster w/ Bonus Tracks]
McCartney’s ongoing archival releases, which started in 2010 with Band On The Run, finally unearthed a proper remaster of the classic 1975 LP. Easily one of Wings’ best studio albums, this release featured the best grouping of bonus tracks that the McCartney archive has released so far.
- Neil Young – Storytone
Neil’s second studio album of the year was much more prominent than its sister, A Letter Home, that was recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Records Recording Booth in late 2013. While both albums are aimed to please any fan, Storytone was the better of the two. The album reunited Young with producer Nico Bolas as the Volume Dealers for this 2-disc set with orchestral and solo versions of each track. The album contains some of his most deep and emotionally upfront lyrics about his age, his divorce, his new love, his electric car and the environment. The album, like 2012’s Psychedelic Pill with Crazy Horse is a great companion to his second memoir, Special Deluxe.
- George Harrison – The Apple Years: 1968-1975
The Harrison Estate, son Dhani and wife Olivia, finally archived and remastered the six studio albums George put out on the Apple label before creating his own label, Dark Horse, in 1976. Most of these albums have not been in print for many years and often forgotten about, including Dark Horse and Extra Texture, which contain Harrison’s most neglected songwriting.
- Eric Clapton – The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale
When J.J. Cale died in the summer of 2013, Clapton had lost one of his biggest mentors and friends. To grieve and pay tribute to one of the most forgotten, gifted and underrated songwriters, Clapton decided to record some of his favorite Cale tunes with help from an all-star cast of musicians including Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson and John Mayer.
- David Crosby – Croz
Crosby’s newest studio LP is his first in 21 years and his most complete album since 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. Recorded of the enjoyment of making music, Crosby intended the album not to sell well since he considered himself a poor, washed-up hippie. When the album hit the Billboard Top 20, the success prompted Crosby to take a short solo U.S. tour last spring.
- Robert Plant – Lullaby… and the Ceaseless Roar
Robert Plant does his best not to associate himself with the Led Zeppelin estate (especially with the first batch of remasters of the Zeppelin catalogue), but his voice still proves that his tenor remains the same. Lullaby… is Plant’s first release with Nonesuch and contains an eclectic group of influences from World Music to Americana and Folk. The album is almost as strong as his 2007 collaboration with Allison Krauss, Raising Sand.
Key songs of the year:
- “Set That Baggage Down” – David Crosby
- “No Other Way” – Ray LaMontagne
- “This Guitar Can’t Keep From Crying [Dave Stewart Remix]” – George Harrison
- “Someday” – Eric Clapton & Mark Knopfler
- “Beware My Love (John Bonham Version)” – Paul McCartney & Wings
- “Forgotten Man” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
- “I Want To Drive My Car (Solo Version)” – Neil Young
- “Cigarette Daydreams” – Cage The Elephant
- “Hawaiian Sunrise” – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
- “Gotta Get Away” – The Black Keys
DJ Chromatone (Rob Huibregtse)
These are in no particular order; my preference for these albums depends on multiple things, including how I’m feeling, what the weather’s like, what I had for breakfast, which pair of jeans I’m wearing, and a multitude of other variables. It’s impossible for me to put them in any particular order.
- Com Truise – Wave 1
Seth Haley’s fourth musical alias, Com Truise, manages to build on his retro mid-fi style that sounds like it would have been futuristic had it been released in 1986, yet is still distinctively contemporary. It’s an homage to the past while also portraying a dream of the future many of us might still have today.
- Tycho – Awake
Tycho’s transformation from a one-person electronic act to a fully fledged band brings some fresh instrumental updates such as live drums, but Scott Hansen’s dreamy stylistic choices remain thankfully the same. Tycho again proves instrumental music can be wrapped in genuine emotion and even tell a story without the use of words.
- Foster the People – Supermodel
Foster the People’s second album departs only slightly from the foundation laid by their debut album in 2011, which is good. Lyrically, this album dives off the deep end, as does Mark Foster’s voice in certain songs.
- Generationals – Alix
Generationals’ transition to being more of an electronically-led band has created some of the most upbeat and catchy tunes I’ve heard in a while, but that’s not to say that it’s just another simple indie pop album.
- Lord RAJA – A Constant Moth
This was the first album I officially reviewed for KCSU. Lord RAJA’s debut album is very stylistically diverse, but a satisfying touch of surrealism that unites all of the tracks makes this album as much a fit for a modern art museum as it is for a small Saturday night party.
- Les Sins – Michael
Chaz Bundwick of Toro Y Moi decided to take what he learned from his previous productions and make it more danceable, resulting a fantastic take on EDM that still emanates the same retro vibes we’ve come to love from him.
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Fusing jazz, electronic, and hip-hop to explore the theme of death and the afterlife isn’t something that should work very well, but Flying Lotus manages to do so in spectacular fashion. This album will live on as one of the greatest musical experiments conducted in the past decade.
- HAERTS – HAERTS
If HAERTS isn’t big someday, I will be severely disappointed in our culture. If the echoey guitars and a truly beautiful lead voice doesn’t get your heart racing, I don’t know what will.
- Lone – Reality Testing
Lone seems to have fused the two drastically different styles of his two prior albums into one this time around, and the result is hard-banging Detroit-style beats fused into a magical and colorful atmosphere.
- Christopher Willits – OPENING
Willits’ new audiovisual album is something he’s been working on for a long time, and it shows. I’ve never meditated before, but this album has almost inspired me to try it to the tune of some of the tracks. The visual component of the album is also exceedingly well done.
DJ Foxhill (Sam Wangsness)
(in alphabetical order by artist)
- Blood Groove & Kikis – Wonderland
- Critical Choice – One Zero One
- Crywolf – Angels EP
- deadmau5 – While (1<2)
- Keeno – Life Cycle
- Jukebox the Ghost – Self-Titled
- Logistics – Polyphony
- Metrik – Universal Language
- Porter Robinson – Worlds
- Tycho – Awake
- (HONORABLE MENTION) Etherwood – Self-Titled (not included in main list because it was released in Nov. 2013)
This list was honestly very difficult for me to compile, as the vast majority of music to which I listen is released in the format of singles rather than albums. However, I think these ten albums represent my relatively eclectic taste when it comes to electronic music (with the exception of the Jukebox The Ghost album, which is decidedly more traditional indie rock), incorporating everything from shoegaze to drum & bass. It’s no secret that I love relaxing music, which explains the inclusion of quite a few of the albums in the list. However, I also love it when electronic music producers push the boundaries of genre lines, particularly when they cross completely into new territory. “Liquid” drum & bass is also a new favorite of mine this year, a genre with which I have become rather infatuated and certainly plan on producing myself at some point.
DJ Squid (Sam Bulkley)
- Say Anything – Hebrews
Max Bemis comes back to his music with a completely different approach of writing compared to previous albums, making his first full-length album without the use of any guitars. He instead replaces them with orchestral string arrangements while keeping the unique Say Anything punk sound. He also has a lineup of amazing guest vocalists that appear on almost every track. Bemis deserves album of the year in my opinion. My favorite song is either “Hebrews” featuring Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms or “Six Six Six” featuring Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra.
- Weatherbox – Flies in All Directions
Brian Warren created Flies In All Directions with mostly songs that he wrote back when the band began in 2005. This album contends with the top spot because its sound firmly resonates and stays in your head. Warren makes his music that is cryptic and self-absorbing that explains his dark fantasies and mental breakdowns. My favorite song is “The Fresh Prints of Bill Ayers.”
- Sage Francis – Copper Gone
Sage Francis bounces back from being off the map for four years with his new album Copper Gone and blows the indie hip-hop regime out of the water. The emotional tour throughout this album gives something that anyone can relate to. Sage is still pounding out amazing music and this album is probably one of his best. Favorite song is “Dead Man’s Float” or “Make Em Purr.”
- Angels & Airwaves – The Dream Walker
Tom Delonge created his fifth studio album for his side project AVA, and it is honestly the best since We Don’t Need To Whisper was released in 2006 after blink-182 went on hiatus. Delonge treats Angels & Airwaves like his baby and understood that he needed to try to make it different from the previous four albums. He is a visionary with this album by incorporating a short film, graphic novel, comic books, videos, and animations with the album to all tie in a spectacular story. This album hasn’t even been out for a week and it already jumped to number four on my list because it is honestly brilliant. My favorite song at the moment is either “The Wolfpack” or “Anomaly.”
- Watsky – All You Can Do
Indie hip-hop artist/slam poet George Watsky released his album All You Can Do this year and changed the game for his own music. Paving his own path to find his own niche in the music industry, he debuted his album at number 33 on the Billboard 200. He transitioned from his previous album Cardboard Castles by making his music and lyrics more mature as the whole album reflects on his past from a more mature perspective. This psychedelic, folk-rock, hip-hop album is so unique from all music out there and deserves to be listened to. Favorite song is “Bet Against Me” or “The One.”
- K. Flay – Life As A Dog
Flay started making raps in her spare time while still pursuing a double major of psychology and sociology at Stanford. Ten years later, she left her old label to start her own and pursue her own sound of music that is astounding. Life As A Dog brings a different sound to her music as she mixes more synth and pop vocals into her songs while still maintaining a hip-hop persona. She was funded completely by fans to produce her first full length album that reaches into the darker corners of her mind. Favorite song is “Can’t Sleep” or “Thicker Than Dust.”
- OK Go – Hungry Ghosts
Alternative rock band OK Go created this album giving a new approach to making their music. Another crowd-funded project, Hungry Ghosts is filled with a bunch of catchy and head banging melodies that catch the attention of the listener and create their own style of rock music. Along with their original tactic of creating the hands-down best music videos, they released this album with a bunch of truly good music. Favorite song is “Another Set of Issues.”
- The Glitch Mob – Love Death and Immortality
The Glitch Mob finally released their sophomore album that blew me away when I first heard it. This album is all-around beautiful and a great electronic album. They set such a distinctive, unique sound in comparison to other EDM artists that makes The Glitch Mob who they are. Favorite song is “Skytoucher.”
- Manchester Orchestra – Cope
Manchester Orchestra created this beefed-up, heavy-hitting album that sticks with you. They transition from their lighter-sounding Simple Math into this amazing rock album that almost makes you nod your head along while listening to any song on the album. They continue to define their own brand of indie rock. They also released Hope later in the year which is an acoustic re-imagining of this album. Favorite song is “Every Stone.”
- Dikembe – Mediumship
Indie-emo rock band Dikembe is not known well outside of their hometown in Florida. I only know of them because I saw them open for a show to a crowd of around thirty people. But what they played took me by surprise and really caught my attention and reminded me of Brand New. This album brings back emo aesthetics and intertwines it with indie rock. Favorite song is “Hood Rat Messiah.”