KCSU's Top Albums of 2014 (Cheyenne McCoy)
KCSU has received thousands of records this year, and as Music Director I’ve been #blessed to listen to a lot of them. Making this list was a lot harder than I expected because 2014 didn’t have as many gems to offer as more recent years. Some of the records that I was most excited for ended up being flops, and musicians that I’d never heard of totally stole the show. Here are my 20 favorite records of the year:
20. Conor Oberst, Upside Down Mountain
Upside Down Mountain is definitely not the best album that Conor has ever put out, but it was a really comforting and familiar album for me. This guy’s music has been a companion to me since middle school, and I was glad to have something new from him this year. It also gave him a reason to go on tour again, and seeing him for the first time made me get into a Conor Oberst rut for a solid part of my year.
19. Sun Kil Moon, Benji
As much as I hate everything that Mark Kozelek said and did this past year, I really, really like his music. His lyrics are honest and vulnerable and usually about someone dying. It makes me feel sad in a good way, and I was able to mostly ignore the masses of Pitchfork articles detailing something dumb that he did so I could still enjoy this album.
18. Ty Segall, Manipulator
I put off listening to this album for a while because I feel like all I ever do anymore is listen to new Ty Segall records. But as soon as I heard the opening of “Tall Man Skinny Lady,” I was hooked. I don’t know how this guy can make so much good music in such a short amount of time, but I’m glad he can because he made one of my favorite records of the year.
17. Landlady, Upright Behavior
This eccentric and fun pop rock record takes me by surprise no matter how many times I’ve listened to it. This is an album that requires active listening—if I want to lay in bed and do nothing but listen to interesting music, this is the record that I’m going to put on.
16. Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso
The song “Coffee” was one of the best tracks of the year, and it made me really pay attention to this band. This album had me liking electro-pop more than I usually like electro-pop. They have a different sound than what I usually like and one that a lot of people haven’t heard before, making this one of the standout albums of the year.
15. Allah-Las, Worship the Sun
Allah-Las are a band that were picked up straight out of the sunny 60’s surf rock music scene and dropped into 2014 (and the most-played section of my iTunes library). I love this throwback band that made me nostalgic for a time that I wasn’t alive for. This album brought a cool retro feel and a never ending summer to my days this year.
14. St. Vincent, St. Vincent
Let 2014 be known as the year that St. Vincent finally won me over. Annie Clark is her own special creature from some magical land who blessed us with her gift of distinct guitar playing and experimental rock. Since her last album, she seems to have evolved into her fullest form, and I’ve become obsessed with the character of Annie Clark and her music.
13. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Only Run
This is one of the first bands that really got me into good music, so I’m always going to have a soft spot for them. I’m not the only person who was hoping for an album like their 2005 debut Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and got something very different, but it’s a bigger and more synth-y sound that shows off a different side of the band. Alec Ounsworth’s distinct trembling voice is like a lullaby to me—this is an album that I like more each time I listen to it.
12. Say Hi, Endless Wonder
Say Hi has put out a lot of good records, and this one didn’t break the trend. Pairing electronic bass with Eric Elbogen howling about love really works on this album. This was one of my most anticipated albums of the year and I knew it would be one of my top records—good music made by sad boys with broken hearts will always land on my list of favorites.
11. Generationals, Alix
I love me some Generationals. The morning that their first single “Black Lemon” came out was the best morning of my summer. A new album from Generationals means a dozen or so new songs to listen to in the car with the windows down, new crowd favorites on party playlists, and motivational songs to get me through a semester of studying. This album is feel-good music that never lets me down, which makes it one of the standout records of my year.
10. Karen O, Crush Songs
Bedroom love songs are my favorite kind of songs. When I listen to this record, I feel like I’m lying next to Karen O on her bed while she’s quietly singing these songs and after each lyric I say, “Yeah girl, been there,” and then we smile at each other because we both get it. I liked being with her through her crushes and her heartbreaks, and I really liked seeing a new, softer side of Karen O.
9. Tweens, Tweens
This album had me listening to nothing but trash pop for months. Bridget Battle sings bratty songs about boys messing up, being bored in the city, and other relevant-to-20-something-life topics. Tweens seemed to fit right in with the discussions of girl power and feminism in the music industry that took place this year, and listening to this album made me want to be a badder bitch.
8. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal
Have I mentioned how much I like bad singers? It barely sounds like frontman Andrew Savage is even trying to sing…he’s just reading some poetry he wrote with some loud garage music in the background. But in a really good way. “Instant Disassembly” was one of my favorite songs of 2014, and this album defined a large part of my summer. White boy indie rock for the win.
7. Alex G, DSU
I found out about this guy through cyber-stalking Mat Cothran, who makes music as Elvis Depressedly and Coma Cinema. He discovered Alex G and invited him to tour together this summer, which caught the attention of sad lo-fi bedroom indie fans (myself included). This debut album is gritty and amateur in a nice way and sometimes it sounds a little like Modest Mouse and I love it.
6. Girlpool, Girlpool EP
This is the only EP on this list, but I think it deserves to be here just as much as any full-length album that came out this year. I really like the word “sugary” to describe this duo—they combine lyrics about boys and apartments and other relatable life things with simple and stripped down instrumentation and a sweetness about them. In each of their songs, these two girls are announcing to us that they can do anything if they just scream loud enough.
5. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness
This album was big for Angel Olsen. She stepped up her game by adding more rock and roll to her sweet and acoustic songs, and people started paying a lot more attention. After hearing “Forgiven/Forgotten” for the first time, I binge-listened to this album and watched as many videos of Angel Olsen interviews and performances as I could find. When I think of spring 2014, I think of this album, making it one of my top records of the year.
4. Mitski, Bury Me At Makeout Creek
This was maybe the most surprising album of the year for me. I had listened to Mitski before—that song “Strawberry Blonde” was really good—but everything else was really ‘meh’ to me. There was a lot of hype around after this album came out, so I gave it a try and it blew me away. A minute and a half into the first track on the album, I said, “Okay, Mitski. I’m listening now.”
3. Alvvays, Alvvays
I love when a whimsical twee album breaks out and actually gains some popularity. This jangle pop duo put a surprising amount of personality into their debut album. I’ve found myself singing along to “Archie, Marry Me” more than any other song this year and relating to the lyrics “Too late to go out, too young to stay in” way more than I wish I did.
2. Mac DeMarco, Salad Days
It’s hard for me to believe that this came out in 2014 because these songs have already been the soundtrack to so many moments in my life—mostly moments when I was by myself and feeling like a slacker. DeMarco’s laid back guitar and nonchalant vocals made me feel like it was okay to do nothing but stare at my ceiling. I’m sure that listening to this album will always bring me back to being 20 years old and always being tired and really believing that nothing matters except for music.
1. Frankie Cosmos, Zentropy
This is the kind of music that I would make if I was a person who made my own music. Greta Kline is a 19-year-old with a pink guitar and braids in her hair. She sings about how school has made her boring and how she doesn’t like olives. Her music is simple, cute, playful, and confident, and I feel like I’ve made a best friend in this album. I connected with it more than any other album of 2014; Frankie Cosmos, will you marry me?