We begin our year-end recap of 2014 with a look back at my list of the Top 10 Albums of 2014. This past year was an exceptionally good year for music, featuring diverse offerings from all across the gamut that satisfied the musical desires and wants from across the whole spectrum, and really dug deep in terms of the responses it elicits from the listener. My personal Top 10 Albums list ranges from indie rock to pop-punk, folk and everything in between to represent the sights and sounds I've been proud to share with you over the past year. Here is my list:
Vacationer – Relief
Hands down, the best of the best is right here! Philly's Vacationer blew everything out of the water with their sophomore release “Relief” that completely transcended conventional musical boundaries and hits at a different angle than their 2012 debut “Gone”. Kenny Vasoli hit the peak of his musical invincibility with the hypnotic, dream laced jam “Shining”, the throwback vibe of “Paradise Waiting”, and the frenetic, free wheeling chillax vibe of “In The Grass” that puts this album in a different pantheon of all the others.
Handguns – Life Lessons
Baltimore based pop-punkers Handguns made their breakthrough this year with their brand new studio set “Life Lessons”. Brandon Pagano & Co. completely rewrote the pop-punk playbook and presented songs in an explosive, dynamic fashion that will leave you in awe and have you replaying this album multiple times over to fully grasp the emotional volume of what the band is trying to convey to you. The indelible “Heart vs. Head” and “I Can't Relate” are just a few of the many highlights of an album that will definitely make a great stocking stuffer for the music lover in your life!
Ed Sheeran – X
Our favorite red-headed British crooner took it up to 11 this year with his sophomore album titled “X” (or multiply). The collection is much more diverse in its musical offerings than it's predecessor “+”, and presents Ed as a confident and dynamic chap who can handle just about anything thrown in his general musical direction. One of his strengths is that he has a knack for presenting material in such a creative and dynamic fashion that breaks the mold of a what a traditional singer-songwriter should sound like. “Sing”, “Thinking Out Loud” and “Don't” highlight the many favorites along with many more you're bound to find on this collection.
Nick Santino – Big Skies
Braintree, MA's own Nick Santino came through big time on his own this year with his debut solo effort titled “Big Skies”. The former A Rocket To The Moon alum has switched to a completely homegrown, folk based dynamic that is refreshing and is almost a musical rebirth of sorts for an artist who has a strong youth following that has been very receptive of the new material and the personal growth that he has endured because of it. Some of my personal favorites include “Can't Say I Miss You”, “Jackson Browne”, and “Have A Little Faith In Me”. One of the big musical surprises for me this year.
Tales of Olde – TxO
Boston's own indie rockers Tales of Olde came through big time with their self-titled debut EP. The husband and wife team of Lucas and Evelyn Cortazio highlight one of the most truly authentic folk rock records I've heard in quite some time. Bassist Jeff Kinsey adds a modern twist to an album of earthy delights like no other that will leave you hearkening for more. Highlights from the album include “Be Mine Again” and “Ghost In Your Head”.
The Black Keys – Turn Blue
Akron, OH's most famous residents not named LeBron, The Black Keys returned this year with their latest opus, “Turn Blue”. The effort deviates somewhat than their previous effort “El Camino”, but still has those trademark blues rock elements that have made the band a huge draw over the last few years and currently show no signs of slowing down. Some recommended highlights from the album include “Fever”, “Gotta Get Away”, and “Weight of Love”.
As It Is – This Mind of Mine
The British pop-punk movement is in full swing and this effort from Brighton, U.K.'s As It Is highlights this growing phenomenon that is starting to take shape over in America as we speak. With cutting edged rhythms and lyricism that fans can relate to and take them whereever they go literally, the band is ready to make its move in primetime with their recent signing to Fearless Records making them the first British band on the label. Highlights include “Horoscopes” and “Can't Save Myself”.
Bad Things – Bad Things
Olympic gold medal winning snowboarder Shaun White made his foray into music with the self-titled debut release from his band Bad Things this past year. The disc is a boatload of fun with straight shooting and dynamic alt-rock rhythms mixed in with the band's character and a persona that evokes the California lifestyle where the members emanate from, making the album a perfect companion for your surfing or skateboarding excursions. Standout tracks from the album include “Anybody”, “Fool”, “Caught Inside”, and “Saturday Night”.
Broken Bells – After The Disco
The side project of Danger Mouse and The Shins' James Mercer known as Broken Bells returned for a second helping this year with “After The Disco”. The album takes more twists and turns than their debut did, with great rips in the surface that emit varying degrees of tempos and James voice reaching new heights of greatness that evokes Barry Gibb in a sense on the band's leadoff charge “Holding On For Life”. Other recommended tracks include “Leave It Alone” and “Control”.
Grand Cousin – Grand Cousin
The product of Wesleyan University where MGMT formed, Grand Cousin released their first and only effort to date this year with their self-titled release. The album was a strong, cohesive effort that earmarked the band's tight knit and close musicianship that had a connective, indie rock vibe to it that made the band one of the more impressive upstart acts from the past year. The band ultimately decided to part ways this summer, but they have left us with an indelible musical effort to look back fondly on. Highlights include “Oxygen” and “Better”.