Archives For best of

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Beck karate chops former rap star, current punchline Kanye West

I listened to that Beck album today. You know, the one that won that Grammy. To be cliche: it was a loser baby. It was a hot sea of mopey, uninteresting slop that never justified itself other than that Beck has a long history of better albums that deserved this award far more than this one. If this was the best album last year then music is in a sad, sad state. And, no, Beyonce didn’t get ripped off. Her album was hot garbage as well. If you need help seeing this read this scathing (and hilarious) review that basically destroys an image you have of Beyonce as a force for women or a talent of any kind.

So what then were the best albums last year? Well, I solved it for you. Pretty much all my favorite 2014 tracks are on this playlist, but album-wise here goes:

1 – Ed Sheeran – X

There is no argument to be made for why this is not the album of the year. What Ed does lyrically, vocally, and musically is brilliant. It’s catchy, it’s sad, it infuses elements of hip-hop. It takes you to the 50s, across the pond, and to Middle Earth. Every single song makes it to a playlist.

2 – Taylow Swift – 1989

I wanted to hate it. It’s fucking fantastic. I don’t believe the bullshit for a second that Taylor “writes” any of this, but with assists from guys like Fun./Steel Train/Bleachers genius Jack Antonoff this is the best purely pop album in like 10 years. Beyonce who? If you can’t find 6 songs to belt out at the top of your lungs with your windows down you’re not human.

3 – Bleachers – Strange Desire

80s synth pop gets a makeover from Steel Train and Fun. member Jack Antonoff. Yeah, he’s dating Lena Dunham and seemed like an insufferable Bushwicker in concert, but he wrote the year’s best lyric (I didn’t know I was lonely til I saw your face”) on “I Wanna Get Better” and some of the year’s catchiest and best songs on this album. Hell, he even made Yoko Ono tolerable for a couple of minutes. That alone deserves a congressional medal of honor and a Grammy.

4 – K.Flay – Life As A Dog

She started as a rapper, now she kind of inhabits a genre to herself. She’s like Lorde if Lorde weren’t so damn overplayed. K.Flay is a better song writer with more adult lyrics. She’s Lorde for grownups.

5 – Damien Rice – My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Damien comes out with an album every decade or so and when he does they’re usually incredible. This is his best album since his debut and if you can find me a better lyricist that isn’t Passenger, I’ll eat my shorts. Colour Me In might be the song of the year.

6 – Bassnectar – Noise vs. Beauty

Skrillex who? This is the best EDM / Dubstep album of the last few years. It will melt your face off and definitely leaves no question that Skrillex (who’s incredible turd of an album this year definitely made his first seem like a fluke) has been dethroned.

7 – Iggy Azalea – The New Classic

I was a hater at first, but this album is fire. There’s Nikki and Iggy and after that I don’t think there’s a female MC that comes close. Some really fun lyrics on here and great beats.

8 – YTCracker – Introducing Neals

Indie rapper and former hacker has a flow that is more interesting than 90% of rappers out there. I don’t want to compare to Eminem other than to say that YT experiments with rhyme schemes in the catchiest ways possible and it’s reminiscent of Eminem simply because he’s the smartest and catchiest rapper everyone on the planet knows. The beats on this album take 1980s electro and update it for 2015. The lyrical content of this album is off the charts as a parable for all the dirty little ways the government is using technology to steal all your freedoms before you even realize it. The album is the backbone for a potential movie and tells a parable of an alternate future with disastrous results. It’s catchy, it’s banging, it’s lyrically incredible.

9 – Passenger – Whispers

He’s like the less miserable Damien Rice, but it’s only slightly less miserable. Guy and a guitar and a voice that could melt butter, but mostly melts panties. Fantastic album.

10 – Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Incredible tour de force. Melodies everywhere. It’s light, dark, brooding. It has a sick video with Shaia LaBeouf to followup that weird contemporary dance video for the single everyone knows.

11 – Johnnyswim – Diamonds

Stumbled on this one randomly on Spotify. Kind of reminds me of Civil Wars. Male/female vocalist (possibly married or involved, I don’t know, you have Google…Google it.) It’s very chill, but some really great tunes and powerful lyrics.

12 – Brad Paisley – Moonshine In The Trunk

Brad Paisley is the best thing country has going for it and this is just a fun album to listen to while drinking beer in a field or while screwing your cousin under the stars in the back of your neighbors pickup truck.

13 – Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

Jenny Lewis goes weird places on this solo album, but it’s all just as good as you’d expect from the Rilo Kiley front-woman.

14 – Old 97s – Most Messed Up

Rhett Miller used to be a alt-rock God. He’s been boring as fuck the last few years. I expected more of the same. This album is track after track of delicious rock and roll fun.

15 – The Front Bottoms – Rose

You haven’t heard of these guys yet, but when you do you’re going to wonder how they got so fucking famous without you knowing. These guys are the favorite band you knew of from your high school and would tell everyone from neighboring towns about proudly as if just because you shared a mascot you deserved to bask in the glory of their success.

16 – Luke Bryan – Spring Break 6

Luke Bryan is bro country at it’s best. Grab a Bud Light Lime and spend an hour at Spring Break. Bryan’s last solo album was him as the kind of bro you want to punch in his face and send him crying back to his frat. It came out early this year and was such a gigantic shitball of a record that the only logical explanation is that they rushed this thing out to cover up for that shitball. I made that up, but it has to be true. This is Luke Bryan as the kind of bro you learn to love because he always has a case of beer chilled and ready to go and he’s somehow always sober enough to drive.

17 – Jukebox the Ghost – Jukebox the Ghost

Piano driven rock. Toured with Ben Folds. Great, fun band.

18 – Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out

Blah blah blah. It’s great. She’s great.

19 – Hoodie Allen – People Keep Talking

Fantasic, fun, lyrically interesting album that will stick in your brain.

20 – Allison Weiss – Remember When

Great album by a really fun singer-songwriter. Some are just her and a guitar, some full band, but all will stick in your head and heart.

I know you were waiting all year for this. Now, I can’t nominate either of the albums Former Fat Boys released this year, but you should consider adding them to the top spots on your list. You can listen to them on Spotify for free. Click THE LEGEND OF HARD COREY or WANNA BUY BEATS VOL. 2 and decide for yourself.

Setting aside my ego here are the best albums of 2012:

1)The Front Bottoms – Self Titled

This here band called The Front Bottoms reminds me of a band called Troubled Hubble that hailed from Chicago and disbanded some years ago. They were a great little rock band that sang songs about fun, regular adventures. They wrote great hooks and just seemed to be having a lot of fun. This band seems to me to be the natural heir to their crown and in a rare feat, I like almost every song on this album. Some of the lyrics in the song “The Beers” are my favorite in years:

“I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids, cuz you like a man with muscles. And I like you.”

“It’s the cops are coming in kind of sobering up.”

Standout track: The Beers, Rhode Island, Flashlight, Maps, Swimming Pool, Father

2) Wordburglar – 3RDBURGLAR

I really wanted to give this one the top spot. Sean Jordan aka Wordburglar is a comic obsessed rapper with an impeccable flow and an incredible flair for inventive rhymes. He’s probably the best writer of traditional indie hip-hop that is operating in “nerdcore”. I think he’s probably better than the scene deserves. I feel phenomenally lucky to have had him guest on the our last album. The only other “nerdcore” rapper I’d consider on his level flow-wise is YTCracker and I think this year Wordburglar’s output topped YT’s. Frankly, he’s got one of the best flows in hip-hop period and easily had the best hip-hop album this year.

Standout track: Croque Monsieur

3) The Classic Crime – Phoenix

I found this album on Spotify’s New Releases tab one week and thought it was the new Phoenix album. Turns out that with a little bit of what I like to call “reading correctly” the band is called The Classic Crime. Whoops. I listened to the entire thing and recommended it to several people before I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it was. I guess it kind of reminds me a bit of more recent Jimmy Eats World. Kinda.

Standout track: Let Me Die

4) Eve 6 – Speak In Code

This is my favorite band of all time. They broke up after their label blew it releasing their 3rd album. That album was a better album, but to come back after almost a decade and record something this good is rare for any band. It picks up right where they left off.

Standout track: Victoria, Pick Up The Pieces, Curtain

5) All American Rejects – Kids In The Street

I like that these guys grew up a little bit and wrote some tracks that were still heavy on hooks, but not as obviously aimed at the Hot Topic-lite kids. Some cool music videos too.

Standout track: Someday’s Gone, Beekeeper’s Daughter

6) Mackelmore and Lewis – The Heist

Thrift Shop is undeniably incredible, but Macklemore’s smart flow and intelligent lyrics are such a stark contrast to the moronic hood grabage being put out by the likes of Chief Keef and 2 Chainz. This guy is poet and, I think, the best is yet to come. There were only about three songs I added to my iPod, but the whole album is a good listen.

Standout track: Thrift Shop, 10,000 Hours

7) Inspector Owl – Self Titled

Yes, IO frontman Corey Wills makes most of the beats for Former Fat Boys, but his main project is really great indie rock. Even if Corey weren’t one of my best friends and collaborators I think this record would still be on my list. Give Mousey a listen and make sure you make it to the explosive ending and tell me you aren’t sold. Do it.

Standout track: Mousey, We Are An Ocean

8) Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss

Yeah, I dunno. It’s catchy, it’s fun. It’s here based on the number of songs I starred as I went through it. I’m not very excited about it, but it’s got some joyful tunes on it. I think the real problem with it is that it feels like a bunch of producers made a record that was very disparate in styles. Ke$ha is Ke$sha. You know what you’re going to get. This feels like they haven’t decided what Carly is going to be.

Standout track: Tonight I’m Getting Over You

8) Stepdad – Wildlife Pop

It’s so-freaking-catchy-you’ll-just-die synth pop made by a fat beard man that takes being a fat beard man very seriously. One of the rare bands that’s actually amusing to follow on Facebook. This might deserve to be lower on the list or higher, but the problem is that every time I listen to it I get a musical tummy ache. It’s basically pure sugar. After awhile you crave some substance.

Standout track: My Leather, My Fur, My Nails

9) K’naan – Country, God Or The Girl

His last album was better, but this album was pretty damn fun. K’naan is another great rapper who actually has something to say. I listened to this again recently to wash the taste of the giant turd of a second album that Wiz Khalifah released this year out of my mouth. K’Naan accomplished some incredible feats here and managed to make Nas and Bono interesting again for a second. Also, made Nelly Furtado worth remembering.

Standout track: Gold In Timbuktu, The Sound of My Breaking Heart,

10) DMX – Undisputed

DMX was arrested, went to jail, and did so much crack in the last few years I can hardly believe this is possible, but he’s back bark and all. I went in with super low expectations, but was reasonably surprised. DMX always had a good nose for hooks and infused his deeper tracks with gospel in a non-tacky way. That’s all on display here.

Standout track: I Don’t Dance featuring Machine Gun Kelly

Honorable Mentions:

YTCracker and Hairetsu – Who Live Like This EP (Standout: Sexting)

The Rocket Summer – Life Will Write The Words (Standout: 200,000)

Punch Brothers – Ahoy! (Moonshiner, Another New World)

Absolute Best Songs of 2012

And finally, this is the Spotify Playlist with my favorite individual tracks of the year. I compiled it by listening to nearly every album featured on Spotify’s New Releases feature each week of the last year picking my favorite tracks.

So….what did I miss? What do you recommend? What were your favorites?