Best Album of the Year: Jenny Lewis The Voyager
My main woman, my heroine, my goddess divine, Jenny Lewis made my year with her first solo album since 2008. Each carefully crafted song was worth the wait. While Rabbit Fur Coat dealt with her mom and Acid Tongue was about her dad, The Voyager makes sense of the two - her dad’s death, insomnia and life as a child actor. Leave it to Lewis to turn these heavy topics into catchy, head-bobbing tracks. And with the help of Beck and Ryan Adams as producers, the songs gain a 70's vibe with some added edge. Ballads are aplenty, as are sharp social commentary - Lewis in top form.
Thank you Jenny for this album and for releasing at a time when I needed it most.
"I put my head underwater baby,
I threw my clothes away in the trash
I stood barefoot on the blazing concrete,
I was waiting for the gut of the thunder
I don't wanna bore you with how I feel,
But when the walls came down,
The shit got real"
- Head Underwater
Check out: "Just One of the Guys" a GIRLS version of Single Ladies, "Aloha & The Three Johns" is like old-school Rilo Kiley, and "She's Not Me" sounds like a Fleetwood Mac recording.
2nd: The New Pornographers Brill Bruisers
It's been interesting to see the progression of this supergroup and how their songs have withstood the test of indie music time. This album borrows heavily from the 80's and 70's and is definitely their most energetic one to date. The richly layered songs, tinged with a bit of synths, pack a punch that wasn't as evident in previous albums. The synth and mixing isn't forced though - or desperate. They've earned the right to play around with their sound and make it contemporary, but still very NP. Plus Neko Case kills on this album.
"And if you see no hope for me
I still see hope for you
In the high rise of the morning
The exception that proves my rule
- Wide Eyes
- Wide Eyes
Check out: "Champions of Red Wine" my favorite off the album, I love the concept of the title, "Brill Bruisers" such an alive song and is best enjoyed at a high volume, and "Another Drug Deal of the Heart"is too short and a phrase that should be used more often.
3rd: Lykke Li I Never Learn
I used to describe Lykke Li albums in terms of art mediums - Youth Novels was painted with watercolors, while Wounded Rhymes was in charcoal, but I Never Learn is more like a fragrance. A tobacco and musk candle (you know, like an expensive one that is burning in some local boutique where the jewelry is resting on driftwood and the clothes are simple but well made they say). There's a haze among all the songs, and 80's sort of melancholy. Still, there are moments clarity and radiance, songs that sound uplifting in tune, but perhaps not lyrically. She never disappoints, nor do her videos.
"Even though it hurts, even though it scars
Love me when it storms, love me when I fall
Every time it breaks, every time its torn
Love me like I'm not made of stone"
- Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone
Check out: "Silverline" reminiscent of Phil Collins, "I Never Learn" truer words have never been spoken, "Gunshot" packs punch and will get stuck in your head.
4th: Bombay Bicycle Club So Long, See You Tomorrow
This band has reinvented themselves with each album, and while I have enjoyed them all, I think they have found a sound that fits them best. Sampling bits of Bollywood and R&B, this album just puts you in a better mood and entices you to dance. Whenever, Wherever. Even on the slower tracks, they all end with a jam out session.
"Your evening eyes the rain outside the way I know
No fear that I'll be fading out alone
It's hard to see it, for all the rust,
But I saw it fading and I have some faith in us"
- Come To
Check out: "Luna" is deliciously happy, "Home by Now" R&B a la Matt &Kim, and "Overdone" a lush, Bollywood number.
5th: HAERTS Haerts
I've been waiting for this album - no joke - for 2 years. Worth the wait. Lead singer Nini Fabi's vocals are unique and captivating. She gives the cold synths some warmth and emotion. With an undeniably 80's flair (this is a trend with me), they make me want to raise my fist in the air. Do yourself a favor, if you haven't already been introduced, and meet HAERTS.
"People never smile to say goodbye.
Leaving means there's nothing left to try.
But I broke my wings for you.
I smiled as you untied our love for good."
Check out: "Heart" gotta dance to this one, "All the Days" is passionate and glittery, and "Giving Up" belongs in a John Hughes film.
6th: First Aid Kit Stay Gold
These Swedes are somehow able to master the modern Americana-indie sound. If their gorgeous album cover doesn't already tease you, it's going to be a mystical musical journey into the southwest. And just like their album artwork, their harmonies are a beautiful double exposure, layering so effortlessly on top of one another. Gold indeed.
"What if our hard work ends in despair?
What if the road won't take me there?
Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold
What if to love and be loved's not enough?
What if I fall and can't bear to get up?
Oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold
We could stay gold"
- Stay Gold
Check Out: "My Silver Lining" fit for a spaghetti western, "Waitress Song" they mention Chicago, and "Stay Gold" see lyrics above, that's why.
7th: Sia 1000 Forms of Fear
Sia is a lady of many musical transformations. I loved her depressing early work, but was disappointed with her last album which went in a more radio-friendly direction. 1000 Forms of Fear sort of marries the two, masking the super serious topics with skillfully composed pop. As a songwriter for big name pop stars, I'm relieved that she kept these songs to herself. Only she could sing them with as much intensity and fervor.
"I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist
Like it doesn't exist
I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I'm gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
But I'm holding on for dear life, won't look down, won't open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, 'cause I'm just holding on for tonight"
Check out: "Elastic Heart" great tempo/beat, "Free the Animal" is sexy and sharp, and "Fire Meet Gasoline" is like an Adele song.
What were your favorite albums of 2014?