Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rock Albums XIV: My Favorite Albums of 2014

Here we are again the end of the year is close at hand and I am counting down my favorite 15 albums of 2014. Most of these albums were released in 2014 but there are a few from 2013 that really made an impact with me in 2014. As always there is a nice blend of different genres such as jazz, R&B, acoustic, synth-pop, prog, country and several doses of alternative rock.

This list is my fourth annual year end countdown. Here are the links to the previous countdowns:




Favorite 15 Albums of 2014

15. Mando Diao - Aelita

Release Date: May 2, 2014
Record Label: Musica De La Santa
Album Chart Positions: #1 Sweden, #6 Netherlands, #8 Switzerland, #14 Austria
Singles: Black Saturday

Mando Diao is one of those bands whose music is constantly evolving with new dimensions and layers of sound, melody and rhythm. Each album they release is a new adventure to the fans that listen. Mando Diao is a Swedish band that formed in 1999 and released their first album in 2002. From their first album they achieved success throughout much of Europe and since then have achieved worldwide acclaim.  Mando Diao’s albums have been diverse ranging from 2009’s “Give Me Fire” a straight forward alternative rock set with fiery guitars and heavy rhythmic drums to 2012’s acoustic melancholic “Infruset” completely sung in the Swedish language blends poetry and ballad to the finest degree. Finally “Aelita” is Mando Diao’s most recent triumph of experimentation in music.

“Aelita” showcases a fresh outlook for Mando Diao. The music is both melancholic and uplifting.  Mando Diao produces a retro 80’s synth-pop new wave styled electronic dance album. The title “Aelita” was taken from the name of an old Russian synthesizer the band found in a second hand store in Sweden and is the basis for the sound of the album. The single “Black Saturday” is the album’s biggest hit single and one of Mando Daio’s biggest hits in their entire output of music. My favorite tracks from the album are “Romeo,” Black Saturday” and “Rooftop.”

Mando Diao - Black Saturday

14. Burnt Belief – Etymology

Release Date: October 21, 2014
Record Label: Alchemy Records
Album Chart Positions:

Burnt Belief is a duo consisting of Bassist Colin Edwin and guitarist Jon Durant. Colin Edwin is best known as the bass player for the critically acclaimed prog-rock band Porcupine Tree and Jon Durant is the founder of the record label alchemy Records.  The duo first paired together for Durant’s 2011 album “Dance of the Shadow Planets.” In 2012 they recorded their first album as a duo titled “Burnt Belief.” 2014’s “Etymology” is a jazz fusion meets prog-rock album that brings Burnt Belief full circle with a sound completely shaped and developed with contributing factors perfectly meshed from both Edwin and Durant.”

Jon Durant’s lead guitar contains dreamscape impulses with atmospheric ambient textures. Colin Edwin’s aggressive bass lines bring the music to the forefront with metallic harmonic rhythms. Vinny Sabatino, Dean McCormick and Jose Duque, a trio of fantastic drummers, and mulit-percussionist Jerry Leake, accent the electronic mechanized synth beats with eclectic movement.  Jon Durant and Colin Edwins were born to create music together. Their talents combined create the perfect blend of dark ethos and electronic metal rhythms.

I do not have one favorite track on this album because this album was meant to be listened to as an entire entity. I give this one an A+ in every aspect of musicianship and creativity.

Etymology Trailer

 Colin Edwin and Jon Durant (Burnt Belief)

13. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Give The People What They Want

Release Date: January 14, 2014
Record Label: Daptone
Album Chart Positions: #22 US, #27 Belgium, #28 Netherlands, #43 Canada, #47 Austria, #79 Germany, #116 France

“Give The People What They Want” is the fifth studio album released by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings and like their first four albums this one reflects the true essence of classic soul music. In the current day soul music is defined with synthesized beat box hip-hop beat and heavy bass rhythms. Believe me I am not criticizing the current trend of hip-hop soul Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings have taken a different route and have decided to preserve the tradition of soul music by extending and evolving the classic 60’s soul sound with their own blend of horn heavy deep funk soul sounds. Sharon Jones’ vocals are every bit as powerful and soulful as time honored songstresses such as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan. Listening to a Sharon Jones album brings about reminiscences of  those great 60’s and 70’s groups such as the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, Diana Ross and The Supremes and Gladys Knight and The Pips.

“Give The People What They Want” is a great soul party full of instant grooves that makes you moves. My favorite tracks are the upbeat “Stranger To My Happiness,” “You’ll Be Lonely,” which has a strong and dark funk back beat similar to the Temptations “Papa Was A rolling Stone” and the smooth groove “Slow Down Love.”

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Give The People What They Want

12. Liam McKahey & The Bodies – Black Vinyl Heart

Release Date: Digital Release - Summer 2014, CD Release – October 28, 2014
Record Label: Magna Republic
Album Chart Positions:

Australian resident Liam McKahey first came to prominence in 2000 as the lead singer of the London based band Cousteau. The song “The Last good Day Of The Year,” featuring Mckahey’s deep and dark vocals was featured in television commercials, shows, films and documentaries and catapulted Cousteau’s debut album to worldwide success.

Recorded in Australia during the early part of 2014 McKahey released “Black Vinyl Heart,” his second album with The Bodies, a full five years after the release of “Lonely Road,” first album. “Black Vinyl Heart” shows a more fierce vocal approach from Mckahey than his past effort displaying a growling sound in some of his songs. His vocal presentations are somewhere between Johnny Cash meets David Bowie with a bit of a growl. The entire album is solid and several of the songs include Spanish horns and Latin rhythms. My favorite track is “Long Black Train” a great rhythmic rollicking rock tune with which Johnny Cash would have been right at home.

 Liam McKahey & The Bodies - Long Black Train (Live)

Liam McKahey & The The Bodies photo by Konrad Lenz

11. War - Evolutionary

Release Date: May 19, 2014
Record Label: Avenue Records, UMe, Universal
Album Chart Positions: #123 US, #37 US R&B/Hip-Hop, #19 US R&B
Singles: “That LA Sunshine”

The last time we saw a new album by War was in 1994 with the album “Peace Sign.” Throughout the70’s War was one of the most loved bands of the decade with classic soul-pop hits such as “Why Can’t We Be Friends?,” “Low Rider,” “Cisco Kid,” “Summer,” “All Day Music” and “The World Is A Ghetto.” They earned eleven gold and platinum albums. Their musical style was classified as funk and soul with hints of jazz and pop.

After a 20-year hiatus War reformed with only one original member Lonnie Jordan. The other members have been with the band from as early as 1990 to as recent as 2011. “Evolutionary” was released as a two disc set, the first disc is the new album and the second disc is a greatest hits collection. A special three disc edition was released exclusively through Best Buy including a DVD disc of War performing their great hits live.

“Evolutionary” has ended up being one of the surprise albums of 2014. I wasn’t really expecting much from this. I originally bought it for the remastered Greatest Hits disc but was more than pleasantly surprised when I took a listen to the new music on disc one. “Mamacita” has a Latin/Reggae appeal which is almost as affecting as their classics “East LA” or “Angel.” Joe Walsh’s excellent guitar work and the brassy horn section by Tower of Power make “Mamacita” a definite highlight of the album. The ballad “Just Like Us” contains a somber harmonica performed by Stanley Behrens that is very reminiscent of the master Lee Oskar.  “That LA Sunshine” is one of those feel good songs that just grooves with a certain sort of sunny feel that is out of this world irresistible. The album’s first single “That LA Sunshine” is a smooth jazz funk tune with an easy breezy feel with some great chunky bass lines that power the song beyond greatness. My personal favorite track is “Outer space” with it’s smooth groove moves and a great lead vocal by Lonnie Jordan and some seamlessly perfect harmony vocals gives the same feel as some of the great smooth grooves of the 70’s such as Bloodstone’s classic “Natural High” or The Dramatics’ “In The Rain.”

War (band) - Outer Space

 War (band) Lonnie Jordan

10. Jackson Browne – Standing In The Breach
Record Label: Inside Recordings
Album Chart Positions: #15 US, #28 Japan, #31 UK, #31 Scotland, #32 Netherlands, #43 Belgium, #70 Italy, #77 Ireland, #212 France, #22 United World Chart
Singles: “The Birds of St. Marks” #67 Japan

From the very first few seconds of hearing his voice on this new album feelings of reminiscence swoop over my mind and take me back to an era long gone. His voice is still the same as on those classic 70’s and 80’s hits that I loved so much. Songs like “Doctor My Eyes,” “Stay,” “Here Come Those Tears Again,” “Running On Empty,” “The Pretender” and “Somebody’s Baby” all come rushing back to me. Jackson Browne was always known for quality and message in his songs. His new album “Standing In The Breach” is no different. This album brings him back to his roots and great music, meaningful lyrics and some very fine acoustic guitar.

“Standing In The Breach” is a reflective album mirroring Browne’s thoughts and desires for a life of equality and peace in the world. “Walls and Doors” is Browne’s English language rendition of Carlos Varela’s “Las Paredas y Puertas” is tender ballad in which Browne reflects on those who want to unite and those who want to divide. The opening lyric tells it all, “Ever since the world’s beginning, there’s one thing that is certain, there are those who build walls and those who open doors.” “Which Side Are You On,” is a song Browne first debuted in 2011 during an Occupy Wall Street rally in 2011. Browne is direct in his political beliefs speaking about how the system is set up to benefit the wealthy and the most powerful in the world. He is completely upfront in his lyrics as he sings, “Take the money out of politics and maybe we might see this country turn back into something more like democracy.” That line really hit home. He sings these lyrics with a softly spoken conviction.  My favorite song from the album is a lovely ballad called “Here.” The song opens ever so wistfully with a dreamy acoustic guitar as Browne sings these words of heartbreak and longing. Jackson Browne hits his stride with this album. This is his 14th studio album in a career that has spanned more then 40 years and he is right back on top making music that is just as affecting as his very best from his heyday of the 70’s. The songs are simple yet carry a lot of powerful emotion.

Jackson Browne - Here

9. U2 – Songs of Innocence

Release Date: September 9, 2014 (Digital release) October 13, 2014 (CD release)
Record Label: Interscope Records/Island
Album Chart Positions: #1 Croatia, Czechoslavakia, Holland, France, Italy, Poland, Spain, #2 Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Singapore, South Korea (Deluxe Edition), Sweden, #3 Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark #4 Scotland, #5 Canada, Israel, #6 New Zealand, Norway, South Korea (standard release), UK, #7 Australia, Brazil, Estonia, #9 Iceland, US, #10 Finland, #12 Taiwan, #13 Hungary
Singles: “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”

“Songs Of Innocence” was first released on iTunes as a free download. Initially the album was made available to 500 million iTunes customers and was downloaded 26 million times. This alone makes “Songs of Innocence” one of the most popular albums of all-time. Though, what would be the incentive to purchase the physical release of the album if 26 million people have already downloaded the free edition from iTunes? The CD version was released bundled with 10 additional tracks, including six acoustic versions and four all-new songs. In it’s first week millions of people around the world purchased the new U2 album, though in the major music markets such as the US, Japan and UK sales suffered due to it’s digital release. In the US the album peaked at #9, their lowest peak position for an album since 1984’s “Unforgettable Fire,” which reached #14 in the US. In the UK the album made it to #6 again their lowest charting UK album since 1981’s “October.” Was the free download release a bad idea? The answer is yes and no. Yes, because it did hurt sales and chart positions of the album. No, because it increased sales of their back catalog by a huge amount. The sales U2 lost for their new album was more than made up for by hugely increased sales of their older albums.

I first ventured into the album with caution. U2’s last five studio albums fell short of their glory days of the 80’s. Their last truly great album was 1991’s “Achtung Baby.” I wasn’t sure I would care much for the album. I first attained “Songs of Innocence” as a free download from iTunes. I listened to it once and was not all that impressed. Regardless, when the physical CD was released I went out and bought it. Being an avid U2 fan since 1982 I had to get the deluxe edition. It was at this point that I realized what a great album this was. I played it a few times and came to love it. Every song is a U2 masterpiece. “Songs of Innocence” contains a personal feel to it. The songs seem to tell a personal story and have a heart and soul that really grabs you as you listen. It’s that heart and soul that had been missing from their music over the past 20 years. “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” is a great tribute to the major influence that got Bono to start singing. Right from the start of the song you feel like you’re being kicked right back into the early 80’s with those great U2 harmonies and Bono sings his lyrics with a sense of meaning and appreciation. In the song “Iris (Hold Me Close)” Bono remembers his mom who died when he was 14. This song holds the same sort of intensity as “New Year’s Day” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday” with a softer, still emotional edge. “California There Is No End To Love” is my personal favorite. I love California and this song is personal for me. The song has a nice mellow edge that makes me feel good like lounging in the California sun. “Cedarwood Road” is the song that packs to most emotional punch. It is aggressive with chunky guitar chords through the song giving it a dark rock club sound. Bono’s vocals border on Tom Petty meets Lou Reed as he conveys memories of his childhood residing on Cedarwood Road. “I was looking for a soul that’s real
then I ran into you

U2 - The Miracle of Joey Ramone

8. alt-J – This Is All Yours

Release Date: September 22, 2014
Record Label: Infectious
Album Chart Positions: #1 UK, #2 Australia, Belgium, Canada, #3 Switzerland, #4 US, Ireland, #5 France, New Zealand, #6 Netherlands, #7 Denmark, Austria, #8 Germany, #13 Norway, #24 Italy, #28 Hungary, #55 Sweden, #3 United World Chart
Singles: “Hunger of The Pine,” “Left Hand Free,” “Every Other Freckle”

Alt-J is a British rock band that formed in 2007 and has achieved a good amount of success worldwide with two studio albums and several singles. I bought this album on faith as I very much enjoyed their first album 2012’s “An Awesome Wave.” I realized this being only their second album that it could be a letdown as many times a new band fails to live up to a great debut album. This was not the case with alt-J, I was more than pleased with “This Is All Yours.” The songs are highly textured with melancholy layers of music and voice. Many of the songs for the album were written while they were on tour promoting their first album “An Awesome Wave.” The majority of those written on tour were actually written during their time in Nara, Japan.

The song “Hunger of The Pine” includes a sample of Miley Cyrus’ “4x4.” It samples the words "I'm a female rebel" from Miley's 2013 song "4x4". Thom Green, the band's drummer, had produced a remix of "4x4" for Cyrus, and incorporated the vocal sample into the song; according to lead singer Joe Newman, Cyrus was "cool" with the band using the sample and has been really supportive of the band, and she's a fan of alt-J. To be honest I thought I would never own anything with Miley Cyrus’ name on it, but this is the exception and I’m okay with that because alt-J is one exceptional band. For the most part the album is atmospheric and there’s a good amount of instrumental and poetry included. The album is mostly categorized as ambient pop or electronica. “Every Other Freckle” is a spacey tune with a strong rhythmic under current. “Left Hand Free” incorporates aspect of ghetto and electric percussive vibrations with awesome guitar licks. I am especially attracted to “The Gospel Of John Hurt,” as I am a huge fan of John Hurt, he is one phenomenal actor and I love the multi-textures and movements of the song. My favorite song from the album is the atmospheric “Choice Kingdom,” this song has elements of Pink Floyd meets Moby meets alt-J.

 alt-J - Left Hand Free

7. Neil Young – Storytone

Release Date: November 4, 2014
Record Label: Reprise
Album Chart Positions: #6 Israel, #7 Norway, #11 Germany, #12 Croatia, #15 Austria, #18 Switzerland, Scotland, #19 Ireland, #20 Belgium, UK, #21 Sweden, Hungary, #28 Holland, Finland, Netherlands, #33 US, Canada, #35 Italy, #42 Spain, #54 France, #55 Australia, #156 Japan, #23 World Chart
Singles: "Who's Gonna Stand Up"

Since the year 2000 Neil Young has been extremely prolific having released 22 albums including studio albums, live albums, compilations and archival releases (13 of these releases were new studio albums). Why is he recording so much in these past 15 years? Who knows, but I’m not complaining. As a diehard Neil Young fan I love it. Each album is a masterpiece and “Storytone” is one of his best in the past 20 years.

“Storytone” is Neil Young’s 35th studio album and his second released in 2014. I bought this album immediately on the day it was released. Though, I am partial to Young’s music “Storytone” is one of his best. The songs are heartfelt and personal. Young is in good vocal shape (or anyway for Neil Young). Of course (as with all my favorites) I purchased the deluxe edition that includes the standard solo acoustic renditions of each song along with orchestral and big band renditions of each song. It’s interesting listening to different recordings of each song. I love the orchestral renditions of each song as the orchestration is thrilling and at some points reminds me the musicianship in the Beatles song “A Day In The Life.” The Big Band renditions of the songs are fantastic. It’s great to hear Neil’s voice accompanied with a little of the big band swing jazz style. Surprisingly (or maybe not) Neil’s voice fits well with the varying musical styles featured on this album. In the song "Who's gonna Stand Up," Young shares his feelings about what we are doing to our planet. He shares his concern for the environment. In the song he sings, "who's gonna stand up and save the Earth," these lyrics are simplistic and straight forward, therefore there isn't any confusion of what he is singing. This song has quickly become an anthem for the anti-fracking community. I love every song on this album; though “Tumbleweed,” “Say Hello To Chicago,” “Plastic Flowers,” “ Glimmer” and “All Those Dreams” really capture me. “All Those Dreams” is especially poignant with its essence of recounting a time of love and life and beautiful times.

 Neil Young - All Those Dreams

6. Billie Joe + Norah – Foreverly
Record Label: Reprise
Album Chart Positions: #13 Iceland, #16 Switzerland, #19 US, Canada, #20 Croatia, #29 Austria, #37 Ireland, #40 Denmark, #48 Italy, #59 Belgium, #62 Japan, Spain, #63 UK, #77 Germany, #80 Netherlands, #176 France, #279 South Korea
Singles: "Long Time Gone"

On my year-end chart for 2013 this album was in the “worthy mentions” list and I noted that there was a good possibility it would be on this years list. “Foreverly” by Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) and Norah Jones has stuck with me through the entire year of 2014. I am still listening to this album on a regular basis. The music is pristine and the harmonies are rich and stirring. Who would have thought Billie Joe and Norah would be such an outstanding combination? Not me. Billie Joe impressed me with the fact that the guy actually has a decent voice. Norah Jones’ silky tones are the perfect opposite to Billie Joe’s ragged voice. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine from allmusic said, “he gives her grit while she lends him grace.”

“Foreverly” is a reinterpretation of The Everly Brothers’ classic 1958 album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.” Billie Joe and Norah do a faithful re-creation of the original Everly Brothers album with hints and bits of today’s technology and instruments such as electric guitar added into the mix. The most surprising aspect of the album is pop-punk rocker Billie Joe Armstrong proves he’s right at home as a traditional country music crooner. The bulk of these songs are traditional folk tunes from the 1890’s through the 1930’s. The idea of working with Norah Jones came to Billie Joe way back in 2005 when he met her when they sang the Beatles song “Across The Universe” along with Stevie Wonder, Allison Krause, Bono, Steven Tyler (and others) for the 47th Grammy Awards show. Billie Joe stumbled upon the Everly Brothers albums years ago and became obsessed with it. He began listening to it every day and decided he wanted to do a remake of the album as he felt more people should know this music. His vision was to record the songs with a female vocalist and his wife suggested Norah Jones. The album has an especially personal touch as Norah and Billie Joe actually recorded these songs together inside the same vocal booth. This was very much a joint effort. The song “Long Time Gone” contains an infectious rollin’ bass rhythm that keeps the song movin’ along. “Rockin’ alone (In An Old Rockin’ Chair)” is an album highlight and is even more impressive with Norah Jones taking the lead giving it her smooth touch. My personal favorite on the album is “Kentucky” a nice flowing song with some nice understated guitar and keyboard parts.

Billie Joe + Norah - Kentucky

5. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – 
Hypnotic Eye
Record Label: Reprise, Warner Brothers
Album Chart Positions: #1 US, Canada, World, #5 Germany, Denmark, #6 Israel, #7 UK, #8 Czechoslovakia, #11 Croatia, #13 Ireland, #14 Switzerland, Netherlands, #16 Norway, #17 Greece, #18 Austria, #23 Belgium, #30 Australia, #34 Spain, #36 Hungary, #39 Finland, #68 Italy, Japan, #156 France
Singles: “American Dream Plan B,” “U Get Me High”

I have been buying Tom Petty’s music consistently since 1979 when I first purchased his classic album “Damn The Torpedoes” it was love from first listen. I now own all sixteen of his studio albums (Petty solo and Petty with the heartbreakers). I love every single one of them.

Petty and band began working on “Hypnotic Eye” back in 2011 and was finally completed three years later. Needless to say they took their time on this one and it is well worth it. The opening track “American Dream Plan B,” starts with an electronically enhanced lead vocal by Tom Petty that sounds great. The chunky guitar keeps the song moving. This is Petty’s ode to the dream, Petty is not giving up on that dream… and neither am I. Much of this album’s sounds and lyrical themes take Petty and his Heartbreakers back to their earliest days when they were new to the scene singing about the unrest of the day. Petty’s back at it again as in the song “Fault Lines” he speaks about broken promises and how he has faults of his own to deal with. Listening to this album really takes me back to the mid 70’s with its great guitar work and steady drum patterns. “Full Grown Boy” offers something a bit different from Petty’s other songs, it has bits of blues and early Supertramp type ballad sensibility such as in their song “Poor Boy,” and hints of Steely Dan styled keyboards. “Burnt Out town” is high on the blues and really rocks with some great harmonica parts and heavy guitar licks and tasty saloon type piano parts throughout. The closing track “Shadow People” gives reminisces upon earlier Petty tunes such as “Refugee” and “Breakdown” with a mellow sense of guitars and angst.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - American Dream Plan B

4. Bastille – Bad Blood
Record Label: Virgin, Capitol
Album Chart Positions: #1 UK, #5 Ireland, #6 Belgium, Spain, #9 Netherlands, #10 Australia, Norway, #11 US, #15 Switzerland, #17 Sweden, #19 Canada, #23 Germany, #28 New Zealand, #30 Portugal, #31 Austria, #33 Italy, #103 France, #12 World (Chart Positions for Extended release “All This Bad Blood” #19 New Zealand, #25 Denmark, #27 Finland, #37 Italy, #66 Switzerland)
Singles: “Pompeii,” “Laura Palmer,” “Things We Lost In The Fire,” “Of The Night,” “Oblivion”

(This review is about the album "Bad Blood" by Bastille, although pictured above is the album "All This Bad Blood," which is the album "Bad Blood" with bonus tracks.)
Bastille is a British band formed in London in 2010. The band derived its name from Bastille Day, which is celebrated on July 14th, which is also the birthday of band founder Dan Smith. “Bad Blood” is their debut studio album and has met with huge success worldwide. Bastille has sold around 10 million records worldwide in just a year and nine months.

Upon first glance one would expect that Bastille is just another boy band with generically sounding “American Idol” type perfect voices. Though with the first listen of their album you quickly come to realize that Bastille is so much more. Their songs are uniquely crafted; the vocal arrangements contain wonderful variations of texture and resonance. But the best part of Bastille is Dan Smith’s lead vocals. Dan sings in a pleasing and distinctive style. He clearly pronounces all his words and he is adept at the varying styles of songs on the album. His range is not broad or wide but he sings with a nice timbre and an engaging vital soul that keeps each song alive. I really like his accent.  Each song on this album is an experience. The songs are epic and contain layers of sound and voices. Their songs are revealing and dark. The nature of these songs digs into the grim and gloomy forbidding experiences of life. In the song “Things We Lost In The Fire,” Dan Smith so prophetically sings, “Things we lost to the flames, things we'll never see again. All that we've amassed sits before us, shattered into ash” which sets the overall emotion of the album a loss of the things we love. In the ballad “Oblivion,” Dan sings with a scorching soul that gives the song much meaning. He sings into higher notes taking the song into a center of oblivion that feels so smooth and reflective. As he sings these words of introspection and questions the uncertainty of the future and the love he wants to understand. "Flaws" is another such introspective song in which the lyrics speak of facing your flaws, digging them up and let them be counted. Daniel puts just the right amount of inflection as he sings the songs on “Bad Blood,” I am looking forward to Bastille’s second album because this debut album is so much more than just a collection of songs. It’s an synth-driven experience of choral and chanting proportions; it’s a piece of my heart.

“All This Bad Blood” is a two-disc extended edition of “Bad Blood” containing several songs from their EP’s “Other People’s Heartaches…” and “Haunt” and other previously unreleased tracks.

Bastille - Oblivion

 Daniel Smith (Bastille)

3. Jack White - Lazaretto

Release Date: June 10, 2014
Record Label: Third Man Records, XL Recordings, Columbia
Album Chart Positions: #1 US, Canada, Denmark, #2 Belgium, Greece, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, World Chart, #3 Australia, #4 UK, Ireland, Croatia, Israel, #5 Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, #7 Scotland, #8 Poland, #9 France, #13 Finland, #15 South Korea, #16 Japan, #21 Sweden, #26 Czechoslovakia, Hong Kong, #28 Italy
Singles: “Lazaretto,” “Would You Fight For My Love?”

Jack White is back in town with his second solo album and it’s a grab bag of sounds and fused genres. He blends a multitude of voices and instruments to create this unique album, which cannot be categorized. He plays around with fiddles, keyboards, organs, slide guitars, fuzz boxes and an array of percussive instruments. Many of the songs lyrics are based on some short stories and one act plays he wrote when he was 19 years old. Jack found the writings in his attic one day and based some of his lyrics on them. The result is a deeply thought provoking album of mystery, protection of one’s being, the building of walls that shut others out and an exhibition of emotions, anger, courage, disillusionment and attack. Many of the songs carry a modern blues feel while others have a Led Zeppelin sort of country-rock appeal. The song “Temporary Ground” most exemplifies the Led Zeppelin country-rock sound. The Zep song “That’s The Way” comes to mind. “Would You Fight for My Love?” features some great percussive rhythms in the opening working into some sparse keyboards and distinctive vocal stylings by Jack White. “Alone In My Home” is one of the album’s highlights opening with Elton John type piano keys blended with thumping percussion and sparks of acoustic guitar. White sings, “I’m becoming a ghost so nobody can know me,” in these lyrics Jack sings about building walls up around his emotions. He speaks of “lost feelings of love” and how his emotions have become calloused and jaded. My favorite track is “I Think I Found The Culprit,” White uses imagery of two birds sitting silently looking at the two crumbs of bread sitting on his window sill, to get his message across. White speaks about the ironies of right and wrong. One does what is right the other does wrong. In his story it’s the one who does wrong that is always under pressure, maybe always looking back over his shoulder.

“Lazaretto” is one of the biggest selling albums of 2014 having reached the Top 5 in more than 16 countries around the world. He recorded the album at the same time he was producing Olivia Jean’s album “Bathtub Love Killers,” in which you can clearly hear White’s influence. “Lazaretto” is album that leaves one with a great deal of contemplation and reflection. It’s a thinking person’s album.

Jack White - I Think I Found The Culprit

2. Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Release Date: November 10, 2014
Record Label: Parlaphone, Columbia
Album Chart Positions: #1 UK, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, #2 Russia, #3 US, Australia, Hungary, #4 Finland, Korea, Estonia, Brazil, #5 Taiwan, South Korea, #6 Greece, Spain, #7 Japan, #1 World Chart
Singles: “Louder Than Words”

“The Endless River” is quite possibly the biggest selling album of 2014 throughout the world. The album reached #1 in more than 20 countries worldwide along with reaching the Top Five in another ten or more countries. This album has been phenomenally successful.

The recordings from “The Endless River” are primarily from the 1993 sessions of “The Division Bell,” with some re-recording and added parts done in 2013-2014. The song “Autumn ‘68” features a recording of Richard Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall’s organ in 1969. The album has been described by Nick Mason as a tribute to Richard Wright, who died of cancer on September 15, 2008. Predominantly an ambient and instrumental album the music features the smoother introspective side of Pink Floyd. Derived from 20 hours of music “The Endless River” is composed into four 14-minute movements in which only one song contains a lead vocal, the final track “Louder Than Words” with lyrics written by David Gilmour’s wife Polly Samson. Gilmour has said this is the final Pink Floyd album.

The album is beautifully sonic featuring some of the most beautiful music to be released this year and to ever be recorded by Pink Floyd. It’s meant to be listened to as a whole and not as a collection of songs. “The Endless River” is a welcome and wonderful addition to the musical output of Pink Floyd.  The wonderful aspects of Pink Floyd make their appearance throughout the album, Gilmour’s mesmerizing swirling guitar riffs, Wright’s dreamy synthesized keyboard parts and Mason’s ever-hypnotic percussive rhythms. My only wish is that Roger Waters would have been participated to give the album one more layer of introspection. As it is this is a great album and will find a place amongst my all-time favorites.

Pink Floyd - Louder Than Words

1. Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – Someday World

Record Label: Warp
Album Chart Positions: #46 UK, #72 Belgium,  #86 Germany, #194 US
Singles: "Witness," “Daddy’s Car”

Brian Eno is one of the world’s most successful producers/musicians. He has produced and/or recorded with some of the all-time greats including Roxy Music, U2, Coldplay, Talking Heads, Devo, Jane Siberry, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Grace Jones and others. Eno also composed the Microsoft sound for the Windows 95 project. The result was the six-second start-up music-sound of the Windows 95 operating system.  

Eno is also the world’s foremost innovator of ambient music. Eno’s first foray into ambient music was in 1973 when he recorded the album “No Pussyfooting” with King Crimson leader Robert Fripp. This album was largely a collection of movements created from electronic tape delays. In 1975 he dabbled a bit more with ambient sounds on his album “Antoher Green World” which also featured his standard rock compositions. Finally later in 1975 he released “Discreet Music,” which was his first of 20 or more ambient albums.

“Someday World” got its start when Eno invited Karl Hyde to listen to a series of compositions he never finished. These compositions never got any further than intros. Together Eno and Hyde worked these intros into full-length songs, some rock songs with vocals and other ambient type pieces. Eno employed 22 year old unknown, Fred Gibson to co-produce the album. Eno must have been looking for a fresh untapped vision for the album in Gibson. Eno invited many of his friends to participate in the album; Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay and Will Champion from Coldplay were both prominently featured. Eno’s daughter Darla added her voice to the mix.

The album is heavy in beats and rhythms with its share of ambient electronicities (I like making up new words). The song “Daddy’s Car,” features an Afro-funk rhythm, which is reminiscent of Eno’s work with Talking Heads on their classic 1980 album “Remain In Light.”  Many of the songs on “Someday World” incorporate sounds and rhythms used in the many genres of African music such as Juju music. There is a nice array of bass lines, horns, organs and keyboards mixed with ethereal synthesized accents and tones. It’s easy to get lost in the many layers and depths of the music. Beyond the Afro sounds there are other influences including Middle Eastern, Ambient, euro-pop, electronic and jazz-rock.

Like many of the albums on this countdown, “Someday World” is meant to be listened to as a whole, though I am quite partial to the track “The Satellites.” Critics have been split on this album with some giving it lukewarm reviews while other giving it high praise. I am of the latter and include this album as one of my all-time favorites.

Eno • Hyde - The Satellites

Brian Eno & Karl Hyde

The following albums get a worthy mention:
Talking Is Hard by Walk The Moon
Forever For Now by LP
Forever Robots by Damon Albarn
Nostalgia by Annie Lennox
Three Hearts by Alex Clare
La Isla Bonita by Deerhoof
Ixora by Copeland

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1 comment:

  1. This is superb, Randall!!! I am enjoying your Top-15 selections and the reviews. I am also pleased that I guessed four of the albums that were on your list. I love Brian Eno and Karl Hyde and their work, "Someday World," as it is very state-of-the-art and highly creative musically. Thieir music takes me to a different place. Of course, the timing of Pink Floyd’s “The Endless River” made this a great choice in your top choices for 2014. It is such a revered piece of work and one that I hope is not going to be their last release. Bastille’s “Bad Blood” was one on my list, too. I believe you introduced me to this group on one of your earlier posts! I liked Jackson Brown’s “Standing in the Breach” and will give this album some more serious consideration. Liam McKahey & the Bodies “Black Vinyl Heart” definitely deserves to be on your list. I was intrigued by Burnt Belief’s “Etymology” – I had not heard of them before.

    There are excellent music listening choices represented here! Thank you for sharing these, Randall!



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