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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Albums of 2014 (6-15)

If you missed the first installment of my list, you can find my albums ranked 16-25 here. Otherwise, it's onto the next portion of the list.

15) Field Report - Marigolden

Wisconsin's Field Report is led by Chris Porterfield (and is an anagram of his last name). Field Report's debut album was one of my very favorites of 2012. Their second album sees them refining their blend of indie rock and indie folk with beautiful lyrics that drag you into the story of the song. While I still haven't gotten quite as lost in this album as I did their debut, I wouldn't be surprised to have it click for me someday, and it's a darn nice album anyway. My favorite tracks are the first two off the record, "Decision Day" and "Home (Leave The Lights On)."

14) Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers

I feel like I had probably seen Hiss Golden Messenger's name around before, but I somehow never got around to listening to them until this year. The North Carolina folk duo was another artist whose discovery I owe to their presence on Merge Records. I'm planning to move to North Carolina this summer after I graduate, and besides finally getting to live in the same state as my girlfriend again, I'm also excited to be around the music scene in the Durham / Chapel Hill area. My favorite songs from this record are "Saturday's Song" and "Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)."

13) Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place

The third album by the London-based Allo' Darlin is chock full of good solid indie pop. They don't try to make the songs too extravagant or frilly, but it's a really fun album to listen to , and I found myself doing just that more often than I had expected based on my brief previous knowledge of the group. A couple songs reminded me a bit of Camera Obscura, and I really enjoy the pedal steel on a couple of songs like the albums closer "Another Year." "History Lessons" and "Heartbeat" were two other favorite tracks.

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

I had the immense pleasure of seeing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings perform back in March and it was some of the most fun I've ever had at a show. If you can spend an hour watching a tiny 50 year old woman who recently beat cancer singing and dancing her heart out all night without having a huge smile on your face you may need to get yourself checked out. Much of the group's energy and enthusiasm is captured on this record as well. If your Monday ever needs a little kick in the pants to get going, fire this up and it should get your foot tapping and your mood improving. I particularly enjoy "Retreat!" and "Stranger To My Happiness."

11) Racing Glaciers - Don't Wait For Me EP

Racing Glaciers released two EPs this year. I didn't know whether to group them together or treat them separately, but I chose to split them up. And as a slight spoiler for the remainder of this list, this was my second favorite of the two. Racing Glaciers is great at letting a song slowly build until you can't take it anymore before letting everything kick in. Everything blends together into a whole that I cannot get enough of. The only thing preventing this from being higher on the list is that it's only four songs. Of the four tracks, I enjoy "First Light" and "Animal" the most, but the whole EP is excellent. I'll talk a bit more of the band when their second EP pops up in this list.

10) Louis Weeks - shift/away

This was the first album that I fell in love with this year, which I wrote about back in February. The Washington DC based composer combines electronic elements with organic sounds so well. One of my favorite blogs, We Listen For You, said of the album that it has "that rare quality in electronic music of feeling handmade as if the machines that go into producing the sound were as organic as the vocals that accompany them." I can't say it much better. "Bloodline" and "Fold" are my two favorite tracks. You can currently download the album for any price of your choosing here.

9) First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

The two Swedish sisters who make up First Aid Kit made my favorite album of 2012 and Stay Gold is another wonderful blend of country and folk from the duo. It's hard to believe they've put out this much good music while they are still only 21 and 24 years old. On this album, they introduced a 13-piece orchestra to back their beautiful vocals and own instrumentation. While none of the songs was quite as transcendent as "Emmylou" from their last album, I became pretty addicted to "Heaven Knows" for a while. "My Silver Lining," "Master Pretender," and "Shattered & Hollow" are other standout tracks.

8) Bahamas - Bahamas Is Afie

Bahamas is the stage name of Canadian Afie Jurvanen, so he nailed the album name. His 2012 record Barchords was enjoyable, but I found myself just picking out songs here and there but never really getting into the album as a whole. My first time through Bahamas is Afie, I knew this album would be different. I'm not sure what is different about this one or if it's just me, but I love listening to this whole album. "Stronger Than That" and "Can't Take You With Me" are my two favorite tracks.

7) Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas - Secret Evil

I discovered this band / album late in the year, but man is it fun to listen to. All Music describes Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas as a "gritty, high-energy Detroit rock & roll band whose sound embodies everything from Motown to early surf, psych, carnival, and girl group pop." It's hard to choose a favorite track and the band can do both upbeat and slower songs really well, something not all similar bands can pull off. If I had to choose, I'd say "No Place Left To Hide," "Cry Cry Cry," and "Caught Up" are my favorite tracks. Apparently this album had been completed for a couple years before seeing the light of day due to label issues, but I'm really glad it finally did.

6) Owl John - Owl John

Owl John is the solo debut of Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit. Since Frightened Rabbit is one of my favorite bands, I was pretty excited for this album, and it did not disappoint. Hutchison amusingly stated his impetus for trying his hand at a solo album saying "it was also approximately 10 years ago that I started a band called Frightened Rabbit. In that time I've dedicated so much of my life to that good wee band with a stupid name, I felt it was time to indulge John." As Frightened Rabbit's sound has grown and become more elaborate, Owl John allowed Hutchison a chance to pull things back and try some new things musically. However, his thoughtful lyrics that fans have come to expect are present along with that wonderful Scottish singing voice.

Below is a mix with a song from each of the albums listed above. Hopefully you find something you like. If you do, go check out the artist(s) more and support them if you feel so inclined.

I'll be back tomorrow with my five favorite albums of 2014. Thanks for reading!

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