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2014 Mid-Year in Music, Part I

June 25, 2014

As the year reaches its halfway point, people and sites from all corners of the Internet have been posting their “Top 10/25/50 Songs/Albums/Whatever of 2014 … So Far.”  The people just love their lists. I could do the same, but I’ve never been one to give instant reactions. There’s just too much I haven’t gotten around to listening to yet, and even what I have listened to I still need months or possibly even years to absorb and reflect. Instead, I’ve decided to scour the web for sources I trust and highlight some of their picks, so you don’t have to.

First up: Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone and author of several entertaining music books gives us his Top 25 Songs of 2014 So Far. Some highlights:

  • At #1, my beloved Parquet Courts, with the song “Raw Milk”. I’m going to quote almost all of what Sheffield says here because I need the word the get out on this band:

All I was hoping was that these Brooklyn guitar twits would knock off the exact same album they made last time. Was that so much to ask? But Parquet Courts had different plans – Sunbathing Animal is so confident, so devious, so funny, so expansive, so loaded with surprises, so smart in places where you’d settle for clever. (And not a single track that sounds like Pavement. Crazy!) “Raw Milk” is their shaggiest guitar buzz: Andrew Savage and Austin Brown serenade the kind of girl who invades your soul and invites all her drunk dogwalker friends to crash in your room but you don’t mind because she’s there. (And then she leaves.)

  • And then all the way down at #25 (but amazingly still making lists like these) is Morrissey with “Oboe Concerto”. Sheffield: “‘Oboe Concerto,’ the show-stopper ballad from his new album, is the saddest, heaviest, realest song he’s recorded in a decade, as Morrissey raises a glass to mourn his absent friends.”
  • In between, here are a few songs that intrigue me and could make my own year-end list: Sharon Van Etten, “Your Love Is Killing Me” (#3); Perfect Pussy, “Interference Fits” (#5); Cloud Nothings, “I’m Not Part of Me” (#13); The Old 97s, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” (#18); Tacocat, “Crimson Wave” (#22).

Next, in a bit of ridiculousness, Spin presents The 50 Best Albums of 2014 So Far. 50!! In other words two albums per week make this list. Lightweights need not apply. At least they weren’t audacious enough to try to put them in order; the top 50 are listed alphabetically. Some highlights:

  • Beck – Morning Phase Here’s what I wrote about Morning Phase when the album came out back in February. Since then, the more times I listen to it the more I fall in love with this record. Next week, Beck comes to NYC for two nights of shows!
  • Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere ElseSPIN‘s Claire Lobenfeld says: “Cloud Nothings take the best bits from their previous tutelage under alt-god producer Steve Albini, apply them to lo-fi pop-punk structures and infuse all of it with tightly wound angst.” Given how much I liked their 2012 album Attack On Memory, I’m excited to eventually get my hands on this one.
  • Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas – The Australian singer is the breakthrough indie star of 2014 thus far, and for good reason. Listen to “Avant Gardner“, the hit single off of this double EP, and you’ll immediately hear why.
  • The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits – Four albums in four years yet this Brooklyn band changes its sound more often than some people change … well, you get the idea. SPIN’s J.Y. calls this album a “sweltering orgy of noise.” That’s not exactly what I was hoping for from the band I once wrote about gushingly, but I still plan to check this record out in due time.
  • Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love – A very good debut album (I picked it up at the Captured Tracks shop), worth owning for the cover design alone.
  • Sharon Van Etten – Are We There – I like Van Etten, but her music doesn’t move me quite the way Courtney Barnett’s does. In the battle of up and coming indie vocalists, Van Etten has the lead but not my vote. To be fair, I haven’t heard Are We There yet. Yet I’m not rushing to.
  • tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack – I mention tUnE-yArDs only to point out an artist and album that is inevitably going to make all kinds of year end lists, yet I don’t get at all. Not only did I dislike their debut album, w h o k i l l, I couldn’t fathom what everyone sees in them. I’ve heard one song from Nikki Nack and the story remains the same. I’m open to explanations if anyone has one.

That’s it for today and for the mainstream music magazines. Coming up … part 2, where I’ll try and feature smaller or less known music sites.

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  1. 2014 Mid-Year in Music, Part II | 2bitmonkey

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