Though we have yet to hit Thanksgiving and a few big releases are certainly on the way before the year closes out, 2014 has been a strong year for music. Here are some of my favorite albums that came out so far.
1. The War on Drugs – “Red Eyes”
A good album is enjoyable; a great one elicits strong emotions. The sprawling Americana of “Lost in the Dream” will forever be tied to the first time I listened to it, while driving through the foothills of southern Minnesota as a blood-red sun set on an especially cold spring day. The winding hills and rolling riffs were made for each other.
2. Real Estate – “Talking Backwards”
Real Estate is the chillest band in an already chilled-out genre; two of the three times I have seen them, I’ve sprawled out in the grass at Pitchfork Music Festival. But that doesn’t stop “Atlas” from being smart, thoughtful and intricate. It’s strong in its tiny moments, wavering between clean, twinkling melodies and somber lyrical themes.
3. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”
If you think pop-punk or emo was so 2002, let “Here and Nowhere Else” prove you wrong. Originally more of a pop group, Cloud Nothings have slipped deeper into darker themes over their last two albums, with “Here and Nowhere Else” being easily the apex. The album is a raw blast, with many tracks transforming from a straightfoward chugging rock song into an all-out spattering of sound.
4. Flying Lotus – “Ready Err Not”
The producer’s latest effort, “You’re Dead!” approaches death from a perspective of morbid and near humorous fascination. It’s his most cohesive album yet in concept, and spans from playful and spastic, to chaotic or methodical. FlyLo has created a disorienting and wild ride.
5. Run the Jewels – “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
Like its name suggests, “Run the Jewels 2” is the next logical step for El-P and Killer Mike, but that isn’t to say it is a rehash of its predecessor. Instead, it’s one of the strongest hip-hop albums to surface this year, spanning from the ridiculous to the intelligent.
6. Ne-Hi – “Turncoat”
One of the best moments of my summer was spent in the dank basement of the now-defunct DIY space, Animal Kingdom. We were all packed in tight, a few feet from the band as their lush and warm indie rock melodies played. Ne-Hi’s sound is inherantly nostaligic: summer-y, a bit off-kilter and made for giant sing-alongs. Their self-titled proves not only that they are one of the best to emerge from the Bucktown garage rock incubator, but is one of the best albums this year.