photo (22)Hi. I’m currently staying indoors as nature is most certainly trying to kill me. Cottonwood falling like snow in January, mold spores at an all-time high, the sky raining cats…okay, no cats. But all that other crap is real. Trust me. So instead of boo-hooing about my lack of allergen-fighting chromosomes I thought I’d look back at the first half of 2014 and see what albums have stood out the most to me. I know there’s been some great music released in 2014, but I don’t think it’s been as stellar a year as say last year. Last year at this time I’d already been blown away by My Bloody Valentine’s mbv, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s II, and Boards of Canada’s Tomorrow’s Harvest. Those are hard to top in my book. Still, there’s been some great releases and I’ll tell you all about ’em.

amor fatiFirst up is Jakob Skott’s Amor Fati. This album is a tour de force in drumming and atmospherics. When he’s not noodling on analog synths Skott’s main gig is being the titanic drummer for Denmark’s psych masters Causa Sui. They do the whole expansive, psych freak outs very well. But with Skott’s solo stuff he plugs in the analog synths and creates swaths of neo-futuristic sound blasts that would sound right at home scoring some post-apocalyptic film. Imagine Boards of Canada, Tangerine Dream, and Stewart Copeland being blended into a dark, foreboding aural concoction. That’s a bit of what you’re getting into with Amor Fati. Really, it’s a stunning record that you should check out immediately. Check out my review here.

 

war on drugsThe next great album of 2014 for my money is The War On Drugs’ Lost In The Dream. Adam Grauduciel really went above and beyond to create an album that elicits such longing and heartache that you truly do get lost in his dream. It’s a dream filled with big, fist-pumping, arena anthems, candid tales of loss, and driving rhythms coated in psychedelic hues. Lost In The Dream is an expansive double LP in the tradition of classic 70s basement bean bag double gatefold spins. You can zone out with the Koss headphones covering half your head as the haze thickens in the air and you slink down deeper into the chair. Slave Ambient was Granduciel finding his voice and his groove. Lost In The Dream is his masterpiece. If it’s the last thing he ever does, he can die happy knowing he made a masterclass record. Check out my review here.

 

real estateIt seems you either love Real Estate or you’re bored by them. Me? I absolutely love their stoned indifference. Their gentle jangle and air tight rhythm section. 2011’s Days was a little gem of an album. They followed it up with this year’s Atlas and despite solo side projects they sound like a solid unit still. Atlas doesn’t deviate too much from the formula Days was conceived with. Instead, it just hones in on that formula and tightens their jangle up a bit. The themes on Atlas seem to reflect the 30-something year olds and their acceptance of nearly middle age. It’s like “Yeah, we’re not stoned college kids hanging out at the beach anymore. And that’s okay.” They seem to have accepted being adults and finding that they even kind of like it. Me being a family guy that turned 40 in December I can really get down with that sort of mind set. Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile, while not guitar shredders, dance around their Fender guitar necks like shy versions of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. They’re never flashy, but like the whole of Atlas they’re always impressive. Give it a listen, and read my review here.

 

nothingNothing’s Guilty Of Everything is a mix of dark shoegaze, heady dream pop, and jagged post-punk with a healthy dose of goth thrown in. Dominic Polermo leads Nothing with a whispered voice that somehow still hovers above the heavy, mournful, crushing guitars and massive drums. At times this album sounds like Deafheaven being fronted by Elliot Smith. This is heavy, emotional, and soul-searching music. If Deafheaven, Whirr, and My Bloody Valentine float your boat then you need to locate this album immediately. Check out my review here.

 

st. vincentSt. Vincent has been a favorite of mine since 2007. She’s a quirky songwriter and a hell of a guitarist. She’s not the typical guitar player, though. She’s more like texture guitarist. More like Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp. I didn’t care for Love This Giant from 2012 with David Byrne like I hoped I would, but I think her working with a master like Byrne helped Annie Clark find a new kind of groove to push her own music forward. St. Vincent is a hell of an album with skronky beats, funky horns, and of course plenty of Miss Clark’s great guitar work. It also shows something that up to this point seems to have been hidden from plain sight in her music: vulnerability. My thoughts on this album in greater detail are right here.

 

papirPapir, like Causa Sui, are a psych band from Denmark and are signed to El Paraiso Records…also like Causa Sui. They can get pretty noisy like their Danish buds, but Papir like to take thinks a little slower. They like to slowly float over fields of poppies as opposed to running at full throttle. They take their time getting to the destination, which is cool as Papir’s journey is the best part. Papir IIII is a hell of a journey. If you like instrumental jams and mind-altering soundscapes look no further than this beauty of an album. Check my review out here.

 

mogwaiMogwai are a band that like to evolve their sound. From ear-spitting feedback to quiet interludes they mix it up and always keep us guessing. With Rave Tapes they once again mix up their sound, this time with analog synths and play with a electronic vibe. Some folks have bitched about not liking this current sound. Me? I say more power to ’em. Rave Tapes is still ominous and dark like previous efforts. But instead of crunching guitars they deliver the message with Moogs and synths. It’s really quite stunning. Give it another listen if you didn’t like it first time around. Read my review here.

 

calderAlex Calder is a strange fella. You don’t know what to believe and what not to believe when he speaks. But one thing for sure is that he’s a good songwriter. Quirky and at times disconcerting, his music knocks you out of balance. It messes with your equilibrium and makes you feel a little queasy. Seasick even. His newest self-released album Strange Dreams lives up to its title. This is altered states pop. Check my review here.

 

demarcoMac Demarco is a strange fella.  You don’t know what to believe and what not to believe when he speaks. But one thing for sure is that he’s a good songwriter. Quirky and at times disconcerting, his music knocks you out of balance. It messes with your equilibrium and makes you feel a little queasy. Seasick even. His newest album for Captured Tracks called Salad Days continues what he started with 2 and makes it even better. It’s less weird and more pop. This is altered states pop. Check my review here.

 

wye oakWye Oak aren’t content with the same old same old. Shriek is proof of that. It’s more electronic pop than folksy rock and this new sound fits Jenn Wasner just fine. A great summer record that will fit nicely in fall as well. It may turn off some longtime fans at first, but once you set your preconceived notions to the side and judge the album on the merits of its songs and not the history of the band, you’ll hear a band expanding their horizons and not abandoning some sort of mission statement.

 

There are other albums I’ve listened to this year. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s Days Of Abandon was a good one. Quilt’s Held In Splendor was quite fun, too. Causa Sui’s Live At Freak Valley is a hell of a live album and one to enjoy with the headphones on. I just received Craft Spells’ Nausea in the mail on Friday and from the three times I’ve listened to it so far I have to say it’s a contender for my top albums of the year. Since I haven’t lived with it very long I couldn’t go into great detail at this time. Look for a glowing review very soon.

Albums I’m looking forward to are Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Jeff Tweedy’s solo album, and Strand Of Oaks’ Heal(if you haven’t heard “Goshen ’97” yet, you need to.) I’m sure there’s a bunch more coming, I’m just not privy to that information yet.

So there you have it. These are the albums I’ve loved so far. I listen to and review what I love, not what I think will be popular. So if your favorite artist isn’t on here, sorry. Why don’t you make up a list and I can see what you’ve loved so far this year. Anways, gotta go. I think more cats are falling from the sky.

 

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About the Author jhubner73

This is where I drop the spat and spittle, the sentimental fat and drivel... Music and such, and maybe a word or two about a word or two. Midwest point-of-view, without all that religion and gun stuff. Intellectually unintellectual. Elitist for the pizza and beer crowd. Grab a bean bag and lounge in the basment for a while, won't you?

13 comments

  1. You’ve forgotten Atoms For Peace, that was an early hit last year too (from my dim memories). I know what you mean though, I think 2013 was a good vintage for music. You bullied me into the Papir and Jakob Skott LPs and I totally share your enthusiasm for ’em and I’m also with you 100% on the War on Drugs.

    Sometimes stuff doesn’t sound so good a few months later on, but I really like the Pontiak, Wildest Dreams and Holy Mountain LPs too at the moment.

    P.S – just got tickets to see Mogwai supported by Forest Swords and Mugstar in October.

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    1. You’re right! I totally forgot about Atoms For Peace! Another stellar album from 2013. And I still need to listen to all of those you mentioned.

      Mogwai and Mugstar??? Oh man. That sounds like sensory overload. The best kind of overload.

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      1. Do you know Forest Swords at all? I don’t. Apparently the guy lives very close by and mixes all his music outdoors, wandering around.

        I know, sorry, I feel like I’m bragging on the concert front – but, hey it’d be criminal to let it happen 12 miles away and not be there. Never seen Mogwai, I’m about 6 LPs behind too.

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      2. The name Forest Swords sounds familiar, but I’m not sure if I’ve heard him. I like the concept of that, wandering around recording in nature. It’s like field recordings for rock.

        Hey, I’d be bragging too if I were you. 12 miles from home? You could ride your bike to that one. I saw Mogwai open for the Cure back in 2004 at the Curosia Festival. Loudest band I’ve ever heard. It was excruciating. Have fun!

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  2. I’d like to second the Forest Swords recommendation. It occurred just before taking a music hiatus and that album was, in fact, one of only two I kept listening to.

    Yes, the cottonwood is trying to kill you. When I successfully killed one (after it tried to kill the house), it revealed the truth in it’s dying breath, “Must. Kill. Hubner.”

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  3. That Jacob Skott sounds very intriguing, as does the Mogwai. Big Boards of Canada fan (obviously)
    My fave 2014 album so far is Secret Chiefs 3 (or FORMS, never too sure what name Trey Spruance (Mr Bungle) is using at any time) “The Danse Macabre” breathtaking arrangement of the Saint-Saens piece.

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    1. I’ll have to check that one not. Haven’t heard Trey Spruance since the ‘King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime’ album.

      If you’re a big BoC fan, do yourself a favor and snag that Jakob Skott. It’s unbelievably good. I listen to it three or four times a week. His ‘Doppler’ album is excellent as well. Really, the whole entire El Paraiso catalog is incredible. So many good bands under one roof.

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      1. Found the Mogwai, quite good, really dig what I’ve heard so far “Repelish” is fave.
        Had to mention right away though, they sound amazingly close to Canadian band King Cobb Steelie – first album down-tempo and spacey, produced by Bill Laswell. 2nd self-produced album much faster, but if you like Mogwai, the same otherworld vibe is there.
        Only found Jakob Skott- Ras Rasmussen trio so far, and Causa Sui “Euporie” …..didn’t like. I’ll still seek out Amor Fati though, give it a fair chance.

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      2. The Scott solo stuff is much different than Causa Sui. More electronic. Maybe check Soundcloud for a listen. I know he had some songs off of it on there.

        King Cobb Steelie sounds really familiar. If they’re anything like Mogwai I’d probably dig it.

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