2014 was a great year for new music. Something really interesting for me was that a lot of the band’s that I was expecting to release records that I would love (Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, and Anberlin) fell really flat. On the other hand, a lot of the record’s that really had an impact on me were bands I had never heard of before or had only been a moderate fan of. I am not going to ramble on about the year and every in and out. I’m just going to give you my list. So, here it is.
10. Fireworks-Oh, Common Life
9. Taylor Swift-1989
8. Moose Blood- I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time to Time
7. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties- We Don’t Have Each Other
6. Have Mercy-A Place of Our Own
5. Against Me!-Transgender Dysphoria Blues
If someone told me at the end of 2013 that Against Me! would release one of my favorite records of the year, I would have been surprised, but not in disbelief. Against Me! is a consistently good band. Their records are always good and fun to listen to, but I am never really blown away. This record is similar, but it has an edge to it that the other ones didn’t. You see, this record is all about the lead singer and primary songwriter Laura Jane Grace and her journey coming out as a transgender woman in 2012. Thankfully, the music community responded with encouragement and support not common of the rest of the world in a situation like this. And kudos to her and her transparency and courage to be who she truly is, and kudos to her band for standing beside her both emotionally and musically and helping her write and release an album chronicling her struggles and victories in a difficult time. If you are an ignorant, closed minded, tea party, fox news advocate then this probably isn’t the record for you to listen to. But if you support all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and if you love punk rock, definitely check this out; because it is one of the most important records to come out in a long, long time.
4. Copeland- Ixora
Copeland is a band unlike any other. In 2010, after a farewell tour and a lackluster album, the band split up. Going their separate ways, most of fans never thought we would hear new Copeland music again. But on April 1 of this year (very funny, Copeland) the band announced their reunion and a crowd-funding campaign for Ixora, the band’s sixth full length. The album’s release was ultimately pushed back a month or two, but ultimately could not have been released at a better time of the year. The first time I heard it was just as it was beginning to get cold in Georgia and it was rainy and overcast all week, perfect Copeland music. Whereas most of the music I listen to is loud and pounding and somewhat aggressive, this is different. It swirls. It breathes. It relaxes. It has only been out for a few weeks, but early favorites include Erase, World Turn, and I Can Make You Feel Young Again. Give Ixora a listen this winter, because Copeland makes music for everyone.
3. Bleachers- Strange Desire
There really isn’t a hell of a lot to say about this record that hasn’t been said. Everyone knows the story, Jack Antonoff of Fun. wrote the record in secret while touring and announced it’s release with the massive single “I Wanna Get Better”. When I first heard the song, I knew it was one of the best songs I’ve heard in years. I had really high expectations for the record. But when it came out, it fell a bit flat for me for some reason, maybe it was just the wrong time. However, when I revisited it a month or two later I was blown away. It has such a cool 80s synth-pop throwback vibe that is so ubiquitous right now, but remains so current. Antonoff’s vulnerability in his songwriting stands out really strong as well. There is one thing that really almost ruins the record for me, and that is track number 10, featuring none other than Yoko Ono. Her part on that one sound really does makes me unable to listen to this album straight through. Other than that song, this is definitely one I will be listening to for a long time.
2. The Gaslight Anthem- Get Hurt
Currently, I do not own a record player or any vinyl. I really want to start putting together a collection, but just have not quite been able to make the commitment yet (but I will be very very soon). I have a list of records that I would love to own on vinyl early on to help get me started. Get Hurt is without a doubt one of those. Something about the way this record sounds makes me want to do nothing more than sit down with a glass of beer and disappear into it in its most raw and natural form. The band has mastered the age old loud vs. quiet dynamic, masterfully weaving a bit of each into most songs on the record. My personal favorite is the title track. Haunting, new, and familiar all at the same time. When I listen to this record, I just feel at home.
1. Manchester Orchestra- COPE
For me, Cope was one of those records that really catches you off guard. I’ve always been a fan of Manchester, I love Mean Everything to Nothing and enjoyed Simple Math a good amount as well. But when I heard Top Notch, the record’s first single, I instantly knew this one was going to be different. Apart from the brilliant songwriting, the production on this record absolutely floors me. It’s grungy, not polished. It’s pounding, but not trying. It’s pure rock music, and that’s what I love about it. I am obsessed with the album art as well, black with large white print reading “COPE”. Simple and powerful. The night before Thanksgiving my wife and I went to see Manchester Orchestra at the 5th annual Stuffing, a mini festival they put on each year in Atlanta. I can not remember the last time I saw a live band sound that tight throughout the entire set. Their energy was palpable and practically bleeding off the stage. Between that show, the blitzkrieg of Cope, and the sheer beauty of the albums alternate acoustic version also released this year called Hope, I will always remember 2014 as the year Manchester Orchestra went from being a band I like to one of my very favorite bands.