We are nearly half way through the year 2014 and it’s time to share my favorite albums of the year thus far. We’ve seen some pretty big releases this year and I have few I think you, my dear reader, should be spending some time with. I could mention a few more that I like but these are the five albums I’ve been spinning non-stop since they came out.
Enough with the so and so, here’s my favorite albums of the year so far.
MAC DEMARCO :: SALAD DAYS
In 2012, Mac Demarco burst onto the indie music scene with his brand of sleazy guitar pop music. He release two albums that year and played a very long tour that bled into the year 2013. On his latest release Salad Days, Mac didn’t stray too far from his core sound although he did add some shimmering synthesizers for an extra layer of texture. This album is easily my favorite of the year so far. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this one and Mac delivered. I was able to see him and his band of fantastic musicians perform at The Goat Farm in Atlanta earlier this year, if you have a chance to catch Mac Demarco please do it. Not only is he a great songwriter and musician, he and the boys will blow your socks right off playing live rock and roll music.
REAL ESTATE :: ATLAS
In the modern era of music when bands go, what some people might consider, “too long” with out a release, the listener or general fan will grow impatient and sometimes seem to lose interest. It’s almost an unspoken rule that you have put out some sort of music (whether it be a new single, remix, b-side, or other) during the years between albums or people start asking “What happened to (insert band name)?” Real Estate released Atlas three years after there hit 2011 release Days, and for this fan, that was a perfect amount of time between recordings. The guys utilized Wilco Loft studio in Chicago to work on this record which may be their best album to date. Atlas picks up where Days left off but this record finds lead writer Martin Courtney tackling more current affairs rather then discussing the topic of nostalgia and old times. Real Estate is establishing themselves as one of the most important bands in modern music and this record is a perfect example of their staying power. Real Estate makes music good for any time of year. I heard Katy Goodman (La Sera, and formerly Vivan Girls) say recently, “It would be a wonderful music to listen to on almost any occasion…being at home, eating breakfast, or going to bed or driving in your car. Pretty much any situation will be better with this music playing”. So. True. (GOOD NEWS FOR BHAM RESIDENTS: Real Estate will be playing at Bottletree Cafe on 9/21! Get a ticket and vibe with me!)
THE WAR ON DRUGS :: LOST IN THE DREAM
Americana is one of my least favorite genres of music. I’ve seen other writers and critics label The War on Drugs as a “modern Americana” band but I disagree wholeheartedly. Although their music has some dreamy elements and perhaps a more folksy approach, TWOD is a rock and roll band. Their latest album Lost in The Dream will be on several “end of year” lists this year and for good reason. This is just a great album all the way around. It’s a refreshing dip into the pool of new rock music. The production and instrumentation is near flawless and the lyrics are intentional and beautiful. “I’m a bit run down here at the moment,” from the song Eyes to the Wind, is one of my favorite lines from any song that I’ve heard this year. I’m just fully in love with this album. TWOD should absolutely be in the discussion with larger indie rock bands like The Arcade Fire and Wilco and after this release, I believe they will be.
DAMON ALBARN :: EVERYDAY ROBOTS
Damon Albarn has had quite a journey as a musician and producer. You may know him from his work with Blur, Gorilllaz, and the under-appreciated The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. This year Damon released his very first solo album Everyday Robots. He’s currently playing the major festival circuit with his band “The Heavy Seas”. Lyrically the album might come across as the complaining of an older person who just doesn’t get modern life, but Damon’s calling us all out about our obsession with technology and our need to constantly stay connected. I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the theme of this album and we both came to the conclusion that Damon is calling us on our shit and he’s totally right to do it. He also approaches some more tender subject matter on his own struggle with addiction and fame. Musically, the album is structured almost like a folk record but uses various instruments like synthesizers, samples, and vocal modulation to give the whole thing more layers. The thing that got me so hooked on Everyday Robots is the time signatures and percussion. Reminds me a lot of The Good, The Bad, & The Queen in the best of ways. This record is a must have for the year.
PALO ALTO SOUNDTRACK :: VARIOUS ARTISTS
“Palo Alto” is the indie film version of a collection of short stories written by actor James Franco. The stories are loosely based around James’ own life growing up in suburban Southern California. The film is the directorial debut of Gia Coppola. If you recognize the last name it’s because she’s Sofia’s niece and Francis Ford’s granddaughter. The film itself is largely scored by Devonte Hynes (Blood Orange) but there are also some additional tracks by Gia’s cousin and Rooney frontman Robert Schwartzman. Gia’s other cousin Jason Schwartzman (Coconut Records and Max from Rushmore) also contributes a track. Although I’ve never actually seen this movie (shoutout to Birmingham’s lack of indie movie houses), I can really get an idea for the flow of the movie with this soundtrack and the songs chosen feel like they are a perfect fit for the movie. The songs are angsty and modern but emotional. Even your boy Mac Demarco contributed his homage to smoking cigarettes, his song “Viceroy”, to the album, which is a song all angsty teenagers should relate to. Also, Devonte Hynes is probably the future genius songwriter/producer we need in the world of music right now so you should really pay attention.