Sunday, January 18, 2015

UHM Best of 2014

I spent the first half of 2014 complaining that it was a slow year for Un-Herd awesomeness, but it turns out that it was as good a year as any; it's just that it's getting harder and harder to even find out about these releases. For example, I count myself as a pretty big Silver Sun fan, and yet I had no idea they had a new album out (which may or may not have been released in 2013 or 2014 - even the exact year is difficult to discern). Ditto Chris Devotion & the Expectations. I mean, if the news of their work isn't even reaching the people actively looking for it, what chance do these artists have of reaching your casual, garden-variety music listener? And this is supposed to be the age of information.

The Un-Herd Music Top 50 of 2014

1. The Nuclears - This Is How We Party
This is no ersatz garage rawk, and it's definitely not made by artsy dipshits slumming it out in the sloppy psyche revival. Nope, what we got here are some honest-to-jebus last remnants of the rock & roll true believers, mixing and matching every impulse they can remember from their dad's dusty elpee collection.

2. Spoon - They Want My Soul
Like no other band since REM, they've somehow managed to gain popularity with each successive album while staying true to their original intent and, if anything, getting slightly weirder as they've progressed.

3. Ex Hex - Rips
Shutting the door on her indie-prog past with Helium, Mary Timony here concentrates on that basic 4/4 beat and some zippy power pop melodies.

4. Nude Beach - 77
A sprawling and overwhelming collection that funnels everything Nude Beach suggested on their two previous albums into more conventional songcraft and slightly better production.

5. Twin Peaks - Wild Onion
Combining a probably harmful Lou Reed fixation with the ambition to equal the pop appeal of Lennon/McCartney, Twin Peaks allow their rock & roll heart to be exposed on this 16 track behemoth.

6. The Both - The Both
The combination of Ted Leo and Aimee Mann somehow manages to make two already great halves into an even greater whole.

7. The Rich Hands - Out Of My Head
Their 2012 debut claimed the Rich Hands as part of the ragged garage pop revival without really offering the suggestion that they could stand out from the pack. Well, Out Of My Head's heady mix of 70s power pop, T.Rex glam, bubblegum punk and boozy Southern soul changes that perception.

 8. The Jeanies - The Jeanies
With the late, great Plimsouls as their guardian angels, the Jeanies play muscular power pop with faint R&B derivations, offering a clutch of should-could-won't-be classics that deserve far more attention than the void of indifference that has met them so far.

9. Little Jackie - Queen of Prospect Park
Copping arrangements from 60s girl groups and marrying them to modern production touches is what Little Jackie does, and the success of the tactic depends entirely on the strength of the melodic hooks - and this album is loaded with 'em.

10. Happyness - Weird Little Birthday
Off kilter cool that sounds either like a Sparklehorse album as played by Pavement, or a Pavement album as played by Mark Linkous, and attains a strange magic hour ambiance that just won't let me stop playing it.

11. The Breakdowns - Rock 'n' Roller Skates
Hits on everything cool from 50s doo wop to 70s skinny tie power pop to klassic Kiss cheese to Ramones bamalama while forging into the future. I mean, really, what's not to love?

12. Needles//Pins - Shamebirds
Another step forward for this band that effortlessly hides pure pop hooks in their short, sharp blasts of ragged punk.

13. Chris Devotion & the Expectations - Break Out
It's hard not to reach back to the glory days of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe when describing this Scottish outfit, which pretty succinctly sums up why you need it.

14. Nicole Atkins - Slow Phaser
Like PJ Harvey meeting the Shangri-Las in the red velvet glitz of an off-Broadway theatre.

15. The Solicitors - Blank Check
When I say this album sounds like it should have been the second release by the Jags I mean to compliment both bands, and to assure any readers who get the reference that they're in for a major treat.

16. Fauna Flora - Fauna Flora
A gorgeous melancholy song cycle that reveals further layers with every listen.

17. The CRY! - Dangerous Game
An addictive rush of bubblegum punk that conjures up no less of a spirit than the dearly departed Exploding Hearts.

18. Sugar Stems - Only Come Out At Night
This pop punk bunch has flirted with greatness before, but this time out they've not only sharpened the hooks but have delved further into the Spector-esque ghost of girl groups past.

19. Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else
Loveless brings a raw rocker's edge to the proceedings, which not only scuffs up the Americana sound but lends a cynical post-feminist intelligence to the lyrics.

 20. Watts - Flash of White Light
A tightly packed firecracker superstring of Keef riffs, ACDC stomp, bad attitude and pop smarts. Play it at your next party if you want to bust a lease.

21. The Soft White Sixties Get Right.
22. The Ricky C Quartet Recent Affairs
23. Reigning Sound Shattered
24. Cheap Cassettes All Anxious, All The Time
25. New Swears Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever
26. Broncho Just Enough Hip To Be A Woman
27. Silver Sun A Lick And A Promise
28. Velociraptor Velociraptor
29. Steve Conte Steve Conte NYC
30. Ming City Rockers Ming City Rockers

31. Motel Beds These Are The Days Gone By
32. Sunrise Highway Windows
33. Jamie T Carry On The Grudge
34. Ex Cops Daggers
35. Linus of Hollywood Something Good
36. Brand New Hate Hangover and Over
37. Gramercy Arms The Seasons of Love
38. Dum Dum Girls Too True
39. The Number Ones #1's
40. Actual Water Call 4 Fun

41. Chains of Love L.P.
42. Sweet Apple Golden Age of Glitter
43. Phonograph Phonograph Vol. 1
44. The Grates Dream Team
45. The Men Tomorrow's Hits
46. Nick Waterhouse Holly
47. Papernut Cambridge There's No Underground
48. Split Squad Now Hear This
49. Chuck Prophet Night Surfer
50. James Williamson Re-Licked

 Sometimes It Takes a Lot to Feel Normal

1. Spoon Do You
2. The Nuc1ears I Can't Quite Say
3. Ex Hex Waterfa11
4. Nude Beach I'm Not 1ike You
5. Twin Peaks Mind Frame
6. The Breakdowns Rock City Limit
7. Chris Devotion & the Expectations If You Wanna 1eave
8. Nico1e Atkins Cool People
9. Litt1e Jackie Sweet
10. The Rich Hands 1 Get By
11. Need1es//Pins I'm a Drag
12. Reiqning Sound In My Dreams
13. The CRY Seventeen
14. The So1icitors Pretty Penny
15. Happyness Great Minds Think A1ike, A11 Brains Taste the Same
16. The Both Vo1unteers of America
17. Fauna F1ora Happy Hour
18. The Jeanies I Think You're The Wrong One
19. Suger Stems Sun Rise, Sea Change
20. Ve1ociraptor Robocop
21. The Soft White Sxties Up To The Light
22. New Swears Stay Go1d
23. Ming City Rockers Twist It
24. Si1ver Sun Have a Good Time, All of the Time
25. The Cheap Cassettes B1ack Viny1!