Favorites of 2014

Atomic Ned's favorite albums of 2014

As 2014 came to an end, I was asked by a few people, “What albums really stuck out to you in 2014?” My first response was, “Wow, I listened to so much music that I don’t know if there is any one or two albums that really stuck out.” But as I scanned my iTunes playlist, I discovered that there were actually quite a few albums that I enjoyed.

You may have noticed that my 2014 posting was pathetic and limited to just a few entries in early January one of which, ironically, was my “Favorites of 2013” list! But I made “Write more” a resolution for 2015 so I figured the best way to get back into posting on Atomic Ned was by posting a list of albums that I loved but didn’t blog about last year!

These are presented in alphabetical order as they appear in iTunes. And, here’s a quick explanation of how I picked these 20 albums – in this day and age, there are very few albums that I listen to repeatedly cover to cover. As it is, I typically listen to music during my work commute (30 minutes each way) or at times during the day when I can slip on some headphones and drown out other noise for 30 or 45 minutes. I’ve listened to all of these albums all the way through a number of times but, honestly, they made the list because the first 4 or 5 songs are really strong and inspired multiple listens.

Without further adieu, here are my favorite 20 releases of 2014:

Alex Dezen – Bedhead EPs (1-4)
The Damnwells lead singer dropped four 3-song EPs over the course of 2014 as a precursor to his band’s April 2015 release. These are (mostly) what you might expect from a solo album, Dezen is one of the greatest songwriters I’ve ever listened to and one of these days the rest of you will figure it out.

Beastmilk – Climax
Yeah, this came out in December 2013 but since I didn’t hear it until early 2014, figured I’d make an exception and include it. From what I can tell, these are metal dudes with a Joy Division fetish.

Bigshot – 6,600
Not a Billy Joel tribute act like the name might suggest, this Columbus, Ohio band would be a great addition to the 4AD record label with their dreamy, shoegazing goodness.

Brody Dalle – Diploid Love
One of the best shows I saw in 2014, Brody Dalle’s shed the punk rock image she had when leading The Distillers but keeps the punk rock spirit throughout these snarling tracks.

Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
If I had to pick a favorite of 2014, it might be this Swedish hair metal album. Then again, I would have picked it as my favorite of 1990 (where it really belongs) had it come out then. Fans of Vain, Danger Danger and Def Leppard need to check this out.

Crosses – Crosses
Moody, synth-driven rock from the Deftones Chino Moreno. I swear I hear some Duran Duran/Depeche Mode influence in these songs.

The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger – Midnight Sun
The apple doesn’t fall from the tree in Sean Lennon’s case. Dad’s influence is apparent in this psychedelic rock that is both nostalgic and futuristic. I’d love to see The Ghost of a Sabertooth Tiger share a bill with Tame Impala though seeing them open for Beck this past summer was alright too 🙂

Greys – If Anything
Last year it was Metz. This year, it’s Greys. It would be too simple to say the two punk-ish bands from Canada are interchangeable, they aren’t. But both sound like the stuff SubPop was putting out in the late ’80s/early ’90s. It’s raw, it’s loud, it’s aggressive.

Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
I may have listened to “Pinniped” more than any other song in 2014. I love ebb and flow of the heaviness.

Holy Sons – The Fact Facer
Didn’t know a thing about Holy Sons until a Thrill Jockey publicist asked if we’d be interested in doing an interview with frontman Emil Amos for the other site I run, Kids Interview Bands. This reminds me a bit of the 2001 album (The Tailored Soldier) by Boxharp that Hiss Golden Messenger’s MC Taylor sang on.

Incan Abraham – Tolerance
Really thought this was one that some alternative radio program director would latch onto and champion right up the charts. The album came out in April and, to my knowledge, didn’t gain much traction (not sure if the band did any national touring; if they did, they didn’t come through Columbus). I hope that rather than head back into the studio, these guys put some road miles under their belts and work this album because it’s a good one. If we go on a beach vacation this summer as planned, this will be the soundtrack. Think Beach House, Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear.

The Life and Times – Lost Bees
2014 was a good year for fringe alternative rock bands with ’90s roots. First, Failure reformed and toured and then The Life and Times released arguably the best album in their 12-year career. The power trio, led by singer/guitarist Allen Epley (who earned his reputation fronting Shiner in the ‘90s), doesn’t feature enough keyboards or synths to be a prog rock band, nor do they overdo the reverb and land squarely in the space rock genre. Instead, The Life and Times falls somewhere in between with a deeply atmospheric full rock sound.

Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
Love how Lydia’s grown from a country singer to a rock singer (with country roots). Whereas I previous described her as “Loretta Lynn’s foul-mouthed granddaughter”, she’s definitely entered into the “midwest rock” phase of her (very) young career. I might be tempted to describe her as “Paul Westerberg’s foul-mouthed daughter” these days 🙂 If you want songs about drinking and boys, this is the album you need in your collection.

Sinkane – Mean Love
Yeah, Pharrell’s “Happy” is a pretty catchy song but I’ll take “How We Be” any day over the huge pop hit. With a variety of sounds throughout (soul, funk, pop), it’s no wonder Sinkane’s admirers include Usher, David Byrne and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs).

Skaters – Manhattan
Knew from the first listen that this would have a home on my “Favorites” list. It’s got a mid-90s NYC sound (ie The Strokes) with some earlier ’90s Brit-rock mixed in for good measure.

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Totally jumped on the Simpson bandwagon after hearing so many friends (and musicians) sing the country singer’s praise last year. The fact that so many people dug this outlaw country sound makes me hopefully that people are starting to tire of the manufactured Nashville pop country and longing for a return to the style of music that put Nashville on the map in the ’60s and ’70s.

Temples – Sun Structures
A toss up between this and Crazy Lixx for my favorite album of 2014. How’s that for a variety?!? While Crazy Lixx sounds like ’80s hair metal, Temples sound like a psychedelic British band from 1968 and they’ve got the look that says, “We just stepped out of a time machine.” If you can imagine what Tame Impala covering the Beatles would sound like, you’re on the right track.

Ty Segall – Manipulator
Ty’s a maniac – he’s released tons of music since 2008 under his own name and with bands like the Sabbath-y Fuzz. So, yeah, might as well release a double album, 56 minutes long,  this time around! It sounds like some obscuro “Best of ‘74” mixtape passed around by the high school dope smoking kids.

Veruca Salt – The Museum of Broken Relationships/It’s Holy 7″
Only two songs, but any new music by a reunited Veruca Salt is worth celebrating. Truthfully, while I dreamt of it often, I never thought Nina and Louise would get back together and certainly never thought they’d record new music (though Louise will confirm that I sent her many pleading notes over the past few years!). These songs are everything I’d hoped they’d be and if they are all we get, I’ll be happy though I’m holding out hope for a full length sometime later this year.

The Damnwells try out new song

Thanks to YouTube user Fallingardor for filming this. Here’s what he/she wrote:

A random jam/treat The Damnwells did after everyone left. Only about 20 people got to see this. So amazing and such a treat. This was after Alex and the band talked with every person that stayed after the gig. Such a cool band.

Perfect ending when someone shouts “Five more songs” Ha.

The Damnwells are on tour this summer and fall supporting their new release, No One Listens to the Band Anymore.

An open letter to John Mayer

Dear John –

My kids listen to the local pop radio station. Every time I hear the very opening of “Half of My Heart”, my heart does a quick skip and jump … Now, I know that you are far too big of a rock star to listen to unknown bands and, let’s face it, there are only so many strings on a guitar and only so many notes you can play so you’re bound to play something at some point that sounds an awful lot like another band. I’m cool with that and I’m not even accusing you of lifting the opening of “Half of My Heart” from the opening of The Damnwells “Everything”. It’s just one of those lucky coincidences.

That being said, John, since there are some similarities between “Half of My Heart” and “Everything” which, after you hear, I’m sure you’ll admit to, I think you should download The Damnwells 2009 release, One Last Century. The band, being in that tough spot of not having a record deal, made the release – which features “Everything” – available for free to their fans in exchange for nothing more than an e-mail address. Don’t worry John, if you’re afraid of giving them your personal e-mail address, I’m sure you can find somebody who doesn’t mind sharing their e-mail address with you. Personally, I’d recommend you check out “Like It Is” which I think would make a great song for the Dixie Chicks to sing vocals on. Maybe you can pass it along to the girls and see if they’d be interested (note: The Damnwells opened 2 or 3 Dixie Chicks shows in Canada a few years back).

I promise you’ll like One Last Century and after you’ve fallen in love, make sure to pick up Bastards of the Beat and Air Stereo as a way to prepare for The Damnwells new CD which hopefully will be out by the end of the year.

You don’t owe The Damnwells anything. It’s just a coincidence. But, hey, why don’t you throw the guys a bone and take them out on the road with you and let them play music that your fans will undoubtedly dig?

Thanks, John.


In My Ear – Week of July 19

1. Magic Kids
I’m not entirely convinced the Magic Kids are for real. The group’s debut, Memphis, due in stores in late August, sounds like an obscure gem put out by a California high school glee club in 1974. Looking for influences? Try The Beach Boys, The Hollies, The Partridge Family, and The Turtles.

DOWNLOAD: Magic Kids – “Summer”

2. I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House
Alex from In Music We Trust has been singing this band’s praises for years (he put out 3 of their releases in addition to 2 solo releases by frontman Michael Dean Damron) but until I downloaded the latest mix CD by Suburban Home Records, I hadn’t paid them much mind. I’m sure somewhere along the way, Alex had to have mentioned that if I loved Two Cow Garage (which I do), then I’d love I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House but I must have missed it. Suburban Home is releasing the band’s new album in late August, but you can purchase a digital copy right now. I swear to God that “Swear to God” is one of my favorite tracks of 2010.

<a href="http://suburbanhome.bandcamp.com/album/sounds-of-dying">Swear To God by Suburban Home Records</a>

3. The Unwinding Hours
Columbus, Ohio – and the music world – lost a great one last week. CD101 DJ/program director Andy “Andyman” Davis drowned while on vacation with his family. The sudden loss was a shock to the local music community and I think many people spent last week listening to somber and reflective music. The lyrics of this track by ex-Aereogramme members The Unwinding Hours aren’t really related to the tragedy, but it’s the song that played in my head over and over many nights this past week.

4. The Damnwells
Along the same lines as The Unwinding Hours’ “Solstice”, I found myself listening to The Damnwells “Graceless” quite a bit – the song’s tone set the mood for last week.

5. Helmet
Helmet’s got a new album coming in September at which point they’ll start a tour that will run at least until early November, if not longer, including an October 15 date in Columbus (can’t wait!)