We’ve come to the end of another banner year. A lot has changed both in my life and in my career at the radio station that this radio show is a part of. I took a board position this year which brought me closer to my fellow DJs and harnessed an even greater love within me for the station, the people involved in it, and the music industry in general. It’s also been a tremendous year for our little underdog emo show, as we were able to interview some of my favorite bands and even made a big step in the history of our show by changing our name and renewing our focus. Finally, it’s been a fantastic year for music by any measurement except album sales, with new and more creative artists appearing every week and some really big surprises around every turn. I am honored to bring you my 20 favorite albums, but first I’ll give you a list of some of my other favorite things and then a list of 5 honorable mention albums.
Craig’s Favorite Movies in 2014:
1. Boyhood– Unlike any movie I have ever seen before, this movie left an impact on me for a very long time this year. Shot over the course of more than decade of summers, you really get the sense that Mason is growing up right before your eyes.
2. Interstellar- The coolest sci-fi movie since 2001: A Space Odyssey, it took everything I loved about Gravity last year and added an actual story to it.
3. Guardians of The Galaxy– Marvel finally becomes self-aware and it results in one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year.
4. Gone Girl- A stellar adaptation of the page-turner, edge-of-your-seat novel by one of my favorite directors. What more could I ask for?
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes- Ridiculous title aside, I think this sequel to the rebooted series was better than Rise, which I really enjoyed. Excited to see where the story goes next.
Craig’s Favorite Concerts of 2014:
1. Anberlin’s “Cities” Show- I put Cities in quotes because not only did they play that album, they played Never Take Friendship Personal as well. One of the best nights in my life, even though I had to say goodbye to my favorite band ever.
2. Lydia’s Illuminate Tour- I saw my favorite album performed live in full. That’s kind of hard to top unless you’re Anberlin.
3. Anberlin’s Farewell Tour in Philadelphia- I’m sensing a theme here, but seeing them perform a 20+ song set including Dance Dance, Christa Paffgen and GLASS TO THE ARSON(!!!) is just legendary.
4. The Gaslight Anthem and Jimmy Eat World- On two straight nights I saw The Gaslight Anthem and Jimmy Eat World together and it was incredible
5. Jimmy Eat World Futures Tour- Jimmy Eat World plays the album of 2004 in full. Many tears are shed. Many throats are shredded
6. The Wonder Years reach the pinnacle- The Greatest Generation Tour sells out the Electric Factory with support from Fireworks, Citizen, Real Friends (ugh!) and Modern Baseball was a night to remember for sure. It’s not every night you see a band graduate from playing 250 person rooms to selling out the biggest club venue in their hometown.
7. The Menzingers at Union Transfer- The Menzingers are one of the best punk bands in the world, this 20 song set absolutely proved that
8. The 1975 at Starland Ballroom- This band just gets better and better and I am amazed every time I see them.
9. Brand New at The Mann Center- I saw Brand New again! The tickets didn’t sell out before I could buy them! Incredible. And the show was even better.
10. Skate And Surf- Hidden In Plain View was cut off after like 5 or 6 songs because of time constraints, but I was able to see Hidden In Plain View, Circa Survive, and Midtown in the same day. The latter is the most incredible. I have waited many years for the Midtown reunion, and it lived up to all my expectations and more. It was also neat that they announced on stage that the set on Sunday (the one I was at) would be their final show ever. What a way to go out.
Albums I missed in 2013:
This is a collection of albums I didn’t include on my top 20 albums of 2014 and the reason I was wrong about them.
Lights and Motion- Reanimation/Save Your Heart- I don’t know what happened here. Two great post-rock albums released in the same year by the same person and I missed both
- Have Mercy- The Earth Pushed Back- Should have been in my top 10 albums last year. I corrected the mistake this year, but I just missed the boat.
- Beyonce- Beyonce- One of the songs made my songs list, but the album came out too late to make my album list. Sorry Queen Bey
- Alcoa- Bone and Marrow- Was on my honorable mentions, should’ve definitely made my actual list. One of the most impactful folky albums I’ve heard. Can’t wait for the follow-up
- CHVRCHES- The Bones of What You Believe- Great electro-pop. Get on the hype train if you haven’t already
- Foxing- The Albatross- Didn’t hear this album until this year but was in amazement when I heard for the first time.
- Tegan And Sara- Heartthrob- I really liked this album last year it just didn’t make it onto my list for some reason. Great feel-good pop music with sad lyrics
- Arctic Monkeys- AM- A bit overhyped at the time, and as a result I didn’t listen for a while. One of the best alt-rock albums of last year though.
- The National- Trouble Will Find Me- Another on my honorable mentions that should have made it onto my list. Miserably sad album, though
Relient K- Collapsible Lung- LOLOLOLOLOL JK
Honorable Mentions for 2014:
25. Modern Baseball- You’re Gonna Miss It All
24. Seahaven- Reverie Lagoon (Music For Escapism Only)
23. La Dispute- Rooms of the House
22. Yellowcard- Lift a Sail
21. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Craig’s Top 20 Albums of 2014:
20. From Indian Lakes- Absent Sounds
The masterstroke of singer-songwriter Joey Vannucchi, Absent Sounds sounds as though From Indian Lakes listened to my runner up album, Seahaven’s Reverie Lagoon, and thought “I can do that ten times better. And what’s more, he succeeded. This is a brooding indie rock album for the ages. While Vannucchi’s vocals may be lilting and comforting, the jagged angular riffs that peak their head out throughout some of Absent Sound’s songs are discomforting. There is something for every music listener here, whether it is the urgency of “Breathe, Desperately” or the biting lyrics “Runner.” Don’t let the sound fool you, Vannucchi’s words are downright acerbic.
19. Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties- We Don’t Have Each Other
After you write one of the most impactful and personal records the pop-punk genre has ever seen, where do you go next as a songwriter? That was the question that Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years was surely asking after releasing The Greatest Generation last year. So he decided to hone his songwriting craft as many others, not the least of which being The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, have before him: by crafting a character and telling that character’s story. A concept album of sorts which tells the story of the titular character’s “worst year of his life,” Aaron West proves that perhaps Campbell’s best songwriting comes when he goes against the advice of “Local Man Ruins Everything” and lets sadness win.
18. Circa Survive- Decensus
No band this year has come from more insurmountable odds to release a top 20 album than Circa Survive. Anthony Green, lucky to be alive after surviving and undergoing treatment for substance abuse, returns to his introspective and self-aggrandizing ways on this, the band’s fifth full-length album. While it is not nearly the band’s best contribution to their discography, it is masterfully layered and complex listen which is at times both as aggressive and reserved as the band has been in their entire career.
17. The Gaslight Anthem- Get Hurt
The Gaslight Anthem have earned enough respect to immediately command the attention of all music listeners with each album release. This record, immaculately produced by Arctic Monkeys and The 1975 collaborator Mike Crossey, eschews the proto-punk sounds of the band’s previous records for a more rock oriented take, while still retaining the personability and vulnerability of previous Gaslight releases. While Get Hurt is a bit of a sonic curveball- and it is all kinds of a mess at some points as they try to mesh too many elements together- it’s an adventurous and ultimately rewarding look at a band who is tired of sitting stagnant and wants to change things up a bit.
16. Taylor Swift- 1989
2014 was Taylor Swift’s year. Whether it was the witticism and scathing attack of Page Six targets on her character on “Blank Space,” the irreverently catchy horns on “Shake It Off” or the 80s synth-pop-jocking swagger of “Out of the Woods” and “Style,” 1989 is a downright pop masterpeice from the former country queen. She has now proven that, with a little help from her friends, she can conquer not one, but two genres. What’s next? From the sounds of the Imogen Heap-aided “Clean,” perhaps her next conquest is adult contemporary. Perhaps she’ll team up with Lana Del Ray to transition from “Wildest Dreams” to an alt-indie takeover. Nothing is out of the question anymore for the brightest shining pop star.
15. Manchester Orchestra- Hope/Cope
When you write one of the best records in the year, people take notice. When you complete strip down and rewrite that masterpiece from the bottom up, re-releasing it in a completely different but equally powerful form, people stand in awe. The latter is what Manchester Orchestra has done this year.- crafting a masterstroke which recalls the quiet/loud dynamic which leaves the room shaking at their live concerts.
14. Pianos Become the Teeth- Keep You
If the band’s previous album, The Lack Long After, was about coming to terms with the recent loss of a loved one, Keep You seems to be about trying to find a way to move forward even if that aching loss grows deeper over time. It’s an album that gives no answers, functioning only as a musing on loss and tragedy. It’s quite obviously an uneasy listen, but in a way isn’t that the best compliment I could give? Loss is discomfort, discomfort is loss. Kyle Durfey and Pianos Become The Teeth know that, and they’re trying to show you
13. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness- Self-Titled
The man behind the both Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin brings you a new creative venture, featuring actual optimism. I know it’s stunning to think that the guy who wrote “Dark Blue” and “Bruised” may actually have some rose-colored glasses view of the world, but Andrew McMahon seems to have found something to live for, despite all the odds. “Maps for The Getaway” seems to put a positive spin on the escapist anthem, with McMahon singing, “The balcony the hills of pain, the years of hope, the months of rain. Now that we’re outside it, I guess we survived it after all.”
12. Charlie Simpson- Long Road Home
This is the second full-length record from the folk singer-songwriter with perhaps the strangest backstory of any artist (He was the lead vocalist and songwriter for boy band Busted- who wrote “Year 3000”- who then went on to form a metalcore band, before finally starting his acoustic side project in 2011), and while Long Road Home does not quite reach the soaring highs of its predecessor Young Pilgrim, it is still the year’s best folk album. Simpson is still coming into his own as a songwriter, even after almost 15 years in the music industry. On the show-stopping“Haunted,” he combines his stellar command for vocal harmonies with a a uniquely vulnerable lyrical perspective for him for the clear album standout.
11. Gates- Bloom and Breathe
I can remember watching Gates, in their early years as a band, take the stage alongside Moving Mountains and Athletics at the Stanhope House in Stanhope New Jersey. This was right around the time of their first EP release The Sun Will Rise to Lead Me Home. I could not have predicted how Gates would go on to combine the best aspects of both the other bands on that bill into their first full-length record Bloom and Breathe. One of the best post-rock albums to come out in recent memory (but perhaps not even the best of the year) Bloom and Breathe combines the melodic chaos of Moving Mountain’s Waves and Thrice’s Vheissu with the ethereal ambience of Athletics’ soundscapes, and what a combination it is.
10. Fireworks- Oh, Common Life
Deeply personal records were the story of 2014, and Fireworks delivered with their most visceral and effecting release thus far. On Oh, Common Life the songs take on a darkness that was simply not present on the band’s first two full-length releases. The songs fester in what is an unlikely blend of contemplative meditation and electrifying sing-alongs , culminating in the catharsis of the album’s coda, “The Hotbed of Life,” which is perhaps the band’s greatest achievement yet.
9. Have Mercy- A Place Of Our Own
I am the first to admit that I completely missed the boat on Have Mercy’s first full-length The Earth Pushed Back. But I have now corrected that error with the band’s sophomore full-length. Featuring two tracks from their split with Daisyhead (both of which are among the best in their discography), a deeply memorable cameo appearance from Ace Enders, and a relentlessly poetic viewpoint on life, Have Mercy delivered some of the most poignant emo that 2014 had to offer, all while avoiding the saccharine cliches the genre has become synonymous with.
8. The Menzingers- Rented World
While the Greg Barnett-written songs still shine over the Tom May-helmed songs (what else is new?), the newest release from The Menzingers very nearly lives up to the promise foretold by the band’s seminal 2012 release On The Impossible Past.The highs are just as high (“In Remission,” the irreverent “I Don’t Want To Be an Asshole Anymore” and the slow-burning “Nothing Feels Good Anymore) and the lows are even lower (the dreadful “Sentimental Physics”), but in between there is still a great deal of the stellar songwriting that make these guys the best punk band out there right now.
7. Tides Of Man- Young and Courageous
I alluded to it before, but the album that takes the title from Gates as the best post-rock album of the year comes from the most unlikely of sources. The former Rise-core/ prog- metal outfit Tides of Man, helmed previously by now- Dance Gavin Dance frontman Tilian Pearson, decided not to replace the vocalist at all. Instead, the band provides the year’s best instrumental release. Taking a page from post-rock stalwarts Explosions in the Sky, Young and Courageous explodes forth with whirling crescendos and massive swells, before transitioning seamlessly into swirling, intoxicating interludes and almost f free-flowing guitar melodies. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful journey into the unfiltered heads of these band members who have nothing left to lose.
6. Copeland- Ixora
After six long, trying years apart, Copeland, the former runt of the Tooth and Nail litter- disrespected by indie audiences and emo audiences alike, reformed to create their masterpiece, the challenging and pensive Ixora. Whether vocalist Aaron Marsh is ruminating on the simplicities of domestic life (“Ordinary”) or slipping into a chilling falsetto (“Chiromancer”), it is the best vocal performance of the veteran performer’s career. The band is at their absolute best with their arrangements as well, as the jagged, angular guitar arrangements on Lavender serve the industrial nature of that track perfectly, while the sliding bass line on “I Can Make You Feel Young Again” commands attention. We are still awaiting the accompanying Twin album- an experience that will likely raise this record to even greater aural zeniths- but for now Ixora is still one of the most beautiful and captivating releases to come out this year. It also features one of the most chilling saxophone solos in modern music.
5. Walk The Moon- Talking Is Hard
Just two years after the release of their self-titled major label debut, Walk the Moon have returned with another collection of 80s influenced jams. They are all united, of course, behind “Shut Up and Dance” serves as both the culminating anthem and the motto of the release- as this record, perhaps more than any other record released this year, should get people moving and shaking along to the music. I can’t tell you how many times I myself have danced like an idiot in private in the two weeks since this album’s release It’s about time that dance party goes public. Everyone listen to this record, now.
4. PVRIS- White Noise
It’s pronounced “Paris.” Get used to the name, because you’re going to be hearing it a lot in the next few weeks, the next few months, the next few years. PVRIS is here to stay. Bursting onto the scene with their Rise/Velocity Record’s debut single, the song of the year candidate “St. Patrick,” PVRIS released this ten-song collection to much fanfare- especially from this very radio show. White Noise is a compelling listen, and not just because of vocalist Lynn Gunn’s commanding vocal performance. No, it is the total package: a thematic link between the songs-the record is deeply fascinated with the idea of a haunting; either by a ghostly presence, a memory, or a former lover-, the precise production from Versa guitarist Blake Harnage, and the damn charisma of it all, that makes White Noise a success.
3. Bleachers- Strange Desire
Jack Antonoff has everything he could want- he has a superstar girlfriend who loves him, his band fun. has conquered pretty much every charting milestone a band can possibly accomplish, and he has been given creative license to explore his art through a side project, so why is he still suffering so much? Antonoff strives to bring the intricacies of mental health to the forefront of the American public- starting with the self-help/self-love anthem and lead single “I Wanna Get Better.” In this deeply moving record, he touches upon the death of his sister openly, discusses his struggles with depression, and even opens up about his perception of the future, all while enveloping it within the seemingly thin veneer of three-and-a-half minute pop songs. It doesn’t hurt that the first six songs are perhaps the most impressive six song stretch since The Killer’s Hot Fuss.
2. Anberlin- Lowborn
I don’t even know what I could possibly say about this record that I haven’t said countless times before, this year alone. This is my favorite band of all time’s final album ever. There was never any doubt that it would rank very high on my list, the question was simply how high. Thank you so much to Anberlin for one final tour and one final album. This would be as good a time as any to remind you to read my farewell to the band:http://www.thegardenstatement.com/well-live-forever-a-thank-you-to-my-favorite-band/.
1. The Hotelier- Home, Like Noplace is There
While Home, Like Noplace is there is not the debut full-length from The Hotelier (thought it is the first under that particular spelling), it might as well have been. The album is quite simply a masterpiece. Years down the line, we will be discussing it in the same hushed tones of reverence reserved for The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me and Thursday’s Full Collapse and Saves the Day’s Through Being Cool. It is a landmark album in the scene already, just ten months after its release. No doubt it will be an album that many, many listeners come back to for comfort, and to hear the ruminations of Christian Holden on life, loss, and starting anew.