I am slightly in denial that it’s already time to put together 2014’s Albums of the Year list. The whole Fall seemed to come and go before I even had time to notice it was here. Even though I seemingly missed out on an entire season this year, it did seem to fast forward me to the holidays. With that, AOTY lists are one of my favorite things about December. My list is a little different compared to past years. While being the one of the hosts of this beast we call The Garden Statement, I am also the Music Director at WTSR, the station we run on. In short, I listen to tons of albums everyday and decide on all the new music we add to the station. So while my list obviously features the best of the emo/post-hardcore genre that I hold near and dear, I had to include some of bangers (not the Miley album, don’t worry) I came across through my Music Director duties. In the past 12 months, I listened to over 1,700 albums. I am very happy to finally publish my Top 25 Albums of 2014!
Honorable Mentions: Sorority Noise – Forgettable, Fireworks – Oh, Common Life, Taylor Swift – 1989, Such Gold – The New Sidewalk
25. Broods – Evergreen (Capitol)
My little intro’s disclaimer is being put to use right off the bat. By its description, I should not like Broods’ debut album Evergreen. Like at all. I am usually not a fan of female vocals and I would not consider myself a fan of indie pop whatsoever. Yet, I found myself jamming out to this in my car way more often than I’d like to admit. Hailing from New Zealand, the brother-sister duo are really heavy on the R&B influences. Combining that with the fun synth beats, this is just a cool pop album. The smooth tempos and the low key yet powerful vocals keep you interested without being overbearing.
Madison’s Pick: “Mother & Father”
24. The American Scene – Haze (Pure Noise)
It blows my mind that The American Scene isn’t huge. Another fantastic addition to their incredible discography, Haze features interesting guitar riffs throughout. The instrumentals are a little more funky than the band has played in the past, making it a great album to dance along to. Don’t be fooled, though. Jeff Wright’s lyrics are still as heavy and heartfelt as in albums past, creating a balance between dancey vibes and meaningful messages. That combination is one of the many reasons this band should completely take off. The music is poppy enough for radio but the lyrics have enough substance to keep us emo kids happy.
Madison’s Pick: “Nails of Love”
23. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time (No Sleep)
The debut LP for Moose Blood is full of enough relatable one-liners and little anecdotes to make you sad about your last relationship again for the entire duration of the album. While Moose Blood might not bring anything super innovative or new to the table, this album is too easy to enjoy. Crisp and clean pop rock instrumentals and British accents hook the listener in from the start. Yet, it’s the casual lyrics drenched in nostalgia and pangs of a disintegrated romances that make it honest, raw, and relevant to anyone who has ever gone through a breakup.
Madison’s Pick: “Gum”
22. Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt (Island)
After releasing an album as incredible as Handwritten, The Gaslight Anthem was left with one major challenge: how do you follow that? Two years later and Get Hurt was their solution. While it does not measure up to the greatness of their last album, it is a welcomed addition to the band’s discography. In general, the album has the signature sound fans love with Brian Fallon churning out the sads like he does best.
Madison’s Pick: “Dark Places”
21. You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing (Topshelf)
I am actually really excited that this album was hyped by indie outlets as the token “emo revival” album of this year. Not only does Keep Doing What You’re Doing absolutely rock, the guys of You Blew It! are just as nice as they are talented. They deserve every ounce of success and positive press they get. Although it was one of the first releases of this year, it has held its weight as one of the new favorites in emo. Overall, there is definite strides in song writing compared to their 2012 release Grow Up, Dude. In addition to Tanner Jones’ true and blunt lyrics, a prevalent bass line and punk guitars gives the entire album a modern spin on 90’s emo. You Blew It! did an awesome job of combining twinkly emo with raw punk, creating a vulnerable heaviness to the entire album.
Madison’s Pick: “Regional Dialect”
Check out The Garden Statement’s in-studio session with You Blew It!, featuring three acoustic tracks, here!
20. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown (Epitaph)
When this album dropped in July, it seemed it was a unanimously decided that this would be one of the best heavy albums to come out this year. With the prior six albums, the band proved they have the angry metal/hardcore jams down to a science. So while those songs are always welcome, it was cool to hear some more melodic and experimental elements throughout. Not to mention, The Gaslight Anthem’s wonder boy Brian Fallon is featured on “Old Light” (how cool is that?!). In their seventh studio album , Every Time I Die kept pushing boundaries and the consequences were so worth it. Several tracks give a fresh take on the genre, which keep fans intrigued and banging their heads sixteen years after the band’s start.
Madison’s Pick: “El Dorado”
Check out The Garden Statement’s interview with Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die here!
19. Bleachers – Strange Desires (RCA)
To be completely honest, it took a lot of time and persuading for me to get on the Bleachers hype train. The last thing I wanted to listen to was a indie pop album that puts a modern twist of 1980’s pop rock. And then my good friend/co-host Craig Ismaili shook some sense into me, giving it the description of something along the lines of “a pop version of Bruce’s Born to Run with emo lyrics.” Now that was something I could work with. For such fun instrumentals with an emphasis on synth keyboards and drum beats, the lush vocals are anything but light-hearted. Jack Antonoff addresses topics of loss, depression, and looking towards the future for a haunting introspective look at mental health.
Madison’s Pick: “Rollercoaster”
18. Plague Vendor – Free to Eat (Epitaph)
One of the best punk albums of the year? First graveyard groove album ever? Maybe it’s better if Plague Vendor remains free of the constraints of one particular genre. They will undoubtedly defy and exceed any expectations you have after listening to their debut LP Free to Eat, released via Epitaph in April. These tracks, although having no inclinations of dance beats or pop music whatsoever, are absolutely infectious and will get you moving. Perhaps it’s Brandon Blaine’s mixture of punk and hip-hop vocals combined with the crisp, chaotic drumming of Luke Perine that force you to jam out. These California boys combine sounds from across the punk rock spectrum to give a genuinely unique album.
Madison’s Pick: “Breakdance on Broken Glass”
Check out The Garden Statement’s interview with Plague Vendor here!
17. PVRIS – White Noise (Rise)
PVRIS has the potential to one of the bands from the scene to crossover to the mainstream and make it HUGE. Their LP debut White Noise is a dark pop album with heavy punk influences, which will definitely appeal to the masses. Lynn Gunn gives a flawless vocal performance, showing off her incredible range and impressive ability to write catchy lyrics that still have substance. This band has generated a ton of buzz around this release and the future is looking real bright.
Madison’s Pick: “St. Patrick”
Check out The Garden Statement’s interview with Lynn Gunn of PVRIS here!
16. Circa Survive – Descensus (Sumerian)
It is an insane year in music when Circa Survive puts out an awesome album and it doesn’t even make the Top 15 on this list. While it might not be anywhere close to the level of their first three full-lengths, Descensus packs a hard punch. With tracks reminiscent of On the Letting Go as well an some experimentation with blues and southern rock, this album proves Circa Survive is still as creative and innovative as ever. In fact, it is the instrumentals that demand your attention, specifically in slower jams like “Nesting Dolls” and the guitar riffs in “Child of the Desert.” It is a solid release by an incredible band.
Madison’s Pick: “Child of the Desert”
15. From Indian Lakes – Absent Sounds (Triple Crown)
If you imagine a what it would sound like if angels were to come together and form an indie rock band, it would be From Indian Lakes. Creating a softer, more ethereal sound for their second full-length Absent Sounds, Joey Vannuchi and crew made an incredibly stunning release. It’s been a huge year for this band, first with signing to Triple Crown Records and then touring for most of the year with their first nation-wide headliner in the Spring, followed by touring with The RX Bandits and Relient K in the second half of 2014. The attention to detail in all levels of song-writing along with pristine production are just a few of things that make this album awesome. Although I would’ve predicted I would like the clenched teeth lyrics and edginess of the first LP Able Bodies more, the subdued and understated vocals are even more haunting.
Madison’s Pick: “Awful Things” (Side note: This is actually one of my favorite songs of the entire year)
14. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss it All (Run For Cover)
The growth between Modern Baseball’s first LP Sports and their second LP You’re Gonna Miss it All is enormous. Keeping all the elements that made them so endearing from the start, this album just does it better. The lyrics, while still giving off the feeling they come directly from a diary, are more concise and powerful. Of course, there are still quirky lines with a bunch of self-doubt and the woes of young adult love. However, even those seem more mature. The entire sound is just bigger, with instrumentals being much more full and the production quality better than before. You’re Gonna Miss it All is the culmination of all the potential they’ve shows in the past two years, and the MoBo boys executed it like they were old pros.
Madison’s Pick: “Fine, Great“
13. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Need Each Other (Hopeless)
Dan “Soupy” Campbell is a great songwriter. Did we ever doubt that? Probably not. But in this character of study of sorts, he just reinforced the idea that he can write heart-breaking stories and turn them into great songs. The only difference is that this time around, he is speaking through the eyes of Aaron West, telling a completely fictionalized story. Yet, the attention to detail and emotion embedded in each song makes that almost hard to believe. With the help of producer Ace Enders, the acoustic tracks build into big indie folk tracks with an impressive string section. This probably has Wonder Years fans listening to more banjos this year than they would’ve thought.
Madison’s Pick: “You Ain’t No Saint”
12. Dikembe – Mediumship (Tiny Engines)
More often than not, bands who cite Brand New as an inspiration fail miserably and release a sorry attempt at recreating their sound. However, Dikembe’s Mediumship falls in the small minority that completely nails it. Heavy bass lines and thrashing guitars meld with a punchy math rock vibe to create an album that is reminiscent of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me without being a deliberate attempt to recreate the sound. The lyrics of vocalist Steven Gray are dark and twisting, focusing on blatant insecurities and repetitive self-doubt. Contrasting volumes create multiple peaks throughout these release, with hush verses building into massive moments in the chorus. Dikembe traded in the raw angst heard in their 2012 release Broad Shoulders for a smoother brooding sound this time around, showing off the versatility this band has to offer.
Madison’s Pick: “Hood Rat Messiah”
11. Prawn – Kingfisher (Topshelf)
With 2014 being the year the media latched on to the term “emo revival,” I am not sure why Prawn wasn’t the poster child for perfectly executed jangly emo. These ten tracks take you on a journey and have more sonic variety than any other emo album on this list. Songs like “Old Souls” and “Absurd Walls” highlight Prawn’s lighter, softer side while “First as Tragedy, Second as Farce” and “Dialect Of…” are just undeniable bangers. The math rock guitars and gang vocals create lush, layered tracks that are just as strong independently as they are in one complete album unit. There are several moments that are just massive and continue to blow me away after four months of replaying this album.
Madison’s Pick: “First as Tragedy, Second as Farce”
10. Xerxes – Collision Blonde (No Sleep)
This album is not nearly as easy as a listen compared to other albums on this list. Fuzzy post-punk instrumentals and frantic post-hardcore vocals paint a chaotic scene of drugs, an unknown future, and romantic tribulations. There are several moments of complete catharsis, inciting chills that you can shake off just before they come back again. For anyone who has ever strayed from the straight and narrow, the distraught thoughts and emotions in every track are all too familiar. Calvin Philley’s transition from calm spoken word to rushed hysterics contribute to this album being the most varied post-hardcore album of 2014. Taking cues for garage rock, gothic rock, all the realms of punk, and even industrial influences, Xerxes’ Collision Blonde will shake you to the core. The album art is also super dope.
Madison’s Pick: “Chestnut Street”
9. Manchester Orchestra – Cope/Hope (Loma Vista)
It is interesting that the loudest album of 2014 isn’t metal or post-hardcore, but a release from Georgia rock band Manchester Orchestra. The guitars in Cope steal the spotlight, demanding attention with their fuzzy, droning tones. The sheer power of the instrumentals were actually slightly overwhelming upon the first listen. After processing the layered sound, Andy Hull’s storytelling is yet again remarkable, from the opener “Top Notch” all throughout the ten other tracks. This album holds one of the biggest climaxes in an album heard this year in the closer title-track “Cope.” Mid-song, Hull croons “If there is one thing I let it go, it is the way we cope” before lush guitars, layered vocals, and fuzz finish out the album. Just when I thought it couldn’t get much better, Manchester Orchestra releases Hope, the stripped-down version of Cope. Trading loud guitars and distortion for quiet strumming and beautiful vocal harmonies, both versions create a giant wall of sound in their own rite.
Madison’s Pick: “Cope”
8. Gates – Bloom and Breathe (Pure Noise)
Bloom and Breathe is the highest ranked debut LP on this list and man, does Gates deserve it. Hailing from New Brunswick, NJ, Gates just unleashed a post-rock bomb that offers variety while still holding true to genre. From the second track through, there is an overarching sense of urgency. However, the album is in no way rushed, but rather punctuated with an array of different sounds. “Light the First Page” features the emo tendencies of this band while “At Last the Loneliest of Them” is much heavier than most tracks. To break up any sort of repetition, the acoustic track “Marrow” will leave you with more than enough feelings. It’s hard not to compare this band to Moving Mountains. However, since Moving Mountains broke up in 2013, Gates has the potential to be the emo post-rock bands fans have been searching for since.
Madison’s Pick: “The Thing That Would Save You”
7. Death From Above 1979 – Physical World (Last Gang/Warner Bros)
Toronto-based duo Death From Above 1979, comprised of Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keel, broke up before I was old enough to properly make any sort of sense of the indie music realm. The giant that is You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine was released the same year I was learning long division, so I missed out on any hype this band created. Luckily, I now have friends that willing to bring me up to speed on the essentials and get me aboard the hype train. The Physical World is a grungy dance-punk album with guitar riffs that slay. Although I am slightly bitter I missed out on the first era of DFA1979, I am stoked to experience this new wave of music.
Madison’s Pick: “Trainwreck 1979”
6. Have Mercy – A Place of Our Own (Hopeless)
Have Mercy has this knack for writing incredibly sad songs and making them extremely catchy. A Place of Our Own is more upbeat than their debut LP The Earth Pushed Back but also more angsty and devastating. With the help of producer Paul Leavitt, Have Mercy honed the potential that was overwhelmingly apparent in the first LP to take this record to the next level. With a national headlining tour on the horizon, this is not a band you’ll be able to see in smaller venues for long.
Madison’s Pick: “Plastic Covered Furniture”
5. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)
If you thought Run the Jewels hit the peak of brute anger and shit talking in their first LP, RTJ2 will rattle your skull. El-P and Killer Mike came back with a darker sequel that is flawlessly fluid while aggressively calling out pretty much everybody. The honest storytelling and blunt attacks towards corruption within society and politics delivers a frank perspective on our country’s current state. Yet, it’s the introspective lyrics of the duo that leave you with an uneasy feeling that’s hard to shake.
Madison’s Pick: “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
4. The Menzingers – Rented World (Epitaph)
At this moment in time, The Menzingers are the best punk band around. End of story. After releasing On the Impossible Past, one of the best punk albums of the 2000’s, fans (aka me) felt some anxiety as to where their career would go from there. They could either release something that wasn’t as good and be one of those bands that put out that incredible album that one time, or they could release Rented World and blow every expectation out of the water. Does this album match it’s predecessor? It’s probably too early to tell. But that fact that is even a possibility is an incredible thing.
Madison’s Pick: “In Remission”
3. La Dispute – Rooms of the House (Better Living)
This year, one of my favorite bands ever released my favorite album in their discography. La Dispute has always been a front-runner in the post-hardcore genre, known for their innovation and capability to not only push the boundaries for themselves but the genre as whole. It is not a surprise that Rooms of the House went in an unexpected direction. The album channels the essence of the Hear, Here EPs while incorporating the raw emotion of Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair. Vocalist Jordan Dreyer refined his storytelling skills from Wildlife. Rooms of the House is a culmination of the best aspects of anything this band has ever done. It is the perfect La Dispute album.
Madison’s Pick: “Woman (In Mirror)”
2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You (Epitaph)
There was a huge shift in sound on this Pianos Become the Teeth record. Taking a step back from the gut-wrenching screaming heard in the banger that is The Lack Long After, vocalist Kyle Durfey goes for a more melodic approach. Although the sonic shift, this album seems to pick up where the last album left off as Durfey continues the grieving process surrounding his father’s death. The slower pace and less abrasive tone allow listeners to notice the incredible detail in songwriting.
Madison’s Pick: “Say Nothing”
1. The Hotelier – Home, Like No Place is There (Tiny Engines)
Very rarely will you listen to an album in February and immediately know it is going to be the best album of the year. Yet, for The Hotelier’s Home, Like No Place is There, it was a no-brainer. This is going to be the emo album that we talk about for years and years to come, just like we view American Football’s self-titled now. There has yet to be an album that takes such an honest look at losing someone to suicide, possibly because Christian Holden finally found the words that many of us spend years searching for. Ten months later, I still can’t appropriately find the words to describe this album, other than that it is important.
Madison’s Pick: “An Introduction to the Album”