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Dec 26

Music To Code By, 2014

Previous years: 2013 2012 2011

Standard Disclaimer: I’m a fan of post rock, electronic music, and alt rock. To me, the best album ever is Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, and my current favorite record is either 65daysofstatic’s Wild Light or BT’s These Hopeful Machines. I like to listen to albums all the way through, and I’m not really a top-40 or metal fan, somewhere in between metal and top-40 – that’s me.

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2014 has been a slow year for music. I’m hard pressed to recommend much of anything new this year, so my recommendations this year are mostly from years past. Due to the slow year, my listening habits have been all over the map in 2014, so there’s bound to be something in here that you’ve never heard of.

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Top Album Recommendations

I highly recommend the following records – they’re all solid listens all the way through, and I find that I can’t start any of these without an obsession with listening the whole way through.

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BT’s These Hopeful Machines – EDM (electronic dance music), his masterpiece in my opinion, 2+ hours of incredible highs and lows both fast and slow, all mixed perfectly into one endless soundscape of amazing.

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65daysofstatic’s Wild Light – Post-rock meets a swirling wall of synth with a never-subtle virus of glitch constantly threatening to tear it all down, both inspiring and apocalyptic all at once. Fantastic.

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The Glitch Mob’s Love Death Immortality – EDM/Glitch. Their previous album (Drink the Sea) was a regular repeat-forever on my commute to and from work a few years ago, and this latest effort is even better – if ever there was a EDM supergroup to top all EDM artists ever, they’d be hard pressed to match the glitch mob’s work.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Specter at the Feast – Moody shoegaze perfection. Impressively consistent with enough variation to keep your attention – and, like all good shoegaze, it keeps moving you places without ever being front and center. It’s hard to pay attention without losing yourself in daydreams or memories while listening, and I think that’s kinda the point.

The Playlist

I hate attempting to make a playlist out of tracks when they flow much better within their respective album’s framework, but the albums playlist for these tracks is over 37 hours long, so, a hacked up playlist it is.

I joined spotify recently. If you think 65daysofstatic and/or this will destroy you and/or the glitch mob and/or matthew good and/or sigur ros and/or the paper chase is the greatest band ever, shoot me an email, let’s share playlists.

My playlist is a spotify playlist this year, it’s 45 tracks that clock in at 3 hours 48 minutes (there’s a fair bit of post rock in there..lolz):

Spotify has a couple ways to link to playlists, so here are options you may want:

Option #1: The playlist http link.

Option #2: The playlist Spotify uri.

Option #3: Search for me on Spotify with “1226261222” (no quotes), and look at my public playlists for 2014 Best Of.

Track By Track Breakdown

Not everyone is a fan of post-rock, and not all post-rock fans are fans of EDM. To that end, I’m going to utilize a “post rock warning” image throughout the track lists. For this, I’ll be using the greatest meme of all time: the post-rock raven.

Here’s an example post-rock raven image:

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When you see this meme, you’re reading about a post-rock track.

My advice to you: listen to the playlist, if a track catches your ear, read the breakdown about that track below – or, you know, just read all of this blather if you’re bored. Don’t miss the other bits about good vinyl and other music developments at the end of the post though!

Ok then, onto the track by track breakdown:

Track #1: Caspian – Hymn For The Greatest Generation

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I went on and on last year about how Caspian’s album Waking Season is the greatest album in a long while. I still agree with this synopsis, and still strongly encourage you to listen to my #1 track from last year: Gone in Bloom and Bough.

This track, Hymn For The Greatest Generation is the title track from Caspian’s EP released late last year in 2013 – the EP has been the start to my day through much of 2014, with this slow-building and bittersweet enchanting title track opening things, and a track I’ll mention later ending on a driving “I can conquer the world!” theme finishing out the short but amazing EP.

Track #2: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Lose Yourself

A nice, representative moody shoegaze track from the previously mentioned Specter at the Feast album – one of my top albums for the year.

Track #3: Led Zeppelin – Tangerine

Fun fact: The movie Almost Famous is semi-autobiographical. The director of that movie was a teenage writer for rolling stone and met his rock gods Led Zeppelin during that time. When Almost Famous was coming out, the director ran the film by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page for approval. The band nixed use of Stairway to Heaven and Kashmir, but approved 3 or 4 other songs – most of which come from the album Led Zeppelin III.

As a youngster, my father introduced me to Led Zep, stressing that Led Zep IV and Houses of the Holy were their greatest albums. I strongly agree with this synopsis, having listened to all their albums years ago. But, somehow, all these years, Led Zep III flew under my radar.

The band reissued remastered editions of their first five albums in 2014 and while I listened to Led Zep I as well, and still haven’t opened IV or Houses of the Holy yet, it was III that I could not set aside for a long period this summer. Truly a treat to listen to.

The album starts strong with the track Immigrant Song, which you’ll immediately recognize when you hear it. Upon first listen you’re prepared for more of the same from Led Zep that we heard on I and II – over the top prototype rock for the following 30 years of music, but then the album takes a turn.

The in-your-face power anthems give way to a lighter side of Zeppelin not before seen – acoustic guitars and anthems for light hearted summer days abound – with this track, Tangerine, being the prime example of that beautiful and somber final side to the album.

Another fun fact: The 2014 reissues are remastered in the opposite direction of the early 90s remasters. Where the goal of the 90s remasters was as flat and crystal clear (read: lifeless) as possible, the 2014 remasters are truer to the original mixes back in the 70s. The 2014 mixes pop with a sense of life previously missing on CD releases. Stairway in particular has had dynamics returned – if your friends and family couldn’t grok zeppelin due to the lack of life in the 90s cds, urge them to give these 2014 mixes a go.

Bonus fun fact: The 2014 remasters were released on vinyl as well, making it easier for a new generation of music nerds (read: me) to get high quality versions of these albums at an affordable price.

Track #4: Hole – Malibu

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The downside to a slow music year is nothing new to listen to, the upside? – rediscovering something you missed a long time ago. When Hole’s album Celebrity Skin was released in ’98 – it was very cool to dislike Hole, and the album. Dislike of the album is well placed I think, the title track is bland, and hard to get through. Celebrity Skin, the track, there’s something off about it – an engineered-for-the-masses grunge hit that’s a little too formulaic and yet lifeless all at the same time.

But wait!

Celebrity Skin, the Album, is pretty good – or at least it sounds that way to me in 2014. It’s a bit like Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzmosis released around the same time – a good solid album with a who’s-who big name list of music consultants aiding in turning out something generic, but still palatable for music fans of the time.

I was seventeen when Celebrity Skin hit, and my albums that year were Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins and Mechanical Animals by Marilyn Manson. Celebrity Skin, the album, can’t hold a candle to those other two albums in my opinion, but when you’ve listened to Adore and Mechanical Animals some thousands of times as I have over the past 20 or so years – Celebrity Skin is there to be discovered.

Give it a try.

Track #5: BT – Always

Just one example of the amazing tracks on the previously mentioned These Hopeful Machines album, one of my top albums for the year. The album was released in 2011 or 2010.

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Track #6: Crosses – Prurient

I listened to this album on repeat for days on end over two months earlier this year. The Crosses album is legit – but I listened to it so much that I burned myself out on it – so I can’t tell if it’s good anymore :/.

For fans of Deftones, Crosses is a side project of the Deftones’ frontman Chino Moreno.

But wait, Deftones fans, don’t let Team Sleep color your opinion before you begin!

Chino’s an outspoken fan of Depeche Mode and a few years back another side project of his, Team Sleep, issued a downtempo album that can only be described as ‘meh’.

Crosses’ self titled debut album is the album I wanted from Team Sleep. Remember that track Digital Bath from the Deftones’ White Pony album? Remember how you wanted an album full of *that*? Good news, Crosses is probably as close as you’ll get to the digital bath album.

I feel like Crosses is a bit more digital bath than depeche mode, but Chinos vox on the album are about the same as on Team Sleep for the most part – that is, fantastic. The difference here is that the backing music has life to it on the Crosses effort.

Crosses’ self titled debut album is a love letter to the Deftones fans who heard White Pony and were hoping for White Pony forever from then on. It’s White Pony 2.0 – minus the nu-metal – perfect.

Track #7: Queens of the Stone Age – God Is On The Radio

An apology is in order. About 5 years ago my coworker Chad tried to introduce me to the QOTSA album Songs for the Deaf, and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t ready for it. At the time my musical tastes leaned heavily on heavy-handed and over-the-top emotional mope rock – I was just discovering post-rock (heavy handed over the top emotional mope/feels rock without words) and I just wasn’t ready for the pinnacle of stoner rock that songs for the deaf is.

This album. God. Like the top albums recommended for this year, I cannot start this album without finishing it – listening to songs for the deaf is an event. I’ve got to check my schedule and ensure I’ve got an hour and a half undisturbed free before I begin. Perfect for airplane rides or just on repeat forever at volume 11 while working at home.

My only gripe with the album is the ridiculous offspring-like between-the-tracks banter of mock FM radio DJ satire – to me, this crap really detracts from the super solid and amazing album.

Don’t be turned off by other, lesser, meh, not for me, QOTSA efforts – this one’s accessible and pop rock as hell, I fucking love it. Thanks Chad, and Matt.

Track #8: The Naked and Famous – To Move With Purpose

I really liked The Naked and Famous’ first album a few years back – but now I can’t listen to that album anymore because this new album, In Rolling Waves is worlds better. The entire album is a torn-love/breakup album, and it’s great – at once subdued and poignant, beautiful. Electropop alt rock music, think MGMT or Passion Pit, but good – more like a love letter to The Postal Service.

Track #9: Hole – Hit So Hard

Another track from the previously mentioned Celebrity Skin album.

Track #10: Everclear – Why I Don’t Believe In God

The only album from Everclear that I can stand – I’m clearly a fair-weather Everclear fan, and to me, So Much For The Afterglow is an album that should not be missed.

Everclear has a sound, like Oasis, or Foo Fighters, and like those bands, the second album is the one to get. If you’re heads over heals insane about the album you may enjoy the more-of-the-same-forever follow ons, but personally, I don’t.

I’m a So Much For The Afterglow/The Colour and the Shape/What’s The Story Morning Glory fan, and I’m hard pressed to enjoy anything outside the greatest hits otherwise.

Everclear kinda meh to you? That’s fair, give So Much for the Afterglow a chance – like Celebrity Skin, it’s a post-grunge alt rock love letter – generic as hell but damn if I can’t stop listening to the full album on repeat.

Track #11: BT – Forget Me

Another track from These Hopeful Machines – one of my top album recommendations for the year. Forget Me is one of my most-listened-to tracks of the year, my current favorite from BT (and that is a hard choice to make as there are many stand out tracks by him..), and a strong candidate for my personal list of top 50 songs of all time.

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Track #12: Mogwai – Remurdered

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I’m not a Mogwai fan – like Explosions in the Sky and Caspian, and several others, I’ve listened to back catalogs without interest – the post rock all starts to sound the same when Takk and () from Sigur Ros are your introductions to what post-rock can be.

Like Caspian’s latest efforts, this latest album from Mogwai (Rave Tapes) and the B-sides EP they released a month ago are worth a listen.

Rave Tapes isn’t 65daysofstatic, newer Caspian, Sigur Ros or other standard over-the-top make-you-feel melodrama (read: perfection) post-rock, it’s more in line with This Will Destroy You – great in it’s own right. But, I can’t help but thinking Mogwai wouldnt have made my list this year had some of the other post-rock bands I like released something.

Good album, easily overlooked and forgettable, chill and serene. Perfect to code to.

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Track #13: The Glitch Mob – Fly By Night Only

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A track from the previously mentioned album Love Death Immortality, one of my top recommended albums. Pure adrenaline perfectly intertwined with serene synth and glitch all at once. Ugh, so good.

Track #14: Jack White – Would You Fight For My Love?

Another artist my coworkers Chad and Dan introduced me to a handful of years ago.

I *enjoy* the white stripes, but I don’t *love* them.

Something about Jack White music leaves me with a he-doesn’t-give-a-fuck taste in my mouth – to me, almost all of his solo and white stripes albums sound like a collection of b-sides to a really great album that he never released. I suppose that’s due to a lack of polish my cherished albums usually have – what can I say, I’m a full-album front to back listener, and Jack White’s always got something in there that’s so meh that it has a sort of an uncomfortable twist and makes for a hard listen.

I know, I get it, Jack White is avant-garde or whatever, he doesn’t subscribe to pop sensibilities and accessibility – o rly? False. Proof? Ok: Seven Nation Army. The End.

It’s as if Jack White takes himself super seriously and not seriously at all, all at the same time – perhaps that’s the point. Anyway, if you’re a white stripes fan, fair-weather or otherwise, his album this track comes from, Lazaretto, is more of the same – good, a thousand great hooks sprinkled with poignant interludes here and there with a fair helping of filler that could have hit the editing room floor.

Track #15: Garbage – Milk

Ugh. Garbage. So Good. There was a three or four month phase this year where I was listening to every album Garbage ever issued, on repeat, for days. If you’ve only heard the singles, do yourself a favor, listen to their first two albums.

Fun Fact: Butch Vig, the drummer/producer from Garbage is the same Butch Vig who produced the greatest album ever, Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as Nevermind by Nirvana, and a ton of Foo Fighters records (Don’t knock him for that though, he just tries to make them sound as good as he can..). In my opinion, Butch Vig’s super polished sound production is the reason Garbage is as good as it is.

Also, Shirley Manson’s vox – liquid velvet you cannot get enough of. God damn.

Track #16: Longwave – Sirens In The Deep Sea

Amazon recommended Longwave and 65daysofstatic to me at random years ago, and I’m glad they did.

Longwave is a now-defunct early 2000’s rock band. Fans of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots (sorry to hear that), and Foo Fighters (sorry to hear that too) need to give Longwave’s Secrets Are Sinister a spin.

Solid album front to back.

Track #17: Matthew Good – Advertising On Police Cars (Acoustic)

Matthew Good is one of my most favorite artists ever. This version of the track comes from a ‘deluxe’ triple-disc version of his greatest hits compilation In A Coma. The ‘deluxe’/extras cd has this 5 or 6 track acoustic session of some of his songs and they sound phenomenal. I wish I could have these tracks on vinyl.

The acoustic tracks in particular sound amazing in a room with great reverb, such as my brother’s home office with one wall covered in a wooden cabinet and wood flooring. Sonic catharsis and euphoria at volume 11 – easily one of the greatest listening experiences of my entire life.

Track #18: 65daysofstatic – Safe Passage

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It is a yearly goal of mine to introduce someone to 65daysofstatic. 65 days is labeled as post-rock or glitch or EDM depending on the album you’re looking at, and this album, Wild Light is, in my opinion, just as good as the Caspian Waking Season album I so highly recommended last year. Both Wild Light and Waking Season saw very heavy full-album playthroughs throughout 2014 and I anticipate that continuing in 2015.

This track is the epitome of Wild Light, all wrapped up into 6 minutes – a subdued haunted sad piano intro with guitar tremolos teasing just out of sight. Then, all at once – heavy-handed over-the-top right-in-the-feels synth overload – still mellow somehow, until about 3:10 when the drums kick in and you realize the track is getting out of hand – it’s accelerating and turning from a grey subdued morning to one of those car-crash 90MPH hour days you experience perhaps 3 times in life – it’s spaceships on a collision course with the sun with half the machinery malfunctioning. Epic. God. Damn. Epic. I love it.

Fun Fact: 65days fans, one of the band members, Paul Wolinski, released another short solo EP under the Polinski name again, entitled Full Bleed. It’s a full free stream – but give the man some money so he’ll keep going on making the music of our lifetime. His last solo record Labyrinths was one of my top recommendations for 2012, and I feel like that record showed the direction the following 65 days record (Wild Light) took. Full Bleed is good, but different – where Wild Light and Labyrinths were heavy handed overly dramatic walls of synth, this is like a pink floyd record with sounds of everyday life leading up to a delicate melodic final piano track. I’m not surprised, all of 65’s records have always been an evolution from previous efforts, and if this where 65days is going next, I’m excited to hear it.

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Track #19: Caspian – Halls of the Summer (Lazerbeak remix)

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This track comes from the previously mentioned Hymn for the Greatest Generation EP that Caspian released late last year. This track finishes that album out and often it’s my go-to for amping myself up to conquer the world. If time will not relent for the entire EP, this track will do in a pinch. Good stuff.

Track #20: The Glitch Mob – Our Demons

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More of the same of what we’ve covered earlier in this post, from the album Love Death ImmortalityTrack #21: REM – Sad Professor

REM’s unplugged on MTV sets from 1991 and 2001 were released this year – a good listen if you’re a fan of REM, fair-weather or otherwise.

Track #22: Mike Birbiglia – The Scrambler

2014 was the year I finally listened to my buddy Tim’s advice and listened to comedy albums. I spent days listening to everything from Jim Gaffigan, Patton Oswalt, and others, but I did not expect Mike Birbiglia.

My favorite writers have always been Douglas Coupland (of Generation X / Microserfs fame) and Matthew Good (of Matthew Good Band fame), but this year I’ve got a third favorite author – and that’s Mike Birbiglia.

Like many music artists I enjoy, Birbiglia is hard to really explain or sample one track at a time – he’s a full story/full-album listen required kind of guy. He’s a standup comedian, and his very first album is just regular standup comedy, but if you work your way backward newest album to oldest, you’ll fall in love.

Birbiglia’s albums are comedian concept albums, that is, they’re one long story. He’s a master of self-deprecation and being an asshole at the same time, he’s the underdog you cant help but root for as he tells tales of his first kiss or the time he visited his girlfriend’s boyfriends’ house and tried to impress his parents in hopes she’d choose him over the other boyfriend.

His stories start off harsh – Andy Kaufmanesque in many ways (on purpose) – “I dont believe in marriage” – for example, but by the end of the story he’s enraptured your soul in such a way that his final crescendo or twist at the end brings you to tears – it’s that endearing.

Birbiglia is the perfect story teller. This comes as no surprise, as he’s apparently had 15+ years of practice, often appearing on NPR’s this american life (don’t hold that against him though, that’d be like holding the foo fighters against butch vig..) and other such shows. His performances are theatre – he builds a story and constantly revises it as the tour progresses, ending with an absolutely immaculate story every tour.

Like my other favorite authors, Mike Birbiglia is the reason I write – he is the relatable guy who makes entertaining writing filled with humor and poignant moments seem so effortless. It seems effortless, but only upon the fifth listen through do you realize the amazing amounts of effort he must invest to make a show that appears so effortless. His simplicity and self-deprecating awkwardness is at once endearing, charming, and disarming – you feel bad for the guy and then, before you realize it, you’ve learned something precious about life when all you came for was the jokes.

Birbiglia is inspiring, and genius. Some of my most favorite books and people in life have been just like this guy, and Birbiglia’s packaged the amazing experience of knowing those books or people into something anyone can experience. Incredible.

Start with the album My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, watch it on DVD or stream it on Netflix ideally first.

Track #23: Garbage – The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Garbage. Ugh. So Good, search for “liquid velvet” earlier in this post. That. More of that.

Track #24: Everclear – Sunflowers

Another track from So Much For The Afterglow, an album mentioned previously in this post.

Track #25: Direct Hit – The World Is Ending (No one cares.)

Direct Hit’s Brainless God is an entertaining pop-punk concept album about the apocalypse if it were to happen in current suburban America. Fucking brilliant, and catchy as hell.

Track #26: Brody Dalle – Dressed In Dreams

Here we have contender #1 for over-produced generic pop alt rock album of the year. Listening to this album is a dirty-secret pleasure – there’s nothing super remarkable about it, but it has all of the signature sounds a good rock album should.

Like the previously mentioned Celebrity Skin/So Much For The Afterglow/Ozzmosis, it feels like this is kind of phoned in with help from consultants. Dalle is the lead singer from the early 2000’s pop punk band the Distillers – not a band I particularly care for, but Dalle split a record-store-day single with Garbage this year, so I looked her up and found this.

A fun listen, just don’t tell anyone you listened to it.

Track #27: Jeff Rosenstock – Hey Allison!

A preview of a forthcoming album from the lead singer of the now defunct Bomb The Music Industry!.

I highly recommend BTMI’s album Vacations – an enjoyable listen front to back, indie power-pop-punk with a sprinkle of chiptunes here and there. Feels like the Broken Social Scene of the punk rock scene, because it is – a collective of musicians having a good time and kicking out records in the mean time.

Anyway, Jeff Rosenstock – I don’t dig all of his stuff, but this track and that Vacations album are awesome.

Track #28: Shakey Graves – Dearly Departed

I ranted about this guy in previous posts. Phenomenal live. His first album was a bit lifeless, and somewhere along the way he found his way and now he’s kicking out folksy country stuff like the best of them. Good album – And The War Came – released this past fall.

Track #29: TV On The Radio – DLZ

A track I had on my 2013 list but it kept being played through 2014 on repeat, a beautiful groove that crescendos in all-out-feels-righteous-anger-style. I have not yet listened to the band’s 2014 release Seeds, but I intend to. Maybe more on that in 2015.

Track #30: Mogwai – The Lord Is Out Of Control

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Another track from the previously mentioned Rave Tapes.

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Track #31: Hole – Petals

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Another track from the previously mentioned Celebrity Skin.

Track #32: Blue October – Fear

My wife is a huge Blue October fan. Their 2003 album Foiled (with the song Hate Me) was a super strong and amazing alt rock album. But albums from the band after that languished as the lead singer worked through a bullshit divorce and addiction issues. His struggles at the time show on the albums between Foiled and this latest album Sway. If you’ve heard those in-between albums, don’t hold it against the band, Sway is a return to form, Foiled 2.0 with a bit more love and a bit less anger. Phenomenal in my opinion.

This track in particular, Fear, is the standout in my opinion. Don’t fall for the recently released terrible amateur-hour digital-drums-added re-release radio version of the song, hear this version, the original version from the album.

If you’re a Blue October fan who’s suffered the past few years through some shit albums, give Sway a try. Also consider the lead singer’s cool solo album this year, Songs from an Open Book, in which he plays solo acoustic renditions of Blue October hits and tells the stories behind the songs in the meantime.

Track #33: Garbage – You Look So Fine

Garbage. Ugh. So Good, search for “liquid velvet” earlier in this post. That. More of that.

Track #34: First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining

If you liked their previous album, The Lion’s Roar, you’ll dig this. If you like other folksy country hipster crap these days (Shakey Graves, Shovels and Rope, Edward Sharpe, Of Monsters and Men, etc), you’ll dig this.

The new album’s called Stay Gold. Great weekend afternoon music.

Track #35: Metric – Help I’m Alive (Acoustic)

A cool acoustic version of the first track that opened their album Fantasies several years ago.

I loved the acoustic versions of the Synthetica songs on the ‘deluxe’ version of that album, and I realized this year there’s a digital-release-only EP called Plug In Plug Out with these acoustic renditions of various Fantasies tracks. I really wish this EP was available on vinyl, I’m sure it’d sound fantastic – just as Fantasies and Synthetica do.

Track #36: Matthew Good – Blue Skies Over Bad Lands

Heavy-handed lyrics, with an overly dramatic long-drawn out signature Matthew Good backing track.

From my least favorite album from one of my favorite artists, White Light Rock & Roll is OK, but kinda throwaway – which makes sense, that’s kinda how he recorded it (less obsessed solo perfection, more just jamming with a band and seeing where it goes).

Anyway, I missed this track previously, it’s good, but it’s no Champions of Nothing, Near Fantastica or a dozen other such amazing anthems.

Track #37: Enigma – Return To Innocence

Earlier this year my wife and my brother in law invited me to an erasure concert.

Fun fact: Erasure is a happier version of Depeche Mode, which make sense because the main musician was actually in Depeche Mode early on.

Another fun fact: Enigma is not Erasure. And I thought we were going to see Enigma, not Erasure.

I listened to the enigma album with this famous track before the concert anyway, and I’m glad I did – great mid-nineties tribal music mixed with accessible soundscapes made for white people – predictable over-used sound clips of apollo-era astronauts included here and there.

Fun fact: I love songs with over-used astronaut sound clips.

Also, Erasure is pretty awesome, if you like EDM such as Depeche Mode or BT, check erasure out. Also check out VNV Nation and Blaqk Audio while you’re at it.

Track #38: Interpol – Ancient Ways

I haven’t liked anything since their first album, but this latest effort El Pintor is listenable and enjoyable. Generic, forgettable, but hey, 2014 was a slow year.

Track #39: Garbage – So Like A Rose

Garbage. Ugh. So Good, search for “liquid velvet” earlier in this post. That. More of that.

Track #40: This Will Destroy You – Dustism

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Fun Fact: Before I saw that photo above, I had not heard of lowercase noises, I will check them out in 2015.

Anyway, This Will Destroy You’s latest – For some reason I was expecting more of their self titled effort, the melodramatic predictable post rock subtle near-silent start that builds into an anthem crescendo then back down and up again for a few more rollercoaster dips – all sprinkled with hints of electronic beats here and there.

This latest album, Another Language is not that. Gone are the over-used melodramatic post-rock swells.

TWDY insists they’re not post-rock, and where Sigur Ros went all-swells-over-the-top on their last effort, TWDY went the opposite direction with Another Language – this sounds more like Tunnel Blanket 2.0 (Tunnel Blanket was their previous album). It’s really good, and I feel strange saying its like Tunnel Blanket, because it’s not – it’s very subdued and somehow a very strange album – it leaves me with an unsettling feeling like I’m not sure what to feel or what I’m feeling at all – very strange.

Where previous efforts have been a direct punch to the feels jugular, over-the-top melodramatic heavy-handed Sigur Ros type stuff, this album is different.

This latest effort reads as a band that’s matured beyond all of the generic melodrama. This album reads as a band who’s hit their stride and yet somehow seems to be hunting for something yet to come – the album feels like the pedestrian build up in a given post rock song – except the *entire* album is that build up with no release – like foreplay for an album yet to come.

If anything, I’d compare this to Sigur Ros’ Valtari record a few years back – it’s still post-rock, but you can fall to sleep to it without being woken up every 10 minutes with some over the top driving crescendo full of catharsis.

With Another Language, I kind of think TWDY is both fucking with us and educating us while dragging us kicking and screaming into the realization that there’s more to good music than formulaic melodrama. I like it.

Track #41: Moby – When It’s Cold I’d Like To Die

I watched all of the Sopranos this year, again. I hadn’t watched it in nearly a decade. In a post-The-Wire world, the sopranos reads as pulp tv drama, a Mad Men of yesteryear – whatever/who-cares.

Still, the storytelling in the series is a bit like Game Of Thrones books – there’s a lot of get-to-know-the-characters that’s enjoyable but leaves you with the feeling that the entire series’ content could be quartered in length and be fantastic.

But, there’s a trick – the melodramatic moments just read as melodramatic and lame if that’s all there is all the time, see 24 or any other hit show ever (aside from The Wire, that show, ugh. so good.)

For melodrama moments to have maximum impact, you need the post-rock build up, the 6 seasons of formulaic sopranos ho-hum, the familiarization with the characters to the point that they’re family to you. Then the protagonist gets shot, no – not the first (or second?) time, – the third or fourth time where they have this best-of-series episode where Tony’s in the hospital and nobody’s sure if he’ll come through.

I hate hospitals. Babies are the only good thing to come from hospital stays, otherwise the best you can shoot for almost all of the time is a return to normalicy. Hospitals get a bad wrap because the hospital is where terrible things happen – maybe, just maybe some minor miracle of modern day science saves someone, but often hospital stays equate to tragedy.

This episode of the sopranos perfectly captures family tragedy, and hospitals, in the span of an hour – it is profound. The episode perfectly captures the effortless fragility, chaos and emotion one feels in the face of family emergency, all within the span of one hour.

So, yeah. Great episode, and the finale to the experience? – A montage set to this track from Moby.

I’m no Moby fan, but this track, with some 70+ hours of sopranos leading up to it, it hits you right in the feels. Tears. Everytime.

The episode in question is Join The Club, but don’t watch it without watching everything before first!!

Track #42: Garbage – Beloved Freak

Garbage. Ugh. So Good, search for “liquid velvet” earlier in this post. That. More of that.

Track #43: Inventions – Peacable Child

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Side project from one of the guys in Explosions in the Sky. I’m not a big Explosions in the Sky fan, but I dig this side project album a fair bit. Slow moving, serene at times, forgettable, but worth a listen. Not post-rock, no feels/melodramatic builds and crescendos, more easy-going electronic meanderings I’d say.

Track #44: Aaron Behrens & The Midnight Stroll – Keep On Rising

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Our second contender for dirty pleasure listening generic all-the-rock-music album of the year. This EP from Ghostland Observatory’s lead singer’s new project is good, but generic as hell. This track in particular opens all U2 sounding and then moves into a standard rock-ballad/slightly-country song I know I’ve heard before a million different ways.

This self-titled debut EP is an enjoyable listen while cleaning the house or otherwise idly ignoring the me-too generic feel to it. Aaron Behren’s vox tho. Right? Right.

Track #45: Led Zeppelin – When The Levee Breaks

The closing track to Led Zeppelin IV, one of the greatest albums of all time (which also includes Stairway to Heaven). Often these ‘greatest albums of all time’ have an epic single that makes up for the rest, this is *not* the case with Led Zep IV – I feel the album would be just as amazing without Stairway altogether, it’s just such a solid prototype for rock music done right. Fantastic.

One of the things I want from the future is for Led Zep to be less stingy about their music rights in movies, so this song can get the remaster treatment that Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower had in The Watchmen movie.

Yes, this is a 2014 remaster, but one gets the feeling that Jimmy Page is trying to remain as true as possible to the source mixes back in the day, without over-producing something in a 2010s flair like the 90s remastered misses came out – but god, this track, if ever there was a track that could use the crystal clear overdriven brick wall compression movie-version mix – I need this. Future, please deliver it. Not a full album of over-done, just this. one. track. please! When The Levee Breaks, the movie mix, let’s make this happen.

More 2014 Music Fun

Other Music related things I highly recommend:

Sonic Highways

The HBO show, not the album, or the band.

A year or two ago Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters published a neat documentary about a famous record studio called Sound City.

Sonic Highways is to Sound City as Band of Brothers is to Saving Private Ryan or From the Earth to the Moon is to Apollo 13 – that is, someone makes a great movie or documentary and realizes they can’t tell an adequate story in 3 hours – there’s more to tell!, so they go to HBO and say “hey, what if we made a miniseries on this theme and tell the more of the story?”. That’s sonic highways, the show, not the terrible album.

In the show, Grohl and his band go to different famous music studios and cities around the US and talk about recent rock history from the area – Seattle, Austin, LA, etc. Really awesome, must watch for music fans. They also record a track from the terrible album with the same name and have a annoying lame music video for the Foo Fighters at the end of each episode, but you can skip that bit.

How Music Works

A really great read for music nerds. Did you know widely-distributed recorded music didn’t exist before the phonograph? Of course you did, but have you ever thought what society and music was like in those days before a cd? Before the phonograph there was no such thing as a personal listening experience or radio – music was a shared cultural thing, everyone knew how to sing or play something, music was a family event – like a never ending disney movie I guess – thank god for the phonograph.

That’s just a small nerd-tastic profound detail of many captured in this book. The book is semi-autobiographical, about Byrne’s new wave band the whoever, and though I’m not a fan, the autobiographical bits are interesting because he captures the ‘scene’ and inner workings of the music industry with vivid detail – it doesn’t even matter if you care for his music or not.

Good Vinyl In 2014

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(above image courtesy of Steven Potter)

Vinyl is going crazy – and I’m just another hipster wannabe who’s on the bandwagon. That being said I bought some music equipment this year where I can really hear a difference between music sources, and some stuff really shines on vinyl. I’m not sure that there’s a type of music that would sound like garbage on vinyl that doesnt already sound like garbage (i.e. dubstep), but there are a lot of artists who don’t seem to ‘get it’ and the vinyl mix comes out sounding flat or over distorted or neutral at best.

So, here’s a list of vinyl releases you won’t be disappointed with (in no particular order):

  • Led Zeppelin III (2014 Remaster/Reissue)
  • Caspian – Waking Season
  • Caspian – Hymn for the Greatest Generation
  • The Naked and Famous – In Rolling Waves
  • 65daysofstatic – Wild Light
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • Mogwai – Rave Tapes
  • Blue October – Sway
  • Hole – Celebrity Skin (2014 Remaster/Reissue)
  • Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

There are a few albums yet from this post that I haven’t obtained on vinyl, but the This Will Destroy You vinyl sounded substandard, and several others sounded just the same as the digital mix, avoid unless you’re a super fan:

  • Smashing Pumpkins – Adore (2014 Remaster/Reissue)
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast
  • Oasis – Whats The Story Morning Glory? (2014 Remaster/Reissue)

Kudos

Ok, that’s “it” – 6500+ words put together over a series of evenings this holiday season. I hope you find something you enjoy.

Thanks Brian, Dan, Amanda, Jonny, Jeff, Cesa, Chad, Tim, and Matt for introducing me to many of the artists I listened to this year.