Members of SPIRITlive’s Music Team have spent their year meticulously listening to all sorts of music (some of it they seemed to enjoy more than others). This week, we asked them to share their favorite releases of the year in a countdown, list-based format, because we’re millennials and our attention span is-oooo, look all of that album art!
Michael Carlucci’s Top 4
4. Clear – Periphery
This is not a normal album by Periphery. In fact, they stated that they don’t consider Clear as either an album or an EP. Each song provides it’s own unique sound, which is refreshing to a Periphery fan’s ear. The reasoning behind the variety in sound is due to the fact that one member wrote each song. You might think that my math is off, considering that there are seven songs and six members, however, the introduction track titled ‘Overture’ is the only song written by the entire band and incorporates what the bands states as the ‘musical theme’ heard in each track. Clear is number 4 on my list because it surprised me, but in a good way. It was nice to hear what this band that I’ve been listening to for three years can do when they venture away from their roots.
3. Talking Is Hard – Walk The Moon
You may know this band for one reason, or you may not know them at all and only recognize the song that put them on their feet. In the summer of 2014 I had the privilege of watching them open for Panic at the Disco. I listened to their early work including songs like ‘Anna Sun’ and ‘Tightrope’, but during their opening act in August they played songs, which they planned on releasing on their 2014 album. The wait was worth it giving how almost every song stimulated my auditory senses. Talking is Hard is number 3 on my list thanks to Walk the Moon’s ability to provide a fresh sounding album with songs that are not only catchy but dance-worthy.
2. Advanced Basics – USS
USS played the very first set of Edge Fest back in 2010. They not only set the tone for the rest of the day but also provided me with a new band to start listening to. Four years later I was eagerly anticipating their 2014 album release, Advanced Basics, which did not disappoint. USS is not afraid to push boundaries, and that is why they are number 2 on my list. They combine a variety of instruments, crank the overtone on their guitar and add the fuzz on the vocals to match. They are awesome and underrated.
1. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters
I have been waiting for another album from Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters since Wasting Light was released, back in 2011. I knew it was going to be tough to compare both albums to each other, but they managed to do so, which isn’t a surprise. Dave Grohl is constantly trying new things. On this album he travelled to eight different cities and interview an artist from each city. Each song was recorded in the city in which the interview took place. Once the song was recorded, Dave would take his transcribed interview, take the words and turn them into lyrics. It is a form of music writing I have never been introduced to before, and after hearing songs such as ‘Something from Nothing’ and ‘Feast and the Famine’, I hope Dave continues to use this method in the future. Sonic Highways is constructed in such an intricate way, which is why it’s placed in the number 1 spot. It may have been released in the last quarter of 2014, but it overtakes every other album I have listened to throughout the past twelve months.
John Sullivan’s Top 5
5. Ciliva Demo – Isaiah Rashad
Isaiah Rashad is Top Dog Entertainment’s newest signee. With Cilvia Demo, he debuts his first album on a major label. His extensive range of style is perfectly complimented by relaxed yet punchy production, laced with smooth samples and simple drums. His subject matter is kept fresh throw a variety of flows and impressive story-telling ability.
4. Days Before Rodeo – Travi$ Scott
Travis Scott’s newest release is his most polished to date, with a fresh collection of impressively banging tracks. Co-signed with Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, Travis Scott delivers an immense concoction of roaring bass lines and intense drum patterns. His impressively produced tracks are complimented with emotionally personal lyrics.
3. N****s On The Moon (The Powers That B: Disc 1) – Death Grips
Death Grips’ final project, The Powers That B, is going to be released in two parts. The first half, N****s On The Moon, is their most polished and fractured release to date. Sporadically populated with divisive vocal samples of musician Bjork, and thickly jarring and random noises, Death Grips seems intent on finishing their career with a bang.
2. Tha Tour Pt. 1 – Rich Gang
Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan are the next big things in hip-hop. Mentored by YMCMB’s Birdman, the three come together in a supergroup known as Rich Gang. The first half of their debut mixtape is a collection of some of the most unique and freshest sounding hip-hop released to date. Warbling, “sing-songy” choruses give way to hilariously in-depth couplets, pushing the envelope of creativity within the modern realm of rap.
1. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
Freddie Gibbs has delivered his magnum opus alongside respected producer Madlib. (Cocaine) Piñata is a collection of masterfully composed tracks, wrought with thrilling lyrics, disses, and stories from ‘Gangsta Gibbs’
Jessica Lam’s Top 4
4. Forcefield – Tokyo Police Club
It wasn’t until Riot Fest in September that I fell in love with this band. I had already heard a few songs from them, but during their set, they played a whole bunch of great new songs. These cool dudes are actually from the GTA, which is pretty awesome.
3. Queen Of The Clouds – Tove Lo
After hearing “Habits” on every radio station, I was curious to see what else this talented lady had to offer . I streamed the entire album once, and bought the album as soon as I could. Tove Lo and her music are just perfect.
2. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
After the hype of their sold-out September show, I had to see for myself what this band was all about. It turned out that I’d actually heard most of the songs off this album, and I loved them all.
1. The 1975 – The 1975
Their self-titled album actually came out in 2013, but nonetheless, it’s one of my favourites this year. They played an absolutely amazing set in November at the Sound Academy.
Shahrzad Ansari’s Top 5
5. This Is All Yours – Alt-J
I don’t buy albums anymore; I’m not sure many people do. But when I heard this album, I knew I had to buy it. This English indie rock band has got it going on! The clash of sounds they’ve put together creates a beautiful masterpiece. Hunger of the Pine, for instance, samples Miley Cyrus’s 4X4 and works extremely well as a contrast on top of the soft, tender music (not to mention the aesthetically appealing music video that will take your breath away). Other favourites off the album include, Left Hand Free and Every Other Freckle.
4. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
Turn Blue isn’t the best work The Black Keys have done, it’s still a solid album. The songs on the album vary greatly from one another and keep it interesting. Bullet in the Brain, is mellow and dark while their single, Gotta Get Away, is exactly the opposite. Fever was a classic Black Keys song and you just couldn’t escape it this summer. My personal favourites off the album are Bullet in the Brain, Turn Blue, and 10 Lovers.
3. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters
What? Foo Fighters released a new album? Oh yes they did, and they did not disappoint. The single Something from Nothing became a favourite among rock radio stations immediately. The new album only has eight songs on it, with mixed reviews from critics, but us fans were not disappointed. In fact, the two upcoming Foo Fighters shows in Toronto sold out almost immediately. Something from Nothing was a great choice for a single and The Feast and The Famine sounds like a classic Foo Fighters song.
2. 1989 – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s 1989 took the industry by storm this year and there isn’t a question as to why. Personally, as a rock fan, I wasn’t dying to hear Swift’s new album. Yet, here it is at number 2. Blank Space has got to be the catchiest song of the year. Shake It Off was a horrible first single but we’ll let it slide because songs like Wonderland and All You Had to Do Was Stay make up for it. This country star should can no longer be labeled country, as this record is pure pop. Yet, it was incredibly well done, greatly marketed, and the sales were off the charts – making her the only artist of 2014 to go platinum within a week.
1. X – Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran’s soulful voice, loop pedal, his rhymes and the variation of slow and fast songs result in an incredible album. Hands down my favourite record of the year. My favourite songs off X were Afire Love – a heartbreaking song about his grandfather, Thinking Out Loud – with its simple yet beautiful music video, and I’m A Mess – raw lyrics sung in a voice that you won’t be able to shake from your mind. His concert this year at the Air Canada Centre featured him on stage with only a guitar and a loop pedal and everybody loved it. He didn’t need expensive sets, costumes or wild dancers to sell out stadiums. X is nominated for a Grammy for Record of The Year and I am rooting for it to win.
Aidan D’Aoust’s Top 5
5. Days Before Rodeo – Travi$ Scott
Travi$ Scott; the Houston rapper/Grand Hustle signee/Kanye West protegee, is a very busy man. Following last year’s Owl Pharaoh and credits on Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail, Scott released his free Summer mixtape Days Before Rodeo to the praises of hype machines everywhere. Taking a backseat in production, Scott has noticeably improved behind the mic with this effort. Assembling a team of Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, and Brampton native WondaGurl helped to deliver some of 2014’s eeriest, charismatic,and most atmospheric hip-hop. Plus, it’s getting increasingly hard to ignore the best ad libs in the game. “Straight Up!”
4. Salad Days – Mac Demarco
I’m always worried to meet someone I fanboy over. Regardless of the quality of their output, I find it pretty damn hard to enjoy the music of an asshole (Kanye Omari West is excluded because he is the greatest artist of our generation). My fear of disappointment was tested in June of this year, when I ran into Mac Demarco at NXNE in Toronto. I tensed up when I saw him hanging outside The Garrison (where he would guest DJ later in the night). I was worried about meeting the man characterized as the “crazy, wild, stoner” especially after listening to Salad Days on repeat since its April release. Well, I am here to happily report that Mac Demarco is a cool dude. In fact, he’s one of the coolest. So if you didn’t enjoy Salad Days for its thoughtful, melancholic, and beautifully crafted music, take solace in the fact that Mac is the chillest dude. The album’s great though…you should still listen to it.
3. Tha Tour Pt. 1 – Rich Gang
Look, there isn’t anything artistically earth-shattering about this release. You can’t defend Tha Tour Pt. 1 on its poetical merit. What Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan are able to do here, however, is drop incredibly catchy and quotable hooks on top of beats by maestros on the YMCB imprint, like London On Da Track. The year in rap already belonged to Young Thug, but a tag-team here with the game’s Mr. CEO, Rich Homie Quan, proves for an hour of music that leaves us feeling like we’ve substituted everything in our diet for gallons of lean. If that’s something your into, look for Tha Tour‘s next installment when it drops in the new year.
2. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
Freddie Gibbs curates a collection of Madlib’s most triumphant instrumentals in years, with raw energy, gusto and finesse. The Baby Faced Killa ditches the drill influences of previous efforts to spit theatrics on some real sonic soulfood. The flow is emphatic, the beats are heroic. This is the best hip-hop release of 2014 and you’re objectively wrong to disagree with me.
1. Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs
You make some enemies when you achieve greatness. If the Mark Kozelek sideshow achieved one thing, it brought Lost In The Dream new listeners. So I think we all should thank Mark Kozelek for adding to a growing fanbase and giving an amazing album months of free press. The War On Drugs’ moving, dreamy, Americana-infused opus is my favourite album of the year. Go buy this album with actual money because it deserves every penny of it.
Margarita Brighton’s Top 5
5. Atlas – Real Estate
Atlas is all about introspection. It reminds me of hazy summer days and is definitely one to check out. Their third studio album does not disappoint. With promising of calming guitar riffs on “Had To Hear”, the youthful unapologetic overtones of “Talking Backwards” is also quite the favourite of mine.
4. Salad Days – Mac Demarco
The internet loves Mac Demarco. This Canadian surf-rock heartthrob and weirdo could do no wrong in my eyes. His sophomore record is definitely not a slump. Daydream and feel good synth effects on “Chamber of Reflection” provide great background for my zone-out fazes in a rough work day. Demarco’s beautiful vocals paired with his sweet lyricism is one to definitely have a beer over.
3. Morning Phase – Beck
A freaking masterpiece. The first time I listened to this album was a review for a blog. Beck was a little before my time, so in all honesty my listen was a little apprehensive. But I must say, that recent Grammy nom for album of the year, is nothing short of an understatement. Beautiful orchestral symphonies, vocal melodies and hyptonic lyricism.
2. PUP- PUP
Do you like to mosh? Because I do. PUP is the epitome of teenage angst and that awkward quarter life crisis’ of “not knowing what to do with your 20something life”. The Toronto punk-rockers are like a booze-soaked Weezer except they will totally jump into the pit with their guitars and cover Beastie Boys’ Sabatoge. I remembered them as Topanga, pre-disney cease and desist warning, with the new name and attitude I’ve adored them ever since. Their self-titled debut record is incredible. “Guilt Trip” the opener of the record is hands down my favourite but if you seriously want to be entertained, check out their video for “Mabu”, a farewell to their beloved car in a freaking demolition derby. If that isn’t badass, I don’t know what is.
1. Alvvays – Alvvays
I remember seeing these east-coast indie darlings open at a Boxer The Horse show a few years back. At the time, the only songs they had online were those featured on their soundcloud: Adult Diversion and Archie, Marry Me, along with the incorrect spelling of their name on the bill of the venue.
Alvvays when they were Always? I’ll never know
I instantly fell in love with their set – Molly’s vocal stylings and dreamy yet self-deprecating lyricism. This is my favourite album of the year, hands down. I’ve listened to the songs a hundred times and have yet to skip them in the shuffle. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them at Long Winter, their sold out shows at the Horseshoe and at a goddamn Library with fellow up-and-comers PUP. From start to finish their debut self-titled album is full of the lo-fi warmth that you’ve been dreaming about. Although “Archie, Marry Me” and “Adult Diversion” are crowd favourites, I would suggest checking out “Atop A Cake” and “Agency Group” better yet, their entire damn album. You’re welcome.