For me, this list is the most important thing I write all year. While I enjoy all the various writing avenues I take, the “Top Albums” list is really the end-all-be-all. I’m not blind to the list of other music websites, and as I peruse them, I always find myself scoffing or shaking my head in frustration. Sometimes it’s because of the thinly veiled politics behind picks; other times it’s the unwarranted hype given to an artist who still needs time to grow. I like to believe that I’m so outside the industry and that I can give you a list that is based solely on my passion for music that lurks outside the mainstream. Once again, I’ve compiled a list of some incredible albums that hail from a wide range of genres. Give the first 20 a read through and a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find something that strayed beyond your listening peripheral in 2014.
[Polyvinyl / Transgressive; 2014]
Nostalgia-based music is far from a new thing. Every year 100s of bands release albums paying homage to the sounds of old, ranging from 60s psychedelia, 70s prog-rock, or 80s new wave. With their self-titled debut, Alvvays (pronounced “Always”) are just another one of these bands borrowing heavily from the past, but the difference with this Nova Scotia quintet from many others is the flawless craftsmanship displayed through every track on the album.
I’m not suggesting that what Alvvays have created is perfect. In fact, pristine musicianship and production would tarnish exactly what makes the album so great. Thanks to producer/genius Chad VanGaalen, the album’s rough, lo-fi exterior amplifies the warm and welcoming heart of the music. The songs are a refreshing mix of 60s pop and 80s new wave, blending the jangly guitars of the Mama’s and the Papas with the no-nonsense synths of Kraftwerk. This is far from a paint by genre venture with the album’s constant reliance on a rumbling under current of overdrive helping to give it a faint punk aftertaste.