As I did last month, I’m playing a little catch-up here on BDWPS and wanted to share some of my favorite albums of the past few months. With the year end lists coming, it also helps me to have some of these write-ups in the tank, so here’s an early glimpse at some of the albums that may make the cut on my year end, top 40 albums list.
Also, be on the lookout for the best album covers of the year list next week!
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.
A few weeks ago the MTV Video Music Awards took place, and to be honest, I didn’t watch. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I viewed the yearly event (probably in a dorm room over a decade ago). I hate to play the “back in my day” card, but I do feel that there was a time when the VMAs were legitimately about rewarding great music videos and not just a popularity contest. Big winners in 2014 include former child stars like Miley Cyrus and Drake, and Lorde was awarded the “Best Rock Video” of the year for her song “Royals.” You know, THIS SONG that doesn’t feature any guitars and is built around a looping hip-hop beat? Can we all just agree that rock (at least the popular variety) is dead?
On social media I’ve seen some bemoan the age-old complaint that MTV doesn’t even play music videos anymore, but I think it’s time to get over the fact they haven’t been a music channel for over a decade. Some have suggested that music videos don’t matter anymore. However, I think they are more important than they have been since their explosion in the 80s. Young people have turned to YouTube as a major source of music listening, often playing the same video multiple times just to re-hear their favorite OneDirection song. The highest rated videos on YouTube aren’t of people on fire, or people getting hit in the nuts, but music videos of teeny-bop stars (hence why YouTube has now started its own music awards).
I am still old-fashioned in my listening habits, predominantly purchasing LPs and CDs with the occasional MP3 when I can’t wait until my next record store visit. Despite my out-of-touch approach to music, I do still check out new music videos on occasion. I’m not spending hours online watching videos, but I do have some new videos that I’ve watched several times. Here are some of my favorite videos as of late.
We are almost to the mid-point of 2014, and there have already been some outstanding releases. With a promising second half of the year ahead of us, I’d like to take a moment to spotlight some of my favorite albums from the year so far. To try to keep some semblance of control, I’ve limited my list to albums released prior to June 1st.