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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Best Of 2014”

Top 10 EPs Of 2014

EPs

I struggled with whether I should rank the best ten EPs of the year, or simply list them in alphabetical order. EPs serve a lot of different purpose. Some of almost complete albums. Some are previews of albums to come. Sometimes the artist only has the time, money or material to release three, four or five songs at a time.

Ultimately, though, I decided it would be best to rank the ten best EPs in terms of overall quality, no matter the intended purpose.

Cliff Hillis grabbed the top slot on my Top 30 songs list with his track “Dashboard.” The platter where that song appears, Song Machine, is also my top EP of the year. In my original review from August, I said:

Each of the songs is intricately drawn, and Hillis has a keen ability to add touches of drama, detail and personal observation to his compositions. Clever phrasing abounds on Song Machine, but Hillis is also able to take a step back and apply restraint and a light touch when necessary.

You can read that review here.

The EPs occupying the remainder of my list are quite varied, ranging from the aptly-titled New Trocaderos record to the much quieter and contemplative works of Andy Klingensmith and Donny Brown. Muscle Souls check in with a wonderful collection of Northern Soul-tinged rockin’ pop, with horns! Make sure to listen to the acoustic versions of the five originals, particularly the title track (which made my top songs list), to get an even better sense of their keen melodic abilities. The Crush, at Number 2, serve up relentless pounding and catchy Power Pop. The Persian Leaps, at Number 3, deliver five tasty helpings of hook-filled noise pop. The first side of an upcoming double long-player by The Foreign Films, as Number 9, has some subtle psychedelic underpinnings. 

Click on the links to listen, purchase and support the artists.

1.  Cliff Hillis, Song Machine. (Purchase)

2.  The Crush, Future Blimps

3.  The Persian Leaps, Drive Drive Delay

4.  Muscle Souls, Mark On The World

5.  The New Trocaderos, Kick Your Ass

6.  Greg Ieronimo, Bipolar Love

7.  Andy Klingensmith, Bright Again

8.  Donny Brown, Hess Street

9.  The Foreign Films, Record Collector

10. Brandon Schott, Verdugo Park

 

 

 

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Top 20 Albums Of 2014

The Legal MattersI heard a whole lot of albums over the past twelve months. The following is my attempt to distill it all down to the very best of the year.

There is substantial overlap between the artists on this list, and the artists on my Top 30 songs list, which you can find here. That is to be expected. The best songs of the year typically are not “one-offs.” Most appeared on albums to which I found myself returning many times during the year.

The Legal Matters’ self-titled “debut” grabs the top spot on my list. Its combination of incisive songwriting, beautiful production, memorable melodies and the best vocals of the year (particularly, of course, those sublime harmonies) propelled it to the top of the class. My original review can be found hereAerial’s Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School? came in at a close second with its clever and sometimes witty writing, and its brilliant melding of classic Power Pop and West Coast Pop sensibilities. My original review can be found here.

Each of these long-players on my list deserve a spot in any serious music collection. They fall squarely in the “indie pop” realm, but are nevertheless varied in approach and intent. The list includes the driving and fast-paced rocking pop of The Sugar Stems, the exquisitely crafted and personal melodic pop from Dave Caruso, the classic jangle pop of The Britannicas and The Carousels, the bright and shiny updated Power Pop of Ransom and the Subset and The Jellybricks, a walk through the Nuggets compilation with The Above, some early-80s-styled melodic rock from Edward O’Connell, and the quiet, almost chamber pop of Fauna Flora, among its mix.

Click on the links to listen and purchase — which you should. Quite happily.

1.  The Legal MattersThe Legal Matters

2.  AerialWhy Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?

3.  phonographphonograph Vol. 1

4.  Linus Of Hollywood Something Good

5.  The Paul & JohnInner Sunset

6.  Dave CarusoCardboard Vegas Roundabout

7.  MothboxerSand And The Rain

8.  DropkickHomeward

9.  Ransom and the SubsetNo Time To Lose

10. The Britannicas High Tea

11. The Well WishersA Shattering Sky

12. Edward O’ConnellVanishing Act

13. The CarouselsLove Changes Like The Seasons

14. The AboveWaterbury Street

15. The New MendicantsInto The Lime

16. Rick Hromadka Trippin’ Dinosaurs

17. Sugar StemsOnly Come Out At Night

18. The Jellybricks Youngstown Tune-Up

19. Joe SullivanSchlock Star

20. Fauna Flora — Fauna Flora

You can here tracks from these great albums, and many others, at the streaming Pop That Goes Crunch radio station, which you can reach right here.

Top 30 Songs Of 2014

Song MachineFor this year, I expanded my list of the best songs of the year to 30. I heard upwards of 2,000 songs released this year. Consequently, the 30 that made my list are truly the best of the best.

Following the list, is an embed of a podcast where I “count down” the Top 30, and add some commentary. Complete versions of each song can be heard in the countdown. Last year’s Top 20 can be found here.

This list is biased heavily toward songs released in the first ten months of the year. That does not mean that songs released since October are not worthy of being listed. Those songs, however, did not have sufficient time to percolate so that they could be assessed adequately against songs that I have been on my listening devices for many months. They will be eligible for inclusion in next year’s list.

I also decided not to include any covers or live versions of songs. Instead, the focus is on original music released over the past twelve months. Well, one track (“The Kids”) was released in the waning days of 2013, but is much more of a “2014 song” than a song of the prior year.

As always, it is difficult to make fine line distinctions between great songs, and your mileage may, of course, vary. Mine could also vary over time, but this is how I see it at the end of 2014.

1.  Cliff Hillis, “Dashboard” (Song Machine EP)

2.  Linus Of Hollywood, “Biography” (Something Good)

3.  The Legal Matters, “The Legend Of Walter Wright” (S/T)

4.  phonograph, “Don’t You Bring Me Down” (phonograph Vol. 1)

5.  The Paul & John, “Long Way Back” (Inner Sunset)

6.  Aerial, “Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School” (Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School)

7.  Dave Caruso, “The Art Of Erica” (Cardboard Vegas Roundabout)

8.  Nick Piunti, “Quicksand” (single)

9.  The Hazey Janes, “(I’m) Telescoping” (The Language Of Faint Theory)

10. Mothboxer, “In The Morning” (Sand And The Rain)

11. Dropkick, “Halfway Round Again” (Homeward)

12. Ransom and the Subset, “When Will I See You” (No Time To Lose)

13. The New Mendicants, “Cruel Annette” (Into The Lime)

14. The Carousels, “My Beating Heart” (Love Changes Like The Seasons)

15. The New Trocaderos, “The Kids” (single)

16. The Crush, “Around” (Future Blimps EP)

17. The Well Wishers, “I Believe” (A Shattering Sky)

18. The Persian Leaps, “Pretty Boy” (Drive Drive Delay EP)

19. The Above, “Do Your Have A Healthy Mind” (Waterbury Street)

20. Edward O’Connell, “The End Of The Line” (Vanishing Act)

21. Propeller, “You Remind Me Of You” (single)

22. Chris Richard & The Subtractions, “Call Me Out” (Decayed)

23. Greg Ieronimo, “Roller Coaster Ride” (Bipolar Love)

24. The Person & The People, “Vitamin C” (What A Drag)

25. The Bon Mots, “Gallahad” (Best Revenge)

26. Sugar Stems, “Haunted” (Only Come Out At Night)

27. Muscle Souls, “Mark On The World” (Mark On The World EP)

28. Rick Hromadka, “Dreams Of A Hippy Summer” (Trippin’ Dinosaurs)

29. The Britannicas, “Got A Hold On Me” (High Tea)

30. Gen Pop, “Warm Sun” (Waiting For Disaster)

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