Thursday, December 18, 2014

And Now...My Favorite Albums of 2014

It's that time of year again...December...where scores of websites, blogs, magazines, etc. bombard the internet and airwaves with lists, lists, lists!  Not to be out done, we here at Heaven Is An Incubator feel it necessary to offer up our own year-end lists, favorite albums, songs, movies, and so much more.  So without further ado, here are my picks for favorite albums of the year, presented in alphabetical order because i don't have the time or energy to rank the damn things.

Alex G - DSU
Hooray for the lo-fi cats this year, offering up goodies and crunchy nuggets reminiscent of the finest cheap beer and smoke-filled rooms that the 90's had to offer us.  Alex G crafts the kind of home-recorded, bedroom pop that makes teenagers pick up guitars for the first time and makes thirty-somethings reevaluate their own musical callings.  This album is a wonder.

Amen Dunes - Love
The music of Amen Dunes can seem like a hard egg to crack at first listen, an improvisational blend of experimental folk and aural explorations.  "Love" is the band's most streamlined and coherent album to date, a perfect slice of neo-Americana, dusty and lonesome folk songs to lose yourself in.  This is the sound of long, solo drive through middle America, the windows wide open, the skies blue, the farmland stretching for miles at a time.

Aphex Twin - SYRO
We got a new album from Aphex Twin this year!  It sounds just like an Aphex Twin album...and that's just awesome.

Ariel Pink - Pom Pom
So much bad press for Ariel Pink...and deservedly so.  Pink says a lot of dumb, misguided, and profoundly wrong shit, and as to whether or not he really means any of it doesn't really matter.  At worst, he's a mysogynistic asshole, and at best, a snarky, trolling douche bag.  But goddamnit, he makes wonderful and fascinating music.  "Pom Pom" is like some kind of crazy novelty album, a collection of snickers and quirks that all at once lets you in on the joke while pretending that it's not one.  Irony and sincerity have become nonexistent...and it's wonderful.

Death Blues - Ensemble
Death Blues is the project of Volcano Choir percussionist Jon Mueller, and "Ensemble" is a vast and booming meditation and exploration on death, and ultimately how it affects our lives.  This album is big and dense and sounds like travelling the world, searching for answers through foreign lands and customs.  At times it's like a dirge, at others a proclamation, and at others a solemn hymn, but there's something so glorious about the way everything comes together.  This album makes me want to travel.  It makes me want to live and explore.

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
Mac DeMarco looks like he should be cleaning a bowling alley somewhere.  He's scruffy and odd, but he's also a guitar virtuoso, churning out jams that sound like Tom Petty in a blender, but also sound like no one else out there.  There's a warped and water-drenched sensibility to everything he does, and that swagger sticks to the brain like chewed up gum.

EMA - The Future's Void
Doom and gloom come up big on the sophomore effort from Erika M. Anderson, otherwise known as EMA.  There is an overarching darkness that covers all the electronic noise and 90's guitar-revival shred that encompass the album.  This is a record for your black spaces and cold places.

Grouper - Ruins
To describe the latest album from Liz Harris' Grouper, i'd have to go with devastating.  "Ruins" is the mic-in-a-room sound of heartache and staring solemnly, quietly into the abyss.  It's a sonic picture of sadness incarnate, a faded, black and white photo of someone long gone, and it makes for a haunting, intoxicating listen.

Have A Nice Life - The Unnatural World
Post punk meets black metal meets drone on the second album from Connecticut duo Have A Nice Life.  The band somehow manage to match the power of their 2008 debut "Deathconsciousness" (which got a wonderfully packaged reissue this year), yet still manage to explore new crevasses and cast new and dark shadows across their gloomy soundscapes.  "The Unnatural World" is fantastic, but you'll probably want to go ahead and just buy both records.  You'll thank me.

Iceage - Plowing into the Field of Love
Denmark's Iceage is now three for three with their long players.  On "Plowing into the Field of Love," these wasted, snot-nosed kids add some cow-punk to their normal repertoire of post punk punch, and the effect is damn near perfect.  Here's hoping these kids continue to explore this aesthetic.  It can only lead to good things.

Liars - Mess
Seeing that Liars have been one of my favorite bands for the last 10+ years, it's hardly surprising that their seventh album is going to make my year-end list.  "Mess" finds the trio completely embracing the electro-industrial elements they began flirting with on 2012's "WIXIW," finding new ground to traverse in the paths and sounds of the Wax Trax forefathers 25 years ago...and it works amazingly well.  These songs make me want to dance, they make me want to drive, they make me want to slam my head through glass.

S. Maharba - Memorial
S. Maharba's "Memorial" EP needs to be put on a constant loop in my earholes when i'm trying to fade out and go to sleep.  The four songs that comprise it sink and flow and carry my lifeless body off to the nether regions of the universe.  Part trip-hop, part electronic exploration, the album is pill for happiness.  I'll take another please.

Nothing - Guilty of Everything
Shoegaze was such a big part of the music i grew up listening to, and with the old guard all putting out new albums or going on reunion tours, it's nice to see that there's a new breed of reverb artists ready rattle our brains and make our ears bleed all along.  San Francisco's Nothing come from a heavy metal pedigree, but amp up the guitar layers and vocal effects to craft something the folks at Creation Records would have drooled over two decades ago.

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
It was kind of a Renaissance year for metal bands in 2014.  Arkansas doom purveyors Pallbearer took everything that was amazing about their 2012 effort "Sorrow and Extinction" and just multiplied by 10 for "Foundations of Burden."  The sophomore release finds the band much more comfortable with their sound than they were just two years ago, a bombast of shredding guitars, punch-you-in-the-mouth bass, pummeling drums, and stoner vocals that sound like they were created from the best parts of lesser metal heads.  This album is a monster.

Perturbator - Dangerous Days
Looks like i'm going to have to call it.  Perturbator's "Dangerous Days" is my favorite album of 2014.  The electronic score and soundtrack to a movie too awesome to ever exist, the latest from French artist Perturbator, was the one record i came back to over and over and over again this year.  And in a year with a veritable bevy of artists and bands making music for pretend movies, that's really saying something.  Above all else, "Dangerous Days" is fun...and we all need some fun sometimes.

Run the Jewels - RTJ2
You know what was awesome?  Run the Jewels.  You know what's even better?  Run the Jewels 2.  Killer Mike and El P just outdo themselves with their sophomore collaborative effort.  When the saxophone kicks in during Killer Mike's verse on album opener "Jeopardy," holy shit.  And then, impossibly, every track just gets better than the one that preceded it.  "RTJ2" is easily the best hip-hop record of the year.  I don't think anything else even comes close.

Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers
Another album of organic, late night electronic music from Manchester producer Andy Stott is just what i need to unwind to and let the day slip away.  There's a minimalism to the whole affair that somehow makes this record sound huge, even in its quieter moments.

Sun Kil Moon - Benji
To me, "Benji" is probably the best artistic work from Mark Kozelek since his Red House Painters days.  The album finds him middle-aged, confronted by his own mortality, and examining all of the normally mundane things in life that have now found significance due to life's own fleetingness.  Maybe it just hit me at the right time in my life, now that i'm a dad, and have spent the last couple of years reevaluating everything.  Regardless, it's a beautiful record and deserves your attention.

Swans - To Be Kind
Swans have always sounded like the heavens crashing down upon us all, the oceans rising, the floodgates breaking, the howling winds blowing everything into oblivion.  There is almost a nihilistic edge to the sonic art created by Gira and Co., so why should "To Be Kind" be any different, two hours of challenging and often bleak music, never meant to be taken lightly.

Thou - Heathen
Heavy metal albums don't get much better than "Heathen," just one of the numerous releases from Baton Rouge sludgers Thou.  It was a very busy year for these southern gents.  Aside from the towering and ferocious "Heathen," 2014 also saw the release of EP's, splits, and an excellent contribution to an "In Utero" tribute that will knock your socks off.  I gained a whole new appreciation for all the many different kinds of metal this year, and Thou was probably the main reason for that.  Perturbator may have gotten the top spot for me this year, but Thou was a really close second.

And there you go.  Stay tuned for my 104 favorite songs of the year.  That's two for every week!  Hooray!

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