Thursday, January 1, 2015

Best of Friends' List: #1 albums of 2014

There's  already a lot of new music on the horizon as the new year begins!  Try as one might it's impossible to hear it all let alone even know every album released in any given year. I really like doing a year round-up, Best of Friends' List because hearing what friends have been listening to through out the year makes me realize how many albums and artists I may have missed! With a little help from some of my music loving friends, I present the Best of Friends' List: #1 albums of 2014!
Whenever I worked with Steve he was always singing and dancing throughout the shift, adding pizzazz to the work day and I always looked forward to his sweet serenades of 90's pop songs. Steve is  part of  the Bay Area dance company, Project M, which choreographs dance performances to R&B, Hip-Hop and Top 40 music. He's personal music taste reaches well outside the realm of Project M and his favorite album of 2014 is: Souled Out by Jhene Aiko. 

"My favorite album goes to Jhene Aiko's Souled Out. Her simple melodies layered with complex and deep lyrics are what hooked me. Almost every song on the album relates to a life event of mine. 

This album is the soundtrack of my year and "Beautiful Ruin" on the exclusive Target Delux Edition is my favorite song off of it."  

My former co-worker David plays some mean drums in his punk band, The Dandy Lions and I ain't talkin' no pop-punk. The two-man band churns out fast, raw songs in true dirty Punk-Rock fashion complete with drunken banter and debauchery.

"My #1 album of 2014 is Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!. 
In the wake of AG! lead singer Tom Gabel's public announcement of having transgender dysphoria since childhood, Gabel has now transitioned to a reborn identity: Laura Jane Grace. 

Grace, as the founder of punk influenced Against Me!, has provided Transgender Dysphoria Blues as an outlet chronicling her struggles growing up with a severe identity crisis. The album is taken from the point of view of a transgender prostitute who is finding their place in the world. 
Some of the standout tracks for me are: Drinking with the Jocks, Black Me Out and Two Coffins." 

Chelsea, Brittany and I use to work in radio together and since leaving we're all bloggers outside of our day jobs! 
These girls have a great blog called, IFLunch: It's Finally Lunch and they cover just about everything, seriously! From fashion and travel to music, recipes and DIY crafts, Chelsea and Brittany really get around! And, they shoot all of the stunning photos you see in their posts! 

IFLunch creators and content managers Brittany and Chelsea 

Here's how these ex-radio ladies/fellow bloggers each weigh in on their top pick for best album of the year. 

Chelsea: "Ok, this took me a while and I struggled with picking one! But now that it has finally been released I am going with Damien Rice's, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. It has such a great first single and the whole album is just as fantastic as I thought it would be! Ryan Adams is totally a close second!"

Brittany:  "This was such a tough call because it's seldom that I fall in love with an entire album anymore! After some (VERY) long deliberation, I've decided that my top 2014 album is Voices by Phantogram. I'm sure this one is on record somewhere at the top of the list because the beats are so beautiful they can probably make grown men cry. The album takes you on this blissful  roller-coaster that I don't want to end. Even on the saddest tracks, they seem to have an upbeat lull. I've listened to the album over and over again and I can't wait to see what they have coming up next! I listen to Voices when I'm commuting ,working out and even cleaning. It fits every mood!

I recommend the entire album but if you want a few tracks to gravitate towards that aren't singles, these are the ones:  Bill Murray, The Day You Died and Nothing But Trouble."

Naturally, during my days as a radio station street team member I was surrounded by music,  music lovers and musicians everyday. Jesse and Dan B are two of so many music aficionados who showed me the ropes, taught me how to rock my job and love the work we did. They are both extraordinarily talented and they both keep very busy with multiple bands and side projects.

Band of Skulls @ The Regency Ballroom 5/22/2014
Photo by Marc Fong
Jesse's main focus these days is his solo effort, his recent release entitled, "101 Two Minute Love Songs" and putting together the 10th Annual 333 Under The Tree Benefit Concert which he throws and hosts at 50 Mason House!

Jesse's top pick is: Himalayan by Band of Skulls.

"I've been able to catch them live thrice since, so I can convey confidently that these guys are legitimate rock and rollers of the purest breed.
They rock the stage as much as they rock the studio - different experiences but equally as great.

With a classic rock vibe but the pioneering creativity of a rock and roll all its own, Band of Skulls stand as the best rock band of this decade to date (albeit their first album dropped in 2009). Himalayan, their April 2014 release came to me in real time. And I can now, at year's end, award them my highest honor: album of the year!
The first half of the album does what any art piece should do, upon first sensual intake: it grabs you and instantly seduces you. The side one track one, "Asleep At The Wheel," makes-out with you. And then, the second half, with tunes like "I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead One Dying," is when the record starts sweetly stroking your hair, but still offering up more bursts of making-out. This is sex, drugs and rock N' roll: where sex is the hot, desirable sensations in "Hoochie Coochie" ans also the title track; where the drugs are "I Guess I Know You Fairly Well" and its album bedfellow "You Are All That I Am Not," both of which have melodies and instrumentation so addictive that you want to listen to them over and over, hit after hit; and where the rock N' roll's in every track!

The members of this trio have musical souls that make rock legend. Catch them now as they earn their fame and/or infamy!

Along with being in the modern day-roots band, The Human Condition Dan B also drops sick jungle beats around the bay as his DJ alter-ego, Professor Bang. He called dibs on his fav of 2014, Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs and here's what he has to say about it.

"Easily my favorite overall in 2014, the third studio album form Philadelphia's The War on Drugs is an expertly programmed collection of catchy yet introspective rock song. Set against a reverbed-out backdrop of lush strings, twinkling pianos and elegant electronics, this record is equally suited to driving through the desert as the sun comes up or lounging in the yard with a cocktail. Frontman Adam Granduciel is a wry and understated songwriter who crafts accessible but intelligent tunes carried by his vulnerable and familiar vocals.

For listeners in the present day, The War in Drugs shares common genes with acts like Tycho, Future Islands and The Arcade Fire.
Lost In The Dream opens with "Under the Pressure" aloof but optimistic, resigned to its own catchieness, and sets the pace for a record full of melodic, deliberate music that you can tap your foot to, think about, or both. Three's a full three minutes of trippy orchestration and spacey guitars at the end of the song, which establishes the dreamlike quality of the album. A few songs later, "Eyes To The Wind" is a bit more down but not out, with subtle saxophone drifting over gorgeously interwoven piano and organ. The listener is drawn into "The Haunting Idle", an instrumental soundscape like something The Edge would make on his day off from U2, but it's not a skip-it-next-time throw away track because it makes sense at this point in the album.  The pace picks up with "Burning," a driving, upbeat anthem with a big vocal chorus. This tune in particular offsets the brooding tone of much of the record, kicking off the home stretch of he record like a ray of morning sunlight through carefully closed hotel room blinds. Second to last , the title track "Lost in a Dream," is pensive, and the narrator comes across as worldly, wizened and regretful, but not without hope. A lonesome harmonica swerves lazily over the song, much in the same way this entire record will drift through your head after a couple of listens. Lost In The Dream is not a conventional pop record, but the way its songs engage the listener and entrench themselves in the subconscious are evidence of the masterful songwriting behind this unassuming but powerful band.

Bonnie and The Bang Bang @ Slim's 6/27/2014
Photo by Marc Fong

My friend Michael is the drummer of the alternative, garage-punk Bay Area based Bonnie and The Bang Bang and 2014 was a big yea for him and the band!  They had a weekly month long residency at The Milk Bar, headlined shows at Slim's and Bottom of the Hill, played at Bay to Breakers along with a handful of other shows, and the keyboardist of Manchester Orchestra wore one of their T-Shirts on stage!

Bonnie and The Bang Bang are ready to continue to rock in the new year and are opening for The Soft White Sixties January 14th at Brick and Mortar! Michael's #1 album of 2014 is the first of two albums released this year from Manchester Orchestra, COPE.

"It's been a long time since a band as popular as they are has released such a straight forward rock album while maintaining a pop sensibility. Their song structures are perfect and the lyrics along side memorable guitar riffs are beautiful! Then, with the follow up of HOPE in September, we can see just how talented the band truly is. Not only is it showcasing staying with a particular theme, but each of these albums offer a completely different view point of the some songs!"

Thank you so much all for contributing! What a spectacular 2014 Best of Friends' List this is and I couldn't have done it without you!
Here's to a happy, healthy New Year filled with lots of new music friends!

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