By Ryan Asselin
Last year, we saw a plethora of new voices in the music community, and more than a handful of groundbreaking releases. From Taylor Swift to Elder Brother, here are the albums to keep an eye out for whenever you may find yourself perusing the Spotify catalog. Here are 2014’s best albums:
Best Rap Album: Run the Jewels — “Run the Jewels 2”
Run the Jewels, the collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P, came back harder than ever with the groundbreaking sequel to last year’s debut of the duo.
“Run the Jewels 2” is “Watch the Throne” plus steroidal aggression, paired with acid. Voted the No. 1 Album of the Year by Pitchfork, Complex and Rolling Stone, RTJ2’s grimy, in-your-face beats are paired perfectly with the cynical gut-punches thrown with every verse.
The album is dark and cynical, full of anti-agenda thoughts that couldn’t be more relevant now. On “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” the duo provokes the thoughts: “Who really run that man that say he run this?” and, “Who really fund this?” Society isn’t just questioned, but attacked.
Mike and El-P have created a revolutionary masterpiece, which will seen as one of the best albums of the decade 10 years from now.
Best Rock Album: Elder Brother — “Heavy Head”
“Heavy Head” is the first of hopefully many releases from Elder Brother, the side project of Dan Rose (Daybreaker) and Kevin Geyer (The Story So Far).
With the poetic lyricism we have grown to expect from bands like The Wonder Years, Elder Brother has created an album filled with emotion that deals with coping, accepting and wondering what is next.
“I never wanted it all. I just wanted to pretend that I was awake and you were listening,” Rose sings on “In My Bones.” “Heavy Head” is retrospective and introspective, respecting the highs and lows of life.
Best Mixtape: Kyle Lucas — “Fear and Loathing in Marietta”
Again, Kyle Lucas releases an album I want to dislike but just can’t. In “Fear and Loathing in Marietta,” Kyle Lucas’ main focus is the “Marietta medicine,” his addictions to pills and alcohol, which he uses to mask the pain of a previous relationship.
The big difference between his most recent release and Lucas’ previous releases is the sadness and the storytelling, as shown on “Drive On” and “Love and Other Drugs.”
There is something about the final song on the mixtape, an acoustic version of the previously released “Airport Blues,” that shows how Lucas is growing from the pain and will continue to get better.
Kyle Lucas has grown as a musician. With an expanded palate, the arrival of his next album, a collaboration between himself, Jonny Craig and Captain Midnight cannot come soon enough.
You can download “Fear and Loathing in Marietta” for free on www.kylelucasmusic.com.
Most Interesting Album: La Dispute — “Rooms of the House”
With the combination of spoken word poetry and post-hardcore, Michigan-based La Dispute’s music is more part of an emerging art form than anything else.
“Rooms of the House” is the band’s most put-together album to date, as it examines a couple’s relationship coming to an end and the power of the objects left in the house the two once shared.
The album deals with the haunting reality of the lingering memories that can remain in objects, how a simple object can retain heavy memories an what happens when objects become shared between a couple and the relationship shatters.
In “Woman (Reading),” lyricist and vocalist Jordan Dreyer reads, “Sometimes I think of all the people that lived here before us, how the spaces in the memories you make change your room from just blueprints to the place where you live.” The song explores what happens when that life is turned entirely upside down.
Like chapters of a book, the continuity remains throughout the album, regardless of the change in character stories from song to song. “Rooms of the House” is one of the hardest, most well-written albums of the past few years.
Most Enjoyable Album: Andrew Jackson Jihad — “Christmas Island”
In typical Andrew Jackson Jihad fashion, “Christmas Island” is created around articulate whining over acoustic guitar and an upright bass, accompanied by keyboards, drums, a cello and a mandolin. The band’s music makes you want to sing and dance along to the awkward melodies, but then they catch you off-guard with cringe-worthy lyrics.
With a sound similar to a combination of Modest Mouse and The Front Bottoms, have a listen to folk-rock band Andrew Jackson Jihad. You will not regret it.
Best Album (Under 30 Minutes Long): sports. — “We’ll Get to it Eventually”
A three-piece band from Boston, sports. They have not made a name for themselves just yet, but they will.
“We’ll Get to it Eventually” is extraordinary, showcasing not only the talent of vocalist and guitarist Kris Ward, but also bassist Sean Duffy and drummer John Blank. Dynamically produced, the entire album sounds like it is being played live right behind your speakers.
The raw emotion put into each song demonstrates how much the songs mean to the band members. If this album were longer, it would be in contention for Album of the Year.
Name your price and download the album at www.realsportsboys.bandcamp.com.
Best New Artist: Hozier
Hozier came onto the music scene in 2013 with the release of his EP “Take Me to Church,” but it was upon the release of his first studio album, the self-titled “Hozier,” that the Irish singer-songwriter secured himself a spot on Billboard’s radar for years to come.
Hozier’s sound is the perfect blend of rock and soul, which provides depth to each song.
Find more of Ryan’s album reviews at www.searchthismusic.wordpress.com.