RVA Magazine’s Top 25 of 2014, Part 3: #6-15

by | Dec 24, 2014 | MUSIC

Welcome to Day Three of our week long Top 25 Albums Of The Year. For those just tuning in, don’t forget to check out our contributors and honorable mentions (here) as well as #25 – #16 in the countdown (here). I know you’re anxious to get into it so here are our picks for #15 – #6 of the best albums of the year:

Welcome to Day Three of our week long Top 25 Albums Of The Year. For those just tuning in, don’t forget to check out our contributors and honorable mentions (here) as well as #25 – #16 in the countdown (here). I know you’re anxious to get into it so here are our picks for #15 – #6 of the best albums of the year:

15. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Yes, I know – Mark Kozelek is a dick, but like so many artists before him, that personality does not exclude someone from creating an impeccable piece of work–and that’s just what Kozelek did on Benji. It’s a tragic record that’s brightened only by the shockingly honest lyrics he chooses to frame each story with, whether it be an open-ended eulogy or an in-depth look at his failings at love. The album closes with the profound and pivotal composition “Ben’s My Friend,” which lets the listener experience Kozelek’s mid-life crisis that’s been festering for the whole record. It’s this crisis that puts the rest of the album’s tragically beautiful words in full focus, and leaves a record that’s almost required listening for anyone entering middle-age. (Video: Ben’s My Friend“)–Doug Nunnally

14. Spoon – They Want My Soul

After taking a four-year break with side projects, Spoon has graced us with their marvelous return. They Want My Soul is a new album of their trademark grooves and punchy rudiments, which came to help define the 2000s musically. The record just reinforces that Spoon might notoriously be the most consistent band in indie rock; They Want My Soul still finds the band honing in their signature sound and pushing it ever-so-slightly further. The time off seems to have rejuvenated the band as they effortlessly weave hooks in and out of these tight ten tracks. It seems like Spoon just can’t be stopped. (Video: Do You“)–Kyle Shearin

13. Future Islands – Singles

It’s easy to get lost in the ambient waves of Future Islands’ newest record. It’s mellow, trippy, and seriously enjoyable. The group expands what they’ve always been good at and manages to create something even better. Easily my favorite of their last few releases. (Video: Seasons (Waiting On You)“)–Andrew Cothern

12. FKA Twigs – LP1

FKA Twigs’ first full-length album is one of the most original and difficult to classify releases of 2014. The music lurches and sways, full of out-of-this-world sounds. Layers of deep bass form the foundation, while offbeat snare sounds skitter in and out of the field. Occasionally, a familiar instrument or rhythm will materialize out of it all, and then evaporate before you can grab onto it. Floating on the surface, holding it all together, are FKA Twigs’ breathy vocals, taking what would, on its own, be dark experimental electronic music and turning it into an immersive, sensual whole. (Video: Two Weeks“)–Tyler Spindle

11. Beck – Morning Phase

In a year in which pop music went in a decidedly electronic direction, Beck leaned the opposite way. Never simply a pop contrarian, but usually a weirdo, Beck wrote an album that’s not necessarily weird, but weird for him; he hasn’t made material this emotionally honest in at least a decade. In spirit and in sound, Morning Phase hearkens back to Sea Change, a record made during a particularly trying time in Beck’s life and known for its somber tone and country-influenced instrumentation. Though Morning Phase covers some dark territory, per its title, it offers an array of silver linings. (Video: Walking Light“)–Cody Endres

10. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

Describing D’Angelo’s first album in fourteen years as highly anticipated might be something of an understatement, but the same couldn’t be said of the nigh-universal praise it’s garnered. The album embodies certain contrasting extremes without suggesting their mutual exclusivity – tightly-wound, focused arrangements alongside varied instrumentation and tasteful genre experimentation; a lyrical focus on both the sensuality of interpersonal relations and a sense of righteous indignation necessarily engendered by a fractured and unjust society. If D’Angelo could be seen as the throwback he is often painted as (whether fairly or not), it’s not because his work clones Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield, but rather because it operates in the same conceptual vein of forward-thinking soul music, ambitious enough to intertwine the micro- and macrocosmic. (Video: Really Love“)–Graham Scala

9. The War On Drugs – Lost In A Dream

This has been one of the most polarizing albums of the year. For all the five-star reviews, Lost In the Dream has been called dad-rock, beer commercial music, and worse (I see you, Mark Kozelek). That only focuses on a small part of what is a rich, complex album. Sure, there are the driving beats and the big, arena ready sound, but the best thing about this album is the attention to detail underneath it all and the builds so slow and subtle that, by the end of a song, the whole thing is on fire and you’re trying to figure out what exactly changed. (Video: Red Eyes“)–Tyler Spindle

8. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is more than “reptile aliens made of light” and the psychedelia references many cite when juxtaposing the album with the rest of the country music landscape. Simpson’s lyrics are incisive, born of an interest in the human condition and all its contradictions and unanswerable questions. While there are flashier narratives — “Independent artist succeeds in spite of the pop country machine” being the flashiest — the album’s true core is Simpson. His thoughts and struggles. For my money, it’s as close as anyone got this year to putting their unvarnished selfhood on the line, and that honesty is the stuff from which the very best art is made. (Video: Turtles All The Way Down“)–Davy Jones

7. Aphex Twin – Syro

So this album was one that I was excited to hear, as a fan of all things Aphex. Could it possibly live up to the expectations one would put on Richard D. James? And what are my expectations anyway? After all, this is my youth here–my introduction into thought-provoking electronic music. Let’s face it: I was a little scared, for many silly reasons, to listen to this–or to see what others thought of it. When I finally listened to Syro, though, it all became more clear. This is Aphex Twin, and he will do whatever the hell he wants. And it will be brilliant, and a cerebral experience for me. Once you get past the idea of wanting something from it, you can just enjoy it and find beauty in it. It’s nothing if not confidently 100% his sound, created with tons of equipment sequenced together to make intelligent dance music (as they say) in his style again. Overall, it’s an album I have to listen in one sitting if possible, or in my car playing though again and again. Maybe it’s not as groundbreaking as some would want, but it’s certainly James doing what he does well. (Video: minipops 67 [120.2]“)–John Reinhold

6. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Angel Olsen’s second effort has her sounding less like a ghost and more like a sad, ethereal goddess. This is a slow, steady broken heart of a record peppered with punchy songs that seriously bring the despondence. Clocking in at 45 minutes and 11 songs, Burn Your Fire brings a more fully realized sound, a sound that could be described as hopeful yet melancholy, a sound driven by Olsen’s low voice that lives somewhere between sultry and spectral. She’s self-aware and raw and real and wrote probably the best and most beautiful damn break up album of 2014. Burn Your Fire For No Witness is charming, enchanting, and doleful. It’s a lone wolf on a rainy day, and it’s beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes. (Video: Hi-Five“)–Emilie Von Unwerth

Tomorrow, we will unveil our top five albums of the year, as well as a peek at our contributors’ top five lists, so contain your excitement until then!

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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