Back by popular demand, my annual listing of favorite musical recordings in 2014...
(This is an amended listing. I discovered after its publication that Damien Jurado's wonderful Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son was released in January 2014, not December 2013 as I had originally thought. Bumped off the list is Moon Duo, who produced a great album, but a live album. A little movement amongst the others, as well...)
10. Taylor Swift, 1989--I am no fan of pop music, in general, nor Taylor Swift, in particular, but this woman pulled off what I had thought was impossible: an interesting pop record I could listen to and enjoy. Amazing.
9. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There--A lovely album that made me think of Lucinda Williams in her prime. Excellent, personal song-writing that affirms every bit of sadness you've ever felt. It probably won't change your life (see 1.), but you will enjoy.
8. Foxygen, ...And Star Power--A pretty weird and thoroughly psychedelic offering from some strange dudes. I'm not sure what most of it means, but it is very entertaining.
7. U2, Songs of Innocence--Exhibit 1A in support of the argument that U2's worst is still far better than most groups' best. Perhaps this is not the highest praise for the Irish rockers, and I'm the first to admit that the group is past its prime, but I'm sentimental, and there are some very good songs in here.
6. Tweedy, Sukierae--I am a sucker for nostalgia (see 7., above). Jeff Tweedy isn't doing anything on this album that he hasn't already done before, but he is still making pretty fantastic music, this time with his son.
5. Grouper, Ruins--Sad, sparse, and even a little depressing. This is perhaps the perfect ambient album for cloudy autumn days in Northwest Iowa.
4. Real Estate, Atlas--Finally, a return to jangling guitars and melodic song-craft. Even if these elements are not completely fashionable (and haven't been since Coldplay's heyday), Real Estate put together one of the most delightful albums of the year. A joy to listen to.
3. Young Oceans, I Must Find You--Who are these guys? Gifted musicians and songwriters who love Jesus, evidently. (Btw, their Advent recording got me through the holidays last year.) I'm pretty sure this is what worshipful post-modern music is supposed to sound like: thoughtful, musically exceptional performance art.
2. Damien Jurado, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son--One of the finest singer-songwriters of his generation, Jurado continues to churn out remarkable, inventive music. This album presents a world of its own. Truly spectacular.
1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream--Those who know me well have heard me gush about this album since May. Let me be clear: this is the best recording I've heard in decades and, yes, it has changed my life.