Wow. Just wow.
Somehow 2014 has already come and gone, bringing the world a treasure of incredible music -- all time stamped and sealed over the past 12 months that were 2014. This year revealed impressive debuts from several new up and comers, while some returning stalwarts pushed themselves once again to impart the world with magical collections of sounds and inspirations.
For us, reflecting on another year of music meant another visit to the Marmoset Deliberation Chamber, where our team banded together to assemble our annual list of albums. A list of records that kicked our ass in one way or another. Of course, there was the usual crying, arguing and hours upon hours of deliberations... which led to more crying and eventually led to hugging, which means we've all had too much whiskey. Yet, in the end, we're proud to come out the other end only a little whiskey-drunk -- and with our favorites in tow.
To make listening easy, we've assembled our Top 20 Records of 2014 (plus 15 Honorable Mentions) all into one easy to use Spotify playlist for those of you who enjoy streaming music and stuff like that. 364 songs and more than 25 hours of 2014 slam jammin' bliss to get lost in. Get it here.
And without further ado (or superfluous and non-sensical made up stories), our favorite albums of 2014...
1. Lost In The Dream // The War On Drugs
Soaring to the top of our list is this tour-de-awesomeness. Hands down, no other record had as much wide spread love and appreciation throughout our lil' Marmoset team than this one. Likewise, no other record blasted out through our speakers more throughout the year.
Racing out of the gates with sonic waves of lush guitars textures, songwriter Adam Granduciel and Co. have created another release full of fantastic psychedelic infused Americana (aka unapologetic "dad rock"). Lost In The Dream was a poetic muse for our Music Licensing Coordinator, David Katz. He reflected that Mr. Granduciel is "very aware of how time works with the human condition" and that each song was filled with "crisis and monumental mileposts of loss and heartbreak intertwined." Damn. We've been geeking out to this album all year and our lil' Marmoset crew were equally mesmerized by their incredible barn performance at Pickathon last Summer.
There's throwback music...and there's Temples. After a widespread double take when learning that this was released in 2014, this music blasted us into the era of big hair and psychedelic rock. Sun Structures is a completely absorbing album that is the best psychedelic pop around right now. No one is a bigger fan in our gang than Music Supervisor, Ron Lewis. This album takes him "to a meticulously-rendered heavy psych zone. It feels like a gesture of respectful homage to the era of Marc Bolan, Slade and Barrett-era Floyd. In a nutshell, it's the record the 'Dukes of Stratosphear' forgot to make." Temples have invented such a strong aesthetic with their sound that it's undeniably something uniquely their own.
Temples visited Portland on April 10, 2014 and oh man, what a night. Nearly the entire Marmoset crew converged on The Star Theater in Old Town and thankfully the band did not disappoint. Make sure to catch Temples when they next tour through your neck of the woods.
Resident avant-garde visionary St. Vincent came out with her jaw-dropping self-titled album on the heels of her recent collaboration with fellow weirdo David Byrne. Coming out with guitar sounds that no one thought would be possible to create, each track is layered with intricate, haunting and playful melodies combining sophisticated taste and talent. "I love her approach to pop music." boasts Marmoset Producer, Tim Shrout. "She takes simple grooves and melodies and presents them in really inventive ways. And of course she’s a killer guitar player and vocalist." Her music video for Digital Witness gets bizarre in the best way possible.
Wading in an ocean of heavily-produced albums floats the recent offering from Angel Olsen as a beacon of lo-fi greatness. To say that Olsen's vocals are unique is an understatement. Her half-warbled, half-crooned delivery creates a solemn and satisfying atmosphere. Keeping things sparse and poetic, her lyrics are straightforward, leaving bruises on the heart of any listener. Burn Your Fire... left an impression on Business Affairs Coordinator, Beth Martin, "I love the sound of her voice and the rawness of the whole album." Raw is a fitting word and it we'll add intense into the mix, much like the prolonged eye contact she has during live shows. Get hypnotized with her captivating video for Hi-Five.
Just when you think you have Ryan Adams pegged, he turns everything on its head. Consistently being one of the most prolific artists to date, Adams released five albums this year, all varying in musical direction. His self-titled, full length shines brightly as a beacon of well-crafted pop. As an artist with an ever shifting persona, he nailed it on the head with this one. Wait, is that Elvira in his new music video?
Marmoset's Artist Relations and New Music Scout, Brandon Day summed up this album perfectly, "Everyone's favorite gap-toothed goofball made one of the most endearing albums of 2014. Full of heart and cheap liquor. No smoke and mirrors - just Viceroys." Mac DeMarco is taking slacker-rock straight to the astral plane with Salad Days. The Marmoset crew caught DeMarco's set at Pickathon last Summer and we got full caught-up in the vibes, especially as he crowd surfed from the front, all the way to the back, and then back to the front again. All the while his band re-imagined their own, "jizz jazz" version of Coldplay's "Yellow." You had to be there.
Equal parts creative filmmaker and talented guitarist, DeMarco has been known to craft his own brand of immersive multimedia experiences of unadulterated debauchery. His video for Passing Out Pieces goes back to the days of VHS tracking.
There's an eternal summer locked inside the music of Generationals. Each finely-crafted electro-pop track is an invitation to put on your best daisy dukes (or daisy dudes) and head out to the nearest body of water. Bright and glimmering with youthful joy, Alix is the perfect soundtrack for a mystical cruise ship sailing toward the endless horizon. This record ranked tops for Marmoset fearless leader, Ryan Wines, who explained, "It's undeniably infectious, feel good, pop. Listen to the opening two songs on the record and tell me it doesn't make you smile, move and want to get up and go do something good."
You have outdone yourself when you produced the likes of Courtney Barnett.
With equal parts gritty grunge and polished pop sensibilities, Barnett takes the baton from the likes of Kurt Cobain and hits the ground running with her stunning double EP. There is a lasting brilliance with her songs that speak truth to anyone in earshot. Marmoset's Artist Relations and New Music Scout (and mega-mega-fan of Ms. Barnett), Brandon Day believes that "fans of gardening will especially be into this." Take that as you will.
The music of Tycho is a direct extension of graphic designer, Scott Hansen. His music is like his visual art: sleek, minimal and meticulous. Awake lies in the middle of post-rock and ambient instrumental music. On any given day this year, it's guaranteed this album was a looping soundtrack in our studio. This was definitely one of the most immersive releases this year, moving in fluidity as one cohesive song and dream, snapping you back into reality when it's over. Chances are, our Creative Project Manager + Community Ambassador, Bob Werner is repping this album hard in his headphones right now. And truth be told, few records played more at Marmoset HQ in 2014 than this one. If you're looking for a soundtrack to do creative work to, this is it.
If Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was written as an album, this would be it. The ramshackle ensemble from Chicago writes with wild abandon, creating the rules as they go. "Wild Onion is like an old friend you've gone too many years without seeing" says Music Licensing Coordinator, David Katz. He continues by stating, "It's unabashedly fun and a wicked display of four early 20-somethings letting loose with their take of garage-indie-pop and completely pulling it off." Give into the madness with their video for I Found A New Way.
From first note to last, You're Dead! is an densely woven sonic tapestry. This album floored Music Licensing Coordinator, Katy Davidson and Community Ambassador Stirling Myles. Davidson eloquently reflects that "this record sounds like a half-decade in music history blasted in a blender without the lid on. It's futuristic free smooth jazz prog fusion, equal parts earnest and sarcastic, moody as fuck, frantic, virtuosic, trippy, dissonant, urgent, and deep, i.e., it sounds exactly like it feels to live on this planet right now." His collaboration with Kendrick Lamar resulted in one of the most powerful music videos this year. If you only have time for one video, please watch this one. Marmoset Creative Director Brian Hall describes it this way: "Flying Lotus is some weird shit, man."
Beck has always had the ability to jump in and out of genres while keeping his own unique voice intact no matter what he's playing. Morning Phase is chill and expansive. Each track weaves together strings, guitar, Beck's signature-sounding voice, all washed over with a blanket of reverb. Music Supervisor, Nicole Wilson has been spinning this record all year. "What I enjoy most about Morning Phase is the ambiance and general mood the record always put me in. It reminds me of a hazy, warm afternoon in California. Beck is unapologetically himself and he created a record that isn't overdone, but is thoughtful and welcoming. I've always enjoyed his music, but this album is hands down one of my favorites - if not my favorite - that he's ever made." Enough said.
Yes, Taylor Swift made the list this year. Why? Here's a couple reasons...First, 1989 was the only platinum-selling album this year and you have to give her props for that. Second, Swift was able to effortlessly "shake off" the "coy girl" image and elevated her impeccably-produced candy-pop to a matured state with this new album. Third, this record showcased her ability to make fun of herself, which is something rare. And besides, you know you've been singing her songs in the shower. Now, here's Swift looking absolutely insane in her video for Blank Space. Marmoset Co-Founders, Brian Hall and Ryan Wines, will be the first to tell you -- very unapologetically -- this record is absolute pop brilliance. It's true, the "haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate..." but this record is pop gold.
14. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son // Damien Jurado
Over and over, Damien Jurado proves that all you need are four chords to convey powerful messages. Known best for his bare-boned approach to folk, he went a bit off the rails with this one. Brothers and Sisters... ventures into a haze of psychedelic bliss. His strong lyricism remains the same, just with welcomed experimentation this go round. We're huge fans of Jurado over here at Marmoset -- especially our Developer, Ryan Rebo who says he cannot help but keep coming back to this record, time and time again. The Marmoset gang caught Damien live at Timber! Summer Music Fest last August in Washington State, where he laid down a chilling soundtrack to the stars and moonlight and campfires, as 100-foot evergreens circled, and even leaned into the enchanting live performance. Man, that was one to remember.
Listen on Spotify here: Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son by Damien Jurado
15. Singles // Future Islands
A couple of incredible moments in live music happened this year. And one of them was Future Islands' electrifying performance on Letterman. It's considered now as the most viewed musical segment on the show. Their own brand of 80's synth-pop and dance moves stunned the audience. The same goes for their inspiring new album Singles. Maybe it's the husky vocal delivery of frontman Samuel T. Herring or the flawless combination of thumping bass grooves and space-age synthesizers, whatever the reason, this album always draws you back to it. Our Financial Affairs Manager, Jon Haas has even developed a high concept dance routine to each song.
Showing some Portland love, our local friends and Marmoset Artists Rio Grands have written one of the most charming and eclectic concept albums of 2014. Going through the alphabet, this Tropicália infused album explores all the different types of NW relationships, using one woman's name as the hook in each track. A-Z was two years in the making. Three cheers to this amazingly tongue-in-cheek offering into the world. Check out Quinn, a song about ill-fated hippy love.
This year's release from veteran bad ass Sharon Van Etten might be her best yet. Her own brand of folk rock runs the gamut of emotions all with a overarching umbrella of vulnerability. Each track draws you in and spits you out with heartache and joy. Studio Manager, Jessica Cassady is a huge fan, especially of the track Taking Chances and how it "make[s] you feel confident." Are We There is "full of internal conflict and intimacy which makes it extremely personable. " Get those beers and tears ready.
Kye Kye has been a sheer force this year and it might have something to do with their incredibly epic and cinematic new album Fantasize. This band of relatives (and Marmoset Artists) are also local to the area, but you would never know since they've been kicking ass on the road and spreading their infectious and haunting electro-pop to the masses. We've been fans for a while now, and it's always amazing to see a band grow. Kye Kye not only gets better with time, they burn brighter and brighter with songwriting maturity that expands well beyond their collective years. Marmoset Leader Ryan Wines shared, "It's been exciting watching Kye Kye grow and evolve over the years. This record is dreamy at times, hypnotizing at times, yet maintains their undeniable pop accessibility that's helped make them consistently one of the top licensing artists on Marmoset's roster."
The story of Tinariwen is an intense and interesting one of turmoil and artistic freedom. Get caught up here. This Algerian based ensemble has been at it since 1979 and have blown the lid off in the states with Emmaar. Mixing together world beats and 70's psychedelia, they're sound is completely their own. "This album takes me to another place" says Developer, Ryan Rebo. Emmaar reminds us that we live in a big, diverse world full of beauty amidst tragedy.
This debut from Jillian Banks (aka Banks) is a powerful force. At once confident and complex, Banks' hypnotic and vocals move in and out of a blanket of lush trip-hop beats and lush synthetic textures. There is a drama and beauty within every song that presents a captivating alternate reality leaving the the listener in an atmospheric state of bliss. This album has a special impact on our Community Manager, Stirling Myles. He once confessed "I like to to slow dance alone while hugging myself to this music." Creepy.
Listen on Spotify here: Goddess by Banks
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
—Click on titles for easily listening access on Spotify—
Clark by Clark
They Want My Soul by Spoon
Hew Time by Hew Time
High Life by Brian Eno and Karl Hyde
Ten Rivers by The Tree Ring
Lateness of Dancers by Hiss Golden Messenger
Bahamas is Afie by Bahamas
LP1 by FKA Twigs
Manipulator by Ty Segall
Visions of a Healed Kingdom by Purse Candy
With Light and With Love by Woods
Atlas by Real Estate
To Be Kind by Swans
EDJ by EDJ
Want to listen to these albums on our list? Check out our Top Records of 2014 Spotify Playlist.