Monday, June 16, 2014


Talk about long overdue!  We're sorry we have not been more communicative on the blog as of late.  So many things got in the way this spring with Record Store Day 2014 (Thanks very much to our supporters!) and a full release schedule that seemed never-ending, and now summer is here!  Kids may just be getting out of school, but they'll be going back in about 8 or 9 weeks (not that long, really), and the fall release schedule begins heating up.  Since we were approaching Midpoint 2014, we thought it was a good time to take a look back and reflect on our favorite records of 2014 up to now.

It's been an odd year in some ways, with a certain hangover of big releases from last year (Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, etc.), and some big releases this year that got a lot of buzz, but maybe haven't captured that rabid fandom those others have.  There have been releases from heavy hitters like Beck, Black Keys, Jack White, Coldplay, Neil Young, the Roots, and Bruce Springsteen, that have all had varying degrees of success.  Some say Coldplay was too soft, Springsteen too hard, with Beck being just right if you wanted a Sunday morning record from him.  In any event, we heard a boatload of things we liked, even if they did not all go on to become platinum sellers (What does these days anyhow?).  So many of these were SO good, we think you may want to reassess whether or not you need them in your collection. DO  (We always suggest vinyl but CD would work too).  Now that we've strung you along, here is our latest set of records to revel in, and always remember to support the artists buy purchasing their music...that way they can make more:

1) LANA DEL REY--Ultraviolence
Whether or not you buy into Lizzie as Lana could be a deciding factor for you, but Ultraviolence is quite possibly the album that will solidify her talent as the real deal, regardless of what you think of the persona. Ultraviolence plays like the older, darker sister to 2011's Born to Die, and a good comparison would be the Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me as Born to Die and Disintegration as Ultraviolence...It's that much darker, heavier, murkier, and bleaker, mostly due to Dan Auerbach's (Black Keys) production.  He manages to bring these songs haunted arrangements to frame her ghostly vocals around while giving her a more mature palate to draw from.  Whether fractured and frail ("Sad Girl") or tortured and possessed ("Money Power Glory"), there is a certain despair that exists in these songs that was not present in her past work to this extent.  Fortunately the mood changes with songs like "West Coast", which sits nicely in the middle of the record as a great single with a shuffling beat and time change featuring a guitar-line quote from the Beatles' "And I Love Her", making the song all the more nostalgic and poignant.  An even bigger musical debt falls to "Old Money", which almost directly lifts the Love Theme from "Romeo & Juliet" ("A Time for Us" by Nino Rota), that brings on the heavy Godfather vibes (anyone for pasta?).  It's an ingenious thing to do, but without the chanteuse to pull it off, it would be much less.  (Imagine Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears performing this song--cringeworthy!)  Song titles like "Cruel World", "Pretty When You Cry", and "F**ked My Way Up to the Top" really say it all, like Eminem by way of Billie Holiday.  I can see David Lynch calling her up shortly for a cameo, guest appearance, or theme song...

As much as I have talked this record, people seem rather reluctant to embrace it.  My goal is not to oversell, my goal is to spread positivity when I feel strongly about something.  I feel strongly about this.  It's sort of derivative and like Belle and Sebastian without the Scottish emotional baggage, but it features some really top-notch alt-pop songwriting and arrangements, and there is something so carefree infused in the jangle that would make even Morrissey happy.

One of the best bands from Baltimore that isn't Beach House, Samuel T. Herring has not only mastered the art of duck-and-cover dance moves, he has also mastered some pretty great songwriting.  Singles, produced by Chris Coady, takes their sound to elevated levels, yet finds a balance to retain some of their quirkier and edgier material.  A song like "Fall From Grace" goes full throttle when Herring wants to stress how deeply he feels about something.  It's like technopop voiced by a black metal singer, and the fact that Herring has this ability to shift his tone is remarkable.  This should be just the beginning of a big new career for them, and shows how to make fans of metal, mainstream, and hipster all happy about something simultaneously.

4) WILD BEASTS--Present Tense

5) THESE NEW PURITANS--Field of Reeds

6) SUN KIL MOON--Benji


8) THE HORRORS--Luminous

9) TEMPLES--Sun Structures

10) BECK--Morning Phase

11) KAISER CHIEFS--Education, Education & War
12) JOHN HARLE & MARC ALMOND--The Tyburn Tree
13) NEIL FINN--Dizzy Heights
14) KYLIE MINOGUE--Kiss Me Once
15) ST. VINCENT--St. Vincent
16) BRIAN ENO & KARL HYDE--Someday World
17) WYE OAK--Shriek
18) WAR ON DRUGS--Lost in the Dream
19) SWANS--To Be Kind
20) LILY ALLEN--Sheezus
21) DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS--English Oceans
22) BLACK KEYS--Turn Blue
23) LYKKE LI--I Never Learn
24) JACK WHITE--Lazaretto
25) FIRST AID KIT--Stay Gold
26) ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN--Meteorites
27) BROKEN BELLS--After the Disco
28) TOY--Join the Dots
29) REAL ESTATE--Atlas
30) BOB MOULD--Beauty & Ruin

Roll on, 2014!