While the Too Much Rock Podcast is built around singles either catchy or impossible to deny (see my Top Songs of 2014), I also like to recognize bands who put together entire albums of wonderful songs that set a consistant mood. Each of these albums below are owed an entire listen – not just a quick 30-second sampling of the hits. That said, I know time is precious so I have highlighted a couple of tracks per release that are really stand-outs. If you like these tracks, do pick up the entire album, you wont be disappointed. Pinky swear.
In 2003, Bishop Allen released a perfect slice of simple indie pop in
Charm School. In the decade-plus since, the band has been
evolving and maturing. While that is usually code for "making
boring music," Bishop Allen proves with Lights Out that a
little perspective and restraint can elevate sublime pop hooks to the
level of art.
Listen to: Start Again, No Conditions
Is frenetic indie pop your bag? If so, then a visit with the wild and
wooly The Insufferable Fatigues of Idleness by The Wendy Darlings
needs to be in your future. Vocalist Suzy Borello vocals are unrefined,
her guitar is raw, and the pop hooks are enormous. If it takes it, sell
a kidney to see this trio from Clermont-Ferrand, France perform live
– it'll still be a bargain.
Listen to: Teenager, 007, Catch 32
For ten years, The Dead Girls have worshipped at the power pop altar
of Big Star, but it wasn't until Noisemaker that the band finally
put it all together. Stunning ballads, burning twin-guitar leads, and
rich vocal harmonies combine to make this album â€“ unfortunately, the
band's last â€“ a must have.
Listen to: Better Wait, I'm On A Mission
This WestCoast supergroup needs no introduction. The band simply does
everything right. Brill Bruisers is full of smart pop songs that
combine the best instincts of each performer to create an album that is
simultaneously rich and explosive.
Listen to: Brill Bruisers, Dancehall Domine, War on the East Coast
Youth produces enormous results for this new band from Brooklyn.
Driving songs straddle the line of punk and indie rock with vocalist
Anika Pyle laying her heartache, longing and confusion bare over twelve
songs and 35 minutes. Its impossible not to get swept up in the wave of
Listen to: Name That Thing, Something About Geography
Hannah Wiggins has created an album of quirky pop that makes sublime
use of a Millennial disinterest in genres, a supreme DIY approach, and
lyrics that are terrifically insightful. Not punk nor anti-folk nor
anything else, it's merely brilliant music that deserves the widest
Listen to: Run, Getting Old
Another album from this long-running project of Swede Annika Norlin,
and another appearance in my year-end list. With lyrics so poignant,
hooks so catchy, and songs so welcoming, The Fox, The Hunter and
Hello Saferide is the latest indie pop gem from an artist more
people should know about.
Listen to: I was Jesus, Last Night Bus
I'm a sucker for female fronted power pop, and Milwaukee's Sugar
Stems are making the best power-pop since Holly and the Italians or
Nikki and the Corvettes. The songs on Only Come Out at Night are
catchy with just the right amount of swagger to balance those sweet
Listen to: Radio Hearthrob, I Know Where I'm Going
This Norwegian twee band mixes gorgeous boy/girl harmonies, bobbing
rhythms, and just enough melancholy to keep your teeth from rotting out.
Its a well-traveled road, yet the fantastic songs on A Thousand
Half-Truths allow it to stand well above the competition.
Listen to: Barcodes, Ticket Machine
Dude Incredible may just be the best album Shellac have ever
released. The trio of musicindustry veterans have created an album that
uses restraint to build tension, and uses chaos to shout with abandon.
Points are made, guitar tones are otherworldly, time signatures are
useless, and the result is incredible, dude.
Listen to: Dude Incredible, Riding Bikes
While normally it takes a muscular guitar riff to attract my
attention, Swedes Vulkano do it with post punk urgency, a little
darkwave, a lot of tribal drumming, and the vocals of some wild women.
So glad this album finally got a release in the US.
Listen to: Choir of Wolves, Vulkano, 2 Young 2 Die
Adult Life is a bright spot in an banner year for power pop.
There are big ringing guitars and a million hooks in this twelve-song,
32-minute collection. This one will capture your heart whether it's Tom
Petty or The Knack that send your toes a-tapping.
Listen to: Tough Love, Multiple Personalities, The One Thing, Adult Life
I've a formula for computing my top albums each year and Wussy broke
it. There are no giant hits to make this album stand out, but there are
a eleven well crafted songs that resound with honesty and maturity. It's
a gentle and lush album, but that guitar proves that Wussy owes more to
REM's college rock than folk.
Listen to: To The Lightning, Halloween, Attica!, Beautiful
These California slackers released an excellent album in 2014 â€“ 29
years after the release of their debut. The same insight and wry humor
resound in this collection, however the eclecticism and quirks have been
ironed out as the band focuses on a warm southern California, often
country-rock, sound. Most of all this is an album you want to listen to,
all the way through, again and again.
Listen to: The Ultimate Solution, Darken Your Door
You know how it can be awkward visiting with an old friend that you
haven't seen in a while? We'll there's nothing awkward about Cheap Girls
and the late '80s American underground rock sound that Famous
Graves brings back. If you read Our Band Could Be Your Life
then Famous Graves needs to be in your record collection.
Listen to: Knock Me Over, Man in Question
It's not just math that keeps this band in the list every year-
Motivational Jumpsuit is a twenty-song collection of fractured
lo-fi stoner pop as consistent as anything that has ever left the band's
Midwestern garage. Whether it's the immediate power pop, swirling
psychedelia, or crashing indie rock, this album delivers.
Listen to: Littlest League Possible, Save the Company, Until Next Time, Alex And The Omegas
Pop punk this sugary should only be a sometimes food, but I've been
binging on this album more than I care to admit. It's just packed with
so many fantastic songs delivered with just the perfect tone.
Listen to: Michigan, I Miss You
What are the chances that a band of old men in the middle aughts
could summon the same urgency and attitude that fueled southern
California punk rock in the early '80s? Slim to none, which is why
Wasted Years is just a mind-blowing success that lives up to its
own dreams and mine.
Listen to: Over Our Heads
Withered Hand's Dan Willson simply does everything right on this
album of neo-folk songs. Arrangements, adornments, and crescendos are
used sparingly, and to great effect, allowing each song a chance to
unfold and envelope you.
Listen to: Heart Heart, California, Between True Love and Ruin, King of Hollywood
Company is a sucker punch that will outshine any superlative
review written about it, and destroy any genre ever prescribed upon it.
It's a gorgeous record of infinite vocals layers, warm guitar tones,
krautrock repetition, and smiling humility.
Listen to: Microsleep
Equal parts punk, power pop, and glam, Dangerous Game is
straightforward, transparent, and delivered without pretense. Big guitar
riffs do most of the talking, and if I understand them they're saying,
"Grow a fucking pair and turn off that Coldplay record!"
Listen to: Discotheque, Dangerous Game, Nowhere to Go
Ace Bushy Striptease's final album is a loud rebuke of our
singles-obsessed culture. Covering ground from twee-melancholy to
shouted DIY punk, Slurpt makes no missteps, accomplishes each
song's goals skillfully, and leaves the listener smiling at the sheer
Listen to: Danzig Queen
Rips is a powerhouse of riffs and hedonistic choruses. It's
leather jackets, arcades, feathered hair, and a Cheap Trick 8-track.
Everything is up front, huge, and delivered with all the sneer you could
Listen to: How You Got That Girl, New Kid, Don't Wanna Lose
I saw this duo play a sweaty all-ages set in the windowless back room
of a pizza joint. It was amazing. Somehow this album is even better with
genius production, raw emotion, and song structures that ignore the
rules and are all the better for it.
Listen to: Underwater Now Pt. IV, Lecher
Eighteen Hours of Static is hardcore most urgent and
turbulent. Each vocal-shredding cry calls out to be heard, while a
complex and engaging soundtrack demands control of your body. This is
the fists-flying album of the decade.
Listen to: Goes Black, Wool, Justice
You know those grey-haired wizards that saw Big Star in 1971? Now is
your chance, because someday there will be some punk kid amazed that you
were into Nude Beach when they were together the first time. This album
is simply amazing from start to finish.
Listen to: I Can't Keep the Tears from Falling, The Witness, See My Way, Yesterday
Never before have I had a soundtrack album in my year-end countdown
â€“ not to mention for a film I haven't even seen, but this is truly a
special album. Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch has written
delightful indie-pop gems for a spot-perfect cast. Twee is no longer a
Listen to: I Dumped You First, God Help the Girl
Will Oldham releases music at such a startling pace that it's hard to
believe that quality does not suffer. Rest assured it hasn't as
Singer's Grave a Sea of Tongues is eleven songs of warm and
twinkling indie folk delivered by a master storyteller.
Listen to: Night Noises, Quail and Dumplings
Allo Darlin's Elizabeth Morris is twee's reluctant queen. So, either
consciously or not, the band has expanded it's palate both lyrically and
musically to delivery a stunning indie pop album from start to finish.
The immediacy of earlier efforts are gone, but the intimacy is dialed up
Listen to: Half Heart Necklace, Bright Eyes
Benji is the only modern album in my collection where each
song has been tagged as a standout. If that doesn't define a solid
album, nothing does. While a thoroughly dark album, dealing with death
and depression at every turn, each song is a short story accompanied by
tumbling finger-picked guitar and rich atmosphere. There may not be
something for everyone, but Benji is everything for a lot of
Listen to: I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same, I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love, Dogs, Truck Driver
And that's it. If you're curious about my criteria, this contains my favourite albums of 2014. It's not the best, or the most important, or those deserving the most recognition, but the ones that I really connected with. Did I miss something? Maybe I dismissed and album, but should give it another listen? Let me know your thoughts via Twitter.