Josh Antonuccio, a Lecturer of Music Production and Recording Industry, recently shared his top albums of 2014 with WOUB in a series of year-end articles by WOUB staff and contributors.
Coming on the heels of numerous great releases from last year, 2014
proved to me once again that we are truly in the midst of a golden era
Some of my all-time favorite music was released this year, across
genres, interwoven between indie and major labels, from artists known
and unknown, divided between females and males alike.
Outside of the albums and projects that I had the privilege of
working on this year, here are the 51 albums that got the most attention
from me in 2014.
1. The War on Drugs, Lost In The Dream
Adam Granduciel has received critical nods in years past with The War on Drugs, most notably with 2011’s gorgeous Slave Ambient. But with Lost In The Dream,
Granduciel seemed to find a confident footing with his craft, running
with a breakneck pace through this poignant album which consistently
reveals more depth of insight upon repeated listens. Granduciel
traverses the mire of heartache, loss and betrayal with both grace and
disillusionment, emerging with a revelatory masterpiece.
Lost In The Dream mirrored the sprawling age of '80s radio hits and borrowed heavily from the self-confessional reflections of Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks.
This became my quintessential album, on heavy rotation throughout the
year, with numerous standout tracks including the melodic rocker "Red
Eyes," the guitar-driven "Under The Pressure" and the lush propulsion of
"An Ocean In Between The Waves."
As I talked with numerous musicians throughout the year, this album
was a frequent topic of conversation. Sharon Van Etten noted to me that
she and Adam had talked about how this album helped him to process the
agony of a relationship lost. And it is in and through that process,
from the depth of his despair, that the album finds palpable power and
connection, or as Granduciel sings in "Burning," "to redefine the way
you listen in the dark."
2. Sun Kil Moon, Benji
Mark Kozelek’s newest outing under the moniker Sun Kil Moon is a
self-examining journey that finds no equal. Hemmed in by Kozelek’s
subtle classical guitar and trademark understated vocal delivery, Benji
unveils itself as a devastating collection of short stories told in the
form of deceptively engaging songs, brutal in their transparency and
Using Ohio as a frequent focal point (Kozelek is originally from
Massillon, Ohio), these songs tie together multiple narratives on
teenage lust, family loss, serial killers, old friends, mass shootings
and parental relationships. Kozelek brilliantly weaves these stories
into a unified whole with characters transcending between songs and the
themes of his life, tethering the album together with threads of
reflection and diary-like honesty.
Notable tracks include observations of sexual experience on "Dogs"
and "I Watched The Film the Song Remains The Same" where Kozelek uses
the Zeppelin concert film as a haunting vehicle to explore loss,
depression and ghosts of the past and present.
3. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Angel Olsen faced the infrastructure of a broken heart with a voice
that both soars and sneers on her most coherent release to date. Veering
between the howls of dejection and the fury of the scorned, Olsen wades
through the loss of modern romance with tracks such as
"Forgiven/Forgotten" and "Ioda." As the title of the album suggests,
Olsen searches for new life beyond the wreckage of losing her love.
"Sometimes I think you’d like to see me lose my mind," she croons on
"Lights," a sentiment that permeates the album and fuels this blistering
collection of songs.
4. Real Estate, Atlas
After 2011’s critically acclaimed Days, Real Estate returns
with this shimmering collection of refined pop songs harkening back to
the foundations of college rock. Like a cross between the early eras of
The Shins and R.E.M., Real Estate found a sound that is at once
melancholic and thoroughly pop-driven. Sublime and seductive in its
catchiness, Real Estate broke through in a convincing way with
highlights that include the sparkling guitar interplay of "Talking
Backwards" and the infectious opening track "Had To Hear."
5. The Men, Tomorrow's Hits
Beyond any other release this year, Brooklyn’s The Men hit listeners
with one of the best first sides of any other album. Recorded and
completed in a mere three days, Tomorrow’s Hits is wrought with
epic rock songs that pull in shades of The Modern Lovers, Bruce
Springsteen, early Elvis Costello and The Replacements. Highlights
include the fist-raising power of "Different Days" and the unhinged
"Pearly Gates." The Men are labeled as "post-punk," but that moniker
doesn’t do justice to the sheer velocity of this album.
6. Cymbals Eat Guitars, LOSE
New York City band Cymbals Eat Guitars have impressed fans for years
with their ability to turn out smart guitar-fueled albums. With 2014’s LOSE,
the indie band produced a stunning collection of finely tuned rockers
that are at both churning and atmospheric. Highlights include album
opener "Jackson" and the methodical guitar and lyrical explorations of
7. Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, with an intelligent mix of equal
parts Lou Reed and Liz Phair, Barnett’s two EPs were combined for her
American debut. The release garnered her widespread acclaim and even a
spot on The Late Show with David Letterman, making her a
darling in the indie music world and beyond. The standout track "Avant
Gardener" alone makes this album worth the price of admission.
8. Damien Jurado, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
Under the supervision of musician/producer Richard Swift, Damien
Jurado reached new heights on this release with esoteric production,
effects-drenched vocals and wide-angle lens lyricism. Jurado shines on
tracks like the plodding and synth-driven "Return to Marqopa" and the
Pink Floyd-inspired "Metallic Cloud."
9. Saint Saviour, In The Seams
A gorgeous and hushed collection of landmark songs by Rebecca Jones,
hemmed in by the symphonic flourishes of the Manchester Camerata
Orchestra and produced by Bill Ryder-Jones. An indelible voice that is
both angelic and childlike, Jones ascends on tracks like "Let It Go" and
10. Beck, Morning Phase
Harkening back to his landmark album Sea Change, Beck
produced his most orchestrated and lush album to date with material
ranging from the transcendent arrangement of "Morning" to the epic
crescendos of "Waking Light." "Turn Away" may now be one of my favorite
songs of Beck’s catalogue.
11. Ultimate Painting, Ultimate Painting
With deep shades of Loaded-era Velvet Underground and early
'70s radio pop, this gem of an album seemingly came out of nowhere, the
product of the partnership between Jack Cooper of Mazes and James Hoare
of Veronica Falls. Formed from a collection of home recordings done
directly to tape, the duo hit understated pop glory on tracks like the
self-titled track "Ultimate Painting" and "Ten Street."
12. Steve Gunn, Way Out Weather
As a one-time member of Kurt Vile’s outfit The Violators, Steve Gunn
has consistently released remarkable solo albums, culminating in this
tightly-focused collection of songs with shades of Celtic influence,
introspective mysticism and acoustic guitar prowess. Standout tracks
include the nostalgic underpinnings of "Milly’s Garden" and the hazy
blues explorations of "Shadow Brothers."
13. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There Yet?
Once again, Sharon Van Etten delves deep into the dark corners of
love lost and trust broken. The album is a fine display of her evocative
songwriting and crooning voice, both of which are supported by her
band’s refined arrangements. "Taking Chances" and "Every Time the Sun
Comes Up" are standout tracks on this captivating record.
14. Flying Lotus, You're Dead
The electronic and experimental producer Flying Lotus got help from
the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Herbie Hancock and Snoop Dogg on this
latest album, featuring a mix of electronica, avant-garde and free jazz.
You’re Dead is a thrill ride of musical chemistry that unapologetically journeys between multiple genres and fascinates in the process.
15. Saintseneca, Dark Arc
This Columbus, Ohio, band teamed up with Bright Eyes producer/member
Mike Moogis and, with the help of Anti Records, established themselves
as grandiose storytellers of the highest order, drawing comparisons to
the much-revered Neutral Milk Hotel with their sprawling sound.
16. Lana Del Ray, Ultraviolence
Lana Del Ray became a media and critic’s target after her reinvention and rollout during Born To Die. However with Ultraviolence,
Lana Del Ray tapped into a sensual dark pop ethos that mirrored the
likes of The Doors and, with the help of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach,
unveiled this startling album. With the opener "Cruel World," Del Ray
comes out of the gates swinging, declaring with exuberant confidence
with a chorus of "You’re f***ing crazy."
17. The Antlers, Familiars
Melancholic and heavenly in the same breath, this NYC chamber-pop
group builds on their trademark soundscapes to produce another album of
compelling and breathtaking songs. Standout tracks include "Palace" and
the gleaming guitars and horns of "Hotel."
18. London Grammar, If You Wait
With comparisons to British darlings the xx, this trio, led by Hannah
Reid, released one of the most anticipated albums of the year. London
Grammar broke through with singles such as "Wasting My Young Years" and
"Hey Now”, which put Reid’s distinctive vocals on full display. Though
they did not explode into mainstream popularity as expected, the band
left an indelible mark on 2014 with their unique blend of electronica
19. Dean Wareham, Dean Wareham
With Jim James of My Morning Jacket in the producer’s chair, former
Galaxie 500/Luna frontman Dean Wareham came out with his first
full-length solo album, putting his observational songwriting and
minimalist tendencies into a newly reframed and modern focus.
20. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal
Whatever you do, don’t call it slacker rock or Pavement-esque. Yet no
matter how you describe Parquet Courts, it’s clear that, following
2012's brilliant Light Up Gold, they are still full of sprawling and discombobulated rock dexterity.
21. Quilt, Held in Splendor
A worthwhile trip into harmony-laden '60s pop pastiche with these Boston newcomers.
22. Jenny Lewis, Voyager
A gorgeous album from the acclaimed singer/songwriter and former frontwoman of Rilo Kiley.
23. The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Revelation
The iconic garage rock/'60s revivalists hit back hard on their newest
album, a collection of recordings from 2012–2014 showcasing Anton
Newcombe’s esoteric and volatile songwriting.
24. Hiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers
With arrangements reminiscent of The Band, this album is a stellar
collection of nuanced Americana from M.C. Taylor, the former frontman
for The Court and Spark.
25. Swans, To Be Kind
An album of hypnotic and distortion-ridden tracks that are sprawling,
mind-bending, and terrifying in all the best ways possible.
26. St. Vincent, St. Vincent
Annie Clark delivers a captivating and angular album, showcasing her
ability to seamlessly integrate progressive, pop, metal and funk ideals
into engaging art pop.
27. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
Columbus, Ohio's own Lydia Loveless put out some of her best songs to
date on this release with sophisticated alt-country rockers and
28. Vashti Bunyan, Heartleap
A delicate and heavenly album, reportedly a farewell release by this
intimate '70s songstress. Bunyan shines with shades of Nick Drake and
29. Thee Oh Sees, Drop
The San Francisco garage rockers continued their prolific streak of barn-burning garage punk on the heels of last year’s Floating Coffin.
30. Jolie Holland, Wine Dark Sea
The Texas born songwriter and former Be Good Tanyas member came out
with her first album in three years, featuring a mix of blues, folk,
gospel and Tom Waits-esque arrangements.
31. Eagulls, Eagulls
32. Fucked Up, Glass Boys
33. Total Control, Typical System
34. Ariel Pink, pom pom
35. Run the Jewels, Run The Jewels 2
36. Hurray For The Riff Raff, Small Town Heroes
37. Mø, No Mythologies to Follow
38. Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots
39. Ava Luna, Electric Ballroom
40. Lykkie Li, I Never Learn
41. Strand of Oaks, Heal
42. alt-J, This is All Yours
43. Haunted Hearts, Initiation
44. Aphex Twin, Syro
45. The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers
46. Alcest, Shelter
47. Temples, Sun Structures
48. Wild Beasts, Present Tense
49. Perfect Pussy, Say Yes To Love
50. Grouper, Ruins
51. Tweens, Tweens
Josh Antonuccio is a Lecturer in the Music Production/Recording
Industry program at the Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies
and owner/producer at 3 Elliott Studio. He can also be found around
Athens, Ohio, performing with the band Scubadog.
These albums can be found locally at Haffa’s Records or listen to Josh’s 2014 Favorite Albums Playlist at Josh Antonuccio's 51 Favorite Albums of 2014.