Favorite Albums of 2014
The past year brought us plenty of new artists, music, great performances, artist collaborations and more. It also saw the launch of More Than The Melody. Our journey has just begun, and we hope that so far we have helped you discover a new artist, or learn something new about a band you already loved. To take us into the new year, we are bringing you our favorites from 2014, starting today with favorite albums. We hope you enjoy, and stay tuned to More Than The Melody in 2015 for some exciting things to come.
Ben Lowden - Alt-J with This Is All Yours
Alt-J’s sophomore album was highly anticipated for a number of reasons. First, the success of their debut LP, An Awesome Wave, helped Alt-J make a name for themselves rather quickly. The album even went on to win the British Barclays Mercury Prize in 2012. Second was the departure of bassist Gwil Sainsbury in January. Questions arose about how the band would progress from here and what their upcoming album would now sound like. Fans eagerly awaited This Is All Yours, hopeful that they would stick to their roots and still be successful as a trio.
Alt-J did that and more, and This Is All Yours is my favorite album of 2014. The album starts off with a bang on “Intro”, immediately showcasing a more developed sound with less bass and more synth and production value. As the album continues, it’s difficult to pick out exactly where the album gets its magic from. Somewhere between frontman Joe Newman’s liquid-like vocals and the mind grabbing melodic builds, Alt-J create something that engages you for the entire 55 minutes. Maybe its on the track “The Gospel of John Hurt”, inspired by the movie Alien, and specifically the scene where an alien bursts out of the chest of John Hurt. Or perhaps it’s on “Bloodflood Pt. II” as Alt-J parallel the feeling of adrenaline one feels during both sex and violence. Either way its in there somewhere, creating a fantastic album, and my favorite for 2014.
Gabi Schwartz - Kongos with Lunatic
No one told me to listen to KONGOS’ album Lunatic, I accidentally stumbled upon it, so to do you a favor I’m going to tell you that you should listen to Lunatic for some new and unique alternative rock music.
Just as a little background KONGOS are a group of four brothers from South Africa (Johnny, Jesse, Daniel, and Dylan) that formed in 2007. Their debut album Lunatic was technically released in 2012, but it wasn’t promoted in America until this year. What makes KONGOS distinctive compared to a lot of indie rock comes from their subtle incorporation of “kwaito” into some of their songs—a house genre with African influences.
The number one thing I look for in an album is variety, and every song sounds different on Lunatic. I was drawn in by its most popular singles "I’m Only Joking" and "Come With Me Now", and the more I listened to Lunatic the more I loved it. "Hey I Don’t Know" reminds me a little of a more grungy The Black Keys, and "I Want To Know" has a more tropical feel. Often I like one or two songs on an album, but with Lunatic it’s quite the opposite, and if I can find an album with songs to study to, relax to, or workout to—I’m sold.
As a bonus, Kongos are coming to St. Andrews Hall 2/25/15!
Ben Schechter - JMSN with The Blue Album
My favorite album of 2014 has to be JMSN’s The Blue Album. JMSN (pronounced “Jameson”) is based in LA but born and raised in the Detroit metro area. He’s known for being a part of Kendrick Lamar’s popular debut album g.o.o.d kid, m.A.A.d city, as well as a feature on “Pray” off of Jesus Piece by The Game. He is also a featured artist on tracks by Tyga, Kaytranada, Sango, Ab-Soul, and some others. His contributions goes deeper than being a strong collaborator. I see JMSN, whose real name is Christian Berishaj, as an incredible songwriter, vocalist, and musician with crazy good dance moves.
Growing up in the Detroit, The White Stripes, Kid Rock, and Eminem were the successful names of the city’s music scene. In the past it was Motown, and without a doubt I see this style in The Blue Album. Within this album, JMSN has totally tackled contemporary R&B. To me, this album perfectly displays what JMSN is capable of. His voice reminds me of The Weeknd, John Legend, Luther Vandross, and even Justin Timberlake. “Street Sweeper” is probably his most popular off the album and really incorporates this R&B sound. The singles that JMSN chose to promote are usually based completely off of the fan’s preferences, this being said, “Addicted” was his single leading into the album release and a music video is in the works. “Addicted” melodically speaks to an obsession while “Addicted, Pt. II” describes it in depth. “My Way” is the first track off his album, and Berishaj’s favorite because at this time in his life, in the future, and in the past, it’s the most autobiographical.
You know an album is good when long songs seem short. JMSN’s many five (plus) minute songs are timeless, you just sink into it. It’s easy and smooth listening, next thing you know your mom will be listening to it on the way to the market. Expect greatness to come from JMSN in the future. An artist that he would love to collaborate with is the Canadian electro and shoegaze artist Caribou. His New Year’s resolution is to date Charli XCX.
He’ll be touring the United States starting this January, you can see his tour here and check out his SoundCloud here.
David Cooper - Jenny Lewis with The Voyager
My favorite album of 2014 is Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager. I stumbled upon this album while browsing Spotify and decided to give it a chance. Upbeat yet vulnerable, Lewis opens herself up to her listeners with true honesty. Her mature lyrics reflect the album’s backstory; Lewis wrote most of the songs following the breakup of her previous band. She went through a deep, dark depression, but triumphantly arose to create The Voyager, a collection of catchy songs that are fully equipped with original musical ideas and common themes like love, loss, jealousy, and loneliness.
For Lewis, The Voyager is cathartic outlet. Thanks to production by Ryan Adams, the album is perfectly polished. The glossy guitar riffs come out clean and provide fantastic accompaniment for Lewis’ smooth, melodic vocals. Check out “You Can’t Outrun ‘Em” and “She’s Not Me” and pay attention to the subtleties to the rhythm guitar work. However, my favorite songs are “Head Underwater” and “Aloha & The Three Johns”. I just love relaxing to this album. In a time with so much electronic music, it’s refreshing to hear something organic with light production. Lewis really struck gold here and I’m sure I won’t stop listening to The Voyager in the new year.
Those are our 4 favorite albums from 2014! Check back in on Sunday for our favorite shows of the past year.