We’re busy. You’re busy. We probably missed some of your favorite records this year. Here are a few of our under-the-radar favorites from 2014. Tell us yours!
The #1s: The Number Ones [Deranged Records]
The guff of these Irishmen! If you name your band AND your debut album “The #1s,” you’d best deliver. (See: Big Star’s “#1 Record.”) Guess what: they deliver. Ten punky power-popsicles with rowdy anthemic gang vocals and heartbroken lyrics that trace a strong lineage from The Undertones to The Figgs.
Warm Soda: Young Reckless Hearts [Castle Face Records]
The second album in as many years from the Austin-via-Oakland quartet fronted by Matthew Meltion [Bare Wires], Young Reckless Hearts is chock full of infectious power-pop odes to young love that rival anything in The Shoes’s classic discography. Get your swoon on just in time for Valentine’s Day. You can stream the entire thing via Noisey.
Haley Bonar: Last War [Graveface Records & Curiosities]
As NPR noted, this Midwestern US singer-songwriter’s fifth album is “so breezy and brief, so bright and agreeable” that it takes a few listens to absorb the “deeply ambivalent” lyrics. The songs are jangly cool, quietly anthemic, and smartly bittersweet. Bonus: her voice reminds us of Sam Phillips (the lady, not the Sun Records guy).
The Moles: Flashbacks and Dream Sequences: The Story of the Moles [Fire Records]
Led by Richard Davies [Cardinal], Australia’s The Moles began in the early ’90s as a criminally underrated psychedelic chamber pop band in the vein of The Bats and The Chills before morphing into a slightly more experimental solo project. This lovingly curated thirty-five-track box set collects everything by both incarnations and is highly recommended for fans of Guided By Voices, Pavement, Spacemen 3 and the Flying Nun label.
NRBQ: Brass Tacks [Clang! Records]
Founded in 1967. Roots in Western Massachusetts. Signed briefly to two major labels (no “hits”). Collaborated with “Captain” Lou Albano. Adored by Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan. What a weird awesome band. Founding member Terry Adams keeps the good-time twang-pop rolling, sounding like classic NRBQ, circa 1977.
Young Fathers: Dead [anticon]
The Scottish / West African hip-hop trio’s debut received heaps of critical praise when it was released back in February but it was still a bit of a shock when it (albeit deservedly) won the 2014 Mercury Prize over Damon Albarn, FKA Twigs et al. Blending avant-garde hip-hop, electronica, left field pop, African themes, Shangaan electro and a host of other sonic elements (including, at one point, synthesized bagpipes), the album manages to be both dizzyingly inventive and infectiously catchy. Perhaps no track epitomizes this more than lead single “Get Up”.
Jim Noir: Finnish Line [Jim Noir]
Do you like The Beatles’ last few albums? And The Beatles’ 1970s solo albums? And Badfinger? Yes? We’re pretty sure you’ll like this Manchester singer-songwriter’s fifth album of retro psych-rock. Uncut says: “Unashamedly retro, but the nostalgia comes with melodic nous, good humour and bags of rugged charm.”
Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath: Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath [Ubiquity Recordings]
Brownout are an eight-piece Austin, TX psych funk collective formed a decade ago by members of the Grammy-winning Latin revival orchestra Grupo Fantasma. On this, their fourth album, they brilliant re-imagine seven Black Sabbath classics as greasy, fuzzy, Afro-Latin funk workouts that retain the darkness and bombast of the originals. Ozzy himself, has called it “a lot of fun.” You can take a listen to their version of “Hand Of Doom,” featuring Alex Maas of The Black Angels on vocals, via Noisey.
Spring King: Demons EP [paradYse]
I’m a strong supporter of “faster = better.” Judging by these five songs, so is Spring King. The Manchester, UK band’s debut EP races past quickly with majestic choruses and youthful “let’s-go-nuts” garage-punk energy. To sum up the lyrics: Good riddance, let me help you, I’m haunted, you’re haunted but I’ll help you, let’s go fast.
Maurice Louca: Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot) [Nawa Recordings]
The utterly hypnotic second album from Cairo musician Maurice Louca is a highly complex take on Egyptian Shaabi music that incorporates elements of electronica, hip-hop, psychedelic rock, traditional Arabic music, jazz and improvisation. A fascinating cultural document from one of the world’s most fascinating cultural locales. Stream “Sharraq Rah Tegharrab (It Will Set)” via The Quietus.
Want more? Here’s last year’s list.