BEST ALBUMS of 2014: INTRODUCTION
Things are about to get KA-RAZY. It’s music month folks, be merry(like Christmas) and sit back as I kill myself for your reading pleasure.
This year, we at Totally Unapologetic are giving you our most expansive music breakdown ever in one of the most lackluster years of new music that I can remember. Lets be honest, the good music of 2014 was not as easy to find as it was in previous years. Maybe we had it too good last year, right? Nick pointed out to me that last year was so stacked that I had the Arctic Monkeys’ record, AM, at #14. I need answers, reasons! Something to make me feel better about feeling bad about this year. Has music changed? Is it starting to become less thrilling and ambitious?
Or is it just me thats changing? I recall once hearing director Derek Cianfrance say that when he goes back and watches his favorite movies, they seem to change as he gets older. He claims that it isn’t that the movies are changing, it’s him thats changing. That really made me think about how I perceive things as I get older. A prime example is a moment that occurred to me this summer when Nick and I attended Governors Ball for the day to specifically see Jack White. At the time, I knew the Strokes would be playing before Jack White, but I kind of had little care for it. The Strokes were a band that I really loved when I was 17 and first began plucking every major modern rock album I had ever read about. It was a period of which I began to take music for what it was instead of letting outside opinion/influence alter what I think. I remember two albums really beginning the journey that has lead me to where I am now. Those albums were The Strokes debut Is This It and the White Stripes’ third album, White Blood Cells. At the time, I had never really heard albums like those before. They didn’t have any of the songs that I heard from the radio. I didn’t listen to them skipping ahead for the “radio hits”, I listened to them as if every song was just a part of the big picture being painted. Sure, these bands got exposure on MTV, but no exposure from within my house. My brothers were the ones hogging the remote/stereo (I have brothers that are 14 and 7 years apart from me, mind you). There never was any mention of the Strokes and the White Stripes while sitting around talking music at my house. All I knew/liked was what they wanted to listen to(MTV Jams, VH1). Though this proved detrimental me developing my own musical opinion, I will say that my knowledge of the music of the 1980s is a little scary. So, thanks Rick and Lex, but other times it’s a drag being a little brother. Once I hit high school and got my own computer I began to develop my own taste. A late bloomer, but a bloomer nonetheless. This was the first time I could truly own music that hadn’t been a hand me down. Did that mean I necessarily understood it? No, but it was a start.
A lot of people go through this sort of stuff in their teenage years. I was no different. I spent hours upon hours downloading album after album after album. Learning more and more about different sounds, genres and stories. This all began with Is This It, and White Blood Cells. Fast forward almost five years later, and I find myself getting ready to see The Strokes and Jack White back to back. I wasn’t necessarily excited about seeing the Strokes because it wasn’t like I had grown out of that phase, but I had just moved on from them, or maybe I was too young to appreciate/understand them. Their Governors Ball set was their second show in three years, and it was happening in the place that birthed ’em, New York City. The crowd was tense, the Strokes were 30 minutes late, I was already physically and psychologically drained at that point having been running off no sleep. But somehow, in their one hour set, they absolutely were the performance of the night. Jack White may have the better performance altogether but it was the Strokes connection with the New York crowd that really spoke to me. Even when the band had tried their hardest to mail it in, the adoration of the many New Yorkers couldn’t bring them to fail. This connection reminded me just how much I loved them.
For the rest of the summer I spent hours on end listening to Is This It, like old times.This time it all felt very different to me. I understood the lyrics more, I appreciated the songwriting, the guitar work, the awesome chemistry from a five piece that “works hard and says its easy”. When you’re young you like it because many of the riffs and melodies get stuck in your head. At 21, I enjoy it even more because there’s so much more than stands out to me. It’s a much more serious, saddening and relatable record than I had perceived it to be four or five years ago. And it’s not because the music has changed, it’s because I have. I think that’s what I’m getting at here. Maybe at this moment, the music of 2014 may seem lackluster to me or you, but maybe when we get older or things begin to change us. Maybe our opinions may change too.
This makes me think of the line in the Smashing Pumpkins song, “Tonight, Tonight”, where Billy Corgan sings “the more you change, the less you feel”. I’ve been thinking about that line now more than I ever have. Was Billy right? Maybe the more you change the more you feel emotions toward certain things in life and the less you feel towards others. Maybe my appetite is crossing over into new territory. I don’t know. Like I said, 2014 was weird.
While I may not have as many albums on the list this year(20) as in previous years (40 in 2012, 30 in 2013) I feel like compiling the list this year was as difficult as it’s ever been, and I mean that in a good way. While I may be dealing with some type of conflict within myself or maybe the lack of great work is to blame, I just know that these 20 albums made me feel something. Isn’t that what great music, or art, is all about? It’s about evoking some kind of reaction that makes us hot/cold, sad/happy, etc. I don’t really have the answers here. Neither does anyone else. We’re all just kind of figuring it all out, one song, one album and one moment at a time.