Hard to believe that one-third of 2014 is already done and dusted. Time flies when you're up to your ears in an ever-rising tide of indie music releases.
With four whole months of 2014 gone, it struck me as be long overdue for a survey of the very best music to be turned out this here year.
Meaning: a list! A list of all the awesome albums that've struck heartstrings and stuck with me this year; from the wild fun of Tune-Yards (pictured!) and Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, to the contemplative sorrows of Sun Kil Moon and Angel Olsen.
So, here they are, my friends: the best of the best. The Top 20 Albums of 2014 So Far...
Photo © Holly Andres
Album: Nikki Nack
Release Date: May 6, 2014
On her third Tune-Yards LP, Merrill Garbus makes a masterwork out of dealing with self-doubts, mounting expectations, and the limits of self-expression.
"Oh my God I use my lungs!" Merrill Garbus hollers, mid song-of-the-year contender "The Real Thing," the dame behind Tune-Yards giving her thanks ("Bless my lungs! Bless my lungs!") for being able to sing. It's the standout song on her remarkable third album, Nikki Nack, an anthem that at once manages to be ironic ("Glory, glory, it's good to be me!" she snarks) yet entirely inspiring. It's a song that finds Garbus feeling self-conscious, grappling with the extremes of her reputation, be it conquering indie queen ("perched atop my drumming throne") or hype act to be teared down by trolls ("ugly but pretty overrated").
Yet as Garbus matches sentiments of global politics and body politics over one of her most thumping, insistent jams, her self-mockery only makes her seem more worthy of admiration. The fact that she 'fesses to American-abroad shame ("I come from the land of slaves! Let's go Redskins! Let's go Braves!") on an album that borrows from Haitian and Swahili folksong is an answer to one pertinent criticism; the fact that she's willing to stage a dialogue with notions of authenticity making her seem more authentic —more singular— than ever...
Read the full review: Tune-Yards, Nikki Nack
The first single from the record, "Klapp Klapp," is a plenty-promising taste of Nabuma Rubberband. And Little Dragon recently knocked out a killer version of it live on Letterman.
Little Dragon will be performing at Coachella in 2014, and will soon unveil a host of tour dates.
Nabuma Rubberband Track List:
2. "Klapp Klapp"
3. "Pretty Girls"
5. "Cat Rider"
8. "Nabuma Rubberband"
9. "Only One"
10. "Killing Me"
11. "Pink Cloud"
12. "Let Go"
Photo © Marco van Rijt
The first single, the blistering "Water Fountain," is already out in the world. And as a taster for the whole record, there's the Nikki Nack mega-mix.
The album marks the follow-up to Tune-Yards' 2011 breakout record Whokill, and finds Garbus furthering Tune-Yards signature sound. Nikki Nack is a big, brassy, utter blast of a record; alternately strange and comforting. "Water Fountain" is great, but "Real Thing" has jam-of-the-summer potential; and the whole album is a very early contender of Best Album of 2014.
Nikki Nack Track List:
1. "Find A New Way"
2. "Water Fountain"
3. "Time Of Dark"
4. "Real Thing"
5. "Look Around"
6. "Hey Life"
8. "Why Do We Dine On The Tots?"
9. "Stop That Man"
10. "Wait For A Minute"
11. "Left Behind"
12. "Rocking Chair"
Photo © Holly Andres
WIth thousands of bands in town and shows crammed in every inch of downtown, SXSW is a crazy proposition, and navigating the madness can be onerous.
If you're struggling making sense of the endless options, here's a handy tip-sheet: a whole run of SXSW day parties and showcases that've assembled brilliant bills. From Pitchfork and Stereogum to the Secretly Canadian, here's a run of sweet shows, with multiple appearances by buzzy acts like psychedelic Brazilian sweethearts Boogarins, '90s-indie-rock loyalists Speedy Ortiz, and honey-voiced songwriter Angel Olsen (pictured!).
Let this be your guide: it's a list of 10 Awesome Shows at SXSW 2014...
Photo © Zia Anger
Some people see the mania of SXSW as the worst place to watch bands, but I take the opposite opinion: here, bands have to think on their feet, inhabit the moment, create a vibe where they may, and, well, kind of be dragged down a few notches. At regular shows, the stage can often feel like a pedestal; here, well, sometimes there aren't even stages. You're not watching a concert spectacular, just bands playing show (after show after show).
With the blogosphere about to descend upon Austin en masse, there's a bunch of bands who're peaking at the right time: piquing interest with well-time singles, soon-to-arrive albums, or some fortuitous buzz. From Nothing to Protomartyr (pictured!), Glass Animals to Your Friend, here's 10 Last-Minute Picks for SXSW 2014...
Photo © Angel Ceballos
Are We There marks the follow-up to 2012's Tramp, an album that built on the buzz from 2010's Epic, leading to Van Etten to become one of 2012's breakout acts.
The first single, "Taking Chances," is out in the world, and there's an Are We There album trailer to boot. Van Etten already has a host of tour dates lined up, too...
Are We There Track List:
1. "Afraid of Nothing"
2. "Taking Chances"
3. "Your Love Is Killing Me"
4. "Our Love"
6. "I Love You But I'm Lost"
7. "You Know Me Well"
8. "Break Me"
9. "Nothing Will Change"
10. "I Know"
11. "Every Time the Sun Comes Up"
Tell Me Not To Trip:
May 8: Northampton, MA - Iron Horse Music Hall
May 9: Hudson, NY - Helsinki Hudson
May 10: Providence, RI - Columbus Theatre
May 11: Hamden, CT - Ballroom at the Outer Space
May 25: Brussels, Belgium - Botanique Grand Salon
May 28: Paris, France - Café de la Danse
May 30: Barcelona, Spain - Primavera Sound
June 1: Koln, Germany - Studio 672
June 2: Berlin, Germany - Privatclub
June 3: Amsterdam, Netherlands - Bitterzoet
June 5: London, England - KOKO
June 11: Boston, MA - Sinclair
June 12: Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall at Williamsburg
June 13-14: New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
June 17: Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
June 18: Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer
June 19: Millvale, PA - Mr. Small's
June 20: Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
June 21: Nashville, TN - Exit In
June 24: Denver, CO - Bluebird Theater
June 25: Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge
June 28: Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theatre
June 29-30: San Francisco, CA - The Independent
July 2-3: Portland, OR - Doug Fir
July 5: George, WA - Sasquatch Festival
July 6: Vancouver, BC - Rickshaw Theatre
July 8: Calgary, AB - Republik
July 9: Edmonton, AB - Starlite Room
July 14: Fargo, ND - Aquarium
July 16: Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
July 17: Madison, WI - University of Wisconsin
July 18: Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Music Festival
Photo © Dusdin Condren
It's his second full-length under his own name, following 2009's brilliant Heartland, a fantasy opus that marked Pallett's continuation from his days as Final Fantasy.
Pallett recorded In Conflict with his live-band musicians, Robbie Gordon and Matt Smith, and drew contributions from both Brian Eno and the Czech FILMharmonic Orchestra. You can get a teasin' taste of the record thanks to the obligatory In Conflict album trailer .
Pallett has a handful of carefully-curated live dates on the horizon.
In Conflict Track List:
1. "I Am Not Afraid"
2. "In Conflict"
3. "On A Path"
4. "Song For Five & Six"
5. "The Secret Seven"
7. "The Passions"
8. "The Sky Behind The Flag"
9. "---> (1)"
10. "The Riverbed"
11. "Infernal Fantasy"
12. "Soldiers Rock"
13. "---> (2)"
Strung Out On the Highway:
May 13: Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands
May 14: New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
May 15: Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
May 17: Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
May 21: London, England - Oval Space
May 23: Paris, France - La Maroquinerie
May 25: Berlin, Germany - Volksbhune
May 27: Lisbon, Portugal - Lux
On his breakout 2012 LP, 2, DeMarco showed himself to be the new master of bro'd-out slacker rock; songs like "My Kind of Woman" and "Freaking Out the Neighborhood" showing a keen mix of sincerity and comedy.
The first single from Salad Days is "Passing Out Pieces," a noisy, new-wavey jam that marks a stylistic shift for the 23-year-old.
Salad Days Track List:
1. "Salad Days"
2. "Blue Boy"
4. "Let Her Go"
5. "Goodbye Weekend"
6. "Let My Baby Stay"
7. "Passing Out Pieces"
8. "Treat Her Better"
9. "Chamber Of Reflection"
10. "Go Easy"
11. "Jonny's Odyssey"
When Life Moves This Slowly:
March 14: Santiago, Chile - Ex OZ
March 15: Buenos Aires Argentina - Vorterix
March 19: São Paulo, Brazil - TBA
March 20: São Paulo, Brazil - TBA
March 21: Porto Alegre, Brazil - Beco 203
March 23: Santa Ana, CA - Burgerama
March 31: Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
April 1: Oberlin, OH - Dionysus Club
April 2: Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
April 3: Detroit, MI - Magic Stick
April 4: Wakefield, QC -Blacksheep
April 5: Sherbrooke, QC - Boquébierè
April 6: Montréal, QC - Societe des Arts Technologiques
April 7: Cambridge, MA - Middle East Downstairs
April 9: New York, NY - Webster Hall
April 10: Durham, NC - Duke University Coffeehouse
April 11: Atlanta, GA - Goat Farm Arts Center
April 12: Baton Rouge, LA - Mud and Water
April 13: Austin, TX - Mohawk Outside
April 14: Fort Worth, TX - Lola's Saloon
April 15: Oxford, MS - Proud Larry's
April 16: Nashville, TN - Exit / In
April 17: Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle Tavern
April 18: Philadelphia, PA - Underground Arts
April 25: New Orleans, LA - Tulane University
April 26: Bronxville, NY- Sarah Lawrence College
May 15: Amsterdam, Netherlands - Melkweg
May 16: Paris, France - Trabendo
May 17: Nantes, France - Stereolux
May 18: Brussels, Belgium - Botanical Cultural Center
May 19: Brighton, England - The Old Market
May 20: Glasgow, Scotland - Mono
May 21: Manchester, England - Sound Control
May 22: London, England - Koko
May 23: Cologne, Germany - E Werks
May 24: Berlin, Germany - Bi Nuu
June 20-21: Toronto, ON - NXNE Festival
Photo © Danny Cohen
It's called Enter the Slasher House, and the first single from it, "Little Fang," is instantly one of the songs of 2014, a wild riot of manic energy that will delight any Animal Collective fan.
Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks finds Portner on guitar/vocals, with former Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian on keyboards, and ex-Ponytail drummer (and recurring Dan Deacon collaborateur) Jeremy Hyman behind the kit. Portner dubs, drolly, them his "jazz power trio," and expectations for their debut LP and first run of tour dates just went through the roof.
Enter the Slasher House Track List:
1. "A Sender"
2. "Duplex Trip"
3. "Blind Babe"
4. "Little Fang"
5. "Catchy (Was Contagious)"
6. "That It Won't Grow"
7. "The Outlaw"
8. "Roses On the Window"
9. "Modern Days E"
10. "Strange Colores"
11. "Your Card"
April 17: Madison, WI - Majestic Theatre
April 18: Ann Arbor, MI - The Blind Pig
April 19: Toronto, ON - Lee's Palace
April 21: New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
April 22: Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
April 24: Philadelphia, PA - Johnny's Brenda
April 25: Washington, DC - U Street Music Hall
April 26-27: Asheville, NC - Moogfest
April 28: Columbus, OH - Ace of Cups
April 29: Exit In - Nashville, TN
April 30: Atlanta, GA - Masquerade
May 2: New Orleans, LA - Parish at House of Blues
May 3-4: Austin, TX - Austin Psych Fest
Photo © Atiba Jefferson