Welcome to my tenth annual “Best of” CD. Following the trend, the title is the German word for “2014.” There’s a pronunciation guide at the end- impress your friends!
This CD contains my favorite music discovered this year. This year my listening habits changed. I got a new job which led to fewer meetings and more time to do individual work while listening to music. My new office has a much faster Internet connection, so I streamed music using Spotify and Pandora. Freed from needing to buy music before listening, I listened to more new music than in the past. And new kinds of music as well, including dance, pop, dubstep, jazz, and country. My favorites still tend toward the comfortable, but you’ll see a few signs of different stuff leaking in.
1. Last Day of School
Boston, Life, Love & Hope (2013)
Boston? Yes, Boston. I have to admit, when I heard that there was a new Boston album out, I immediately had to listen to it. I also have to admit, it’s terrible in almost every way possible. Their lead singer has been dead for years- guitarist Tom Scholtz is trying to milk what he can at this point. One song sounds like it was a mixed by a high school music student. And not one with a passing grade… Hard to believe it’s the same guy who spent years producing (and over-producing) Boston’s earlier albums. I can only imagine that this instrumental was created in a different time period, because it’s quite good.
2. High Hopes
Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes (2014)
The title song from Springsteen’s latest kicks off the main part of this collection. High Hopes is my favorite release from Bruce in a number of years. New guitarist Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine) adds a needed spark. Recommended: The entire album, as well as a series of concerts from South Africa that the band performed in early 2014 (available on his website.)
Jack White, Lazaretto (2014)
Jack White (The White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) is one of my most respected musicians in the industry. This comes off his second solo album. Also recommended: Temporary Ground.
4. Let the Records Play
Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt (2013)
Every year I start the process of building my annual CD in October. I build a playlist with all the music I got in the last year, then repeatedly listen to it on shuffle, giving each song a thumbs up or a thumbs down. When I’ve exhausted the playlist I repeat the process with the “thumbs up” list, until I narrow it down to my absolute favorites. This track actually got a “thumbs down” until I noticed I was singing it to myself on a daily basis. Also recommended: Mind Your Manners.
5. At Night In Dreams
White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade (2013)
I’m not sure how to describe this album. It’s almost, but not quite, the sound of a jam band. I guess you’d call it country and blues influenced alternative jam rock. Or something. Also recommended: Distant Relative Salute.
6. Wake Me Up
Avicii, True (2013)
Now we start to veer into the weird stuff- or at least weird to me. Dorinna introduced me to Swedish DJ Avicii. Half folk rock, half dance, all interesting. Also recommended: You Make Me, Hey Brother, Dear Boy, Liar Liar.
7. Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites
Skrillex, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (2010)
Out of curiosity more than anything, I finally decided to listen to Skrillex. I’m not a big fan of this genre, but I did like this track. Also recommended: Yeah, no, not really.
8. Stars Align
Lindsey Stirling, Lindsey Sterling (2013)
Lindsey Stirling plays violin to dubstep beats, with music videos full of pixies, swords, and assorted fantasy motifs. That doesn’t sound promising, I know. Somehow this ended up as a Favorite Album of 2014. Why? Because with headphones on this became my work music of choice. Great energetic beats and no instrumentals gave me distraction-free energy.
9. Devotion to a Dream
Phish, Fuego (2014)
Like many Phish fans, I prefer live concerts to studio albums. But Fuego is an expertly-produced release that nails it. This is the only studio album worth listening to since 2000’s Farmhouse. In fact, Devotion to a Dream earns the title of Favorite Song of 2014. Also recommended: Sing Monica.
10. Talking Backwards
Real Estate, Atlas (2014)
AllMusic.com describes their music as “a subdued approach to guitar rock that stripped away all unnecessary clutter and presented their tuneful songs in a manner as attractive and steadfast as primary colors, spring days, comfort food, or any of life’s basic staples.” I call it mellow, relaxing, melodic. Also recommended: Had to Hear, Primitive.
11. Open Ended Life
Avett Brothers, Magpie and the Dandelion (2013)
Compared to last year’s The Carpenter, the latest release from the Avett Brothers is less obviously energetic and catchy. It’s more subtle, and Dorinna and I both found it rewarding with multiple listens.
12. You Go Down Smooth
Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits (2014)
You will be seeing this band again in 2015. After loving this song, I listened to the rest of the album after the cut-off for the 2014 collection. This band reminds me a lot of the Tedeschi Trucks band without the virtuosic solos.
13. Rattle My Bones
The Secret Sisters, Put Your Needle Down (2014)
I discovered the Secret Scissors back in 2011, when Big River was my favorite song of the year. I found them because Jack White played guitar on the song, but I like the group even without his guitar fire.
14. Kinks Shirt
Matt Nathanson, Last of the Great Pretenders (2013)
Matt Nathanson is an alternative pop artist who formerly appeared on my 2011 and 2012 collections.
15. Fault Lines
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye (2014)
I want to like Tom Petty more than I do. While I love his classic songs, as well as a live collection he put out in 2009 (see Friend of the Devil on my 2010 collection), most of his newer material strikes me as nondescript. This track, however, could have easily fit on one of his earlier releases. Good driving beat and memorable riffs. Also recommended: American Dream Plan B.
16. The Ghost of Tom Joad
Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes (2014)
This song was part of the album of the same name released in 1995. But that was before Tom Morello joined the band and you’ve never heard it like this before. Tom lets it rip in the last few minutes, shredding his way through a trademark staccato solo.
17. Good Luck, Good Night, Goodbye
The Secret Sisters, Put Your Needle Down (2014)
I can’t listen to this without both singing along and swinging back and forth. Fun!
Great Expectations (Acoustic)
- The Gaslight Anthem, The B-Sides (2014)
The Gaslight Anthem has appeared on these collections before. In fact, the original version of this song was the lead off track on Zweitausendneun. B-Sides was one of two albums that the Gaslight Anthem put out this year; the “regular” Get Hurt album didn’t do that much for me. The title B-Sides isn’t entirely accurate- it’s more a collection of covers (Pearl Jam, Rolling Stones) and acoustic renditions of existing songs. As Dorinna says, you can appreciate the lyrics more when the guitar fuzz is stripped away. While I was originally drawn to their more hard-rocking songs, it’s curious to note that the last two collections have ended with acoustic songs from the Gaslight Anthem.
To native English speakers, Zweitausendvierzehn looks intimidating, but it breaks down as follows:
- Zwei (2)- pronounced with an “s” sound, followed with “veye” (rhymes with eye), all packed into a single syllable
- tausend (1000)- pronounced like the English word “thousand”, replacing the “th” sound with a straight “t” sound (there’s no “th” sound in German)
- vier (3)- pronounced like the English word “fear” said with a strong Boston accent (“fee-ah”). Yes, that’s right. And that’s right, the “v” in German is pronounced like an “f” in English. So “Volkswagon” is pronounced like “Folkswagon.” And in case, you are wondering, yes– Fahrvegnugen it’s a real word.
- zehn (10)- pronounced like “czain”, with the “cz” from “czar.” German has a habit of switching the last two digits of their numbers- for example, “twenty-four” in English becomes “four-twenty” in German. It’s used to make my head hurt. But then Nate’s kindergarten (oops- another German word) teacher told us that her kids struggle with the numbers 13-19. Think about it…
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