I purchased ten albums/extended plays released in 2014, and here’s my ranking.
1. The Black Keys – True Blue
This album reminds me of the kind of albums that were released in the 1970s, with an unstructured and relaxed vibe on many of the songs including the outstanding lead track “Weight of Love.” Excellent mix of guitar, drums, keyboards, and bass in roughly equal measure.
2. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
I really liked Dave Grohl’s 2013 Sound City film and soundtrack and Sonic Highways continues the musical exporation as an official Foo Fighters record. The HBO series was really fascinating and at times moving, and the musical tracks on this album are outstanding as well. The light keyboard touches are new for the band and a series of guest musicians made an impact too. None of those guests were better than Joe Walsh who’s killer solo on “Outside” might be the best guitar solo in years.
3. Charli XCX – Sucker
Had this been released earlier in the year it might have been number one. I really dig Charli’s whole thing, including her punkish F-you attitude. I wish more “pop” had the kind of analog instrumentation present on Sucker, including great use of guitars.
4. Ixhahuele – Mareld EP
This was a three-track EP from the Exotica group, following up their 2013 album debut (which was my number one album last year). Mareld is more of a “Les Baxter Exotica” than a “Martin Denny Exotica” record but the results are equally great. “But, Kevin, only three tracks. No wonder it’s high on your list.” To which I would say the EP is penalized on my list for only having those three tracks. This is a killer record.
5. U2 – Songs of the Innocence
So good I bought the CD with extra tracks even though Bono and Tim Cook were kind enough to provide it to me for free. Great stuff.
6. Pink Floyd – The Endless River
Surprisingly interesting and effective album of mostly instrumentals, including the bonus track “Nervana.” I loved Floyd’s ’94 effort The Division Bell and the material taken from those sessions is really good.
7. Foster the People – Supermodel
I thought there were some killer songs including my personal favorite, “Pseudologia Fantastica.” I am still liking what Mark Foster and company are selling.
8. Interpol – El Pintor
I skipped the group’s last album in 2010 but El Pintor definitely had a number of great tracks and proves there’s still live to Post-Punk Revival.
9. AC/DC – Rock or Bust
Sounds just like their last album, and the one before that and the one before that. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Great riffs, but no song hooks that transcended the bluesy hard rock.
10. Stolen Idols – Midnight Offerings
Another modern Exotica group, with Jazz leanings that aren’t always my thing but overall the album was a good purchase. The Baxter covers of “Busy Port” and “Sophisticated Savage” done in a jazzy piano style were well done.