Tom’s Top 10 of 2014, Pt. 1

In December 2013, as regular readers may recall, I decided to catch up on the state of contemporary music by listening to and reviewing an album every day for a month. My listening in 2014 was more evenly spread out over the course of the year, so that by New Year’s Eve, I had heard about the same number of new albums released in the previous year (that is, 50 or 60). And I have to say, 2014 was a much less exciting year for music than was 2013 for me. Perhaps it’s because there was no Random Access Memories to join the ranks of Tom’s Favorite Albums Ever Made this year. Or perhaps it’s because my 2014 was so personally and relationally turbulent that my listening was dominated by comforting and/or cathartic favorites like Bruce Springsteen, Nick Drake, and Jackson Browne. All that said, however, this year still saw some fine releases. So let’s dig in and see what 2014 had to offer…

10. KORP SOLE ROLLER (Liam Hayes)

2014 was the year I fully indulged my long-standing predilection for power pop – moving to the San Francisco Bay, where stellar local acts abound, certainly didn’t hurt. That’s how I discovered Chicago-based Liam Hayes’ relentlessly tuneful pop/rock classicism. These lushly arranged gems evoke all things Beatles-esque, but nothing so much as the encyclopedic songcraft and maverick wit and weirdness of Todd Rundgren. HIGHLIGHTS: “The Sane Society,” “A Glimpse Inside,” “Rosita”

9. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT (Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings)

When Sharon Jones belts “If you know what’s good for you, retreat!” on album opener “Retreat,” she could just as easily be singing to a hapless lover or to the bile duct cancer with which she was diagnosed prior to the record’s release. Either way, it’s the perfect entree into Ms. Jones and the Dap-Kings’ sassy, classy, classic R&B sound. Slot these tracks into a playlist alongside Otis Redding and Mavis Staples and they’ll sound right at home. HIGHLIGHTS: “Retreat,” “People Don’t Get What They Deserve,” “Now I See”

8. THE VOYAGER (Jenny Lewis)

Last year, I half-predicted, on the strength of Haim’s debut Days Are Gone, that late 70s soft rock a la Fleetwood Mac would make a comeback in the coming year. The Voyager isn’t the giddy throwback that that album was. But its Californian melodicism and glossy studio sheen frequently call Mses. Mcvie & Nicks to mind – lso the Bangles and the Go-Go’s in those ringing guitars and backing harmonies. But Lewis’s wit, her emotional honesty, and her lyrical gift are all her own. HIGHLIGHTS: “Just One of the Guys,” “New You,” “Late Bloomer”

7. THE SOUL OF ALL NATURAL THINGS (Linda Perhacs)

Few may have expected a new Pink Floyd album this year, but even fewer expected a new Linda Perhacs album. After all, 44 years was a long time wait for a follow-up to Perhacs’ cult folk classic Parallelograms (1970). (In the meantime, she kept her day job as a dental hygienist.) But a literal lifetime later, the gentle, genuine hippie spirit of Perhacs’ first album is wholly intact on The Soul of All Natural Things. And that might just be the most unexpected–and delightful–thing of all. HIGHLIGHTS: “River of God,” “Prisms of Glass,” “When Things Are True Again”

6. HIGH HOPES (Bruce Springsteen)

The Boss has never worked linearly – a song intended for one project often ends up waiting years for a proper release. So sure the two best cuts here are reworkings of a longtime concert favorite and a 20-year-old Springsteen classic, and sure there are a couple of covers, which is hardly usual for Springsteen. But don’t believe those who would brush off High Hopes as an odds n’ sods patchwork – this is as much a proper Springsteen album as, say, The Rising. And even Springsteen’s so-called “odds n’ sods” are better than most people’s A-game (see: Tracks, The Promise). HIGHLIGHTS: “American Skin (41 Shots),” “Frankie Fell in Love,” “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

Click here for Pt. 2!

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One Response to Tom’s Top 10 of 2014, Pt. 1

  1. Pingback: Tom’s Top 10 of 2014, Pt. 2 | Revolutions Per Minute

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