Best, Worst and Everything Else of 2014


2014 was surely a year. I heard a lot of great albums, I missed a lot more. Really, I missed a ton of albums this year, guys, really didn’t do my one job right. Over on the Filtered Lens I compiled two “official” reviewer’s Top 10 Songs and Albums lists, but here I’m going stretch out, take off my tie and be totally personal. Here’s the crap I liked:

Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year:

10. Andrew Jackson Jihad – “Christmas Island” (Review)
9. Tinashe – “Aquarius” (Review)
8. Future – “Honest” (Review)
7. Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels 2”
6. Pharmakon – “Bestial Burden” (Review)
5. Modern Baseball – “You’re Gonna Miss It All” (Review)
4. Interpol – “El Pintor” (Review)
3. the Menzingers – “Rented World” (Review)
2. White Lung – “Deep Fantasy” (Review)
1. St. Vincent – “St. Vincent” (Review)

(Honorable mentions: Lana Del Ray’s “Ultraviolence,” Parquet Courts’ “Sunbathing Animal,” Perfect Pussy’s “Say Yes to Love,” Lakutis’ “Three Seashells” and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s “Broken Bodies,” which originally sat at #7 until I decided an EP in a list of LP’s didn’t fit)

And now for tonight’s main event, my totally subjective, completely personal 30 Best Songs of the Year, regardless if they were singles or not:

30. FKA twigs – “Video Girl”
29. Andrew Jackson Jihad – “Temple Grandin”
28. Run the Jewels – “Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck) [feat. Zack de la Rocha]”
27. Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal” (Album Review)
26. Prince – “FUNKNROLL” (Album Review)
25. Foxygen – “How Can You Really” (Album Review)
24. Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”
23. Andrew Jackson Jihad – “Children of God”
22. Lakutis – “Too Ill For the Law” (Album Review)
21. Jeremih, YG – “Don’t Tell ‘Em”
20. The Creeping Ivies – “The Creeps” (Album Review)
19. White Lung – “I Believe You”
18. MisterWives – “Reflections” (EP Review)
17. Jessie J/Ariana Grande/Nicki Minaj – “Bang Bang”
16. Pharmakon – “Bestial Burden”
15. Beck – “Wave” (Album Review)
14. the Menzingers – “In Remission”
13. Phantogram – “Fall in Love”
12. Tinashe – “2 On (feat. ScHoolboy Q)”
11. Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
10. Sia – “Chandelier”
9. the Menzingers – “Rodent”
8. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
7. St. Vincent – “Rattlesnake”
6. Bruce Springsteen – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”
5. White Lung – “Drown With the Monster”
4. Phantogram – “Black Out Days”
3. Grimes – “Go (feat. Blood Diamonds)”
2. Future – “Move That Dope (feat. Pusha T, Pharrell, Casino)”
1. St. Vincent – “Birth in Reverse”

Here’s a link to a Spotify playlist of 29 of these songs (the Lakutis album “Three Seashells,” which has song #22, is not on Spotify)

And here’s thirty more songs I loved (but not enough to rank), in alphabetical order, by artist:

Aphex Twin – “180db_[130]”
Iggy Azalea – “Black Widow” (god, I’m sorry)
Beyonce/Jay-Z – “Drunk in Love”
Big Data – “Dangerous”
Bleachers – “I Wanna Get Better”
Cardinal Cardinal – “When I’m Not Alone”
Clean Bandit/Jess Glynne – “Rather Be”
DJ Snake/Lil’ Jon – “Turn Down For What”
Drake – “0 to 100/The Catch Up”
Foxygen – “Can’t Contextualize My Mind”
Ariana Grande/Iggy Azalea – “Problem”
Maroon 5 – “Maps”
the Menzingers – “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore”
Milky Chance – “Stolen Dance”
Modern Baseball – “Fine, Great”
Bob Mould – “I Don’t Know You Anymore”
the Orwells – “Who Needs You”
Parquet Courts – “Ducking & Dodging”
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “American Dream Plan B”
Shakira/Rihanna – “Can’t Remember to Forget You”
Sleeper Agent – “Waves”
St. Vincent – “Bring Me Your Loves”
Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
the World is a Beautiful Place and so on and so on – “If and When I Die”
You Blew It! – “Surf Wax America” (Weezer cover)


Best guest spot: 1) YG on Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em”
2) ScHoolboy Q on Tinashe’s “2 On”
3) Pusha T, Pharrell and Casino on Future’s “Move That Dope”

Worst guest spot: Eat the cake, anime

Best cover song: “Surf Wax America” – You Blew It!

Best two bands that are great but I still have a little trouble telling apart – You Blew It! and Modern Baseball

Most Irritating Song of the Year: 1) “Lazaretto” – Jack White
2) “Rude” – Magic! (sorry, I know that’s a big blow to the Canadian reggae scene)
3) “Animals” – Maroon 5

Best Person to Wish He Were Born in a Different Generation and For Us to All Agree: Jack White!

Best Jack White Album: The Black Keys – Turn Blue! Fight me.

Best Free U2 album: an illegally downloaded copy of “The Joshua Tree”

Best Classic Rock Album Overshadowed by U2: Tom Petty & the Heatbreaker’s “Hypnotic Eye.” Sorry, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and Bruce.

Best Prince: “Art Official Age”

Worst Prince: “Plectrumelectrum”

Best Death Grips Album: “Run the Jewels 2”

Worst Death Grips Album: “N****s on the Moon”

Best Unplugged Performance: Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Super Bowl

Worst Unplugged Performance: Probably any other Red Hot Chili Peppers performance

Best “Chinese Democracy”: Pink Floyd’s “The Endless River”

Best Adjective Mike: Killer Mike

Worst Adjective Mike: Fat Mike

Best Album That Made Most Reviewer’s Top 10 Lists That I Didn’t Listen to Because Ariel Pink is a Shithead: “pom pom” – Ariel Pink

Most Intentionally Terrifying Song: “Bestial Burden” – Pharmakon

Most Unintenionally Terrifying Song: “Lock the Door” – Robin Thicke

Best/Worst Song Titles: Aphex Twin

Best Band Name: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Worst Band Name: The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

A song that I would like to let you know exists: “Got Me Runnin’ Round,” a collaboration between Nickelback and Flo Rida. Seriously.

Potential albums to look forward to in 2015: Sleater-Kinney – “No Cities to Love” (1/20)
Two Gallants – “We Are Undone” (2/3)
Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear” (2/10)
Hot Sugar – “God’s Hand” (2/24)
Heems – “Eat Pray Thug” (3/3) (solo debut from the Das Racist frontman – keep an eye out for this one)
Modest Mouse – “Strangers to Ourselves” (3/3)
Madonna – “Rebel Heart” (3/10)
Wale – “The Album About Nothing” (3/31) (Yes, the collaborative album with Jerry Seinfeld)
Chance the Rapper – “Surf”
Death Grips – “the powers that b”
Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels 3” and “Meow the Jewels,” the cat version of “Run the Jewels 2”
2015 also might hold new albums from Kendrick Lamar, Sky Ferreira, Beyonce, Adele, Drake, Metz, Radiohead, Rihanna, Kanye, Deafheaven, Frank Ocean, Waxahatchee, and Giorgio Moroder’s first album since 1992, if we’re lucky.

See you with even more cynicisms next year!

-Andrew McNally

(PS – this is, by sheer coincidence, this blog’s 200th post!)

The Black Keys – “Turn Blue”

(Photo Credit:

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Weight of Love” “Bullet in the Brain”

The Black Keys either like to take corners, or listen to criticism. Their last two albums – “Brothers” and “El Camino” – were distinctly different from what they’d done previously, and both suffered from it. “Brothers” had some quality songs, but it was too long and stuffed with slower tracks. After they found it difficult to play them live, they wrote more upbeat songs for “El Camino,” but they were so focused on the quality that it didn’t seem like they enjoying themselves. “Turn Blue,” however, sees the duo having fun again, and balancing loose and polished.

The first track on “Turn Blue,” called “Weight of Love,” is just ten seconds shy of hitting the seven minute mark. This is pretty different for band who is known for a quick and heavy blues sound. (Look through the Keys prior albums, it’s rare to find a song over five minutes). But it sets the tone of the album. The song is sleepy and a little psychedelic, a drastic departure from the old Keys. It isn’t fast, it’s much more of an extended way to open an album. But Dan Auerbach sure sounds like he’s having fun. The song, as do a few others later, has a distinct classic rock feel to it. Though always resembling garage bands of the 60′s, the Keys have usually stayed away from a classic rock sound. But it gets embraced on “Turn Blue,” and it’s a surprisingly welcome shift. Even the album’s hypnotic cover shows an embrace of a more suspended sound.

The album also benefits from having Danger Mouse on board, producing. He worked on “El Camino,” too, but the relationship between him and the band is more equal. Though still a duo, the band has added distinct bass parts that make a much groovier sound. It’s most evident on the title track and the hit “Fever,” but it adds a fun element throughout.

The album’s only real fault is a handful of songs that still sound a little too prepared. “Year in Review” sounds a little too strained, a little too rehearsed. “It’s Up to You Now,” meanwhile, feels so loose it almost sounds improvised. It’s also possibly the album’s heaviest track, with a booming drum intro. It’s very enjoyable, reminiscent of early Black Keys. They recapture a little of their earlier sound in some of the other heavier songs, like “Bullet in the Brain.” While “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy” were heavy in their own right, they felt more directed towards songwriting. The guitar fuzz and the loud, crushing drumming are more ambitious here, less constrained to an album format.

“Turn Blue” has many things working for it. It’s more energetic than “Brothers,” it’s more open than “El Camino,” and it’s just as wide and heavy as “Attack & Release.” A welcome groove makes the album more fun than what we’re used to, without sacrificing any of the volume. And on songs like “Weight of Love” and closer “Gotta Get Away,” it’s easy to tell the band is having fun with the record. “Turn Blue” doesn’t quite stand up to “Attack & Release” and “Thickfreakness,” but it is definitely one of the band’s better records.

If you like this, try: Given that most of the bands that resemble the Black Keys are equally famous, I’ll recommend another fuzzy, bluesy duo – The Creeping Ivies.

-By Andrew McNally

The Creeping Ivies – “Ghost World”

(Photo Credit: bandcamp)

Grade: A

Key Tracks: “Ghost World” “The Creeps”

An immediate comparison between the Creeping Ivies and the Black Keys or the White Stripes might be unwarranted, but tough to ignore – the Creeping Ivies are a guitar and drums duo, making loud and fuzzy garage-blues-punk that calls back to their idols. But that’s only a jumping-off point, because the Creeping Ivies harken back to an entirely different era of music. “Ghost World,” their second full-length, sounds more like an album that would fit right in at a dark NY punk club in 1979.

The Scottish band – consisting of Becca Bomb and Duncan Destruction (real names, I’ll continue to pretend) – use bluesy-garage rock to channel some of the more inventive 80’s punk. Becca’s wide vocals dominate the album, often booming over the guitar and drums. It’s almost impossible not to be reminded of Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex and Exene Cervenka of X, two 80’s punk bands that often incorporated blues and jazz into their music. And like Styrene and Cervenka, Becca’s vocals determine the song, especially on trippier songs like the excellent “Ramona Wolf.” Alternately cool, standard and hollering, Becca’s vocals are disarmingly decisive, and go against the rather lackluster vocals of most other garage bands today.

While other blues-punk bands often use blues as the center of their music, the Creeping Ivies tend to gravitate more towards punk and, in the aftermath, volume. The garage and blues elements help to pump the songs up and differentiate them, but are background parts. Songs like “The Creeps” sound ripped out of a Cramps album, not from a garage somewhere in Tennessee. And it helps give the songs energy. Even if the album is bluesy, it isn’t moody or too into itself, like the Black Keys can sometimes get. Instead, it’s loud and fun, never taking itself too seriously.

So whether the Creeping Ivies would qualify more as “blues” or “punk” I think would go to the latter. Penultimate track “What Would Johnny Ramone Do?” brings forth angst about MTV and the radio while channeling, again, an idol. “Ghost World” packs a bigger punch than first expected, and sounds very original in the midst of some bands that are starting to sound too similar. It’s loud, fun, distorted, and over not too long after it begins. It’s an album for a couple different eras, as long as it’s turned up.

The album is available for streaming and purchase here. (Bandcamp has a money conversion)

If you like this, try: As mentioned, I was reminded of the Cramps, so the Cramps’ classic 1980 debut, “Songs the Lord Taught Us.”

-By Andrew McNally