On Twitter yesterday, I excitedly noted that my best albums of 2014 project was finally complete. Well, it is. But I wanted to get out a few more odds/ends/recommendations/whatever you’ll call them. The last time I did a “best of” list in 2011, I included a few honorable mentions that I wasn’t able to include for some reason. This time around, I’ll do the same, but before that, a little background on how I put it all together. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, my list expanded greatly this time around because thanks to Spotify and everything, I was able to check out virtually any album I was considering for my list, and listen to it more than once as needed. I ended up seeking out a lot of music (“I wonder if so-and-so’s released something lately?”), finding out about it as I went (“Vince Mendoza got nominated for another Grammy? For Mary Chapin Carpenter? Gotta check that out…”), etc., and even though I initially planned for a list of about 20 or so, much like my 2011 one, the number ended up skyrocketing to 40. Even with so many more albums I highlighted this year than before, a few got left out of the list. I considered making it some weird number again (my 2011 list ended up being 21 albums due to a late-breaking addition), but decided to cap it at 40 no matter what, and shuffle albums in and out if I needed to.
One album that got knocked out of the list at the last minute (I mentioned this in my post yesterday) was “No One Is Lost” by Stars. My roommate last semester had recommended to them to me (they’re a Canadian group, and he’s from Canada), and I took a good listen in particular to “No One Is Lost,” since it had been released in 2014. I really liked it, but I hadn’t listened to it too much, and when “Round Nina” came along, it took the place of “No One Is Lost.” Another honorable mention that was originally in the list is “Lost In The Dream” by the War on Drugs. It was kind of borderline throughout the whole process…I’ve realized it’s more an album I appreciate than I enjoy. Some of the songs just seem to overstay their welcome…I don’t know. But it’s definitely a quality piece of work, and I would have liked to highlight it on my list. The last honorable mention I’d like to make is one I’m sure you’re very familiar with…“1989” by Taylor Swift. This one was partly because I didn’t get to sit down and listen to the album in full, with headphones and all (this was my general rule for picking an album for the list) until after the list was finalized (this year, in fact). Another reason I decided not to include it was because of its unavailability on streaming services, a decision I don’t quite agree with (and may still write about on this blog in the near-future, if I can gather my thoughts well enough). Now that I have been able to listen to it, I do really like the album, but I’m fine that it wasn’t included with the 40 that I posted.
Now, onto the main reason I made this here little post. In addition to the 40 albums I selected, here are four extended-plays released in 2014 that I thought were some of the best of the year.
Flannel Graph — Ribs of Adam
An admission…I had this on my albums list for the longest time, until I realized it only had 7 songs and thus should be classified as an EP, not a full album. I hadn’t heard of Flannel Graph, a Montana-based indie-folk duo, until last semester of school, when one or two of my roommates (this is a theme that keeps popping up…they can be very helpful with music recommendations) started listening to them, then I started listening to them, and fell in (musical) love. Funded by an ultimately successful Kickstarter campaign, this 7-song set is full of absolutely gorgeous vocals and songcraft. Taking on themes of heartbreak and longing, but also the joy and beauty of being in love, this EP simpy begs for repeat listening. (My roommates certainly had it on repeat throughout the semester…) I can’t wait for what Flannel Graph has in store next. (And if it takes another Kickstarter campaign to get there, chances are I’ll be happily on board.)
Charlotte Church — Four
The last time you probably heard of Charlotte Church, she was the Welsh preteen with the otherworldly voice that liked to sing classical crossover. In the years since that time (we’re talking late 90s/early 2000s), she’s done quite a bit of growing up, especially musically. First she tried out a pop-influenced album, “Tissues and Issues.” She stripped things down a bit for her long-delayed follow-up, “Back To Scratch,” but label troubles meant that album never made it out of her native UK (she’s from Wales). Now she’s recently started an EP series and gone decidedly indie, carving out her own musical landscape, and the results are riveting. This is the fourth entry in the series (out of a planned five), and I’d argue it’s the best of the bunch so far. You can’t quite put your finger on what kind of music she’s making, but you don’t really need to. Her voice is as strong as ever, yet she uses it in very different ways than she has before (including an intriguing jaunt into vocoders for the daring, infectious single “Little Movements”). This is most certainly not the Charlotte Church of before…she’s experimenting, exploring, and making truly different, but nonetheless outstanding, music. If it’s been a while since you’ve had your Church fix, now’s the time to become reacquainted with her again.
Mormon Tabernacle Choir — He Is Risen
This year, the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, instead of releasing a full album, opted for an Easter-themed EP as their non-Christmas release (they always release a recording on CD and DVD of their previous year’s holiday concert), and while there may be less songs on this EP than there are on an LP, there’s certainly not any less quality. Featuring 5 selections ranging from beloved hymns such as “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today” and “In The Garden” to classical selections like an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah,” this is a beautiful way to celebrate the Savior’s life through music, not only around Easter time, but the whole year round. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (along with the accompanying Orchestra at Temple Square) is quite simply as good as it gets when it comes to music, especially choral music, and this is yet another outstanding release from them.
Pentatonix — PTX Vol. III
I’ve certainly made no secret on this blog that I’m a huge fan of Pentatonix. I noted recently how they’ve exploded in popularity in the 2 years I was gone, and this, their latest EP, is a prime example of just why they’re now so universally beloved. This is the best a cappella music there is out there. I feel quite comfortable making that kind of a statement. Endlessly inventive in their arrangements and production, yet heart-stoppingly authentic and real in their execution, Pentatonix is in top form, featuring an irresistible mix of covers (including some lesser-known fare like “Papaoutai” by Stromae) and exceptionally strong original compositions. If you’ve avoided the Pentatonix juggernaut until now, or you’re already a huge fan like me, you’ve just got to listen to this. It really can’t get much better.
Enjoy this playlist based on these 4 EPs (“He Is Risen” sadly cannot be included because it is not available on Spotify):
I’ll close with another thank you, and also a fun (final) fact about my Best Albums of 2014 this year: 6 artists appeared both on this list and the one in 2011. (Coldplay, Foster the People, Ben Sollee, Elbow, Ximena Sariñana, and Sondre Lerche are the repeat offenders.) I’m weird and I notice things like that. Anyhow, thanks as always for reading, and I’ll be back soon with more, as always.