[Leanne Cushing is a contributing editor at Punknews.org]
My name is Leanne Cushing and Iâ€™m a news editor here at Punknews. 2014 was more of a â€œbest ofâ€ moments and shows that come to mind but I was able to scrounge up my Top 10 albums to add to the mix.
This breakup album is great to listen to when you have a case of the feels. The album as a whole plays through beautifully and without any low points. I love the melodies, carrying bass lines and Wilâ€™s shouting. Some of the pictures painted within the lyrics can be felt down to the bone. Personal highlights are: â€œCalgary Girls,â€ â€œSurrey Diveâ€ and â€œThe Arrogance of the Drunk Pedestrian.â€
This album is pop-rock; not just in genre but in the means of musical ear candy. Each song stands on its own, as does the album as a whole. These young Boston boys have been turning heads in the past two years; a support tour with Modern Baseball and a spot on Riot Fest and more recently signing to No Sleep Records. If I was still in high school, thereâ€™s a good chance that Somos would be my favorite band. Honest, sweet anthems with catchy guitar melodies and distinct vocals of Michael Fiorentino have this band on an upwards trajectory. â€œStrangest Exampleâ€ is a showcase song for this album: sweet lyrics, beautiful melodies and incredible production to balance each element.
Sharon Van Ettenâ€™s fourth full release did a bit of chart climbing this year. The singer-songwriterâ€™s last album, Tramp, is a favorite released in the past couple years and Are We There serves up more of the bluesy, beautiful songs that hit the feels hard.
Hooray For Earth: RACY
This New York-based indie outfit has sadly called it as a band. The good thing is before they broke up, they produced RACY. â€œSay Enoughâ€ would have been a regular play on the college indie rock show I once had. While it is the stuff for Sprint and Apple commercials alike, a well-constructed dance-y, happy album is a good thing to have in the mix. The album was one of my favorites produced this year and satisfies that need to hear synthesizers once in a while.
Little Big Leagueâ€™s sophomore album steps more into the indie rock scene with less screaming from frontwoman Michelle Zauner, but more beautiful melodies. Michelle exposes some old wounds in her lyrics. The lyrics in â€œProperty Lineâ€ and â€œIn Airâ€ are particularly breathtaking.
I fell in love with Cayetana after their first EP demo came out on Bandcamp. Since 2012, these Philly ladies have been making waves. The warbling sincerity that Augusta Koch delivers makes it hard to not empathize with the situations or emotions laid out in the lyrics. â€œSerious Things Are Stupidâ€ felt like a personal anthem (along with a few others) all the while having a toe-tapping lo-fi sound.
While Against Me!â€™s Transgender Dysphoria Blues was an early 2014 release, I feel like it is the most influential of the year. Laura Jane Grace has always delivered her heart into her albums and bringing this album to the surface is beautiful. Controversial topics are always something punk music strives to address but I canâ€™t recall a release that does it quite in this way. Pre-released song â€œBlack Me Outâ€ and heartfelt songs like â€œMy Dead Friendâ€ and â€œTwo Coffinsâ€ pull as instant favorites while some, like â€œDrinking with the Jocks,â€ help keep non-lyric lovers (say, most of the Boston AM! fans) roped in.
As a recovering shoegaze and post-rock kid, Keep You has enough lyrics to push out the old Explosions In the Sky records and listen to this on repeat. This album was a great release for the fall; the melodies and emo lyrics greet the northeast cold with empty, open arms.
Strand of Oaks: Heal
Philly-based band Strand of Oaks has been making strides with the release of Heal. This album has been a refreshing find for me, and it's been exciting seeing the band grow while having just completed a giant US and Europe tour (with a special appearance on Seth Meyers). There is a sentimental, semi-short fiction style in the lyrics that paint pictures of beautiful memories lived and reflections resolved. Heal makes me want nothing more than to hear the life stories of band frontman Timothy Showalter. Noteworthy tracks include â€œGoshen â€˜97,â€ â€œJMâ€ and â€œPlymouth.â€
Like the previous self-titled and LP2 before it, Restorations continues to be a hard to classify band that takes every album as a new opportunity to push the envelope. While I adore the catchy melodies to heartfelt lyrics and raspy voice of Jon Loudon, every song on this album isnâ€™t driven by just that. The bass lines, organ overtones, layered guitar and backup harmonies are what balance the album and makes it repeatable for hundreds (literally, hundreds) of spins.
While this list doesnâ€™t show even a quarter of the music I consumed this year, these are the highlights. When recalling favorite music in 2014, live shows surface faster than the extensive hours of albums played per day but a â€œYou Had to Be Thereâ€ top 10 list is useless. Memories of drunkenly being taught chord tricks by Strand of Oaks' Tim, smiling proudly over Cayetana and Restorations playing to a full Church in Philly, sitting in back of the Bug Jar watching Little Big League play dice with Trophy Lungs, and the bazillion hugs I got at the Cheap Girls/Signals Midwest/Lee Corey Oswald show is a short list of best memories that I could prattle on about. No matter the list, no matter the artists, acknowledgement of the hard work, sacrifice and effort these artists put into their craft can never be weighed heavy enough.