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Best of 2014

M&T Best Albums of 2014

Posted on by Eric in Best of 2014 | Leave a comment

M&T Best Albums of 2014

We’ve compiled our 30 favorite albums from 2014 and you can check out the full list below and take a listen to each album via Spotify. We’re such nice people that we also put together a playlist featuring one song from each album, which you can check out on Spotify by clicking the link below. Here’s to more great music in 2015!

Full Spotify Playlist

30. Jessie Ware- Tough Love

The Sade of our time turns out a sophomore album thats equal parts jamz and feelz, all anchored by her impeccable voice.

Essential Tracks: “Say You Love Me,” “Cruel,” “Tough”

-Caroline

29. Hozier- Hozier

Public service announcement: the mega-hit “Take Me to Church” is just one of many incredible Hozier songs that appear on his soulful debut album.

Essential Tracks: “From Eden,” “Someone New,”  “Jackie and Wilson”

-Caroline

28. Sisyphus- Sisyphus

Sufjan Stevens + Son Lux + Serengeti = Pure Magic. Following their 2012 debut EP, this trio of artists delivered a full-length album in 2014 that seamlessly combined the styles and sounds of each individual member.

Essential Tracks: “Calm It Down”, “Rhythm of Devotion”, “Lion’s Share”, “Alcohol”

-Eric

27. The Hotelier- Home, Like Noplace There Is

We’ve got a soft spot for this quartet out of Worcester, MA, but this album making our list was certainly not due to some kind of hometown bias. Emo has made its triumphant return and we certainly don’t hate it.

Essential Tracks: “Housebroken”, “Your Deep Rest”, “An Introduction to the Album”

-Eric

26. Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2

Killer Mike and El-P return with a follow-up to their 2013 debut that is as much, if not more, of a crowd-pleaser than its predecessor.

Essential Tracks: “Early”, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”, “Blockbuster Night Part 1”

-Eric

25. Wye Oak- Shriek

A definite departure from the sound captured on 2011’s Civilian, which makes us all the more excited to see what direction they will head in next.

Essential Tracks: “Before”, “Logic of Color”, “Sick Talk”

-Eric

24. Tennis- Ritual in Repeat

Pop perfection once again from the husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore.

Essential Tracks: “Needle and a Knife”, “Bad Girls”, “Never Work for Free”

-Eric

23. The Barr Brothers- Sleeping Operator

To say Sleeping Operator was well worth the 3-year wait would be a vast understatement. The immensely talented Brad Barr and co. certainly did not disappoint with this 13-track ear-pleaser.

Essential Tracks: “Half Crazy”, “Love Ain’t Enough”, “Come In The Water”, “Little Lover”

-Eric

22. Ryan Adams- Ryan Adams

What is there to say about Ryan Adams that hasn’t been said before? His self-titled effort is deserving of all the praise bestowed on it this year.

Essential Tracks: “My Wrecking Ball”, “Gimme Something Good”, “Kim”, “Feels Like Fire”

-Eric

21. Sylvan Esso- Sylvan Esso

The unexpected match-up of Amelia Meath’s folksy vocals and Nick Sanborn’s spry electronic production made for one hell of a debut album. A welcome surprise.

Essential Tracks: “Play It Right,” “Hey Mami,” “Coffee”

-Caroline

20. Alvvays- Alvvays

Alvvays burst onto the scene in 2014 with an album soaked in nostalgic sounds that brought to mind some of our favorite female-fronted bands from the ’90s like The Sundays and Mazzy Star.

Essential Tracks: “Archie, Marry Me”, “Party Police”, “Atop a Cake”

-Eric

19. Vacationer Relief

Kenny Vasoli, the former frontman of 2000s emo band The Starting Line, created a lush and layered record that’s the ideal soundtrack for a tropical vacation.

Essential Tracks: “Stay”, “Paradise Waiting”, “In The Grass”, “Heavenly”

-Eric

18. FKA twigs- LP1

Possibly the most intimate album of all time, LP1 is a mesmerizing tour of FKA’s haunted mind and bedroom.

Essential Tracks: “Two Weeks,” “Lights On,” “Closer”

-Caroline

17. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Laura Jane Grace dazzles on this album as she takes us through her transition to living life as a woman.

Essential Tracks: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, “True Trans Soul Rebel”, “Fuckmylife666”, “Two Coffins”

-Eric

16. Stars- No One Is Lost

As soon as lead single “From The Night” hit the airwaves we knew Stars had returned in a big way, and much to our delight the rest of the record was equally as tantalizing.

Essential Tracks: “From The Night”, “Are You Ok?”, “No One Is Lost”

-Eric

15. Spoon- They Want My Soul

It has been confirmed that Spoon is simply not capable of making a subpar record.

Essential Tracks: “Do You”, “New York Kiss”, “Inside Out”, “Rent I Pay”

-Eric

14. Conor Oberst- Upside Down Mountain

With the help of Jonathan Wilson and the ladies of First Aid Kit, the Bright Eyes frontman released yet another successful solo album, not to mention one of our favorite sets from this summer’s Newport Folk Festival.

Essential Tracks: “Zigzagging Toward the Light”, “Hundreds of Ways”, “Governor’s Ball”, “Double Life”

-Eric

13. Shakey Graves- And the War Came

Alejandro Rose-Garcia continues to be one of our favorite songwriters in the world of folk music, and this year he also brought us quite the delightful discovery in Esmé Patterson.

Essential Tracks: “Only Son”, “Dearly Departed”, “Family and Genus”

-Eric

12. Kevin Drew- Darlings

The Broken Social Scene frontman redefines crazysexycool with his 2014 solo release.

Essential Tracks: “You in Your Were”, “It’s Cool”, “Good Sex”, “Body Butter”, “And That’s All I Know”

-Eric

11. The Rural Alberta Advantage- Mended With Gold

Powerful is probably the only way to describe Paul Banwatt’s drumming chops, which are front and center on this epic release. The RAA also put on one of the best shows we saw in 2014 at The Bowery Ballroom back in November.

Essential Tracks: “Our Love”, “On The Rocks”, “Terrified”, “45/33”

-Eric

10. Caribou- Our Love

Caribou’s Our Love reminds us that electronic music can be beautiful, rich, and most importantly, human.

Essential Tracks: “Silver,” “Second Chance,” “Your Love Will Set You Free”

-Caroline

9. Will Dailey- National Throat

After escaping his major label deal, local Boston hero Will Dailey delivered one of 2014’s most funky and soulful albums. Between the horns, the shredding guitar solos, and the thoughtful arrangements, Dailey takes us along for the ride as he details the breakup with his label. National Throat brought Dailey two Boston Music Awards for Album and Artist of the year, and both deservedly so.

Essential Tracks: “Sunken Ship”, “Castle of Pretending”, “Lookout Johnny”, “We Will Always Be a Band”

-Eric

8. Mina Tindle- Parades

More than half of Parades is in Tindle’s native language of French, but none of this gorgeous and unpredictable chamber-pop is lost in translation.

Essential Tracks: “Seaside,” “Pas Les Saisons,” “Taranta,” “I Command”

-Caroline

7. Rubblebucket- Survival Sounds

2014 was a trying year for Rubblebucket as lead singer Kalmia Traver recovered from her battle with ovarian cancer, but I’m sure they’ll look back on this year with fondness as well since they released their best record to date. This band has come a long way sonically since its 2009 self-titled debut and with Survival Sounds they found the perfect mix of their signature horn sounds paired with varied electronic elements. As long as they keep touring, Rubblebucket will be considered one of the best live acts around and to see this record come to life earlier this year was a complete and total joy.

Essential Tracks: “On the Ground”, “Carousel Ride”, “Shake Me Around”, “My Life”

-Eric

6. Saintseneca- Dark Arc

When we saw Saintseneca at SXSW this year, we knew that 2014 was going to treat them well, and after the release of Dark Arc we can safely say that it did just that. Not only does lead singer Zac Little have one of the best mustaches in the biz, he’s also got a voice to match. A warbly croon that brings to mind Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Little’s voice guides Dark Arc, but its epic arrangements are what make this album so special. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to catch the band perform live again after SXSW, but something tells us they’ll be riding the high from Dark Arc for quite some time.

Essential Tracks: “Happy Alone”, “Takmit”, “Blood Bath”, “Visions”

-Eric

5. Bombay Bicycle Club- So Long, See You Tomorrow

So Long, See You Tomorrow begins with the glorious, dazzling bang of “Overdone.” From there, BBC keeps turning out song after song of electro-pop euphoria. Despite simple lyrics, So Long, See You Tomorrow is so sonically jampacked that you’ll hear and feel something new even when your record is worn.

Essential Tracks: “Overdone,” “Home by Now,” “Luna”

-Caroline

4. Jenny Lewis- The Voyager

Jenny Lewis has long been regarded as indie music royalty, a role she certainly plays into with her bo$$ bitch ‘tude and regal stage attire. Yet on Lewis’ long-awaited The Voyager, she embraced a role far less glamorous: that of an unmarried, childless 30-something. Lewis explores this tricky theme through her classically confessional lyrics. And lucky for us, her wry stories of middle-aged malaise are layered over incredibly catchy SoCal folk-pop. In short, The Voyager’s sun-drenched vibes and shadowy lyrics make for an album that will age as well as Jenny Lewis has.

Essential Tracks: “The Voyager,” “Head Underwater,” “She’s Not Me,” “Just One of the Guys”

-Caroline

3. Big Scary- Not Art

Technically a 2013 release, but the follow-up to 2011’s Vacation didn’t reach us Stateside until early 2014. The duo of Tom Iansek and Jo Syme have been favorites of ours for quite some time, but with Not Art they have truly outdone themselves. You don’t have to take just our word for it either as the record landed them the Australian Music Prize, which is equivalent to Canada’s Polaris Prize or the Mercury Prize in the UK. The subtleties and nuances that you pick up with each additional listen is what sets this album apart from the rest of Big Scary’s catalog, and the rest of the albums released in 2014 for that matter. It’ll be tough for Tom and Jo to top this one, but we’re sure they’re up to the task and cannot wait to hear what comes next.

Essential Tracks: “Luck Now”, “Harmony Sometimes”, “Invest”, “Belgian Blues”

-Eric

2. Grey Season- Time Will Tell You Well

Grey Season wowed us all in 2014 by putting out not only one of the best records amongst the impressive crop of Boston bands who put out albums this year, but also one of the best records of 2014 period. Recorded primarily at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, NY, Time Will Tell You Well is perfect for summertime porch sitting or anytime you feel like a night of beer drinking. Catchy melodies, impressive harmonies, and furious banjo picking are all commonplace on this record, and for those of you M&T faithful out there, you know that those three items are a recipe for success in our minds. These Boston boys have a long career ahead of them and if TWTYW is any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

Essential Tracks: “Satellites”, “Aragon Mill”, “New Kind of Dirty”, “Look at Us Now”

-Eric

1. Kishi Bashi- Lighght

On Lighght, Kishi Bashi boldly goes where most violinist/composers rarely do, and the result is ambitious, extravagant, and our favorite album of the year. Kishi Bashi builds off of his first album’s signature baroque pop, but seamlessly adds in bold disco and prog-rock inspirations. The album’s themes vary as well, from the absurdist wackiness of “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” to the heartfelt sentiment of “Q&A,” an acoustic love song that Lennon-McCartney would have happily taken credit for. Despite tonal twists and thematic turns, the album is intensely coherent, and each song is clearly branded with the Kishi Bashi stamp of wonderful weirdness. For one album (and one person) to accomplish so much is simply astounding. This frenzied journey with Kishi Bashi will likely leave you a bit exhausted, but only in the way that truly great music does.

Essential Tracks: “Philosophize in It! Chemalize with It!, “Q&A,” Hahaha Pt. 1”, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak”

-Caroline

M&T Best Songs of 2014

Posted on by Eric in Best of 2014 | Leave a comment

M&T Best Songs of 2014

2014 blew by, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of good music to soundtrack the year that was. We’ve compiled our 50 favorite songs from this year and even created a handy Spotify playlist that includes each track listed below. It was a tough decision at the top, but in the end family is all that really matters right?

Full Spotify Playlist

50. Yeah Boy- “Can’t Get Enough”

49. Slow Club- “Suffering You, Suffering Me”

48. The Hotelier- “Housebroken”

47. Haley Bonar- “Bad Reputation”

46. Montaigne- “I’m A Fantastic Wreck”

45. alt-J- “Left Hand Free”

44. Solander- “Monday Afternoon”

43. Leisure Cruise- “Double Digit Love”

42. Wye Oak- “Logic of Color”

41. First Aid Kit- “My Silver Lining”

40. Tennis- “Bad Girls”

39. Foxing- “Inuit”

38. Against Me!- “True Trans Soul Rebel”

37. Polarsets- “Parasols”

36. The Rural Alberta Advantage- “Terrified”

35. Stars- “No One Is Lost”

34. Junius Meyvant- “Color Decay”

33. Kishi Bashi- “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!”

32. the Soil & the Sun- “How Long”

31. Liam Finn- “Burn Up The Road”

30. LANY- “ILYSB”

Newcomer LANY combined synth, drum kit, handclaps and the best of use of the word “hella” in music history to create my most played song of 2014.

-Caroline

29. Action Bronson- “Easy Rider”

We’ll just let the big man do all the talking himself for this one.

-Eric

28. Happy You- “New Year’s Day”

A three-and-a-half minute romp that only gets better as it goes on, and a very appropriate title given the circumstances.

-Eric

27. The War On Drugs- “Red Eyes”

If you haven’t listened to this one by now you should probably come out from under your rock and re-join society.

-Eric

26. Kevin Drew- “Good Sex”

Do Kevin Drew’s air thrusts get anyone else in the mood or is that just me?

-Eric

25. Twin Shadow- “To The Top”

This retro anthem belongs at the climax of every 80s movie ever. Truly epic.

Caroline

24. Rubblebucket- “My Life”

Bouncy, funky, saucy, think of your favorite -y adjectives and this song is all of them combined.

-Eric

23. Saintseneca- “Takmit”

A relentless track that makes you want to puff out your chest and take on the world.

-Eric

22. Grey Season- “Satellites”

2014 proved that bluegrass is back in a big way and this cut from Boston’s own Grey Season was the finest track on one of our favorite albums of the year.

-Eric

21. Big Scary- “Harmony Sometimes”

Though it’s certainly not the catchiest track on Big Scary’s magnificent Not Art, it’s somehow irresistible and alluring in a way all its own.

-Eric

20. The Antlers- “Palace”

Lifted up by sparse horns and Peter Silberman’s falsetto, Palace’s stunningly beautiful lyrics are sent soaring.

-Caroline

19. Death From Above 1979- “Right On, Frankenstein!”

Two minutes of blazing, distorted riffs and relentless drumming followed by our favorite breakdown of the year. Try not to pump your fist to this one.

-Eric

18. Strand of Oaks- “Goshen ’97”

To say 2014 was a breakout year for Tim Showalter (aka Strand of Oaks) could quite possibly be the understatement of the year. Overall HEAL was a solid record, but Showalter’s ode to his hometown certainly stands out above the rest.

-Eric

17. Rich Aucoin- “Let It Go”

How can you not smile and dance with every listen? Rich Aucoin, you sir are truly a musical wizard.

-Eric

16. Rick Ross- “Sanctified (feat. Kanye West & Big Sean)”

“All I want’s a 100 million dollars and a bad bitch.” PREACH!

-Eric

15. Thumpers- “Tame”

The standout track from the British duo’s highly impressive debut LP.

-Eric

14. Jenny Lewis- “She’s Not Me”

A scorned Jenny Lewis generally leads to some of indie rock’s greatest hits, and outfitted with blazing guitar riffs from Ryan Adams and even more heated vocals from Lady Lewis, “Shes Not Me” doesn’t disappoint.

Caroline

13. Future Islands- “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

Much like The War On Drugs’ “Red Eyes,” if you haven’t heard this one you’ve probably been stranded on a desert island for all of 2014. Plus frontman Sam Herring’s dance moves are absolutely on-point. Be advised that there’s a chance you may become pregnant after viewing this gif.

-Eric

12. Yellerkin- “Tools”

Adrian Galvin and Luca Buccellati strike folktronica-dance-pop gold with “Tools”. Yeah, we’re definitely going to trademark that one.

-Eric

11. Sufjan Stevens- “A Little Lost”

Sufjan Stevens reigns supreme at creating lush electronic arrangements, and succeeds at it once again on this beautiful, piano-centric reimagining of Arthur Russell’s ode to kissing.

Caroline

10. Kishi Bashi- “The Ballad of Mr. Steak”

“The Ballad of Mr. Steak” is a wacky, whirlwind anthem about a cut of red meat that’s equal parts classical, digital and disco.

-Caroline

9. Spoon- “Do You”

Only Britt Daniel and Spoon can make something as simple as eating popsicles on a hot day seem so cool. Terrible Dad-pun totally intended.

-Eric

8. Alvvays- “Archie, Marry Me”

“Archie, Marry Me” emits blissed-out vibes all while frontlady Molly Rankin sings of her man’s pragmatic dismissal of conventional marriage. A perfect juxtaposition.

-Caroline

7. Girls Guns and Glory- “Rockin’ Chair Money”

It might be blasphemy to say that these Boston based country rock crooners have outdone the Hank Williams original, but they’ve outdone the Hank Williams original.

-Eric

6. The Griswolds- “Beware the Dog”

Australian newcomers The Griswolds dropped this trop-pop party tune this summer, which features a shout-a-long chorus with some extremely gratifying expletives.

-Caroline

5. Bleachers- “I Wanna Get Better”

This song has been everywhere in 2014 and we mean everywhere. Though it still remains to be seen if Jack Antonoff’s solo efforts will eclipse the success of Fun., we can safely say that he’s well on his way.

-Eric

4. Ryan Adams- “Gimme Something Good”

Shimmery, sleek, and radio-ready aren’t normally adjectives that are used to describe Ryan Adams songs, but none of those words should be misconstrued or taken out of context as we mean them in the best way possible.

-Eric

3. Shakey Graves- “Dearly Departed (feat. Esme Patterson) “

What made Shakey Graves’ And The War Came one of the finest releases of 2014 was the earnest and thoughtful songwriting found throughout, and “Dearly Departed” is no exception. Though Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s approach on this track comes off as slightly humorous, he’s still a country crooner at heart and of all the things a country crooner loves we’d say lost loves and untimely breakups have to be near the top of the list. Rose-Garcia’s chemistry with Esmé Patterson on this playful duet is undeniable and I’ll be damned if anyone out there isn’t signing right along with them once the last chorus rolls around.

-Eric

2. Ages and Ages- “Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)”

In the most holy church of indie music, Ages and Ages provided the ultimate hymn of 2014. “Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)” begins with a simple call to action: “do the right thing, do the right thing… don’t you know you’re not the only one suffering.” This line is repeated over and over again, yet each time it gains more meaning and weight, thanks to the strings, piano and group vocals that layer on along the way. Inspiring without a hint of preachiness (and here’s the proof), “Divisionary” is a modern-day gospel hymn of the very highest degree.

-Caroline

1. Tweedy- “Diamond Light Pt. 1”

Our #1 song of 2014 could have been a B-side to our #1 song of 2011, but that’s certainly not to say that it should be treated as a leftover from some abandoned Wilco sessions. This song is the sonic summation of Tweedy, and by that we mean both Jeff and Spencer. For all the critics out there who thought it cute that 47 year old Jeff Tweedy made a record with his teenage son, they can look no further than “Diamond Light Pt. 1” to dispel any preconceived notions they may have held. The younger Tweedy’s mastery of the drum kit on this track will quiet any pundits out there who chalked up Spencer’s involvement on the album to nepotism. All familial relations aside, this six-minute journey of a song is as inspiring as it is unusual and it’s that eerie mystique which kept us fixated on this track all year.

-Eric

Best of 2014… So Far

Posted on by Caroline in Best of 2014, M&T Favorites | Leave a comment

(Somehow) we’re more than halfway through 2014 already, and over the past 6+ months we’ve had our headphones in ~85% of the time. Throughout the year we’ve been compiling our monthly playlists featuring 20 new tracks each, but we wanted to share some of our early favorites in the running for the ‘Best of 2014’ designation. Eric and Caroline highlighted an album and a song each from this year’s ‘Best Of’ crop and compiled a playlist with those artists and more for your listening pleasure. Check out our favorites below and make sure to subscribe to the playlist  for continued fun throughout the year.

Caroline’s Picks

Kishi Bashi – “The Ballad of Mr. Steak”

Kishi Bashi’s work has been ambitious from the start, but his 2014 release Lightht offers next-level musical stunts, and pulls them all off. Most notably, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” is an ode to a cut of red meat that’s equal parts classical, digital and disco. With a whimsical and absurdist storyline set to a whip-smart symphonic arrangement, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” is the indie-pop groove of the year. But beyond its sonic offerings, the song has a magic, spellbinding effect. It’s simply impossible to be nonchalant when “Mr. Steak” comes on – even the Cool Kids will be cheesing like crazy and doing iPod-commercial-worthy spins down the street to this jam. The song’s blatant joy just cannot be ignored. For three blissful minutes,”The Ballad of Mr. Steak” forces us all to ditch our standard head-bobbing, arms-crossed power pose, and enjoy music as our truest selves. And that’s actually way cooler than being cool.

SKATERS – Manhattan

Hedonism runs rampant in music today, and SKATERS are doing it best in 2014. This delinquent crew of twenty-somethings are unapologetic in their party-sex-repeat lifestyle, and more importantly, in the indelicate way that they write about it. Learning from the example of musical forefathers like The Ramones, SKATERS’ songwriting is straightforward beyond compare. An example (eyeroll trigger warning): on an album called Manhattan, they’ve got a song called “To be Young in NYC,” and the chorus of the song is, “To be young in New York City / To be young in New York City.” So yep, SKATERS’ lyrics may come off as lazy at first, but the overall aftertaste of Manhattan is incredibly refreshing. When flocks of musicians are choosing to over-produce, distort, and mumble nonsense, SKATERS’ move to enunciate every shallow craving and indulgent party story (and then lay them over an incredibly polished punk soundtrack) truly stands out.

Eric’s Picks

Girls Guns and Glory – “Rockin’ Chair Money”

If you aren’t familiar with Girls Guns and Glory and their new album Good Luck you may assume upon first listen that its twangy vibes come straight from Nashville…or maybe Boston? Though our home city isn’t known for being a country music mecca, GGG have embraced Beantown and led the local charge in the recent revival of alt-country. Though Good Luck is certainly solid from front to back, the slow-burning “Rockin’ Chair Money” stands out above the rest. The track is nestled near the end of the record which seems fitting as it starts softly and unassuming, but quickly picks up the pace midway through. As the reverb laden guitar hits, the track immediately becomes reminiscent of A.M. era Wilco, a record that clearly inspired many of today’s artists who identify with the alt-country classification.

Grey Season – Time Will Tell You Well

I’m not trying to play favorites by writing about another local band here, this record deserves to be on any ‘Best Of’ list along with the nationally touring heavy hitters. Grey Season is a band who has been written about quite often on this blog and it’s for good reason. Their full-length debut, Time Will Tell You Well, was recorded primarily at Levon Helm’s iconic barn in Woodstock, NY and I think it’s something he would certainly be proud to be affiliated with. Though some may be quick to pigeonhole Grey Season as a bluegrass band, songs like “Good Friday”, “Satellites”, and “Look at Us Now” clearly show that there’s more to this band than fingerpicking and footstomping. TWTYW is the perfect record to play on your porch this summer, and every summer for a very long time.