(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.
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.
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.