Favorite Albums of 2014

It's clear now that this blog will just end up being a place where I dump my year's end list of favorite albums. Without further ado, here's my list:

50. Alvvays - Alvvays
49. Beck - Morning Phase
48. Restorations - LP3
47. Eagulls - Eagulls
46. Natural Child - Dancin' With Wolves
45. Pink Mountaintops - Get Back
44. Fucked Up - Glass Boys
43. Damien Rice - My Favorite Faded Fantasy
42. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Pinata
41. Tweedy - Sukierae
40. Christopher Denny - If The Roses Don't Kill Us
39. Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams
38. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
37. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness
36. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out At Jagbag
35. The Afghan Whigs - Do To The Beast
34. Woods - With Light and With Love
33. Protomartyr - Under Color of Official Right
32. Swans - To Be Kind
31. St. Vincent - St. Vincent
30. Damien Jurad - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
29. The Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator
28. Thee Oh Sees - Drop
27. James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical
26. Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker

25. Real Estate - Atlas 

When I look back on 2014, even though this barely cracked the top 25, this album will probably be one of the few still in rotation. All of Real Estate's albums just fit nicely like a coat you've had forever.

24. Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else

Lydia Loveless and Sturgill Simpson (who will appear further down this post) revived my love for real country music. Not the polished and shallow stuff all over country radio, but the stuff that carries the torch of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.

23. Lykke Li - I Never Learn

Even though the content comes from such a sad and dark place, I'm always fascinated with break-up albums and Lykke Li's newest record is a great one. 

22. TV on the Radio - Seeds 

TV on the Radio continues to release good album after good album and even though they may never top Return To Cookie Mountain, it's still great hearing them progress and mature as a band.

21. S. Carey - Range Of Light

Probably most famous for being the drummer for Bon Iver, S. Carey has put out a couple of solo albums now that prove he's worthy of high praise on his own. He was also one of the highlights of this years Middle Of The Map festival in KC.

20. Future Islands - Singles

Future Islands are a band I've been a fan of for a long time now and it's really good to see them finally get some attention. Although I've grown tired of a lot of the synth-rock that is popular in indie music recently, Future Islands never sound stale.

19. Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans

Drive-By Truckers have long been one of my favorite bands and I've been waiting for them to release an album as good as the Isbell-era ones. I finally got my wish in this years English Oceans, which is the bands return to form.

18. Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers

Although this whole album is worth a listen, it would make this list based off the track 'Saturday's Song' alone.

17. The Men - Tomorrow's Hits

I have a big affinity for "bar bands" like The Hold Steady, Lucero or any other band that you can imagine playing a local tavern to the sounds of drunk townie's and clinking glasses. The Men have fallen into that group with their last couple of albums filled with loose and melodic rock and roll.

16. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else

This is an album that 16 year old me would have as my number one album of 2014. It's filled with tight and loud rock songs that I loved in high school and still enjoy now. 

15. The Antlers - Familiars

The band responsible for my favorite album of 2009 again makes the top 20 of my favorite albums of 2014. The Antlers make really gorgeous albums and Familiars is no exception.

14. Sun Kil Moon - Benji

God I love Mark Kozelek's music so much that it pains me to read anything about him these days. It seems like him and Morrissey are having a competition to see who can be a bigger asshole and ruin any love I have of their music. That being said he released another brilliant album in Benji that is well worth your time.

13. Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams

Another extremely prolific musician that rarely releases anything I don't love is Ryan Adams. He's not only continuing to put out fantastic albums of his own but he's also responsible for producing one of my favorite albums of the year as well (Jenny Lewis' The Voyager).

12. Perfume Genius - Too Bright

One of my biggest regrets of 2014 was missing the Perfume Genius show at the Riot Room. Few musicians these days bare their soul in song like Mike Hadreas and it pays off with another amazing album by Perfume Genius.

11. Shy Boys - Shy Boys

Without a doubt my favorite local album in a long, long time comes from Kansas Cities own Shy Boys. This album is 24 minutes of near perfect surf rock with lo-fi harmonies that kill me with each listen.

10. Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

No band took a bigger left turn in 2014 than Danish punk/hardcore band Iceage. Considering how brutal their first two LP's were, it took a while to get use to the melodies found on their new LP, but it's a very welcome change.

9. Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

Jenny Lewis has shown flashes of brilliance with her solo career post-Rilo Kiley, but not until The Voyager came out this year had she put it all together on one album. The Voyager was produced by Ryan Adams which might also be a big reason why I love this album so much.

8. Wild Beasts - Present Tense

I can't think of a more under-appreciated band on my top albums list than Wild Beasts. Sure, they're relatively well known in terms of indie music, but I always thought they should be as big as bands like The National and Local Natives. If they continue to release albums this good, it might not be much longer before they are.

7. Spoon - They Want My Soul

Back in the early 2000's, Spoon would have been considered one of my favorite bands. In the years since I've continued to follow their output, but haven't been absolutely floored by any of their records until this years They Want My Soul.

6. Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

Waylon Jennings has long been my favorite vocalist in country music, so when I heard about a new artist that sounds just like him, I had to check him out. Not only goes Sturgill Simpson sound like Waylon, he also possesses the outlaw spirit that permeates his new album. My other biggest regret of 2014 is not buying tickets to his Knuckleheads show before they sold out.

5. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2

This album carries a ton of extra weight in light of the events between unarmed black males and police across America this year. It would still be in my top 5 just based on how fucking fantastic this album is from start to finish.

4. Strand Of Oaks - HEAL

No one deserved a successful 2014 more than Timothy Showalter (better known as Strand Of Oaks). He seems like such a likable guy and he's now put out a brilliant record that is full of nostalgia and enough emotion to get you through 2015.

3. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Upon first listen, I was disappointed in Are We There because I didn't think it was nearly as good as 2012's Tramp (my second favorite album of that year). Turns out I just needed to let this album grow on my because it's every bit as brilliant as her last album.

2. D'Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah

This album felt like an all-time classic after a half dozen listens. We waited 15 years for another D'Angelo album and it appears it was worth the wait.

1. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

This was my favorite album of the year from the day it came out and nothing really got close. If you would have told me an album that harkens back to the corporate rock of the 80's would be the best album of 2014, I would have said you were crazy. The War On Drugs are also responsible for one of my favorite concerts of the year as well. I can't wait to hear where they go with their next record.



Favorite Albums of 2013 (10-1)

10. The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Death, taxes, and The National putting out fantastic albums. They'll probably never top the one-two punch of Alligator and Boxer, but I'll continue to buy their albums and listen to them try.

9. Postiljonen - Skyer 

Why this album has gone mostly under the radar while everyone gushes about CHVRCHES, I'll never understand. I love both bands, but Skyer is clearly the superior album.

8. Moonface - Julia With Blue Jeans On

Maybe my judgement is clouded by my fandom for all things Spencer Krug, but this is another record that is severely underrated in the landscape of 2013 albums of the year. It's just Spencer at a piano, but the songs are utterly sublime.

7. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

Many bands kiss of death is when they decide to switch up styles and try something different. That might be a problem for lesser bands, but Arcade Fire didn't have that problem. The Talking Heads influenced 4th album gets better with each listen.

6. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience 1 of 2

I feel the need to clarify that my number 6 album of 2013 is only the first volume of Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience. Like many others volume 2 feel flat with me, but this one has so much pop goodness it's hard to understand how the second volume could sound so much worse.

5. My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Of all the comeback albums of the year, none had more potential for disaster than the followup from My Bloody Valentine to the brilliant Loveless album. This album has been 20+ years in the making and defies expectations by being really, really great.

4. Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons

How bands like The Lumineers and The Head & The Heart are popular while Ha Ha Tonka still is relatively obscure baffles me. I wouldn't compare them very closely with the aforementioned bands, but they have a similar vibe to them. Ha Ha Tonka's newest album, Lessons, absolutely blows anything those bands have done away by a long shot.

3. Iceage - You're Nothing

I don't dig too deep into obscure punk rock & hardcore enough, but there seems to be a serious lack of anything sounding as remotely dangerous as Iceage does on their second LP You're Nothing. I got to see them in KC this year for Middle Of The Map and it was an absolute shit-show in the best way possible.

2. Jason Isbell - Southeastern

I said to someone recently on twitter that I didn't think there was a better songwriter around right now than Jason Isbell and I believe it. Cleaned up and going full force on Southeastern, it's by far his most cohesive album with some of the best songs he's ever written.

1. Deafheaven - Sunbather

Never in a million years would I have expected my favorite album of the year to come from the black metal genre. Some metal nerds will argue this isn't black metal, but they're wrong. If you get past the high pitched, unintelligible black metal-esque vocals and view his voice as another instrument it's such a beautiful album. The music sounds like a post-rock heaven somewhere in between Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor which is what drew me in initially. I should also mention the lyrics are really amazing but most likely you'll have to look them up online to understand what they are.


Favorite Albums of 2013 (50-11)

50. Midlake - Antiphon
49. The ACBs - Little Leaves
48. Low - The Invisible Way
47. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
46. Savages - Silence Yourself
45. Twin Peaks - Sunken
44. Disclosure - Settle
43. Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion
42. Cut Copy - Free Your Mind
41. Iron and Wine - Ghost On Ghost
40. Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond
39. Cowboy Indian Bear - Live Old, Die Young
38. Dawes - Stories Don't End
37. Hospital Ships - Destruction In Yr Soul
36. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
35. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels
34. TV Ghost - Disconnect
33. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady
32. The So So Glos - Blowout
31. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
30. High Highs - Open Season
29. CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
28. The Appleseed Cast - Illumination Ritual
27. Local Natives - Hummingbird
26. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium

25. King Khan & The Shrines - Idle No More

The garage rock phenom's best album in my opinion, Idle No More, expands the usual King Khan sound with flourishes of R&B and especially classic rock like The Stones.

24. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Although I'm not sure this album would crack my top 10 favorite Nick Cave albums of all time, it's still one of the better albums of 2013. A bit mellow for Cave, but the songs are so good that you hardly even notice.

23. Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound Of God

There are always a few albums that don't stick with me immediately, but will after I see them played live and Jim James first solo album falls under that category. Jim James always seemed to be the soulful influence in his mostly rock focused band My Morning Jacket, and here he got to fully express that.

22. David Bowie - The Next Day

It had been over a decade since David Bowie had released a solo album and arguably even longer since he'd released a good solo album, so it was a nice surprise when The Next Day came out earlier this year.

21. Mikal Cronin - MCII

Few genres sound as good to me as a really good guitar pop/rock album and the Mikal Cronin album MCII delivers in full.

20. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires In The City

I've gone back and forth previously with my feelings on Vampire Weekend. My wife can attest that at one time I thought they were the most overrated band around, but I've come around with their third LP. I can't deny how great this album is.

19. Kurt Vile - Walkin On A Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile continues to put out great album after great album. His last album was my favorite album of 2011, so any follow up was likely to be a bit of a drop off, but Walkin On A Pretty Daze is still a really solid album.

18. Palma Violets - 180

I first heard about Palma Violets when someone described them as a British version of The Replacements. Since The Mats are one of my all time favorite bands, that's a tough comparison to stomach, but I was pleasantly surprised when I checked out their debut album 180.

17. Deerhunter - Monomania

I don't think I need to write anymore about how brilliant I think Bradford Cox is and how almost everything he puts out by Deerhunter or Atlas Sound is worth your attention. But I guess I just did....

16. Volcano Choir - Repave

It's interesting to think Justin Vernon only contributed vocals to this album because in reality it sounds like a third Bon Iver LP.

15. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

I wasn't in love with the last Neko Case album. Don't get me wrong, any Neko Case album is going to be good because it's got her singing on it, but the songs seemed weaker to me. She comes back this year with one of her strongest albums ever.

14. The Men - New Moon

I'm sure there are a ton of fans of The Men that despise this album. From a band that's previous work was loud, abrasive and messy it might be tough to stomach them settling down on their new album. For me, however, the flashes of classic rock and Crazy Horse are enough to almost push this into my top 10.

13. Diarrhea Planet - I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

The best description I've read of any band this year belongs to Diarrhea Planet. Their bio describes them as "The Ramones holding Van Halen hostage with an arsenal of fireworks and explosives", which is something I needed to listen to immediately. I really really hate their band name, but dammit I love this album.

12. Phosphorescent - Muchacho

I've been following Matthew Houck's band Phosphorescent for a while now and have liked a lot of stuff he's done. However, I've been waiting for him to put out a great album and he's done so with Muchacho. Now if he would just come through KC to play a show sometime.

11. The Grisly Hand - Country Singles

What is my 11th favorite album of 2013 would also be classified as my favorite local album of 2013. Kansas City based The Grisly Hand put out an absolutely delightful country album that in a just world, would catapult them to stardom. It will be a goddamn shame if it doesn't.

Stay tuned for my top 10 favorite albums of 2013.


New Music: Drowners

There always seems to be a "next big band" out of New York and it's hard to really get excited about many of them. However, when I first heard of Drowners a few months ago and heard comparisons to The Strokes and The Smiths, I knew I should check them out. At that point they only had a short three song EP called Between Us Girls, but all three songs were incredibly catchy and really pretty great.

Now the band is poised to release their first full length and self-titled LP on Frenchkiss Records.

You can check out two videos below. The first one is for the newest single they've released, 'Luv, Hold Me Down' and the second is one from their first EP 'You've Got It All Wrong'

Drowners - 'Luv, Hold Me Down':

Drowners - 'You've Got It All Wrong':


New Album: Moonface - Julia With Blue Jeans On

One of my all time favorite songwriters & musicians of the past 10 years or so has been Spencer Krug. Best known for his time as co-leader of Wolf Parade, he's also been busy with side projects such as Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and Moonface. Of all the aforementioned bands, Moonface has always been the project I've had the hardest time getting into. That's seemed to change pretty quickly with the release of the newest Moonface LP Julia With Blue Jeans On.

Krug's music has always had many layers to unwrap and his lyrics can tend to be cryptic and really strange at times, so this new album is quite a departure. The music is sparse as it's just Krug's vocals and a piano and the lyrics are the most straightforward love songs he's ever written. Those combined make for one of the most gorgeous albums I've listened to this year.

Check out the video for 'Barbarian' below.


Stream New Arcade Fire Album: Reflektor

I know I'm a day late on this, so if you're hearing this first from me you must not frequent too many other music sites! Either way, the new Arcade Fire album leaked yesterday, so the band did what many now do in that situation and stream it online themselves.

Listen to the full album below:


New Album: Ha Ha Tonka - Lessons

Well, my blogging hiatus was much shorter than I anticipated. Partially because of some nice feedback I got and partially because there is just too much good music out right now. Even if I'm updating the blog less frequently than normal, I'm still going to try and update when I can.

Let's start with what is quickly making it's way to the top of my favorite albums of 2013 list: Ha Ha Tonka's fabulous new album Lessons. Ha Ha Tonka originated in the Ozark region of South-Central Missouri, but since they're close enough, we like to claim them as locals. I've been a fan of theirs since the debut album, Buckle In The Bible Belt, came out in 2007 but Lessons, the band's 4th full length, is definitely their first GREAT album. Whether it's the poppy, bouncing 'Colorful Kids'; the Fleet Foxes-esque 'Arabella' or the dark & groovy title track, there are more fantastic moments on this album than I can count. 

Although the band just came through Lawrence in the last few weeks, you KC folks will have another opportunity to see them next month. The band will be playing a show in KC at the Record Bar the night before Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 27th. This show usually sells out pretty quickly so I'd jump on tickets sooner, rather than later.



If you're reading this, thank you, you may be one of the last few readers of this fine blog. I haven't been good about updating this recently because of the birth of my first daughter. It seems with work and a baby, updating the blog takes a clear backseat.

I probably won't be updating this very often going forward. I might post a year end best of albums list each year and a few one-off posts if I feel motivated to do so, but for the most part, this is the end.

I still love & listen to music on average for at least 4 or 5 hours each day (my job allows me to strap on headphones for most of the day) so my opinions and suggestions on music and shows is not dead. In fact, the best place to get updates on what I'm listening to and what I'd recommend would be to follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MattSchram.

Thanks for reading!



Recommended Shows This Week (8/11 - 8/18)

I'm a few days late with this post for the week, but since all three recommended shows are this Friday night, I guess it's okay that it's already Tuesday.

Friday: Sleepy Kitty @ Czar Bar

Although the Czar Bar website has KC's Gentlemen Savage headlining this show, the band I recommend checking out is St. Louis's own Sleepy Kitty. Sleepy Kitty plays loud, awesome garage rock with great vocals and crashing drums. Their live shows have earned quite a reputation as well, so don't miss this show. Their sophomore album, Projection Room, will be out in early 2014, but you can hear a taste of their stuff here from a single off their first album 'Speaking Politely'.

Friday: Kurt Vile & The Violators @ The Granada

The show I'll be attending on Friday will be Kurt Vile in Lawrence at the Granada. Vile is touring behind his excellent new album Wakin On A Pretty Daze, and will be joined by Sonny & The Sunsets.

Friday: Bob Mould @ The Bottleneck

If I have time after the Kurt Vile show, I'll be heading down the street to The Bottleneck to check out Hardcore/Punk legend Bob Mould. Best known as one third of Husker Du, Mould's music has since gotten more accessible in his old age with bands Sugar and his solo career. His last solo effort, Silver Age, was excellent and this should be an outstanding show.


Recommended Shows This Week (8/5 - 8/11)

Monday: Smith Westerns/Wampire @ The Riot Room

Both recommended shows for this week are on Monday night and are good headliners paired with good openers. Chicago's Smith Westerns are continuing to gain notoriety with their third (and best) album, Soft Will. The band is fantastic live so don't miss this one. Portland duo Wampire will open the show with indie rock clearly influenced by the likes of Ariel Pink.

Monday: Naam/Radkey @ Czar Bar

Also on Monday, Brooklyn psyche/drone rockers Naam will be at Czar Bar. With songs that can exceed seven minutes regularly and sometimes in the fifteen minute range, Naam could be the second coming of Black Sabbath. Local favorites Radkey will not only be opening this show, but will be opening most of Naam's nationwide tour dates in August. Congrats to them!