For the rest of the year, we'll be spotlighting our KEXP DJs Top Albums of 2014. Click here to check out other lists from our DJs, staff, volunteers, and interns, and click here to see the Top 90.3 Albums of 2014, as voted on by KEXP listeners!
janice's 2014 top ten albums
It's that time of year, where I make my disclaimer that I'm not a DJ, and share my ever-unpopular Favorite Albums of 2014 list! (Well, the albums are unpopular, I mean... okay, sure, maybe the list, too.)
twerps // underlay [merge]Aussie pop troupe Twerps won my heart back in 2012, as I mentioned in my Top Albums list of that year. Merge Records has been one of my favorite labels for decades. Well, step aside PB&J, because this year, Twerps were signed to Merge, and it's my new favorite combination! They kicked off the relationship with this 8-song digital "EP," but c'mon, at eight songs, it's really pretty much an album. Their "real" Merge full-length, Range Anxiety, will be out January 27th, and I cannot wait for more of their fantastic, charming, jangly-pop goodness.
cibo matto // hotel valentine [chimera]Earlier this month, Spotify sent me one of those auto-generated e-mails letting me know what I listened to the most in 2014, and no surprise, my most played song was "10th Floor Ghost Girl" by Cibo Matto. It's been 15 years since we last heard from the NYC-via-Tokyo duo, and I'm excited to report that their fantastic beats and hilarious food-inspired rhymes are as strong as ever. The songs on Hotel Valentine tell the story of a fictional haunted lodging, with songs ranging from old-school fuzzed-out hip hop ("MFN") to tranquil tropicalia, like on the title track. Book me a room, and I'll never check out.
white fence // for the recently found innocent [drag city]I ain't gonna front: even though this is the fifth album from White Fence, it's the first one that caught my attention, despite the fact that previous releases came out on some of my favorite labels like Woodsist and Castle Face. Not to mention, White Fence is pretty much Timothy Presley, one of those one-dude-and-a-four-track type projects that I go absolutely ga-ga for. While previous releases were recorded by Presley alone in his bedroom, on this release, none other than Ty Segall managed to lure him to his studio/garage, and the results are fan-freakin-tastic. "Like That" is a lost b-side from The Who, and "The Recently Found" is The Left Banke transported in Bill & Ted's time-traveling telephone booth to the 2000's. I think The Creation snuck into that phone booth, as well. Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.
cold beat // over me [crime on the moon]In both 2010 and 2012, Bay Area all-girl group Grass Widow were my number one releases of the year. With the trio currently on hiatus, bassist Hannah Lew steps into the spotlight with her solo project Cold Beat. In spite of the name, the new songs feature more of an '80s-pop-inspired warmth over Grass Widow's more anxious post-punk sound (with the harmony-laden track "UV" being the most Widow-y sounding track on the album). Lew's voice calls to mind an edgier Blondie, especially on tracks like "Collapse" and "Fatal Bond." Lew toured with her old friend Frankie Rose earlier this year, and at their Seattle show, they both told stories of how they grew up learning how to write songs and play instruments together. In both cases, these ladies emerged from band configurations to find their own voices, and we're lucky listeners for it.
david kilgour and the heavy 8's // end times [merge]
hamish kilgour // all of it and nothing [ba da bing]
robert scott // the green house [flying nun]
I'm a huge fan of legendary New Zealand group The Clean, and this year, all three members put out solo releases. If I listen to them all at the same time, I can pretend it's a new Clean album! But on their own, they're pretty damn solid releases, too. David has been releasing solo albums since 1991, and his latest is just as lovely as ever. Album highlight "Lose Myself in Sound" could very well be a Clean track, if he had Bob and Hamish backing him. While David has built up quite a discography, his older brother Hamish released his very first solo album this year. It's a far more gentle release than Dave's, with softly sung lyrics and touches of instrumental whimsy, courtesy of producer Gary Olson (frontman for The Ladybug Transistor). Guitarist Robert Scott is like the Bob Pollard of the Southern Hemisphere, always releasing new music, whether with The Clean, The Bats, or under his own name. His latest solo release runs the range of dreamy acoustic ballads to full-on rockers. Okay, boys, now that you've got these albums out of your system, let's have a new album from The Clean.
shintaro sakamoto // let's dance raw [other music/zelone]I loved Shintaro's previous project Yura Yura Teikoku with its insane psychedelic heaviness, but I gotta say, the direction his solo career is taking is just as enjoyable, in an entirely different way. On his sophomore solo release, he delves even deeper into this unexpected smooth '70s sound he's adopted. The title track is a total Curtis Mayfield groove. "Birth of the Super Cult" is a slinky cocktail-cool number. "You Can Be a Robot, Too" uses (I swear) a banjo. Who ARE you, Shintaro Sakamoto? I'm enjoying finding out on every release.
courtney barnett // the double EP: a sea of split peas [mom + pop music]Okay, sure, this technically came out in 2013, but it didn't see a domestic release 'til January of this year, so I'm counting it. The charming-as-hell Australian singer-songwriter kills me with her sharp, witty lyrics, delivered in a '90s-style deadpan. And as anyone who's seen her perform live can attest, girl can shred hardcore. Courtney gave us a sneak peek at new songs from her forthcoming 2015 release when she was here on Halloween, and I have a hunch you'll be seeing her name again on next year's list.
five favorite locals:• posse // soft opening [beating a dead horse]• the shivas // you know what to do [k records]• s // cool choices [hardly art]• nicholas krgovich // on sunset [self-released]• mirah // changing light [absolutely magnitude/k]
[ Yeah, I know Mirah doesn't live in the Pacific Northwest anymore, but I still like to think of her as local... ]
bestest reissues:• yo la tengo // extra painful [matador]• aislers set // terrible things happen [slumberland]• aislers set // the last match [slumberland]• aislers set // how i learned how to write backwards [suicide squeeze]• bedhead // 1992-1998 [numero group]
Janice Headley is an Online Content Producer, Social Media Coordinator, and Diet Cherry Coke Drinker at KEXP.
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