Best albums of 2014

This year, for my “Best of” lists, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of listing 10 albums, I went with 14 (because it’s 2014, obviously…); and, instead of just making a list, I put them into completely made-up categories, that sort of hint at why I consider them the best of this year, along with my favourite song.

Without further ado:

A favourite band’s new album that took a while to grow on me:

Cavalier Youth – You Me At Six

Latest incarnation of a talented singer:

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Andrew McMahon (in the Wilderness)

Concept album/sequel to another concept album:

The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways – Crown the Empire

“Sing-alongs and headbanging are unavoidable”:

Happiness Is… – Taking Back Sunday

Scottish album that took forever to come out, but it was worth it:

The Great Divide – Twin Atlantic

Country-style old school rock ‘n’ roll:

Big Skies – Nick Santino

“Finally new music from these guys!”:

Losers & Kings – The Downtown Fiction

Dance all night:

The Bad & the Better – The Ready Set

If all female-fronted bands sounded like this, I would listen to female-fronted bands more often:

White Noise – PVRIS

Unapologetic pop-punk (from a Welsh band, no less!):

Wishful Thinking – Neck Deep

Final album from a band that’s been around for over a decade:

Lowborn – Anberlin

Solo music from a guy in a popular (fun.) band:

Strange Desire – Bleachers

Pure pop-rock:

Oh, What a Life – American Authors

Guilty pleasure:

5 Seconds of Summer – 5 Seconds of Summer

BONUS:

Most magnificent/unexpected single:

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

This list doesn’t even include those albums released in 2014 that I haven’t listened to in full yet, such as This Wild Life’s Clouded, not to mention any re-releases (The Maine’s deluxe edition of Forever Halloween), or albums by bands that I love(d) that left me feeling a little “meh” (Breathe Carolina’s Savages).

I wanna get better

Yesterday, I achieved a personal goal: Ro and I officially attended 30 concerts in 2014!! It’s times like these I wish I could capitalize numerals so that I could show you just how excited we were.

Our 30th concert of the year was Bleachers, the side-project of Jack Antonoff. Some of you may know him (like I did) as the guitarist from fun.; others from his previous band, Steel Train; and still others as Lena Dunham’s boyfriend. If you don’t know who he is, however…well, you’re missing out.

Jack.

The opening band was Port Juvee from Calgary (Alberta). They had, according to my pal Jane, a bit of a “The Strokes” vibe, which was true. I found myself zoning out during their set though, so I can’t really give you a proper recap of what they sounded like. I know I was head-bopping at one point and trying to convince Ro to slow-dance with me during another song, but otherwise, I can’t tell you what they sounded like.

It’s entirely possible they played this, I just don’t remember. 

Bleachers went on at 9:30pm. They had just been in town (and by “just been in town”, I mean they played the Mod Club in August), but they were, of course, greeted warmly. I expected a bigger crowd, but it was a decent amount of people and it meant that we a) could sit on the balcony and then b) still have a good view when we gave up on the balcony and decided to stand downstairs.

Opening with “Wild Heart” was the best choice they could have made. It’s the opening track on their first album, 2014’s Strange Desires, so it really is perfect for setting the tone. The acoustics at the Phoenix are always on point and this was no exception: it might seem odd to say, but it was just the right volume, while still allowing that definitely bass-thumping-in-your-chest feeling that I love so much. The band also seemed to be playing just a teeny bit faster and more upbeat than on the album, but it worked really well live.

Because Bleachers only has the one album, they basically played the whole thing. Close to the encore, they played a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and it was excellent. The crowd had already been shuffling around in some semblance of a dance before then, but it seemed like that was the song that really got everybody moving. They followed that up with “Rollercoaster”, which is one of my favourite Bleachers’ songs.

I also really liked that during “You’re Still a Mystery”, Jack took the time to introduce the other members of the band who each got a chance to (literally) sit in the spotlight and play a solo. It’s impressive that they were all able to keep a steady beat going in the background while Jack talked and the one guy (I can’t remember his name) who pulled out his saxophone did an amazing job. There was a mini guy-with-the-saxophone vs Jack-on-his-guitar duel and it was so much fun to watch.

Of course, the moment I had been waiting for came at the very end: “I Wanna Get Better”. This was the first single Bleachers released; it was the reason I said “Man, I need this album when it comes out”; and it was the reason I dragged Jane to HMV so that I could buy it the day it came out. It’s one of those songs where you just want to scream the lyrics out and lose yourself in the moment, where the words hold so much meaning that they can affect you no matter what kind of mood you’re in.

That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself,”Hey, I wanna get better!”

Like I said above, if you’ve never listened to Bleachers, you’re missing out on some 80’s-inspired pop-rock – andwho doesn’t love the 80’s?

EDIT: Please check out my first collaborative review with my good pal Jane over on her website!