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Top Ten Albums of 2014 – #1: 0 by Low Roar

27 Dec

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How many of you have bought an album this year? If you did, you probably bought it digitally. If not, there’s a solid possibility that you are instead a vinyl enthusiast (read: purist) and you got something on wax. But the chances of either (I won’t even bother talking about CDs) were slim. Slowly, the album is becoming less and less important, but I implore us all to reverse this trend. A well-constructed full length album is the holy grail, and Low Roar has delivered 2014’s best with 0.

Combining lyrics, sounds, and rhythms is simple enough that even a celebrity teen mom can do it. Doing it well is a whole ‘nother ballgame. There is a profound effect from 0 that hits from all sides, right from the start. The debut track, “Breathe In,” is a full seven minute, slow-burning epic, enrapturing from the very beginning. The length is important, mostly because it sets this album apart from the rest of the pack; too often do songs stop short before reaching their full potential. This is not to say that all of 0 requires your undivided attention to appreciate. Take “In the Morning,” which comes in under a minute and a half; it proves that emotion in a message can be palpable, no matter how long it takes to say it:

“I want you to know

I need you to know

I love so much more each morning.”

To read more on my opinion of 0, check out my review from earlier this year, and be sure to check back in with the Music Court for more Low Roar news in the coming weeks.

It is a shame that we have stopped listening to albums. Are we too lazy to give an hour of new sounds a chance? Ruminating on a compilation of one artist’s musings, in the order that they have carefully curated, makes us think critically about what it means to be a true artist. Unfortunately, as with the growing ease to create music, we have an epidemic of everyone being a critic, and dismissing new music from completely unknown artists as quickly as they will laud a new track whose claim to fame is not having any treble. Instead of allowing ourselves the opportunity to internalize something we’ve never heard before, we opt for something easier, something that we don’t need to think critically about. Music is too large a part of all of our lives to waste it on tunes that we’ve heard before, and that we don’t even really care about. If you care about nothing else from this truly disappointing year, care about Low Roar, and pick up a copy of 0 today.

Find more information on Low Roar via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

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Top Albums of 2014 – #2: Turn Blue by The Black Keys

24 Dec

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To be honest I was not sure where to start with this post on the #2 album of 2014: The Black Keys’ epic LP Turn Blue, an album eagerly awaited by a substantial fan base since the uber-successful release of the band’s 2011 album El Camino. My loss of words is directly caused by the plethora of topics I can discuss concerning this album. There is the continued partnership with producer Danger Mouse (who always finds his way onto the Music Court’s end-of-the-year charts with multiple bands), the Mike Tyson aided release announcement in March of this year, the Ghoulardi-inspired album title and the blue and pink Twilight Zone-esque spiral album cover, and, of course, the powerful 11 tracks that features sounds that range from psychedelic, low-key Broken Bells inspired keys to the upbeat blues rock that the Black Keys became famous for.

I’ll stick with the music.

The Black Keys, the baby of two childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, has produced excellent scratchy garage rock since the band’s inception in 2001, and since then the band has continued to evolve as an inventive propagator of engaging, catchy rock music, and this has helped the duo develop a loyal fan base. Turn Blue, the band’s 8th studio album, involved some tenseness (as expected in the creation of any album) and a lot of new exploration for the band, which helped produce some fascinating tunes that take the Black Keys out of its comfort zone.

“Weight of Love” is a perfect indication of this. The inception of the song draws out two chords, distorted guitar, and distended percussion.  The first two minutes plays like pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd mixed with Burton’s spaghetti-western inspired Rome. The song then transforms to a sprawling rock piece with echoed harmonies and wall-of-sound keys. There are so many elements magically combined into this piece and this combination is done incredibly well. It is masterful. The fear was that it would be too self-indulgent, but, instead, the song actually blends 50 years of rock music elements and takes on past and present with ferocity and listenability. Excellent piece.

“Gotta Get Away” is refreshing. It’s a jaunty on traditional Black Keys garage rock. It is an infectious song with drawn-out keys and jocular instrumentation. It’s just a joy to listen to, so do so, and have a wonderful holiday!

Listen to more – Black Keys Website

Top 10 Albums of 2014 – #3: SCOTLAND by Ghost Cousin (INTERVIEW)

21 Dec

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I wrote about this album a few months ago, and as you could probably tell, I absolutely loved it. Now I’m here to recognize it for being one of the best albums of the year*. Instead of just rehashing all the praise I have already given it, I was able to interview the group in order to give us a little insight into Ghost Cousin.

SCOTLAND is out now; buy it on Bandcamp. For more information on Ghost Cousin, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud. Continue reading

Top Albums of 2014 – #4: Strange Desire by Bleachers

21 Dec

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Back in November I lauded Bleachers as the purveyors of ridiculously catchy music that refused to leave the musical amalgamation that is my mind. My opinion of the band has not really changed; although, I must say that Jack Antonoff’s project has moved in my mind from just plain catchy to musically skilled and complex; Antonoff melds a theatrical pop sound fit with expeditious percussion and dulcet instrumentation with the essential quality of catchiness, which the songs most certainly have.

Bleachers released its debut LP Strange Desire in July of this year and several singles have been cherry picked from the album, each cherry perfectly ripe and delicious. Singles like “I Wanna Get Better” and “Rollercoaster” have hit the charts with a mini fervor, similar to Antonoff’s last uber-successful project (Fun). I think the songs have also just scratched the surface of popularity; in fact, I see a remarkably successful 2015 for Antonoff and his fellow bandmates.

Strange Desire is an 11-track affair with tracks featuring Grimes and Yoko Ono – yes, Yoko Ono. The first four tracks are all super hits in my mind; seriously, the tracks are each monumental jaunty pop pieces that get feet tapping and heads nodding. The ethereal, heavenly keys and 80s-esque harmony of “Wild Heart” is followed by the key-driven, percussion-soaked harmony-laden swooning “Rollercoaster,” which is the perfect hit-the-road-and-drive-anywhere song. This is followed by an Arcade Fire-like “Shadow,” which moves with a creative rhythm section and ends with a twangy guitar riff that leads into this:

“I Wanna Get Better,” which is one of the best songs of the year, is a melodic agglutination of anthem vocals, sprawling harmonies, infectious keys, and rock-out percussion. The song just kicks some much butt, and it is tempting to just listen to it on repeat. Plus, I must say it fits the New Years theme quite well because doesn’t everyone want to get better.

Check out more from Bleachers on its website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Top 10 Albums of 2014 – #5: Tremors by SOHN

19 Dec

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A poppier iteration of James Blake, SOHN stole my attention throughout the whole month of April when Tremors dropped. It endured all year, and now here it is, the fifth best album of the year. Because love lost is more than just painful, it’s poetry.

This album does not overwhelm. It remains steady and engaging, but somehow managed to take hold of all my senses as I listened to it. The vocals are soft and endearing, and the lyrics are polite and honest. For all the reasons that it shouldn’t be an album to bother listening to, it becomes an album not to miss.

The opening track, “Tempest,” displays his favorite mixing technique of layering cut melodies over one another to create a rhythm for the song to follow. He adds in gentle lyrics and a bass line, and even some drums make the song danceable. And then he strips it down again, just to enjoy the echoes in the background with the original rhythm. And the rest of the album follows. “The Wheel” makes it very clear that, although his lyrics can seem simple and cliché at times, they work with all the emotional levels of music behind it. “Bloodflows,”my favorite track on the record, gives the appeal of focusing on SOHN’s heartbreak with an average, even banal melody behind the vocals, then breaks my own heart with the riff halfway through the song.

Tremors is not an unexpected album but it pulls no punches. Like your favorite Radiohead album, you are unable to focus on anything but SOHN as the tracks wear on. A beautiful snapshot of the status quo, Tremors is one of 2014’s best albums.

Tremors is out now. For more information on SOHN, visit his website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Soundcloud.

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