SOUND ADVICE: FLOOD’s 10 Best Records of 2014 (So Far)

At the half-year mark, we’re here to reflect on the sounds of the year 2014 to date. From a self-titled siren and a long-awaited solo debut to a career-defining record and a sound-scaping journey, here the editorial staff of FLOOD discusses the best albums of the year so far.

Kevin Drew, "Darlings"

Kevin Drew
Darlings
ARTS & CRAFTS

I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising coming from the guy responsible for “Lover’s Spit” that songs with titles like “Good Sex” and “Body Butter” turn out to be sweet, thoughtful offerings. Darlings, Kevin Drew’s follow-up to 2007’s solo record Spirit If… and first set of material since Broken Social Scene’s 2010 Forgiveness Rock Record, is a pure delight. Brimming with ideas—and the myriad sounds to support them—Drew delivers in the same kind of pop excellence he’s built a career on. Even “Bullshit Ballad” is damn sincere.—Breanna Murphy

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Future Islands
Singles
4AD

There might not be a stranger pop record on this list (or, surely, released this year thus far) than Future Islands’ Singles. Arty without pretension, smart without complication, and weird without detachment, Future Islands have hit a mark that so many bands aim for, but so few bullseye. It’s a rare, inviting, and thoroughly enjoyable affair that stands as the band’s—and one of 2014’s—finest.—Breanna Murphy

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Angel Olsen
Burn Your Fire For No Witness
JAGJAGUWAR

It’s almost impossible to calculate how many albums about love and loss are written, recorded, and released each year. A much easier task would be to count the truly great ones that stand out within this incredibly saturated market, and for 2014 so far, Angel Olsen’s latest tops the list. Beyond her powerful voice and distinct garage-rock sound, Olsen’s lyrical prowess within the scope of life after love is unmatched and heartbreakingly honest.—Bailey Pennick

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St. Vincent
St. Vincent
LOMA VISTA

For her fourth full-length album (fifth if you include her 2012 David Byrne collaboration LP, Love This Giant), Annie Clark has wholly embraced her eccentric side with chest-rattling bass lines, fuzzed-out guitar riffs, a full brass section, and intricate digital flourishes atop her pristine voice. Through all of the glitches, synth lines, and lyrical commentary on the current state of society, Clark freely gives us all of her mind, and her soul.—Bailey Pennick

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Tycho
Awake
GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL

Self-described as “the first ‘real’ Tycho record” by its creator Scott Hansen,Awake sees the San Francisco electronic project become fully synthesized with the addition of new members, past collaborators Zac Brown (bass) and Rory O’Connor (drums). Together, the three map a sonic trip with no set destination, but as landscapes of dense mountains of synthesizers, atmospheres of beats and blips, and waves of layered guitars drift past the pod bay door, we’re transported us to places we never knew existed, Hansen’s background in graphic design should be no surprise—the saturated sounds of Tycho are positively world-building.—Breanna Murphy

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Sharon Van Etten
Are We There
JAGJAGUWAR

The album art for Sharon Van Etten’s latest release features a woman (presumably Van Etten herself) sticking her head out the window of a moving car. That feeling of the wind rushing over you, cooling you down, and removing you from your current situation, is what Are We There is all about. With each song bravely facing the heart wrenching reality of being alone—when you weren’t planning on it—Van Etten’s warm melodies and booming vocals guide you through the ride back to your own confidence.—Bailey Pennick

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Dean Wareham
Dean Wareham
DOUBLE FEATURE

Writing about Dean Wareham’s debut solo album in 2014 can’t help but seem like a mistake because the man’s fragile voice has floated through our minds and within our record collections for over twenty-five years. The (smartly) self-titled album consists of nine tracks that blend Wareham’s signature ethereal soundwith a grander sense of production than we’ve seen before. The result is a collection of excellent songs that makes us question, once again, why it took so long for Wareham to go solo.—Bailey Pennick

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The War On Drugs
Lost in the Dream
SECRETLY CANADIAN

In six very short years, in three excellent long-players and two notable EPs, the War on Drugs have successively built upon each release. The lyrical wordplay of Adam Granduciel—prettier than Dylan, but in sketches of the same design—and the technical talents of guitarist Dave Hartley, keyboardist Robbie Bennett, and drummer Charlie Hall have pinnacled here at Lost in the Dream, with wound-together webs thick in gauzy, moody melody. It’s a pleasure to get lost.—Breanna Murphy

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Jack White
Lazaretto
THIRD MAN

It seems that nothing can stop Jack White; when the man sets his sights, he rarely misses. But, at this point—after decades of the Stripes, Dead Weather, and Raconteurs—one could only expect him to enjoy the burn without stoking the flames higher. But, it’s Jack White. Fiery bravado, incendiary guitar, a blazing pyre of sound and talent that, once lit, casts a burning glow that seems as inextinguishable as the man’s spirit.—Breanna Murphy

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Neil Young
A Letter Home
REPRISE/THIRD MAN

Being friends with Jack White seems to have its perks. For his latest release, Neil Young stepped into White’s restored 1957 Mutoscope Voice-O-Graph armed with only a guitar, some keys, and a harmonica, and stepped out with an intimate album of reimagined classics. By stripping away the expensive studio production fit for a legend of Young’s stature, we as listeners can finally experience what music has influenced, inspired, and comforted the musician throughout his sixty-eight years on earth.—Bailey Pennick

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