2014: Melanie's Top Ten

by Melanie Love

It’s 2014, and music has become more accessible than ever; but the constant availability means that the album experience can get lost in the shuffle. Not at the Daily Vault, where we’re bringing you the deep cuts, the discs you can immerse yourself in and get carried away. These were some of my favorite collections of songs, featuring a lot of debuts juxtaposed against some old favorites. There’s straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, there’s a pop crooner who I predict will stand the test of time, and some new indies to get you excited. So come on in and take a listen, and whatever you do, don’t click Shuffle!

 

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Nightmare And The Cat – Simple

This debut disc from Los Angeles indie group Nightmare And The Cat just reminds me of summer. I listened to it basically every day on my commute to work, and this collection of buzzy, upbeat, constantly shapeshifting tracks was a perfect soundtrack. Formed by brothers Samuel and Django Stewart (their dad is Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics), their musical DNA predisposed them to a keen understanding of dynamics: every cut here is brimming with energy and feels no need to stay within the confines of one genre or a single song structure, making for an energetic and engaging listening experience.

Best songs: “Simple,” “Undercover,” “Mae”  

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Milky Chance – Sadnecessary

By far my favorite German folk duo, I recommend these guys with the nonsensical yet delightful name anytime I can. On their debut release, Milky Chance has crafted a diverse yet endlessly accessible batch of tracks that runs the gamut from pop to reggae to electronica. Singer Clemens Rehbein’s slurry, langorous vocals pair perfectly with DJ Phillip Dausch’s sound, which integrates lo-fi acoustics and buzzy digital beats. If you’ve heard and enjoyed their single “Stolen Dance,” you won’t regret checking out the rest of the duo’s strangely endearing material.   

Best songs: “Sweet Sun,” “Flashed Junk Mind,” “Stolen Dance”


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Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour

While this debut disc was somewhat patchy and a bit overproduced, that’s no matter because the star of the show was always going to be Sam Smith’s voice. The sheer gorgeousness of his range and the innate sensitivity with which he approaches his material is going to make him a longstanding presence on the music scene. In my review I described him as a blend between George Michael and Freddie Mercury, which should give a sense of his talent. Smith is an artist who is not afraid to bare his soul, and the strongest songs here are tender and revelatory. My only gripe is that they should have included “Nirvana” from his debut EP, easily one of Smith’s standout tracks.

Best songs: “Stay With Me,” “Like I Can,” “I’m Not The Only One”

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Taylor Swift - 1989

On this release, T Swift made the crossover leap from country to full-on pop, and the result is nothing short of sparkling, seamless, and endlessly spinnable. The first half of the album is a flawless loop of potential singles that gleefully and smartly poke holes in the man-chaser persona that Swift has been assigned by the media. Paired with glimmering, expansive production and hooks for days, it’s safe to say Swift has overtaken the pop throne.

Best songs: “Blank Space,” “Out Of The Woods,” “Bad Blood”

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Royal Blood – Royal Blood

I still can’t get over the fact that the bone-crushing wall of sound comes out of two guys and a bass guitar. This is pure rock ‘n’ roll: big swaths of “electric” guitar riffage, endlessly pounding drums, and rafter-reaching choruses. It’s an aural assault that still sounds pretty catchy. The duo is becoming massive in England and has been tapped to join Foo Fighters on their upcoming tour, and it’s easy to see why.

Best songs: “Out Of The Black,” “Loose Change,” “Ten Tonne Skeleton”

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Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

While I don’t love this one as much as 2012’s Wasting Light, any Foos release is basically cause for celebration in my opinion. On this ambitious disc, which was the result of their HBO show of the same name, the band attempts to channel the sound of rock’s finest locales and artists. Those influences may get a little lost in the shuffle here, but they’ve still crafted some high-octane and catchy songs that are going to sound incredible live.

Best songs: “Something From Nothing,” “Feast And The Famine,” “I Am A River”

 


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Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments To An Elegy

This was a last-second addition to the list; I haven’t listened to a Smashing Pumpkins record since high school, when I was obsessed with Siamese Dream. Despite Billy Corgan being the only remaining member of the original Pumpkins playing on this release, it’s actually evocative of the old sound, yet totally streamlined and modern. No song here clocks in over four minutes, which results in tight song structures throughout and allows the instrumentation and hooks to stand out. Short, catchy, and not overly ponderous: who would’ve thought Corgan had this album in him?

Best songs: “Tiberius,” “Drum + Fife,” “Being Beige”

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 Queen – Queen Forever

The remaining members of Queen managed to unearth some previously lost Freddie vocals to create the “new” tracks on this disc, but the real standouts of Queen Forever are the songs that have been under-loved or even forgotten throughout their career. Unfolding like a playlist of all of Queen’s greatest ballads, this is your chance to rediscover some of the band’s finest tender (though still rocking) moments and to bask in the delight of Freddie’s singular voice.

Best songs: “Let Me In Your Heart Again,” “In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited,” “You Take My Breath Away”



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Black Keys – Turn Blue

I didn’t really get into this album until I saw the Black Keys live, and as always, Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney astound with their blend of grungey blues rock that still manages to be endlessly hooky. While Turn Blue is not as immediately accessible as El Camino, dipping into psychedelic explorations and longer, slow-burning cuts, it’s a cool innovation on the Black Keys sound we know and love. And when they close out the disc with the exciting, upbeat jam “Gotta Get Away,” it’s a reminder that the Keys can look inward but then bounce right back.

Best songs: “Fever,” “Weight Of Love,” “Gotta Get Away”

 


 
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 Skinny Bones – Noise Floor

The latest from folktronic pair Jacob Rosati and Christopher Stoppiello, this was one of my favorite indies. Lo-fi, atmospheric, and dynamic, these songs pair the tension of their song structure with the cracked-poetry of their lyrics. This is one of those albums to just immerse yourself in and see where the sonic journey takes you.

Best songs: “Sleep In,” “Wanderlust,” “Jamaica Plain”




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