Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
From the chanting, come-hither whisperings of the first song off of Durham-based Sylvan Esso’s 2014 debut album, “Hey Mami,” the record catches you in a swirl of strong beats paired eclectically with funky, bass-heavy electronic distortions. The entire album keeps an unhurried but upbeat, flirty and self-assured vibe emanating from lead singer Amelia Meath’s coercing vocals. Cheeky lyrics are delivered with a wink of sweetness and before you know it, you’ve been swept into Esso’s dance party.
Desert Noises – 27 Ways
27 Ways is the Utah group’s third full-length release, yet each song roars out with all the energy and full-steam-ahead wails of a debut album. What’s best is they’ve upheld their fervor, yet effortlessly flex their nuanced techniques and style. The quartet’s heartaches rip out of singer Kyle Henderson’s soul on “Out Of My Head.” The held-dear bluesy rock and roll roots to which the album tips its hat provides a familiar and honest threshold from which the listener observes the record’s youthful, brilliant innocence.
Jesse Marchant – Jesse Marchant
Preferring to release this album under his actual name instead of his previous moniker JBM (under which he has released two studio albums), the Canadian songwriter once again astounds with his provoking insights on the bittersweetness of life; sorrow, anger, reflection, love. The album has a strong, beautifully frustrated battle between loss, acceptance and revisited despair. Jesse’s intimate, crafted lullabies are the thoughts that already dance in the back of your mind because the album understands the solitude and loneliness of the human experience. “Somehow I feel it like a sting / Somehow I feel it wrong.”
Honeyblood – Honeyblood
Honeyblood, the female duo from Glasgow, released their album in May of 2014. The debut is a quirky, amorous, perfected indie throwback to the late 90s that balances Rilo Kiley and PJ Harvey influences with sweet, gliding memories like roller-skating rink birthday parties or carefree, starry-skied late night cruises. What’s the Instagram filter for that?
Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
I stumbled upon this unassuming rocker from an NPR article that described her lazy, memorable style as a female Kurt Vile with the storytelling knack of Bob Dylan. Each song on A Sea of Split Peas is a wonderfully clever, charming anecdote paired with catchy pop twangs, psychedelic riffs and sturdy bass lines. It’s an album you listen to all the way through from start to finish and by the end of it, you feel like you’ve made a friend. Later in the day you may feel something lacking and you’ll try to call your ol’ mate Courtney Barnett up and have a laugh about those hipsters in art school or about how she tried gardening once and ended up in the hospital.
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
After three years of anticipation, The War on Drugs finally released their third full-length album. Americana influences like Petty and Springsteen shine throughout the record, providing a homey, comfortable atmosphere. What is so standalone and significant on this album is lead singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel’s clear and sturdy foundation. The album shows restraint and clarity, allowing Granduciel to weave a dream of soft-spoken shoegaze into an explosive beauty.
Real Estate – Atlas
Atlas is coming home from a long trip. The swooning, lo-fi expansiveness of the guitar mimics the sweeping, watercolor lyrics painted softly through the album. The album has an earnest, simplistic depth ebbing through each song. My favorite song on the album, the billowing, ‘Talking Backwards’, touches on the distance between where you may find yourself and where your heart yearns to be, subtly noting the stubborn miscommunications when dealing with a greater destiny.
Kid Cudi – Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon
I’ve always been fascinated with space. At 25, however, I’ve tucked the astronaut dream into bed. Luckily for me, I’ve got Kid Cudi to provide my would-be Moon Odyssey soundtrack. Samples of ScyFy 1950s-esque space thrillers bookend Cudi’s signature voice and layered, orbiting beats. Oftentimes dark and exploring, the songs build up to be cavernous and looming, only to crest over and crash land among Cudi’s velvety, rich vocals.
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witnesses
Frustrated, misunderstood, romantic, angst. Angel Olsen’s voice sometimes crackles, sometimes wafts, other times assaults both acoustic and fuzzy, pedal-heavy guitars in her 2014 album Burn Your Fire for No Witnesses. Apart from her sultry, lounging voice, Angel executes her lyrics with a rare and confident prowess.
Frankie Cosmos: Zentropy
Greta Kline’s debut is a coy offering of one girl’s perspective on daily life. The recordings are quirky and inventive, but expertly presented to the listener without ostentation. “Sad 2,” the last song on the album, details a heart-wrenching story of a self-conscious weirdo who takes a bus ride to reflect on the time she had to put down her beloved family dog, saying quite frankly, “Dad made the appointment to kill my best friend.” The album is a refreshing, almost visual splash coming from the café/DIY scene of 2014.