Best Albums of 2014: # 17, 16, 15



Laborious title aside, this is nearly as good as BEAUTY AND CRIME from 2007, which is the least one should expect since it’s her first collection of new material since then. What’s unexpected is how well “Fool’s Complaint” would’ve fit on any of her first three albums, or the Macklemore reference she sneaks in to “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” or “I Never Wear White”, arguably the first all-out rocker of her 30-year career and a convincing one at that. Let her take another 5+ years to make another album if it replicates the quality control present here.

Favorite tracks: “Fool’s Complaint”, “I Never Wear White”, “Horizon (There Is A Road)”

BEN WATT hendra space 2

16. Ben Watt – HENDRA

Given wife Tracy Thorn’s solo renaissance, it seems inevitable Watt would follow with his own album—his first since 1982’s pre-Everything But The Girl NORTH MARINE DRIVE. Closer in vein to that record than the electronic dance music he’s dabbled in since the late ‘90s, HENDRA casts Watt in the role of middle-aged troubadour, similar to the persona Thorn inhabited on LOVE AND ITS OPPOSITE. These ten reflective, mostly stripped-down songs concern such universalities as memory (the sublime “Forget”) and aging (“Young Man’s Game”). And although Thorn was EBTG’s primary vocalist, it’s simply great to hear Watt sing (and play guitar) again.

Favorite tracks: “Forget”, “Spring”, “Young Man’s Game”

the both

15. The Both – THE BOTH

Two of my favorite musicians (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo) make up this duo and the lead single is named after my hometown (“Milwaukee”) so the whole effort would have to suck considerably for me to hate it. And though it’s not the best thing either artist has ever done, it’s the most enjoyable album either has released in some time. Even more impressive, it’s a perfect melding of two sensibilities that pays dividends: Leo encourages Mann to convincingly rock like she hasn’t since I’M WITH STUPID, while Mann inspires a melodic drive and focus from Leo that hasn’t been so tight since SHAKE THE SHEETS. It all sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Favorite tracks: “Milwaukee”, “Volunteers of America”, “The Prisoner”


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