Best Albums of 2014: # 11, 10, 9

LP packshot


The band who recorded my favorite album of 2009 has been on hiatus ever since, so I take solace in this latest solo effort from its leader. A concept album about 18th century Welsh explorer John Evans (he went to America and produced an early map of the Missouri River), it’s more disciplined than the average Super Furry Animals release, even as it runs the gamut from showtune-ready rockabilly (“100 Unread Messages”) to extended orchestral fanfares (“Iolo”) and catchy nonsense (or whatever the heck “Allweddellau Allweddol” is). There’s also a corresponding documentary film and book (both of which I want to check out), but this very much stands on its own as a fully realized piece.

Favorite tracks: “American Interior”, “100 Unread Messages”, “Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be)”


10. Stars – NO ONE IS LOST

Most bands should be so lucky to sequence their albums with such fabulous bookends as Stars has for their seventh album: “From The Night” places somber, meek verses against a catchy, full-blast chorus, and the contrast heightens the impact in both sections, while the title track manages to eke out an uptempo, floor-filling anthem from a sentiment as dark and honest as, “Put your hands up ‘cause everybody dies.” In between, you get the usual ‘80s pastiches and Amy Millan ballads, none of which are standouts or embarrassments. They’ll still release a stellar singles comp someday, but, along with 2012’s THE NORTH, they’re getting closer to that classic full-length they’ve been edging towards since SET YOURSELF ON FIRE a decade ago.

Favorite tracks: “From The Night”, “What Is To Be Done?”, “No One Is Lost”

leonard cohen

9. Leonard Cohen – POPULAR PROBLEMS

I hate to keep going back to the well of “this is artist x’s best album since y”, but seriously, I have not enjoyed listening to this man so much since 1988’s I’M YOUR MAN. If I had first heard this when it was released in September instead of a few weeks ago, it might’ve placed even higher here. Cohen’s almost exclusively-spoken growl may now fall somewhere in between Tom Waits and Cookie Monster, but he’s completely in sync with the material. However, the real attraction this time out is the music: both spacious and intimate, its twists and turns (the tempo change in the chorus of “Did I Ever Love You”, the Serge Gainsbourg-worthy near-disco (!) of “Nevermind”) are surprisingly spry coming from a near-octogenarian.

Favorite tracks: “Slow”. “Almost Like The Blues”, “Nevermind”