The first three months of 2014 brought to us some excellent music. To review the first quarter, we, Rich and Ben, have provided our favourite 15 albums so far. If you’ve been following us, we say favourite because we’re not experts nor are we qualified critics (is there such a thing?). This list was really tough to determine and we left off some excellent albums, such as those by Future Islands, Hospitality, Wild Beasts, Marissa Nadler, Blank Realm, Wax Fang, The Dum Dum Girls, CYMBALS, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Lake Street Dive, and newcomers like Morgan Delt, Axxa/Abraxas, and many, many others. If we had to do our list again, it probably would look completely different since this is completely subjective.

And as usual, the list is in alphabetical order (by first name).

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

This Chicago-based singer-songwriter with quite a unique voice released her latest album in February, and it’s been one of my most played records of the year. On Burn Your Fire, Olsen departs from the acoustic singer-songwriter niche and gets a bit rock and roll. Check out what I wrote about her ahead of the release of Burn Your Fire and watch the video for “Hi-Five” below. – RM


Beck – Morning Phase

For fans of Beck, the 6-year gap between studio albums was worth it. Morning Phase, Beck’s twelfth studio album, can be simply described with one word – gorgeous. It is stirring, romantic, and haunting. It’s one of the masterpieces of 2014. – BY


Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters

Seattle’s Damien Jurado paints elaborate songs. Like a master storyteller, Jurado exquisitely describes landscapes, characters, and struggles on  Brothers and Sisters, his 11th studio album. Produced by the great Robert Swift, Brothers and Sisters goes beyond the usual indie-folk realm and adds hymnal and experimental elements to create a unique, harrowing sound, such as on “Silver Timothy”. The best way to describe the effect the album has is, as stated back in January, that of a Salvador Dali painting – where one can easily get lost in the dream that is painted yet awaken with a full understanding of what it all means.  – BY


Drive-by Truckers – English Oceans

After a couple of bumps on the road, the Drive-by Truckers return to their roots and produced their best album in six years with English Oceans, a superb 13-track album of southern rock. From songs based on characters found in a novel (“Pauline Hawkins”) to ones that read as short stories (“Primer Coat”) to recounting the loss of a dear friend (“Grand Canyon”), the album finds the band at its storytelling best. Acclaimed as one of the year’s best, including on in this space, the album still maintains a lofty standing among the many great albums of the year. – BY


Doug Keith – Pony

Doug Keith may have gained notoriety for being Sharon Van Etten’s long time musical accomplice, but his most recent solo outing puts his name on the map by itself. Doug is a great songwriter, an incredibly talented musician, and the cast he put together for this album is practically a supergroup. Read my post about Pony here, and check out “You Can’t Stand To Be Alone” below. – RM


Eagulls – Eagulls 

Arguably the most intense and heart-pounding debut album of the year so far, Eagulls’ self-titled record is 10 tracks of glorious psychedelic rock. From the crushing opener, “Nerve Endings” to The Cure-esque “Tough Love” to the anthemic closer, “Soulless Youth”, the album will leave you breathless. – BY


Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

Hurray for the Riff Raff’s amazing Small Town Heroes is a much needed alternative to a lot of the mainstream folk out there. The album has a lot, it’s got little old school feeling to it, and it has some beautiful songs on it. Check out my review here, and check out “End Of The Line” below. – RM


Nicole Atkins – Slow Phaser

One of my favorite voices in music, the New Jersey based Nicole Atkins released a fantastic “dark disco” album, Slow Phaser in January. It’s a bit of a departure from her noir pop of Neptune City or Mondo Amore, but it’s fantastic. Atkins’ lyrics are witty, and the music is catchy and dance-able, and her incredibly powerful voice didn’t go anywhere, in fact it may be better than ever. Check out my review here, and her video for “Girl You Look Amazing” below. – RM


Real Estate – Atlas

New Jersey indie rockers Real Estate released their latest album, Atlas in March. Continuing on with their laid back vibe and gorgeous guitar work, Atlas picks up where 2011’s fantastic Days left off.  Check out my post about Atlas here, and check out the lovely music video for “Talking Backwards” below. – RM


Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Give the People What They Want

Sidelined for much of 2013 because of a battle with cancer, Sharon Jones is back, and back in a huge way.  Give The People What They Want is Jones’ latest effort, and it is full of funky, groovy soul and R&B. Ben reviewed the record here, and you can check out the soulful “Stranger To My Happiness” which sounds right out of the 1960’s below:


Slothrust – Of Course You Do

So far, in 2014 I don’t think I’ve listened to any album as much as this one. Slothrust’s Ba Da Bing! Records debut Of Course You Do is an instant grunge classic. Read my writeup here, and check out the epic two-part “Magnets” below and find out why this trio have completely reignited my love for grunge music. – RM


St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Among the new generation of great singer-songwriters is Annie Clark – a.k.a. St. Vincent. On herself-titled fourth album, she has written an album that is part psychological analysis, part sociological experiment, part anthropological study, and all parts amazing. Her imagination and the imagery she depicts in her songwriting is unmatched. With a tour underway, which includes a stop at the Ottawa Bluesfest in July, as our Megan Landry wrote, “Be ready to be amazed.” – BY


Temples – Sun Structures

Psychedelic pop hasn’t been written as catchy and infectious since the days of The Byrds. On their debut album, Temples – the buzzy, young band from Kettering, UK – are not trying to reinvent psychedelia but rather to introduce it to a new generation of music lovers but in a way that is accessible and memorable. As described in an earlier review, from start to finish, the nearly one-hour LP is ear-popping and deliciously good. – BY


The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

In 2014, the Philadelphia based War on Drugs released what may be at the top of many year-end lists. Lost In The Dream is a great album that is reminiscent of an older time, with songs that sound like they could be off of an album from the 1970’s or 80’s that would now be considered “classic rock”. Check out Ben’s review here and watch the video for “Red Eyes” below. – RM


Young Fathers – Dead

By way of Edinburgh, Scotland, Young Fathers is the type of band that can grow to be one of the most influential bands of its generation due to its ability to blend genres to create new, refreshing sounds. Fusing together the sounds of hip hop, R&B, trip-hop, trance, and rock, the trio’s experimentalism is unimaginably successful. As discussed back in a February 10th feature, Young Fathers could be blazing a path similar to Massive Attack and TV on the Radio by pushing the musical boundaries with their refreshing and innovative sounds and landscapes. – BY

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