As we continue our look back at 2014, there were two characteristics or trends that really stood out. First, there were a large number of bands who reinvented themselves. Some of them made our Favourite 50 Albums of 2014 list, including Parquet Courts, Wye Oak, and Strand of Oaks.
The other big trend was the retro vibe emanating from so many of this year’s albums. Solo artists and bands dabbled in everything from ’60s- and ’70s-inspired psychedelia, the raging classic rock from the ’50s to the ’80s, the punk of the late ’70s, the synth-pop that burst on the scene in the early ’80s, and the bubble-gum pop of the ’50s and ’60s. While there were some misses, there were far more “hits”, where many of today’s bands were able to master and even perfect the music their parents and grandparents listened to at the same age. With that, we dedicate this list to those “retro” albums that revived the music of the past, and some made our Favourite 50 Albums of 2014 list. However, this list is dedicated to those that just missed the cut but made yet were still awesome albums that deserve to be celebrated.
Self-Titled Debuts by Axxa/Abraxas and Morgan Delt
Two young musicians who released their debut albums were Ben Asbury – a.k.a. Axxa/Abraxas – and Morgan Delt. Delt’s self-titled album was one of the first albums released in 2014 while Axxa/Abraxas’ self-titled album debut came out in March. Both albums buzz with the psychedelic rock of the late ’60s and early ’70s, following in the footsteps of indie rocker Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. Asbury’s album resonates more with The Byrds while Delt’s sound is more akin to The Flaming Lips. Both, though, whirl with reverb and hazy tunes that will have any fan of psychedelia recalling a bygone era.
Christopher Denny, If the Roses Don’t Kill Us
Seven years since releasing his first album and having overcome personal tragedy and struggles, Christopher Denny made a triumphant return to music. With If the Roses Don’t Kill Us, Denny takes us back to the Americana, roots, and country music of the ’70s and ’80s where the music had more meaning than just trucks and fishing. The album is part love story, part redemption, and really one that should be considered a classic in due time.
Christopher Wild, Christopher Wild
To replicate the iconic rock of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, one would think that a full band would be required – well unless you are Christopher Wild. While he has recently toured with a band, his previous live shows involved just him playing a variety of instruments, and he took the one-band approach into the studio to record is fantastic self-titled debut album. His sound, style, and look are similar to another fantastic guitarist, Saskatchewan’s Jordan Cook, who now fronts the band Reignwolf.
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT), Midnight Sun
Here’s a band that not only pays homage to the past, but GOASTT also transformed themselves from an indie-folk duo to a psychedelic group. Midnight Sun echoes of The Beatles-era psychedelia, which shouldn’t be surprising given the co-leader Sean Lennon’s lineage. Together with his on- and off-stage partner, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, and their host of friends, GOASTT put together an album that makes us long for the days of tie-dye shirts, flowery headpieces, and where free spirits reign, like in the video below (which isn’t safe for work).
Kimbra, The Golden Echo
New Zealand’s Kimbra Lee Johnson – who goes by Kimbra as a solo artist – wrote one of the most ambitious albums of the year with The Golden Echo. Reinventing while at the same time respecting the pop and R&B of the ’80s and early ’90s, The Golden Echo reminded us of Prince during his Purple Rain era, Michael Jackson during his time adorning the red leather jacket and sequins glove, and Paula Abdul making us dance to her infectious pop.
Kind Cousin, Tremendous Hem
Taking us back further in time is Alison Bohl Dehart, whose debut album under Kind Cousin made us think of a much simpler era where the music was raw, light-hearted, and homely. Mixing Americana, folk, blues, and gospel, Tremendous Hem has the hear, soul, and hospitality you find in the deep south, where strangers open up their doors to you as if you were family.
Lee Fields & The Expressions, Emma Jean
For over four decades, Lee Fields has been recording music, but it has only been in the past five years where people are starting to take notice. Together with The Expressions, Fields takes us back to Motown-era R&B and classic soul of the ’60s with Emma Jean. And like so much music of that time, the album is personal and filled with stories that will make celebrate or that may break your heart.
The Men, Tomorrow’s Hits
Brooklyn’s The Men established critical acclaim with their blazing post-punk sound on their first two albums. Their third album, Open Your Heart, though, saw the band slightly changing, including a couple of rock numbers. With Tomorrow’s Hits, the band released a full-blown rock ‘n roll album full of guitars, pianos, horns, and unbridled energy. It’s like Jerry Lewis reincarnated, and the album just rocks. Our parents likely would rock out to this and maybe, just maybe, our grandparents.
Nicole Atkins, Slow Phaser
Whereas Kimbra focused on the funky sounds of the ’80s and ’90s, Nicole Atkins used the pop music – and even hints of disco – of the ’70s and ’80s as the basis for Slow Phaser. Another way to think about Nicole Atkins – she’s this generation’s Gloria Gaynor. Getting your dancing shoes on!
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