Report Card

I’ve bought what professionals refer to as “a cubic assload” of new music this year.  The Top 10 list will come a little closer to January (it’ll actually be more like 20), but in the interim, I just wanted to list everything new that I’ve listened to in 2014.  Since that’s just a big, dumb list, I thought I should make it a little more interesting, and I’m going to assign a completely arbitrary “grade” to each record.  (In the interest of honesty, I Spotified a few of them that I wasn’t sure about…but there are only three of those…)  I’ll make a few comments here and there, too.  A record that gets an A is not necessarily slated for the Top 10…the grade is based on what I expected out of that band or album, not necessarily the place I think it deserves in the yearly list.  So…let’s just get to it…you get it, right?  Here it is, in semi-alphabetical order, as per Microsoft Excel.

  1. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “IX” – A
  2. Black Keys “Turn Blue” – F – I loved their last two albums, but this one felt like they’re trying VERY hard to be the Black Keys.  Nothing organic about it.  If I want to hear the last two albums, I’ll listen to them…they didn’t need to recreate them AGAIN.
  3. Bob Mould – “Beauty & Ruin” – A
  4. Broken Bells – “After The Disco” – C- – I expected to like it a little better than I did, based on how much I like The Shins.
  5. Bruce Springsteen – “High Hopes” – C – Struck me as a cash-grab that didn’t have the Boss’ usual heart in it.
  6. Centro-matic – “Take Pride in Your Long Odds” – A – Sad to learn that they’re calling it quits at the end of this week.  One of the best bands you’ve never heard.
  7. Courtney Barnett – “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” – D – Saw her on the Tonight Show and thought she was great.  Bought this recording and thought it was drivel.  It’s amazing how a change of venue can impact your enjoyment of an act…if she ever does a live thing, I’ll give it a listen.  Because I think she’s probably better than this release represents.  Her wordplay is strong.  The album’s production isn’t.
  8. David Bowie – (Single) – “Sue”/”Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” – A – Shit, it’s just good to have some new Bowie!
  9. David Gray – “Mutineers” – D – It sounds like David Gray, and I don’t know why I find that disappointing.
  10. Delta Spirit – “Into the Wide” – A
  11. Drive-By Truckers – “English Oceans” – B+ – A little too low-end heavy and would’ve benefitted from being about two songs shorter–but I also don’t know which ones I’d lose.  I feel bad going under an A on this one…but the fact that the MASSIVE bass-response makes it sound like shit in my car really hurts it.
  12. Foo Fighters – “Sonic Highways” – D – There’s not a single on it…feels like it was slapped together just for the sake of recording in all those places.  If they’d taken time to let the songs grow and develop, it could’ve been great…but it’s not.
  13. Iced Earth – “Plagues of Babylon” – B-
  14. In this Moment – “Black Widow” – D- – I wanted it to be GREAT.  I adored “Blood” (their previous release) and knew they planned to explore that sound further, so I was expecting to like it a lot…but you know how sometimes someone is trying to write lyrics that are really personal and relevant…but they just MISS THE FUCKING BOAT?  That.  And musically, they’re using some gimmicks that died in the 90s and were cute for one record, but repetitive and dull on the next.  (Not to mention that EVERY song follows the format of “Ambient sound grows into power-metal…yell-yell…quiet…yell.”) It represents no growth and sounds like stuff that didn’t make the cut (with GOOD reason) on the previous (really great) record.
  15. Jack White – “Lazaretto” – C – Liked it…but wanted it to be more earthy, like most of his promo performances for it were.  Just disappointed that it wasn’t the same as the sound he was using on Conan, etc., to promote the album…hurt the first listen to have the extra production on it when I’d heard the stripped down versions first.
  16. Jenny Lewis – “The Voyager” – A-
  17. Johnny Cash – “Out Among the Stars” – C – It’s a left-over from his “C” era…and that’s about right.  No disrespect to him.
  18. Judas Priest – “Redeemer of Souls” – B
  19. Leonard Cohen – “Popular Problems” – C – “Old Ideas” was excellent…this was disappointing.  Especially lyrically.  Musically, it’s probably about on par…but “I always liked it slow, that’s what my mama said” is a terrible, creepy fucking lyric and I can’t get past it.
  20. Lowercase Noises – “This is for Our Sins” – A – Blown away by this one.
  21. Manchester Orchestra – “Cope” – A
  22. Manchester Orchestra – “Hope” – C+ – The acoustic versions of “Cope.”  Released less than a year later…and it feels like they really wanted to get the first song and “The Ocean” into that format, but phoned in the rest. Mostly, I just think the record works better heavier. Would’ve been a much stronger three to five-song EP, maybe as a “special edition” re-release of the “Cope” record.
  23. Mark Lanegan Band – “Phantom Radio” – B+
  24. Neil Young – “A Letter Home” – C+ – I get what he was trying to do…but we’ve still GOT vinyl, Neil.  You don’t need to fake it.
  25. Off! – “Wasted Years” – C+
  26. Old 97s – “Most Messed Up” – B- – Fun to hear ’em cussin’.  Not their best album, but still fun.
  27. Overkill – “White Devil Armory” – B+
  28. Pink Floyd – “The Endless River” – B+; Maybe A- – Expected a complete failure…got a good record.  Color me gob smacked.
  29. Pixies – “Indie Cindy” – A- – Would’ve been a solid A, but “Bagboy” just sucks…
  30. Primus – “Primus and the Chocolate Factory” – B – Really fun and entertaining, but I don’t ever need to hear it again.
  31. Prince – “Art Official Age” / “Plectrum Electrum” – A – Both great, but if I had to choose “Plectrum Electrum” is a little better.
  32. Prong – “Ruining Lives” – B-
  33. Reverend Horton Heat – “Rev” – C – Songs are a little too long and it feels like he tried to hard to write a rock album after the country one.  Listenable, but not memorable.
  34. Sharon Jones & the DAP Kings – “Give the People What They Want” – A
  35. Slipknot – “.5: The Gray Chapter” – A – Blown away by this one as well.  Figured it’d be okay, but not great…but it’s great, not okay.
  36. Swans – “To Be Kind” – B-
  37. The Both – “The Both” – A
  38. The Call – Feat Robert Levon Been – “A Tribute to Michael Been” – A
  39. The Hold Steady – “Teeth Dreams” – A
  40. The Strypes – “Snapshot” – A
  41. The War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream” – A
  42. The Who – (Single) – “Be Lucky” – B+ – Shouldn’t be good, but it’s catchy and fun.  Not the best Who song, but far from the worst.  The hits compilation that it’s on SUCKS in many ways…but the single’s worth downloading.
  43. This Will Destroy You – Another Language – B+
  44. U2 – Songs of Innocence – A – I don’t know why everyone was so mad that they got this for free.  I’d have paid TWICE that!

Looking forward to breaking that down into the actual top ten in a couple weeks!