From two stand outs on Jagjaguwar – Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten – to a surprise appearance from Amy Lee, here’s our top 10 albums of 2014:
Angel Olsen’s sophomore album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, introduces a stark contrast from previous work at its onset. The title speaks of fierce independence and the recommended protection of one’s creation, and each song in turn drives this point home—each voiced by Olsen like a howling wind coming from the top of a mountain.
On Voices, it’s clear that the band continues its quest to fire on all cylinders. The album opens with “Nothing But Trouble,” a thriving push of melody and Depeche Mode-like rhythms. “Bill Murray” is a laid back Spartan tune that would seem appropriate for one of the more tender scenes in “Lost in Translation,” a little breath of fresh air amidst the swirl of the rich Portishead-ian atmosphere of synths, beats and supple voice.
“Time heals pain.” When tending to a broken heart, that very phrase (or some Chicken Soup for the ___’s Soul variation) remains one of the oldest clichés in the book. In the case of Sharon Van Etten, the exact opposite is true—and for the sake of the New York-based singer’s blossoming career—pain isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Rennison’s outstanding vocals, on par with Nina Simone, Tina Turner and Joe Cocker, are really the capstone on what is a fantastically written and performed album that knows exactly what it wants to be—a hard rock sound soaked in genuine pain that would make any blues man proud.
On her third solo album, the new Something Shines, Sadier returns to a sound more in-tune with the work of Stereolab, and the results are splendid.
The ability to reach back in pop history and bring that sound to a crisp and futuristic front is what makes Yelle great. And it’s that familiarity in sound that translates to waves of emotion, especially for listeners who may not be versed in Budet’s French lyrics.
Phantom becomes your go-to for revelation and reinforced refuge in times of a broken spirit or heart. Diaz’s voice—an instrument of its own—re-introduce her as a catchy contemporary any catty crooner should keep her claws sharpened for. Diaz is perfection, here to stay.
The band GOAT has managed to maintain an elusive cover since its debut album World Music premiered over two years ago. Its fusion of experimental, tribal and psychedelic sun salutations is not quite placeable in any defined musical tradition, and yet there is something familiar beneath the surface that has evoked a remarkable response from listeners the globe over.
You might call this album the Aftermath of Amy Lee. It’s been three years since we’ve heard from the Evanescence lead singer, and what emerges on Aftermath is the antithesis of what she once was—now a film composer, an independent artist and with a sound that is nothing what you’d expect from her. And it’s all a really pleasant surprise.
For those familiar with Garbus’ past work, it contains much of what makes her stand out as a singular artist in a crowded indie landscape. It has propulsive bass and drum lines, choruses that hark back to childhood chants with playground call-and-response rhymes and staccato keyboards and auxiliary percussion.