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Old 12-26-2014, 03:14 PM  
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*** Reaper's Favorite Albums of 2014 ***

I'm really late with the list this year guys. Sorry about that. I've had a massive cold and I've been unable to concentrate on things, so writing these lil write-ups was much more difficult than normal. If anything here doesn't make sense you can blame it on the illness.

As always, this is a list of my personal favorite albums of the year. It's not meant to be an objective "best-of" list, because while I listen to hundreds of new albums each year I still fall far short of listening to enough to feel comfortable making an objective claim. As always, my general preferences for hip-hop & heavy metal mean that you probably won't see your favorite punk album or twee indie rock album. Probably. Hopefully you'll find some albums you will come to dig through this list.

I'll be posting the write-ups & youtube embeds throughout the evening. The main list will be updated here in the OP.

30. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
29. Jason Feathers – De Oro
28. Mike Mictlan - Hella Frreal
27. Glass Animals – Zaba
26. Robert Plant (& the Sensational Space Shifters) – Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar
25. Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel
24. Mr. Twin Sister – Mr. Twin Sister
23. Ces Cru – Codename: Ego Stripper
22. D’Angelo (and the Vanguard) – Black Messiah
21. Angeleena Presley – American Middle Class
20. Panopticon – Roads to the North
19. Taake – Stridens Hus
18. Devin Townsend – Sky Blue (Z2 disc 1)
17. Alcest – Shelter
16. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
15. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
14. TV on the Radio – Seeds
13. Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
12. Behemoth – The Satanist
11. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
10. Freddie Gibs & Madlib – Pinata
09. Opeth – Pale Communion
08. G-Side – GzIIGodz
07. Death Grips – the powers that b, pt. 1: ****as on the Moon
06. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
05. Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires – Dereconstruction
04. Killer Mike & El-P – Run the Jewels 2
03. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
02. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
01. Swans – To Be Kind

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Old 12-26-2014, 03:15 PM   #2
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30. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!


The concept for this album is to try to sound like the experience of what happens after you die. The immediate…whatever spiritual thing that happens. This is a strange free-jazz album with tinges of hip-hop that luxuriates in the mystery of that most universal of human experiences. It’s fun, mostly. At times scary. Perhaps a little bit optimistic about our spiritual fate. It’s trippy, mostly. It’s hard to talk about individual tracks here, as it’s a pretty seamless album, but “Never Catch Me” (with a guest vocals from Kendrick Lamar) has the best, most uplifting music video of this year. If you do anything from this list, click on this music video.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:17 PM   #3
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29. Jason Feathers – De Oro


This album didn’t get many favorable reviews, but I dug it. It’s a pop-rap project from Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Ryan Olsen (Gayngs), and Astronautalis about a gritty rapper from the Flora-Bama. This weird little side project is very similar to the movie Spring Breakers in vibe. The Pitchfork review especially detested this album for its lyrical content, and I agree to an extent. There’s no reason why this bordering-on-appropriation examination into the absurdities & quiet dignity of deep south rap as filtered through some alternate universe (which the Flora-Bama kind of IS) needs to exist. But it does and, hey, apart from the first two heavy-handed tracks I really dig the songs. They sound strange & menacing & campy-fun all at the same time. “Courtyard Marriot” sounds SO cool to me: it simultaneously revels in urban Southern movie soundtrack cliché while also “making the stone stony again” somehow, drawing attention to the South’s unexpected and expected strangenesses at the same time. “Sacred Math” is a lovely, quiet track built around an almost arrhythmic narrative of the main character’s history of spring break memories. Maybe I’m just an Astronautalis apologist, but this album is lots of fun to me.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:18 PM   #4
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28. Mike Mictlan – Hella Frreal


Doomtree’s Mike Mictlan, long one of my favorite wordplay artists in all of rap, delivers a marked improvement upon his too-strange prior solo release. Hella Frreal sees Mictlan trying to carve out a space for achieving two possibly divergent goals: present an entirely unique artistic vision while also paving the way for a new Hispanic-American hip-hop. Tracks like “Mid-West-Coast” and “Benicio del Torso” are steeped in tales of how a young Chicano kid in Minneapolis finds their identity in and around underground hip-hop culture. The tension between paying homage to what raised you while also blazing one’s own path is palpable here. One of my favorite tracks of the year is album closer “Clapp’D,” Mictlan’s admitted attempt at creating a monster POS-like banger.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:20 PM   #5
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27. Glass Animals – Zaba


Most people look to smooth R&B for sexytime music. It’s obvious why. But one of the sexiest songs in recent years, for me, was Miguel’s “Adorn.” It had sultry sexytime vocals mixed with little electronic tics and layered synthesizers and an overall quirky rhythm. That combination is what feels to be the basis of this album from British duo Glass Animals. Sexy little FKA Twigs style rhythms abound here. But while that much-heralded FKA Twigs album left me cold, I appreciate Glass Animals for their more conventional cacophonous builds and accessible vocal lines. This album is like if Alt-J were interested in making love to partners they respect rather than just penetrating them with broomsticks.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:22 PM   #6
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26. Robert Plant (& the Sensational Space Shifters) – Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar


Did you realize that Robert Plant’s voice is still awesome? Would you listen to a new Robert Plant album full of quieter, melancholic songs like Zepplin’s “Bron-y-aur Stomp” and “Rain Song?” Well, listen to this. On this album, Plant is exploring some British folk song structures and instrumentation and (apart from the U2-sounding lead single, “Rainbow”) it yields pretty awesome results. “Little Maggie” is a flurry of string instruments & reeds meeting modern, hip-hop influenced percussion and held together with vintage Plant vocals. “Somebody There” is like a small vial of nostalgia. Other tracks clash (in an interesting way!) with their modern production techniques. These songs feel old in so many good ways, but there’s an interesting mechanical vibe running throughout the album that calls to mind the inevitable change that all societies go through that turns music into “old folk music” and turns industrial towns into ghost towns.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:23 PM   #7
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25. Ne Obliviscaris - Citadel


These guys are a progressive metal band from Australia and they are BONKERS. There’s 12-string bass and electric violin all over the place. Growled vocals & clean singing & that juxtaposition happening over, like flamenco sections. It’s almost intimidating complex music. I don’t really like the sound of either vocalist in this band, but the songs are so interesting to me that I look the other way. This is a classic Barry album: a difficult metal record that is constantly surprising. There’s one or two of these on every year-end albums list I make.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:25 PM   #8
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24. Mr. Twin Sister – Mr. Twin Sister


This album sounds to me like driving on the interstate during a very cloudy evening with some fog and the light from the tall light poles refracting everywhere and no one else is on the road and you’re maybe going somewhere you’re excited about. Wait until the 1:45 mark of opening song “Sensitive” and see if you can’t feel that fog in your mind. It’s like…disco for loners. Disco bass and almost-danceable keyboard lines but there’s no one around to dance with and that’s fine because you’re not a dancer anyway. I think I’m revealing a lot about myself right now. “Rude Boy” is the musical equivalent of Michelle Phieffer in Scarface snorting up cocaine solely for the routine of it all. The best song is “In the House of Yes,” which embraces the disco thing to such an exuberant fullness. The second half of this album is more dreary, but oh what a first half.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:28 PM   #9
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23. Ces Cru – Codename: Ego Stripper


Honestly? Run the Jewels 2 wasn’t the best demonstration of pure rap skill by a hip-hop duo this year. This album by Kansas City’s Ces Cru is (RTJ 2 is the better album however, see below). Godemis & Ubiquitous can rap rings, circles, ovals, hoops, and any ol’ shape around most any rappers anywhere. This album has plenty of that virtuosity, but it also has Ces Cru limiting themselves, working within slower structures, pushing themselves through restraint. It doesn’t result in the best work of their career, but I didn’t find a better album this year in terms of rappers finding new creativity through self-imposed artistic constraints. The few tracks about partying don’t really fit in with the mid-tempo brooders here, but maybe the album needs those lighter moments. What I do know is that this album was on heavy rotation in late summer when I needed a blistering rap fix.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:29 PM   #10
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22. D’Angelo (and the Vanguard) – Black Messiah


What I really like about D’Angelo’s new album – his first since 2000’s Voodoo a whopping 14 years ago -- is that it is so different from his earlier work, which never really landed with me. This album is rooted in old-school jazz funk. It’s not especially innovative; Prince has explored similar territory in recent albums that no one gave nearly as much internet attention to as this one. But aside from a few tracks, I really appreciate the level of craft here. Don’t listen to this on laptop speakers; it’s a disservice to yourself and to the album. Listen to this with good headphones on. There’s so many little sonic details that add creativity and richness to otherwise straightforward funkers like “1000 Deaths” or “Sugah Daddy.” The intricacies you find around the margins of the beat on “Really Love” and “Betray My Heart” give those songs so much more emotional power. The closing track and album standout “Another Life” is the uplifting gospel-jazz number that somehow feels like a minorly-hopeful way to close the books on the pain of 2014 and move towards a new year with renewed purpose. This is the album of the moment for a lot of people and for once I get it.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:29 PM   #11
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21. Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class


Angaleena Presley & her cute Kentucky twang has long played back seat to her Pistol Annies partner, Miranda Lambert. Lambert is a superstar while Presley has been making her bones in songwriting. But with this solo album, Presley proves that she’s in that upper echelon of women in country who write their own songs, right up there with Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves. American Middle Class is, well, about that. These songs have so much truth behind them, so much attention for small detail about normal lives. I loved Musgraves’ 2013 modern classic, Same Trailer Different Park, which I could say the same about, but Presley’s album is less…biting? acidic? than Musgraves’. Presley is more interested in straightforward truth. “All I Ever Wanted” is as honest a confessional as you’ll get out of Nashville these days, un-gussied with defense mechanism irony like so many [good] songs by her peers are. “Grocery Store” is a testament to small thoughts that feel big during the quotidian slog of the day. But maybe I’m overstating the seriousness of the album; Presley does use that fun-ironic distancing technique to good effect on “Pain Pills” and “Knocked Up,” whose subjects you can probably guess. This is a balanced, engaging listen all the way through. Country radio is really terrible these days and albums like this are such a vital antidote to that radio format.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:31 PM   #12
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20. Panopticon – Roads to the North

Panopticon’s last album, Kentucky, attempted to tell the story of that state through black metal. Musically, it utilized bluegrass instrumentation & incorporated black metal into that. It was utterly unique and certainly captivating. This new album still uses banjo as part of its black metal flavor, but the overall effect is less overtly conceptual. The vibe is that of a complex, modern black metal album that just happens to have bluegrass influence. It’s more cohesive is what I think I’m getting at. The production is intentionally pretty low-fi, which doesn’t do much for the album IMO. But apart from that this is a frequently beautiful, unique artistic vision. I don’t need to write much more than “there’s banjo in this black metal album” for you to click the Youtube link, do I?
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:32 PM   #13
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19. Taake – Stridens Hus


For as much as I like complex, ambitious black metal there’s another side of the genre that is compelling to me: the part that is so pure & simple that it sounds a lot like early rock & roll. Carpathian Forest is a classic band in this vein: as much rockabilly in song structure as they are black metal. What I love about this album from stalwart black metal musician Taake is that is embraces that catchy simplicity of black metal’s rocking side. It uses repetition not in a droning, atmospheric way but in short simple bursts for the sake of pleasure. With a different guitar tone you can imagine tracks like “Kongsgaard Bestaar” being played by dudes in Guns n Roses garb. But it’s when that rock drive is used to prop up true black metal that I reach for the repeat button on iTunes. “Gamle Norig” and other songs here are some of the most immediate & accessible black metal tunes since Mgla’s 2012 gem, With Hearts Towards None. If you think you don’t like black metal because it’s too weird or slow, check that song out.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:33 PM   #14
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18. Devin Townsend – Sky Blue (Z2 disc 1)


Devin Townsend, much to the chagrin of his longtime Strapping Young Lad fans, has been experimenting in recent years with trying to find a sort of Pop Metal sound. 2009’s Addicted saw Devin try to find a pop sensibility in industrial rock, which led to 2012’s Epicloud, a release of metalish songs with MONSTER hooks. This album, Sky Blue, is the best distillation of Devin’s pop metal yet. What helps is the large amount of female vocals; this album has as much singing from Anneke van Giersbergen (maybe my favorite female singer on Earth) as it does Devin. The guitar leads sound The Scorpions as filtered through an episode of Doctor Who. The trademark Devin wall of sound is like dense dark matter/spaceship/you see where I’m going with this. Sometimes this album is like what British pop-rock would have evolved into out of the 80’s if hip-hop never happened (especially on “Silent Militia” which sounds like a Ministry song with a chorus lifted from “You Spin Me Round”), but other songs are inspired directly by today’s pop music; “Sky Blue” lifts its chorus from Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin in Love” (yes, Devin invented Usher Metal on this album). I don’t think he’s perfected the ideal mix of metal/hard rock feel with pop structure yet. But this is pretty close.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:34 PM   #15
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17. Alcest – Shelter


Alcest’s previous two albums each were top 10 favorites for me. His blend of black metal and shoegaze just hit me in all of my beauty centers. This new album by Alcest is less successful because he has totally dropped the black metal influence. It’s gone. Shelter is a shoegaze album through & through. But while the album got mixed reviews from shoegaze fans, who critique the album of being too derivative of Slowdive, I am not a big shoegaze fan. I don’t have a deep knowledge of the genre. So all I hear is the same shoegaze aspects of the Alcest sound with a simpler, heavy rock drive instead of a black metal drive. This album sounds like an eagle flying though the air instead of a bat. The bat swoop was much better, but this is still plenty nice if you liked the swoop in the first place. That is a terrible metaphor, isn’t it. I’ll try again: this is a glossy, endearingly pretty album that sounds like you’re drinking sunshine and eagle feathers. Dang. I can’t get my mind off of birds as I listen to this. Not every track is as standout as “Opale,” “La nuit marche avec moi,” or “L’eveil des muses” are, and I chalk that up to Alcest removing that black metal juxtaposition from the formula. Still, this is one of the better pick-me-up albums I listened to this year.
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Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.Reaper16 has an IQ even higher than Frankie's.
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