Favorite Records of 2014

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Another year gone by, another year in music to review. For me personally, it was a strange year in music. I found myself listening to unsigned / self released artists more often than some of the mainstream artists that I love so much. 2 Neil Young records – the 1st was good, if not great. The 2nd was a little too lush for my tastes. Neither appear on my year-end round-up. I looked forward to the new John Mellencamp (yes, seriously) but I came away only loving about half the record. Bruce Springsteen added Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to his band and the record he released didn’t disappoint me. I managed to get out to a few shows in 2014 and was blown away by Mudhoney (twice) and First Aid Kit. Speaking of First Aid Kit, their Stay Gold record grew in stature with repeated listens and should help them become a household name. So without further rambling, here are the records that I played the most in 2014. Note: these are listed randomly and I chose to focus on full length releases that were released in 2014.

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Broken Bells – After the Disco

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Broken Bells return with their long-awaited 2nd record. The reviews have ranged from over the top accolades to mediocre, based on a perceived over saturation of all things related to Danger Mouse, 1/2 of Broken Bells. Broken Bells are an indie super group, or is it super duo? Princess Padmé may have told J.D. in the movie Garden State that The Shins would change his life, but I’ve always been partial to this side project of The Shins lead singer James Mercer and Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse also moonlights as 1/2 of Gnarls Barkley and producer extraordinaire. James Mercer leads The Shins who started out as Flake Music, releasing 1 album under that moniker before The Shins released the album that changed the life of Princess Padmé. The new record leans more towards what we’ve heard from Danger Mouse, with impassioned vocals from Mr. Mercer.

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The Shins – Port of Morrow

The movie Garden State hit home on several levels. Zach Braff was amazing in the TV show Scrubs but hasn’t always connected with me as a “movie actor” – here he was absolute perfection. His character returns home to New Jersey to deal with the death of a loved one. Having been away on the west coast for years, he struggles to connect with his past while also embracing the future. I’m haunted by this movie every time I visit Philadelphia, PA as for the last 10 years I’ve staked a new life out on the “Western Frontier”.  A key scene in the movie involves Braff and the female lead, Princess Padmé Amidala….I mean, Natalie Portman. Both characters connect in a hospital waiting room while The Shins New Slang” plays on Padmé’s headphones. She states to Braff’s character “You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life; I swear.” Curious words for an indie band, but ones that can now be seen as prophetic.

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