2014 was a huge year for music.
It was the year that turned me into a Beyoncé fan. She unexpectedly dropped an entire album two weeks before 2103 came to a close. No promotion, no single, no teases. BOOM. One day we’re listening to “Run the World (Girls)”
for the one-thousandth time and the next day we have 14 new Beyoncé songs. And not only did we have fourteen new songs to listen to but we had music videos to accompany each track. It was such a surreal event in music history. I remember being at a party in Crown Heights at my friend’s apartment looking for some respite from all the people in the living room, so I walked to his bedroom and pulled out my phone. I opened up Twitter and my timeline was in a collective roar. Everyone was thanking the music gods that their queen just dropped the best album of the year. I was in awe of her tactical move to release an album out of the blue like that. While, Lady Gaga struggled to get people excited about her 2013 album ARTPOP
, using the usual, proper channels to do so, Beyoncé was like, “Fuck that!”
and dropped that shit like it was NBD. I admired her from that moment on. I was never a Beyoncé fan (with the exception of ”Halo”
and ”Sweet Dreams”
. As a homosexual male, I know that is a crime but I just never understood why her music mattered. Weeks after she dropped Beyoncé
I still wasn’t convinced of her appeal but I caught myself digging “Drunk in Love”
more and more each time I heard it on the radio.
It wasn’t until I drove my friend Moroni to the train station in Williamsburg after a delicious brunch and confessed to him I haven’t heard the album that I became an official Beyoncé fan. He asked me to pull over as he plugged his iPhone into my car’s stereo and put on “Haunted”
. We were silent for the entire 6 minutes and 9 seconds. I remember getting chills each time the beat changed. Especially that haunting thundering clap. The song sounded like a mélange of everything I have been listening to. I hear The xx. I hear The Weeknd. I hear Crystal Castles. What is this pop star doing with all of these innovative, unconventional beats? For the next twenty minutes, we dissected the entire song. We tried interpreting the lyrics and wondered who her influences were. I was completely smitten.
I spent the entire winter listening to the album. Every time we went out on the town, I yearned to hear everything from “Partition”
and we did hear them (and more!). The clubs, bars and DJs played them without acquiescence. But by the time I was fully enthralled by her record, I already posted my Best Records of 2013 and it was shamefully omitted from the list. Since I have strict rules and regulations concerning my end of the year lists, I couldn’t amend my list to accommodate her masterpiece. Nor can I place Beyoncé
on my 2014 list unless I count the deluxe edition but that doesn’t comply with my stringent rules and regulations. So, please excuse my verbosity while I attempted to explain why Beyoncé
did not appear on neither my 2013 or 2014 year end list. Most pop stars rely on singles to sustain their careers. Have a few Top 20 songs every two years and you’re good good
. It’s rare for a pop artist with the amount of celebrity, fame and success that Beyoncé has to actually release such a cohesive, beautiful, perfect album. Pop albums are usually just a compilation of singles with songs in-between as filler but Bey challenged that assumption. She also confronted her detractors and tackled the criticisms that she’s an unemotional android by releasing the most personal, affecting and passionate album of her career.
There are moments on the album when she has to remind us she’s not a robot by declaring her humanness. At the end of “Jealous” she literally sings, “I’m just jealous. I’m just human. Don’t judge me.” Every time I hear that lyric it makes me chuckle. We’re not judging you Beyoncé. Just keep releasing songs like this and you’ll be forever adored. Beyoncé wrote a personal pop album illustrating all the good and bad that comes with marriage. It’s one of the first pop records that I have listened to that shows the truth behind a loving passionate relationship. Songs about having babies, songs about miscarriages. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an album this much. And I think Boots is the reason this record exists.
I’m not sure if I’m “allowed” to include mixtapes to my year end lists (I know I have in the past). For some reason I feel like I’m cheating my own system. But I finally got around to listening to Boots’ (the mastermind behind Beyoncé’s last record) mixtape WinterSpringSummerFall
and it would be a crime not to mention it here. It’s incredible. And I’m very upset and disappointed that none of my friends have forced these tracks into my ears, somehow, someway. I feel as if I haven’t lived my full potential this year because I just got around to listening to this mixtape. I feel neglected, left out. It’s the only thing I have been listening to for about a month.
You can hear all your former classmates on Facebook becoming your parents when they write baloney status updates about the current state of music and how there’s nothing good on the radio anymore. That music isn’t like it was back when they were kids. It’s shocking when I touch base with old friends who are still rocking out to the same bands we listened to in 1998. It’s almost cute. It just seems everyone born in the 80s decided to stop using the internet and allowed iHeartRadio (or Clear Channel) to cultivate their listening habits. I’ll never understand why they surrendered. There is good music out there, you just have to look for it.
2014 marked the year that I accepted streaming as a viable mode of listening. My iPod Classic officially died and my 16GB iPhone didn’t have the space to carry around all the songs I needed to feel safe when I left the house. And Apple is no longer making them anymore. This is the moment I became a Spotify premium user and streamed hours and hours of music while I was “on-the-go.” At this moment my music library would no longer grow in size. I stopped downloading music. I stopped hoarding files and songs on external hard drives. And my biggest fear has become things like bandwidth throttling and data discrimination. What if our internet providers limit our usage? That would kill streaming in mere seconds. All of these streaming services would lose all their members and the internet would become just another corrupted entity. Net neutrality is where it’s at so please sign all of those petitions that come your way. It’s a very real issue that will affect all of us. Our cell phone data plans are already bankrupting us all.
2014 brought a new Sia record and an interesting album campaign. Sia deciding to turn her back on the audience for every performance of “Chandelier.” Having people like Lena Dunham evoking the song’s spirit while Sia lays face down on a bunk bed. I remember the first time I heard “Chandelier” was outside a closed Target at 1am in Austin during SXSW. We set up a makeshift office outside on the pavement, stealing their free wifi. It took a few listens for the song to click—and once it did we were smitten. This was Sia’s year. Over the last few years she has penned so many hit pop songs, it finally felt like it was Sia’s moment to take a seat in pop’s throne. 1000 Forms of Fear
drops to what seems like rave reviews. But I’m listening to the album and it’s not hitting me the way it’s hitting everyone else. What are they all hearing? End of the year lists start sprouting up on the internet in December and I noticed 1000 Forms of Fear
is absent from these lists and maybe people started to think a little more clearly. Don’t get me wrong there are gems on this album. “Elastic Heart” and “Big Girls Cry” are incredible. What Sia brings to pop music is more important than a critically-acclaimed album. She’s doing important work. Watch the “Chandelier” music video or the “Chandelier” performances. Listen to this
hour-long thoughtful, heartbreaking interview she did with Howard Stern. She’s a beautiful human. Inside and out.
This year Beck retreated back to his Sea Change
roots with his new album this year and I was totally here for it. This was the year I got into V V Brown but she didn’t release a proper album this year so you wouldn’t really know. The track she did with Kele Okereke appeared on almost every playlist I made this year and deserves all your listens.
During one cold wintery night in Brooklyn, the club was closing up and someone mentioned an afterparty happening a few blocks away. It was one of the best nights I had in awhile. In the dark, sweaty room filled with people, I heard Tinashe for the first time. I remember dancing to this incredible dark and brooding beat wondering who was singing. I was proper drunk, with the best people and everything felt warm and perfect. It might have been 13 degrees and nearing 5am but nothing was going to stop this feeling. Shazam saved the night though or I would have never known Tinashe’s name. From that moment on, I was hooked. I downloaded all of her mixtapes. And when she announced she was playing a show at SXSW, I nearly died. She played Hype Hotel the night that Gorilla vs. Bear
and Yours Truly
curated the lineup. We entered the venue through a dark back alley near a bodega. It reminded me of NYC if NYC actually had alleys. Why do alleys only seem to exist in movies (and I guess Austin, Texas). There were free drinks and free Taco Bell. Lots of tall good looking people as well. I separated from my friends to get to the showcase early, so I wouldn’t miss my alt-R&B princess. I met a girl named Rachel and wondered why all the Rachels I know have strange colored hair. She’s a former emo girl and is a photographer and went to college in Orlando, Florida. An Ariana Grande remix is being spun between acts and Pure Bathing Culture takes the stage in front of orange amplifiers and they sound like a mellower Beach House. When Tinashe steps on stage the crowd goes wild. It’s just her and her DJ. She opens her set with my favorite song “Vulnerable” which I documented below. My heart was palpitating watching her dance. Then two good looking dudes come out halfway through the song and synch with her moves. The energy emanating from these three is infectious. I’m sold.
I wasn’t sure if anyone could follow Tinashe but BANKS picked up where Tinashe left off that night at Hype Hotel as she bellowed into her microphone with those ferocious sweet vocals she has and completely hypnotized the entire venue. Casting spells with her R&B-infused witchcraft.
Jetta christened an audience one random night in Austin and if you were looking to fill the heartbreak void Adele left us with a few years ago, Jetta is here to fill it for you. Balladry. Beautiful. Crescendos aching to crash in all her songs. I’m surprised she isn’t a household name by now. I met a dude at this show who introduced me to Kristal and Jonny Boy and I am forever indebted to him and he doesn’t even know it.
I have been following Cardiknox like the synthpop prince I think I am and they have finally signed with a major label. We caught them first at last year’s CMJ and supported them in Austin for SXSW. They are the sweetest group of musicians around with solid tunes to swoon over. But if I continue to gush about all the amazing things I encountered at SXSW, everything would pale in comparison. So, let’s stop here.
The long anticipated Mr. Blue Jeans album finally dropped and no one seemed to care anymore. Courtney Love released two new songs this year and they were rather lovely. My favorite German glitch-pop band The Notwist released a new album this year and came to the states to support it. The boyfriend got me tickets to see them at Webster Hall and I was in synth heaven. I think I spent more time at Webster Hall this year than any previous year I spent on this earth. All of the bands and artists I’ve been following are finding a larger audience. And I’m happy for them but I really don’t like that venue. I think I lost Charli XCX to the masses this year. She released a subpar “punk rock” album forgetting her goth-pop past behind and it’s fine, but it wasn’t the direction I hoped she would go in. We caught Tove Lo at a sold-out show at Westway. We saw Sylvan Esso there as well and there was not enough room to even dance. I was serenaded by Mirah at the Jewish museum in Manhattan and she played so many old songs and a bunch of new ones I was excited about. Months later she dropped one of the best albums she has written in quite some time. I’m sorry it took a broken heart to get there though.
Reminisced with Nada Surf at The Bell House one winter night with Michael Seth. Realized I don’t really like disco when I went to a Horse Meat Disco party with the tattooed muscle daddy from work. Remember when The Weeknd stole back the beats and vibes Beyoncé borrowed from him and covered “Drunk in Love?” Here
is your reminder. 2014 was the year I saw Yuck again at Bowery Ballroom (I met the man of my dreams at a Yuck show there 3 years prior). The boyfriend decided last minute that we should attend the Amnesty International concert at Barclays and we were graced by the sounds of Tegan & Sara, Cake, Blondie and Lauryn Hill. Seeing Cardiknox and Betty Who play together was a dream come true. How about that score for Only Lovers Left Alive
? That time I smuggled my way into Glasslands to catch FKA Twigs’ first show in New York and she was giving so many Kendra (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) vibes. TRUST dropped a new album and continued to tour and tour and tour. I caught him at SXSW and Le Poisson Rogue. He’s still one of the best things to come around in awhile. Grimes dropped a new single she wrote with Blood Diamonds that was originally for Rihanna and it was great. But where’s the rest of the album?
London Grammar loves to sing and she should because she’s great. I caught her at Irving Plaza and Haerts opened up. Saw Banks at Irving as well and she continued to cast spells. My heart was palpitating during her entire set, I thought I was going to go into cardiac arrest. Too many feelings. Ran into some friends after the show and everyone seemed possessed. Banks played an acoustic set when her album dropped at Rough Trade and it was the first time I got a Fiona Apple vibe from her and it broadened my entire perspective on her. She can singgggggggggg! I went home and listened to “Goddess” in its entirety and realized she’s more than just R&B. 2014 marked the year I would see M.I.A. live for the first time and it was everything I could hope for. Solange was there to open for her. #VultureFest was a great time.
Elliphant played Glasslands in 2013 and it was the one show my boyfriend wouldn’t stop talking about. Informing me that I missed out on something extraordinary. Thankfully she opened up for Charli XCX at Webster Hall this year and I was able to get a taste of her stage antics. He was right. She’s something special. Watch this video for “One More,” the song she recorded with Mø. It’s just a tease.
Robyn returned this year with an EP she recorded with Röyksopp and it wasn’t everything we were hoping for but it was something we weren’t aware we needed. Their show this summer on a pier in Manhattan was one of those perfect rare summer nights that don’t come around too often. Erik Hassle opened up for Mø and he was nice to me when he initiated conversation on the line for the bathroom. Mø almost tore down the walls in Glasslands. And little did we know it was okay for the walls to crumble because Grasslands was closing up shop a few months later (along with various other music venues in North Williamsburg due to Vice growing into a huge media conglomerate). We wished Glasslands a farewell during a How to Dress Well show. Tom Krell is such a special creature and he made our good bye that much more heartfelt. Thank you. Glasslands was probably my favorite Brooklyn venue, if not my favorite venue in all of New York City. I was sad to see it go. I’m hoping PopGun finds a new unique space to take its place. And I hope it’s not Baby’s All Right because that place attracts the worst kind of people.
2014 was the year we messed around with StubHub. Instead of queuing up Ticketmaster when tickets went on sale, juggling a MacBook, iPhone and an iPad we decided to let the pre-sales come and go. A few weeks before a concert comes up we check StubHub on a daily basis and watch the tickets drop down in price. More than a few times we acquired tickets below face value. It feels good getting even with scalpers when this happens. This isn’t fool-proof. Things don’t always work in your favor but there are always more options the day of the show. Like when How to Dress Well played Irving Plaza. Tickets on StubHub vanished at an early hour and it the show was sold out. We showed up to the venue an hour before his set and they were selling tickets at the box office at face value. Just remember nothing is ever completely sold out. There’s always a way in.
We managed to get into Fader Fort during CMJ, twenty minutes before Willow Smith performed. Charm and relentlessness. We downed a few free drinks at the bar and shoved our way up to the stage and she serenaded us with a few songs. Tove Lo at Westway was incredible even with the a gaggle of gays on molly who couldn’t stand on their own two feet. Even better was running into half of Icona Pop (Caroline) and her telling us she’s being a bit of a “stage mom” watching Tove Lo perform. 2014 was the year FKA Twigs flew across the pond and performed in New York for the first time. She had one of my favorite EPs of 2013 and I have been impatiently waiting for her debut album. She performed Glasslands with all the grace and allure of Kendra (the vampire slayer #BTVS). I called her Banks’ weirdo soul sister from across the pond. But even then, we were unaware of what she could achieve.
It wasn’t until her Webster Hall show that everyone caught on to her. Her ridiculously good album LP1
dropped and it received some serious acclaim. I took some notes while I was at that show and they went something like this: Fluttered heart. Chokers. Gold. Braided hair. Prelude. Whispers nothings. Thick eyebrow. Fishnet blouse. Leggings. Walking back and forth with a death sex glare before the song actually starts. Cordless mic. Not tied down. No stand. 1. False dream. Make my eyes blue. Smoke. Three dudes. 2 with drum pads. One with bass guitar. 2. Lights On. Jerked motions. Marionette. 3. Water Me. Click clack drags on. Thought I saw my BFF in VIP. Who is sick in hospital. Belly button ring. "NYC is a special place to me because I recorded a lot of my album here." Humble. And nice. Still remains mysterious and elusive. 4. Pendulum. Unreal to be here with the boy I think about most during this song. 5. Number. 6. Remember that I belong to you. Lots of singing. Bass. (???). 7. Give Up I think. Weird escalating noise. Death drop. Vogueing. In a super dark way post-post-modern. On the floor dancing. I've been practicing in London to vogue. Benjamin Melon who has been studying voguing. I want to get it right. If all else fails.....what was that quote. "Is that a technical term?" 8. Pacify Me. 9. Two Weeks. 10. ???? Santos as Twigs. Wrote for 3 months here. A$AP Rocky is here…
Here she’s voguing for us…
Only The Knife could have got me to leave the comfort of my friend’s couch in Brooklyn in a torrential downpour. I was drenched from head to toe and almost slipped into a muddy puddle on my way to NYC’s most hated venue, Terminal 5. But the production value put into their show was so worth the dreadful commute to Manhattan.
The emo revival was in full force in 2014. A new album from The Jazz June. A new song from Sunny Day Real Estate. I finally got the chance to see Mineral with a few of my favorite former emo friends. Especially Gabrielle. Mineral soundtracked our entire romance in 2001. We missed American Football play a few dates at Webster Hall but we made up for it reminiscing with old mixtapes and playlists. And it wasn’t just emo bands getting back together. Shoegaze bands were reuniting as well. Bands in the 90s that influenced the way my heart beats and my mind ticks. Slowdive reunited and played a few festivals before embarking on a North American tour. I did all I could to avoid Terminal 5 for the Slowdive show but I trusted the wrong friend with my slumbering heart and ticket to see them in Philadelphia and was without a ticket. James stepped up to the plate and made sure I didn’t miss them play in New York and I couldn’t be more grateful for mending my Slowdive wounds.
What would a year end written by me be without me gushing about Lana Del Rey? She is my ultimate bae. She is the most important thing to happen to pop music in a very long time. 2014 was the comeback year for Lana. Despite selling millions of copies of her debut album Born to Die
worldwide back in 2012 she suffered a huge backlash for her live performances (specifically on television). After such aggressive thinkpieces about the “authenticity” of Lana Del Rey and negative press attacking her “art” she hinted in an interview that she was done with music. But then she re-released Born to Die: The Paradise Edition
in November of 2012 with eight new songs. Fans everywhere were worried the music industry got the best of her and she was throwing in the towel.
But thanks to a remix of “Summertime Sadness” Lana Del Rey became a household name in 2013 and her song was inescapable on the radio. Your mother and father know this song. Just this past March Born to Die
broke 1 million in sales in the United States thanks to all this success. So when Lana dropped her second album Ultraviolence
on June 17 the entire world was there with open arms and open wallets. Ultraviolence
was the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 that week. Things are different for Lana this time around. Critics seemed to adore her new album. She successfully toured in 2014, selling out venues and stadiums all across the United States. She did this with grace and valor. He detractors either found someone else to obsess over or they became fans themselves. Her live performances improved immensely. Broadcasting them across the internet like a badge of honor. I watched her entire Glastonbury set on YouTube and I was amazed at how much she grew as a performer.
My only gripe was Lana avoiding New York City on her tour. It seemed she never forgave the city she started out in. Punishing us for the SNL debacle. It was as if she forgot that we all showed up to her residency at Irving Plaza in 2012 with open arms and open hearts. It doesn’t matter though, because we have tickets to see her and Courtney Love performed at Red Rocks in Colorado in May. Probably one of the best venues to be serenaded by Lana in. I’m still jealous of all of you who caught her at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I have this really long-winded, yet unfinished review of Ultraviolence
sitting on my computer and I’m not sure what to do with it. It tackles the album track-by-track. And with every new listen, my thoughts swell with the infinite possibilities of hope to the dark underbellies of the human condition in every song. And I think that’s exactly why this record strikes a chord with so many people. When talking about her single, “West Coast” with The Guardian
, I understood her intentions for this record and why this album matters. "When I played [the label] ‘West Coast’ they were really not happy that it slipped into an even slower BPM for the chorus," she says. "They were like: 'None of these songs are good for radio and now you're slowing them down when they should be speeded up.' But for me, my life was feeling murky, and that sense of disconnectedness from the streets is part of that,” she continued to lament. Haven’t we all felt like this at some point in our lives? When was the last time your fav/pop star discussed the complexity of depression and tried to emulate/convey that feeling in sound and tone on their album? Ultraviolence
was Lana’s reaction to achieving the “American Dream” she consistently sang about on Born to Die
. The “dream” was nothing like they
promised in the literature and films we grew up reading and watching. Ultraviolence
was Lana reacting to this realization.
Phew! 2014 had so many moments blessed by music. Whether I was running on four hours of sleep, popping Sudafed just to stay awake while standing at a show in Ridgewood, Queens or begging the door guy at Glasslands to let me into a sold out show, I managed to survive the year. Perfume Genius wounded popular culture with his new record. Spreading queer vibes all across the world. Betty Who dropped her debut album and played my friend’s showcase at SXSW. I saw Melissa Etheridge at the same showcase in Austin, something I never thought I would say. I wrote about it for PopBytes
and she even retweeted the link to 65,000 followers. Speaking of Twitter, remember when the band Yuck wished my boyfriend and I a happy three-year anniversary? I do! I met Tinashe before her show at Highline. I finally saw Yelle for the first time and she was charming as fuck. And those two drummers she had on stage with her? Yesssssss. Sleater-Kinney released a beautiful vinyl boxset that my boyfriend got me for my birthday. Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family
turned 20 years old in 2014. That record helped shape the person I am today. Roseland, one of the most famous venues in NYC closed in 2014 and Lady Gaga played the final shows there and of course we couldn’t miss a moment like that. It was actually the last shared moment I had with one of my best friends before he passed away this year. I spent a lot of my youth at Roseland. I saw Travis, Sleater-Kinney, Fuel and No Doubt there. I was even at that infamous Fiona Apple show where she had a meltdown on stage. What a beautiful woman she is. We even got a new Fiona Apple song in 2014 thanks to her writing a song for the TV show The Affair
. Charli XCX released a disappointing sophomore album (that everyone else seemed to love). And what would a year be without compiling playlists for loved ones and burning mix CDs for friends? Below is a list of my favorite LPs and EPs of 2014. Though, I did rate and place them in a strategic order based on how much I enjoyed them, the number beside each release is irrelevant. All of the music I listed is worthy of your time. So, please indulge in this list and remember that this list is subject to change at any given time depending on my mood and desires. Best EPs of 2014
10. ASTR- Varsity
09. Cathedrals- Cathedrals
08. LE1F- Hey
07. SZA- Z
06. Troye Sivan- TRXYE
05. Ryn Weaver- Promises
04. iLoveMakonnen- ILoveMakonnen
03. Elliphant- One More
02. Jetta- Start a Riot
01. Robyn + Röyksopp- Do It AgainBest Records of 2014
50. Charli XCX- Sucker
49. Nicki Minaj- The Pinkprint
48. alt-J- This Is All Yours
47. Lolawolf- Calm Down
46. Kevin Drew- Darlings
45. Cherub- Year of the Caprese
44. Mapei- Hey Hey
43. Calvin Harris- Motion
42. Gem Club- In Roses
41. Sir Sly- You Haunt Me
40. Blonde Redhead- Barragán
39. TV on the Radio- Seeds
38. TOPS- Picture You Staring
37. Betty Who- Take Me When You Go
36. Jhené Aiko- Souled Out
35. Arca- Xen
34. SOHN- Tremors
33. Sia- 1000 Forms of Fear
32. NONONO- We Are Only What We Feel
31. La Roux- Trouble in Paradise
30. Damien Rice- My Favourite Faded Fantasy
29. Taylor Swift- 1989
28. Glass Animals- Zaba
27. Beck- Morning Phase
26. Mirah- Changing Light
25. Phantogram- Voices
24. Aphex Twin- Syro
23. Tove Lo- Queen of the Clouds
22. Sylvan Esso- Sylvan Esso
21. Future Islands- Singles
20. Kitten- Kitten
19. Yelle- Complètement Fou
18. iamamiwhoami- Blue
17. Ariana Grande- My Everything
16. Merchandise- After The End
15. 18+ - Trust
14. Sharon Van Etten- Are We There
13. EMA- The Future’s Void
12. MØ- No Mythologies to Follow
11. Angel Olsen- Burn Your Fire for No Witness
10. Azealia Banks- Broke with Expensive Taste
09. Jenny Lewis- The Voyager
08. Perfume Genius- Too Bright
07. Jessie Ware- Tough Love
06. Trust- Joyland
05. Banks- Goddess
04. How to Dress Well- What Is This Heart?
03. Tinashe- Aquarius
02. FKA twigs- LP1
01. Lana Del Rey- Ultraviolence