Words by WASTER Staff
Did you listen to enough new music this year? Did life get in the way, again? Here at Waster Inc, our writers and photographers have varied tastes and styles, but we do share a common bond – all of us consistently blow off our responsibilities, our loved ones, and most of all, any glimmer of a healthy sleep pattern, all in the name of rock n roll.
So after much debate, we narrowed down our 10 favorite albums of the year. In no particular order, here are some records that you might just dig too. Take it from us…we’re “professionals.”
Gary Clark Jr.
[September 23rd, 2014]
Gary Clark Jr. gives you eight minutes to decide whether you’re capable of handling his live L.P., the aptly titled Gary Clark Jr. Live, released September 23rd on Warner Bros. Records. The opening track is a rumbling cover of the classic “Catfish Blues” that showcases the full range of the 30-year-old Texan’s mastery of the electric guitar, but it sets the groundwork for what’s to come on the record – danger. To say Clark rocked harder than any other act this year is a vast understatement considering The Black Keys, Jack White and Foo Fighters each released new studio albums. But Clark’s peers lack the element of surprise that he employs to perfection on Live, establishing himself as a guitarist all too willing to erupt for scorched earth stretches of relentless, methodical soloing at less than a moment’s notice. It’s why he appeared in John Varvatos ads with guitar god Jimmy Page last year, why he made a guest appearance on the Foo’s latest effort and HBO series this year, and why we shouldn’t expect him to go away anytime soon. – Bill San Antonio
[August 26th, 2014]
Ty Segall tackles multiple styles and sounds on Manipulator, possibly his best, and most accessible, album to date. At only 27, the garage rocker from San Francisco has cut more records than we can count, but this one is especially list-worthy. Not even the most discerning listeners can accuse this guy of making a record that gets tired or redundant – even with 17 songs, Manipulator keeps your full attention. From the echoing organ of the title track to the guitar-fuzz freak-out on “Feel” to the rich string section on “Stick Around”, it’s like Segall took all our favorite elements from Dad’s vinyl stash and repurposed them for today’s Etsy culture. So play this record loud. Play it for your parents who are afraid of Skrillex. And most importantly, play it for your jerk-off friends who insist that rock n roll is dead. – Audra Tracy
“Everything Will Be Alright In The End”
[October 7th, 2014]
2014 was an incredible year for new music. Bands such as You Blew It!, Modern Baseball, Knuckle Puck, The Front Bottoms and so many more have been dominating a scene which has been promptly dubbed as “emo-revival.” A genre full of gut wrenching honesty, goofy kids and killer instrumentals has swept thousands of awkward teens and young 20-something’s (that still feel like children) right off their feet this past year; a genre destined to be screamed along to behind steering wheels, under showers and in packed venues everywhere; a genre that very well would not exist without this one band that started it all…Weezer. Everything Will Be Alright in the End, or EWBAITE, is Weezer’s ninth studio album and might be their best release since 96’s cult classic, Pinkerton. EWBAITE is an album that took Weezer back to their roots, or as the first single off the album says, “Back to the Shack.” EWBAITE has it all, from stories of Rivers chasing love (“Go Away”), to songs paying homage to the great rockers who have come before them (“Eulogy for a Rock Band”). The album ends with “The Futurescope Trilogy” which is a three-track run of epic instrumentals and a subtle riffage tribute to the Blue Album’s “Only in Dreams” on the album closer “Return to Ithaka.” This album has all the style of Blue with the honesty of Pink, a winning recipe for any listeners who have stuck with this band since the beginning. Rest assured, everything will be alright in the end. – Nick Hodgins
“You’re Gonna Miss It All”
Run For Cover Records
[February 11th, 2014]
Some albums just bring you back to a certain time in your life, even if it’s your first time hearing it… it’s the beauty of nostalgia. Modern Baseball‘s You’re Gonna Miss It All does this masterfully. The angsty lyrics and light-hearted pop punk sound will take you back to your high school years of listening to Say Anything and Saves The Day. With massive choruses, bright melodies and clever lyrics, the record captures a vulnerability and brutal honestly that is hard to come by in music nowadays. It tells stories of confusion, (“I’ll admit I’m in the same boat/Caught between my adolescent safety net and where the world wants me to be”), as well as overconfidence (“I’ve got so much to do/But it’s okay cause whatever forever”). At heart though, the album is so relatable because it is about change. That’s not an uncommon theme, and the band took it to heart, as evidenced by their growth in sound from the debut album, Sports. Their second effort is cleaner, and the maturity of songwriters Jacob Ewald and Brendan Lukens shines. Amid the “emo revival,” where many bands sound similar, Modern Baseball’s sophomore album stands out and above the rest.- Nicholas Parco
[August 25th, 2014]
Royal Blood have had an incredible year, and made our year incredible with the gift of their brilliant, self-titled debut album. The Brighton duo made waves with singles “Out Of The Black” and “Little Monster” early on, and hit us hard with the release of ten heavy, seductive, and ferocious tracks that make up their debut record. Catchy yet raw singles “Come On Over” and “Figure It Out” perfectly segues the album into the electric and alluring “You Can Be So Cruel”. From start to finish, it never loses the addictive, high energy it was written with, making you feel like you blacked out for 32 minutes of pure rock n roll. It is easy to get lost in such a blood-pumping record, but just try to get your jaw off the ground when seeing them live. Royal Blood executes this album flawlessly in concert (just ask Jimmy Page), and soon it will hit you – only two people make this much noise with just a bass, drums and vocals. You can catch Royal Blood for their mind-numbing show as they support the Foo Fighters next year on their entire American Tour.
– Cher Dunn
[February 25th, 2014]
If David Byrne is willing to make an album with you, you’re either really sexy, or you’re very talented. St. Vincent is both! On her latest, self-titled release, anyone with a decent ear can hear that the artist has some serious talent. She can sing, she can shred on guitar, she totally rocks it! Taking a nod from Love This Giant, her 2012 collaboration with Byrne, Annie Clark’s newest, most mainstream album features a fantastic horn section that cannot go unnoticed. Especially so on the first single, “Digital Witness” – you either are living under a rock, or you hearing aid is broken if you don’t know how good that song is. It’s also worth noting that this album was produced by John Congleton, who has also worked with artists including Modest Mouse, The Mountain Goats, Explosions in the Sky, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Dismemberment Plan. Through and through, St. Vincent is superb, and is on too many ‘top albums’ lists to count. 2014 was full of great music, but St. Vincent is certainly way up there. – Steve Melone
“Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
[January 21st, 2014]
The most punk rock track on Against Me!’s most punk rock album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is also the last track on the album – somewhat jarring for a record that also touts a song called “FUCKMYLIFE666” that follows one likening Osama bin Laden to Jesus H. Christ. But through that last offering, the sobering “Black Me Out,” Against Me! again showcase punk rock as an attitude existing outside the genre’s sonic staples of rapid time signatures and crunchy guitar riffs. “I wanna piss on the walls of your house,” sings Laura Jane Grace, whose highly-publicized battle with the disorder that inspires the album’s title dominated the hype surrounding the record. “I wanna chop those brass rings / off your fat fucking fingers / as if they were king makers / as if, as if, as if / black me out.” It’s the ultimate middle finger on an album full of middle fingers, the suggestion that there is no institution in society – neither religion nor patriotism nor the skin you are born in – that is beyond reproach. And that straight-up fucking rocks. – Bill San Antonio
[February 25th, 2014]
From the opening progressions on “Cycle”/”Morning” one should have realized that this album was not going to be a Mellow Gold, Guero, or Odelay, but rather something else entirely distinct, wholly-beautiful, and timelessly-blissful. Morning Phase is an escape from the previous care-free, funky, jovial Beck songs we are used to, representing a point in time where youthful bashfulness is traded in for something more refined…like ditching the Bud Light and replacing it with a tumbler of Glenfiddich 12 year. Somehow though, the album still manages to be one of the most anthemic releases of 2014. It may not be what we were expecting, but it does represent a tectonic shift in Beck’s musical maturation process. In a year where we were force-fed wretched nonsense from the likes of Iggy Azealia, Nicky Minaj, and O.T. Genasis, Beck’s Morning Phase is a shining light amidst the dark sea of muddied mediocrity.” – Sean Walsh
Third Man Records
[June 10th, 2014]
This is so obvious that it’s almost painful to write about. Of course Lazaretto is on every other ‘Best of 2014’ list in all of the galaxies of cyber space, and that’s because Jack White is consistently fucking amazing. With his second solo album, he’s not chasing his next “Seven Nation Army” (though the scorching “High-Ball Stepper” certainly brings back that old feeling). And he’s not trying to ride his White Stripes fame to a nostalgia tour either. Nope, he’s too busy writing all too relevant songs like “Entitlement”, crooning “I can’t bring myself to take without penance/Or atonement or sweat from my brow/Though the world may be spoiled and getting worse every day/Don’t they feel like they cheated somehow?” With Lazaretto, White proves he’s still that badass, unapologetic poet from Detroit doing things the hard way – the same boy you’ve always known.
– Audra Tracy
Big Machine Records
[October 27th, 2014]
Listen up. Taylor Swift released the most fucking punk rock record of the entire goddamn year. I hate everything else she’s done, but Taylor really pulled her shit together this year and I am loving it. She gives zero fucks about what anyone thinks of her and only cares about loving herself and being happy and promoting girl power, and if you don’t think that’s the tightest shit then get out of my face. “Blank Space” is the perfect song for dancing around your room in your underwear after some basic ass white fuckboy in a bucket hat just dicked you over and you want to laugh in his stupid face because you are still a queen no matter what and he is actual human trash. Girl power anthem of the fucking year. At least, that’s what I got from reading in between the lines. The rest of the tracks definitely aren’t as strong as “Blank Space” or “Shake It Off” but I’ll be damned if they’re not just as catchy. “Wildest Dreams” could probably be a Lana Del Rey song if she dropped it a few keys, with Swift crooning lyrics like “He’s so tall, and handsome as hell/He’s so bad but he does it so well” conjuring mental images of a suave, grungy dude with a man bun in a leather jacket smoking cigarettes and kissing you on the hood of his car. Anybody else? Or is that just me? Anyway. 1989 is unlike anything Taylor Swift has ever done so if you’re a hater like I was, do yourself a favor and listen to this album. At least the first half, after you drink a bottle of wine by yourself at 4pm. I have no friends. But I have T-Swift. – Emilia D’Albero
Need more lists? Check out Our 50 Favorite Songs of 2014…