Top 14 Movies of 2014, or, Every Movie I Saw In A Theater, Ranked:
1. The Lego Movie
2. Wolf of Wall Street
3. Grand Budapest Hotel
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
9. The Trip To Italy
11. Gone Girl
12. Anchorman 2
13. Inside Llewyn Davis
Top 15 Netflix Rentals
1. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
2. Captain Phillips
3. Enough Said
4. The Wicker Man
5. The Act of Killing
6. Rowdy Rathore
7. Death Wish 3
8. The Aquabats: Season 1
10. All Is Lost
12. The Source Family
15. Last Train Home
Top 13 Songs of 2014
Tim Carleton - "Opus No. 1"
Because of this episode of This American Life.
Pussy Riot - "Putin Will Teach You How To Love The Motherland"
I would say that Pussy Riot completed an admirable goal by drawing attention to the repressive Putin regime right in the middle of the Sochi Olmypics, but even without this song, I think Putin ended up doing it to himself. Pussy Riot has been known as a protest group first, and a punk band far second, but I have to say, this song is pretty cool.
Jonas Nordwall - "My Life"
Even though my favorite radio DJ Charlie Lewis only recently came back to the internet airwaves, he managed to surreptitiously sneak a song on this list. Vicki Bennet played this bizarre cacophonous pipe organ cover of a Billy Joel song on her show, which she had pulled from a fundraiser CD Charlie had put together. It's unbelievable how good this sounds. I couldn't find any trace of it online so I ripped it off the radio show, and I think Charlie ripped that off of his Jonas Nordwell record.
Mary McCoy - "Let's Get Social with Social Media"
Neil Cicierega - "D'oh"
Neil released two mashup albums this year that brought that style back to its origination point: As a joke that violently jams incongruous songs together. "D'oh" is his masterpiece. With its Austin Powers and Homer Simpsons samples soaring over a Dave Matthews song, it's so headslappingly dumb, only a genius could create it. It's the perfect audio equivalent of Neil's Animutations.
Neil Cicierega - "Space Monkey Mafia"
If you've ever noticed that "We Didn't Start The Fire" sounds an awful lot like "It's The End Of The World As We Know It," Neil will help show you why that is. Second Billy Joel cover/mashup on this list. Way to go, Billy!
Cleo & Danata - "My Slowianie (We Are Slavic)"
Watching the Eurovision contest for the first time was an epiphany. So magical, so dazzling, so over-the-top and weird. Poland's entry was a ridiculous, knowing romp through a hyper-sexualized version of traditional Polish culture. If you watch the video or Eurovision performance below, you'll see the bountiful reasons I like it. But it's also a sly commentary on the difference between what Eurovision aims to be (high-minded, respectable, cultural), and what people will end up voting for (sex and pandering).
Paula Seling & OVI - "Miracle"
Another Eurovision contest entry, from Romania, which I immediately recognized as typical Euro-dance pop with thuddingly stupid lyrics. The guy played a fake circular piano during the performance! But that hook, Jesus... that hook lodged in my head for months afterward! Plus their accents are just odd enough to be irresistible to imitate. Click it, I dare you. Click it twice. After that, there's no going back.
Death Grips - "Black Quarterback"
Everyone knows Geath Grips at this point, right? Everyone and their grandma likes Death Grips, especially that album cover that has the... appendage on it. I like their Bjork-sampling new album where they tempered their punk-noise act with something resembling traditional songwriting. Plus, I won't forget the moment I drove by my city councilman with the windows open just as MC Ride screams "I'm so black, quarterback!!"
Kate Bush - "Cloudbusting"
I listened to so much Kate Bush this year, I had to put one song from Hounds of Love on here. Even more than "Hounds of Love" and "Running Up That Hill," I think "Cloudbusting" is the one that sticks with me the most. Aside from the bonkers inspiration of the lyrics, the production is haunting, and the video is weird and mezmerizing with Kate playing a little boy a la Clifford and Donald Sutherland playing her dad.
Jonathan Mann - "Look Into My Heart"
I think Jonathan recorded this in 2013, but whatever. I just noticed it's magnificence this year. The sound is perfect and even has drums put through the "In The Air Tonight" filter. This is one of his best of the past few years, which is saying a lot.
The New Pornographers - "Champions of Red Wine"
After the standard heavy power pop of "Brill Bruisers," this synth-lead second song on the album registers with a big "?" in the brain. This ain't your grandfather's New Pornographers!
Jonathan Mann - "Douche Sneer"
Joanthan wrote a lot of impenetrable (to me) songs about Gamergate this year, and as expected, got a lot of flack from said Gamergaters. Most notably was this guy who did his own impression of Jonathan after seeing his "Social Justice Warrior" video. Jonathan responded by covering that troglodyte's garbage-y guitar playing and turning it into this genuinely great song. Brilliant.
Top 13 Albums of 2014
1. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
The most consistent band in the game. Strangely, I always rank The New Pornographers highly, but I think this is the first time I've put them at #1 on this list. Usually the bridesmaid, finally the bride.
2. Lydia Ainsworth - Right From Real
What a solid eight songs this is. It's a mysterious album, hard to peg down how Lydia Ainsworth comes up with sounds like this.
3. Neil Cicierega - Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence
It's hard to deny how cheesy these dual mashup albums were, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of them.
4. Death Grips - N-Words On The Moon
5. Spencer Owen - Blue Circle
6. Future Islands - Singles
7. Real Estate - Atlas
8. St. Vincent - St. Vincent
9. Charlie XCX - Sucker
10. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pika Pika Fantajin
11. Emiliana Torrini - Tookah
12. Jungle - Jungle
13. Girl Talk and Freeway - Broken Ankles EP
A couple music videos
Yes I will watch Eurovision obsessively for the rest of my life now THANK YOU POLAND.
The first live "appearance" by QT, the soda pop sensation.
You can always count on Die Antwoord to deliver, visually at least. They won me over by basically rapping over a classic Aphex Twin
I know everybody liked the little girl in the "Chandelier" video, but what about these guys? I love the inscrutable final shot.
Great Albums not from this year
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
The fact that my 2014 album rankings seem lacking this year can probably be attributatble mostly to how much old Kate Bush I was listening to this year instead of new records. Hounds Of Love was the main culprit, but so were her other hit singles. And I distinctly remember having Alan Partdige's medley of Kate Bush hits stuck in my head while I was in Macedonia.
Lazarus Kgagudi - No Tender Care
Based on his getting played during a John Wizards DJ set, I had to look up everything about this long-forgotten 1980s Soweto synthpp musician, who doesn't ever seem to have been discovered outside South Africa. Everything I could find of his, I liked. His music is so insanely out-of-print though, it's hard to even get a digital copy of his music. There needs to be a Lazarus Kgagudi revival!
Greatest Live Music Moment
When the MC at the Post Modern Jukebox show said, "My uncle Chad used to sing this song to us" before kicking into his unbelievable motown cover of Nickelback's "This Is How You Remind Me."
Greatest Musical Moments
At the height of my Kate Bush obsession this year, I was in Skopje, Macedonia, at an outdoor cafe outside a bus station, and what comes over the radio but "Wuthering Heights."
During an ill-fated drive across Vermont the day before Thanksgiving, we got stopped somewhere around Marlboro during a torrential snowstorm. We sat there for two hours arguing over whether or not to just turn around and head back home, until they finally cleared the tractor trailers littering the road. Caitlin perfectly cued up "Miracle" from Eurovision as we drove through the wrecks.
There are some great sounds on the New Pornographers' Brill Bruisers. Particularly the appegiated vocal line in "Champions of Red Wine," and the moment in "Spidyr" when Dan Bejar says the title. Chills!
Worst Misheard Lyric
Future Islands - "Light House" at 1:40
"This is where we were when I showed you the duck inside of me"
Top 20 Artists On My Audioscrobbler
1. Neil Cicierega - 409
2. The New Pornographers - 302
3. Jonathan Mann - 258
4. Aphex Twin - 241
5. kyary pamyu pamyu - 240
6. Kate Bush - 180
7. Lydia Ainsworth - 144
8. Jai Paul - 137
9. Johnny Mathis - 131
10. Pizzicato Five - 125
11. The Spinto Band - 108
12. Squirrel Nut Zippers - 98
13. Classixx - 95
14. Air - 93
15. Death Grips - 90
16. They Might Be Giants - 83
16. Real Estate - 83
18. Spencer Owen - 80
18. Cate Le Bon - 80
20. Sky Ferreira - 73
Top 20 Songs On My Audioscrobbler
1. Neil Cicierega – "D'oh" - 45
2. Neil Cicierega – "Vivid Memories Turn To Fantasies" - 36
3. Neil Cicierega – "Modest Mouth" - 34
4. QT – "Hey QT" - 34
5. Neil Cicierega – "Promenade (Satellite Pictures at an Exhibition)" - 33
6. kyary pamyu pamyu – "Mottai Night Land" - 32
7. The New Pornographers – "Brill Bruisers" - 31
8. Neil Cicierega – "No Credit Card" - 29
9. The New Pornographers – "War On The East Coast" - 28
10. Twin Twin – "Moustache" - 27
10. Paula Seling – "Miracle" - 27
10. The New Pornographers – "Another Drug Deal Of The Heart" - 27
13. The New Pornographers – "Fantasy Fools" - 26
13. The New Pornographers – "Backstairs" - 26
14. Lydia Ainsworth – "Take Your Face Off" - 25
15. Donatan & Cleo – "My Slowianie (We Are Slavic)" - 24
17. kyary pamyu pamyu – "Kira Kira Killer" - 23
18. The New Pornographers – "Wide Eyes" - 22
19. Lydia Ainsworth – "Candle" - 21
19. The New Pornographers – "Champions Of Red Wine" - 21
19. The New Pornographers - "Marching Orders" - 21
Eleven Books I Read This Year In Rough Order of Preference
Alice Munro - Friend of My Youth
Candice Millard - The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
Alice Munro - Open Secrets
Michael Lewis - Flash Boys
Mary Roach - Spook
Blaine Harden - Escape From Camp 14
Alice Munro - Runaway
David Rakoff - Don't Get Too Comfortable
Max Brooks - World War Z
Dan Chaon - Await Your Reply
Ron Burgundy - Let Me Off At The Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings