U2 invaded our iTunes, everything came up butts and Taylor Swift became the first musician since ... herself to sell more than 1 million copies of an album in its debut week. Underneath the publicity stunts and sonic 180s (not just the Sonic Highways), 2014 provided some memorable surprises musically. Dig in and see what we dug this year.
Album image courtesy Republic
FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End
In the end, it turned out Weezer really needed Ric Ocasek’s guidance. And that’s OK because this record is the band’s best since the self-titled Green album… which Ocasek also produced.
Runner-Up: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags
FAVORITE EP OF THE YEAR: Band of Skulls – Crackle & Sin
Crackling doesn’t even begin to describe this glimpse into the Brits’ ballsy 2014 album, Himalayan. Bruising and fierce, it proves that guitar rock isn’t dead.
Runner-Up: Pixies – EP2 and EP3
BEST REISSUE: Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
A sprawling return to the alternative giants’ most stripped-down album. Gorgeous and revealing.
Runner-Up: Sleater-Kinney: Start Together
Album cover courtesy Third Man/XL Recordings/Columbia
FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR: Jack White – “Lazaretto”
We like Jack White feral and untethered, and 2014 was the year he really went wild in song and in his public persona.
Runner-Up: The War on Drugs – “Red Eyes”
LEAST FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR: Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Nope, don’t want none.
Runner-Up: Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
FAVORITE SURPRISINGLY GOOD ALBUM: Cracker – Berkeley to Bakersfield
David Lowery emerged as one of the first big-name musicians to speak out against streaming, and now he shocks us all with a double album of solid alt rock and real California country.
Runner-Up: Live – The Turn
FAVORITE UNDERGROUND ALBUM: Painted Palms - Forever
Luscious dream pop that sounds like the Beach Boys and the Velvet Underground.
Runner-Up: Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
CRITICS’ FAVORITE ALBUM TO JACK OFF TO: Mac Demarco – Salad Days
If these are the salad days of indie, I’m sticking to an all-meat diet. This work is much too lean for my liking.
Runner-Up: Beck – Morning Phase
BEST REASON TO RAID YOUR PARENTS’ CD COLLECTION: Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold – Songs from the Vault
The Gypsy woman soars once more with these lost gems.
Runner-Up: AC/DC – Rock or Bust
BEST REASON TO RAID YOUR YOUNGER SIBLING’S MUSIC COLLECTION, THEN DESTROY IT: One Direction – Four
These wannabe New Kids on the Block are up to their old tricks. Yawn.
Runner-Up: Meghan Trainor – Title
FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Until the Sun Explodes”
It’s like Jem, only perkier. Yes, that’s somehow possible.
Runner-Up: OK Go – “The Writing’s on the Wall”
FAVORITE LYRICS: “I’ve been the only sister to my own sorrow.” – Jenny Lewis, “Just One of the Guys”
Sing it, sister. Any woman past her early 20s can likely relate to this breezy thinking-gal’s song.
Runner-Up: “We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead.” – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, “Lariat”
FAVORITE (CHEEKY) LYRICS: “I hate these word crimes/Like I could care less/That means you do care/At least a little.” – “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Word Crimes”
Finally, a little love to proper grammar in popular verse! It’s a bit sad the lesson had to come from a comedian.
Runner-Up: Pretty much anything off of Morrissey’s latest, World Peace Is None of Your Business
FAVORITE LIVE ACT: Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor remains a formative showman into his 50s. The light displays are dazzling.
Runner-Up: Arcade Fire
FAVORITE EMERGING BAND: Hideout
A cross-country pairing between two touring members of Cults yields splendid indie rock results. Their debut, Rookie, is an accomplishment on par with the Postal Service’s Give Up.
Runner-Up: First Aid Kit
Image by Leslie Kirschhoff
FAVORITE EMERGING ARTIST: Courtney Barnett
Australia’s answer to Liz Phair amps up the sarcasm and comes out on top.
Runner-Up: Sturgill Simpson
FAVORITE COMEBACK: Weezer
See our comments above, and also do yourself a favor and look beyond “Back to the Shack.” Because EWBAITE is near flawless otherwise.
LEAST-WELCOMED COMEBACK: Nickelback
Go back from whence you came, Chad Kroeger. We thought we were rid of you a decade ago.
MUSICIAN MAN CRUSH: Aside from the ever-predictable Conor Oberst? Probably Britt Daniel (Spoon).
MUSICIAN WOMAN CRUSH: A tie between Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Lana Del Rey.
MUSIC-RELATED AWESOMENESS I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2015: AC/DC rumored to headline Coachella, Trent Reznor winning yet another Oscar for his film score, the possibility of Oasis reuniting, new music from Belle & Sebastian