• 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.

    Runner-Up: Braid

     


    LEAST-WELCOMED COMEBACK: Nickelback

    Go back from whence you came, Chad Kroeger. We thought we were rid of you a decade ago.

    Runner-Up: Fergie

     

     

    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

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