Casey Karger’s Top 10 Albums of 2014
#10: The Last Bison – VA
If you can’t find something to like on VA, you need to listen a few more times. There’s so much music and so many layers on the new album from The Last Bison that you’re doing the band and yourself a disservice by not listening to it the whole way through a few times. You’ll pick up on new reasons for it to be an album of the year on every listen.
#9: Noah Gunderson – Ledges
The long awaited debut LP from Noah Gunderson did not disappoint. Songs like “Ledges” and “First Defeat” make this an album that you don’t listen to as much as feel. It’s an inspiring debut from a singer-songwriter that has established himself as one of the best there is.
#8: John Fullbright – Songs
John Fullbright’s sophomore album didn’t quite live up to the standards his Grammy nominated debut set. But, even so, it was a remarkable album. It’s full of the lyricism and depth that we have come to know him for and with songs like “Happy” and “When You’re Here,” this is an album that will continue to be a feather in Fullbright’s already stellar cap. With a few skippable tracks, it’s not quite top 5 material, but still manages to be one of the best albums of 2014.
#7: Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Hell has frozen over. As an avowed opponent of country music and it’s ilk, I’ve begun to buy into The Guardian’s claim that Sturgill Simpson may be the “savior of country music.” This album, from top to bottom, is as good a country album as I have ever heard and Simpson has shown that he belongs in the company of elite singer-songwriters, regardless of genre. From “Turtles All the Way Down” to “It Ain’t All Flowers,” this album has a consistency and tone that we saw very few times this year.
#6: Goodnight, Texas – Uncle John Farquhar
Another incredible top to bottom album from the gentlemen of Goodnight, Texas, as they take us on another trip through American history with their own particular brand of Americana. It’s a beautiful blending of all of the traditional instrumentation of Americana and manages to repeat what 2012’s Album of the Year did and cover so many different styles of folk music that it becomes a history lesson in and of itself. It’s a masterclass in diversity and songwriting to say the least.
#5: Johnnyswim – Diamonds
Abner and Amanda released an EP last year that blew me away and I was confident that their debut LP would be great. I was not prepared for this album. From top to bottom, beginning to end, there is a balance here and beauty that I couldn’t find on any other album this year. The interplay between the two, vocally and personally, shows through on every song and that kind of chemistry is something you just have. We as listeners are better for it and Diamonds is the exact reason why.
#4: The Wind and The Wave – “From The Wreckage”
The Wind and The Wave was my biggest surprise of the year. Almost every other band on my list was a debut or a sophomore release, but was a band that I had heard of before. The Wind and The Wave came out of nowhere with an album, with an “explicit” sticker on it, that was so unique and so refined that it surpassed even some of my most anticipated albums of 2014. Songs like “Momma Said Be Careful Where You Rest Your Head” and “Raising Hands Raising Hell Raise ’em High” took this album from good to great and vaulted it up to the 4th spot on my list.
#3: Ben Abraham – “Sirens”
For most of 2014, this was my most anticipated album of the year. Abraham and his incredible voice have been on our radar since Greg first posted him doing a cover of “Timberline” by Emmylou Harris a couple years back. Since then, we’ve been eagerly awaiting every scrap of info we could find about an upcoming LP and, after watching it get released in Australia, then the UK, then Canada, it finally made it’s way to us and it was worth the wait. The love that bleeds from this album and the smooth and flawless voice that Abraham has make all those accented O’s and runs sound even more beautiful. Simply put, this is the best vocal album of the year and maybe that I’ve heard in the last few years. It’s absolutely phenomenal.
#2: Hiss Golden Messenger – “The Lateness of Dancers”
Hiss Golden Messenger, with this album, have released an album unlike any I’ve heard since we started writing almost 4 years ago. It’s a beautifully hushed album and one that cements itself firmly in the front of the Americana genre. It’s balanced, complex, sonically beautiful and it reveals something different on every listen. The production and composition of this album should be emulated by every band out there making music today. Find a sound and perfect it like Hiss Golden Messenger has already done.
#1: Bear’s Den – Islands
I’m not sure what I expected from Bear’s Den after their four song EP, but it was not this. Agape was one of my favorite songs of 2013 and it kicks off an album that could not be more unique or perfect. by taking a 3 member, acoustic trio and plugging them in, turning up the volume and layering even more hauntingly beautiful vocals, Islands is 2014’s album of the year by a landslide. Electric banjos, three part harmonies, soaring electronic backgrounds and lyrics that catch you when you least expect it make Bear’s Den and this album our champions of 2014. If you can only listen to one album on this list, make it this one.