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Parker Evans is an economics senior and Mustang News music columnist.
With so much fantastic music coming out each week, it’s inevitable that a few albums are going to fall through the cracks. After looking through our library, here are four 2014 albums we missed the first time around.
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Sturgill Simpson is the hero Nashville needs right now. Metamodern Sounds is a necessary album not just for the country music fan in 2014, but for those who gave up hope that the genre had lost its tenacity. Simpson is an honest-to-God country artist who knows intuitively how to write original music without sacrificing the core of Nashville.
Opener “Turtles On The Way Down” is all you need to hear to understand. It challenges the notion that the Christian perspective is obligatory in country music, opting for a potent cocktail of hallucinogens. “Some say you might go crazy,” Simpson sings in a Kentucky drawl. “Then again, it might make you go sane.”
A late-album bare-bones cover of When In Rome’s “The Promise” and a rip-roaring, bad-trip freakout “It Ain’t All Flowers” are enough to inject a much-needed infusion of energy into a stagnant genre.
The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
Australia’s Courtney Barnett is still something of an unknown quantity, but there’s no doubt her skill as a songwriter is well beyond her years. Barnett’s lyricism is astounding, balancing Waxahatchee’s honesty and Ted Leo’s cooler-than-thou, garage-punk poetry with a deadpan delivery unlike any other.
Tracks such as “History Eraser” and “Anonymous Club” are enough to make listeners sit up and pay attention, but it’s “Avant Gardener” that unmistakably marks Barnett as a songwriter to watch closely. Filled with slant rhymes and nearly stream-of-consciousness storytelling, her wry humor and playfulness bubble to the surface, peppered with “Pulp Fiction” references and sandwiched between lines such as “The yard is full of hard rubbish, it’s a mess and / I guess the neighbors must think we run a meth lab / we should amend that.” It’s easy to forget “Avant Gardener” is about an asthma attack, but the turn inward in the song’s haunting last lines are masterful.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more captivating frontman than Future Islands’ Samuel Herring. Seeing him live for the first time in his standard uniform of a black T-shirt and black pants, the violent intensity he brings to the stage is instantly alluring, as viewers found out in March, when Future Islands played “Seasons (Waiting On You)” for a fawning David Letterman and spawned a video on its way to 2 million views.
Your enjoyment of Singles is directly tied to your attitude toward Herring — he’s an absolute force of nature in the studio and on the stage. His voice is more expressive than most, but your mileage may vary. In any case, Singles is a solid album by a band finally coming into its own. The other members of the three-piece know when to get out of the way (which is most of the time) and let Herring take over, rising above the synths and bass. If nothing else, Singles is proper evidence that the mystery and enchantment of Future Islands can work as well in the studio as it can in a live setting.
Are We There
Sharon Van Etten
It doesn’t take longer than a few seconds to understand the appeal of Sharon Van Etten’s music. She takes raw emotion, boils it down into its basest parts and assembles a song. Sometimes it’s messy and sometimes it’s painful, but it’s always powerful. Here, Van Etten is arguably as dark and intense as 2012’s magnificent Tramp, meaning Are We There is not an album for the faint of heart.
Are We There’s bubbling tension rises to a climax with the stunning track, “Your Love Is Killing Me.” Van Etten leaves her guard all the way down and delivers an incredibly powerful statement to a lover in anticipation of a breakup. “Break my legs so I won’t walk to you,” she sings. “Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.” The guitar welling up is lost in the magnificent crescendo and leaves you sitting there, wondering how to experience Van Etten’s raw power.