Sometimes life imitates art.
And like clockwork, it’s time for me to continue my yearly tradition of dusting off my music critic reviewr hat to conjure up my top five favourite records of 2014. Sure, this list doesn’t match the elitist snobbery of Pitchfork’s list or the complete obviousness of Rolling Stone’s list, but hopefully there are a few records or tracks in here that will give you something new to listen to during the Holiday season.
No this year’s list is a bit of a surprise in that it was dominated by some strong female (or female based) acts, rather than the usual suspects like Beck, St. Vincent, Spoon or even Bruce Springsteen.
(And like last year, you can use the playlist above to listen to all the albums on this list)
The Distiller’s Coral Fang is probably one of my all-time favourite records, so it goes without saying that the first solo record from ex-lead singer Brody Dalle would be on my list for 2014. It also helps that Brody Dalle is the better half of my unhealthy man crush – Josh Homme. Now regardless of those obscure personal biases, Diploid Love is a pretty fierce and fantastic pop-punk record from beginning to end. Yes, it probably won’t appease many of the punk purists out there, but for a main stream release and a first solo record Diploid Love was easily my most played record of the year.
Will not nearly as classic as DFA1979’s legendary You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, in my biased opinion The Physical World was a far more interesting record than a majority of anything else released over the past year. That unique sound that propelled DFA1979 from obscure Toronto garage act to mythological indie royalty is still there and it came out in spades on this record. Given how passive and lazy music has become in general so far this decade, it was fantastic to be reminded of how exciting and gritty music can actually be.
I honestly have no recollection on how I stumbled across Banks, especially as this is something that is completely out of my usual wheelhouse, but am I ever glad I did. Sandwiched somewhere between English legends Sade and Deftones frontman Chino Moreno’s Team Sleep side project, Bank’s debut album Goddess is as mysterious as it is atmospheric. A dark and misty record that’s filled with just enough variety to leave you wanting more.
Regardless of their faux-Albertan backstory, The Rural Alberta Advantage have been one of my family’s favourite bands for the past few years and this year’s Mended with Gold is just as enjoyable and homely as their previous outings of Departing and Hometowns. With a sound akin to something Blue Rodeo would record if they drank more whiskey and set their bassist on fire, RAA are a furious and grumpy take on classic Canadiana prairie rock.
Jenny Lewis’ previous outing with the Watson Twins was the perfect recreation of classic Loretta Lynn for the naughts. So it comes as no surprise that she would knock it out of the park again with her latest outing of Voyager. Filled with dark and personal songs, Voyager tight ropes the sound from her earlier solo outings and the more recent pop of acts like Haim and London Grammer.
Hozier – Hozier
I feel a little cheese-ball adding this here as, although Hozier is undeniably talented, adding this to my list feels like the ultimate omission of turning into a Starbucks sell out in my old age. That being said, Hozier’s self title record is a fantastic listen from beginning to end and well worth all the hype… now if only someone could hand over my triple-shot-no-foam-carmel-swirly-frappacino I’ll get back to being a grumpy bastard.
London Grammer – If You Wait
One of those amazing finds from partaking in Month of New Music, London Grammar’s If You Wait is a brilliant atmospheric album, if I was still a heart broken and angst ridden 22 year old this album would be the soundtrack to my life.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
True confession, this record falls in to the category of it’s December and I suddenly realize that after reading ten to fifteen different best of lists that I know nothing about music and I need to have a record that reinforces my street-cred even though I’m an old fossil for the list. Now that being said, any record that showcases a guest appearance from the reclusive Zach Dela Rocha and hits as hard and dirty as this album deserve a spot on this list.
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Alright, I haven’t heard the entire 1989 album, but Shake It Off has to rank up there as one of the greatest pop songs of the past ten years. No seriously, try and ignore this song. It’s fucking impossible. So it get’s a spot on my list solely for forcing me to listen to it on repeat on YouTube so it doesn’t ruin my Rdio algorithm.
(P.S. I also tossed in the Us The Duo cover to not mess up my algorithm)
Well it’s that time of year again everyone. It’s time to shut down the computers, time to start loosening the belts for the upcoming feasts, time to get the alcohol ready for the yearly political arguments with friends and in-laws and of course it’s time to get those elbow pads greased up for Boxing Day choas. Yes, it’s finally Christmas!
So with 2014 nearing it’s timely end, it’s time for me to catch-up on the year with a fury of last minute blog posts and to hang out with my lovely family. So to continue on with the tradition from year’s past, we have the greatest Irish festive carol by the legendary Pogues to kick off the Christmas season.
I also want to wish you and your family a very, very Happy Christmas and all the best in 2015. May your Quality street chocolates be as tasty as ever.
With Black Friday behind us and Cyber Monday almost over, the next big day on the preverbal festive season calendar is Giving Tuesday. For those unfamiliar with the concept, Giving Tuesday is essentially the anti-thesis or the counter to the consumerism that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The idea is to encourage people from across North America to take some time and support their favourite charity or charities with a donation of any amount.
Over the past year, I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of working with two great start-ups within the Calgary Not-For-Profit Tech start-up sector. Both Place2Give and Bgenerus are crafting new and innovative ways to connect Not-For-Profits and charities with donors and both organizations are taking an active roll in promoting the Giving Tuesday concept within Western Canada. In particular, Place2Give is running one of it’s custom Motif Giving Campaigns to encourage Calgarians and Canadians to support one of 20 great charities.
Because of my work with Place2Give, I was able to select a charity near and dear to my heart to add to their list of charities. The organization I selected was The Golden Age Club of Calgary.
Supporting The Calgary Golden Age Club via #GivingTuesdayYYC #GivingTuesday #Unselfie cc:
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Some of you may not know, but over the past few years, I have been abruptly faced with the harsh realization that my wonderful parents are aging. I know for many of my friends and associates this is probably something that isn’t on their radar and possibly something that they believe will only happen in 10-20 years. But because of the vast age discrepancies between my old geezer of a father and myself, I have been enduring a crash course in the many challenges facing seniors in our society. Luckily for us living in North America, and in particular Calgary, there are some amazing organizations working to improve the daily lives of seniors. In particular, there are two organizations that have been near and dear to my heart over the past couple of years. They are of course the Kerby Centre and The Golden Age Club of Calgary .
So today on Giving Tuesday, please consider joining me in making a donation to The Golden Age Club (or one of the hundreds of other charities across Canada). All you need to do is click on the button below.
While a million and one articles will be written today – some political, some opinion pieces and some news stories. Many people will argue about the meaning of today or the actions of a few. There will be many proclaiming that there are right ways and wrong ways to remember. There will be arguments and debates. But at the end of the day, whether you are young or old, 4th generation Canadian or first generation, male or female, the biggest thing today is to just Remember.
But to remember in a way that means something to you personally. Think about the sacrifices that others have made for the country we call Canada today. Take time to think about what others in the past have done to ensure the lifestyle we all take for granted. Because at the heart of it all, that is what today is all about.
It’s a reminder to never forget and honour the sacrifices of others before us.
Lest We Forget.