BEST OF 2014 ALBUMS: Kelly’s Picks

lana-del-rey-14032160071. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
I’ve been on the Lana Del Rey bandwagon ever since I heard “Dark Paradise” (we’re all just pretending that her second album, Paradise, never happened, right?). Lana delivers all of the slow-burn goodness found in Born to Die and that fans expect from a follow up. She kicks things up a notch with tracks like “Money Power Glory” “Florida Kilos” and “Fucked My Way Up To the Top” but keeps her dreamy California cool reputation with songs like “West Coast,” “Cruel World” and “Shades of Cool.” It’s the perfect combination of what we loved about Lana, but matured and honed to perfection.



2. Tennis – Ritual in Repeat
In 2013, Tennis released an EP called Small Sounds, which was so good that I couldn’t wait until they released the next full album. In September, they finally obliged, and it was worth the wait. In the last few years, the band has taken themselves from a fun, 80’s girl vibe heard in Cape Dory and honed Alaina Moore’s voice to make an even bigger impression, first on Young and Old and now in Ritual in Repeat. They’ve only gotten better over time, and Ritual in Repeat is the most enjoyable album yet. The catchy and upbeat “Never Work for Free” and “Viv Without the N” pair perfectly with the hopeful “Bad Girls” and “Solar on the Rise” to form a complete, solid album.


3. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Bombay Bicycle Club has always been a fun rock band, but So Long, See You Tomorrow cemented them as seriously fun (and seriously good) alternative rockers. The standout track is “Home By Now,” which pairs Lucy Rose and lead singer Jack Steadman for a R&B duet, closely followed by “It’s Alright Now,” “Carry Me” “Whenever, Wherever,” and “Luna.” It’s difficult to even pick out a non-catchy track among the listing—a well-rounded, enjoyable collection.


4. Mothxr – Various singles
OK, so this isn’t actually an album. But in interviews, the band has said they don’t plan on releasing an album, but rather release singles whenever they feel like it and I’m obsessed with the four they’ve given us this year so they belong on this list. I fell in love with them during a CMJ 2014 performance and can’t stop talking about them now. Frontman Penn Badgley (yes from Gossip Girl) leads a funky, jazzy, sexy soulful band. During their live shows, Penn grooves along to the music, and it’s hard not to do the same when listening.




5. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
An embarrassing confession: I first heard of Lykke Li from the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. But thank goodness I did because even though that franchise was a disaster, I was introduced to such a great musician. It had been nearly four years since Lykke gave us Wounded Rhymes, and she didn’t disappoint with a follow up in I Never Learn. The album is definitely an extension of her signature haunting croon, and even feels a bit darker and more melancholy than her previous work. Even though it was released in May, I recently discovered it’s a great album to listen to on dreary winter commutes into the city.


6. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Are there more depressing song titles than “Your Love is Killing Me,” “I Love You But I’m Lost” or “Nothing Will Change”? I doubt it. But Sharon Van Etten makes the depression feel so good—probably because most of us can relate in some way to the mournfulness she projects. And her voice itself doesn’t hurt. A full, sometimes breathy voice gets into our heads and refuses to leave. Luckily, we don’t want it to.


7. Banoffee – EP
While not a full-length album, the EP itself has me excited enough for whenever they’ll make their debut. I sadly missed their CMJ performances in October, but I’ll catch them another year because I’m sure Aussie Martha Brown is going to be killing it for a while. The synthetic beats on the tracks combine with R&B melodies and her dreamy vocals to create a fun, funky jam.


8. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
I first saw Sylvan Esso when they opened for Volcano Choir in 2013. While they performed, I realized that they sounded good, but I was a bit thrown off that a group so focused on synth loops would be paired with Volcano Choir. Given more time to reflect, it makes sense to me now. Their debut album has been topping the charts for best of 2014 lists, and it’s clear to see why. Those synth loops are catchy, as are Amelia Meath’s sweet vocals.


9. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
It’s not surprising the St. Vincent turned out a stellar album this year—Annie Clark has been making them for a while now. I admit to being a little wary of “Birth in Reverse” when it first premiered, but I’ve since come around, and enjoy it just as much as the rest of the album. It’s guitar heavy and sounds like futuristic robots should be performing it. I mean that in the best way.


10. The Antlers – Familiars
The Antlers came back this year bringing their signature moaning vocals and smooth, swelling beats. The Antlers has always been one of my favorite artists to belt out while driving at night, and I’ll probably test that out with this album next time I get the chance. Peter Silberman’s voice is a kind of lonely moaning that is best projected when you’re by yourself.

LIVE REVIEW: Bombay Bicycle Club @ The Wiltern L.A.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Bombay Bicycle Club
photo by Joyce Jude Lee for neon tommy.

The only thing that can really mend the wound of a lost Dodgers game in L.A. is a damn good concert. That might explain why there was a line around the block for hours leading up to Bombay Bicycle Club’s set at the Wiltern on Friday, even with the first round of playoffs going, and in triple digit heat, this was an act of commitment. Once inside, the pit filled up quickly, the crowd predominantly made up of 20-somethings with unusual haircuts. It was a very specific demographic, but a very enthusiastic one. So when first opening band Luxley took the stage, I could tell it was going to be a very involved audience.

Luxley is a New Orleans “wildfire dance rock” band. It’s the recording project of Ryan Gray, who dances all over the stage the entire duration of the set, getting into it, as the old adage goes, as if no one is watching. The music is definitely dance-y, but it’s a little hard to peg. It certainly has a pop rock vibe to it, due in part mostly to Gray’s vocal style, but it has a variety of elements, from electronic tempo and drops to some really primal drum sections. The crowd was fairly interested; it’s pretty hard not to be when you can see the band enjoying themselves as much as they were. They were a good way to get the energy going but were a bit of an odd fit for a Bombay Bicycle Club show. BBC is known to showcase their versatility in sound, and there wasn’t enough variety between Luxley’s songs to hold our attention; not to say it was bad, or that it wasn’t enjoyable, it just felt like we got several very similar songs all at once.

Milo Greene was the main opener, and what a pleasant surprise this quintet was. The Los Angeles “cinematic” pop band have such a soothing yet progressive sound, and so lithely executed that I consider them my newest love. What makes them unique is each member is a lead vocalist and also multi instrumentalist. For each song, the members trade off instruments, gliding seamlessly from guitar to bass to keyboards. The harmonies were rich from the range of vocal styles of each member. Marlana Sheetz, sporting a very Jenny Lewis-esque white pant suit, brings the whispy female range to the table, but male members Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, and Andrew Heringer create that depth of vocal harmony that hearkens back to Fleetwood Mac. Musically, they couldn’t be more different, but they are certainly not lacking in that department. Drummer Curtis Marrero effortlessly binds it all together to create their tight-knit sound. They played a few songs from their full-length self-titled debut, such as “1957,” a beautifully crafted song that typifies their sound (and a song that I’ve been listening to on repeat since then). But they also have a new album due out in January, called Control, and took the opportunity to show off the upcoming material, full of technical guitar bits and big impact, more upbeat in tempo from Milo Greene.

Bombay Bicycle Club is a band that couldn’t possibly disappoint. Over the span of four albums, they have not lost the momentum that makes them who they are. Opening with “Overdone,” from their latest album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, released earlier this year, was an expertly planned ploy. That sludgy riff in the bridge will get anyone going, guaranteed. And the amazing part about BBC is that they are mercurial, shifting from some musically dense material right into their more atmospheric sound, in songs like “It’s Alright Now” and “Shuffle.” Their visuals featured a series of circles recalling the album art from their latest release. Onto the circles various images were projected for each song. It was executed so well; for songs like “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” (my personal favorite BBC song) the circles became an evening sky, and the lyrics appeared in what appeared to be scribbled constellations, glowing and burning out as quickly as a shooting star. “Feel” had the most perfect visuals, with cobra serpents to reflect the sound of this very Arabian-esque song. This was probably my favorite performance of the night. That snake charming guitar lick that rings throughout the song was just magical in a live setting, and they really milked it for what it was worth. The tone on that particular riff is guitar perfection, so when the normal fade out ended with several more bars of that lick, I just about melted. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” was a great, pre-encore ender, because it literally left the crowd begging for more. It’s that song that burns inside of you, starting as a familiar warm ember within, and crawling down into every appendage until you are full of warmth and bliss. It crescendos just barely enough, so there was no way they could end on that note.

The encore was, in all respective senses of an encore, the last hoorah. They threw it back to “What if” from their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. The night ended on “Carry Me” which was a whirlwind of percussion and strobes, sing alongs, and some pervasively chilling tremolo guitar. This show at the Wiltern was one of the first stops on what will be a very extensive tour throughout most of the U.S. in October. It’s been hailed as the must-see tour of the season, so it is strongly advised that you catch them before they depart on their European tour in November.