Year-end lists mean something different to everyone. Some people make them based off of play counts - simple and objective. Others take the meaning of each album as a whole - and the shows they saw those bands play, and the times they quoted their lyrics on Instagram, and whatever else - and try to rank them comprehensively. Some people have formulas and metrics and Excel sheets to keep track of them all. A guy I'm friends with on Facebook chose his #1 and #2 albums this year based on how the #1 artist wasn't as much of an asshole as #2 at some festival. And in the end - fortunately? unfortunately? - the only person it really matters to is you.
That said, 2014's list looked like this:
15) Pianos Become the Teeth - Keep You
14) La Dispute - Rooms of the House
13) Have Mercy - A Place of Our Own
12) Fireworks - Oh, Common Life
11) Bane - Don’t Wait Up
10) Taylor Swift - 1989
9) The Menzingers - Rented World
8) Manchester Orchestra - Cope
7) Yellowcard - Lift a Sail
6) This Wild Life - Clouded
5) Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues
4) The Lawrence Arms - Metropole
3) Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties - We Don’t Have Eachother
2) PUP – PUP
1) The Hotelier – Home, Like No Place is There
The thing I'm happiest about is that I wouldn't change that top 5 one bit.
As for the others? Some weird things going on.
I don't think I've listened to Rooms of the House more than once since last year. It's a fantastically complex, lyrical, and strange record...but I don't like listening to it. It doesn't bring me any joy. Lesson learned: albums that are "good" don't need to end up on your personal list of favorites. A few others that I felt earned a spot just because I admire the bands... Cope, which essentially had zero staying power for me, and Lift a Sail, which I think is a respectable progression for Yellowcard but only has two songs I've returned to over and over.
If I were to do this list over, I know exactly what I'd put in their place. Have Mercy, with my "most-listened" album of 2015 (according to Spotify), jumps way up to that #7 slot. That album sounds like home. Somos' freshman album, Temple of Plenty, slides into the bottom half. It's one I throw on all the goddamn time, whether it's while getting ready in the morning, in the car, or at the gym. When it first came out, I thought it was a little same-y. Now I just let the songs blend together, and it doesn't take anything away from the quirky little noodley moments that I can't remember which tracks they're from. And lastly, Microwave's Stovall, an album whose name is probably a gibberish word (note: just googled. it's the last name of a dentist in the area and also someone on STL public radio.), from a band whose lead singer is too shy to look up when he talks to a crowd, and one that I still haven't totally grasped, even though I've listened to it probably every day for the last three months. I find something new to love about this album every time I hear it, and that's not an exaggeration. A record like this, one you never get tired of because you're reaching to understand it, to memorize every word, belongs right at the top of any year-end list. So because I somehow slept on it in 2014, it's getting on honorary mention right now. Go listen to this band. I swear your feelings will turn from, "I'm not listening to some goofball shit by a band named after a kitchen appliance," to wearing a shirt with a picture of that kitchen appliance - and only the kitchen appliance - on it, because you want everyone to ask you what it means.
Graduate student taking a break from grants and manuscripts to wax poetic on music.