There’s just no way to fit all the worthy music out there into our weekly Staff Picks column, though we try. So I’ve sifted through the rich musical sands of 2014 one more time and uncovered a few more shiny gold nuggets you should know about.
Let’s begin by talking about The Feeling. An aptly named British band, they are total charmers in the mold of the great Scottish band Travis – unabashed, sincere romantics without guile or artifice. Their 2014 release, Boy Cried Wolf, is a catchy, melodic delight. Their state-side doppelgänger, New Jersey band Real Estate, echoes a similar sunny and sincere outlook and a gift for memorable melodies on their album Atlas.
British heartthrob Ed Sheeran’s blockbuster album X is a nearly perfect folk/pop gem, bursting with great songwriting, soulful singing, and funky acoustic grooves. And if you enjoy Ed, I’ve got a Ben for you. Londoner Ben Howard’s I Forget Where We Were is a shift from his strictly folk roots to a more contemporary, cinematic sound with touches of synth and Edge-like guitar. He’s a major talent in ascendance.
The War on Drugs is alive and well in Philadelphia – the band, that is. Their third album, Lost in the Dream, perfectly describes their haunting, anthemic sound, propelled by the chiming guitars and compelling Dylanesque vocals of Adam Granduciel. Check out their song “Under the Pressure” and you will be an instant convert.
After supplying superstars Rihanna (“Diamonds”) and Britney Spears (“Perfume”) with hits, Australian singer/songwriter Sia proved to be the best interpreter of her own songs this year. The international smash “Chandelier,” from her album 1000 Forms of Fear, showcases her elastic, powerhouse voice in a riveting, virtuoso performance.
Vermont’s Anaïs Mitchell holed up in a Nashville, Tenn., studio with only her guitar and amazing voice to record an intimate retrospective of her 12-year career titled xoa (code for “hugs and kisses, Anaïs”). The deeply moving, engaging result confirms her place in the panoply of exceptional singer/songwriters.