It’s official. With this weeks bevy of outstanding releases, the 2014 album season is officially underway. Sure, there has been a little foreplay along the way with The Augustines new record, A surprise contender from A Great Big World, and Stephen Malkmus entered the fray with a potential top ten record, good efforts all, but if history tells us anything February is one of the better release months, and this year is no exception. Let’s get ready to rumble.
Robert Ellis – The Lights From the Chemical Plant
Ever since we finished listening to Photographs, the debut album from Robert Ellis our ears were anxious to hear what aural pleasures he had in store for us next. This record is great from start to finish, just a little less stark, but not much, with Robert’s guitar picking a little more front in center. We knew he could play, but not this good, and of course with the passing of George Jones, the torch has definitely been passed. His version “Still Crazy After All These Years” is a must hear. A definite early entry for album of the year.
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Sun Kil Moon is one of the many projects on the plate of Mark Kosalek, Benji is the bands sixth album, and arguably their best, but that is a bit like choosing your favorite Charlie’s Angel. With Will Oldham, Steve Sheeley, and Owen Ashworth, the beautiful understated delivery of these songs with the delicate harmonies throughout makes this one of those records that get better with each listen.
Neil Finn – Dizzy Heights
The founder of both Split Enz and Crowded House has recorded a solo album that is a bit less tuneful and pop sounding than we might be used to, but is no less dramatic. A finely textured album with surprises around every corner. “Pony Ride” and “White Lies and Alibis” are standouts.
Sam Roberts Band – Lo-Fantasy
The call themselves a dance band which makes perfect sense based on “Shapeshifters”, the highly danceable opening track from their latest release Lo-Fantasy, but don’t let that scare you away from checking out this really good record. The sound is a curious mix of 80’s rock, Edward Sharpe style Revival Rock, and Billy Idol attitude. This won’t be the record of the year, but it just might be the most fun.
Jamestown Revival – Utah
If it is possible for two top five albums of the year to be released on the same day, then we are calling our shot now. Even if this set only included “Fur Coat Blues” and “California (Cast Iron),” the first two cuts on this record, they would be enough to earn the spot. Influences abound from Pure Prairie League, Dawes, Loggins and Messina, all the way to Buffalo Springfield. “Wandering Man” is a harmony laden classic, and “Time is Gone” is songwriting at its finest. This is a seriously good debut album, and an instant classic.