Back to 2014 (Re-Ranking the Best of Lists)

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This week has us traveling back to 2014. Only one more week left after this, and we will be caught up with when Chorus launched in 2016. These last few weeks have an interesting feel to them, they’re far enough away where there’s a distance, but six years is still close enough where it doesn’t feel as much like the past as the previous dives.

Looking at AbsolutePunk’s 2014 list fills me with a wide range of emotions. The year itself, for music, is one that I’ll always hold dear. I loved that Noah Gundersen record. Taylor Swift released 1989 and was starting to cement herself as the artist of a generation. Bleachers released their debut. Copeland were back. Against Me! dropped an all-time classic. The Gaslight Anthem were polarizing. And a new group of bands were starting to make waves. From Joyce Manor, to PUP, to Modern Baseball, to The Hotelier cementing themselves as one of the ‘next great bands in our scene.’ And I’m also thinking back to 2014 and all the turmoil that was taking place not just in the scene but also in the AbsolutePunk offices. Drew Beringer had a fun little rant in the forums last week about being hired at the Spin office and the cluster fuck of mismanagement and organizational failures. This was, for lack of a more colorful phrase, the beginning of the end. I had an entire new version of the website designed, built, and coded, and I couldn’t get it launched. It was then that I gave up fighting the battles. I couldn’t even keep track of who was in charge anymore, or who was running what, so I went into “put the head down, do the work” mode. And the joy of something I had been doing since I was a teenager was sucked completely out of each day of work. I went through the motions and started daydreaming about what my next steps were going to be.

Thankfully, the music from this year more than made up for my restlessness in other parts of my life. Looking at my list from 2014 shows me a whole bunch of albums that I still listen to regularly, and on first glance, the order’s pretty consistent with my gut. That Against Me! album was one of those rare records where when you first heard it, you knew it was special, and that Noah Gundersen album has only grown in my favor over the past few years, joining the shortlist on my all-time favorites list. I find it funny that I had Manchester Orchestra’s Hope on my main list, and Cope in the honorable mentions, but, you know, I think I stand by that. Hope felt much more dynamic. A mixture of sounds and textures. Whereas Cope felt like it was more reactionary to Simple Math and wanting to be a return to rock record. Both good, but I’m still higher on Hope.

In my head, I didn’t have Yellowcard’s Lift a Sail and The Gaslight Anthem’s Get Hurt as having been released the same year. These are two albums that I’ve thought about, written about, and talked about a lot over the following years. They’re both exceptionally polarizing with fans and our community. It’s not often people say, “they’re fine,” it’s far more likely you’ll hear “they’re great” or “they fucking suck.” The reactions are strong and definite. I’ll continue to argue that Lift a Sail gets undeserved hate. And my thoughts on The Gaslight Anthem’s last album continue to be mixed. There’s stuff I really like, stuff I don’t think works, and more than anything, it’s an album that when I listen to, I hear a real sadness in the songs. I will always wonder what the band would have done next.

Ok, so same rules as every week on the re-rank. Arbitrary, going with the gut, not adding in too many things that weren’t part of my listening that year, with a few exceptions. And that leaves me with …

Best of 2014 (Re-Ranking)

  1. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  2. Noah Gundersen – Ledges
  3. Copeland – Ixora
  4. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  5. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There
  6. Sir Sly – You Haunt Me
  7. The Lawrence Arms – Metropole
  8. Taylor Swift – 1989
  9. Manchester Orchestra – Hope
  10. The Menzingers – Rented World
  11. Manchester Orchestra – Cope
  12. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
  13. Run the Jewels – RTJ2
  14. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
  15. Yellowcard – Lift a Sail
  16. PUP – PUP
  17. Bad Suns – Language & Perspective
  18. Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter
  19. Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland
  20. Andrew McMahon – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  21. Coldplay – Ghost Stories
  22. Punch – They Don’t Have to Believe
  23. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
  24. Lagwagon – Hang
  25. Tycho – Awake
  26. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
  27. Prawn – Kingfisher
  28. FKA Twigs – LP1
  29. Jessie Ware – Tough Love
  30. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

The top three stay the same. There’s a small switch were Bleachers get raised just a little bit to account for just how much I’ve listened to that album in the past six years. The biggest jump is Taylor Swift into the top ten. I liked the album when it came out, but its release also was the trigger for me getting far more into her music and exploring her back catalog. Whereas in 2014, it was just me starting to explore, now that album has been fully baked into my regular rotation and is much deserving of a top ten spot. Manchester Orchestra’s Hope sees a jump, Cope gets added into the list, and The Menzinger’s Rented World also sees itself graduated from the honorable mentions list. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gone back over my lists, I often will penalize a band that I’m a big fan of in favor of something newer when I make the list the first time. And then, as time goes on, those big “favorite” bands continue to stay into rotation, and I keep giving them spins, and they end up ranking higher later on. While originally a little let down by The Menzingers, time has proved that album’s resilience.

The rest of the list doesn’t shift all that much. Andrew McMahon gets added in, and I’m not sure why it wasn’t there to begin with. Young the Giant gets added in, as that’s an album that has grown on me exponentially over the past few years. And Coldplay’s Ghost Stories also gets a boost. I saw someone mention in some thread that Ghost Stories was the lost great Coldplay album, and I think I agree with that. It never gets talked about in that way, but of everything they’ve done since, it’s the last time I remember loving something they did.

Against Me!, The Lawrence Arms, Punch, and Lagwagon. Not a bad punk year at all. And throwing in Joyce Manor, The Hotelier, PUP, Every Time I Die, and The Menzingers in that ‘punk-adjacent’ category ends up with a much more rock/guitar-dominated list than I expected.

2014 is close enough that it feels lived in. Revisiting these albums isn’t as much a walk back into nostalgia-land as it is visiting a friend’s house after not seeing them for a few months. I’ve done multiple podcasts on The Gaslight Anthem’s Get Hurt, Yellowcard’s Lift a Sail, and written thousands of words about Noah Gundersen, Against Me!, and various others on this list. These are albums that continue to be in regular rotation, and Ledges is probably the record I spin most often on my turntable. What 2014 brings up for me is more a feeling of unease. It goes hand in hand with the historical revival project I’ve been working on the past week to bring back AbsolutePunk reviews from the graveyard for “scene history” preservation. There’s a lot of very fond memories I have of working on AbsolutePunk and the music and stories wrapped within, but those last few years carry with them a lot of baggage as well. An often joyless work. A wave of underlying anger at feeling chained to the ground and unable to explore anything new creatively. It’s not only with hindsight that I realize how unhealthy this was, I knew it at the time as well. But I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do yet, and it would take a few more years to figure it out.

Next week I’ll be tackling the final AbsolutePunk end of the year list in 2015. After this, I plan to spend a few weeks walking backward through the years prior to 2005 to explore the very early beginnings of AbsolutePunk and what albums and music helped shape my musical tastes. The idea being, in the end, there will be a history of how my music taste shifted over the years that goes along with trying to add some color and history about the website itself.1

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  1. When I added in my (horribly written) “review” of Midtown’s Living Well is the Best Revenge to the database yesterday, I realized there’s now over 18 years worth of writing on this website from me and others.