Top Records of 2014: 20-16
20. Sun Kil Moon - Benji (Caldo Verde) Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek can be an ornery, irascible cuss. This year alone he called out fans at a show as hillbillies and started a tongue in cheek fight with another band on this list, War on Drugs, even writing a song, "War on Drugs Can Suck My Cock." Yet he has a knack for writing moving personal story songs that sound like they fell out of a lost, timeless song book dropped by the likes of Bob Dylan, or perhaps, given their idiosyncrasy, Arthur Lee. Kozelek takes mundane subjects -- he includes songs that discuss both his mother and father and their friends, or cataclysmic events and figures -- Newtown and Richard Ramirez -- and instills them with a vibrancy that pulls at the heartstrings. Sometimes he is given to wordiness and the songs are longer than necessary, but these drawbacks are eclipsed by the mesmerizing quality of his voice and lyrics. These are short stories put to music.
18. War on Drugs - Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian) War on Drugs has been making psychedelic-tinged, Americana-stressed indie for awhile, resting in the same vein as other genre-mixing stalwarts like Blitzen Trapper and Dr. Dog. Lost In The Dream feels different, perhaps because of the multi-layered nature of the record. Songs such as "Under The Pressure" and "An Ocean In Between The Waves" could be tight, snappy pop songs, but they are lengthened through feedback and sound experiments that contort and construct the vibe of each. The resulting undercurrent recalls such disparate artists as Sonic Youth and Fleetwood Mac at their dreamiest, even as the vocals and instrumentation remain at the Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen level. The vibe of Lost In The Dream is otherworldly, yet comforting. Adam Granduciel's simple songs become a statement of beauty that is uplifted through the production and organization of the album, becoming a tight, cohesive album that transcends any touchstones or comparisons one could name.