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I'm sure that you'll agree with me that this past year wasn't the greatest year in music history but it was a very damn satisfying one.

Charlie Doherty’s Top 30 Releases of 2014 (Starring Judas Priest, Ryan Adams, Run the Jewels, Smashing Pumpkins, Sun Kil Moon, and More)

As is the case at around this time every year, I used much of January to look back at the list of albums I dug from the previous year and reevaluate them. I also took some time to let a select amount of late 2014 albums sink in and went back to listen to full-lengths I forgot about from the year’s first months. Now I am ready to close the chapter on the music of 2014.

Run the Jewels 2I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that this past year wasn’t the greatest year in music history but it was a very damn satisfying one. The likes of Judas Priest, Run the Jewels, and Smashing Pumpkins not only delivered the goods, they very much exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. Some newer acts like Alvvays and Mac DeMarco made fine pop/rock records, Strand of Oaks and War on Drugs had a breakthrough year, electronic wizard Aphex Twin made an amazing comeback record (Syro), and veterans like St. Vincent and Jenny Lewis made critically acclaimed records, to the surprise of no one.

If I had to give out an Artist of 2014 award, it would go to Ryan Adams. Not only did he come out with a self-titled record that was consistently solid from start to finish, he helped Lewis finish her fun and impressive solo LP The Voyager. As if that wasn’t enough, he released a few sold-out 7-inches on his PAX-AM label, including an ’80s hardcore punk tribute, the 1984 EP, in which he shows off his love of Husker Du. (Bonus fact: The dude got to play live with the Du’s legendary frontman Bob Mould last year too.)

There weren’t a whole lot of EPs I remember listening to – and certainly not enough to make up any kind of list – so this write-up consists of mostly studio albums, with some compilations and a live record or two mixed in. Musically, you’ll see it’s a well-rounded list – at least to me. These releases aren’t written down in any particular order (and you’ll see sparse commentary throughout), but they all left a significant impression on me. Those releases that make up my Honorable Mentions section were not quite as strong or memorable as I had hoped but felt were worthy of inclusion as part of my personal musical history of 2014.

So here it is, my music picks for the past year, for your enjoyment (or amusement).

My Top 30 Releases of 2014

Alvvays – Alvvays

Strand of Oaks – Heal

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Mark Kozelek had some controversial war of words with War on Drugs this past year, but here, he lets his always mesmerizing melancholic music do the talking.)

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Beck – Morning Phase

Lenny Kravitz – Strut (It’s been a long time since you could say an LK record rocked from start to finish. This is it.)

Gary Moore – Live at Bush Hall 2007 (The late great Irish hard rock-turned-ballsy-blues rock six-stringer comes alive with killer renditions of some of his most beloved tunes. It just reminds you of the force of power he was on stage in his lifetime, with Thin Lizzy and on solo shows like this.)

War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream

Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy and the Adore [Super Deluxe Box Set] reissue (One is a killer pop rock album, while the latter is a brilliant re-release of a futuristic electronic-tinged record that was once unappreciated but now treasured. The highlight on this reissue is the Rick Rubin-produced version of should’ve-been-hit, “Let Me Give the World to You.”)

Matt Charette and the Truer SoundBack East (Heart-on-sleeve folk mixed in with some punk rock spirit – you can never frown upon that.)

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (The prolific Ryan Adams is back!)

Royal Blood – Royal Blood (Their debut is like Queens of the Stone Age without the sour vocals.)

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Produced by Ric Ocasek, just like their classic 1994 debut, The Blue Album)

Weird Al – Mandatory Fun (It’s his best album in over 20 years, hands down.)

Lemonade – Minus Tide

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

Opeth – Pale Communion

Jack White – Lazaretto

J. Mascis – Tied to a Star (Sub Pop Records)

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin (The album gets help from Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster, and of course, it’s on legendary label Merge Records.)

Aphex Twin – Syro

St. Vincent – St. Vincent (Another brilliant record for Annie Clark, her fourth solo effort)

Band of Horses – Acoustic at the Ryman

Real Estate – Atlas (More sunny pop rock tunes from these Jersey guys.)

Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

10 Honorable Mentions

Dana and the Teen SensationsDaydreams (It’s warm, enjoyable music perfect for any occasion.)

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Bringing Tom Morello on board had mixed results, but at least these tunes sound alive and fresh.)

TV on the RadioSeeds

Phantogram – Voices

Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband

Jimmer (of The Rave-Ups) – The Would-Be Plans

Rancid – …Honor Is All We Know

The Queen Annes – Something Quick: 1980-1985 [Remastered] (Pre-grunge Seattle band influenced by The Who/Led Zeppelin)

Axel Rudi Pell – Into the Storm (SPV release)

AJ Davila (of Davila 666, from Puerto Rico) – Terror Amor

Daryl Kellie – Wintersong (This acoustic guitar virtuoso includes a jaw-dropping cover of the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” that you have to see and hear to believe. It’s the best cover I’ve seen in a long time, maybe ever.)

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About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

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