No one seems to be able to stop talking about Kendrick Lamar this year, and while we are no different from the rest in that regard, we've naturally made the effort, as usual, to put together an Albums of the Year list that is typically...

With wide-reaching arms and hungry ears, each of our writers has compiled his or her top albums of the year, for you to peruse our eclectic, atypical, and only occasionally overlapping tastes. You'd be well-served to check out every single record here.
Vivian Hua - dance, indie, pop, psychedelic, electronic Troy Micheau - metal, electronic, experimental, ambient Jason Simpson - pop, soul, electronic, ambient Ian King - electronic, ambient, instrumental, pop Peter Woodburn - ambient, metal, garage, indie Judy Nelson - dance, electronic, indie, pop, hip-hop Albums of the Year 2014

A lot of the problem with viewing the universe as being comprised of matter comes with the idea that it's devoid of conscious experience somehow. More and more, little by little, we're starting to wake up to the insane limitations of this philosophy. Renders people humorless if you ask me. Nothing adds up, which creates profound existential desperation resonating throughout the collective psi-grid of humanity. There is no explanation for why anything happens, so we instead focus on how things go down in obsessive detail. Not to knock this approach, as it creates order by combining with the mystical chaos of internal infinity. Too much mystic psychic sizzle and you'll get torn to shreds, but when you look at only shared perceptual experience, you're editing out the vast majority of reality. It's all dark matter through those eyes. Endless blacked out pages on a declassified UFO report. What I've found is that by shifting models of reality interpretation just slightly from conceiving the world as being made of matter to one comprised from conscious experience, coherent macro concepts of conjoined narratives learning lessons throughout cycles of shifting lifetimes starts to take shape (which I talk about all the time on Facebook; friend me). When you start looking at things through the neo-Occult lens regarding the meaning of our existence as participants in a small cog of a much larger 5th dimensional art creation device, things begin to click into place on an even deeper level. Try it; it's fun. What works about this model is the fact that art is getting more plentiful and expansive by the day. Whether or not that was the purpose, that's what's happening. The average person now spends their time lost in a greater collective imagination in a way that wasn't even possible a decade ago. We've entered the era of the information addict. We're turning ourselves increasingly inward and tying together disparate narratives without asking why we're so unconsciously compelled to veer in that direction. I'm more helplessly entrenched than anyone, spending my time existent in my own celestial enclave of sonic enchantment. Fact of the matter is, more people are taking psychedelic drugs at this point in history than ever before. The loosening of the pot laws is just going to ensure that trend continues to spike upward. Unsurprisingly, this has created a congruent upsurge in fantastically brain-altering tunage. I can't even begin to keep up with it all, and I'm an obsessive music weirdo. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of great albums being made every single year, but I'd say Joe Sixpack isn't truly aware of that fact. I can't imagine any of the records on this list sold a ton, which is sort of the problem and why you need geeks like me. Next time you want to trip out on the weekend rather than getting blitzed drunk, go pick up any of thesem and they'll serve to lift you on high rather than binding you to the lower dimensions. Now, I almost apologize, because there really should be more trip-hop and electronic freak outs on here in general -- that's where drug music is heading and has been since I was a kid. But I've listened to a lot of the higher profile releases this year and most of it was decent, and little of it struck me as sufficiently psyche-warping. I've got to dig deeper next year. I will say that Seattle's Debacle Records consistently brings the strange vibes (Editor's Note: See the mixtape they made for us earlier this year) -- and as if intentionally living up to our newly minted west coast weed city status, more great psychedelic albums came out of Seattle this year than ever, so this list is also a bit heavy on that because no one else is really talking about it. You've been warned.

Lumerians Band Interview - The High FrontierIt's an early afternoon the day after Lumerians have played their last show of the year, headlining on a Friday in late November at The Chapel in San Francisco. The night was something of a hometown multi-generational happening, as local turn-of-the-'80s industrial pioneers Factrix, sometimes described as "gothadelic" and definitely ahead of their time back in the day, made an uncommon live appearance. Such a lineup is a reminder that to be a band from the Bay Area and play anything approaching psychedelic rock is both a natural choice and one that surely comes with a keener sense of history and expectation than it would in almost any other region. Able heirs with omnivorous musical appetites, Lumerians seem aware of – but certainly not burdened by – any weight of legacy, instead infusing it into their experimental approach. Lumerians' second album, The High Frontier, is about different manifestations of exploration. The record is named after a somewhat obscure book from 1977 about mankind moving into outer space, written by Gerard K. O'Neill. I speak to bassist/vocalist Marc Melzer and drummer Chris Musgrave one afternoon, and as Melzer explains, O'Neill's book isn't really science fiction, but a thoughtful manifesto about the colonization of deep space by human beings – perhaps as a means of preserving a unique life form. The band -- which also includes guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Green, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jason Miller, and percussionist Tony Peluso – was drawn to the idea of moving toward uncharted internal and external territories.
"For us, music is about exploration. We may start down a traveled path, but our real objective is to discover what is beyond. We're no retro-fetishists, but it seems like the future used to be more boundless and inspired," explains Melzer. The High FrontierThe band was initially inspired by seeing some of the artwork that was created for O'Neill's book, and were subsequently drawn in by its forward-thinking perspective, as it wasn't really about the destruction or abandonment of Earth, but about "taking what was cool about humanity and moving into other places." Given the innumerable times and ways people have been inspired by that boundless realm above our heads, I ask Melzer what he thinks it is about mankind's relationship to outer space that makes it such a creative influence. "It's all about exploration... and just wondering what else is out there. Also, on top of that," he continues, "... just sort of seeing what other peoples' visions of other worlds and other states of being really is, because there's an infinite amount of different worlds out there, whether it's internal or external."

In this stop-motion animation for Pure Bathing Culture's "Dream The Dare", director Hayley Morris -- along with illustration help from Caleb Wood -- turns what PBC describe as "psychedelic emotional imagery" into psychedelic visual imagery. Full of colors soft and bold, an array of whirling geometric shapes and hand-drawn projections comprise landscapes that are ever-mutating, as a raven flies about in its dreamy world. Below, Pure Bathing Culture and Morris share details about the intention behind this track and video, as well as its mythological inspiration and technical details.

Hayley Morris (Director)

Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)

How did your collaboration first come to form, and throughout the process, how much of an exchange of ideas was there?
Hayley Morris (Director)
Sean Pecknold, who made Pure Bathing Culture's music video for "Ivory Coast", was nice enough to recommend me for the "Dream the Dare" video. I loved the "Ivory Coast" video and song and was really excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Pure Bathing Culture on this video. I love their music. Dan and Sarah were fantastic to work with. They were drawn to the color palettes I use in my work and the dreamy and somewhat psychedelic imagery from my past videos. They were interested in having me bring this aesthetic into the "Dream the Dare" video. Dan and Sarah also felt that having a hopeful message was very important. From these initial guidelines I formed the idea and developed the style. Once I started production, the band trusted me to do my thing.
Pure Bathing Culture (Musician)
Our friend Sean Pecknold, who is an amazing director and animator as well -- and who directed the video for our song "Ivory Coast" -- shared Hayley's amazing video for the Iron and Wine song "Joy" with us. It's such a beautiful video. We immediately knew that we wanted to work with her. We had one initial conversation with Hayley where we shared a very rough stream of consciousness theme involving the crow, and she completely understood and took it from there. She was communicative about her ideas throughout the process, all of which we loved.

Pure Bathing Culture Moon Tides Partisan Records (2013) Moon Tides is dreamy atmospheric pop, swathed in romantic reverb, but what does this predilection towards cavernous sounds say about our current obsessions? Pure Bathing Culture reflect a number of themes of the indie underground like a crystal ball, that are easily missed or ignored with cursory reductive listening. There's more going on here. Moon Tides takes steps towards defining the spirit of 2013 -- or one manifestation of it, anyway. First of all, let's look at the fact that Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille transplanted to Portland, OR from Brooklyn in 2011, after playing together in the retroactive folk rock band Vetiver. This reflects the cultural shift away from industry and big business, as Brooklyn was the place to make it during the 2000s. This westward push shows a growing interest in mysticism, meditation, quiet simple enjoyment of life and of nature. It shows Portland's increasing role as a cultural mecca, for a particular type of person. No one has named this westward push, and as such, it still has interest and potency. Even though they haven't been there that long, Pure Bathing Culture are quintessentially Portland, and are a useful lens through which to notice things going on here in the Northwest. They are a gender-balanced duo, which is something you see a lot of here in the City Of Roses. They transubstantiate the mood of '60s mysticism (Moon Tides features themes about astrology, crystals, tarot cards), and place them in a modern context. You could interpret Pure Bathing Culture departing Vetiver as the culture leaving behind '70s psych folk wanderings, the freak folk of the 2000s, and stepping into the '80s. Moon Tides reflects what people like, what people are like, what we all gravitate towards.

 

Oakland's Lumerians are releasing The High Frontier this month, and its first single is the surprisingly female-narrated "Life Without Skin". The track shows Lumerians at their finest, full of subdued control; they roll through different sonic moves and structural movements with ease, without leaving behind the swirling qualities they are so well-known for. Visuals have always been important for Lumerians -- who have a projector setup in tow at most of their shows -- and this music video, directed by long-time band friend and filmmaking collaborator Waylon Bacon, follows "Life Without Skin" as it moves with quickening pace. Quivering and shuddering, th videoe explores Los Angeles' Skid Row late at night, as buildings mutate and mysterious ghouls roam the dingy streets.

 

"Pop music shouldn't always get a bad rap," says Top Pops!, a recurring selection of indie pop highlights across a selection of styles, updated every month to keep you on your dancing toes. This month, Gauntlet Hair pay homage to noise pop vibes and Pure Bathing Culture get adorable, while Grumbling Fur and Dubais present a psyched-out jam and lo-fi offering, respectively.
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Pure Bathing Culture - "Pendulum"

Portland favorites Pure Bathing Culture, comprised of guitarist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist Sarah Versprille, have done the boy-girl music partnership thing to great success. After blowing up the local scene with humble fanfare, they've taken the same type of reverb and cutesiness that has become grotesquely overdone in the indie pop genre and gone on to offer something just a bit more. It's hard to detail just what that something is in words -- but it's a feeling evoked, of genuine pleasantries and not of fads, of beauty in wispy, fleeting moments, to be celebrated. A reminder of the passing of time in this way, "Pendulum" is the opening track of their upcoming full-length, Moon Tides, which will be released on August 20th via Partisan Records.

 

In our 2012 Album Covers of the Year feature, we once again get our hands on everyone we can. Through interviews with designers, musicians, labels, and plenty of others, we take a close look at just how many hands are in the pot when it comes to the album artwork process. Inside this feature are 98 album covers spanning a wide array of sonic and visual styles, each selected for its own unique contribution to the world. They are not ranked; instead, they are broken down into sections based on conceptual underpinnings or artistic mediums, and then are displayed on spectrums. Get started by navigating into any of these six sections: Geometric & Pattern-Based Classically-Influenced Narrative & Symbolic Photography & Manipulations Painting & Illustration Collage, Sculpture & Mixed Media You can also see last year's at 2011 Year-End Respect For Album Cover Art
 

During my first listen to this record, I hated it. It seemed whiney, and the tape hiss and overall crunchiness overshadowed the melodies. The songs were like musical vitamins, so concentrated my body couldn't absorb them. But after a few more listens, the...