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...

Album Covers of the Year 2014
In contrast to modern patterns in music consumption comes our annual Album Covers of the Year feature, where, instead of forgetting album artwork even exists, we hyperextend ourselves to assert that it is an artform that is vitally connected to the spirit of the music. This feature, which is divided at times into thematic elements and at times into artistic medium, incorporates interviews with not only musicians, but also artists involved throughout the artistic process. We pride this list in being diverse and multi-faceted, as well as philosophically exploratory. See all of our entries from previous years or get started by choosing a category below. Happy travels through the artistic universe we've crafted for you.

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

Northside Festival
2014 marks the sixth year of Northside Festival, which is a three-day barrage of shows, both free and pay, across Brooklyn venues. On an annual basis, Northside does a nice job of including a range of up-and-coming bands across all genres in addition to the heavy hitters. Our favorites this year include some bands that are popular names on the indie tip right now, along with some garage rock staples.
Reviews by Ian King and Judy Nelson The War on Drugs @ 50 Kent (Sunday, June 15th, 2014) One of the most highly anticipated shows at Northside, with perhaps the exception of CHVRCHES, The War on Drugs have built a reputation as being an excellent live show. And these guys delivered. They were introduced as one of the "greatest American bands in the world" or some crap like that, which I think is stretch, but they sounded amazing. Seeing their rise to indie rock fame has been interesting to watch, especially since the departure of Kurt Vile and his separate rise to fame. Their show was solid, and they played a mix of songs from their 2014 album Lost in A Dream. Most of the crowd looked a little dazed, but perhaps it was a mix of the summer heat, weekend hangovers, or just general entrancement at the show itself. - Judy Nelson

Woman's Hour - Conversations LP
Listeners first encounter Conversations, the debut record by United Kingdom musicians Woman's Hour, through striking monochrome visual imagery. Black and white can be seen in everything from their album artwork and press photos to their music videos, serving not only to unify the band's music, but to incorporate their underlying interests and philosophies as well. Responsible for their visual branding is Frank and Jane, a collaboration between Woman's Hour frontwoman Fiona Jane Burgess and artist Oliver Chanarin. This article features a Q&A with Burgess and all-encompassing look at the visual collateral connected to the record, to demonstrate how the experience Woman's Hour is crafting is truly an interdisciplinary and thoughtful one.
Woman's Hour - Conversations Music Video

 

In summer 2010, Gardens & Villa released their self-titled debut album on Secretly Canadian. Full of youthful imagery and metaphysical ideas, the record reflected the band's perspective of the world through musings on life, love, nostalgia, and nature, presented in ways that only the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed can. It was the work of a younger Gardens & Villa, relatively naïve and overly optimistic about the realities of being a musician in the modern age. "We'd never been on the road; we'd never really gone anywhere to make a record before. We'd never heard of Pitchfork or any blogs," explains vocalist and guitarist Chris Lynch. "Our vision of making music was, 'You make a record, and then it blows up, and then you're on the radio, and then you're huge!' And the reality of it was: some people like you, some people don't like you, and you have to tour for two years. There's no really 'making it' anymore, unless you're part of 1% of 1%." Gardens & Villa are playing REDEFINE's SXSW 2014 Unofficial House Party. Click here for details. Photo by Neil Favila 2014 has seen the release of Gardens & Villa's second full-length record, Dunes -- and while these same themes of life, love, nostalgia, and nature still resonate heavily with the band of brothers, months of relentless touring and eye-opening experiences have brought them to this current point, which is philosophically and musically evolved from where they were three years ago. They have matured -- and this maturation can be found in the change from the barebones simplicity of the first to the layered complexities of the second, as well as in the lyrical content, which is now far more difficult to decrypt. Both records still contain much that is celebratory and have a similar thread of emotional honesty -- but the difference is that on Dunes, what is honest, and what is real, feels less dedicated to enclosed emotions and memories, but more to how one interfaces with the multi-colored pastiche of interconnected human experience, on a larger scale. "The second record is a lot more realistic, I guess, and there's a little bit of melancholy in the record that kind of came out of so much time on the road and missing home. But there's also some beautiful elements on both the records that also came out of that time," explains Lynch. "Basically, I'm trying to say that getting older and touring a bunch wasn't all a bad thing; it was actually a good thing. It's kind of us discovering how we're going to do this and survive." "The time on the road [was us] realizing our dream," Lynch continues, "but at the same time, seeing our dream as this long, arduous journey that's not what we thought it was."

"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 wiggly toes. This month, Gardens & Villa and Dum Dum Girls return, Howard Ivans of GAYNGS and The Rosebuds goes solo, and JMSN, Starlight Girls and The Slims show that they really, really know how to do their own thing.
+++ FULL POST + ALL TOP POPS! COLUMNS + ALL MUSIC COLUMNS Gardens & Villa - Bullet TrainPhotography by Neil Favila

Gardens & Villa - "Bullet Train"

Returning with the introductory single from their February 2014 Secretly Canadian release, Dunes, Southern California's Gardens & Villa seem to be on a brand new tip of exploring death and life in the fast lane. Californian at heart and name-dropping Los Angeles and The Bay Area like rapstars, "Bullet Train" dishes out Prince-like funkiness and manages to one-up the band's previous use of falsetto-laden vocals and flute-playing majesty. My favorite track from the record, "Bullet Train" is just one quick glimpse into an album full of reflections on being and becoming.