Here we go in depth a little bit more on the best indie pop music for 2014. Tune in to the Happyoblivion show every Saturday 12-3pm for your indie pop fix!
Top single of 2014:
Teen Runnings – High School Love
Tokyo’s own Teen Runnings, who morphed from the previous outfit known as Friends a few years back, has really hit their stride. Everything they put out has shown improvement over their already previous excellent work. I thought their song “Sightseeing” was great, but then I heard “High School Love” and just couldn’t quit humming this track while walking with a bit more pep in my step. It’s a combination of shoegaze and 60’s inflection that just hits the right spot.
Top EP of 2014:
Marine Life – Fool of a Kind EP
Big Sur is my featured track from this wonderful 4 song debut EP. San Francisco based Marine Life just hits the right spots, reflecting a sound most similar to the Cardigans at their best. They found themselves signed to the great Elefant Records out of Spain, which makes them labelmates with the School, Lia Pamina, and the Yearning. The sound is pure 60s influenced female vocals on just the perfect bed of guitars, synths, and drums, moving forward quite easily and nicely. They are often described as “sunshiny,” and I believe this is actually an apt description, though they can also work in the hint of melancholy just as beautifully.
Best 10 Albums of 2014:
10. Soft Science – “Detour”
Holiday Flyer was one of my favorite bands in the 90s, so when Katie Haley (of Holiday Flyer) formed Soft Science with bandmates Ross and Matt Levine (they are twin brothers), and bass player Mason DeMusey, my ears perked up. This Sacramento band really brings a nice solid guitar-based sound to the table. My favorite track is “Blue,’ but the entire album really is solid. Some of their songs are reminiscent of Velocity Girl, to whom they have frequently been compared. I would venture to say there is also an element of Elastica in the mix. Either way, one of the top albums of the year!
9. King of Prussia – “Zonian Girls… And the Echoes That Surround Us All”
More is better? Well, maybe, because this is a double album jam-packed with 20 songs, and actually consistently good throughout, despite a contrast between the upbeat first half and a more lyrical and relaxed second half. “Zonian Girls” gives us the sunnier and poppiest songs, including “Actuary,” “Anna Nordeen,” “Every Girl,” and “Carolina, Carolina.” “The Echoes that Surround Us All” gives is a more folk-twinged feel in a more subdued and contemplative mood, with such gems as “A Parting, A Loss,” “Storming the Beach,” and The Sun Will Never Rise.” Frontman Brandon Hanick wrote all the songs while he was in Barcelona, Spain, but recorded the album in Barcelona, his hometown Athens, Georgia, and Bordeaux, France.
8. The Bilinda Butchers – “Heaven”
Named after guitarist/vocalist Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine, this San Francisco based band brings us their debut full-length album. Instead of just a collection of hit songs from prior EPs and singles, they challenged themselves with this concept album. “Heaven” is a diary of a young Japanese woman in the 1800s who was married to a cruel nobleman, and she meets a young sympathetic poet, but unfortunately this relationship is discovered. She is banished far away and eventually hears word of the poet’s death, hence the songs “The Lover’s Suicide” and “Heaven Holds a Place.” Sadness, melancholy, dreams, hope–all wrapped in beautiful verse and song. This “dream pop” album fits in perfectly with a show that calls itself the Happyoblivion.
7. The Primitives – “Spin-O-Rama”
British indie poppers from Coventry, the Primitives re-formed in 2009 and this is the very long awaited new album. They released a cover album a couple years back, but this is the first new album in over 2 decades for a band famously known for “Crash,” “Sick of It,” and “Secrets.” This is the music I remember! They could have easily fallen apart from expectations like other re-formed bands, but in fact they bring the same great sound, catchy hooks, jangly guitars, and flowing synths–they haven’t lost a step at all. Channeling a bit of the 60’s and melding it with the late eighties sensibilities, yet updating it for a fresh current sound for 2014, this album is truly excellent from beginning to end. Breezy and moving quickly without anything to drag it down, it clocks in at 29 minutes. It is fun, cheerful, and just the right pick-me-up with many stand out tracks such as “Spin-O-Rama,” “Lose the Reason,” “Petals,” and “Dandelion Seed.”
6. Juvenile Juvenile – “Our Great Escape”
Dream-pop with the shoegazey sound from Osake, the are like the Japanese version of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, perhaps with a little more guitar. In fact, Juvenile Juvenile played with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart when they toured Japan. All the pieces fit together well and the sound is familiar in many ways. Super producer Kensei Ogata was involved and the end product is one of the best albums of the year from Japan.
5. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – “Days of Abandon”
Regressing towards the mean is not necessarily a bad thing in this case, as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart tighten up their sound and go more consistently upbeat and synth-pop with melodious vocals. In fact, this album brings us the most pop-sounding album for the band on their third full-length release. Highlights include shiny pop gems such as “Until the Sun Explodes” and “Masokissed.” Consistency is the new hallmark! Oh, and “Simple and Sure” caught the ear of the folks at Hershey’s Chocolate and made it into their commercial, so the band will be flush with money to keep making more music…
4. The fin. – “Days with Uncertainty” https://soundcloud.com/user745587
The fin. (yes, the period is part of their name) have been releasing singles and EPs previously, and their first LP includes some previously released songs. The fuzzy vocals over a multilayered synth track summons forth the movement of clouds through the sky and perhaps the overall haziness of day-to-day life. Hailing from Kobe, Japan, this 4 piece band has a nice sound that carries us along like a current. At a basic level the sound is shoegaze/chillwave, but really, take a good listen, because it is much more than that.
3. The Yearning -“Dreamboats & Lemonade”
This debut LP from the Yearning brings us the sweet 50s revival sound. They sound as if they were plucked straight from that era and produced by Phil Spector. Maddie Dobie is the lead singer with the wondrous voice, and was only 15 at the inception of the band in 2012. Yes, there is some sadness buried within the lyrics, but the overall feeling is one of hope and celebration. I seem to have a different favorite every time I listen to the album. It feels at time like a celebration, other times like standing at the shorefront, and occasionally as a dream or memory. Recently heard harps on any of your music? Well, that is just part of the orchestration that was involved, and more genius each time I hear it. Enjoy!
2. TV Girl – “French Exit”
Released in June 2014, is this the perfect summer album? I’ve been loving TV Girl for several years now, as they have been releasing songs here and there. There are catchy hooks, lyrics with wit, and sounds that reflect both the past and future. The band has been reconfigured, and call LA their home instead of San Diego, but the sound is still just right. TV Girl themselves have described this album as “12 songs about lost lust, too much love and not enough.” If you like your bands talented yet wittily sarcastic and frequently understated and underestimated at first glance, then these are the guys for you. There is that 60’s-ish sound mixed with the modern beat. Frequently played on the Happyoblivion Show was the track “Birds Don’t Sing,” a standout among all very excellent songs on the album.
1. Alpaca Sports – “Sealed With A Kiss” & “Bella’s Mixtape”
This wonderful Swedish band released their debut album plus remix versions of their songs done by indiepop royalty. They never seem to disappoint, and their full-length album was simply indie pop goodness from start to finish. Girl & guy vocals, check. Cheery melodies, check. Intelligent lyrics, check. Awesome album art by renowned Japanese artist Ray Kimura–wow! This is the whole package and more. They delivered indie pop perfection…and then went above and beyond! The songs on “Bella’s Mixtape” are not this usual beatmixing (boring!), but either covers or remixes. They were able to pull in Red Sleeping Beauty–one of the trailblazers of Swedish indie pop and doing their first project in many years, to do a cover of “Just for Fun.” Other superb indie bands from across the globe were involved, including Tiny Fireflies, The Very Most, Boyish, When Nalda Became Punk, Cristina Quesada, and Band à Part. Superb album plus remix album, this was definitely my pick for the best of 2014!
Thanks so much for listening and reading! More information and playlists can be found at mildmanneredDJ.blogspot.com