Best! Of 2014: An indie/alt Year in Review

indiealtlogoHappy New Year’s Eve to all of our readers! Hope that your 2014 has lived up to expectation, if not highly exceeded it. For indie/alt, this year has been a blast! It’s been one full of great music, great people, and amazing experiences. Since the beginning of January to mid-December, we have covered 35 shows, reviewed 6 albums, interviewed 5 bands, and featured over 20 songs. We’ve either been working hard or hardly working this year, and we’re proud of what we’ve done.

2015 starts tomorrow, and we’ve already got a lot planned. We’ve already announced about 10 shows we will be covering, and now we have a few more to add to the list. On April 8th, we have George Ezra playing the Wonder Ballroom. May 8th will see They Might Be Giants at the Roseland Theater. And, the one I’m most excited for, indie/alt will be taking it back to Seattle on August 8th to cover none other than Taylor Swift! It’s going to be a big year for us, and I hope you’ll stick around and bring your friends on our little adventures in music.

To end off an amazing 2014, it’s time to take a look back at some of this years best points. This is our Best! Of 2014…

Best Artist: Banks

To say that Banks’ debut album, Goddess, was great is nothing short of an understatement. Just through the review alone, you can tell that we thought Banks’ debut was phenomenal. And Banks herself, who started her career only last year, has shot straight up. Back in May, Jillian Banks was listed to play a set at Doug Fir Lounge. Only 5 short months after her Portland debut here, she took place as the night’s headliner at the Crystal Ballroom. That’s a big jump for such a short amount of time, and I’ve only seen something like that in one other artist: Bastille (Bastille played the Doug Fir in September of 2013, and went on to headline the Rose Garden Arena in November). For these reasons combined, Banks had to be our number one choice for 2014’s Best Artist. She’s risen so far and so fast, and all the attention she gets this year (as one of many site’s Artist to Watch at the beginning of 2014), to wherever she goes in 2015, it’s all well-deserved. We raise a glass to you, Jillian. Good luck in the coming year, not that you need it.

Honorable Mentions: 

Though choosing Banks for Best Artist was a quick and easy decision, there are still plenty of other artists we’d like to recognize. FKA twigs, for bringing the world LP1, and some of the century’s most creative and innovative electronic music, a true art. Charli XCX, for becoming this year’s true Princess of Pop, with help from Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea, and then going on to release a bang of a Sophomore record, Sucker, to perfectly close off the year. Sam Smith, for showing us what real talent is, and giving us one of the leading songs in the soundtrack to 2014, “Stay With Me”. And, to Glass Animals, for taking their unique jungle sound to the US, and giving us Zaba, one of the best records I’ve ever heard.

Best Album: 1989

taylor-swift-1989This was a no brainer. Taylor Swift’s latest release was a game changer for me, and it seems for many others as well. Prior to the release of “Shake It Off” and the rest of 1989, Ms. Swift has been one of country music’s biggest superstars, if not THE ONE real superstar in the group. Everybody knew her. With songs like “Love Story”, “Back to December”, and “I Knew You Were Trouble”, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing her over the speakers. However, this didn’t mean that necessarily everyone liked her. I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t sure what to think of her music. It was catchy, no doubt, and not horrible. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t LOVE it. Then, my whole perspective shifted. I bought 1989 on a whim, not knowing what to expect, but only hearing that it was amazing. That was no lie. 1989 is Taylor’s first official pop record. Though Red borderlined on pop, it was still classified as country. This album takes a complete leap away from her past elements, and puts her songwriting and vocal talent into an 80s synth-pop dream. With 1989, there’s really no filler. Every track is perfectly constructed, and you just can’t help but dance away your problems as soon as you hear any of it. It was this album that completely changed my mind about Taylor Swift, and made me appreciate everything this talented woman has done. Not to mention, made me get tickets to her latest world tour! 1989, let’s rock!

Honorable Mentions:

Additional shout-outs to some more of this years best albums… Of course, our Artist of the Year, Banks’ album, Goddess, for making me lose sense of reality, and find beauty in the darkness of sound. alt-J’s latest release, This Is All Yours, for giving us more tracks to blast to their fullest, like “Hunger of the Pine” and “Every Other Freckle”. And Betty Who’s debut, Take Me When You Go, for cleansing our palette, and serving up some refreshing pop music to party to like there’s no tomorrow.

Best Song: Take Me to Church

IMG_4034No other song has gone from zero to hero this year quite like Hozier’s harrowing bluesy ballad. Released late last year, “Take Me to Church” was a small wonder, not getting quite as much recognition as it truly deserved. However, this year, the song has blown up to massive proportions. With the music video, a dark story of forbidden love and a kick in the face to Russia’s gay propaganda, currently at 56 million views, as well as the song’s Grammy Nomination for this title exactly, “Take Me to Church” was the clear choice to be 2014’s song of the year. Hozier headlined the Wonder Ballroom earlier this year, eventually selling out the venue. Next year, he returns, jumping up to a spot at the Crystal, a show which sold out in only a week. We’re stoked to be covering it. Maybe by the time the show rolls around, Andrew Hozier-Byrne will have the Grammy for SOTY in tow. Here’s wishing luck to him!

Honorable Mentions:

There have been so many songs that have defined 2014, and become some of the years biggest successes. Sam Smith’s ballad, “Stay with Me”, has shown us that true talent is most often found when you look back to the classics. Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s song, “Fancy”, defined the summer, and became one of this year’s most listened to and buzzed about tracks, not to mention propelled Miss XCX to a place she rightfully deserves. And Australian indie rockers, Sheppard, and their track, “Geronimo”, which put them on a higher pedestal, dipping them into the waters of recognition, and pushing them towards what is sure to be one hell of a career.

Best Live Show: St. Vincent

IMG_3884It takes a lot to make a show truly memorable. To do this is to do something differently, and create a true experience out of the performance. For me to think of one show that stands out among all others is a difficult task, but it’s no question that Annie Clark did things just right. And, if you really asked me what my favorite show of the year has been, I would be quick to answer just this. St. Vincent has reformed herself with her fourth album, the self-titled St. Vincent. She was quoted with saying that on this record, she sounds more like herself than she ever has. So, if this is truly who Annie Erin Clark is, then she has to be one of the most incredible people on the face of this Earth. Period. For St. Vincent’s live show at the Crystal Ballroom back in March, you could tell that you were in for an experience that you would never forget. From the introduction via the robotic voice, to the puppet like jerking shuffle and dance shared between Clark and her band, there wasn’t a moment that you could forget even if you tried. St. Vincent is something different, and by being herself, she has become a true legend by nature. Plus, due to St. Vincent‘s wide success and ground-breaking material, Miss Clark has gained the recognition she so deserves. With Grammy nominations, a spot on Letterman earlier this year, a gig on SNL that rose quite the response, and the name of NME’s Album of the Year, St. Vincent is becoming a huge name in rock. And, with a live show as killer as the Digital Witness Tour, she’s sure to find even more success, and hopefully more of herself, in the coming year.

Honorable Mentions:

This year, we have covered so many shows that meet all the marks for making the night a truly memorable one. Twenty One Pilots put on one of the most energetic and incredible live shows I’ve seen, packed with confetti, crowd surfing, and backflips galore. CHVRCHES’ Crystal show in April made for quite the night, especially due to my now favorite dance move, created by Martin Doherty in his live performance of “Under the Tide”. Lykke Li came to Portland for her I Never Learn Tour, and brought with it her majestic stage presence, accompanied by a beautiful array of light. However, if a true second place had to go to anyone, Haim so deserves it for their stint at MFNW, which made for what is widely considered the best day of my entire life.

Best Local Band: Hustle & Drone, Thanks, Summer Cannibals, Superhighway (4-way tie)

IMG_4211Okay. Maybe this is cheating, but honestly. There is no way I could pick one favorite local band. Everyone should know by now that Portland is really the world capital for amazing music. The shows that come through town, as well as the talent that calls this city home, tops any and all others. I learned just how musically rich this city is this year, being introduced to these four amazing talents that deserve more than anyone to make it big. In February, we were introduced to Superhighway, two of the most talented guys I know. Eli Hirsch and Quincy Saunder’s brand of indie pop sparks the youth in all of us, and the friendship that sparked between us is evident. Just look at our two interviews, and feature article. In April, we got to know Summer Cannibals, a group of rockers that took a step in the direction of bands like Sleater-Kinney. Their sound is so pleasing on record, and they bring it every time they perform live. This year, they’ve seen a major lineup change since their last record, No Makeup, but I know the new Summer Cannibals will bring it hard for their follow-up, one we should see next year. Opening up for Lo-Fang in May were Hustle and Drone, the band of former Portugal. The Man member, Ryan Neighbors. Live, this trio creates a wall of sound and energy that hits you all at once, causing an incurable fit of “gollumning”. Plus, these guys have given me one of my favorite records to come out of Portland, their debut, HOLYLAND. Finally, at Portland’s PDX Pop Now! Festival, we were blown away, and then some, by Jimi Hendrix, and the rest of the incredible band, Thanks. These guys blew my mind beyond all else. Hearing them play for the first time live was truly something magical, and getting to join them in their practice space for an interview had to be one of the major highlights of my year. To pick one out of any of these four is an impossible task, and so I have no other choice but to call a 4-way tie between them all. Good on you, Portland! Keep giving us all you’ve got!

So, that was our year. A huge thanks goes out to all of our readers for sticking around and creating a memorable and unforgettable 2014. More shoutouts to all the bands we interviewed: Redfox, Superhighway, Mulino Road, Thanks, and Take Me To Alaska. Also, to all the friends I’ve met online, and running from venue to venue in Downtown Portland. I thank each and every one of you reading this right now. You all are the reason I do this, and the reason indie/alt even exists. Thank you for making my dreams come true. See you all next year! I know that 2014 will be nothing short of legen…wait for it…dary! (Sorry. I really had to.) 🙂

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