MT intern Jay Lonski's picks for the best records of the year

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Twenty-five year-old Jay Lonski, one of the best interns ever, wrote up a list of his favorite records of 2014. Here are his seven choice picks for 2014, right here:


Syro
, Aphex Twin
After more than a decade of studio silence from Richard D James – better known by his pseudonym Aphex Twin – expectations for the new album bordered on unrealistic; a tantalizing promotional campaign of strange blimp sightings, press releases in broken English, and deep internet teasers only helped to build the expectations even higher. What eventually emerged in September was not quite the genre-shattering entry fans had anticipated, but instead a more pop-inspired, accessible album still in the same weird vein of the artist’s earlier efforts. Syro is ambient music with just enough catchy handles to keep you hanging on for the entire duration: less Music for Airports and more The Campfire Headphase.


Salad Days
, Mac DeMarco

A follow up to 2012’s dual release of Rock and Roll Night Club and 2, Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days sounds appropriately weary for an album recorded after a year of life on tour. The sparse, couch-surf rock progressions are still intact – and perhaps a bit a woozier from the long ride in 2013 – and the melancholy lyrics are still tempered by Mac’s upbeat, sardonic delivery; his blend of the profane and the polite is fast approaching seamlessness. Though lacking the plethora of standout singles that made 2 particularly memorable, songs like “Passing out Pieces” help to create a more cohesive listening experience.


Mandatory Fun,
“Weird Al” Yankovic
The parody song landscape – the parody music video landscape in particular – has become almost unbearably crowded with the advent of the YouTube age. In 2014, “Weird Al” Yankovic proved – with significant help from a weeklong parody video blitz in July– that mastery of the form still reaps its rewards. The songs themselves are commendable copies of some of the billboard’s more egregious earworms, layered over with Al’s usual lyrical blend of the bizarre and uncanny. And, as always, the top of the pops polka medley chugs along as a pitch perfect mixture of infectious homage and mocking tone.


Run the Jewels 2,
Run the Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P’s second release is the appropriately angry and impeccably articulate album we deserve after a year rife with political frustration and unresolved injustice. The urgent delivery couples well with the band’s grim — but never quite nihilistic or pessimistic — assessment of current affairs. Of all the songs on the album, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to F**k)”best expresses the group’s dystopian vision through its slick combination of distorted beats and references to the existential quandaries of Phillip K. Dick.


All You Can Do
, Watsky
The spoken word influence is strong with this one, as are the deftly inserted references to topics as disparate as pop culture and political machinations. The jarring juxtaposition of dissimilar aspects is all part of Watsky’s magic; soft rock and soul transition effortlessly into hip hop, while his impeccable enunciation often belies a penchant for raw, anti-establishment rhetoric. No surprise, the flow is almost perfect; what’s surprising is that, beneath all the impeccable rhyme scheme and complicated meter, it’s all pretty easy to groove to.


After the Disco
, Broken Bells
Is After the Disco an alternative album tinged with the bright colors of disco or a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek exploration of the same era? That largely depends on how much stock you’re willing to put in the power of dramatic irony. If you’re willing to go along for the ride — or ignore the interpretive baggage altogether — you’ll find a solid and danceable album with all the dreamy charm we’ve come to expect from Mercer and a healthy infusion of catchy falsetto. The album starts to trail off a bit near the end, but the first few tracks will probably stay on your party playlist well into next year.


The Endless River,
Pink Floyd
The Endless River manages to evoke the sense of grandeur and possibility found in heyday performances like Live at Pompeii, though it might be getting the benefit of the doubt purely because it’s a Pink Floyd album released in 2014 that doesn’t completely disappoint. The decision to omit vocals on all tracks but the last was probably a shrewd maneuver – the band is starting to sound a bit old —but a disappointing one nonetheless; the result is a bit more ambient than desired, sometimes slipping into dreaded soundscape territory. All faults aside, it’s one of a few albums released this year that you’ll have no trouble getting your dad to listen to with you. Crack open a few beers, light up a J, and take the old man back to the days when he not only had hair, it reached down to his shoulders.


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