Music That Doesn't Suck: 2014 Edition

It's pretty much impossible to find any kind of unbiased "best of" list, so let's not pretend this is anything other than what it really is: a list of music that I have listened to this year that I liked. In fact, some of it was released prior to 2014 but I hadn't heard it until this year. But whatever.

So with that, here's my 2014 list of music that doesn't suck. Please note that Taylor Swift is not on this list. Interpret that how you'd like.

Honorable Mention: Strange Desire (Bleachers)


Strange Desire gets an honorable mention on this list because of the fact that I just started listening to it within the past week. I haven't decided yet if it's as good as I think it is or if the newness of it will wear off at some point. My brother shared this album with me and prefaced it by saying it sounds like listening to the radio in 1986.


10. Turn It Out (Playdough & DJ Sean P)


When I first stumbled across the title track from this EP, I was immediately hooked. The track was used to open an episode of the Sphere of Hip-Hop podcast and rather than listen to the whole episode, I just kept playing the first few minutes repeatedly.

Plain and simple, this is good hip-hip.

9. You Still on Earth? (L.A. Symphony)


Speaking of hip-hop, I've been a big Pigeon John fan for years which has introduced me to Flynn Adam and other artists who used to be part of the L.A. Symphony crew. When I heard that L.A. Symphony was getting back together for a new album, I was sold.

8. Beautiful Men in an Ugly Town (My God, The Heat)


A couple of the guys from the (Good Year) Pimps put this band together a few years ago but I never gave it much of a listen until this year. Not as heavy as the Pimps, but not as country as their other band, the Sons of Many Bitches. All three great in their own ways.

7. Four (One Direction)


Yeah. So what? We like One Direction in our house and we were super excited when the new album came out. Shut up.

6. Crimson Cord (Propaganda)


Not quite as powerful as his previous album, Excellent, Propaganda still brings a healthy dose of truth in his message on Crimson Cord.

5. Long in the Tooth (Billy Joe Shaver)


Any time I think about Billy Joe Shaver, one thing comes to mind: "Where do you want it?" According to a 2010 Rolling Stone article:
In a packed, sweltering courtroom, Shaver, 70, admitted to shooting Billy Bryant Coker on the back porch of Papa Joe's Saloon, a beer joint outside Shaver's Waco hometown...The shooting occurred March 31, 2007, after Shaver stopped into the smoky bar for a beer with his former wife, Wanda. Shaver testified Coker was rude to Wanda and told Shaver to "Shut the fuck up." After the two went outside, witnesses testified Shaver asked Coker, "Where do you want it?" then pointed a .22 pistol at Coker's cheek, pulled the trigger and fled in his truck. When Shaver was asked on the stand if he shot Coker because Shaver was jealous the victim was talking Shaver's wife, Shaver laughed. "I get more woman than a passenger train can haul," he said.
Enough said.

4. Single Mothers and Absent Fathers (Justin Townes Earle)



Justin Townes Earle has changed his style a bit over the years but he's still near the top of the list when it comes to my favorite musicians. This fall he released Single Mothers and will follow it up in just a few weeks with Absent Fathers. If you were smart enough to pre-order the new one like I did, then you got yours in the mail a month early and have been listening to it for the past two weeks!

3. Hard Working Americans and The First Waltz (Hard Working Americans)



You know my deal with Todd Snider. But take Todd and make him the front man of a super-group covering everyone from Will Kimbrough to Hayes Carll to Randy Newman and you'll be blown away. They followed up their debut album with a live record this fall. It goes without saying that it's just as good.

2. Love & War & The Sea In Between (Josh Garrels)


I was introduced to Josh Garrels earlier this year and was amazed by the diversity of his music. While Farther Along is the track that got me hooked, Beyond the Blue has become, without a doubt, one of my favorite songs I've ever heard.



This was a tough one because Josh Garrels would have easily been #1 on this list had it not been for Sturgill Simpson.

1. High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (Sturgill Simpson)



When my brother and I were growing up, my dad used to listen to a lot of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Of course, as kids we hated it. But as we got older, he and I have both become big fans of these original outlaw country musicians. This past fall, I got a message from my brother with a link to Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I don't remember exactly what the message said, but it was something to the effect of "Holy crap, listen to this now." Before the first line of the first track was out of Stugill's mouth, I understood my brother's excitement. Had I not known better, I would have thought I was listening to the ghost of Waylon himself.

I realize the hipsters have latched on to Sturgill Simpson but that's okay. This album is good enough that I can look past that.

From the Kitchen of...

My wife did well.

I'm not sure I've ever had a Christmas gift get me teary-eyed before.

My mom died back in 2009. Among her many gifts and talents was her incomparable ability in the kitchen. Like a maestro conducting an orchestra was my mother in her kitchen. One of my favorite dishes she made -- something she really didn't make all that often -- was spinach pie.

For Christmas this year, my wife arranged for a friend of ours to use her artistic talents and place a permanent tribute to my mom in our own kitchen. Once my dad found mom's original recipe card for spinach pie, my wife passed it along to our friend who created a wonderful piece of art -- complete with a solid replication of my mom's actual handwriting.

The complete Sanford & Son series may not have put a lump in my throat when I opened it, but this gift sure did.

My wife did well.

Really well.