AOTY Tournament: Recap and Individual Lists

aoty

When WRVU announced the winner of 2014′s edition of our annual AOTY (Album of the Year) tournament, hardcore rap duo Run the Jewels emerged on top. Run the Jewels joined the ranks of Vampire Weekend and Tame Impala, who won the tournament in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

The tournament isn’t the whole story though. While its an exciting way to narrow down an overall winner, it doesn’t completely explain why we liked what we did. Additionally, there’s a worry that popular voting is biased against niche releases; it’s certainly not required that voters listen to each and every one of the 32 contenders to better inform their decision.

In the interest of calling out as much great 2014 music as possible, this post compiles the individual top 10 lists from our DJs. But first, a few tournament-related consolation prizes.

The Alternate Universe WRVU-AOTY Award

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aoty

Top 32

For us college kids, 2014 was consumed by late nights studying, barely passed exams, countless job and grad school apps, and maybe a few parties, concerts, and vacations to keep us sane. 2014 meant we were one year closer to the real world, except we didn’t feel older.

For music fans, 2014 meant a continuous stream of new music to sift through: a lot of it good, more of it bad, and some of it downright confusing. At the end of the day, it’s the good we remember, and 2014 had plenty. A pop left turn from America’s best-selling artist. A disconnected folk artist’s rumination on aging and death. Celebrated hip-hop producers and emcees honing their craft. These artists all made it to WRVU’s collection of the 32 best 2014 albums, but now they compete to be crowned album of the year.

Click to see bracket!
Click to see bracket

Tournament seeds were awarded based on rankings from our DJs. Higher ranked picks received more points. Over 100 unique albums received votes, and the top 32 appear in this tournament. 16 will advance past the first round. Your favorite albums need your votes to advance. Your least favorite albums need your votes against them to be stopped. At the end of the day, only one will remain: the 2014 WRVU Album of the Year.

VOTE HERE

Design credit to William Doran.

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http://wrvu.org/aoty-tourney/

Top 10 Hip Hop Tracks of 2014

Bobby Shmurda
Bobby Shmurda

2014 saw all kinds of hip hop floating around, from new stars and old. Countless tracks have already been forgotten, but this article is about the ones that really stuck. This is just one writer’s opinion, but here it is: the ten best hip hop tracks of the year.

10. Clipping – “Work Work”

While clppng is one of 2014’s more uneven releases in any genre, “Work Work” channels the group’s brand of bizarre industrial-hop into something almost party-appropriate. The sneering delivery of lyrics about pimps, gang signs, and dead homies comes caked in irony, but “Work Work” is charming and catchy enough to let us in on the joke.

9. Jeremih – “Don’t Tell Em”

DJ Mustard gets much of the credit for gracefully reconciling modern popular hip-hop with increasingly EDM-soaked pop charts, after previous attempts ranged from limp to mashup-tier. You can criticize Mustard for being formulaic, but when songs you didn’t even produce start following the formula you can’t deny its effectiveness. On representative track “Don’t Tell Em”, Mustard streamlines the hazy, stylish, “All the Time” Jeremih for mass consumption.

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Aphex Twin, Taylor Swift Mashup Surprisingly Pretty OK

The most elaborate musical prank of this week is no doubt the Aphex Twin/Taylor Swift mashup album. The cartoonist who put Aphex Swift together put forth an astonishing amount of effort to link two totally different artists. The most shocking thing isn’t the choice of artists, however, since there are already endless examples of absurd mashups floating around the web.  No, the shocking thing is that this WTF pairing is so well done.

aphex-swiftMy initial reaction is that there’s no way Aphex Swift works at all, but on several subsequent spins I have to admit that there’s something going on here. “Starlightlicker” is the song that gets the closest to working in any traditional sense, no doubt because “Windowlicker” is the closest Aphex Twin has come to any sort of pop crossover. It’s surrounded by “T4ouble” and “We Are Never Getting Girl/Boygether”, both of which pace hectic breakbeat productions from Richard D. James Album with two of Swift’s most massive pop smashes. Initially I’m convinced that these two tracks speed up the tempo on “4” and “Girl/Boy Song” because they sound impossibly complex underneath Swift’s one-line-at-a-time delivery, but on further review the tempo is unchanged. The juxtaposition serves as a vivid reminder of just how unique and unhinged each of Aphex Twin’s pseudorandom productions is.

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The War on Drugs Rocks Marathon Music Works

The War on Drugs @ Marathon
The War on Drugs @ Marathon

Despite severe weather warnings, on Monday I and a healthy crowd of Nashvillians head over to Marathon Music Works for The War on Drugs’ exclusive brand of heartland rock. Attendees sport beards, boots, flannel, and, many of them, years of life experience. I’m pretty sure this is the same multigenerational group that showed up in place of Vanderbilt students when Quake accidentally booked My Morning Jacket several years ago.

During their 14-song set, The War on Drugs makes it plain that they are a guitar band. Frontman Adam Granduciel is brought a different guitar before each song, and he goes into extended soloing throughout the night. The sound is straightforward and expansive, and upbeat numbers like “Red Eyes” have fans swaying and bobbing their heads. Two young lumberjack types in my vicinity start up an air guitar band.

Adam Granduciel in the Spotlight for "Suffering"
Adam Granduciel in the Spotlight for “Suffering”

The remaining instruments play a supporting role. The other band members are a keyboardist, rhythm guitarist, bassist, drummer, and a baritone sax player. At first glance the sax player stands out because of his instrument, but quickly he’s revealed to be a subtle part of the band’s atmosphere instead of a gimmick. The sax never takes the lead, but instead layers into the densely mixed structure. Excluding Granduciel’s harmonica outros and on-the-prairie ballads like “Suffering” and “Lost in the Dream”, War on Drugs could pass respectably as a shoegaze outfit. Though tracks like “An Ocean in Between the Waves” and “Under the Pressure” exceed seven and nine minutes, respectively, the band plays hard throughout.

In the live setting at Marathon the music develops a natural and full quality, and the sound clearly envelops the area. As a relatively new venue, Marathon Music Works strikes an impressive balance between friendly rusticity and a modern sheen. Granted, the former quality can partly be attributed to the style of music of the night since electronic bands I’ve seen here before (Beach House, Passion Pit) had me mostly thinking about the second part. Either way, the versatile atmosphere and open layout makes Marathon an excellent addition to the Nashville scene. The War on Drugs certainly fit right in, and I’d be excited to see them back in this space in the future.

Check out War on Drugs’ great 2014 release, Lost in the Dream: