2014 was a fantastic year in the music world. From cool comebacks to awesome new artists, the year had much to offer. So, with those thoughts in mind, here is a look at my Best of 2014!
Artist of the Year: Tori Amos | Amos’s latest opus is a return to her classic style. Unrepentant Geraldines is froth with classic melodies, killer piano playing, and even a duet with her daughter, Tash. Amos sports a full band on much of the album, while still keeping her piano playing at the front of the sound. Melodic and approachable, this album shows Amos at her best.
Artist of the Year: The Pretty Reckless | St. Louis native and lead singer Taylor Momsen and crew win top honors here, as their 2014 release Going to Hell slayed the competition. Hands down the hard rock LP of the year, every track on this album rages. Their live shows are testament that this band is as good on stage as they are on CD. With every track making a niche for itself, the album scores an A+.
Song of the Year: “Stardust” by Gemini Syndrome | Fronted by Aaron Nordstrom, formerly the guitarist for Otep, the band offered up “Lux” in late 2013, and unleashed the single “Stardust” on an unsuspecting public. With critical and commercial acclaim, the band has grown from bar band to newest metal sensations in just a short year. Having toured as headliner, and as opening act for such bands as Ghost, Nonpoint, and many others, Gemini Syndrome is headed for the big time.
Best New Act: Nostalghia | Hailing from Los Angeles, singer/lyricist Ciscandra Nostalghia, coupled with drummer/multi-instrumentalist Roy Gnan and cellist Adele Stein, create a dark, ethereal, yet realistic atmosphere on their debut LP Chrysalis. Vocalist Nostalghia goes from operatically elegant to guttural screams in 0.5 seconds. Sublime and real, the lead single, “Homeostasis” introduces listeners to an eerily beautiful atmosphere. While comparisons to Siouxie Sioux, Kate Bush, and even The Dresden Dolls are appropriate, the band creates its own world on Chrysalis.
Best Metal Band: Black Veil Brides | On their fourth release, the Hollywood-based metal band has broken through to the big time. Their sound is made unique by the powerful vocals of Andy Biersack and the guitarists who use solos as riffs. Unlike its predecessor, concept album Wretched and Divine, the new album is filled with soon-to-be classic metal tunes. Now on what is being labeled “The Black Mass Tour” with Falling in Reverse and Set It Off, the five-piece group will surely win over many new fans with this release.
Best Electronic Artist: The Glitch Mob | With their newest release Love, Death, Immortality, The Glitch Mob has proven itself to be much more than three guys playing with computers and sequencers. Ooah, edIT, and Boreta, as the three members of TGM are known, are one of the best electronica bands I have ever encountered. With their onstage gear built into one massive set up known as “The Blade,” the band slaughtered audiences on tour this past fall.
Best Electronica Album: Love, Death, Immortality by The Glitch Mob | The sophomore release from The Glitch Mob is laden with hooks and dripping with hot beats. The L.A.-based band debuted at number one on the Billboard Dance/Electronic songs chart. A full-out assault on the senses, the album is a fury of electronic sound featuring the singles “Mind of a Beast” and Becoming Harmonious.”
Best Remake: “Need You Tonight” by Night Club | Hailing from L.A., Night Club brings synth pop alive again. With a touch of ’80s style, their remake of the mega INXS hit shines. Featured on the band’s new EP Black Leather Heart, the track, while more synth heavy than the original, is recognizable and very well done.
St. Louis Festival of the Year: Pointfest 30 | More diverse this year than in the past, Pointfest celebrated its 30th anniversary. From pop sensations Neon Trees to newer acts like Nostalghia, the festival featured artists from most pop/rock genres. Rounding out the occasion were veteran artists like AFI, The Offspring, and Queens of the Stone Age. While some fans questioned the addition of certain acts, the festival was eclectic and fan-friendly.
Best Duet: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga | Who would have paired these two artists? Most would think that they have nothing in common with each other, yet the album tells another tale. Cheek to Cheek was well received and sported several singles, two of which went to number one on the Billboard Jazz Digital charts. Along with a live PBS special and an exclusive “behind the scenes” event on the Home Shopping Network, the duo brought the worlds of the jazzy legend and the pop ingénue together in a very hip fashion.
Comeback of the Year: Fleetwood Mac Classic Lineup | With Christine McVie rejoining the Fleetwood Mac fold after a 17-year absence, the classic Rumours lineup is back with a vengeance. Along with Lindsay Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Stevie Nicks, their “On with the Road” tour has been extended to include 10 more dates in the U.K., as well as an onslaught of dates here in the U.S. (The band plays St. Louis on March 27, at Scottrade Center.)
St. Louis Venue of the Year: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre | This summer was a blast at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. The schedule of shows featured classic rock lineups, country’s biggest stars, and hip-hop sensations. Festivals such as the Vans Warped Tour and Pointfest 30 brought massive crowds to the venue, which handled everything with efficiency and a pleasant charm. With available seat upgrades for just a little extra, as well as parent tickets available for free to many of the festivals, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre was a joy to attend in 2014.
Best New St. Louis Venue: The Ready Room | There are quite a few small venues in St. Louis to choose from, most of them featuring an exciting list of performers. This year, The Ready Room in the up-and-coming Grove neighborhood, receives my “Best of” nod. Having hosted acts from Bleachers to The Black Lips, TRR is intimate, yet open and comfortable. Most artists do meet and greet sessions after their set, and TRR makes it easy to meet your favorite artists. | Marc Farr