The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

As we officially place 2016 in the history books, it’s time to look back at all the live music we experienced this year. Last year we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2015, so this year we thought we would do it again while excluding any artists we named in 2015. After all, who really wants to see the same acts listed two years in a row? That said, now that we’re two years removed, our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 were once again fair game.

After covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs over the past 12 months, trimming our list down to 25 wasn’t easy and as usual, some difficult decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Adrian Younge, Air, Alessia Cara, Alina Baraz, AlunaGeorge, Alvvays, The Arcs, A$AP Ferg, Atlas Genius, Aubrie Sellers, The Avett Brothers, Bag Raiders, Baio, Banks & Steelz, Bas, Battles, Beats Antique, Beach House, Best Coast, Big Freedia, Big Gigantic, Big Grams, Big Wild, Bloc Party, Bob Mould, The Boxer Rebellion, Brand New, Brett Dennen, The California Honeydrops, Capital Cities, Cate Le Bon, Chairlift, Chelsea Wolfe, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chuck Mosley, Chromeo, Claude VonStroke, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Cold War Kids, The Crux, Dan Deacon, Danny Brown, Deftones, The Devil Makes Three, Dirtwire, Disclosure, DMA’s, DMX, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Duran Duran, Every Time I Die, Emancipator Ensemble, Ezra Furman, Faith No More, The Faint, Fantastic Negrito, Femi Kuti, Florence + the Machine, Flume, Fruition, The Gaslamp Killer, Geographer, Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Grimes, Halsey, The Head and the Heart, Heartwatch, The Heavy, Highly Suspect, Hippie Sabotage, Holy Fuck, How to Dress Well, Hudson Mohawke, Hundred Waters, IAMX, Ibeyi, Ice Cube, Iggy Pop, The Infamous Stringdusters, Jack Beats, Jack Garratt, Jack Ü, James Bay, Jamie xx, J. Cole, Jimmie Vaughn, Jhené Aiko, The Joy Formidable, Joywave, Julia Holter, Julien Baker, Kaki King, Kamaiyah, Kamasi Washington, Kehlani, K.Flay, The Kills, Kurt Vile, Lafa Taylor, Lana Del Rey, Låpsley, Les Sins, Lettuce, Lionel Richie, Lord Huron, Little Scream, Lucius, M83, Major Lazer, Marian Hill, Mayer Hawthorne, MC YOGI, Methyl Ethel, Metric, Miami Horror, Mick Jenkins, Midi Matilda, Miguel Migs, Modest Mouse, Moon Taxi, M. Ward, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Naked and Famous, Nas, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Neon Indian, Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Nite Jewel, Panic! at the Disco, Parliament-Funkadelic, Peaches, Petite Noir, The Pharcyde, The Polish Ambassador, Porches, Prince Rama, Purity Ring, Pusha T, Radiohead, Ra Ra Riot, The Regrettes, The Revivalists, RJD2, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rogue Wave, Rubblebucket, Run the Jewels, The Russ Liquid Test, Ryan Adams, The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Saosin, Sarah Neufeld, The Seshen, Shabazz Palaces, Shlohmo, Silversun Pickups, Snakehips, Solange, Son Little, St. Lucia, Stormzy, The Struts, STS9, Sturgill Simpson, Sufjan Stevens, Summer Cannibals, Sunflower Bean, Sigur Rós, St. Germain, Sylvan Esso, Tacocat, Taking Back Sunday, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, This Will Destroy You, Thomas Jack, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Tortoise, Tory Lanez, Tourist, The Trims, Troye Sivan, Umphrey’s McGee, Viceroy, Vince Staples, Vokab Company, Walk the Moon, Warpaint, Wavves, Weezer, Wheeler Walker Jr., White Denim, Wild Belle, Wild Nothing, Years & Years, Yeasayer, YG, Young Fathers, Yuck, ZHU, Ziggy Marley.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our 25 favorite live performers of 2016.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2016

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2016:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

For as much as Epoch was a surprise, so were Tycho’s two most recent shows in LA last week. It was the first time Hansen and company had played The Fonda Theatre since the Awake tour back in 2014, and Thursday’s sellout, which was announced less than a week before the show, along with the subsequent need to add a second date the next night, made it clear that more than ever, Angelinos have a strong appetite for what Hansen is doing on both a musical and visual level. It helps, too, that KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who opened the shows at The Fonda with a DJ set, has helped expose Tycho to a broader audience, whether through the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” theme song or live, in-studio performances by the band. Even nowadays with an abundance of streaming sites, you can’t underestimate the power of radio in a city with a driving culture as large as LA’s. And truth be told, Tycho is some of the best music to drive to, especially when you’re surrounded by nature. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions. From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

Needless to say, worn-out axioms failed to apply in this scenario. Bob Moses silenced anyone attempting to pass them off as yet another contrived electropop outfit aiming to please the masses. At Mezzanine, both Howie and Vallance proved their prowess as EDM innovators, bringing more to the stage than a couple of laptops and a pretty light show. Surprising those unfamiliar with their work or expecting to be underwhelmed, Bob Moses have elevated the live electronic game for their respective contemporaries and succeeded in defining a new chapter for the genre — an innovative sound standard that’s all their own. -Molly Kish, photo by Lisette Worster


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

The band continued building on its rhythms and melodies, creating a hypnotic feeling that was filled with textured synthesizers, guitar pedals and consummate percussion, as laser patterns reflected each rise and fall during its lengthy jam sessions. As Sheppard and his sidekicks progressed through each track, the complexity of the laser projections grew into optical illusions that, almost like another musical instrument onstage, intertwined with the style and progression of the band’s production perfectly. With each song reaching a climax and eventual denouement, the artwork remained untouched for a few minutes so that fans could observe each piece before their very own eyes. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Alister Mori


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

But Segall is no doubt a showman himself, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who expends as much energy onstage as he does in merely 90 minutes. His passion simply rubs off on his fans, who wasted little time climbing onstage and taking the plunge into a sea of hands for a couple of minutes. Segall, of course, also got in on the action at one point, as his shows are often known to feature crowd surfing from both band and audience members, and he made sure to take the mic stand with him while he horizontally slithered across the room. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. -Molly Kish, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - RÜFÜS DU SOL

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

By the time RÜFÜS made their entrance, the excitement in the room was at a fever pitch. The crowd was ready to dance from the very first beat (thanks to the excellent warm-up from Kllo and Yuma X), and they did just that. Lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist took center stage with great energy and proceeded to do the customary water bottle toss shortly after. Lindqvist set the tone right from the get-go for a high-energy, high-audience-participation set. The crowd responded in kind by getting down much harder than expected for a Wednesday night. Notably, there were surprisingly very few phones out as most attendees put away their cameras to make the most of every song. The intimate setting of The Fillmore could almost have been mistaken for the polo grounds of Coachella, given how many girls-on-shoulders could be seen around the venue. -Geoff Hong, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

Through Rudimental tracks like “Not Giving In”, “Free” and “Waiting All Night”, the most unique element of the group’s live production was their charisma. Simply put, they look like they’re having fun. These aren’t tortured artists or cathartic performers — Rudimental are a band that loves the music they make. Even the band’s drummer, Beanie, easily one of the hardest working rhythmists on tour right now, managed to keep a smile on his face, racing through Rudimental’s repertoire of songs that were anywhere from 145 to 160 BPMs. The septet’s de-facto leader, DJ Locksmith, was surprisingly more in the background than you would expect from a typical DnB hype man. As Rudimental wrapped up their set with their chart-topping hit “Feel the Love”, the crowd joined in as the song ended, creating a shared moment at The Fox that perfectly reflected the intention of Rudimental — to spread the love. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

On this night, that proverbial phrase seemingly rang true. It wasn’t just that BØRNS most likely amassed the largest attendance in the history of the Twilight Concert Series, but also the fact that it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed at the Santa Monica Pier. One could certainly point to the opening of the Expo Line extension as a reason for the larger crowds so far this summer, which wasn’t all that noticeable during the series’ opening night with Mayer Hawthorne just the week prior, but that would simply be underestimating the exponential rise of Garrett Borns’ eponymous project. Since he relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and signed with Interscope Records, the Michigan native has gone from supporting modest indie bands like MisterWives to selling out shows as a headliner in a matter of a year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

Brainfeeder founder, producer and unapologetic cultural mouthpiece Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) ended the night with a mildly controversial headlining set. Walking onstage and making what any FlyLo fan would recognize as an off-colored comment on the current presidential race may have proven too brazen for those not used to his brand. He let Captain Murphy out of the box a little early and road the wave of confusion into a heady, bass-driven assault on the conflicted crowd, providing the distinct audio punctuation point for the night’s bill of artists. Playing several tracks off of his 2014 LP You’re Dead! as well as various hits from high-profile hip-hop emcees like Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar that he has produced over the years, Ellison stunned us all with his double-screen, audio-visual stage setup and plenty of bone-rattling bass drops. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - The Last Shadow Puppets

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP brought a strings section to their show, an added element that helped keep things fresh and new. The show began with the beautiful sounds of violins and cellos, but the moment TLSP got onstage, the whole floor at The Fillmore lit up in billows of smoke. I’m sure the band was stoned by the end of the show if it hadn’t been already, appearing beyond excited to be playing on a Sunday night in SF. Turner and Kane must have yelled out something about SF every few minutes and incorporated SF into some of their songs. They were so incredibly tight, and I felt their set in some ways was a bit better than what I had witnessed years ago — the mix and order of the songs felt more succinct at The Fillmore. -Rachel Goodman, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

Sunday’s roster at Coachella last year was significantly weaker in comparison to Friday’s and Saturday’s. This year was much of the same, though Calvin Harris somehow proved to be an even worse headliner than Drake (we didn’t know that was possible). But one of the bright spots on Day 3 was no doubt Miike Snow’s 9:45 p.m. slot in the Mojave Tent, the same place where I discovered the Swedish trio back in 2010 during my first Coachella. Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have come a long way since then, and with three studio albums in their catalog, including their latest effort iii, they have more than enough material to fill out a 50-minute set and leave you wanting to hear more. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

Fresh off releasing the latest — and final — installment of his Slime Season mixtape trilogy, Young Thug took his place on the stage. Arriving in a white blouse, multicolored sequined jacket, dark shades, a polka-dot head scarf and remarkably slim, golden pants, he aligned such a rangy and vibrant uniform with his performance. There wouldn’t be any towering LED lights, stunts or stage diving. However, Young Thug, who for the majority of his roughly hour-long set played the lone wolf, delighted the crowd with his animated and bright delivery while running through thundering Slime Season 3 favorites like “With Them”, “Digits” and “Slime Shit”. The audience, ranging from high school seniors to seasoned workers likely with mortgages, strikingly recited every uncanny, controversial lyric and Ric Flair-esque “Woo!” like they had been analyzing them for years. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

Touring with a live band for the first time in 2013 — something that few other EDM artists have done to this day — he quickly changed the way electronic music can be experienced live. Fast forward to last Thursday, and we were once again treated to an electrifying Pretty Lights show that was more than just Smith behind a pair of Macbook Pros and two Akai MPD32s. Making his debut at the majestic Santa Barbara Bowl, he once again showed why he isn’t your typical EDM act. With Chris Karns and Big Wild providing support, Smith hit the stage at 8 p.m. with his bandmates — Karns, Borham Lee, Brandon Butler and Alvin Ford, Jr. — and put on a show that dazzled both sonically and visually. What was most impressive, though, was seeing how much of the performance was improvised, as the band transitioned from one jam to another while dropping in a number of remixes here and there. And as I looked on from my seat in the stands, I couldn’t help but think about how much the show reminded me of all the times I’ve seen STS9 perform live. It only seemed fitting considering that the livetronia band helped give Smith his start back in the day, and with the “EDM bubble” about to burst (that is, if it hasn’t already), it’s hopefully an approach more electronic artists will gravitate toward in the future. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

The 26-year-old king of slacker rock, who over the past few years has become a fan favorite of many Bay Area audiophiles, never seems to hold back when he comes to town. His first night in SF last week saw him jump from The Indy’s balcony into an awaiting crowd (a feat that was later imitated by a female audience member at The Warfield the next night), run around half naked while playing new songs and perform a 25-minute cover of Eric Clapton’s 1971 hit single “Layla” with fart solos sprinkled throughout. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

Easily the most anticipated set of the weekend from this spectator’s vantage point, Moderat hadn’t toured since dropping a pair of EPs in 2014. But with the release of its third full-length album, aptly titled III, the Berlin-based supergroup comprised of Apparat’s Sascha Ring and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary were primed to make their mark on the final day of LIB — and that they did. Beginning with “Ghostmother” off their latest LP, Moderat ran through a good chunk of new material, but nothing ignited the crowd more than their new single “Reminder”, which remains one of our favorite songs of the year so far. As we witnessed a few days earlier at The Fonda Theatre in LA, the group’s dark, minimalist stage setup with psychedelic flourishes paired nicely with Ring’s ethereal vocals. Of all the other performances throughout the weekend, Moderat’s 90-minute set undoubtedly stood as one of the brightest moments of LIB 2016. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

Foals closed out their rambunctious set with a killer take on the title track “What Went Down” that brought lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis diving into the crowd, giving fans one hell of a selfie and proving their rock credentials for good. After all, any band that can unite 20-something bros with 50-something grandparents gets a gold star in our book. Rock brings people together, and those who made it out to see this unicorn of a band won’t live to regret it. -Zach Bourque, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

As they opened with the dream-inducing interlude “Nangs” from their latest studio album Currents, Tame Impala gave the crowd an ample minute and a half to commit to the spatial surroundings before jumping full throttle into an explosive rendition of lead single “Let It Happen,” playing the tracks in reverse order than they are on the LP. By the third song (as promised), the sky, having just turned black, was filled with a stadium’s worth of rainbow confetti as the band played the opening chords of 2012’s psuedo love ballad “Mind Mischief”. Followed by a rare performance — only the second time in three years — of “Music to Walk Home By” from 2012’s Lonerism, Tame Impala played a wide range of emotive classics while scrambling the brains of more than 8,500 audience members with their intense onslaught of sensory-overloading imagery and hypnotic light show. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

James is in rare company these days, amid a dying breed of guitar-rock gods like Jack White and Josh Homme who are not only capable of playing anything on six strings, but also on a myriad of instruments. And while Eternally Even feels in some ways like an opportunity for him to finally experiment more with keyboards, James made sure to remind his fans at the 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre last Friday that shredding is still a priority. Performing in his new hometown after officially moving to LA this year, he assumed the role of lead singer for much of the show as he and his bandmates from Twin Limb (also opening for James on this tour) played all of Eternally Even and half of Regions. But propped up by a stand onstage the whole time was James’ black Gibson axe, and you knew at some point during a two-hour set that he was going to unload some sick riffs like we have become accustomed to seeing from him at Jacket shows. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

The real headline from The National’s performance was hands down the new material that was debuted, pretty much across their entire set, encore included. A rather standard opening of “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “I Should Live in Salt” led into our first taste of the band’s upcoming LP in the form of “Checking Out”. Though many locals likely recognized this track from last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (read our review here), it has tightened up over the past year and even begins to sound familiar as the Brooklyn-based five-piece begins to weave in more electronic, synth-like elements. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Steve Carlson


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

There may have been no more talked-about act in Coachella’s 17-year history than Saturday’s headliner — and for good reason. Going back to 1993, it had been 23 years since Axl Rose and Slash last performed on the same stage together, and though some of that allure had worn off by the time they reached Indio thanks to a surprise show in LA and back-to-back nights in Las Vegas in prior weeks, Guns N’ Roses were still the talk of the town leading up to Coachella. In fact, all you had to do was look around on Saturday and see just how many GNR T-shirts were traversing the polo field before their 10:30 p.m. set. When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. GNR have always been one of my biggest bucket-list bands, and even if a broken leg prevented Axl from strutting and slithering across the stage like he once did as a brash, slender 21-year-old rock star, seeing one of my favorite childhood bands perform for two and a half hours felt all too surreal as I left the Empire Polo Club that night. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

From the very beginning, Sia set herself apart from every other artist who took the Coachella Stage this year. With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. Throughout it all, different dancers and actors would come on stage, abstractly embodying the themes her songwriting often conveys: fear, anticipation, stress, anger, joy, love and most of all, doubt. As Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano contributed to the overall performance, the height of Sia’s conceptual masterpiece reached its peak with a breathtaking rendition of “Breathe Me”, bringing some of the audience to tears. It was the true headliner of Sunday night and among the top performances of the entire weekend. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Chance the Rapper

3. Chance the Rapper

In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

Over the last couple of years, it’s hard to think of a band I have wanted to see more than LCD Soundsystem. Deeply tied to my formative years in college, the Brooklyn outfit’s return after a five-year hiatus was nothing short of stunning. Opening with the undeniably groovy “Us vs. Them” and covering a good chunk of their catalog over almost two hours, LCD certainly met the expectations of an eager crowd. James Murphy kept the banter between songs fairly short, and these indie heavyweights demonstrated a true dedication to their craft, starting fast with songs like “Movements” and “Yeah” before moving to more deep, tightly wound rhythms on “Someone Great” and “Home”. Though “Losing My Edge” was written more than 10 years ago, Murphy’s part-improvised, part-proclamation, part-perfectly-delivered rendition of the track seemed to really capture the attention of more casual LCD fans. Nearing the end of its set, the band covered “Heroes” by late collaborator David Bowie. I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #1 - Anderson .Paak

1. Anderson .Paak

I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Norm de Veyra

Outside Lands 2016

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Sturgill Simpson ends his North American tour with an anti-election party at the Fox Theater Oakland

Sturgill SimpsonPhotos by Sterling Munksgard // Written by Molly Kish //

Sturgill Simpson with The London Souls //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
November 20th, 2016 //

Alt-country and roots rock singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson graced the stage at the iconic Fox Theater Oakland for two straight sold-out shows, ending a nearly seven-month tour of North America. Still in shock from the results of the U.S. presidential election that became official a little more than a week before the gigs, Bay Area attendees were mourning what would and continues to be one of the worst conclusions to 2016.

Amidst the tension and palpable air of discontent, Simpson and his multifaceted bandmates commanded the capacity crowd, shifting the focus from the unfortunate events of November 8th to the celebratory vibes that come with finishing a long tour. Giving it everything he had, Simpson took his fans on a journey through heartbreak and perseverance with songs such as “Living the Dream” and “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)” while guiding the crowd to “Keep It Between the Lines” over the course of a two-hour set.

New York City rockers The London Souls opened the night after releasing their sophomore LP Here Come the Girls on Feel Music last year.

Setlist:
It Ain’t All Flowers
Some Days
Turtles All the Way Down
Sitting Here Without You
Water in a Well
Long White Line
Call Me the Breeze (J.J. Cale cover)
Life of Sin
Living the Dream
The Promise (When in Rome cover)
Railroad of Sin
A Little Light
You Don’t Miss Your Water (William Bell cover)
Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)
Breakers Roar
Keep It Between the Lines
Sea Stories
In Bloom (Nirvana cover)
Brace for Impact (Live a Little)
All Around You
Oh Sarah
Call to Arms / The Motivator

The 25 best live music acts of 2015

Best Live Acts of 2015

Around this time last year, we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 after spending the past 12 months covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs. So, with 2015 almost in the books, we thought we would give the same exercise another try, except this year, we made the call to exclude any artists we named in 2014. What fun would it really be to list them two years in a row anyway?

In the end, it wasn’t an easy task whittling down our list to 25, but some tough decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists and bands (in alphabetical order) who we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

AlunaGeorge, Ariel Pink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bad Religion, Battles, Beirut, Belle and Sebastian, Big Grams, Billy Idol, Black Lips, The Black Keys, Blonde Redhead, BØRNS, BROODS, Built to Spill, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Chet Faker, Chromeo, City and Colour, Classixx, Cold War Kids, Dâm-Funk, Damien Rice, Death Cab for Cutie, Dengue Fever, Django Django, Dr. Dog, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Failure, The Flaming Lips, Flight Facilities, Goldroom, Glen Hansard, The Glitch Mob, Gorgon City, Holly Herndon, Interpol, Israel Nash, James Bay, Jeff Tweedy, Jenny Lewis, The Jesus and Mary Chain, JMSN, Jose Gonzalez, Jurassic 5, Kanye West, Kindness, King Tuff, Marina and the Diamonds, Miami Horror, Milky Chance, Modest Mouse, Morrissey, MS MR, Les Sins, Lotus, Natalie Prass, Neon Indian, ODESZA, Of Montreal, Oneohtrix Point Never, Panda Bear, Penguin Prison, Phantogram, Portugal. The Man, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Purity Ring, Ratatat, Royal Blood, San Fermin, Shlohmo, Slow Magic, SOHN, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, STRFKR, Surfer Blood, Talib Kweli, Tame Impala, Tennis, Toro y Moi, Tycho, Umphrey’s McGee, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vintage Trouble, Vulfpeck, Widespread Panic, YACHT.

Now, without further ado, The Bam Team presents our 25 favorite live performers of 2015.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2015

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2015:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Lord Huron

25. Lord Huron

The audience reacted with just as much enthusiasm during classic Lord Huron tunes as they did in hearing brand-new material, especially during fan favorites like “She Lit a Fire” and back-to-back rockabilly-tinged jams “The World Ender” and “Fool for Love”. At this point, the crowd had not only warmed up to Lord Huron’s infectious stage presence, but also gave into their buoyant vibes as mini dance parties broke out throughout the venue. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Puscifer

24. Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan and friends have established themselves as not just a group of musicians who play songs on stage, but rather an assemblage of entertainers that provide their viewers and fans with something they may not have ever seen before — a true experience. Paying homage to the likes of Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and the glory days of the rock opera, Puscifer have a very special way of combining their music with a stage show that offers so much more than just music. -Scotland Miller, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Viet Cong

23. Viet Cong

Once the appetizer had been digested, Viet Cong were taking the stage and beginning a theme of quirky banter that eased the crowd into the blistering set as opposed to bombardment. Within the first few chords, it was evident that continued time on the road found the band at the peak of perfection. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Kate Tempest

22. Kate Tempest

This decade will likely be known for the death of “genre,” the end of how groups have been contained into categories like R&B or rap since the birth of record labels. And with dance music on the rise, digitized conventions are creeping into pop, rap and indie music on the regular. With music more accessible than ever and for free, listeners are willing to experiment with their auditory material — and amalgamation is the natural result. Tempest represents this change as much or more than anyone as we enter the smack-dab middle of this decade. And that includes Kanye West, Sylvan Esso or Run the Jewels. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Deerhunter

21. Deerhunter

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox talked about how he decided on the way over to the island that he wouldn’t play many songs, how he took ayahuasca on Saturday night in LA and he was surprised at how reserved the TIMF audience was. He said we were “polite like the Japanese.” Bradford, that’s what we call “respect” — and you’ve earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Faith No More

20. Faith No More

It can be hard to know what to expect from a crew like Faith No More and their eccentric, yet prolific members. The entire stage was dressed in white, from the curtains to the amplifiers to the mic stands. Lining the entire length of the stage and any flat surface that would support them were thousands of dollars worth of beautiful, fresh flowers. The abundance of purples and pinks, reds and yellows created a very comfortable and soothing, yet incredibly eerie feeling as to what was about to happen next. Once the setup was complete and the lights dropped, the crowd was let in to the stark contrast that is the weird world of Faith No More. -Scotland Miller, photo by Greg Ramar


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - Sufjan Stevens

19. Sufjan Stevens

Stevens spoke of the need for community in the throes of grief, and the audience ably did their part to help him through this very public grieving process. At the end of the main set, a young woman crashed the stage to offer a bemused Sufjan something (a hug? words of love and encouragement?), and it seemed wholly appropriate, as if the audience needed in some small way to collectively reach out to the man after he bared his soul so openly. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Allen Stone

18. Allen Stone

In many ways, Stone’s ideological stance on technology shapes not only his set as a performer but also his fan base. Watching an Allen Stone show, one can feel certain that all pretenses will be left at the door and those surrounding you will be committing their full attention to the music. Midway through Stone’s set, the venue was completely under his charismatic spell. The audience actively followed the Seattle-born frontman’s lead as he prompted a group participation “2-step” and rolled through crowd favorites from his self-titled LP and latest album Radius. -Molly Kish, photo by Tom Dellinger


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - The Kills

17. The Kills

Mosshart, tall and slender, strutted her way through just about all of it, displaying a bravado that exudes both sex and confidence, while Hince handled his axe like a bona fide rock star, eventually playing some slide guitar during the gritty, blues-infused track “Pots and Pans” that got the crowd roaring after it was over. After all, it’s that blues/garage-rock overlap, along with the chemistry exhibited between Mosshart and Hince onstage, that makes The Kills such a captivating rock ‘n’ roll act to see live these days. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - The Chemical Brothers

16. The Chemical Brothers

Directly following their dramatic entrance to a recording of Junior Parker’s epic “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the duo kicked off their career-spanning set with crowd favorite “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” from 1999’s Surrender. They launched into a full-blown frenzy from that moment on, and the UK dance legends went hard (no pun intended) throughout the rest of their two-hour performance, debuting live remixes of new material from their 2015 release Born in the Echoes while interspersing nostalgia-inducing EDM classics off their seven previous albums. -Molly Kish, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - Eagles of Death Metal

15. Eagles of Death Metal

EODM have the perfect style as a rock band, one that takes itself just seriously enough. As a whole, they are a hard, fast and tightly-wound production, with their silly lyrics and even sillier frontman bringing a perfect balance to what you want to see at a rock show. Closing with “Speaking in Tongues”, EODM walked off the stage at the Great American Music Hall knowing that they had accomplished what they came to do — to prove that rock ain’t dead. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Florence + the Machine

14. Florence + the Machine

Welch lapped around the inside ring of the bowl, stopping briefly at the sound stage. What a cool moment. -James Nagel, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Sturgill Simpson

13. Sturgill Simpson

Simpson has stage presence, that is without a doubt. The conviction of his voice bolsters his words as he describes a life of highs and lows, trials and tribulations. This was evident on renditions of songs like “Turtles All the Way Down”. If there is a song to capture your attention and convince you of Simpson’s talents as a songwriter, this is one of them. Just like that of his predecessors, he writes music that goes against the grain of popular country music. It may be defined as “outlaw country,” but I personally feel it is music that resonates with a wider audience than that of its counterparts. -Kory Thibeault, photo by Kory Thibeault


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - alt-j

12. alt-J

The 2012 Mercury Prize winners echoed a semblance to that of Sigur Rós or Volcano Choir, leaving audience members entranced in a near-altered state while observing the foursome. The biggest fan responses erupted during the band’s singalong favorites “Breezeblocks”, “Fitzpleasure” and their token cover of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day”. -Molly Kish, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Hot Chip

11. Hot Chip

In recent years, only ever getting the chance to see the outfit in stripped-down DJ sets or as part of side projects/collaborations, the afternoon crowd full of die-hard, nu-disco fans were not disappointed as the UK dance veterans set the polo fields ablaze. Refraining from any slow builders, Hot Chip performed an hour-long set of career-spanning bangers, keeping the crowd moving with hit after hit, that seamlessly blended into one another. The set procured one of the most viral dance party moments of the festival, with the audience spiraling into a collective bliss as it came to a close. -Molly Kish, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Dan Deacon

10. Dan Deacon

One of the toughest things to do in the world of electronic music is to sound organic, to imbue a sense of heart into the digitized nature of ones and zeroes. The Baltimore native accomplishes this through his hilarious and improvisational free-form, stand-up comedy, which thrives on wandering non sequiturs. And he mirrors this by adapting his insane-train of sound to meet and exceed the energy in the room. The “America” suite finished off the show with an extended doom metal quality that gave a sense that no aesthetic boundaries can contain Deacon’s sense of musical exploration. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - FKA twigs

9. FKA twigs

British singer-songwriter Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, has been all the rage lately after performing at Coachella in April, and she closed out FYF in style, donning an elaborate burgundy- and gold-colored robe for her Sunday night set. Just the week before, the 27-year-old fiancée of actor/musician Robert Pattinson released her brand-new EP M3LL155X, and with it receiving high marks from a number of music outlets, there were quite a few fans who stuck around after 11:30 p.m. on a “school night” to watch her perform some of them, including the opening track “Figure 8”, “In Time” and “Glass & Patron”. FKA twigs might be one of the most compelling live acts out there right now, and after scheduling Purity Ring to close out The Lawn the night before, FYF seemed to make a point of letting women rule that stage in the late-night hours this year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #8 - Empire of the Sun

8. Empire of the Sun

As Steele belted out “Alive”, the hit single off the band’s sophomore studio album Ice on the Dune, to close things out, he brought the audience to a transcendent place of exhilaration. Crowd members embraced and danced amongst a like-minded family of people lost in the moment, even if it involved intergalactic creatures dancing in colored smoke and a crowned Emperor playing without his bandmate on stage. EOTS shows are a special kind of magic that regardless of the material’s absurd nature, translate into an experience unlike anything else. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - My Morning Jacket

7. My Morning Jacket

Though it was more than understandable to see the band play a large majority of The Waterfall for its first performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl in almost four years, there were plenty of other deep cuts mixed in over the next two hours, from “Bermuda Highway” to “Mahgeetah” to “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”. After all, it’s no secret that My Morning Jacket have always been good to their most loyal and dedicated fans, and in once again taking song requests as part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” they made sure to dig up many of the classics from their seminal album Z, including “Wordless Chorus” and “Off the Record” one after the other in the middle of a loaded, four-song encore. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - Jamie xx

6. Jamie xx

Throughout his tour, Smith has refused to compromise his individual style for the sake of appeasing either extreme of his now commercially hybrid audience. Whereas those familiar with his early XL Records mixtapes were satiated by his intermingling of Gil Scott-Heron and Idris Muhammad samples between hits, his newfound post-In Colour fans experienced equally breathtaking moments with the crowd hitting peak energy levels during the encore chorus of “Loud Places” amidst the glow of a warped-speed, neon-green strobe light. Other notable moments included the near-religious choral drop of “Gosh” that escalated the packed house to spiritual levels of enthusiasm, bathed in the glowing sparkle of Smith’s staggeringly iridescent ceiling to floor disco ball and stage lights. -Molly Kish, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #5 - Elton John

5. Elton John

The star-spangled legend sat at his majestic piano as the sun went down on Sunday and moved the crowd with his brilliant playing. The adoring audience hung on every word and joined in singing his most popular hits. Walking off stage quickly after his last song, the audience demanded more and Elton happily obliged. With rumors of Lion King songs being played at past performances, some doting fans wanted a second encore to the tune of “Circle of Life”. While he didn’t indulge the Lion King fans, his stellar performance was a perfect ending to an amazing weekend at Outside Lands, leaving everyone’s festival tank full of love. -Nik Crossman, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #4 - Father John Misty

4. Father John Misty

Father John (Sassypants) Misty has his festival game on point, and he has progressed his I Love You, Honeybear songs into epic plateaus since premiering them in the Santa Cruz mountains last February. He spewed banter like an Stephen Colbert-esque contrarian, saying, “Look at these suckers with their hair blowing all over the place.” And as he approached the mic for more improv-snark later on, Tillman paused to say, “Sorry, I have nothing to say. Ha.” FJM was speechless for once, but granted, it might have been set up for “Bored in the USA”, a song that should be considered an American classic at this point. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Kendrick Lamar

3. Kendrick Lamar

As Kendrick Lamar’s incredible performance began to wrap up with his newest single “Alright”, a group of fans in the crowd proceeded to lift someone up in a wheelchair, who, if I recall correctly, was the same guy who had his photo famously taken at Outside Lands in 2013. Kendrick took notice and called him out — his sense of sincere appreciation for a place like the Bay Area was written all over his face. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - Caribou

2. Caribou

Described by fellow musician Dan Deacon as “one of the most brilliant acts touring right now” just before their set, Caribou lived up to the hype. Starting with “Our Love”, the four-piece band led by Dan Snaith perfectly set the stage for the next hour — a series of tightly wound compositions that, as the song progresses, expand in rhythmic complexity before reaching a climax that will get even the most tired Sunday afternoon crowd moving. Heavily augmenting its live performances from its studio recordings, the band’s live rendition of “Jamelia” in particular was a highlight of the set. Caribou is a band not to be missed. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 - D'Angelo & The Vanguard #1

1. D’Angelo & The Vanguard

One of the most anticipated sets of the entire weekend was none other than D’Angelo’s — and for good reason. The R&B/neo-soul singer-songwriter hadn’t put out an album in 14 years until he suddenly dropped his 2014 masterpiece Black Messiah last December, so you knew that getting the rare opportunity to see Michael Eugene Archer work a crowd at FYF would be something special. Sounding more like a youthful James Brown than a wannabe Prince (we still don’t totally understand where those comparisons are coming from), D’Angelo and his eight-piece backing band The Vanguard took the audience for a ride as they doled out new and old hits. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt

Outside Lands 2015 - Dan Deacon

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Sturgill Simpson continues to show why he’s country music’s next great talent

Sturgill SimpsonBy Kory Thibeault //

Sturgill Simpson //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
April 18th, 2015 //

Country music can be quite polarizing. At least that is an honest opinion coming from someone who grew up surrounded by the genre. While the majority of my high school was throwing on their cowboy boots and getting inebriated on the lawns of New England’s largest venues, I was laying back and listening to the tasty licks of David Gilmour and Jimmy Page. I detested country music. Then again, I was just a kid.

Maturity brought a new perspective, a realization that only a fool would define themselves in such black and whites. And with that new perspective came a newfound appreciation for musicians like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and The Highwaymen.

Outlaw country was something I could get behind — musicians creating songs reflecting the fabric of our nation with honest lyrics painting the landscape of the American country or of one American’s life. Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Kris. Legends. Throw John Prine in there, and we can call it a day. And that’s how it felt once I discovered these musicians — it was over as soon as it started. Their catalogs were deep and forever giving. But where do I go from there? Who was carrying the torch that those men lit long ago?

Sturgill Simpson

For a long time, I thought the answer to that was simply no one. No one was, nor would they be putting out the kind of lyrically rich songs that defined the careers for so many of those aforementioned country heroes. But last year I was introduced to Sturgill Simpson’s second album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, with the title ironically spitting in the face of my beliefs that country would die with The Highwaymen.

This man’s music is outlaw country to the tee. Powerful vocals, rich lyrics and musically tight. The live performance, in fact, is even more powerful than the album. The excitement was palpable as Simpson and his band walked out onto The Fillmore’s stage last Saturday. The audience was adorned with smiles and tucked in flannels, cowboy boots and Stetsons. I have never seen The Fillmore in such a way. Yet, after a few minutes, it became apparent that this crowd traveled for miles to come see Simpson — and that, I must say, is something truly amazing.

Simpson has stage presence, that is without a doubt. The conviction of his voice bolsters his words as he describes a life of highs and lows, trials and tribulations. This was evident on renditions of songs like “Turtles All the Way Down”. If there is a song to capture your attention and convince you of Simpson’s talents as a songwriter, this is one of them. Just like that of his predecessors, he writes music that goes against the grain of popular country music. It may be defined as “outlaw country,” but I personally feel it is music that resonates with a wider audience than that of its counterparts.

Sturgill Simpson

The entire performance was engaging and loose — loose in the sense that the band was willing to let each song take its course, never reeling it in too early or letting it get out of control. There is an apparent respect Simpson holds for his band, and that is always great to see. Trust in your band, after all, is the key to taking your music to its greatest peak.

In terms of Simpson’s music and live performances, I am an amateur fan. Certainly more exposure to his concerts would allow me to take a more critical stance. However, for those who have not seen or heard his music, I would recommend listening to it. It is undoubtedly country music through and through, but like that of his predecessors, his lyrics transcend boundaries and have a whole lot to give if you give them a chance.

When I walked out of The Fillmore on Saturday, I saw a lone cowboy stepping into a cab. I could only imagine the length of road ahead of him as he made his way home. While I may not know where he came from, I know what he was walking away with. That man, as well as myself, caught a night of music with one of country’s most promising artists. And that’s a pretty cool feeling.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

St. Vincent at Fox Theatre Oakland // Showbams' Photo of the Year, by Pedro


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Pedro Paredes

Ah, year-end lists — they’re an exercise in subjectivity and personal experience if there has ever been one. But what better way is there to learn from each other and discover some great new music while capping off the year and beginning anew?

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2014.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


Darkside at The Fillmore

Darkside at The Fillmore // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
Looking at my top five shows list for 2014, it appears I favor the weird, ya know, the good weird. This Darkside performance, the only SF show ever (for now) since Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have put the project on indefinite hold, had patrons at The Fillmore in SF breathing and moving in unison. There was a magical feeling in the air as the hybrid of electronic and organic played out wonderfully with the duo tipping their hat to the past and setting a new standard for the brave new future of live music.

2. Panda Bear at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
3. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
4. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
5. Volcano Choir at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 21st

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
Ever since Jamie and Mikey blew my mind performing Run the Jewels almost in its entirety at The Independent in August of 2013, I’ve been a loyal RTJ soldier. And without taking a break, El Producto and Killer Mike stepped it up to an even higher plateau with their production precision, an uncanny balance of fun and intense, while lyrically honing more on the important issues of our time. Sensing the unstoppable momentum, Run the Jewels are already heading back into the studio for Run the Jewels 3. When Mike was recently asked if they’d continue to name their albums numerically, he said “Why not?!? Zeppelin did it!” Exactly. Say it with me now: Festival headliners circa 2016?

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. The Antlers – Familiars

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
This is country music turned on its head, while staying mostly true to the hallmarks of the genre. Lyrically subversive while instrumentally emotive to the core, this song kept me coming back throughout 2014. It’s positive message of love winning over all else is certainly timeless, but when was the last time you heard a country tune tell a story of mind over matter transcendence? “There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there, far beyond this place / Where reptile aliens made of light, cut you up and pull out all your pain.” Stirgill Simpson is as progressive as you can get within the realm of Americana, urging the listener to both think and feel.

2. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
5. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar


Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails // Photo by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – July 21st
What a dream come true. Having the opportunity to see two of my favorite childhood bands at one of the best venues in the country would be hard to beat any year, let alone in 2014. Sharing the bill with Soundgarden on this tour, Trent Reznor made the most of a minimalist stage setup and trimmed-down lineup of sidekicks. Of the four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) I saw on this tour, this one felt particularly special. If this was one of the last times I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, it was a night I will never forget.

2. Jack White at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – June 10th
3. Cinquanta featuring Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and Failure at The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 10th
4. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Los Angeles, CA – October 31st
5. Tool at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, CA – March 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The Black KeysTurn Blue
Akron’s favorite rockers answered the call this year, following up their Grammy-winning album El Camino with arguably their most ambitious effort to date — especially when you consider the turmoil that surrounded Dan Auerbach’s life at the time of its recording. Over the last five years, the Keys have become one of rock’s biggest bands, but they haven’t stopped taking risks as a result. Turn Blue dabbles in a myriad of styles, from the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd on its opening track “Weight of Love” to the hip-hop groove on “10 Lovers.” For as many critics as they have, Auerbach and Patrick Carney have come a long way since their early years as strictly a blues duo.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. Jack WhiteLazaretto
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. Death from Above 1979The Physical World

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White seems to be on another level these days. The former White Stripe has grown into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most exciting talents, and this blues-heavy, instrumental track showcases that better than any other offering on Lazaretto. White’s ferocious guitar riffs dominate the tune, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And when he plays “High Ball Stepper” live, the song takes on a new whole life of its own.

2. Foo Fighters – “Something for Nothing”
3. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
4. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5. Tycho – “Awake”


Jack White at BGCA // Photo by

Jack White at Bill Graham Civic // Photo by David James Swanson

Steven Wandrey // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Jack White at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – August 22nd
From the dramatic curtain drop that slammed into high-octane rock, this show never let off the gas. Even with a bum ankle, Jack White stalked the stage and held power over the crowd. When the slowest moments of a show are White Stripes ballads that you’re giddy to hear and the other half of the show is headbanging, guitar-slinging rock, it’s easy to see how this show cemented itself as the best of 2014.

2. Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – May 6th
3. The War on Drugs at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 1st
4. Run the Jewels at Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA – November 14th
5. Duck Sauce at Outside Lands Music Festival – August 9th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
This album makes me feel like I’m actually traveling through the underworld to the land of the dead. From front to back, the first thing that caught me about this album was its consistent message. Steven Ellison has an inviting sense of storytelling that’s infused with hip-hop but touches on an array of different music styles, involving a star-studded cast of guests, including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Snoop Dog. I have a feeling Flying Lotus is on the forefront of creative hip-hop and that this album will prove to be influential down the line. More importantly, I just love listening to it. Taking wild turns from frenetic to serene, listening to this album from start to finish is a journey.

2. Aphex TwinSyro
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. Future IslandsSingles
5. Tweedy – Sukierae

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
The minimalist production and deep, rumbling bass frequencies have helped this track become my No. 1 listened to on the album and also No. 1 for the year. The complimentary flow that El-P and Killer Mike have together is on display in this track. This cut has infected my brain like a virus (the good kind?), and I just can’t get enough.

2. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
3. Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5. Perfume Genius – “Queen”


Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by

Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
It’s been a banner year for the Baltimore darlings we have grown to love as Future Islands. Breaking through the underground touring circuit to being a highly sought-after festival act was quick and clean as the passionate stage performance of Samuel Harrington could not be ignored by growing audiences. A packed Gobi Tent was eating from the frontman’s palm as Herrington poured himself out on stage, belting out a set heavy on new tracks and old favorites. It was a pivotal point where both the band and audience knew that Future Islands had arrived at the next stage of their career.

2. The Cure at BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, CA – May 30th
3. Phish at MGM Grand Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
4. Connan Mockasin at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 15th
5. Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 18th 

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream 
Adam Granduciel had one helluva 2014 to brag about. His third studio album Lost in the Dream was an overwhelming success, and all for good reason as the lush waves of rock swell over the listener like a warm Christmas sweater, just less ugly than the one you wore to that one party. “Under the Pressure” opens this release in epic fashion and does not let up from there. Guitar rock is not dead!

2. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent  

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Steven Ellison’s left-field meditation on death, as demonstrated on 2014’s release You’re Dead!, is not for everyone and is more about the full album than the sum of its parts (tracks). However, there is one shining beacon of a collaboration that could not be cast aside in the form of “Never Catch Me”. The partnership of one of the hottest MCs with one of the most sought-after producers was meant to be a brutally infectious slice of off-kilter street music. 

2. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. Beck – “Blue Moon”
5. Ariel Pink – “Put Your Number in My Phone”


Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014

Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pete Mauch // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
Phish has made the tradition of covering other artists albums on Halloween, and this year they completely outdid themselves by covering essentially an album of only narrative and spooky sounds. The Disney-produced album The Thrilling and Chilling Sounds of the Taunted House was turned into a rock opera of sorts as Trey and company worked through completely new songs based off just minimal sounds, but the night didn’t just end there. The band played this rock opera sandwiched between two very strong sets of original Phish songs that could have held its own alone.

2. Lettuce’s Late Night in Red Barn at Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 22nd
3. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
4. Ryan Adams at The Fox Theater Pomona – Pomona, CA – October 11th
5. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles – August 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams puts out a new record, you buy that record and you listen intently. The songs in his first self-titled album may seem simple at first listen, but they stay with you in the back of your mind until you just can’t take it and you re-listen again and again. This is exactly how what I’ve been doing the past few months since the release. Songs like “Gimme Something Good” and “Am I Safe” prove once again that Adams is still on top of his game.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. moe. – No Guts, No Glory
4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
5. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
“People change / You know but some people never do / You know when people change, they gain a piece but they lose one too.” These lyrics are so uplifting and real, and the music to accompany these amazing lyrics ties the emotion perfectly together.

2. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
3. The Barr Brothers – “Come in the Water”
4. Temples – “Shelter Song”
5. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”


Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pedro Paredes // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
The album Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put together in 2013 was a delight for the ears, but with the show they played at The Fillmore, they were going after every sense in your body. Jaar once said that Darkside’s music was more experiential rather than musical, and they surely succeeded in delivering one of the best musical experiences to all the lucky attendants on that cold January night.

2. Future Islands at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – April 10th
3. St. Vincent at The Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – March 22nd
4. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5. Old Crow Medicine Show at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – September 20th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. BeckMorning Phase
Beck’s Morning Phase follows the same breezy style as Sea Change, but the latter’s serenity seems to come from darker places. Morning Phase is, as the title suggests, a bit brighter and sets the tone for all the good things yet to come.

2. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
3. Real EstateAtlas
4. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. alt-J – “Nara”
It is hard to isolate “Nara” as the best song of Alt-J’s latest album This is All Yours since the story told in it is not exclusive to that song and it comes back in different sections of the album (as well as in some of the musical arrangements). But “Nara”, a song about love, deserves to be listened again and again. The 2:58 mark is bliss to my ears.

2. tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”
3. Run the Jewels – “Love Again”
4. Perfume Genius – “Fool”
5. Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by

St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – August 24th
I had never seen either band live before and based on my experience, it was like they had never broken up or aged since the ’90s. Amazing stage/light shows to go along with what was hands down my most eagerly anticipated show of the year.

2. Cibo Matto at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – February 26th
3. American Football at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – December 12th
4. Failure at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 14th
5. Crosses at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – March 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. St. VincentSt. Vincent
This album comes off like a chameleon, with many shifts but always staying very characteristically St. Vincent. I feel that she is one of the more important artists to come around over the last few years, and I am excited to see what she does next.

2. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
3. BeckMorning Phase
4. Fugazi – First Demo
5. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Spoon – “Do You”
Spoon have a knack for throwing a good toe tapper in their albums. This song is short and sweet, and you cannot help but get caught up in its infectiousness.  

2. Ryan Adams – “Give Me Something Good”
3. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
4. TV on the Radio – “Could You”
5. Nothing – “Bent Nail”


Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Justin Yee // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1) Future Islands at South by Southwest (Cheer Up Charlie’s) – Austin, TX – March 13th
2) Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – July 30th
3) Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
4) James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5) Outkast at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1) Future IslandsSingles
2) The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3) ODESZA – In Return
4) Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
5) CaribouOur Love

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1) Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
2) Chromeo – “Come Alive” feat. Toro y Moi
3) Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar
4) Chet Faker – “1998”
5) Mac Demarco – “Let Her Go”


James Blake at The Chapel //

James Blake at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Eric Shaden // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
I feel bad telling friends about how great this show was since so few people were able to get tickets. An intimate venue hosting such a phenomenal artist was a no-brainer for my top pick. James covered hits from his albums as well as debuted new tracks and an incredible interlude of house jams. I just wish more friends could have seen this!

2. Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
3. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 24th
4. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. Holy Ghost! at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA – April 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been covered already? An outstanding sequel to Run the Jewels that expands on the original with top-notch production and punishing delivery from El-P and Killer Mike. Without a doubt my top choice of the year.

2. Syd Arthur – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
4. Sinkane – Mean Love
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
I imagine D’Angelo coming back with his long-awaited album in December showed which writers/blogs/etc. wrote their “Best of the Year” lists early. His style of soulful R&B is sorely needed, and “Sugah Daddy” is my favorite from the album. Looking forward to his tour in 2015!

2. Caribou – “Our Love”
3. Aphex Twin – “minipops 67 [120.2]”
4. Jungle – “Time”
5. Jamie xx – “Sleep Sound”


High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 2nd-5th
2. Paul McCartney at Candlestick Farewell – Candlestick Park – San Francisco, CA – August 14th
3. Jamestown Revival at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 28th
4. The String Cheese Incident at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – April 24th
5. Greensky Bluegrass at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – November 14th


Cali-Roots_fix

Scott Martin // San Jose

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. California Roots Music Festival at Monterey Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA – May 23rd-25th
2. Rival Sons, Soft White Sixties & Sir Madam at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – September 25th
3. The Pimps of Joytime at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – February 15th
4. Caravan Palace & Rosin Coven at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – April 16th
5. Jackie Greene at The Catalyst Club – Santa Cruz, CA – March 26th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Bears Den – Islands
2. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
3. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
4. Mighty Oaks – Howl
5. Solstafir – Otta

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Bears Den – “Agape”
2. Bears Den – “Isaac”
3. Milky Chance – “Down by the River”
4. Mighty Oaks – “The Great Northwest”
5. Crosses – “Bitches Brew”


MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

Nikki DeMartini // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. MIA at Shoreline Amphitheatre for BFD 2014 – Mountain View, CA – June 1st
It had been four years since I saw MIA live and even though I’d prefer to see her play her own show rather than a set at a music festival, I was super excited to see her at BFD last summer. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that my cousin and I went to LIFE105’s annual summer show together. We lucked out and upgraded our tickets just in time to see MIA’s performance. Both of us were out of our seats, singing and dancing along to every song as soon as her set started. I was beside myself as MIA herself made her way off the stage, up into the seats of the venue and stopped near our row to spit lyrics as fans gathered and danced around her, myself included. I still can’t believe I danced with MIA!

2. OK Go at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – July 16th
3. Die Antwoord at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
4. Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. MS MR at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – April 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I covered Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore earlier this year (when they opened for tUnE-yArDs), I had no idea who they were but ended up leaving the show a fan. Their self-titled debut album is an uplifting mix of danceable electropop tracks and indie rock that’s easy to lose yourself in. Their sparkly, layered and melodic sounds translate well whether you’re listening to the album or seeing them live. Sylvan Esso is one of three albums I bought in 2014, and it’s been on repeat ever since I picked it up.

2. Glass Animals – Zaba
3. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag
4. Iggy Azalea – The New Classic
5. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
I really enjoy the simple percussion-driven melody and voluptuous vocals of Tove Lo’s hit single “Habits (Stay High)”. The subtle, yet engaging buildup to her belting, emotionally-charged lyrics has me singing along and turning it up every time I hear it on the radio. While it is very catchy, it’s not a super dancey song. However, it is a great go-to for karaoke. 

2. Die Antwoord – “Rat Trap 666”
3. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
5. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Showbams’ Top 50 albums of 2014

Best-albums-2014-coverBy Mike Frash, Josh Herwitt, Molly Kish, Steve Wandrey & Kevin Quandt //

Showbams presents the Top 50 albums released in 2014 (yes, all of 2014) that we just can’t stop listening to.

These are the albums that made us double-take upon first listen, while also being auditory art pieces that we continue to spin as we head into 2015. They are the bundles of songs that innovated and inspired us more than the rest, signifying musical progression, defining our time with a soundtrack that challenges traditional expectations, while boldly trekking into new frontiers of pop music.

Because as music continues to become more accessible, the bridge between independent and mainstream gets shorter each year.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2

run-the-jewelsSo often sequels don’t deliver, but ascending hip-hop stars Killer Mike and El-P have simply progressed their brilliance as Run The Jewels one year removed from their first official collaboration. From the top of RTJ2, Michael Render manages to set a higher bar for pumped-up aggression, there’s more social activism laced throughout, more special guests that only add to the fuck boy-crushing populist mentality. And compared to RTJ1, there are more stand-alone gems that are primed for remixing and cultural integration. The sequencing is superb, and El and Mike are having more fun than ever as they tour the world and snowball momentum with their brand of hardcore, yet intricate rap that contains shades of weird. Like a championship baseball team, the songs in the two hole through cleanup hitter offer the biggest impact, wreaking instant classics upon us with masterful experimental production from El-P that emits new, subtle surprises the more you listen. As the album unfolds, tales of police brutality (“Early”), introspection and personal improvement (“Crown”), along with over the top raunch (“Love Again”) prove RTJ2 shines in every moment in a variety of ways through multiple lanes of success. -Mike Frash


2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

war-on-drugs-lost-in-dream-album-coverWhen a truly inspired artist borrows from the past while looking to the future, the outcome can be something fully new and exciting, which is what we have here. The brilliance of Adam Granduciel lies in his delivery, both musically and lyrically, crooning about the sometimes-not-so-simple intricacies of existence. Life, love and everything else in between can be tricky, yet Granduciel calmly assures us that things can work out.

Granduciel knows how to structure albums with the best of them — this acutely demonstrated via the nine-minute, sprawling opener “Under the Pressure”. First single “Red Eyes” keeps on a similar path as we sink deeper in, bobbing along to the pounding drum machine that has been a constant over the years for the Philly-based band. “Disappearing” takes us soaring above the clouds as we hear new, thrilling piano instrumentation with warm bass lines, creating a sense of weightlessness and flight. An extremely strong finishing track, “In Reverse” perfectly captures the fleeting minutes on this release before jarring us back into a slightly crueler reality. The long play of this record is so rewarding, and it grows with hopes that more can be brought into the light. Oh, and that the state rock ‘n’ roll is just fine. -Kevin Quandt


3. D’Angelo and the VanguardBlack Messiah

dangelo-black-messiahThere’s an intentional off-kilter spontaneity and cohesive force at the center of D’Angelo’s first album in 15 years, Black Messiah. The percussive and vocal syncopation here makes the off-beat feel natural — layered vocals get treated with filters and are multi-tracked to lend an unfamiliar presence to the back-and-forth vocal pitch shifts D’Angelo employs from line to line.

The end product is a record that possesses its own musical language, telling stories that are incredibly meaningful, but achieve balance between serious and playful, while always being sexy. The confusing, driving funk of the first two cuts give way to “The Charade”, which manages to hit a rare aural sweat spot of ultra-pleasurability. But then “Sugah Daddy” follows as an unplanned Sunday in the park, with vocal scats skipping along to the breezy song’s pacing. D’Angelo arguably can now join the ranks of the all-time great R&B/soul artists with the delivery of his long-awaited third record. -MF


4. Future IslandsSingles

Future IslandSingles jumps right out of the gates, showing its cards early, presenting the listener with Future Island’s trademark new-school, new-wave sound. Samuel Herring’s vocals are stunning as he pitches and growls through tales of the tougher side of love. It’s pretty, gripping and powerful while also holding certain pop sentiments, lending to an overall lightness while being arresting. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is a quintessential slice of the emotion this band has become well known for both onstage and in the studio. “Doves” balances all the elements nicely, shining a light on the top-notch production featured on Singles. -KQ


5. Aphex TwinSyro

FINAL MASTER SYRO DIGIPAK.inddRichard D. James has been practically an enigma for the last decade plus, hiding out in a small Scottish village of 300 and releasing no new music as Aphex Twin since 2006. But the long layoff hasn’t changed the fact that he remains one of the most unique and influential electronic producers in the game today. Some of James’ best material on Syro comes early on, from his club-oriented mixes like “minipops 67 [120.2]” to the techno funk ­he crafts on the ensuing “XMAS_EVET10 [120]” and “produk 29 [101].” These aren’t beats designed to make you sweat your ass off — if anything, the cerebral nature of James’ work makes him the ultimate antithesis of the current EDM scene. -Josh Herwitt


6. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!

Flylo_youre_deadOn Flying Lotus’s latest record You’re Dead!, the Los Angeles producer forgoes the acid kool-aide test for a cyanide kool-aide dive straight into a fourth dimensional confrontation with the afterlife. You’re Dead masterfully trips through the journey of the soul into the next episode with sun-scorched psychedelia, 8-bit snapshots of g-funk and gorgeously redemptive jazz. The cold transition between the frantic jazz freak out of Kendrick Lamar featuring “Never Catch Me” and the cooled-out West Coast bounce of Snoop Dogg and FlyLo alter-ego Captain Murphy’s “Dead Man’s Tetris” highlights the producer’s prolific ability to craft varying hip-hop textures. FlyLo fully buries his new album’s death aesthetic through ecstatic, free-form layers of acid jazz and sprawling EDM planes of sound. -John Venanzi, Community Review


7. St. VincentSt. Vincent

St. VincentAnnie Clark ups the electronic ante on her fourth studio album. Branching out of her experimental indie-pop compositions, she embraces more cohesive arrangements that ironically focus her creativity on deconstructed production and sound obstruction. Both equally impressive in sound quality and sass, the opening tracks “Rattlesnake” and “Birth in Reverse” set the tone for the rest of the records’ exciting stylistic shifts and the intriguing unveiling of Clark’s gritty rock goddess persona. “Digital Witness” is a spot-on snapshot of our brave new 21st century day-to-day reality. Unapologetic, raw and sonically genius, St. Vincent is Clark’s breakthrough moment, and she appears to be doing it all with ease. -Molly Kish


8. Mac DeMarcoSalad Days

Mac DemarcoMac DeMarco’s signature style is here. It’s still fresh and in ways stronger than ever; it’s more pointed, focused and accessible. DeMarco is able to write in a way that allows the listener to easily empathize with him, as he turns his issues into ones that most of us have dealt with at some point. In “Chamber of Reflection”, it’s easy to really feel a sense of solitude. “Goodbye Weekend” sounds like a stoney Sunday afternoon coming to a soothing end. Every track has a personality of its own while holding up the overall ethos of the album. This album is lighthearted enough for multiples listens in a row with its breezy beach vibe, but also easily induces deep thoughts with its many lyrical gems. -Steve Wandrey


9. CaribouOur Love

our-loveWhat we have here is one of the most addictive albums of 2014. Our Love keeps deep house in its front pocket with steady beats per minute and an introspective mantra-centric lyrical conceit, but it’s also exploratory in nature, finding success in consistently building toward intense, euphoric plateaus. A steady flow of pleasant sounds ascend into impacting transcendence with “Can’t Do Without You”, “Silver” and “Your Love Will Set You Free”, and you must give Snaith extra credit for the masterful pacing and song-to-song flow — there is never a “skip ahead” moment. Like many classic albums, it opens up if you give it more time to radiate around your head, and listening to it becomes more pleasurable over time, even though it is mostly presented in poetic simplicity. -MF


10. Sun Kil MoonBenji

Sun Kil MoonBenji must be interpreted as a concept album about death, but more importantly, it’s about the importance details related to memory. For example, the title is taken from what seems like a throw-away line toward the end of the breathtaking “Micheline”. It’s powerful, visceral storytelling that is self-reflexive and biographical, yet so relatable that it compels personal introspection from the listener’s own experiences. Mark Kozelek’s lyrics are the centerpiece of the listening experience — they are so deep and resonant that the instrumentals and production are absorbed secondarily, although the stripped-down approach is intentional and noteworthy. Built around obsessing about the state of human demise — and the randomness of it — it’s easy to join Kozelek’s dire state of mind hours or days after listening. -MF


11. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
12. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
13. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
14. Spoon – They Want My Soul
15. Ariel Pink – pom pom
16. Beck – Morning Phase
17. Jack White – Lazaretto
18. The Black Keys – Turn Blue
19. Tycho — Awake
20. TV on the Radio – Seeds

21. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
22. Tweedy – Sukierae
23. Jungle – Jungle
24. Temples – Sun Structures
25. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
26. Death from Above 1979 – The Physical World
27. Ty Segall – Manipulator
28. The Antlers – Familiars
29. Real Estate – Atlas
30. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

31. Cold War Kids – Hold My Home
32. Interpol – El Pintor
33. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
34. Swans – To Be Kind
35. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
36. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
37. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
38. Phantogram – Voices
39. Broken Bells – After the Disco
40. SOHN – Tremors

41. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
42. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
43. Karen O — Crush Songs
44. Chet Faker – Built on Glass
45. Woods – With Light and with Love
46. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
47. Kishi Bashi – Lighght
48. Mark McGuire – Along The Way
49. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas
50. Adult Jazz – Gist Is

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