The University Pulse has teamed up with Adam Wright Media. Adam Wright is a local musician, photographer and videographer. He has started the In The Valley Sessions which highlights local and touring bands with a special acoustic performance set in miscellaneous Boise locations.

This session features indie/alternative band, Foreign Sons from Las Vegas, NV. Watch them perform their song “1721” outside of the District Coffee House in downtown Boise.

The University Pulse has teamed up with Adam Wright Media. Adam Wright is a local musician, photographer and videographer. He has started the In The Valley Sessions which highlights local and touring bands with a special acoustic performance set in miscellaneous Boise locations.

This very special session comes from local Boise band, Hollow Wood. Indie folk band just got back to Boise off of a grand tour, have released an AudioTree session and just announced that pre-orders are up for their new ep, Wallflower.
This session takes place in a Northwest Boise living room. Watch the band perform a stripped down version of “Bark at the Moon”.

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Lots of great films are coming to theaters this year, but there are many films scheduled that will fly under peoples’ radars. Here’s a list of films you probably haven’t heard of yet, but could end up being some of your favorites of the year.

1. Strange Magic

It seems like George Lucas is continuing his company’s foray into CG animation after the successful Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show and film. But this time it’s an original story written by Lucas himself, a fairy tale involving goblins and elves, reportedly inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lucas himself is not directing or writing the screenplay; director/co-writer Gary Rydstrom is making this his debut feature film after working on the English language adaptations of Studio Ghibli anime films, like Arietty and The Wind Rises. More importantly, Rydstrom is well-known across the industry as “The Sound Master”, becoming arguably the most famous sound designer in the world for his work on Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Finding Nemo and countless others. Needless to say, the technical aspects of this film will be in good hands. Other benefactors in the film’s favor is that it features a talented voice cast of Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph and Alfred Molina, as well as a screenplay co-written by writer Irene Mecchi (The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Brave, Hercules). All in all, a possible contender for next year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Box Office Prospects: Holding the title of first animated and first family film of 2015, this should do quite well, all things considered.

Release Date: January 23

2. Shaun the Sheep Movie

Speaking of animated Oscar contenders, this one has a chance to be a fun ride for kids and adults alike as well. Based on the British stop-motion TV series of the same name and featuring the character audiences have come to know and love from (you guessed it) Wallace and Gromit, Shaun stars in his own feature-length stop-motion adventure. Let’s see if Aardman can repeat the success they had with the Wallace and Gromit film (and maybe win an Oscar like they did with that one, too!)

Box Office Prospects: This is a tricky issue for a couple of reasons. One, the film is being released in the UK on February 6, but the information about a potential US release date is murky at best. If you type in the search words “shaun the sheep us release” into Google, Google’s own search window offers an April 24 release. However, it may be that Google is pulling dates out of its butt, since nowhere else on the web is this date mentioned. Secondly, even when taking into consideration the UK date, the film will have to stand up to three, count ‘em, three other major releases competing for audiences’ attention that weekend; the Wachowskis’ sci-fi epic Jupiter Ascending (which looks amazing), Seventh Son, the adaptation of the popular The Last Apprentice teen novel series (which looks terrible), and then a not-so-little-known property by the name of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. It’ll be interesting to see which animated film winds the box office in the UK that weekend; I actually may give the hand to Shaun, seeing as how its humor is directly tied to British sensibilities. We shall see.

Release Date (US): TBD (see above)

3. Chappie

After the good but disappointing Elysium, writer-director Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame returns with a story about a robot… and that’s all I need to know before I plop my butt down in the theater to watch Blomkamp (hopefully) return to form. A star cast including returning collaborator Sharlto Copley (aka Wikus in District 9), Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman, Dev “Slumdog” Patel, Jose Cantillo (aka Hector in Sons of Anarchy and Caesar in The Walking Dead), and, most excitedly, South African cult sensations Die Antwoord and freakin’ Sigourney Weaver round out the proceedings.

Box Office Prospects: In terms of serious sci-fi at the box office, this is only competing with February’s Jupiter Ascending, which means there’s definitely room for both in the marketplace.

Release Date: March 6

4. In the Heart of the Sea

The trials of the famous whaleship Essex in 1820 have been made famous twice in literature; once, of course, in Herman Melville’s dense classic Moby-Dick and, more recently, in Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 nonfiction account of the ordeal, In the Heart of the Sea. Now we have a chance to see Philbrick’s telling of the tale come to life on the big screen, courtesy of director Ron “Opie” Howard and the cast of Chris “Thunder God” Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw. The screen story is co-written by Rise/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver and the screenplay is by Blood Diamond writer Charles Leavitt. In other words, a possible early Oscar contender.

Box Office Prospects: Unfortunately for Howard and his team, Disney’s new Cinderella movie is being released the same weekend (which looks like it could be good, but I’m not holding my breath), so this may become a better prospect on home video for many audiences.

Release Date: March 15

5. Cameron Crowe’s Still Untitled Project

A writer-director known for making classic teen rom-coms (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything…), homages to his rock n’ roll youth (Almost Famous, the Pearl Jam Twenty documentary) and just plain out-there films (Vanilla Sky) sounds like he’s indulging in the latter on this still yet-to-be-titled project starring Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel. The plot is being kept secretive, but we do know that it’s a rom-com which features “a talking computer and mystical island fortunes”, whatever that means. Either way, sign me up!

Box Office Prospects: Once it gets a proper title (it was, at one point, called Deep Tiki), This will play well on the indie circuit going up against the epic disaster film San Andreas and Paramount’s new animated Monster Trucks film (yes, I know how ridiculous that is). A nice contrast to the loud blockbusteryness of its competitors.

Release Date: May 29

6. Paper Towns

Based on a popular YA novel? Check. Starring Nat Wolff, aka the blind kid from The Fault in Our Stars? Check. A screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the two writers responsible for (500) Days of Summer, The Spectacular Now, and the aforementioned Fault? Check. All the ingredients will come together for a potentially new teen movie classic. Get your Kleenex ready.

Box Office Prospects: Not much in the way of demographic competition the weekend this releases (I don’t see many Entourage or Insidious fans crossing over with this movie), so this could be carried by strong word-of-mouth if all goes well.

Release Date: June 5

7. Pixels

Everything about this film seems simultaneously alluring and repellent. On one hand, there’s the premise, a computer-animated/live action hybrid involving aliens and video games that sounds so ridiculously fun it just might work. On the other hand, it’s directed by Chris Columbus, definitely not the most reliable of directors, especially considering his recent filmography includes the first Percy Jackson movie (yuk) and I Love You, Beth Cooper (double yuk). It starts Adam Sandler in the title role (oh, come on!), but also has Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad in supporting roles (hmm, this may be worth it after all). However this film eventually turns out, the audience reaction is likely to be one of extremes; it will either be freakin’ awesome/lots of fun, really bad/screw this movie, or aggressively mediocre/a total meh.

Box Office Prospects: Depending on the quality of the film itself, it may win the box office on its weekend competing against Warner Bros. new Peter Pan adaptation and the Poltergeist reboot, or it may get badmouthed and crushed under the weight of the previous weeks’ Ant-Man. Again, a result of extremes is likely.

Release Date: July 24

8. Poltergeist

Speaking of that remake, the fact that Fox is making this movie at all is cause for alarm and disdain. However, given the creative team behind this new spin on an old classic, I’m cautiously optimistic. Director Gil Kenan made the underrated motion-capture animated Monster House and visually inventive City of Ember, so I’ll remain open to his interpretation of Tobe Hooper’s iconic ghost story. Plus, Sam Rockwell’s in the title role, and that’s reason enough to give this a chance. I honestly doubt the remake will live up to the peaks of the film that inspired it, but maybe in its own way, it could be a quiet artistic triumph nonetheless.

Box Office Prospects: See above. This is the kind of film that lives or dies by word-of-mouth, and even if it turns out to be good, most audiences will probably want to wait for this one on home video.

Release Date: July 24

9. Selfless

Possibly my most anticipated “hidden movie gem” of 2015, and that’s all because of one name attached to the project. Indian-American director Tarsem Singh is one of the most underrated cinema magicians working today, having brought beautiful visual artistry and emotionally compelling storytelling to The Cell, The Fall, Immortals and Mirror Mirror. While some of those films are better than others, his distinctive style remains throughout his body of work. Bringing his career full circle and heading back to the sci-fi leanings of The Cell after years of working in the fantasy genre, Tarsem offers a sci-fi thriller about wealth, immortality and identity… say no more, I’ve already bought my ticket. Oh, and did I mention Ryan Reynolds in the title role? (Ok, maybe not the best of casting decisions…)

Box Office Prospects: Yet another film that may live or die by strong word-of-mouth, although its prospects for the weekend of release are dimmer than Poltergeist since the Point Break remake (a well-established property) and Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy Grismby ( a well-established comedian) come out the same day. Fox’s new Fantastic Four reboot will release the week after, bringing even more competition to an already crowded marketplace.

Release Date: July 31

10. Ricki and the Flash

One thing you can’t fault director Jonathan Demme for is his diversity. The man never sits still, flitting from genre to genre at the drop of a hat: one of the best concert films of all time (Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense), a heartbreaking drama dealing with the AIDS crisis (Philadelphia), a critically acclaimed romantic drama that won Anne Hathaway an Oscar (Rachel Getting Married), not to mention creating one of the most famous screen villains of all time (The Silence of the freakin’ Lambs, Anthony Hopkins, shudder). Now he tackles a story about an aging rock star who gets one last chance to right things with her family… and that aging rock star is played by none other than Meryl Streep (cue Oscar voting now). Another creative factor working in the film’s favor is screenwriter Diablo Cody, writer of Juno and Young Adult; the film’s premise was reportedly inspired by Cody’s mother-in-law.

Box Office Prospects: Like Cameron Crowe’s film will most likely be for its respective weekend, Ricki offers an adult alternative to the bombast that the new Fantastic Four reboot represents this weekend.

Release Date: August 7

11. Everest

On paper, this movie sounds like it could be an intense thrill ride, detailing the events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which eight people died in a blizzard on the mountain in one day. Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin and Robin Wright add to the prestige. In execution, the film may literally be a disaster in the hands of director-editor Baltasar Kormákur, whose previous American films include the dreadful Contraband and 2 Guns (his Icelandic films seem to be much better). It remains to be seen whether the cast and the story can (ahem) reach the summit of a great adventure tale.

Box Office Prospects: The teen audience will be snatched up by the Maze Runner sequel this weekend, but adults looking for an action fix means the film may still be able to do good business.

Release Date: September 18

12. Victor Frankenstein

Harry Potter is Igor. But seriously, putting Daniel Radcliffe in a supporting role as Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant/lackey intrigues me even further. Max Landis of Chronicle fame is writing the script, so this could be an emotionally compelling take on the scientist who birthed the monster that started it all.

Box Office Prospects: Tough, because The Walk with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (see below) and London Has Fallen (the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen) will almost certainly eat into Frankenstein’s potential audience.

Release Date: October 2

13. The Walk

After the success of Flight, Robert Zemeckis provides another daring tale of adventure and potential crisis, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the man who walked a high-wire between the Twin Towers in the 1970’s.

Box Office Prospects: Probably the most intriguing film of the weekend of its release, this one could end up on top.

Release Date: October 2

14. Crimson Peak

Whether or not you were thrilled or disappointed by Pacific Rim, fans of Guillermo del Toro should be pleased with his return to the genre that made him famous in the first place: horror. A Lovecraftian-style tale that reportedly pays homage to the great haunted house flicks of the past, Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska and Tom “Loki” Hiddleston as her “charming new husband”. Cue fangirl squeals around the theater… until del Toro probably drops a psychologically disturbing moment on the audience’s heads.

Box Office Prospects: This may be the toughest weekend to call this year, given that a filmmaker by the name of Steven Spielberg is releasing his spy thriller St. James Place the very same day (see below). Heck, there may be room for both at the marketplace.

Release Date: October 16

15. St. James Place

Since directing Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s next project has been up in the air. First, he was headed back to sci-fi with Robopocalypse (based on the best-selling novel), but that project was postponed indefinitely. Then he was attached to both Interstellar and American Sniper before he left those projects and they fell in the hands of Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood, respectively. Now, Spielberg has finally settled on making a film inspired by the Cold War U-2 incident, in which a pilot whose plane was shot down over the Soviet Union must find a way out of the country with the help of his American lawyer. Collaborating with Tom Hanks in the lead role and featuring a script by the Coen Brothers all but guarantees this one as a lock for an Oscar nom come next year.

Box Office Prospects: See above.

Release Date: October 16

16. The Martian

You can say this for Ridley Scott: at least the man dares to dream big. Even though Exodus: Gods and Kings was a complete misfire and Prometheus, while good, didn’t quite live up to its potential, Scott’s filmmaking ambitions remain compelling. His new project based on the best-selling sci-fi book about a man trapped on Mars confirms this. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and even Kristin Wiig (?) lead the show, and the screenplay is adapted by Drew Goddard of The Cabin in the Woods and Cloverfield fame. Let’s hope this time the film follows through with what it sets up.

Box Office Prospects: Wow, this is a crowded weekend (it is Thanksgiving, after all). First, you’ve got the second of Pixar’s two films this year, The Good Dinosaur, a Christmas Eve comedy from Warm Bodies director Jonathan Levine, not to mention ANOTHER sci-fi project from Take Shelter and Mud director Jeff Nichols (admittedly, this last one will probably be relegated to the indie circuit). Is there room for such a grandiose film with a high-profile cast and director? Only the quality of the film will tell.

Release Date: November 25

17. Midnight Special

Suprisingly, writer-director Jeff Nichols has never done sci-fi before. It certainly seems tailored to his sensibilities given his care and craft he used to make Take Shelter and Mud. Collaborating again with Take Shelter’s Michael Shannon, as well as Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Joel Edgerton, and inspired by films like John Carpenter’s Starman, this could turn out to be a thoughtful, mature genre offering during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Box Office Prospects: As I said above, this is the most “indie” of the films opening during Thanksgiving, but will most likely do very well given the quality of its crew and the lack of competition in the indie marketplace.

Release Date: November 25

18. Jonathan Levine’s Untitled Christmas Eve Project

From the writer-director of modern “dramadys” like 50/50 and Warm Bodies comes a tale about a reunion of three childhood friends on Christmas Eve… hilarity most likely ensues. Seth Rogen in the title role may be cause for concern, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie fill out the supporting cast, so we’re probably in good hands.

Box Office Prospects: There aren’t any straight comedies opening on either side of the month of this release, so audiences looking for a laugh during the holiday season could make this one a winner.

Release Date: November 25

19. Sisters

Reuniting Tina Fey and Amy Poehler is always a good thing. Ever since their classic era on SNL, the two have impeccable comic chemistry and sensibility… which is why it’s a wonder a movie about them being sisters hasn’t been made yet. A script by SNL writer Paula Pell and direction from Pitch Perfect and Avenue Q director Jason Moore nearly guarantees this one will tickle your funny bone. (Note: Sisters was previously titled The Nest, see video below)

Box Office Prospects: It was an extremely poor decision to open this one against what may be 2015’s biggest film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I understand the notion of counter-programming, but really, how many people are going to choose this one over the potential movie event of the year? No matter how funny Sisters may turn out, it seems likely to be relegated to success on home video, as unfortunate as that is.

Release Date: December 18

20. The Revenant

Birdman was my absolute favorite film of last year, so I will follow director Alejandro González Iñárritu wherever he goes. His next film is a western starring Leo freakin’ DiCaprio and Tom Hardy (cue many YouTube Inception mashups) and cinematography from Gravity and Birdman lenser Emmanuel Lubezki, so to say I’m excited for this one is an understatement.

Box Office Prospects: Another “indie” circuit film going up against big franchise films like Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 (UGH) and Mission: Impossible 5 (could be good), but if Fox plays its cards right, this could create quite the buzz during awards season.

Release Date: Merry Christmas, y’all

What are some of your most anticipated films of this year? Leave your comments below!

The University Pulse has teamed up with Adam Wright Media. Adam Wright is a local musician, photographer and videographer. He has started the In The Valley Sessions which highlights local and touring bands with a special acoustic performance set in miscellaneous Boise locations.

Check out the newest addition to In The Valley Sessions with Hemingway from Portland, Oregon. Watch Hemingway perform their song “Over the Phone” outside The Shredder in downtown Boise.


Every top 20 spot on this list is Thriller. Every year Thriller. Always Thriller. But I digress…

Well, it’s that time of year again. Cue the many pop culture year-end lists that show up all over print and web publications at around the beginning of December (yes, I realize these things start earlier than they should, bear with me). Also cue the many pop-culture year-end think pieces that describe why year-end list-making is a time-honored critical and social tradition that should be upheld.

Although I mostly appreciate the in-depth analysis of pop-culture goings-on, it does tend to get samey year after year. My point with this list in particular is to help you, the reader, discover a great piece of music that you otherwise may have missed in the thousands of albums that are released in a given year. I also hope to avoid the groupthink that occurs when multiple publications shower the same critical accolades on the same group of albums that may not really deserve it. My music taste covers both popular and more esoteric music from a variety of genres, so I hope that you will find this list useful. Without further ado, here are my top records of the year, ranked from 1 to 20!

1. Gazelle Twin – Unflesh

While no record this year was an insta-classic (5 out of 5) in my eyes, this one came insanely close. Note to the easily freaked out: this is some of the craziest, weirdest, creepiest electronica I have ever heard. Working with co-producer Benge, Gazelle Twin (aka Elizabeth Bernholz) creates soundscapes that fill the listener with a palpable sense of awe and dread… in the best possible way. Not only that, but the album’s music and lyrics are permeated with stark social commentary. Comparing the record thematically to Radiohead’s Kid A, PopMatters reviewer Guy Mankowski observes that “on both albums, doubts about technology, particularly with regards to the suppression of natural processes, are portrayed musically”. My personal Album of the Year.

2. Opeth – Pale Communion

Much has been made of this band’s leap out of the progressive death metal genre they helped establish, and into straight-up 70’s-style progressive rock. You’ll find many an Opeth fan in 2014 shaking their head at the band’s new direction, and in particular, the lack of frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt’s famous death metal growls on their two most recent albums. While I can understand the criticism that Opeth are no longer making music that’s original to them, when the results are this good, it nearly doesn’t matter. The musical curveballs thrown at the listener on Pale Communion are just as filled with the same songwriting prowess and invention as their previous albums. Complimenting the natural flow of the album is an absolutely stellar production job from engineer Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood’s self-titled album) and mix engineer Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, and as PT fans know, nearly everything Wilson touches is audiophile ear candy; this may be his best mix yet. If you consider yourself a fan of emotionally poignant and technically audacious rock music of any kind, take a listen to this (especially if you’ve got a great sound system to showcase it).

3. Closure in Moscow – Pink Lemonade

A definite out-of-left-field surprise to anyone who considered themselves a fan of the band’s post-hardcore-styled psychedelic cult jam First Temple, Closure in Moscow throw their previous rulebook completely out the window and construct a semi-concept album filled with theatrical prog tendencies, R&B/soul influences, psychedelic excess and even a chiptune track tacked on to the very end to tie it all up. For daring to alienate their previous audience and the band’s wacky ambition, Pink Lemonade becomes the definition of “glorious mess”.

4. Nothing More – Nothing More

Modern alternative rock with an edge came back this year with a large vengeance. Starset’s Transmissions, Icarus the Owl’s self-titled record, and, to take a more prominent example, Linkin Park’s The Hunting Party each proved that “radio rock” can be made with solid songwriting, technical skill and emotional heart. No album excelled in this vein more this year than Nothing More’s self-titled musical journey, which, in guitarist Mark Vollelunga’s words, represents “the journey from the “ocean floor” to a “funeral pyre”. “As you go through the songs, there’s this “letting go” process that happens,” and I couldn’t agree more. Featuring the dynamically explosive Jonny Hawkins on vocals, Nothing More covers topics from religion (“Christ Copyright”), the media (“Mr. MTV”) and more personal lyrics dealing with the death of the lead singer’s mother to cancer (“God Went North”). All in all, when the genre of rock itself is floundering in the Top 40 mainstream, bands like Nothing More do a great job of keeping it alive and relevant.

5. clipping. – CLPPNG

Industrial hip-hop as a genre is really nothing new. Though it’s become typified in the last few years by albums like Death Grips’ The Money Store and brought to mainstream attention by none other than Kanye West’s Yeezus, its origins as a genre go all the way back to at least the 1980’s. The new style of mixing hard-edged and noise-influenced beats with the boom-bap stylistic traits and lyrical wordplay of hip-hop has only really come to prominence recently because the aforementioned artists in question have added a more pop-influenced approach to writing hooks and verses. Add clipping. to the small number of artists who not only do it well, but chart new territory in the genre’s development. One of the select hip-hop acts to be recently signed to prominent indie label Sub Pop (along with Shabazz Palaces), clipping. impress with a mix of grimy and unsettling beats (“Body & Blood”), musical ingenuity (“Get Up”), and extremely impressive turns of phrase that prove the group is here to stay.

6. Skindred – Kill the Power

One of the few bands that could be considered “nu-metal” that consistently put out quality work is Skindred. Their cross-genre experiments in metal and reggae in addition to hip-hop, pop, electronica and, increasingly, dubstep, means an album of pure fun, dancy and headbanging tunes that you can enjoy equally blasting in the car or with headphones.

7. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

After the interesting detour but slightly unfulfilling Until the Quiet Comes, FlyLo returns with a stunning statement about life, death and the metaphysical spaces in between. Hosting a variety of collaborators including Kendrick Lamar, Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg and Kimbra, You’re Dead! demands repeat listens to catch all the nuances and crazy textures going on beneath the surface of Flying Lotus’ musical vision.

8. The Quitters – Contributing to Erosion

I don’t always care for modern punk bands, but when I do, they surprise me with their accessible yet gracefully executed songwriting, clever lyrics and old-school punk attitude. The Quitters has become one of those bands.

9. Jack White – Lazaretto

Jack White needs no introduction. And whatever you may think of his offhand comments regarding bands that try to copy his style, the fact remains that he reaffirmed his place among rock’s top pantheon with songs that reflected his blues, psychedelic and old-school rock-n’-roll heritage. Plus, White’s production skills remain top-notch, and the CD competes with Opeth for greatest dynamic-range mastering in music this year. An aural, musical and lyrical treasure to behold.

10. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Whether or not Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album is as good as her standout third album, Strange Mercy, released a few years back, is irrelevant. The fact is that Clark remains a singular musical presence, expanding the boundaries of what we say when we talk about “pop music”. Singles “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse” are just two of the many morsels of joyful eccentricity the listener finds on St. Vincent.

11. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

After their 2011 offering The Hunter, some fans left disappointed by that album were left wondering whether the ‘don could recreate the heights of 2009’s Crack the Skye ever again. Their new album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, proves the sludge metal veterans deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with the words “metal greats”. Combining the progressive approach of Skye with the more pop-leaning tendencies of Hunter, Mastodon craft perhaps their most pleasingly accessible body of work to date.

12. Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion

Much like Mastodon, AaL had somewhat of a crisis moment with their last album, 2011’s technically brilliant but slightly disappointing Weightless, especially after their 2007 self-titled debut record lit a fire under the entire progressive so-called “djent” movement of metal that we find ourselves in today. However, The Joy of Motion more than makes up for any losses in relevance by featuring frontman/primary songwriter Tosin Abasi at his most instrumentally and emotionally evocative. A few moments on the new record equal or even surpass moments on the self-titled. If you want to get into modern heavy metal, but don’t like obnoxious screamed vocals clouding up the musical prowess of the individual members, definitely give these guys a listen.

13. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

A contender for one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful records of 2014, Damien Rice returns with a stunning collection of progressive-inspired folk songs that feel perfect for those warm winter days where the sun is peaking out above the clouds and the snow is just melting off the roof of the cabin. It also features Rick Rubin’s most dynamic-production in more than a decade, which is more than can be said for some of his recent records.

14. Mekong Delta – In a Mirror Darkly

If you’re a fan of Master of Puppets and …And Justice for All-era Metallica, or even if you know about the existence of bands like Dark Angel, you nearly bound to love Mekong Delta. Progressive thrash metal is one of my favorite strains of metal, and Mekong Delta live up to the promise of their genre. High-pitched vocals, crazy drumming and riff after riff after riff keep me coming back to this album again and again. Plus, just when you think it couldn’t get any more awesome, they throw in a massive instrumental, “Inside the Outside of the Inside” (skip to 26:02 in the video).

15. Crying – Get Olde/Second Wind

Pop/rock? Ehh, well, it could be good. Mixing it with 8-bit video game/chiptune synthesizers? You have my attention. Not to mention painfully honest lyricism from frontwoman Elaiza Santos. It all adds up to an experience that, far from making you cry, will make you smile.

16. The Green Seed – Drapetomania

My pick for best throwback old-school rap album of 2014. ‘Nuff said.

17. Alpine Decline – Go Big Shadow City

Hailing all the way from a little town called Beijing, China, I’ve played these guys on my and co-host John Park’s radio show (Castles in the Sky) and they definitely deserve the hype. Hazy and shoegaze-y but with crystal clear production so everything packs that much more of a wallop, Alpine Decline conjure up mental images of the “land of the rising smog” with aplomb (at least, that’s how they called their home nation in the radio liner they sent us).

18. Slough Feg – Digital Resistance

Fears about how much technology is permeating our everyday lives have made many a great album, like the aforementioned Kid A and Unflesh. But many bands don’t seem to have the panache or class to write a great concept album about “the way we live” without writing actual tunes in the process. Cult metallers Slough Feg are here to do just that. With a mix of Deep Purple and Iron Maiden-esque guitar licks and a clean, analog production from frontman Mike Scalzi and engineer Justin Weis, Slough Feg lead the digital resistance in the face of all the technology that gives us joy, yet isolates us at the same time.

19. Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty

Much like clipping., Shabazz Palaces are a new Sub Pop signee who put the experimental back in “experimental hip-hop”. Off-kilter beats, offbeat lyrics and off-the-chain messages decrying the current state of mainstream hip-hop make this a hip-hop album to remember.

20. Amaranthe – Massive Addictive

The last album on this list is one of the cheesiest; yet, I have always dug Amaranthe’s mix of power metal, melodeath, and buckets of electronic synthesizers and keyboards, not to mention their super-clean production courtesy of producer/engineer Jacob Hansen. Even with a new harsh vocalist, the band never lets up on their sugary sweet style of metal. Recommended for fans of Japanese band Blood Stain Child (and if you don’t know who they are, look them up, too!).

What were some of your favorite albums from this year? Let us know in the comments! (Unless you say Run the Jewels 2, because you’re oh so unique in that regard ;) )

2014 was a wonderful year for music. With a new genre seemingly appearing almost every week, I found it too much to keep up with. Between the thousands of new tracks and artists continually on the rise, I followed the music scene to the best of my ability. The two main sources I used to find music this year were Hype Machine and SoundCloud. I went to Hypem when I was looking a little more mellow, indie type tracks, and used SoundCloud to expand mostly on electronic stuff, although there were a few indie gems that came through. Early in the year future bass caught my attention. It was easily my favorite genre throughout the year and continues to be my most widely listened to genre in the electronic scene. When compiling this list, I judged the songs based on how they made me feel, how much I listened to them, and how timeless I thought they would be. The following is my Top 10 songs of 2014. Enjoy!

1.) ODESZA – Memories That You Call (feat. Monsoonsiren)

I can’t say enough about this track. Easily my most listened to song of 2014. The ability of ODESZA to create such beautiful music on such a consistent basis is unbelievable.

2.) AutoLaser – Witching Hour

I stumbled across AutoLaser a couple months before this track was released. I enjoyed his stuff, but wasn’t quite sold. This track was the one that got me on board, ultimately being one of my favorites for 2014. If anyone needs an introduction to Future Bass, this is a great example of how it’s done.

3. Rudimental – Free (Cash Cash x Gazzo Remix)

Posted on January 2nd 2014, this track barely makes the list. Cash Cash and Gazzo did an absolutely beautiful remix of Rudimental’s free. I listened to this song the whole year. LOVE IT.

4.) San Holo – Hiding (ft. The Nicholas)

Another beautifully executed track from San Holo. Once again, an artist that is consistently great. I would suggest checking out his “Ms. Jackson” remix as well.

5.) Kendrick Lamar – i

I don’t listen to much Kendrick, but when this song dropped, I had no choice. What a fantastic song. Sampling the Isley Brothers – “That Lady”, Kendrick creates a groovy, upbeat tune that will surely be in my library for a long time to come.

6.) ZHU – Paradise Awaits (FKJ Remix)

Ever since releasing “Lying Together”, I have been a devoted follower of French Kiwi Juice. His tracks are so smooth, and his remix of Zhu’s “Paradise Awaits” is no exception. All remixes considered, this was my favorite. And the fact that it’s FKJ’s, makes it that much better.

7.) Prelow – Simple Song

These dudes have soul. That’s all there is to it. They boast a total of three tracks on their SoundCloud, all of which I love. Check em out and stay tuned for more.

8.) Penguin Prison – Calling Out (Elephante Remix)

Elephante hit all the right spots with this remix. I absolutely love the little vocal chops in this track. I remember Rusko saying that people go crazy for the little things like that. I couldn’t agree more.

9.) Moods – Hold Tight

I found Moods last year with his remix of Kraak and Smaak’s “Don’t Let People”. I had this particular track on repeat along with his “City Life” remix. So chill. He just makes super rad funky stuff that I can’t really stick in a genre. Check him out for yourself and enjoy!

10.) NickHakim – I Don’t Know

Stumbled across NickHakim earlier this year and was hooked. By far the outlier in this top 10 list. An all around class act, this track is perfect to chill out and slow down for a while. His other stuff is great as well.

Honorable Mentions:
Robby Hunter Band – Bull Ride
Gregory Porter – Liquid Spirit (20syl Remix)
Zhu – Faded (Lido Remix)
James Bay – If You Even Want To Be In Love
Point Point – Life in Grey
Howl – Flutter
Insan3Lik3 – You Make Me Go (ft. Rob Gasser)