I’ll admit it — there were a lot of attempted bribes to get on this exclusive, important list. We were tempted, but decided our journalistic integrity and tastemaking were above such petty tributes as cars and exotic animals. It wasn’t easy, but we here at Moxipop just had to buckle down and say, “No, Ariana Grande, you cannot buy your way onto this list. Not today.”
So here we present to you our final installment of what was objectively great in 2014. We are sure it’s going to make some careers and break others. For those enshrined as golden gods, the collateral damage doesn’t matter. They have been blessed with validated careers and a reason to exist. You’re welcome.
Most Underrated Live Rock Performance
The Wild Feathers, The Apache Relay and Desert Noises at the El Rey
A fall tour led by The Wild Feathers trecked through the United States accompanied by indie crooners The Apache Relay and southwest natives Desert Noises. I caught the jamboree of folk musicians as they made their way through Los Angeles at the beautiful El Rey Theater. Desert Noises opened up to a crowd of old time rockers, new age hipsters and indie label executives. The quad of Provo, Utah natives lit up the room with a sound that took me back to the days of those sweaty backyard shows that always got shut down too early. Patrick Boyer on lead guitar flawlessly transitions from simple harmonies to power ballads in a single song. Setting a perfect melody for Kyle Henderson’s mystical voice and earthy lyrics resonant of a 60s rock show. Following this upbeat, rhythm shaking performance were the six piece multi-instrumentalists, The Apache Relay. Styled down in beanies, flannels and dark denim each member contributed a unique note that masterfully created one massive rock symphony. (They even brought out a three-piece string section). Mike Harris deserves an honorable mention for his effortless guitar skills. The crowd watched in awe as Harris plucked every other string – warping its sound.
Headlining the folk rock extravaganza, The Wild Feathers took to their positions and transported Angelenos to the days of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. The group were so in sync with one another it was as if they were born to play together. A final encore brought all three bands on stage, beers and instruments in hand with their rendition of The Band’s “The Weight”. The crowd swayed along to the soul driven rockers which left behind a little old time magic in the air. A first listen to their albums, I expected a mellow night of indie ballads but walked away with a new respect for the folk rockers that are paving their own genre all the while grounded in their decades’ old roots. – Tamara Syed
Best Book You’ll Never Own Unless You Receive It As A Gift
Bob Dylan: The Lyrics Since 1962
The year literally cannot end until some sort of Dylan bootleg, archive or retrospective is released. Enter Bob Dylan: The Lyrics Since 1962. At 960-odd pages and weighing in at 13 and a half pounds, the tome has all of Zimmy’s 500-plus songs, including editorial changes showing how meaning within the Troubadour’s songs developed during the writing process. According to publishers Simon and Schuster, The Lyrics is the largest and costliest book they have ever published (That is, until copies of the current issue fly off the shelf with white-hot heat and the compendium must be updated for 2015 with the release of Bob Interprets Marley.)
The book, in limited quantities, is going for $200 apiece (if copies still exist at this point in time.) However, should your love for Dylan prove stronger than your average fan, there is an extremely limited edition signed by Bob himself for $5000. If you think about it, $5000 isn’t all that much for the genius that is “God Named All The Animals” and “Jokerman,” but to each his own, I suppose. – Jake Tully
D’Angelo – Black Messiah
Music fans rejoiced with Aphex Twin’s sudden return after a 13 year break between albums. Then, at the final hour, D’Angelo released his first album in 14 years, officially causing pigs to fly. This record has been a long time coming and is one of the year’s best. Here’s to all the new babies being made to this fresh material. – Ben Levine
A LITTLE DIFFERENT, BUT SINCE YOU’RE BRITISH WE’LL LET YOU HAVE IT AWARD
Listen – The Kooks
No stranger to the musical mainstream environment both in the U.K. and U.S., these Brits released their fourth studio album this year entitled “Listen.” Rather difficult to one-up their first two records, “Inside In/Inside Out” and “Konk,” as was made very clear when “Junk of the Heart” came out in 2011, this one is a little more daring so it’s difficult to be too disparaging. Going against a lot of the usual rocky, poppy, and folky mix The Kooks have offered in the past, this album provides their genuine rendition of jazz, gospel, and R&B stylings. “Around Town” is a contender for Best-Lonesome-Missing-and-Needing-Someone song while “Forgive & Forget” is a fine option to send that overzealous individual not getting the message that you’re not so into them. “Westside” is undoubtedly charming in its narrative, a big plus with its ‘70s dance vibe when the chorus rolls around. – Ani Mikaelian
Most Underrated Late Night Talk Show Shift
Craig Ferguson Leaves The Late Late Show
Everyone’s making much ado about the departure of the old guard, Letterman & Leno, the arrival of the new guard in Jimmy Fallon, and the impending transfer of one of today’s best in Stephen Colbert. What isn’t talked about enough is Craig Ferguson, seeing as how he isn’t getting the Late Show gig, moving on from the 12:30 AM CBS slot. It’s hard to blame him or CBS for parting ways. What Ferguson did with his show would never work in the “prime time” Letterman slot and Colbert is just flat out a more universal entertainer. But what he did — the utter recklessness of his show, the way it followed his whims and was so delightfully loose and care free — was so unique and refreshing in an era where there are new late night talk shows all the tie.
So while it makes perfect sense and is exactly what should happen, I’ll miss the weirdness that was The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. There was really nothing else like it, and whenever something one of a kind drops out, it’s only proper to mourn it. I suspect it will be remembered fondly in late night history where it will be reassessed with reverence among hardcore comedy nerds. – Justin Pansacola
Most Innovatively Weird Track
SOPHIE – Lemonade
UK producer SOPHIE released the single “Lemonade” in August, the hottest month of the year, just in time to cool down our auditory senses. This track ignites more than one sense with multi-layered synths simulating a sip of refreshing lemonade. An intelligent dance anthem the listener is hooked within the first minute of the song’s grand magnetism. – Tamara Syed
Modern Classic Music Video Award
Flying Lotus Ft. Kendrick Lamar – Never Catch Me
Compared to songs, there are so few music videos that make an impact on me and convince me that I’m seeing something iconic. Hiro Murai’s video for Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me” is one of the select few. If you put any other song on top of this video, it would still be beautiful and emotionally stirring. The fact that it’s got a great song on it makes it a classic.
This is not the first time FlyLo has played with the idea of the soul leaving the body through dance. But this deployment of it perfects it. The timeliness of the video with heartbreaking current events is just one aspect that elevates it. The utter joy of the dance (which is insanely difficult with such frenetic music) contrasted with the heavy tragedy of their surroundings is a heavy punch to the viewer. The final shot, the peace and freedom of it all, is pitch perfect by bringing us to a heavy-hearted relief. This kind of synchronicity between musical theme and visual art is what music videos are for. – Justin Pansacola