Here are Blue Derkin’s favorite music-related things of 2014. You can check out all our Best of 2014 lists here.
4) Best Named Musical Act, Mope Rock Category: The Twilight Sad. Never have dirges sounded so uplifting as when these Scottish rockers come slinking across your airwaves. A perfect name with a sound to match, these delightfully dreary gents take sadness seriously. In case you need more convincing, you can always read my review of “There’s a Girl in the Corner” here.
3) Best Pandora Station for Taking Care of Business: I’ve worked a fair amount of freelance this year, and that’s necessitated working in a fair amount of coffee shops. An undiagnosed but longtime ADHD poster boy, I’m supremely prone to distraction, so headphones and a smart Pandora station are necessary to get ANYTHING done. But here’s the catch – the normal stuff doesn’t work for work; that is, anything with recognizable lyrics just adds to the distraction. Enter my beloved Sigur Ros/Explosions in the Sky Pandora stations, with just the right blend of gibberish and/or post-rock drone to tackle even the most onerous of assignments.
2) Best Makeup Concert: I don’t mind saying that 2014 has been a rough year – my dad, from whom I inherited my unabashed musical smugness, passed away this summer, necessitating a move from North Carolina back to the Midwest. With the abrupt move went any hope of catching the Merge 25 Festival, a concert featuring personal favorites Teenage Fanclub and my beloved Neutral Milk Hotel, an act I had never properly seen live (the full band, anyway – I saw Jeff Mangum solo three times in 2013). Missing my potential only chance to catch the mercurial Mangum et al could have been the turd feather in the crap cap of a bummer summer, but thanks to dear friend, former boss and SIO editor-in-chief Amy Seidenwurm, I was able to catch NMH at the Hollywood Bowl, a venue near and dear to my heart and, frankly, an experience leaps and bounds better than standing in a field. It was everything I imagined and more, and, all kidding aside, a vital component of the ongoing healing process. Good music can save, kids – don’t you ever believe otherwise.
1) Best Former Smith, 2014 Edition: Let’s face it – 10 years ago, if you’d have said Johnny Marr would surpass fellow ex-Smith Morrissey in solo-career greatness, if only for one calendar year, you’d have been carted off to the Salford Lads Club for a real-life taste of the Headmaster Ritual. But there it is, in black-and-white. While my hope’s always that Mozzer will pull out of this crazy tailspin, Journeyman Johnny has reclaimed his justly-deserved half of one of rock’s most influential legacies and, in some ways, replaced his former bandmate as Manchester’s torch bearer. Marr’s eclectic career arc – The Smiths, stints in bands such as The The, Electronic, Oasis and Modest Mouse, and more than one stab at solo greatness – has at certain points only seemed to make sense to him, but in reality, it’s shown that continued work and support of emergent artists just works. He’s now a bona fide rock-and-roll treasure, as evidenced by the fact the EVERYONE from Noel Gallagher to Kevin Drew seems to want to play with him. And for those who still doubt that Marr’s the man and insist that the songs are Stephen’s – well, just listen to him work his way through any number of your favorites and note that he does so WITHOUT storming offstage mid-show. I still love Morrissey, but Marr is more than enough for me right now.