Here are the perfect emotional and physical settings for 10 of 2014's best records.
Here are my 10 favorite records from 2014, as well as the ideal physical and emotional circumstances in which you might hear them.
10. Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Angel Olsen — You're at home, and it's Friday night and you feel like a loser because you're at home, even though you called like four people and all of them happened to have other obligations and if they hadn't they totally would have gone out with you, because you're not a loser. You really have friends, they just happen to be busy, so you sit at home and you feel bad about yourself and then you feel bad about feeling bad because and you wonder what it says about you that while you clearly know you have friends, you can't feel it in your bones. Your phone rings. It's the ex you refuse to admit you miss, having butt-dialed you. They're at a bar. Picture how you feel in that exact moment. Burn Your Fire For No Witness is what's playing in the background.
9. Young Heart, Blondfire — You are sitting on a sidewalk cafe in Santa Monica and you are sitting in direct sunlight. You did this on purpose, because you like that warmth and so you sit there and nurse an iced coffee and as people walk by you think about each of them and what your life might be if you knew them, or maybe were closer than that, and then you think about how each of them have those relationships with other people and it just seems like so many relationships. The sun goes behind a cloud and you wonder who all of these people are and how impossible it is that kind of depth could be common. Young Heart is the album that is playing at that cafe.
8. Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey — You and a friend happen to find yourselves at one of those fake downtowns, the outdoor malls that have put effort into actual streets and sidewalks and there's a set of condos that's less than half full and you don't like to think about how everyone who lives there made the conscious choice to live at the mall. You and your friend are there and you're in the Johnny Rockets eating America Fries and drinking Modelo Especial, because Johnny Rockets was the only place serving at 9:30 in the morning, and you're drinking at 9:30 in the morning because you don't see this friend that often and when you do you only ever talk about the lovers you have disappointed or who have disappointed you. Ultraviolence is what would be on the jukebox, if Johnny Rockets had a jukebox.
7. Alvvays, Alvvays — You have heard more people than you can remember mention being wistful. You have never once heard someone mention wist as if it were a thing one could be full of. How are you, someone might ask, and you think about what it would mean to answer "I am carrying a lot of wist." How heavy is wist? Does it cast a shadow? Does it spoil? Do you have to tend to it, to shepherd its growth? Could you trade wist with someone else, or does it mold itself around you? If there were a store that sold wist Alvvays is what they would play, all day, every day.
6. Cut Your Teeth, Kyla La Grange — You have spent weeks positively smitten with another person, just severed-your-own-brake-lines smitten, and on multiple occasions you have silently begged them to be less incredible. When they had a perfect answer to a question that had been bugging you for weeks, when they tried your favorite drink and loved it, when they reluctantly admitted their dorky hobby that was exactly your dorky hobby. Weeks of this, over and over again, and then one day something happens that makes them seem ever so slightly not-perfect. Later you're at their place feeling like there's a half step of distance between the two of you that wasn't there before, and you're not sure it's ever going to disappear. Cut Your Teeth is the record they put on.
5. Sorry I'm Late, Cher Lloyd — Your cousin is six months into their first real job and they like it well enough, but what it means to get up and go to work every day is starting to sink in with them. They happen to be in town for a conference and when you suggest meeting up for a drink they tell you what the hell, forget the conference. And you spend the whole weekend together, real Maximum Hangouts, and there is drinking and dancing serious Drunk Talk about life, and hangover brunch where you order off the menu because nobody can think of a reason eggs benedict can't be served on top of crab cakes instead of an English muffin. Sorry I'm Late is the record that you could play the entire weekend and have it fit the whole way through.
4. Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me! — Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a punk rock record about coming out as trans and I do not feel comfortable riffing on that. It is intensely personal and a phenomenal punk record. The most scared you've ever been to tell someone something and the most relieved you've been when all they did was hug you, and then that moment where you wonder why they didn't say anything, that's Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
3. No Mythologies To Follow, MØ — You are in your late teens and your best friend has finally gotten a car and your parents are kind of in a rough patch so they don't really care how late it is when you come home. So you and your friend drive around, and you don't really have anywhere to go but you like watching light reflections whip by the window and you like the sound of tunnels and you and your friend have a lot to talk about and even more to think about and all of it feels so full and significant, like nothing else is ever gonna matter this much. No Mythologies To Follow is what you play loud enough to wake the neighbors.
2. Take Me When You Go, Betty Who — This is when you spend six weeks smitten and that thing that makes you think they're not-perfect never really happens, you just keep going and it stays almost unbearably wonderful. You know that the drought isn't really a great thing, but you have had sunny day after sunny day and it really all just feels like it fits. One day you are driving between the bluffs and the center of some charming little beach town and they don't laugh at your joke and you think to yourself that you might love them more than they love you. Take Me When You Go is what's playing when that thought occurs to you.
1. 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia — You find a diary while taking the subway home. There is no name in it, no phone number, and you read it because of course you're going to read it, and the stories in it are funny and heartbreaking and kind of ridiculous. You read through it in one sitting and as it gets later and later you have a mounting feeling that you know the handwriting You start thinking about everyone you used to know and before long there's some small group of people and you're trying to remember who used to write like this, and then it dawns on you that this is just who you want it to be. 1000 Forms of Fear is the album that two of those people share on Spotify the morning after you read the diary.