Discussion: The Year In Music (So Far), 2014

Top row: Nothing; Middle row, left to right: St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, Sturgill Simpson; Bottom: Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves (Courtesy of the artists)

On this week's show, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton are joined by NPR Music's Stephen Thompson to recount their favorite music from the first six months of 2014. They spin the ferocious punk energy of Perfect Pussy, the magnetic vocals of Broken Twin, absurdly catchy electro-pop from Sylvan Esso and much more.

Bob opens the show with a cut from his favorite new band of 2014, the San Francisco-based seven-piece group known as The Family Crest. The band makes music on an epic scale, with stunning vocals and a multitude of instruments. Stephen then beats Robin to the punch to claim Perfect Pussy as his favorite new band of the year, with the song "Driver," two minutes of howling vocals and surging guitars from the Syracuse band's debut album Say Yes to Love.

Later in the show Robin returns the favor by snagging Sturgill Simpson as his biggest surprise of the year. "Turtles All the Way Down" finds the country singer examining cosmic questions with his heart-wrenching voice and classic country arrangements. Also on the show: A fuzzy rock number from the often-hushed singer Angel Olsen; The German band The Notwist has Stephen's favorite song of the year in "Kong;" The band Nothing rumbles and shakes with glorious noise-rock; Damien Jurado's flamingo-tinged "Silver Timothy" explodes into a synth-fueled jam and much, much more.

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The Family Crest

Favorite New Artist: "I'm so thrilled about this band. ... Liam McCormick is opera-trained, and many of the musicians are classically trained. There's some jazz musicians as well ... really quite a force." --Bob Boilen

Perfect Pussy

Favorite New Artist: "I was amazed at how much [this record] had grown on me. There's this incredible ferocity but there's also layers, textures and surprises that roll in throughout the record." --Stephen Thompson

Broken Twin

Favorite New Artist: "Her voice just sends me. It's very vulnerable but very powerful at the same time." --Robin Hilton

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Biggest Surprise: "Both this album and song I've listened to more than any other record all year so far." --Bob Boilen

Mimicking Birds

Biggest Surprise: "[This] song is constantly in motion. It's constantly taking you through the course of it. I find I always move when I listen to it; even though it's a very mellow song it always keeps me in motion." --Stephen Thompson

Sturgill Simpson

Biggest Surprise: "Even people who swear they don't like country music have completely fallen in love with this record. He takes these classic sounds and turns them towards these really weighty, deep, existential themes on the record, and you can hear that best on this song." --Robin Hilton

Angel Olsen

Favorite Album: "So much about what she does speaks to the way Leonard Cohen crafted songs; there's so many layers in the words and the delivery is so often deadpan, and the words just tell everything that you want to know." –Bob Boilen

Sylvan Esso

Favorite Album: "Nick Sanborn creates these electronic beds for Amelia Meath's vocals to lie atop. It's an absolutely intoxicating record." --Stephen Thompson


Favorite Album: "It's got a nice drone to it but it also has brawny guitars." --Robin Hilton

St. Vincent

Favorite Song: "What I love about this record is how she advances the sound of a guitar without it sounding like where guitars often go when they try to be non-guitars: in the land of synthesizers. There's something that goes between the grunge of a guitar and the incredible harmonics that synthesizers are capable of, so it's really rich and different than the normal guitar sound. I love her for that." --Bob Boilen

The Notwist

Favorite Song: "The song is about this fantasy that the singer Markus Acher had had about a superhero coming in and saving his house from a flood. And if you listen closely you can pick up little hints of that story. The song is just this wonderfully fizzy, catchy, propulsive, beautiful, cool song." --Stephen Thompson

Damien Jurado

Favorite Song: "Go back and revisit this record if you missed it. It's the best thing he's ever done." --Robin Hilton

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