Welcome to the last roundup before I buckle down to choose my favorite sounds of the year. This week I tried to cram in as many of the 2014 releases that I could before I go on a week long process of review. Unlike most years, the last great push produced only a few albums that I will need to rank carefully, but a few on here are definitely under consideration. There's a bit of everything on here so maybe something will jump out at all of you before you put a ribbon around 2014 and call it a year. Enjoy.
Jason Webley & Friends - Margaret: It's been seven years since the Seattle singer songwriter's last solo album, and even this isn't quite a full album with many of the middle tracks being performed by other Seattle area chamber pop artists. But the project was curated by Jason. All the songs were inspired by a scrapbook found in a dumpster containing articles and mementos from the life of Margaret Rucker, one of the founding daughters of Everett, WA. This is exactly the kind of project that Webley does best, reminding me of his Evelyn, Evelyn album from a few years ago. In the end, this tragically sad concept album is moving and soulful. Definitely one of the best surprises of the Fall and high on my list of recent faves.
Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor: Reinventing himself into a demonic version of Bowie's Thin White Duke, The Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles returns with his first album in three years. Ever since Twiggy returned to the band in 2008, Manson continues to deliver the most complete music of his career. This is one of his most dynamic albums, reminding me of Mechanical Animals, with softer and heavier elements and super accessible while keeping the edge he's always had. After a few listens, this may be my favorite of his. Both versions of "Fated, Faithful, Fatal," and "Day 3" are fantastic, as are "Slave Only Dreams to Be King," "Killing Strangers" and "The Fall of the House of Death."
Ty Segall - $ingle$ 2: In April, the Cali psychedelic garage rocker followed up last years two outstanding LPs with one of the best of the year with Manipulator. That album has been followed by this compilation last month. As expected with any comp of B-Sides and other fodder, it's rougher and rawer than recent work, but no less fantastic. Perhaps it's because of his mellower side shining through on recent albums that he wanted to get this out there and remind people that he could make psychedelic weirdness with the best of them. I've been thoroughly enjoying this record. "Cherry Red," "It's a Problem," "Spiders" and "Children of Paul" are my personal favorites.
Avenged Sevenfold - Waking the Fallen Resurrected: Back in August the Cali metal band released this resurrected version of their 2003 second album, an album that got them noticed before their breakout third album City of Evil two years later. Packed with demo versions, lost tracks, alternate versions and live versions, this is one those releases that serves as a gift for fans and probably not of much interest to others. I'm one of those people who, at moments, truly loves this band, and at other times couldn't care less. When they are on however, they are really on. Their blistering duel guitar sound and pounding drums is better than any other hard rock sound out there, but the moving back and forth between screamcore and rock vocals has always bothered me, simply because I don't particularly care for screamcore and the singer has a great voice. The live versions on here are the real standouts.
Billy Idol - Kings & Queens of the Underground: Hoping for an Adam Ant style comeback, I was really interested to hear the former pin-up boy of punk's first album in eight years. Perhaps like Adam Ant's comeback record, this suffers from being horribly uneven. There are a few decent tracks where he sings about a fall from grace and the attempt to climb back, but a lot of those sentiments are buried in generic '80s rock chords. A nice curiosity listen, but probably not one I will return to for more.
Wiz Khalifa - 28 Grams: The Pittsburgh rapper put out this mixtap back in May in preparation for his new LP which dropped in August. Over the years, I keeping checking out Wiz's work hoping for the breakthrough that really impresses me. His flow has that kind of potential, but so far it hasn't come through. Like most mixtapes, this is a collection of fragments strung together. And as to be expected from Wiz, every one of them seems to be about smoking weed. Very forgettable, but has some moments. I will still hold out hope that one day he'll come through for me.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - In The Heat of the Moment: I wanted to end this week with a single from last month in anticipation of an album I'm looking forward to in 2015. This is the fist song released off of the former Oasis founder's second record. Even more so that Beady Eye, Noel's post Fab Five work sounds as if it could be leftovers from a recording session with his old band, but I suppose that has more to do with the fact that he was the primary songwriter for Oasis. These two songs are a solid dose of rock 'n roll with more of an ode to Paul Weller than any of Noel's other usual influences. If these are any preview of the album, it should be a good one.