Ultra5280's Best Albums of 2014

With so many great albums that came out this year it is always a task at hand trying to chose our favorites. This year was no different, we are fortunate to get to see as many shows as we do, as well as open our inboxes to early releases and exclusives. The great thing about our staff is that we each have our own unique bands that we love, thus making our lists an eclectic mix of great music. There were a few newcomers to the list as well as some established bands making great albums this year. A couple late additions from J. Cole and D'angelo that barely missed the cut stood out as well. Without further adieu, Ultra5280 presents the Best Albums of 2014. These are in no particular order. What were your favorites this year?

FKA Twigs | LP1

The War on Drugs | Lost In The Dream

First Aid Kit | Stay Gold

Sylvan Esso | Self Titled

Alt-J | This Is All Yours

Broods | Evergreen

Against Me | Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Future Islands | Singles

Interpol | El Pintor

Jack White | Lazaretto

Run The Jewels | Run The Jewels 2

St. Vincent | St. Vincent

Taylor Swift | 1989

Jenny Lewis | The Voyager

Weezer | Everything Will Be Alright In The End

Lucius | Wildewoman

Phantogram | Voices

Caribou | Our Love

Jack White | ACL Taping

One of the cooler things we have had a chance to be part of in 2012 was an Austin City Limits Taping. While covering the Austin City Limits Music Festival down in Austin in October, Mr. Jack White himself dropped by The Moody Theater to kick off the 38th season of the long running live music show. We had a chance to take in the show, which was the highlight of our ACL weekend.

Our view for the Jack White ACL Taping

As a bandleader, Jack White has visited the Austin City Limits studio before, ripping it up with the Raconteurs back in 2006. Now Jack White returns to our stage as a solo artist to demonstrate exactly why he’s one of today’s most exciting musicians.

Ever the risk-taker, White hits the stage bathed in blue light and accompanied by not one but two bands. Working without a net, White eschews a set list and draws from nearly every project of his prolific career. So this episode treats you to some White Stripes (“I’m Slowly Turning Into You,” “We’re Going to Be Friends,” “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”), a little Raconteurs (“Top Yourself”), a pinch of Dead Weather (“Blue Blood Blues”), a blues cover (Blind Willie Johnson’s “John the Revelator”) and White’s contribution (“You Know That I Know”) to The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a collection of Williams lyrics set to music by contemporary songwriters.

Of course, much of the show is dedicated to songs from Blunderbuss, White’s much-acclaimed solo debut. Watch him burn through “Freedom at 21” and “Missing Pieces” with his all-male group the Buzzards, then blaze through “Hypocritical Kiss” and “Love Interruption” with his all-female band the Peacocks. The mostly acoustic title tune serves as the transition point, as Buzzards give way to Peacocks before the guitars finish feeding back and “Love Interruption” begins. [Via]

Watch Jack White on PBS. See more from Austin City Limits.

Freedom at 21
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
Missing Pieces
Cannon/John the Revelator
You Know That I Know
Love Interruption
Hypocritical Kiss
Screwdriver/Blue Blood Blues
I’m Slowly Turning Into You
Top Yourself
We’re Going to Be Friends

Austin City Limits | Zilker Park | Austin, Texas

Austin City Limits Music Festival | Zilker Park | October 12-14 | Austin, Texas

The Black Keys from up above (Photo Credit: Ashley Garmon)

The 11th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival took place this past weekend on the beautiful grounds of Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. With a majestic backdrop of the Austin skyline, the festival played host to well over 130 bands and 75,000+ music loving fans each day of the event. Looking at the lineup this year there seemed to be something for everybody, whether it was the blues rocking Gary Clark Jr., or the bass pounding sounds of electronic artist Bassnectar, ACL had it all. Not to mention the abundance of different food and various works of art festival attendees had to choose from.

Day 1 Friday:  We arrived on the festival grounds on Friday just in time to see the lovely duo of Tegan and Sara (will be here in Denver opening for The Killers next month). I always make an effort to get myself familiar with the festival grounds in anticipation of the running back and forth of trying to catch artist on different stages. We managed to drop by and say hi to one of our favorite DJ’s A-Trak, he had the Honda stage pretty packed for a late afternoon set playing his usual party anthems. Just across the lawn Weezer put on one of the festival’s best sets, with their all to familiar catalog of sing a long hits, the crowd belted out every word of their set. A band I continue to always be one step behind is Alabama Shakes, i made sure I arrived early enough to catch their set and was glad I did. Brittany Howard commands the stage with such respect exuding her soulful lyrics, a throwback to the glory retro-soul era of music. We also managed to grab a great spot to see one of the nights main attractions and most colorful performers the beautiful Florence Welsh and her band Florence and The Machine. Her elaborate stage setup complimented her performance to exact perfection in all aspects. Our night ended flip-flopping between Avicii and The Black Keys who closed out their respected stages in grand fashion.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (Photo Credit: David Mead)

Friday Highlights:

Best performance: Avicii: the electronic artist was only one of a few representing the rapid expanding genre of electronic music this weekend, but it is apparent that his headlining slot Friday night was well deserved. Already climbing the ranks of headlining status, the 23 year old Swedish DJ has had the dance floors buzzing with his blazing tracks and remixes all year long.

Wish I had waken up earlier to catch set:  First Aid Kit: last time we saw them was when they opened up for Lykke Li in Denver a few months ago. One of the more buzzed early set performances, we wont hesitate to catch them next time in Denver.

Trends spotted: Boxed water, lace tops, TOMS shoes, flags of all shapes and sizes.

Day 2 Saturday: The weather took a turn  with scattered showers hitting the festival. One of the more talked about performances would have to be the back to back sets from Colorado's own Big Gigantic and Bassnectar's set on the Honda Stage. A younger demographic packed the stage to listen to the hottest electronic acts in the business today. Combine the hard beats and loud bass with rain pouring, it was a wet and muddy dance party. On the opposite side off the festival a rather calmer crowd got to enjoy a more subdued set from Andrew Bird on The Bud Light Stage. The Shins and Roots played at the same time making for an all out sprint from one end of the park to the other.  Both veteran bands seemed to attract huge crowds on their respective stages. The rain gods seemed to show mercy for the night's heavyweight headliners of Jack White and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, both putting on epic sets to close out night two.

Saturday Highlights:

Best performance: The Roots: the talented supergroup has come a long way, they manage to add a new component to their ever growing live sets year after year, anchored by Questlove on drums and Black Thought handling emcee duties their live element creates a sound infusing jazz, hip hop and soul unparalled by any other band.

 Wish I had waken up earlier to catch set: Oberhofer: takes a penchant for showmanship to a new level, it is always awesome to see musicians come into the crowd and perform (moreso during a packed festival), such was the case for Oberhofer giving the spectator a unique chance to get up close and personal with the band.

Trends spotted: Corporate sponsored ponchos, galoshes and boat shoes, bikinis; I even saw a guy wearing pants made out of beanie babies, Texas Longhorn t-shirts (Red River Rivalry Weekend)

Rainy conditions didn't stop the crowds on day two (Photo Credit: Jack Edinger)

A packed side stage raging to Bassnectar (Photo Credit: Matt Ellis)

Jack White closing out the main stage on the second night of the fest (Photo Credit: Matt Ellis)

Day 3 Sunday: The final day of the festival turned out to be the nicest in terms of weather. Our day started with the man who has played every festival on earth it seems, Mr. Gary Clark Jr. With his honky tonk blues, it was a perfect marriage for those die-hard Texans who have adopted the genre as the official music for the state. His talented guitar play is becoming legendary every time he plays and is garnering quite the fan base. Sunday gave us a chance to take in some of the homegrown talent based out of Denver including the talented Tennis who played to a huge crowd spilling into the main stage area. Also playing was overnight sensations, The Lumineers. Riding the wave of a hit single and underrated album, they managed to further expand their fan base with a great performance. Other notable performances included Childish Gambino, Iggy and The Stooges, and Crystal Castles. A perfect day to setup for the night's headliners and festival favorites, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, ended the three day festival on a high note. Next year the festival will expand to a two-weekend format giving fans other viable options to check out some of their favorite bands.

The crowd for Red Hot Chili Peppers (Photo Credit: Ashley Gorman)

Alice Glass of Crystal Castles giving fans an intimate experience (Photo Credit: Dave Mead)

Iggy and The Stooges (Photo Credit: Matt Ellis)

Sunday Highlights:

Best performance: Gary Clark Jr., He continues to amaze with every performance and is establishing himself as a notable artist on the festival circuit; it wont be long before he is main stage material and giving hometown fans something to cheer about.

Wish I had waken up earlier to catch set: Kimbra: played a rather early set on Sunday. With an infectious smile and great crowd presence it's no wonder she has become a favorite amongst her loyal following. 

Trends spotted: Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts, those weird toe shoes, festival programs turned into fans.


Ikey Owens of The Mars Volta with Guests | Unit E. | August 7

With Mr. Jack White spending a couple days in the Mile High City, rumors were running rampant as to secret shows he may or may not have been playing. Wednesday all across the Twitter and Facebook universe the talk was about him showing up somewhere at sometime. One particular rumor was that he would be joining his current touring keyboardist Ikey Owens (of The Mars Volta) at Unit E. on Santa Fe.  I mean it only made sense right? As it turns out Mr. White didn't show up, but those who did show up were fortunate enough to see one hell of an impromptu jam session featuring Ikey and some very talented Denver musicians. Those who performed the all improv show are listed below.

Malgosia Stacha of Holophrase (Photo credit Marika Garcia)

Keys- Ikey Owens (The Mars Volta)

Vocals, Synth, and Noise- Kyle Gray (Rubedo)

Vocals- Malgosia Stacha (Holophrase)

Trumpet- Wesley Watkins (Air Dubai)

Trumpet- Joshua Trinidad (Go Star)

Sax- Armando Lopez (The Ruckus)

Guitar- Alex Trujillo (Rubedo)

Bass- Enoc Torraca (Panal)

Upright Bass- Zach Antonio (Scatter Gather)

Percussion- Cody Schlueter (Abstract Collective)

Drums- Gregg Ziemba (Rubedo)

Wesley Watkins (Photo credit Marika Garcia)

Joshua Trinidad of Go Star (Photo credit Marika Garcia)

Kyle Gray of Rubedo (Photo credit Marika Garcia)