Dec 082014

NPR (formerly National Public Radio) is an American national treasure, one that has somehow survived as a non-profit national radio and on-line broadcaster (with 900 public radio station members) despite largely weaning itself from governmental support. According to Alexa, its online site is the 138th most popular of all U.S.-based web sites and one of the top 1,000 in the world.

Today NPR Music posted a list of its 50 favorite albums of 2014. It’s a cross-genre list, reflecting the broad demographic of NPR Music listeners, but there’s some heavy stuff in the mix. As we’ve done occasionally in past years, I’ve siphoned off the metal albums from the overall list and am presenting them after the jump, just to give all us underground dwellers a sense of what’s presented to the NPR audience as the best metal of the year.

NPR didn’t rank those 50 albums, so I’m listing the metal releases in the order I saw them on the NPR list — which you can see in full here.

PallbearerFoundation of Burden

Yeah, okay, I was having a little fun.

That’s the only metal album on the list.

P.S.  As you’ll see if you read the Comments below, NPR’s metal writer Lars Gotrich will have a genuine Best of 2014 metal list that should appear on NPR on or about December 30 (and we’ll stick it up on this site for those who don’t frequent NPR.)


  1. No Gorguts???

  2. Pretty sure they usually do a separate list devoted to exclusively heavy music, and historically it’s been pretty good. Although it may have been moved to a blog section someplace. Anyhow.

  3. i’m surprised there isn’t more metal on there, NPR regularly features metal artists and even plays full albums.

    • It’s pretty much limited to Lars Gotrich’s “Viking’s Choice” column, and I don’t think they’ve had a :”Best Metal” list for a few years.

  4. You got me. I had already read the NPR article before seeing your post, and your post title had me wondering, “What heavy stuff? What the hell did you see on that list besides Pallbearer?” And now I see that I was tricked.

  5. LOL Islander, you just made my evening. Though, I like to half-count Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath because goddam that thing is amazing.

    So, yeah, resident metal guy at NPR Music here. Typically, I get one spot on our Favorite 50 Albums list (last year had two because I wanted In Solitude and my not-so-metal colleagues fell for Deafheaven, which I didn’t mind). Like 2013, my year-end metal list won’t publish until Dec. 30. I’m still finalizing it and, per usual, the actual page will have 10 picks that link off to another 15 more to make 25 (because, for whatever reason, NPR really likes the number 10).

    Thanks always for reading, y’all.

  6. props for NPR for featuring that one album. it’s never enough but it’s hugely appreciated.
    lars, if you happen to see this, on a scale from 1 to 10 how much would you say pitchfork influence the NPR list?
    I really liked sunbather but didn’t feel like anything about it (except pitchfork’s rave review) would necessarily appeal to someone who didn’t already like black metal or at least bands like deafhaven (vattnett viskar comes to mind)

    • RE: Sunbather. I absolutely adore “Dream House.” I think it’s one of the most breath-taking tracks in recent years, black metal-ish or not. But the album as a whole never matched its extreme elegance, at least for me, but I was happy to see it touch so many in the not-metal realm. It doesn’t hurt that my colleagues saw them at SXSW last year and were taken by the band’s performance. I think metalheads forget there’s this whole untapped potential for new fans and get snippy when a band like Deafheaven comes along. As a fan from the first demo, I’m happy to see their success.

      RE: Pitchfork. No slight on Brandon and his metal comrades (I’m friends with them all), but our year-end lists couldn’t be more different every year. In a comment section a couple years ago someone (less kindly) asserted our lists were the same and I could only find 7 similarities stretched across Pitchfork’s 40 picks and my own 25. So take that as you will.

      • first off, thanks for responding.
        as far as deafhaven goes, i’m very happy they’ve received the reception that they have but again, just always wondered what sparked it. The cynic in me points towards Pitchfork but it could be said with equal merit that their quality really did speak for them. Good on them.
        i have a similarly knee-jerk response to pitchfork, I guess. it does seem like, sometimes, a band comes along and gets a review from pitchfork and almost immediately get picked up by other website who may have previously turned a blind eye. Pallbearer’s reception comes to mind. Which isn’t to say Pallbearer isn’t a phenomenal band (they are) but it’s strange to me that Pallbearer are praised in many media outlets like Pitchfork, NPR and Paste when a band like 40 Watt Sun is mostly ignored.

        • Pitchfork does good work. People don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. Sure, I don’t always agree with individual writers’ assessments of albums, or its editorial choices, but on the whole, they do a lot of work to be proud of, particularly the long features that deserves more play. I’ve seen many artists covered on Pitchfork (positively even) that go absolutely nowhere, and I’ve been in the music business for almost 17 years. As much as its advertisers would want you believe, not everything on p4k succeeds. Same goes for NPR, real talk.

          Honestly, I wish NPR — a non-profit, by the way, with many (many) moving parts that aren’t music, obviously — could afford more editors and writers so that we could cover genres outside out norms (like metal) more extensively. When I write about metal and experimental music, it’s on my own time — metal is not my main gig at NPR. We’re already branching out to hip-hop (with Microphone Check) and R&B (with I’ll Take You There). Baby steps, sure, but Mic Check is one of the best hip-hop entities out there right now. I say that with bias, but also with truth.

          What does and doesn’t take off is still a mystery to me, though. I was early on the Pallbearer tip, as well as 40 Watt Sun — both appeared in my year-end list. But for whatever reason Pallbearer’s the one that not-so-metal people gravitated towards. People like to concoct conspiracies around this stuff, but man, it’s metal. When was the last time a new metal band — especially in America — broke through, and made real money to live on? Deafheaven is a full-time band for George and Kerry now, but I guarantee you they’re still paying rent in some cheap-ass place in Oakland.

          • I am always happy that sites, like NPR and Pitchfork, feature many reviewers who write very intelligent and insightful articles about metal.I like most music and like hearing about different genres; Sites like Pitchfork and NPR have been illuminating in having journalists who do listen to, say, R&B and metal, and hold them both with equal merit. I imagine that no one is paying any of these sites anything (or, if anything, anything substantial) to feature Kvelertak or Johnny Rain.
            I think my real issue with Pitchfork in particular is that some of their writers can get kind of pretentious and acerbic in their criticism. Here’s an example:
            My relationship with music is pretty idealistic. I can listen to just about anything and enjoy it for what it’s worth and no longer really feel a need to hold my tastes above others. As a kid I passed around music a lot with friends and it was always about what we wanted to share and experience with others. So I see a review like the one above and can’t help but wonder if it’s actually done out of any sort of love or if it’s a bit of a pissing contest . I’m sure it goes both ways in journalism but Pitchfork seems to be guilty of the latter a bit more than others. Maybe my criticism is outdated, I haven’t really checked it out in a long time.
            Again, thank you for taking the time to reply.

        • I’ve got a sort of conflicted relationship with P4K too (happily there are alternatives like NCS), but I gotta admit I found out about that 40 Watt Sun album from a P4K year-end list a couple years back. And that 40 Watt Sun album is fucking gorgeous. Found out about lots of great music from P4K, especially before the last couple of years when trend-dependency seems to have taken a firm hold and the writers have gotten pretty ridiculous about telling bands what they think their music should be instead of dealing with it as it is.

  7. Top-tier trolling, that was!

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