Thursday, January 22, 2015

Best of 2014

I usually wait until early January to post these things so that I can look over other "Best of" lists to make sure I don't miss anything, but damn I've been sleeping on this.  All in all, a pretty good year for music. But in the end, I think every year of music is about as good as the energy you put into it.

Doing something a bit different this year though. Instead of writing my own descriptions about how great this music is, I'll generally be letting others do the heavy lifting for me and sample from reviews that match my overall sentiment about the albums.

Bombs away.

10) What Moon Things - What Moon Things
Reminds me a bit of that band Wintersleep, who put out a few really solid albums in the early 2000s.


Modest Mouse Meets the Cure

I’ll level with you, dear listener and reader. The first time I heard the new self-titled debut album from New Paltz, New York-based band What Moon Things, I hated it. I was only able to get about three songs deep before abandoning things altogether. But I happened to revisit the album, and I’m glad I did. Once I had wrapped my head around the band’s Modest Mouse meets the Cure sound, I was suckered in. That doesn’t mean that What Moon Things is a perfect band. Far from. Still, there’s enough on What Moon Things that is endearing enough. 

Slay Tracks: The Astronaut, Squirrel Girl, Sun, Where's the Fire

9) Sex Hands - Pleh

Sounds a bit like Pete and the Pirates recorded in someone's closet. Read somewhere that a lot of these songs are about the TV show Friends.


We need more bands like Sex Hands. Bands who genuinely, unselfconsciouslyhave fun with their music. Their instruments are barely in tune, their lyrics are often unintelligible, and their songs rarely stray from their trusted, noisy formula (somewhere between the boisterous, motorik punk of Parquet Courtsand the hooky garage rock of Jacuzzi Boys). Yet despite – or perhaps thanks to – these amateurish tendencies, Pleh is an incredibly compelling debut.

Slay Tracks: Pivot, Gay Marriage, Hairdo, On a Break, Tommy

8) Parkay Quarts - Content Nausea
I liked this album. It reminded me of early Pavement but was different enough to not sound duplicative.


Content Nausea is a record bursting with anxiety, both lyrically and musically. The first track ‘Everyday It Starts’ leads with a dentist drill type whine before lunging into the type of guitar work that sees the band being constantly referred to as the ‘new Pavement’.
Content Nausea proves that Parquet Courts remain one of the more innovative bands in indie rock at the moment. Already declining offers to feature their music in American TV shows, the group's efforts to shun social media and advertising are going to have to be stepped up if the band continues producing such quality, from-the-hip honest music.
Slay Tracks:  Content Nausea, Slide Machine, Pretty Machines, Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth

7) Step-Panther - Strange But Nice
The album Weezer wished it has put out this year. Can be streamed here (check out Namor for proof of Weezerness).


"I’ll stop short of calling it an album for everyone, but it really does cut across a wide swath of feelings and subjects that belies its persistent scrappiness. “Who even knows which genre movie we’re in?” sings Bourke in the album’s most telling line. And really, what does it matter if these are pop songs, or metal, or garage? If they’re about love or about scaling castle walls? Through and through, Strange But Nicefeels homemade and from the heart, like a high-school notebook scrawled with the names of favourite bands and superheroes. Of course it’s rough around the edges, but it’s all the more special for it."

Slay Tracks: Nowhere,  It Came From the Heart, Namor,  Zombie Summer

6) Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
This album came out so early in the year that I'm having a hard time remembering how much I liked it. I know I did, but probs not as much as their last one (#2 in 2012).

From the big fella:

Which brings us to Cloud Nothings. With 2012’s Attack on Memory, Dylan Baldi and company took a giant step forward, assuming the role of resident “angry band” that we can turn to when we had the urge to RUN THROUGH A FUCKING WALL. In fact, songs like “Wasted Days” reminded us we even had that urge. The sort of epic ferocity reappears on “Pattern Walks,” the nearly eight-minute centerpiece of Here and Nowhere Else, and we’re grateful for it. Really, it was a relief to see success hadn’t smoothed away any of the band’s edges; this is a fact that’s made immediately clear with “Now Hear In,” the charging, take-no-prisoners opening track. The guitars are raw, the drums rampage, frontman Baldi’s voice is as ragged as ever, and none of these things relent over the remaining seven songs, especially on standard bearer “Pyschic Trama.” In conclusion, while we may not possess the same angst we once did, it’s a relief to know that younger folks continue to channel their aggression in compelling yet surprisingly catchy ways. 

Slay Tracks: Now Hear In, Quieter Today, Psychic Trauma, No Thoughts, Pattern Walks

5) Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
First rap album on the yearly best of. Momentous.

From the dawg's blog:
And all I can say is wowRTJ2 is the best music of 2014, a stew of banging beats, a combination of fun and serious wordplay, memorable guest performances (especially by Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine fame), and real-world ponderous thoughts. It's tag-team rap music based in a world of drone strikes, fuckboys (a term for haters that El and Mike are very fond of) and comedic disses ("Style violent, give a fuck if you deny it, kids / you can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks") that will stay in your brain for days. In its best moments, it's relevant anti-establishment protest music, whether it's against religion ("Liars and politicians, profiteers of the prisons / The forehead engravers and slavers of men and women / Including members of clergy that rule on you through religion / Strippin' kids to the nude then tell 'em God'll forgive 'em") or Ferguson-style police violence: ("Everyday I'm in a fight for my soul / Could it be my medicine's the evidence for pigs to stop and frisk me when they rollin' round on patrol?"). Like the best socially-relevant music, it's fun and catchy and transcends rap music to something much more: a bumping soundtrack for 2014 America that rarely leaves my car CD player.

Slay Tracks: Oh my Darling Don't Cry, Blockbuster Night Part 1, All My Life, Early, Angel Duster

4) Maximo Park - Too Much Information

Ha, this review from popmatters is pretty good:

"Brimming with half formed ideas and floundering melodies, Too Much Information is easily one of the most uninspired albums released so far in 2014. Hopefully, nothing else this insipid will be released this year."

This one from drownedinsound captures my feelings about it better though:

I suppose the jarring thing about Too Much Information is that in the most respectful sense it sounds like a hit album of seven year ago, and hence slightly out of time now, despite not actively being dated in any particular sense. But really, the joy of this restlessly melodic record is that it doesn't give a shit about any of that: it's neither forward looking nor, overtly retro or especially of the moment - it just is, in the best sense.

Slay Tracks:  Brain Cells, My Bloody Mind, Is It True, Drinking Martinis, Midnight on the Hill

3) Future Islands - Singles
Great album. Great band. Finally getting their due. For those who haven't seen their Letterman performance, check it out here. I don't think it's their best album, but here they absolutely hone their formula to perfection. Sometimes the Sam Herring's vocals sound a bit like what I imagine the Beast from Beauty and the Beast sings like.

Slay Tracks: Take your pick. "A Song for Our Grandfathers" is a personal favorite. "Fall From Grace" is the most Future-Islands-ish.

2) The Peep Tempel - Tales

I didn't find these guys until the last week of December. (They were #49 on this top 50 list). They pack a punch though. One of the few bands that comes close to matching the Drones for overall energy. Maybe Peep Tempel's closest comparison would be Mclusky or Future of the Left. I think these songs are sort of funny in their own lecherous, seedy way.


" According to the promotional blurb,Tales loiters at the ugly margins of Australian society: “Morally disassociated, reality-TV-style politics. $7 chips at the footy. The great Australian dream, a 35-year mortgage on a home that will be in the advanced stages of dilapidation in just 25,” claims the press release.  Like all promotional material, the use of those evocative images probably involves an element of poetic licence. But within Tales exists not only a near-perfect punk rock record, but a brutal narrative of the reality of contemporary suburban Australia."

Slay Tracks: Vicki the Butcher, Big Fish, Waystowe Kingston Men's Home, Carol, The Opera of Lester Moore

1) The Hotelier - Home, Like Noplace There Is

I definitely did not think an album by an emo band from Worcester, MA would be my top album of the year, but that's just how it goes sometimes. Even the word emo seems like an insult. Perhaps that's why this well-recieved album (fifth highest metacritic score for the year) didn't show up on more year-end lists.  But this is a damn good album that I kept returning to over and over throughout the course of the year.  Incredible melodies, lyrics, dynamics, and over all concept.

"With Home, Like Noplace Is There Christian Holden and The Hotelier aim high and don’t just hit their mark, they absolutely obliterate it. Personally I can’t remember the last time I was this floored by an emo or pop-punk record, and given the intricate layers of meaning and narrative, as well as the atraditional songwriting that allows Holden to achieve maximum emotional effect, after many, many listens I still feel like there’s a whole lot more here left to unpack. Home, Like Noplace Is There is a grand emotional and social narrative that cuts to the quick of difficult issues like depression, gender identity, and just generally feeling out-of-place when you should feel at-home, as suggested by the title. But perhaps the best part about the whole record? It’s a cathartic, anthemic blast from top to bottom, made to be screamed along with in basements, shitty cars, dive bars and VFW halls across the vacant middle of America from which the emo scene originally rose. These guys are on to something special; all that remains is for you to listen and start singing along."

Slay Tracks: The Scope of All This Rebuilding, In Framing, Your Deep Rest, Discomfort Revisited, Dendron

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