Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top 50 Albums of 2014: 20-11

Procurement Records

20) Animal Lover- Guilt
Taken from Top Ten Noise Rock Albums of 2014

This 12” made it into my top three because it is probably the best example of ‘noise rock’ that I can think of from the year.  I mean every good noise rock buzz word needs used when describing them: ‘Dissonant’, ‘angular guitar riffs’, ‘sharp/metallic tone’, well you get the point.  When I begin writing my review of this album I found myself having a hard time choosing which tracks to point out because this album is consistently good.  “Lucky Pastures” showcases some of the best song writing in noise rock this year and “Neighbors” is a great closer for the album.
The album is under 20 minutes, and well worth your time.  Stream it and check out their Bandcamp where you can also purchase a live cassette version.
Concrete Misery
19) Sevendeaths- Concrete Misery

It must feel good to release a debut as strong as this album.  Concrete Misery is a dense, synth-driven drone album that was done right.  The tracks are long enough to have time to build up and focus on creating tension filled atmospheres, but short enough to have removed any excess filler.  

Tracks like “All Night Graves” do a great job of blending synth arpegiations into the composition, and “In the Room” works well as a strong closing track to the album.  In short, it is almost hard to write about this album because whenever I try I end up getting caught up listening.

Listen to the track "Petrograde" Here.

Jerry Douglas
18) The Earls of Leicester- The Earls of Leicester

Sometimes I get so caught up in finding the next new thing, I almost miss a great album from an older style.  The Earl’s of Leicester’s self titled is one such album.  I don't listen to too much older bluegrass, but tracks like "I'll Go Steppin Too" have lyrics that remind me of artists like Bill Monroe.

Overall, Jerry Douglas sounds much better in The Earls of Leicester than on his 2005 solo album I've heard entitled The Best Kept Secret.

Not too much else to say about this album, since I am not an expert on the genre.  Was very surprised when I saw this album won a Grammy the other night, as it didn't seem to get that much press throughout the year.  Good for them.

Listen to The Earls performing the opening track live Here.

Waiting for Surfin Bird
17) Mincemeat or Tenspeed- Waiting for Surfin' Bird

Taken from an Earlier Review
Sitting someplace between Mutwawa and Wizards Of, Mincemeat or Tenspeed's album is an aggressive, electronic monster.  The album uses "rhythmic melodic compositions made from feedback loops, in order to fake music that would more aptly be made using synths and sequencers."  DECOHERENCE Records fittingly labeled the genre as 'no rave', a pretty accurate genre tag for an album that sounds as if Holy Fuck made an EDM album.

One strength this album has is its ability to make otherwise bad quality sounds feel natural.  The end of "Normal Techno Jam" has a Casio-style drum sound that feels either circuit bent or overdriven.  Somehow, the implementation of this sound works perfect.

If you were a fan of the Fuck Buttons, I would recommend taking some time to check this album out. 

Stream the album Here.

Doing it Right and Doing it Well
16) Biscuit Mouth- Doing it Right and Doing it Well
Taken from an Earlier Review

This album was a great surprise.  With vocals someplace in between Mclusky and Zebras, biscuit mouth is are the black keys of noise rock.  They really aren't the best, but the duo has created a solid album which captures the essence of the genre, is an easy listen, and most importantly is fun.

When I first listened to this album I was immediately blown away by the great acoustics of the vocalist.  To me, Biscuit Mouth is a band built around showcasing his awesome voice.  What's more, right from the opening track you see that the band isn't interested in verse, chorus, verse, chorus; rather many of the track keep a continual progression to the lyrics in a storyteller fashion.  Sure much of what he sings is indistinguishable, but the smooth, unbroken flow was a pleasant surprise seen all too little.

Once the third track, Gregory pointer, kicks in it becomes apparent how confident the singer is in his voice.  Absences of noise are filled with his crooning voice.  On my first listen it wasn't until this track that I realized how much potential this band really had.  While this isn't my favorite track on the album, it is one that showcases what the band does best; angular guitars, a harder blues style drumming, and entrancing songwriting.

From there, this album remained strong.  "You want something" may be my favorite track.  While it starts out relatively simple, the lyrics fit the sound perfect, and sound like Bob Dylan wrote them.  Moreover, at the 3:30 point the song style switch really kicks off the second half of the album.

If I had any one qualm with this album it would be that it is only two people.  Really, the band could benefit with a good bassist filling up the sound.  Moment of tracks like Sonny Mottram would have been much stronger if the guitarist could play while that guitar line was played by a bassist.

I found this album looking through random blogs with little visits.  If you stumble upon it reading my little blog with little visit, I suggest you take the time to give this a listen like I did.  I doubt you will be disappointed. 

Stream and buy the album Here.

Spiritual Emergency
15) Guardian Alien- Spiritual Emergency

Spiritual Emergency sounds exactly how I expected the follow up album to To See the World Given to a One-Love Entity to sound like.  Liturgy's Greg Fox continues to bring a relentless tribal drumming to the table, with psychedelic guitar twangs and effect-soaked vocals litter the tracks.

Greg FoxOver the course of the five tracks, Guardian Alien keep to their hallucinogenic fueled themes, with the opening track repeatedly telling the listener to "Be the Tranquilizer".  The second track opens with a sample stating "the whole universe is a model contained in my head which contains a model of my head, so I have two heads, the head outside the universe and the head inside the universe".  The epic closing track using samples discussing embracing 'Spiritual Emergencies', or moments of existence when people have out of body experiences. even the album art holds to this psychedelic theme, with the front cover (as pictured above), being mirrored on the back cover by this image:

While Guardian Alien are the epitome of psychedelic wankery, they also seem to be one of the modern masters of it, and this album further solidifies them as deserving recognition as such.

Listen to the track "Vapour" Here.

14) NAH- Woe

This is fantastic.  Honestly, this is the only album that even compares to his debut, Tapefuck.  But it may exceed it.  This is literally a mix of the style of Kanye’s newer production with GIVV’s bass-centric raps.  Given how short and sweet this album is, it is amazingly original.  NAH has evolved his instrumentals, but they remain his own, and the lyrical themes seem almost untouched in a genre filled with copycats.

Highly suggest you take 20 minutes out of your life and experience one of the best hip hop acts of 2014.  Check it out and cop a copy Here.

The Landing
13) Tom James Scott- The Landing

My first experience with Tom James Scott came earlier this year with his album Teal.  While I enjoyed that album enough to listen to his follow up, The Landing, it was nowhere as good.  Over the course of The Landing's two 10-minute tracks, Mr. Scott paints a lovely, serene picture.  Not all that much happens during this album, but the constant shifts of tones perfectly captures a sound that I find relaxing.

This album is on the milder end of ambient, so go into it without the expectation of electronic drone influences ala Tim Hecker.  Rather, get out your most comfy pair of headphones and put it on before going to bed.

Unfortunately I was an idiot and missed my chance to purchase the physical copy of this, but it can still be streamed Here.

Summer Scab
12) Realms- Summer Scab

Listening to Summer Scab brings to mind a lot of great producers such as Knxledge, Comfort Fit, and Teebs.  This primarily instrumental, cloud-rap mixtape is a real showcase of production.  Sampled hooks are pitched up in a way that stands out without being out of place and the occasional stolen rap verse feels right at home.

Sure this album clocks in at a mere 20 minutes, but almost each track holds its own and never wears out its welcome.  While I have definitely listened to much less instrumental electronic music recently, Realms has had the ability to keep me coming back and is someone to watch out for in the future.

Stream/purchase the album Here.

11) Misha Mishajashvili-2013

Misha’s album, 2012 was my number one album of, appropriately, 2012. All through 2013 I waited for this release, but it never came.  Finally, though, Misha’s release, 2013, arrived in April of 2014.  This is definitely a case of better late than never.

Again, Misha gives us an album filled with hand drumming, chanting, and what appears to be propagandist speeches.  As with all of Misha's stuff, there is very little I know to compare it to.  His stuff is original, engaging, and like nothing else.  A true juxtaposition of tribal drumming overlayed with apocalyptic radio transmissions.

I don't care that this was an EP, it is under-appreciated and deserves a spot on this list.  Stream the album Here.

Top 50 Albums of 2014: 30-21

Top 50 albums of 2014

Ekki Gera Fikniefnum
30) Drekka- Ekki Gera Fikniefnum

I found myself listening to this album a lot more at the beginning of the year.  While the repetitive chanting may dissuade some, this album hides a very unique sound to it; as though an ambient/drone album is secretly holding the interworkings of a pop-album movie score.  At times the album reminds me a lot of Tim Hecker (“Tarwestraat 52”), but overall the artist focuses much less on tension in his sound and more on creating a vast, haunted atmosphere (even more noticeable on the Live cassette released on Dais records in 2014, which has many hints of Misha Mishajashvili in it).

Listen to the album Here.

Maximum Vegetation
29) Room 204-Maximum Vegetation

I didn’t listen to too many math rock albums last year, but this was one that I would put on quite a bit.  The guitar has a great tone on it that really fits the album, and the bird chirps that happen intermittently between tracks add a welcome warmth to the already inviting atmosphere created on these tracks.  

 If you’re a fan of the genre, do yourself a favor and give this album a listen and purchase the album on either CD or Record Here.

Health and Safety
28) Seeami-Health and Safety

Here is a small, random bandcamp release that ended up really catching me by surprise.  First off, the art and physical release are nice and polished, but more importantly this short little album is great at what it is: acoustic/ambient with bedroom production.  I have often found that the right producers can make very simple song structures sound beautiful; and seeami has a way of doing this.  Tracks like “Gel” and “Cold AF” both show off proof of how song production can surpass instrument technicality.  

While the album may feel a little too simple at time, that is, in part, what makes it have a lot of feeling to it.

Listen to it Here, and if there are any still left, grab a copy of the cassette before it's too late.

2014 Noise release
27) Shapeless Coat of Arms- Shapeless Coat of Arms (cassette)

While there are a few noise related albums on the list this year, as far as strictly noise goes, this album was probably my favorite.  Rarely did I feel too overwhelmed, and never did I feel like I was listening to a continual wall of static that I could quickly recreate using Audacity.  The tracks never hurt me with continual high pitches, nor did they bore me with a focus on minimalistic changes.

Instead, Shapeless Coat of Arms presents an ever-fluid song structure, where lyrical parts remind me of the band Sightings, and instrumental parts play like a toned-down Sissy Spacek.  Obviously, if you don’t like noise, this isn’t for you.  But if you do, you better grab one of the few Tomentosa have left either Here or Here.

Listen to Side A Here.

Rooms of the House
26) La Dispute-Rooms of the House

I had a few friends who always use to listen to La Dispute and lots of other post-hardcore.  I never really got into it.  This album, though, clicked with me right away.  Maybe it was the depressing middle class themes, or maybe just the mixture of spoken/sung lyrics.  Regardless, this album gives me nostalgia for moments I’ve never experienced and reminds me of times I was vulnerable.

Tracks like “First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice” have a great mixture of near absurdist lyricism and storytelling, and “Woman (in mirror)” follows it perfectly.

Listen to the whole album Here.

Lost in the Spectacle
25) York Factory Complaint- Lost in the Spectacle

Review taken from Here.

This album definitely caught me by surprise. Harsh static drones, industrial electronics, overdriven vocals: Lost in the Spectacle is like bastard child of Wolf Eyes and Sunn O))).  If that either sounds off-putting to you, or you don’t know either of those artists, than this probably is not a release for you.  If that sounds like something up your alley, however, then this will probably be an album you don’t want to miss.

Lost in the Spectacle is quite literally that; a spectacle.  By the time the listener is even halfway through the album, is continual droning begins to sink in.  As “Commodified” begins, the album slowly switches from attempting to scare you off to entrancing the listener.

Listen to the album Here.

If Anything
24) Greys- If Anything
Review taken from Here.

The Toronto band, Greys, debut album, If Anything, is a great addition to the 2014 noise rock/post-punk releases heard this year.  At the faster songs, like "Use Your Delusion" remind me of current bands like Metz, White Lung, and (now defunct) Shoppers.  Slower tracks, like "Flip Yr Lid", remind me of Nirvana.
This album probably wont make any top ten lists for the year, but that is okay; afterall, some of the funnest albums I have in my collection don't deserve to make any top ten lists.  And this album is fun, with tracks like "Adderall" really capturing the vocal sound of groups like Wavves.  Additionally, much of the album sounds like  Roomrunner's 2013 album, Ideal Cities, another album that finds that balance of accessible punk and harder rock while maintaining a fun vibe.

Why not check out a few of the tracks Here, and purchase the album while your there.

face skeleton
23) Wizards Of-Face//Skeleton
Review taken from Here.

Wizard Of, aka Bob McCully, made the first album I have really enjoyed from this year.  Face/ Skeleton reminds me of Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport at times because of its aggressive sound is much more in-your-face than most electronic music.  The synthesizers on it have a very analog sound, similar, like those on Tycho's Dive (though I imagine that they are done by something like a microkorg that is emulating analog).
Face/ Skeleton consists of two multi-part tracks, one for each cassette side.  The tracks within each side utilize similar samples and emphasize a mutating repetition within each other.  Initially, I preferred "Face", but now I am on the fence.  Overall, "Face I" and "Face II" are a great opener, but by "Face III" things seem a little stagnate, at least for that track.  With Skeleton though, the samples really benefit from the time and growth, making for a stronger overall side (also, the vocal samples reminded me of Blockhead at times).
I was very surprised to find out that this was a cassette release.  Maybe it is because when I think of cassettes I think of vaporwave, drone, and all around less accessible music, I'm not sure.  This album is something that should be pressed though, as it definitely left a good impression on me.

While the cassette is all sold out now, you can still listen to the album and buy a digital copy Here.  Also, click Here to check out the Wizards Of bandcamp.

Finally, the album can be downloaded with This.

22) Ben Frost- A U R O R A

I loved By The Throat when that came out, but Ben’s sound has changed quite a bit since then.  Sure, I’ll be honest and admit I like By The Throat more, but this is still great.  Here, much of the intense buildup and anxiety-inducing sound is gone, but it is replaced by an energetic pulse that seems continuous throughout AU R O R A.  

If you have never heard Ben Frost, this is probably the best album to start with, so take a listen Here. 

Ultima II Massage 

21) Tobacco- Ultima II Massage

Like many who have stumbled upon Tobacco and Black Moth Super Rainbow, ever since I have had a great appreciation for the unique, vox infused sound.  As Tobacco, Tom Fec tends to record to a darker side not much seen on recent Black Moth albums.  With Ultima II Massage, this remains true, as the album is filled with an almost lush yet grimy sound.

Anyone who has heard Tobacco before knows what to expect.  Anyone who hasn’t probably won’t be any the wiser after reading this short review.

Take a listen to the track “Eruption” Here.  Ghostly Records may still have copies available, as should the Black Moth store.