Are these the best records released this year? Will Shitdork agree? Do I care? Do you? Regardless, here are 14 cool releases from 2014. There are no exact metrics behind this list – these are just the things that stuck out to me the most over the last 12 months. In alphabetical order:
“367 Equalizer” – Guerilla Toss
G-Toss turn the funk dial up and contort their way straight to the dance floor on this special Infinity Cat cassette release (later released on vinyl via Feeding Tube). “367 Equalizer” is a trance worth getting stuck in on multiple repeats – the hyperactive beats and broken grooves warp themselves with confidence and hallucinatory smoothness. Embrace Kassie Carlson’s incantations and let yourself experience the masterful work of one of my favorite Boston groups.
“Duets” – Self Defense Family
As the name of this 12″ indicates, Self Defense Family explore the duet format on this record with the help of longtime collaborator, Caroline Corrigan, to great effect. But there’s one exception, and it is that exception which makes this whole record work for me. On the last track, “Cancel Man,” main vocalist Patrick Kindlon steps out and leaves Corrigan to deliver a subtle yet transcendent performance by herself. It resonates as a triumphant blossoming of Self Defense Family’s most graceful work to date. Pick up “Duets” from Iron Pier and you will not be disappointed.
“Hints to Pilgrims” – Blanche Blanche Blanche
The last Blanche Blanche Blanche record (for now) is a skeletal, crystalized vision of Sarah Smith and Zach Phillip’s fruitful work together. Without rehashing too much of what I’ve already said about this record, it’s worth reiterating that there is no wasted space on “Hints to Pilgrims.” This is a LP made by two people which reflects gratuity for their musical chemistry and everything that it bears – a humble yet playfully fitting capstone to their already amazing catalogue.
“Hot Babes Cool Surf EP” – Hot Babes
The now defunct duo of Christian Mailloux and Jay Kineke, aka Hot Babes, played some of the most fun shows I have ever attended at Bennington College. Their EP is finally being released by Dad Stache Records in Rochester, New York after the band recorded and released these tracks themselves back in early 2012. “Hot Babes, Cool Surf EP” features 5 scragly surf songs with a special something sweet n’ melodic goin’ on that you simply cannot resist. Do yourself a favor and take a listen.
“Indoor Wind Chimes b/w Cottaging” – Self Defense Family
Self Defense Family release, on average, at least 3 slabs of vinyl a year, often with a full length in the mix to boot. This year they managed to record in Glasgow, Scotland at Chem 19 studios, crafting two absolute gems with “Indoor Wind Chimes” and Cottaging”. Pat Kindlon delivers poignant storytelling on both tracks while the 3 guitarists engage in various feats of sonic latticework. Another great 7″ by Self Defense Family.
“Live(p)” – Dog Hospice
One man, one drum set, two guitars strapped to said drum set with some bungie cords, and one contact mic for vocals: that’s Dog Hospice. Christian Mailloux, the same fella who played drums in Hot Babes, now gets his musical kicks performing solo with his operations currently based nearby in Providence, RI. Dog Hospice sees him exploring combinations of noise, improvisation, and stream-of-consciousness on-stage banter. His “Live(p),” available on bandcamp, features excerpts from a performance he did at Bennington College, outside, on Mother’s Day. Check it out along with his second, non-live release, “HABBA GOO ONE” if you want to take an adventurous, percussion-lead leap outside the confines of songwriting.
“Look Who Showed Up Out Here” – CE Schneider Topical
Christina Schneider’s voice is beautiful, but not in that “belt it out on the rooftops” kind of way. Her voice remains quiet, asking you to actually listen closely to what she’s doing. Similarly, much of the production work by Zach Phillips (Schneider’s collaborator, engineer, and bassist for CE Schneider Topical) is clearly attentive to each moment of the song itself, as opposed to “lo” or “hi” fi tropes which may leap out obviously from the mix. The result of this blending of Schneider’s songwriting and Phillips’ engineering (a blend which purposefully overflows beyond the bounds of standardized roles) is “Look Who Showed Up Out Here,” a full-length debut cassette that delivers from start to finish. Buy a copy form OSR Tapes while they still have ’em, and check out some words I wrote about this tape for the Hassle upon its release.
“New Cartoons” – Zach Phillips
You could say I’m a big fan of Zach Phillips’ work. I’ve interviewed the man for the Hassle in the past and have made it clear how much I enjoy his numerous projects. “New Cartoons” is yet another batch of addictive songs from Phillips – his piano work and lyrical play are in top-form on this cassette. 22 songs, each under the 2 minute mark: the result is a pleasantly head-spinning barrage of acrobatic, melodically inventive songs.
“Niggas on the Moon” – Death Grips
Death Grips have “broken up”, whatever that means. But aside from all the media frenzy around their no shows and their plans to disband, the group also released the first half of their double album “The Powers That B” starting with “Niggas on the Moon” in June of 2014. Featuring spliced and digitally-abused samples of Björk, this LP is a tour de force in every department. DJ Flatlander crafts numerous, unstable sonic labyrinths for Zach Hill and MC Ride to play around in. Blast this record first thing in the morning and tell your neighbors they can thank me for this great advice.
“Self-titled (OSR #29)” – Martyr Group
Martyr Group is Zach Phillip’s newest project, in which he plays piano, sings, and handles songwriting duties. He is aided by a cast of talented friends: Stephe Cooper, Tom Csatari, Sam Lisabeth, and Quentin Moore. The resulting sound is that of three guitars, one bass, a Wurlitzer piano, and vocals all recorded direct and live to open-reel tape. Knots of clean guitars and stacks of softly distorting piano chords dash about the mix, with Zach’s unmistakable knack for melody joyfully signaling every twist and turn. Grab a copy of their first release (mystery CD OSR #29) from Zach’s label, OSR Tapes.
“Split” – Follies/Wishbone
Though Wishbone are no longer together, Follies are still playing music and boy am I thankful for that. These two buds from Bennington College, Phil Hartunian and Mackenzie Katz, made 5 of my favorite songs of the year with their half of this split. And with Wishbone morphing into the as-of-now unrecorded outfit known as Bagelheads, let’s hope that we’ll hear more from both Follies and Jasper McMahon, the songwriting mind behind Wishbone’s atmospheric, more psychedelic second half of the split. Go download this release and keep your eyes and ears peeled for more from the talented dudes responsible for this wonderful batch of tunes.
“Teenage Jesus Motorcycle” – EASTCOASTWIZARDS
Massachusetts is home to a lot of hardcore history. Growing up at punk shows in basements and function halls across the state, it’s easy to feel over-saturated with generic, angry, heavy-but-boring music. EASTCOASTWIZARDS, however, are not just another hardcore band, and I’m not just saying this because they are some of my best friends. You can choose to dismiss my views on this group due to my bias if you wish, but you’ll be missing out in the process. “Teenage Jesus Motorcycle” attacks the listener in a frenzy with quick doses of powerviolence, blues, hardcore, and thrash. This is some fast, noisey, and downright groovy hardcore – fun and terrifying at the same time.
“This Is Not What You Expect” – Hartley C. White
Handling guitar and vocals while notating every part of every song, Hartley C. White has developed a singular craft that stretches back decades before 2014 came around. This year, OSR Tapes released a compilation of tracks by Hartley under the title “This Is Not What You Expect” which includes songs from across his career. Hartley has a unique vision of music in which rhythms and lyrics perform martial arts-inspired maneuvers, animating his lyrical insights. Get familiar with his sharp social commentary and angular song forms: they are unlike anything I had ever heard before encountering this release.
“Try Me” – Self Defense Family
Self Defense Family‘s latest full-length plunges into darker, even more hypnotic territory than any of their previous releases. A double LP featuring two 40 minute interviews with 1980s pornstar Angelique Bernstein, “Try Me” is a stark record with loads of repetitive, atmospheric guitar work. However, the undeniable rhythmic drive of Self Defense Family carries this weighty record forward, resulting in a double LP that feels like a complete listen, interviews included. Pick up “Try Me” from the band’s longtime label, Deathwish Inc.