1. Battle Trance – Palace of Wind LP (NNA Tapes) – Monster debut from this sax quartet. Hard to really pin down, at moments hazy and at others abrasive, but always phenomenal. Dreamy, disgusting, ethereal, skronking avant-jazz existing in a realm of its own. Battle Trance needs to put out more ASAP.
2. Sun Kil Moon – Benji CD/2xLP (Caldo Verde Records) – Mark Kozelek’s strength has always been the cathartic, diaristic quality of his lyrics. Benji’s extremely personal and intimate songs are at times heartbreaking, beautiful and embarrassing, and became my most played album of 2014. “Dogs” is an instant classic.
3. Tercer Mundo – Ser Nosotros Mismos LP (Cintas Pepe) – One of this year’s most hyped releases, the Tercer Mundo LP is eight tracks of raw hardcore demonstrating just how good Mexican hardcore is right now. Tercer Mundo also put on one of the best live performances this year on their tour with Muerte.
4. Earthly Circuits – Fallow Medals CD (self-released) – Baroque pop from musicians spread out across the Michigan, California, and Quebec. This record came out of nowhere, but showcased some of the most distinctive and fully-formed pop music of the last couple years.
5. Tredici Bacci – The Thirteen Kisses Cassetta cs (NNA Tapes) [LP on 100% Breakfast/Feeding Tube Records forthcoming] – Italian soundtrack worship.
6. The Ukiah Drag – In The Reaper’s Quarters LP (Wharf Cat Records) – Postmodern Americana, equal parts Southern Gothic and psychedelic rock.
7. Hank Wood & The Hammerheads – Stay Home LP (Toxic State) – NYC’s organ-laden garage punk cretins return with their second LP. It does not disappoint.
8. Demonbrother – Beyond The Veil 12” (Iron Lung Records) – Feedback soaked powerviolence sludge from two of Massachusetts hardcore elite. References to Kenneth Anger and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, if that’s your thing. Manages to give a fresh approach to genre that’s stagnated for years.
9. Hollow Deck – Hobson’s Choice cs (Friendship Tapes) [LP on Weird Ear Records forthcoming] – Experimental, abstract folk music with heavy Joanna Newsom vibes in the vocals.
10. Consumer Electronics – Estuary English 2×12”/CD (Dirter Promotions) – Philip Best at his best. Consumer Electronics has really hit its stride in the 21st century. Restrained and piercing power electronics.
Honorable Mentions: Orden Mundial – Obediencia Debida LP (La Vida Es Un Mus), Gas Chamber – Hemorrhaging Light (Iron Lung Records), Future Flowers – Relativity Parade cs (Gray Cake Tapes)
Notable Blind Spots: Deche-Charge Disgrace To The Corpse Of Seth LP (Bringer Of Gore), Bastard Noise/CSMD split LP (Streaks Records)
1. Cunts – Live At Studio DOM cs (Smash Music) – Perfectly executed drum-and-vocal noisecore.
2. Brody’s Militia – Napalm Zeppelin Raids EP 7” (SPHC) – Brody’s Militia achieved redneck punk perfection with this EP blending together their two focuses: classic rock and thrashcore.
3. Surgical Renaissance – Sete Star Sept split cs (Moon Machination)/Ritual of the Habitual cs (self-released)/Surgical VI 2xcs (Lighten Up Sounds) – Surgical Renaissance has established them selves with a handful of cassettes over the last two years and keep getting better with each one. Harsh electronic trash. Music for mental defectives.
4. Sete Star Sept – All Is Wrong 12” (SPHC) – Reissue of a 17-minute noisecore miniCDr masterpiece as a 12″ single with an acoustic version on the B-side.
5. Penis Geyser – s/t cs (Smash Music) – Penis Geyser is the best noisecore band on the planet. The only thing keeping this tape from being higher up is that it’s only a c2.
6. Heaven & Earth Magic – Complete Works cs (High Ledge Tapes) – Collected recordings of western Mass’ Heaven & Earth Magic. David Crosby worship. Essential psychedelic folk.
7. Cottaging – Mise En Abyme 7” (Abscess Records)/The Ukiah Drag – Dirt Trip 7” (Wharf Cat Records) – Big year for these two bands, both releasing 7″s that put all of their previous material to shame.
8. Grim – Beautiful Morning 7” (Steinklang Industries) – Long-running Japanese industrial/noise/power electronics/folk project of Jun Konagaya at its poppiest. Dark ambient and synthpop vibes encroaching on the industrial clamor.
9. Flykills – Ten Songs cs (self-released) – Second tape from NYC’s snottiest punks, featuring members of St. Dad.
10. Brown Sugar – Chocolate City 7” flexi (Media Schlitz) – The final audio document from Buffalo’s Brown Sugar. Enough said.
Honorable Mentions: Cam’ron – First Of The Month Vol. 1 digital (Killa Entertainment), NERV – USA Off Earth Now! 7” (Lagerville Records)
1. John Coltrane – Offering: Live At Temple University CD (Impulse!) – Out there live recording from Coltrane’s last year. Worth it for the barely recognizable My Favorite Things alone. Free jazz at its best.
2. Hank Williams – The Garden Spot Programs, 1950 CD/LP (Omnivore Recordings) – Live recordings from KSIB in Iowa from 1950. Songs cover the spectrum of Williams’ material and come with information- and photo-packed liner notes. Incredibly intimate.
3. Luciano Cilio – Dell’Universo Assente 2xLP (Die Schachtel) – Reissue of an obscure late 70s piece of ethereal, minimalist, avant-folk by Italian composer Luciano Cilio. Incredible album available on vinyl ten years after Die Schachtel first reissued the album as a CD. One of the greatest albums (of its kind) ever put to wax.
4. Arto Lindsay – Encyclopedia Of Arto 2xCD (Northern Spy) – A best of… with an additional CD of live recordings from Arto Lindsay (DNA, The Lounge Lizards). Highlights from his jazz, bossa nova, and electronic material. Simply Are, Illuminated, and Child Prodigy are all perfect tracks.
5. Ultra – Delirious Elaborations 4xCD (Dom America) – Collects first three albums and Roman Holiday comp by this pioneering US industrial/experimental group. Beautiful packaging.
6. Harry Pussy – In An Emergency You Can Shit On A Puerto Rican Whore LP (Palilalia Records) – Reissue of the first Harry Pussy lp on Bill Orcutt’s own label.
7. The Red Crayola – The Parable Of Arable Land 2xLP (Charly Records) – Elevating this release above the standard reissue is the inclusion of both mono and stereo versions of the album. Protopunk, protoindustrial, weird psych.
8. Gluebag – Confused LP (Framework) – Ever wondered what it would sound like if Neil Young had a punk band?
9. Screaming Sneakers – Marching Orders 7” (Revoltation) – I’m not sure if this is technically a bootleg, but its an affordable way to have your own copy of this classic 1982 punk 12″ (now as a 7″). Catchy as hell with a bit of a new wave vibe. A true classic.
10. World Domination – Solar System Domination 2012 LP (Feeding Tube Records) – Reissue of a limited CDr. Like Hawkwind? Like punk? Like this! Killer stoner psych punk SSD cover.
Honorable Mentions: v/a – Bloodstains Across Buffalo LP (Extra-Evidence Productions), Salami Junior – Deli Days/Sontava Nights LP (Feeding Tube Records), S.O.A. – Demo 7” (Dischord Records)
1. Ajax – This may have come out at the end of 2013, but it was reissued as a 7″ in 2014 and surpassed most hardcore released in 2014, demo or otherwise. Gruff vocals and Swedish hardcore influences.
2. Moron – WMass hardcore for fans of Bl’ast and Black Sabbath
3. Sunshine Ward – Ex-Brain Killer. Distorted, noisy, angry, and violent.
4. Sadist – From the Total Fucker Records camp, the industrial and noise elements really sell this band.