Well, 2014 sure has happened. It’s been tumultuous and trying and kinda funny and I’m happy to say I listened to a lot of really good music! Not all of the music. This post is far from exhaustive. Still haven’t heard the recent D’Angelo or Yob stuff for instance, and I’m sure there were a hundred good records I never even heard of… but plenty of good music, nonetheless. More than enough for the over-long, disjointed rundown you see before you. Which is good, because it gives me a focus for this thing. If I actually had to also get into the books, film, food, art or politics (gawd, the politics) of 2014 this thing would be REALLY long. Much longer than it already is. So I’m glad to try and keep it to just music, for all of our sake. Let’s start with the local stuff…
THERE’S SO MUCH GOING ON IN MASS THESE DAYS! A lot of the best shows are still (as always) happening at venues I’d prefer not to mention by name. Keep your ear to the ground for the DIY stuff and you’ll figure it out. Otherwise, Cuisine En Locale and Deep Thoughts have been fantastic additions to the local landscape and Machine and Lilypad have hosted some damn fine events as well. SCANNERS was consistently my favorite dance night, although MAKE IT NEW had some great programming to commemorate their 10th year at Middlesex (a club that has sadly cut its hours of operation down to just three nights a week). Of course, the huge announcement that the Middle East complex is going to finally own their building after all these years was welcome news indeed. Now, without further ado…
TOP 10 LOCAL ACTS of 2014:
1) RICARDO DONOSO – “A Song For Echo (Part II and Part III)” – I love Ricardo’s stuff and wrote about him for the Hassle repeatedly in 2014. Caught him a few times at Middlesex this year as well as at the Hayden Planetarium and was consistently blown away. His recent releases under his own name and as Scuba Death have been strong as hell. Thoughtful but forceful experimental electronic music at its best.
2) STRANGER – Demo – I saw Stranger five or six times in 2014 and they just got better and better as the year wore on. Still a pretty new band but they absolutely nail the whole anarcho-influenced goth for punks thing.
3. GUERILLA RATS! (BUGS TOSS?) Bugs and Rats live at Cuisine En Locale – I’m allowing myself to count Guerilla Toss and Bugs and Rats as one entity because well… they play together a lot! They play on each other’s records, they play in tons of rad side projects, they’re all over the place! Plus this way I can sneak in eleven picks instead of ten. Deal with it. If you’re reading the Hassle you probably already know what these folks sound like. Damaged, noisy freak rock forever!
4. SADIST live at the Boiler Room – Another band I caught quite a few times this year and their chugging, abrasive take on hardcore punk is one of the most exciting live shows in the city. It’s great to see a dbeat-influenced hardcore band embrace this sort of deranged theatricality: heavy delay, clanging chains, smashing glass, masks and all.
5. DOUG TUTTLE – “Turn This Love” – Going back all the way to January of 2014 to shout out this gem of a psych-pop album by Doug Tuttle. The former Mules/MMOSS guitar god turned in a hell of a debut solo LP.
6. TOMBOY – Live at the Boiler Room – These ladies just have so much energy live. Snotty, confrontational, but stick-in-your-head poppy. They’re a joy to behold.
7. JOHN BARERA & WILL MARTIN – “It’s Alright” – DJs and housemates John Barera and Will Martin’s album Graceless is some of the smoothest, freshest dance music I’ve heard in a long time. Organic and sexy.
8. MARISSA NADLER – “Dead City Emily” – One of the area’s genuine treasures, in 2014 folk singer Marissa Nadler turned in her sixth album, July, for Sacred Bones. The dark, brooding record features assists from Steve Moore on synths, Eyving Kang on strings and Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O)), Wolves in the Throne Room) on production. Just stunning.
9. QUILT – “Arctic Shark” – Like the previously mentioned DOUG TUTTLE record, QUILT’s latest full-length offering came out very early in the year, trafficked in breezy psychedelic pop and featured a strong, sharp focus. Folksy in some places, more propulsive in others, but all around wonderful. The band may have relocated to New York, but they remain locals in our hearts.
10. VIA APP – Dangerous Game – Speaking of moving to NYC, VIA APP is doing that soon but I’m happy to call her a local here while I still have the chance. The young lady’s debut full-length exuded a dirty, viscous sort of electronic attack that won over a lot of converts in 2014. She’ll be sorely missed.
Well, there you have it! Some great local music. Let’s move on to a few of the specific styles and trends that I approved of this year. 2014 was a great year for collaborations between different experimental artists. SUNN O)) started and ended 2014 strong, first with their collab with ULVER and later of course with the unexpected and incredible work they released with SCOTT WALKER. THE BODY with the help of THE HAXAN CLOAK released their best material to date. Techno duo WALLS made a remarkable album from the collected archives of the late DAPHNE ORAM. Dominic Fernow did some excellent collaborations with more than one of his aliases, releasing the FUNCTION & VATICAN SHADOW album and the stellar UGANDAN METHODS & PRURIENT record.
FAVORITE EXPERIMENTAL COLLABS 2014:
SUNN O))) + ULVER – Terrestrials
THE BODY & THE HAXAN CLOAK – “Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain”
FUNCTION & VATICAN SHADOW – “Bejeweled Body”
UGANDAN METHODS & PRURIENT – “Call 1”
WALLS/ORAM – “As It Is In Gems, And Prisms
SUNN O))) + SCOTT WALKER – “Brando”
This was also a great year for sludge rock! We got great LP’s by the “three E’s” of classic sludge (EARTH, EYEHATEGOD and ELECTRIC WIZARD, of course) but Portland label Eolian Empire was the place to find the best up and comers, especially the ripping, furious noise of DRUNK DAD and the more psychedelic, spacy sounds of PRIZEHOG.
FAVORITE SLUDGE 2014:
DRUNK DAD – Live on KEXP
PRIZEHOG – “Whoady”
Of course, electronic music continues to push into new and exciting territory. This year saw new releases that failed to disappoint from big names like APHEX TWIN, FLYING LOTUS and THE JUAN MACLEAN as well as from more recent breakouts like DEAN BLUNT and ANDY STOTT. Those records are all worth your time, but I thought I’d use this opportunity to point people towards some deeper cuts. SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO have been putting out great records for a long time but the way they embraced analog sounds on Whorl marks it as their high-point to date in my eyes. Electronic music found some interesting ways to intersect with black metal, for instance on THE SOFT PINK TRUTH’s hard-trolling and queered up covers album Why Do The Heathen Rage and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM’s heady Celestite. MAGIC TOUCH and TODD TERJE turned in some of the year’s most straight-up fun dance music. But two of my favorite releases overall this year were ROMAN FLUGEL’s cerebral Happiness is Happening and FATIMA AL QADIRI’s ethereal and haunting Asiatisch.
FAVORITE ELECTRONIC 2014:
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO – Hypnick Jerk
THE SOFT PINK TRUTH – “Black Metal”
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM – “Celestite Mirror”
MAGIC TOUCH – “It’s Love” (feat. Ash Williams)
TODD TERJE – “Delorean Dynamite”
ROMAN FLUGEL – “Wilkie”
FATIMA AL QADIRI – “Shanzhai” (feat. Helen Feng)
Finally, it’s time to talk about my “favorites”. This part was tough. Any number of the other records I’ve already mentioned could easily make this list, but I left them out so as to offer up more selection. These ten are in no particular order, and before you read it I’d like to give an honorable mention to SWANS, BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE, VASHTI BUNYAN, CLOCK DVA, HORSE LORDS, RASPBERRY BULBS, PHARMAKON and AT THE GATES, whose fantastic 2014 releases didn’t make the cut, but rocked my socks regardless.
10 FAVORITE RELEASES 2014:
MICA LEVI – “Love” (from the soundtrack to UNDER THE SKIN)
CARIBOU – Our Love (full album)
CULT OF YOUTH – “Empty Faction” (from Final Days)
SLEAFORD MODS – “Tied Up in Nottz” (from Divide and Exit)
RAKTA – “Life Comes From Death” (from their self-titled LP)
GODFLESH – “New Dark Ages” (from A World Lit Only By Fire)
THE BUG – “Dirty” (feat. Flowdan) (from Angels and Devils)
GROUPER – Ruins (full album)
SONS OF MAGDALENE- Move to Pain (full album)
There you have it! I’ll be doing my last radio show of the year at WZBC on December 26th from 7pm to 10pm EST and will be counting down my favorites of the year then as well. Tune in if you like. Seeya in 2015, suckaz!