2014 Year Enders, Music

My Favorite Non-Boston/New England Albums of 2014

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DAN SHEA is the Director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit BRAIN Arts Org and fills many roles in helping run its many projects (this website, the Boston Compass, Boston Hassle Shows, Hassle Fest, an outdoor summer concert series, etc.). He cares a lot about making Boston and New England a friendlier, more sustainable place for artists to live in, work in, and visit. He is in love with his amazing and supportive wife Megan and their beautiful and wonderful son Zachary, and he is currently making great advances in opening a restaurant/performance venue in the Boston area (with Hassle co-director Sam Potrykus and Taco Party food-truck main man Keith Schubert).

Check out my 2014 list of favorite music releases STRICTLY by bands from Boston and/or New England (including): MINCEMEAT OR TENSPEED, FORM A LOG, TOM KOVACEVIC, JASON LESCALLEET/KEVIN DRUMM, FREE PIZZA, SADIST, JASON LESCALLEET/AARON DILLOWAY, GUERILLA TOSS, and many more great bands that put out amazing albums last year. Being as deeply embedded in the New England music world as I am, it makes sense and is necessary to split my year-end favorites between Boston/NE artists and non-Boston/NE artists. The split is based simply upon geographic location of the artists in question. If geographic location were thrown out the window, both lists would be combined to form a single, pure, and ultimate 2014 year-end list (that would be far too long and unwieldy for any single post).

 

My Favorite Non-Boston/New England Albums of 2014 (in no particular order . . . )

HOMESHAKE — In the Shower (SINDERLYN/BAD ACTORS INC.)
(read FULL previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Making a Fool of You” gets way down. Lazy-as-shit bass, shambling along. Damn. Tongue is in cheek the whole time here, but both tongue and cheek are very serious about the whole thing, and the face that houses them is wearing a very serious expression also.”

BURNT SKULL — Sewer Birth (12XU)
(read FULL previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “A main riff so heavy in a way that I thought was perhaps impossible to achieve in this day. So heavy that I have my suspicions that they must have been digging a very deep hole somewhere, and in that hole they accidentally stumbled upon the THING. The riff. And this is the source of their power. That’s a deep-hole riff, Man.”

LE TRASH CAN — 2 (GOD ATHLETICS)
(read FULL previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “There is a discernible beauty in creating a series of events that take place over a short period of time, boxing the bauble up, and displaying a collection of such all along next to one another. One is churning, then creating a bounce with its rhythms. Another is buzzing, climaxing, and releasing and repeating!!”

JUSTIN MARC LLOYD — I’m Sorry for the Thoughts Assigned to My Name (WASTED CAPITAL SINCE 2013)
(read previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Crackling, minimal static becomes a buzzing explosion of scarred sound, sending bits of siren, hellishly high feedback tones, chirps, and a bubbling variety of drum machine, synth, and sampled shrapnel flying direct into your canal de l’oreille.”

DEVIN GARY & ROSS — Honeycomb of Chakras (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS)
(read previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Great original songs such as “Monique” and “Pot Holed Road” anchor a blasted landscape of psychedelic wonder, field recordings, and general experimentation of several different kinds that frames those strangely wonderful covers and connects this quilt of psychedelia that more or less parallels the experience of getting stoned real good.”

GOOD THROB — Fuck Off (WHITE DENIM/ SUPERFI RECORDS/ SABERMETRIC)
(previous Hassle write-up)

Debut full-length from one of the great punk bands going nowadays. Witty and scummy. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate. GOOD THROB are putting all the ignorant fucks to shame. Simple and direct, with some really gnarly punk fangs. Kind of a really fucking awesome band.

FAT WHITE FAMILY — Touch the Leather 7″ (HATEHATEHATE RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “This record is right on the money and chock-full of perfectly wrong rock ‘n’ roll. Sleazy, easy, Stones-like urban-filth percussion and lush (wasted) arrangements. On this one the London-based commie-flavored backbeat-favoring band ease back with a rolling mid-tempo beat based around a sweetly simplistic retro-electronic ticker.”

POWELL – CLUB MUSIC (DIAGONAL MUSIC)
(previous Hassle write-up)

“This EP is noisy and abrasive, but it’s also great fun. While much industrial and noise techno can come off as unnecessarily dour, there is old-school playfulness and a winking humor at work here which I find very refreshing. It has the dadaist flair and confrontational soul of classic European electro-terrorists like the KLF and NEGATIVLAND, but the dancefloor appeal that only a seasoned club DJ can bring to the table.” – John Bittrich

THE CROISSANTS — We’re in the Basement 7″ (HELLA MAD RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “From Sacramento, CA comes an ode to that underground part of the house that could easily be grabbed onto as an anthem in a number of places, nowhere more so than our very own Boston, MA (a place where a cast of thousands is hanging in the basement right now). I thought people didn’t have basements in California?? Whether they do or they don’t, doesn’t really matter. Just put on “We’re In The Basement,” and it’s all good. At the intersection of grunge and some heavy garage rocking is where this track exists (I think that’s Mudhoney Square?). A real lurch rocker.”

WARTHOG — Prison 7″ (IRON LUNG RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Warthog is filthy, hard, and dark hardcore in the lineage that goes back to early Poison Idea, so you know that they can rage like no other. But there’s also a darker atmosphere on here that makes this sound their own, especially in the great guitar work that sometimes takes the stage among the mean riffing.” —Greg Witz

NAVI — Illuminavi (self-released)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Speed and repetition are central, with some foot-operated power-electronics thrown in to ramp up the energy a little more. Navi uses some of the metal-inspired innovations typical of Mick Barr projects such as Orthrelm.” —James Moore

BETH ISRAEL — Dental Denial (DULL TOOLS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Bass and guitar lead the way, telling us we’re in for a jangle-pop rock number, but then a hook-laden synth pushes its way in and directs this thing toward a whole indie-rock-with-synths thing that many young people (myself included) jumped up and down for mid-’90s. So great. Dark jangle synth-pop (I don’t write those words out, in that sequence, very often).”

BRUTAL BLUES — Brutal Blues 12″ (DRID MACHINE and NERVE ALTAR)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Dual attack of guttural death-metal vocals and a blackened crusty screech, all buried under heaps of massive, jagged guitars that have their hands around all known necks. Ephemeral electronics drifting, constantly colliding with the constant motion created by the aneurysm-causing breakneck drum fantasy. This is one of the best records that I’ve heard all year. Wow, just a slap in the face. Mutant heaviness from the great North.”

DEMDIKE STARE — Testpressing #005 (MODERN LOVE)
(previous Hassle write-up) (another previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Starts with a colossal, machine-gun stutter that only barely prepares listeners for the circular bass pulses that enter into the subconscious. Like the grime-ridden experiments of Logos that wowed us last year, “Procrastination” leaves plenty of zero-gravity room for listeners to float freely in.” —Matty McBride

NOTS — Fix/Modern 7″ (GONER RECORDS)
(read previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “A shaggy-but-fierce, forever-propulsive punk-bop attack, multiple voices often crowding in together to better make whatever the point of each particular song is, and do so just a bit more loudly and forcefully.”

THE BUG — Angels & Devils
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Sounds and textures clash and merge like cultures thrust together by an increasingly small world, fighting for relevance while at the same time examining the paranoia and the struggle to find the signal among the noise in our self-imposed online-surveillance state.” —John Bittrich

GEM JONES — Admiral French Kiss (GOATY TAPES)
(previous Hassle write-up) (another previous Hassle write-up)

“It is messy, spilling its love clear across the designated dancefloor that no one is using because everyone is crowded in around GEM JONES (and they are just not playing that close to the dancefloor, really). And it is spiritual. Tongue is somewhere around the cheek, but maybe not in there fully (I’d have to actually get out to Iowa City for a personal look if I were ever to know for sure). And as you will plainly hear if you listen, GEM JONES’s falsetto is hanging all the way out.”

THE FRIGHTENING LIGHTS — untitled (BRUIT DIRECT DISQUES)

Experimental-folk tidings from Melbourne, Australia. This duo of Elizabeth Downey and Dan Hawkins has here crafted a serious batch of stark and often haunting folk songs, seemingly of another world. Dreamy and menacing, these songs will fully wrap themselves around you. It is worth taking the chance to see if they will ever let go, or not. You might even wind up wanting to hang on to them, like I have all year.

SLEAFORD MODS — Divide and Exit (HARBINGER SOUND)
(previous Hassle write-up) (another previous Hassle write-up)

A big fuck you at the intersection of hip-hop and punk from this British duo. Cheap beats, ugly/beautiful flow, and a redefining tweak of the rap-rock paradigm that for once gives me hope that this approach may actually have a future. Punk as fuck 2015 style.

NINOS DU BRASIL — Novos Misterios (HOSPITAL PRODUCTIONS)

A dark creeper of an electronic record from the Italian duo of Nicolò Fortuni and Nico Vascellari. Layers of percussion, strange electronic sounds, and vocals come together as a rich stew of syncopation that ranges from techno to rhythmic out-there. And the stew is hypnotizing and I have repeatedly returned to it since first laying my ears on these sounds last year. Go places in your own mind with this potent stuff.

BATTLE TRANCE — Palace of Wind (NNA TAPES)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “The culmination of “Palace of Wind II” so amazingly elicits the feeling of slowly spinning out of control; is so increasingly dizzying (gradually) over a matter of several minutes. I fear that it may cause falling in some of the less equilibrium-gifted among us. More beautiful, uplifting, and madness-filled compositions I have not heard all year.”


NOTS — We Are Nots (GONER RECORDS)

Full-length debut from this angry and awesome all-female Memphis quartet. Pissed-off music by pissed-off people and in your face about whether you’re going to embrace it or move out of the way. The weirding of punk continues. Like the aforementioned GOOD THROB, NOTS seem to have a real and serious place in their hearts for their weird punk forebears, the amazing CRASS. I am all about this.

DAMAGED BUG — Hubba Bubba (CASTLE FACE RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Dwyer’s twisted-up pop vision is shining and clear in this move from his comfort zone. In fact, despite the instrumentation, this feels like a more personal, out-of-the-bedroom kind of project than his other stuff. Some serious and fun minimal-electronic grooves.”

 

Wouldn’t be one of my END OF YEAR lists if there weren’t at least one release from the previous year that I only managed to hear for the first time in the year that I am trying to write about. This year I’m including two such recordings, both released in 2013.

JIB KIDDER — IV (GNAR TAPES and BURGER RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “‘Indie rock ‘n pop-smithery, psychedelia, and country all dumped on the floor in a heap and gloriously, bit by bit, floating skyward in just a most incredible arrangement. I am sold! Where do I buy? This is most idiosyncratic pop, but done with the panache, the surefootedness (and hooks) that make me feel like a wider audience awaits these brilliant songs and whatever their talented author has next in store for us. I’ll be watching. Waiting. There at the window. Watching JIB KIDDER while he is sleeping. Let me know if you want to come too.”

HYRROKKIN — Pristine Origin (NEW ATLANTIS RECORDS)
(previous Hassle write-up)

. . . “Seven-plus minutes of jagged then pounding then beautiful and fluid rhythms. Riffs flow in and out. I can see how this music could actually disorient a person. A little more than halfway through when the bass drops down to a heartbeat . . . I mean, wow. Guitar and drums just go OFF splattering across the canvas of bass rumble (that cowbell moment can only be described by one word: sick).”

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