Wednesday, December 3, 2014

favorite albums of 2014

Alright friends, it is that time of year again: I will once again prove my superiority to you through my taste in music. This year I am just posting a personal "best of the year", with no order.

Self Defense Family - Try Me

This is my favorite album of the year. I hate to pick a favorite, but I am an unabashed fanboy of lead singer Patrick Kindlon, and will likely jock anything he creates. Here, Try Me has the band sounding the same, while sounding wildly different. Kindlon's vocals get a bit more melodic, and the songs can at times be a bit more meandering, but one's attention should never be lost. In my opinion, Kindlon is the best lyricist ever. I imagine he and the band would be dismayed to see this album announced as a (my) year-end favorite, only to be in roughly the same company as the next one, Bane, below, ha.

Bane - Don't Wait Up

2014 brought us a new Bane album, and I imagine that if you're familiar with Bane, you probably know what this new jam sounds like. Fittingly titled, Don't Wait Up, this is Bane's last album, as they will tour extensively, and then call it a day. Where does this one fit in their catalog? Depending on your personal preferences for catchy, modernized throwback hardcore, anywhere, ha. Highlights include Calling Hours with a bunch of guest vocalists, and the tradition of ending the record with generic hardcore platitude gang vocals, but I don't know, I like that stuff.

Emptiness - Nothing but the Whole

Discomforting, atmospheric death/black metal done impeccably well. While this is not usually my cup of tea, this album is far too interesting and compelling to not listen repeatedly. And I find the cover art to be awesome too. Each listen brings something new, as the myriad influences these Belgians employ seem to sneak through in subtle ways. Shoot, I even read one review that mentioned goth rock, and sure as turds, the next listen bought to my ears a goth rock influence in some songs.
Jazz June - After the Earthquake

So what happens when a seminal 90's and early aughts emo band breaks up, then reforms over ten years later? An awesome reunion album happens. While I found the music of their first go-round to be generally faster paced, and bordering on aggressive - well, aggressive for 90's poppy emo standards - here, they have mellowed considerably. The once scratchy vocals have grown more melodious, pairing well with the indie-styled/sugary pop, but still 90's emo sound. Embrace the emo revival, fellow 30+ year olds.
Black Map - ...and Then We Explode

Speaking of 90s influenced jams, ever have a hankering for a totally dated 90's alt-rock sound, in the year 2014? Yeah? Then look no further than Black Map's debut full length LP. When most people refer to something as "dated",  it's usually slanderous, but there is no way I'm going to disparage this album. Nah, here, "dated" means the comfortable, familiar jams of my childhood and teenage years. If you're going to listen to one new-in-2014 batch of 90's sounding alt-rock songs, this best be your choice. Also, if you like rock, you'll surely find something to furiously enjoy.

Lagwagon - Hang 

This new Lagwagon smokes. Even though some of the lyrics come across as written by an angry high school student in 2002, Joey Cape sings the crap out of them. From acoustic, to classic 90's punk, to heavy metal, and everything in between, this album hold its own with anything else the band has put out. I guess the five or so year drought in new material really lit a fire under the band's ass. The cover art is kinda cool too.

Cold World - How the Gods Chill

Dog, a new Cold World album dropped and it sounds just like the last two, kinda like what Bane just did, ha. Sad that the eponymous song isn't even on the album, and is better than any song on the actual album. Still, badass album. 90's kinda hip hop and Biohazard influenced hardcore that isn't as hard as Biohazard, but hard in a growing-up-poor-in-the-PA-sticks sort of way.
Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Have you ever been to The Fest? I have and I think Joyce Manor could be considered a "Fest band". They have the sound, one of two official Fest-approved looks (the bearded plaid shirt PBR look; or the skinny, unhealthy, super annoying look); it's the latter for those keeping score. But when you put out a catchy poppy punk album this awesome, it doesn't matter how insufferable your appearance makes you look. Buy this, and sing along furiously the next time they come to your town, and after the show try to talk to you about used wool sweaters and books you'll never want to read. Bonus: the album comes with a CD of the album - a step above the usual download code! Bonus 2: album kicks off with the lyrics, "looking at your face in the dark, you don't even look that smart".
Jason Cruz and Howl - Good Man's Ruin

Strung Out frontman Jason Cruz goes semi-solo, then adds a backing band, and then puts out a fantastic album of country influenced, Americana-rock. Similar to the new Mariachi el Bronx album below, in that it's successful punk rockers making much more accessible music. I don't believe the goal was to be more commercially viable, though it is, but I think the goal was to make album(s) of awesome songs in a different style. Mission accomplished.
Benighted - Carnivore Sublime

Last time I cared about Benighted, they had just released Icon in 2007 I think, and now a couple albums later, we have Carnivore Sublime. What's the difference here? Benighted no longer gives a shit what you think. Maybe they never did. Their schizophrenic death-grind is ultra catchy, and they have no qualms about throwing in weird singing, the lurking potential to break into a dad-hating nu-metal groove, a rapped verse, or a couple breakdowns into an album full of Napalm Death-y death metal. From the artwork to the music, this album is sick.
Mariachi el Bronx - III 

It's 2014, almost 2015 OMG, and Mariachi el Bronx is not your second favorite band, behind Self Defense Family? Lol, get real. It's awesome, ridiculously catchy Mariachi music made by dudes in a punk band. Obviously the Mariachi music is a highlight, if not the defining characteristic here, but for me, Matt Caughtran's vocals are the highlight, the reason d'etre. His lyrics are fantastic, and his singing of them is spot on. 10/10.

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes - Are We Not Men?

The problem I've had with Me First is that often times their albums will contain songs with which I am not familiar. Petty, I know; they do a bang up job every time. On their most recent here, full of hit songs by "divas", there were only a few unknown tunes. What we have is an album of 10/10 cover songs in a catchy, 90's punk rock style, though some of the songs are quite creatively covered. Lead singer Spike Slawson can actually carry a tune, making this a potential favorite of your parents too.

2013 albums I'm super pissed I slept on:

Twitching Tongues - In Love There Is No Law

Dude. I've been rocking this album probably more than anything else in 2014. Yeah, I snoozed, but I've surely made up for that. Very melodic hardcore with fantastic sung vocals. The lyrics can be kind of over the top, but whatever.

Crusades - Perhaps You Deliver This Judgement With Greater Fear Than I Receive It.

An album of grown ass men singing about how they're "mad at religion". Sounds horrible, but when it is set to the sweet sweet sounds of modern punk rock with some sort of "post-something" influence, it's fine with me.

Pity Sex - Feast Of Love

Ann Arbor fuzzed out indie pop rock. Stupid catchy music made by hipsters that look like people that I can't stand. My wife said she likes this, so she either does, or she was lying to me, could go either way.

Did you have something not on this list that you think I "like, totally have to hear"? Throw it in the comments.

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