Honorable Mentions (Picked as the year unfolded):
1 – Temples: Sun Structures (Fat Possum, 2014) Quirky Brit indie rock
2 – Nat Baldwin: In the Hollows (Western Vinyl, 2014). Upright, drums and voice.
3 – Curtis Harding: Soul Power (Burger, 2014) Crunchy, indie soul.
4 – Owiny Sigoma Band: Power Punch (Brownswood, 2013) Electronic/African
5 – Bry Webb: Free Will (Idee Fixe, 2014) Melancholy alt-country/folk
6 – Melingo: Linyera (World Village, 2014) Argentine cabaret
7 – Douglas Detrick’s Anywhen Ensemble: The Bright and Rushing World (Novatone, 2014)
8 – Shigeto: No Better Time Than Now (Ghostly International, 2014)
9 – Lindi Ortega: Tin Star (Last Gang, 2013).
10 – Fat Freddy’s Drop: Blackbird (The Drop, 2014)
11 – The Earls of Leicester: The Earls of Leicester (New Rounder, 2014)
12 – Vessel: Punish Honey (Tri Angle, 2014)
14 – Shakey Graves: And the War Came (Dual Tone, 2014)
Best of 2014:
1 – Nick Waterhouse: Holly (Innovative Leisure, 2014). He’s in a car commercial, he’s getting a big media push and that usually annoys the shit out of me, but it’s a very good album. Whereas I thought his debut record had a ton of energy it sounded a bit tight to my ears and on this record there’s a lot more band playing/solos and looseness that I dig in a record, especially one from a genre like old school r&b.
2 – All Pigs Must Die: God is War (Southern Lord, 2011).
These guys are in an interesting genre neighborhood sporting some aspects of a metal band while showing a completely fuck off hardcore punk mentality with some tinges of heavy rock.
3 – Boulpik: Konpa Lakay (Lusafrica, 2014)
A beautiful record of Haitian music for your listening pleasure. These guys sing as if they’ve been singing together since they were five, which is possible.
4 – Trap Them: Blissfucker (Prosthetic, 2014)
A sonic beatdown. Part post-rock, plenty of hardcore punk, some metal, a bit o’ thrash and a delicate balance of precision and squall.
5 – Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni (Glitterbeat, 2014)
Leave it to an African woman to make the rock record of the year. This is a straight up power trio plus vocals record. Drum kit, electric bass, and Ms. Seymalis’ husband on guitar. She is badass both on the microphone and on the ardine.
6 – Black Monolith: Passenger (Black Recording Company, 2014)
In an era of splashiness and chops and spraying drum fills the guy just latches on to a his kick snare quasi-thrash portfolio of beats and just holds it and the band grinds and grinds and grinds in a very melancholic, beautiful way.
7 – Karol Conka: Batuk Freak (Mr. Bongo, 2014)
This album of Brazilian hip hop instrumentals might be my favorite record of the summer. It’s smart, partyistic, and it’s hip.
8 – Tiger Hatchery: Sun Worship (ESP-DISK, 2013).
A great musical bridge for heavy music fans to get into the raucous world of free jazz. With a classic punk stringy, shitty bass sound and a wailing sax/drums to go with it, you are definitely set to feel cheap and greasy after you spin this record with its full on blast of wailing sax and bass smegma.
9 – Traams: Cissa (FatCat Records, 2014)
18 minutes of sharp, melodic, brisk Brit rock. Classic drums, bass, guitar, vocal lineup — I was particularly impressed by the melodic bass playing and the driving drums although there is strong musicianship at all points.
10 – Open Mike Eagle: Dark Comedy (Mello Music Group, 2014)
I don’t see how anybody could make a better, more intelligent hip hop record than Open Mike Eagle’s Dark Comedy. Mike Eagle’s lyrics are creative, smart, funny (without coming across as a clown) and his flow on the microphone is varied and skillful.
11 – Charming Axe: Gathering Days (Self-released, 2014).
A stripped down string band record (plus a bit or organ) by three Chicago musicians consisting of bluegrass/roots covers of 11 songs and 4 originals.
12 – Los Hacheros: Pilon (Chulo, 2012)
This record has an ambient room sound of some of the sparse, lonesome Cuban records in my collection. I also dig the instrumentation — the violin adds a really elegant touch, especially when paired with the flute playing. There’s an amplified tres, upright bass, percussion, hand drums.
13 – Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine (Alternative Tentacles, 2013)
There’s nobody who does what Jello Biafra does and nobody could do it even if they want. The music business in its current corporate cocksucking form gives total shrift to troublemakers. Unlike another punk legend, Henry Rollins, Biafra is musical — he can sing, he can sell his tunes, and his lyrics are focused and powerful. He’s got skills.
14 – Vaudou Game: Apiafo (Hot Casa, 2014)
A superlative rhythm section featuring a drummer with that super light and funky touch that Tony Allen sports, a wide variety of flavorful vocal arrangements, an unusual set of influences within the arrangements – moments of surf-a-billy, psychedelic rock, African music, vintage American James Brown style funk, Fela Kuti, this is an album that is both focused and not concerned with being just one set of sounds.
15 – Jungle Fire: Tropicoso (Nacional, 2014)
Excellent drumming with super flavorful percussionist sauce over the top on this Latin funk record with strong players at all positions.
16 – Tony Allen: Film of Life (Jazz Village, 2014)
Many claim Tony Allen to be the greatest drummer alive and while I don’t condone rankings he’s up there. His funkiness is unrivalled, his touch is soft, and his sense of timing is just, man he’s just such a natural drummer it’s crazy. In addition to Allen’s drumming, the melodies on this record are great.
17 – Sleaford Mods: Chubbed Up+ (Ipecac, 2014).
If you’re looking for an updated punk blast of anti-social bile and denunciation this record will hook you up. Musically simple, but lyrically spot on these guys do a great job denouncing the pile of shit we call society.
18 – Raspberry Bulbs: Privacy (Blackest Ever Black, 2014)
A great punk formula (for me) will have a healthy dose of pissed off, some raggedness, some alienation, and some undercover sadness. These guys do a great job of delivering it on this record.
19 – La Misa Negra: Mesia De Medianoche (NAM Entertainment, 2013)
A blistering cumbia/Latin outfit out of Oaktown. When their website says they mix a punk energy into the music they are not kidding — this is a relentless, hardcore band. Great female singer, great melodies and strong rhythms.