Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top 50 albums of 2014: 40-31

Best 2014 albums
That's Harakiri
40) SD Laika- That’s Harakiri

If you liked the Owne McLean release I just mentioned, but wish it was completely dissonant and sounded like a slowed down Nero’s Day at Disneyland then you may want to try this.  At its most coherent, artists like EPROM come to mind; at its most chaotic, it is a bass filled nightmare which could easily ruin the mood of a party…Ironic, given the albums obvious influences of the electronic dance music scene.
This is best listened to loud through headphones. 

Check out the track “You Were Wrong” Here

39) John Lake- Carcosa

Carcosa is a great album that focuses on pulsing drones.  If when you listen to ambient and drone music you really wish delay pedals were constantly present, than this is probably for you. 

The majority of the tracks are over 6 minutes long, with each one starting out slow and building up over time.  Additionally though, John Lake proves his attention to detail in these songs, burying humming and other sounds deep into the mix; making each listen sound fresh as you catch a new detail hidden in the sound.

Listen to the album and pick up a CD Here

The Physical World
38) Death From Above 1979- The Physical World

I had been waiting a long time for this album.  I was excited for another noisy, dance-punk album from a band who produced the fantastic You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.  Some would say that is what they gave us (and I guess I agree), but overall the album felt completely uninspired.

Still, uninspired does not necessarily make the album bad.  On the contrary, if I had never heard Death From Above I would have been quite impressed.  Here though, I waited ten years for an album that feels like a quickly made follow-up album.

For having this much negative to say about the album, it is still a great release.  The majority of the tracks continue to carry that signature bass-driven dance room punk sound that made the duo so famous.  If you like the band, then you should probably get this album, because it will probably be another ten years before they make another.

Watch the video to the track "Trainwreck 1979" Here.

2014 bluegrass
37) Whiskey Shivers- Whiskey Shivers

After falling in love with .357 string band, I try to keep an eye out for modern sounding bluegrass.  That said, this album is no way perfect. Still, it is one of the better bluegrass albums I heard this year, and the album feels very modest in its production; as though made only for friends and people who take the time to see them play shows.  If you like Fast Food Junkies, these guys are leagues better than them.  

My main complaint is I wish they had a little more of an outlaw sound or at least more intensity to their music (like the track “hot party dads” or “Swarm” does).  Still, it is a fun album that gets the job done in the bluegrass department.

Stream the album and purchase it Here

Lessons in Fuck you
36) Big Black Cloud-Lessons in Fuck You 2

I already reviewed this album in my Top 10 Noise Rock Albums of 2014 post.  Don't really have too much to add except that I'm surprised I didn't make a single reference to the band Big Black or how this group's album was better than Shellac's 2014 effort.

You can still stream this album Here.

Isolation Distorts
35) Luca Lozano- Isolation Distorts

Isolation Distorts doesn’t start out like a traditional house album.  Than again, I don’t traditionally think of house music being album length, or released on cassette.  I really don’t know anything about Luca Lozano: I hadn’t heard of him before picking this up on Tomentosa, and I haven’t really looked him up since.  But, if tracks like “Extra Telest” and “The Fox“ are any proof, he deserves me looking into his backlog as well as at any future releases.

Stream Luca's Soundcloud Here.

34) Posture and the Grizzly-Busch Hymns

This is a nice short pop-punk/Midwest emo album.  Really no part of it stands out as unique to the genre, but the album remains catchy and consistent and that is good enough given the genre.  Also, ‘Jordan Michael’s Space Jam’ is probably my favorite track on this album.  Since the album is so short, it looks like my review will be too.

Stream and purchase it on their Bandcamp.

37 Minute Workout
33) Russell Haswell- 37 Minute Workout
I think this is the last ‘experimental electronic’ release on the list.  If you liked SD Laika and Owen McLean, this is probably going to be up your alley, especially if you have a soft spot for glitch or footwork.  I feel like every time I listen to this album I switch on whether I love or hate how the tracks almost collapse in on themselves.  In the end, I decided that any album that can cause me to constantly switch back and forth is probably one that I just hate to love.  
I really need to hear some Russell Haswell collaborations now, because if this album is any indication, I imagine he would work great as a collaborating artist.

Listen to some of it on Soundcloud.
Teeth for Sinking In
32) High Aura’d- Teeth for Sinking In

Teeth is a blackened ambient album by artist John Kolodji.  Reminds me of if a group like The Body attempted to make ambient, which I guess makes sense.  Both 12 minute tracks do a good job at juxtaposing the dark, guttural drones with natural background noises such as the bird chirps and what sounds like snapping branches found in the title track. 

I missed the chance to purchase the “Dynasty at Ghost Town” 11 cassette compilation from Bathetic Records.  It’s a real shame too, because I have purchased two cassettes from that collection and both are on my top 50 for the year.   

Take a listen by streaming it Here.
31) Tar Halos-Pinched
Pinched is a Tame Impala meets Spoon soaked full of reverb and distortion.  Oh, and each track has its own art, which is something I absolutely love about digital files.  It’s almost hard to say more about this, so I think I’ll just leave you with a link.  Listen Here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Top 50 Albums of 2014: 50-41

Best Albums

Sharpen the Past
50) Running Point- Sharpen the Past

Now I’ll admit, this probably isn’t the 50th greatest album of 2014.  But it is a great ambient guitar album that continually balances reverb amounts with actually playing the guitar, something I find so many ambient guitar acts tend to forget about.  

This album reminds me of a sunny day drinking and sitting in someplace with a drought.  So, while many may find this to be too lofi or amateur, I think it does what it does near perfect, and totally makes the cut.

Take a listen to the album Here, and unless you got a copy of the limited edition microcassette, you're going to have to ask them for a reprint.

Mitral Transmission
49) Greg Fox- Mitral Transmissions

Greg fox has been in some fantastic bands of varying genres.  Of those, Guardian Alien is probably my favorite.  For that reason, when I heard he had a solo album recorded while listening to his own heartbeat (actual explanation given Here), I figured I’d give it a listen.  

Overall, a real good album, albeit way too much of an emphasis on that steel drum during the first track (the third track, “It’s Okay” does a much better job of integrating this instrument).  However, tracks like “Kardia II”’s ability to randomly mix in a brief heavy electric guitar feedback after minutes of eastern music make up for all the steel drum throughout its opening track.  Also, the album sleeve is printed on “growable paper” which is kind of too gimmicky for me, but probably pretty cool to some people.

There are a few copies left and you can stream the whole thing Here.

48) Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2

Something about Killer Mike has never clicked with me.  I wasn’t a fan of R.A.P. Music, and really found him to be the weak link on the first Run the Jewels as well.  Sorry Mike.  That said, this album has some great beats, and some of EL-P’s verses were great.  Additionally, Mike ended up being much more bearable to me because of his verse interplay with EL on some tracks.  

I knew that they were best friends before hearing the album, and maybe that influenced how I listened, but the whole time I listen to this album I really feel how well they interplay their verses.
Sure most lists have this probably higher up, but I felt there were a few filler tracks on it.  Regardless, there is some serious bangers too…Oh, and I am looking forward to Meow the Jewels (like everyone else I assume).

Listen to it on their Soundcloud
47) Strange Mountain- Inhibitions

Strange Mountain sure can pump out albums, given that Marcel Thee had seven full lengths released this year under the moniker.  There is always that debate of whether such a large amount of output is excessive or unnecessary, usually with the main argument against it being that if you release that much it wont all be good.  Well maybe I just picked the right albums to try, but both the Strange Mountain releases I have heard are great (the other was 2014’s A Quiet Dynasty).

Inhibitions is a lush feeling ambient/electronic album that sounds almost somber despite how warm the synths are throughout it.  Over the four tracks, Strange mountain carries a continual, ocean-like hum which rises and falls throughout.  The cover art really captures the sound of the album to me.

The album can be streamed Here, and there are six copies left as of right now that can be purchased from Here.

Number Six is Sacred
46) Tashi Dorji and Frank Meadows- Number Six is Sacred

Number Six is Sacred is a great improve album.  The two play guitar and upright bass (respectively).  Most likely by that description alone you know whether this is up your alley or not, but chances are, if you are looking for free-improv and are a fan of upright bass, you are probably already looking this up.  It is also nice to note that the first half of the album (or Side A on cassette) is acoustic guitar while the other side is electric. 

Well, Here is a link.  Also, the packaging of the cassette is very nice, and totally worth picking up the cassette if you can find a copy.

Songs of Remembrance
45) Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Songs for Forgiveness/Songs for Remembrance

This two-album release depicts quite a different side to Ledesma than the one I was introduced to last year with Devotion.  The static soaked sound of Devotion is gone, and instead Ledesma continues to explore themes of nostalgia and sentimentality as we saw in 2013’s Gift of Tongues.

Personally, I prefer Songs of Remembrance to Songs of Forgiveness, but they are both pretty good.  Still, on both albums the music tends to leave to quickly between segments.  While I miss the more abrasive sound as found on Devotion, these albums are still worth a listen.

Both albums are available to stream Here

44) MarQ Spekt & Blockhead- JustPlayWitIt

Somehow this album completely missed me during 2014, with me not finding out about it until just after the new year.  After a few listens though, I knew this deserved to be on the list.  Blockhead’s beats are as good as ever, an MarQ Spekt feels consistent throughout the entire album.

Really this is how  I want my modern rap.  Hard-hitting flows, strong instrumentation, and a complete lack of skits.  If you were a fan of Oh No’s 2012 album, OhNoMite, tracks like “Breakfast Club” embody a very similar sound.

If JustPlayWitIt went under most people’s radar last year, Blockhead and MarQ Spekt probably didn’t get the memo because they were too busy releasing one of the best hip hop albums of the year.

Stream the album Here

43) Dope Body- Lifer

Dope Body’s 2012 album, Natural History, was a strange beauty that has continued to grow on me (though the first and last songs are still the worst two).  It sits someplace between grunge, Andrew WK, and noise rock.  With this album, the noisey aspects have continued to be removed from their sound (especially compared to their debut).  Still, if you want some great rock music, this album delivers.  That said, I suggest you avoid the single “Repo Man” as well as the track “Rare Air”.  

Overall though, this album is full of prime cuts that are full of juicy riffs and flavorful songwriting.  Think of a fine porterhouse steak, marinated in sweat and pot.  That’s Lifer.

Someone put the whole thing on youtube.  Here is a link.

Mirrors Fold
42. Gum Takes Tooth- Mirror’s Fold

Gum Takes Tooth’s follow up to 2011’s Silent Cenotaph continues the two-piece’s movement away from their prior band, Infants.  Here, Gum Takes Tooth continue to move away from Braniac-styled punk, finding a sound that is synth heavy and experiments with combining “world” music styles with western sound.

While I still prefer Infants’ style of sound, Gum Takes Tooth definitely have polished their craft and made an album that is unique and refreshing. 

They have an excerpt of the album for stream Here

41) Owen McLean- Hitomi’s Diary/ Modern Kitchen

In the past two years there has been a huge surge in outsider electronic music, with acts like Arca and EPORM getting more attention than one would expect.  That said, Hitomi’s Diary represents that genre of ‘difficult to define’ electronic music.

The bandcamp page describes it by saying:

"Imagine James Ferraro scoring a theatrical adaptation of a JG Ballard short and you're getting warm"

I haven’t listened to James Ferraro, nor do I know JG Ballard, but I’d describe it as the next logical step for plunderphonics.

Stream the album and wish you'd purchased a copy in time Here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top Ten Noise Rock Albums of 2014

Top Ten albums of 2014

The holidays are upon us, so for the third year in a row, I have a top 10 noise rock albums of the year list.  This year I heard a little over 30 noise rock albums (for some reason I never got around to properly listening to the new Shellac or Oozing Wound albums though).  Again, this year there was some seriously great releases in the genre and making this list was pretty difficult, as not every good noise rock album could make the list (sorry Doomsday Student).  

That said, here’s the list:

10) Silent Front- Trust

A good opening track goes a long way for an album; Trust’s “Mechanical Grip” is a great one whose only fault is it almost overshadows the rest of the album.  The vocals here sound extremely similar to Zebras’ 2012 self-titled to the point where I have a hard time not writing a whole review simply drawing comparisons.

Overall, if you are looking for noise rock that has its roots in metal, this may be right up your alley. 

9) Fashoda Crisis- Almost Everyone is Entirely Average at Almost Everything

Here are the highlights: Reminds me of Mclusky, good range of sounds, sometimes the lyricism needs work, but you’ll have that.

What really matters is why this album is on the list.  At times I do find moments that are miss in some of these tracks, but I think tracks like “Postanova” and “A Eulogy of Sorts” showcase this bands potential.  Also, I can make a pretty similar statement for Mclusky too.  Despite this, the songwriting is just really well done and Futures of the Left should take notes.

Dog Years
8) The Great Sabatini- Dog Years

This album is some noise-core that definitely has its roots in metal.  Still, the album rocks.  Right from the get-go, The Great Sabatini bring an onslaught of sound.  As the album progresses though, they take a few steps to move their sound out of the traditional metal sound.  “Periwinkle War Hammer” is more rhythm focused, and the acoustic “Aleka” comes most unexpectedly.

You can purchase/ stream it in full Here.

Peel Off the Coating
7) Braining- Peel Off The Coating

Technically an EP, but I loved it, so it’s on the list.  Maybe it’s the vocalist’s range and style, or maybe it is just that this entire album feels so loud; regardless, from start to finish the album does a fantastic job of hooking the listener and reeling them in.

I could take the time to write a longer review, but the whole album is 10 minutes, so just take the time and listen to it yourself.

the Chronic
6) Bukkake Moms- The Chronic

If I were to go back and revise my 2013 noise rock list, Bitch Teeth would be on there.  Unfortunately I did not hear their 2013 effort, Fukkstorm, until early this year.  But, for fans of Arab on Radar, I would recommend that cassette over any of AoR’s offshoot’s.

Bukkake Moms is Rick Eye’s (of Bitch Teeth) main band and The Chronic is their seventh album.  Like many artists in the no-wave/noise rock scene, Bukkake Mom’s often mix absurdest lyricism with sexual themes, and tend to pull it off fairly well. 

When compared to their previous works, the Chronic currently stands as their magnum opus.  The vocalist seems to have mastered his delivery style, and this album finds a nice balance between no-wave and structured sounds and occasionally delivering some extremely catchy songs (I’m looking at you “Crime School”).

Take a listen below to “Crime School” and then pop on over to their Bandcamp where you can stream the whole album and purchase a CD.

Lessons in Fuck You 2
5) Big Black Cloud- Lessons in Fuck You 2

At the start of this album, I always think of Arab on Radar, but really, after you get a minute or so in, Big Black Cloud come into their own sound: loud, angular riffs thrown over a relentlessly pulsing bass drum.  One of the best surprises on this album is that the group is comfortable with instrumental tracks and has them strewn in throughout.

Sometimes this band reminds me of a more relaxed Oozing Wound, and sometimes a more relaxed punk outfit.  They are a mix of punk and metal, but the best of both parts: never too heavy or too loud.

“Disappointment” is probably the best track to listen to if you want to check the band out, so I have it embedded below.

Lost in the Spectacle
4) York Factory Complaint-Lost In the Spectacle

This album definitely caught me by surprise. Harsh static drones, industrial electronics, overdriven vocals: Lost in the Spectacle is like bastard child of Wolf Eyes and Sunn O))).  If that either sounds off-putting to you, or you don’t know either of those artists, than this probably is not a release for you.  If that sounds like something up your alley, however, then this will probably be an album you don’t want to miss.

Lost in the Spectacle is quite literally that; a spectacle.  By the time the listener is even halfway through the album, is continual droning begins to sink in.  As “Commodified” begins, the album slowly switches from attempting to scare you off to entrancing the listener.  

3) Animal Lover- Guilt

This 12” made it into my top three because it is probably the best example of ‘noise rock’ that I can think of from the year.  I mean every good noise rock buzz word needs used when describing them: ‘Dissonant’, ‘angular guitar riffs’, ‘sharp/metallic tone’, well you get the point.  When I begin writing my review of this album I found myself having a hard time choosing which tracks to point out because this album is consistently good.  “Lucky Pastures” showcases some of the best song writing in noise rock this year and “Neighbors” is a great closer for the album.

The album is under 20 minutes, and well worth your time.  Stream it below and check out their Bandcamp where you can also purchase a live cassette version.

World Champions
2) Cowards- World Champions in Male Chastity

After I wrote up a full review of this album earlier this year praising how great it was, the band emailed asking how I had found them.  Sadly I imagine that was because how little love this album got this year.  Well, regardless, I suggest everyone take a moment to check out this band as they are the best new noise rock act of the year, bar none.  The male/female vocal combination works great, as does the mixing of spoken/sung lyrics over tracks that seem to be folding in on themselves and collapsing.

I already wrote up a pretty lengthy review Here, but really I suggest you don’t bother reading it and instead just listen to the album.

1) White Suns- Totem

Sinews was great, and Totem was the next logical step for White Suns’ journey into the noise-filled abyss.  Totem starts out attempting to overwhelm the listener with an assault of sound.  This seems almost intentional, however, given that the listener needs to be aware of how abrasive moments will be on the album.  Really, the best moments on this album are not those previously described, but the moments in between, where White Suns create a buildup of tension on the listener, who knows that at any moment the sound may collapse into an absolute chaos.

Even in its most silent moments, Totem is able to carry a heavy weight to its sound.  This album is captivating, and the poetic lyrics, while minimal, become quite poignant.  I think many listeners will agree “My guide’s face is made of mirrors, my guide’s face looks like my fathers” is a truly memorable moment in this album, and too few albums today have such a memorable moment.