After sifting through umpteen "best of" lists (which
start appearing around Thanksgiving these days,) I realized
that nobody really cares whether I liked the new Weezer album
more than Taylor Swift's 1989. So my "Best of
2014" lists this year are focused entirely on local releases
from NJ/NYC bands that were either self-released or available
on indie labels. Each pick comes with a link so you can either
download or stream a few songs yourself. Hopefully a few of
you will discover some great tunes you may have missed amid
all the clamor and tumult that was 2014.
Eat Guitars - Lose (Barsuk Records)
The Everymen – Givin’ Up On Free
Those Mockinbirds - Penny The Dreadful (thosemockingbirds.com)
Deena - Rock River (Life Force Records)
The Gradients - The Gradients (thegradients.bandcamp.com)
The Harmonica Lewinskies – Dad Rock (theharmonicalewinskies.bandcamp.com)
Karen Haglof – Western Holiday (karenhaglof.com)
Goodman – Isn’t It Sad (goodmanmusic.bandcamp.com)
Val Emmich – Autobio Part 1 EP (valemmich.com)
Wreaths - Wreaths (Killing Horse Records)
Black Wine – Yell Boss (Don Giovanni)
Accidental Seabirds – The Greenpoint Spill
The Plough – The Plough & The Stars (speedtheplough.com)
The Porchistas - Shoot It At The Sun (theporchistas.com)
Stuyvesant - Stuyvesant Shmyvesant (sugarblastmusic.com)
The Front Bottoms – Rose EP (Bar None)
Eastern Anchors – Dragging Your Axe Behind
You EP (vivalahararecords.bandcamp.com)
Bitterheart – Bitterheart EP (bitterheart.bandcamp.com)
The Brooklyn What – Minor Problems EP (thebrooklynwhat.bandcamp.com)
The Britanys – It’s Alright EP (thebritanys.bandcamp.com)
Gay Elvis - Gay Elvis Has Left The Building (gayelvis.bandcamp.com)
Paul Silver’s Top “10” Records for
Another year has come to an end? I guess that means it’s
time for the inevitable “top 10” lists to come
out. I’ve already seen people publishing them weeks
ago. It’s sort of like the Christmas shopping season
starting earlier and earlier every year. And, just like
waiting until the last minute to do your shopping can net
you either great deals or a bunch of lousy presents, I like
to wait until right before Christmas, when I know the likelihood
of another major winner being released is a lot lower.
This year has seen a bumper crop of good releases. Either
that, or I just like things a lot more. Either way, it’s
been a really enjoyable year for finding new bands and new
As usual, my list is based off the music I’ve reviewed
over the course of the past twelve months. And, as always,
the order has nothing to do with ranking and everything
to do with the order in which I reviewed the records.
COP/BAD COP – Boss Lady EP – When this
came out, I said this would likely end up on my year-end
list. And I was right. Multi-part harmonies are featured
in the four fast and furious songs. The music is tight,
bouncy, fun, and some of the songs have a bit of a dark
edge to them.
SWANS – To Be Kind – The progression
away from pure noise continues, as this album makes more
use of minimalism and repetition than noise, confronting
the listener is new ways.
ALVVAYS – S/T LP – The debut
from this Canadian quintet consists of jangly, dreamy pop
music. It’s got bounce aplenty, and a cool minimalist
SLANG – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?
EP – These four songs are energetic, melodic, and
have an emotional edge.
NEEDLES//PINS – Shamebirds LP –
Equal parts retro punk rock, garage rock, power-pop, and
pop-punk, the sound is, at once, raw and polished. Guitars
jangle like crazy, and the feel is retro without sounding
BLANK PAGES – Blank Pages LP –
Ten tracks of garage-punk sound, with hints of surf, that
sound like this band came from Denton, TX rather than Germany.
Fans of bands like Marked Men or Radioactivity will eat
RATIONAL ANTHEM – Emotionally Unavailable
LP – If you look up “pop-punk” in a dictionary
or encyclopedia, there’s going to be a picture of
STUPID DAIKINI – S/T EP – This was
an easy pick. The real centerpiece of the four songs of
this EP is Zavislak’s revelatory vocals. They shine
like a beacon in the night, though they don’t lead
to safety. Rather, they sing stories of heartbreak and sadness.
Stripped down instrumentals support the vocals and the amazing
CYMBALS EAT GUITARS – Lose LP –
Was there ever any doubt this would be on my list? The album
has a very large sound, with lots of reverb, fuzz and distortion,
and Joe D’Agostino still earns the nickname, “Joseph
Ferocious,” with his enormous vocals that he attacks
with glee. The music is expansive, melodic, chaotic, poppy,
and beautiful, all at once.
BABY GHOSTS – Maybe Ghosts LP –
Strong music, with awesome female-male harmonized vocals
and a lo-fi vibe. The music is right there on the border
between indie-pop and pop punk. It’s fast and loud
guitar stuff, but it’s super melodic, and despite
the fuzzy lo-fi recording, it has a lightness you don’t
get with a lot of punk-based music.
CREEPS – Eulogies LP – Garage-like,
lo-fi, and with an edgy pop, the ten tracks on this disc
will darken your life.
THE DIRTY NIL – Cinnamon b/w Guided
By Vices 7” Single – Luke Bentham’s vocals
are just as crunchy as the guitars, and bend like the bent
notes of a pulled guitar string. The music is punk crossed
with grunge and garage, and just really strong.
GARETH DISCKSON – Invisible String
LP – From the very first track, I feel like a burden
is being lifted and I’m being transported to another
place, another time. God, this is gorgeous. The acoustic
guitar is almost harp-like in its delicateness, and Dickson’s
vocals are airy and otherworldly.
GREAT APES – Playland at the Beach
EP – Great Apes are a step above the typical pop punk
band, blending in strong indie rock elements and creating
effective arrangements and strong melodic lines.
– Go To Prison LP – Well, OK, you caught me.
I didn’t actually review this album. But it certainly
deserves to be on this list. It combines hardcore punk,
melodic pop-punk, and grindcore, and it works really well!
I hope you understand that it’s impossible to narrow
things down to a “top 10.” It’s hard enough
culling the list down to the fifteen here. There are so
many good bands putting out records, so get out there and
Paul Silver’s Top “10” Live Shows
After a long dry spell, during which I went to precious
few live shows, I started going more frequently again a
few years ago. And the pace has steadily increased, to where
I think I’ve gone to more live shows this year than
any back in my youth. Part of going to many shows is that
you end up seeing some truly amazing bands that are a notch
above others. And this year, I saw some mind-blowing live
As with my top “10” list of records for the
year, these are not in any order other than the order in
which I saw them.
CREEDLE / FLUF / CHUNE – Casbah, San Diego,
1/24 – Three bands from San Diego’s
past performed to celebrate the Casbah’s 25th anniversary.
OK, Chune wasn’t anything to write home about, but
they were OK. Fluf was as incredible as they ever were in
the 90s, with drummer Miles Gillette flying in from New
Zealand for the reunion show, and bassist Josh Higgins coming
down from the Bay Area. O was there, of course, and surprise
guest Mike Olson came up on stage to sing a couple of Olivelawn
songs with the band. Creedle was a band I hadn’t seen
before, but I instantly became a fan.
THE MAXIES / THE HUM HUMS / THE WELL WELLS / PELOTAN
/ THE SNEEZE – Zone B, Tokyo, 2/12 –
I went on tour to Japan with the Maxies this year, and most
of the dates were with the Kingons, a pretty damn good band.
The last night of tour, though, was with several other bands
that cemented my theory that there is no such thing as a
bad Japanese band.
IRON CHIC / LOW CULTURE / LENGUAS LARGAS / RUMSPRINGER
– Yucca Tap Room, Tempe, AZ, 3/14 –
My jaw dropped when I heard about the line-up, and it lived
up to all expectations. There was more creative musical
talent in this room than in a lot of small cities.
RADIOACTIVITY / SUSPICIOUS BEASTS – Tower
Bar, San Diego, 5/1, VLHS, Pomona, CA, 5/2 –
Simply an amazing experience. Radioactivity is made up of
members of Marked Men and Bad Sports, out of Denton, Texas,
and is the most incredible blend of garage and punk you’ll
ever find anywhere. Suspicious Beasts are from Japan, and
also play a pretty powerful garage punk sound (see my theory
on Japanese bands above). It was so good that I saw them
two nights in a row!
THE STUPID DAIKINI / TEENAGE EXORCISTS –
U31, San Diego, 7/9 – This was my first time
seeing Stupid Daikini, and I was so blown away that they’re
on both my top shows list and top records list.
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND / LENGUAS LARGAS
/ SWING DING AMIGOS / THE TREASURE FLEET / BLANK PAGES –
Til Two Club, San Diego, 8/8 – This show
was a tour that was subtitled, “Recess Records Cavalcade
of Clowns,” and it celebrated 25 years of releasing
records for the label. Every band was incredible, and this
was the first show in California in many years for Swing
Ding Amigos, a band that nearly liquefied my brain with
how good they are.
AWESOMEFEST 8 PRE-FEST – Soda Bar and The Hideout,
San Diego, 8/28 – Awesomefest is always a
good time, and this year’s pre-fest was a great time.
There was probably around 20 bands or so playing this night,
going back and forth between the two clubs, but a few stood
out as exceptional: Tijuana’s DFMK continue to conquer
the Southern California scene, GHETTO BLASTER is San Diego’s
most dangerous and fun band, SHELLSHAG are always great
pop music, and THE SLOW DEATH is epic fun.
DRIVE LIKE JEHU – Balboa Park, San Diego,
8/31 – Jehu’s reunion included rearranging
and performing some of their tracks to include Dr. Carol
Williams, playing the Spreckels organ in this free outdoor
show, their first in nearly 20 years. Thousands of people
attended, with some flying in from around the country just
for this event. And it was worth it.
THE DIRTY NIL / DEAD TIRED / WISH – The Horseshoe
Tavern, Toronto, 9/11 – This was the record
release show for The Dirty Nil’s new 7” single
on Fat Wreck Chords. I happened to be in town for work and
this show was recommended to me. And I am so glad I went,
because The Dirty Nil became an instant favorite.
THE ATOM AGE / PEARS / THE TOUCHIES / GONE BABY
GONE – The Ken Club, San Diego, 11/7 –
As good as The Pears’ debut album is (and it’s
in my top “10” list), it’s lame compared
to their live show. I don’t care what else you might
have going on. If you see that they’re touring to
your city, go. Just go. I promise you won’t regret
SOULSIDE – The Black Cat, Washington, DC,
12/20 (with SWIZ and MOSS ICON), 12/21 (with OFFICE OF FUTURE
PLANS and DOT DASH) – In conjunction with
the release of the documentary film, “Salad Days,”
chronicling the DC punk scene of the 1980s, Soulside reunited
to perform two nights in New York City and two nights in
Washington, DC. They were one of my favorite DC bands of
the late 80s, yet I had never seen them live, so I was one
of the many who flew into the nation’s capitol for
the weekend. While I’ve gone to shows when I’ve
gone to other places, before, this was the first time I
traveled by plane specifically to go to a show. The first
night featured another surprise reunion appearance by Swiz,
as well, and the place went wild! The second night featured
two bands I hadn’t gotten a chance to hear before,
and which certainly impressed me quite a bit.
OK, so, like my list of the best records of the year, it’s
hard to hold it to just 10. But at least I cut it to 11.
Like I said, I’ve been going to a lot more shows than
ever, this year, and that makes it that much harder to narrow
Mark "Bort" Hughson
Top 10 Albums
Sugar Stems – Only Come Out At Night (Dirtnap)
Describing the sound as “sweet” is apt but also
a bit misleading. These songs have energy and bite and don’t
get anywhere near “cutesy” territory. This is
power pop with shades of Phil Spector, hints of early punk
rock, and even a tinge of “Gunpowder And Lead”
(Hey, it’s the only Miranda Lambert song I know).
Previous efforts from this band gave us an appetizing dish
or two, but this album is a veritable feast of hits.
02. TacocaT – NVM (Hardly Art)
A straightforward approach, but with hooks galore and a
melodic brightness despite the occasionally dark subject
matter. Lots of oohs and ahhs. This album is fireworks.
03. Literature – Chorus (Slumberland)
The album starts off with a “Woo!” Need I say
more? …Ok. This is indie pop that is both catchy and
lush, both sprite and dreamy. But so what? Tons of bands
these days are rehashing the C-86 and Sarah Records aesthetic.
But while those other acts just carbon copy the sound, Literature
captures the essence of classic indie pop: Immensely strong
songwriting, happily doing the limbo under the radar.
04. Phil Ajjarapu – Sing Along Until You
Feel Better (Self Released)
Songs about singing a song and how it makes you feel rarely
work, but when it does it’s like an eargasm roller-skating
on a Mobius strip. This album floats on old school “AM-gold”
radio airwaves, and when it lands it does so in a warm ocean
and continues to float like a… Jellyfish. Andy Sturmer
and Ken Stringfellow fans, take note.
Diarrhea Planet – Aliens In The Outfield EP (Infinity
Ok, so this is only a EP, but there are more guitars on
this EP than on any two albums on this list combined, so
they get a pass. Plus, these songs 5 songs, clocking in
at 16 minutes, give us the full package. Basement stompers,
Weezer-style fuzz pop, epic jams, all flowing through deftly
crafted layers of riffs. Best EP of the year, I shit you
06. Martha – Courting Strong (Salinas)
Back before 90s punk sneered at it, and Oasis got melodramatic
with it, indie bands embraced pop and gave it a playful
noogie. The Fastbacks did it, Heavenly did it, and now Martha
are doing it. Don’t stick your tongue out at me, boy!
I’m trying to teach you a history lesson!
07. The Haden Triplets – When I Stop Dreaming
This release is so much more than adding fuel to the That
Dog. reunion fire. Traditional country/Americana instrumentation,
olde time songsmithing (think clever re-writes of “You
Are My Sunshine” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain”),
and of course the exquisite harmonies that only the Haden
sisters can bring to the table. Just when I think Jack White
is about to become a foot note he backs this release and
earns my props once again.
The Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo (Burger)
Somewhere inbetween “Happy Birthday To Me” and
that one Beards album, I lost interest in what Kim Shattuck
was doing. The energy was subdued, the screams were reigned
in, and I was ok with that. I just wished she were writing
better songs. Apparently a 10-year break from releasing
music has allowed her muse to stockpile the gems, because
this album is great. It’s still mostly mid-tempo sugar
punk with grrl pop vocals, but this time they waited until
they were actually older and wiser to sound that way, and
it really pays off.
09. Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside (The
These guys churn out comforting, well-executed power pop
in the vein of the usual suspects (Big Star and Teenage
Fanclub). The guitars hover like a doting parent. The vocals
swing on swaying melodies that I can only describe at revved
up lullabies. I always take it as a good sign when a band
makes me sound oxymoronic.
10. Safety Razors – The Worst Record Of All
Time (Self Released)
I enjoyed Nancy as earnest, hard-hitting east coast punk
rock (imagine if Weston didn’t get beat up!?), but
I didn’t really understand where they fit in. It wasn’t
like the pop punk blooming down in NYC, and it wasn’t
like the shoutcore exploding in Ohio. Then one day I must
have listened at a new angle and the genius revealed itself
to me. The square pegs and round holes didn’t change
at all, but the pieces still fit together like some kind
of MC Escher drawing plastered on a telephone pole. The
core of that band returns with this album and I am with
them on the ground floor. They took another punk rock block
of clay and shaved it, molded it, and shredded it into musical
ERIC WALLS - MORE METAL
It is that time once again, folks. Man, it seems like only
a few weeks ago I was doing this exact same thing for 2013.
We all know the old cliché “time flies”,
but as we get older we also start to realize that as we age
time seems to fly exponentially ever faster and faster until
we inexorably reach that big ol’ sonic boom of death.
As I sit and reflect on this past year in metal music, a few
releases instantly come to my mind but I also think about
all of those releases that I DIDN’T get a chance to
hear. Naturally, I can only base my list on what I HAVE heard,
but how many other really cool albums that I missed might
have drastically altered the outcome? I guess my point is
that any Top 10 list from any critic or writer will be inevitably
biased and wholly incomplete – but that doesn’t
stop any of us from doing it anyway. So, with that being said,
here is my list, in no particular order, of the best metal
albums I had the pleasure of being exposed to this past year……
Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
The Cannibal Corpse boys do it again with another spectacular
release of ultra-high quality death metal. Even after 3 decades
of annihilating ear drums around the world, Cannibal Corpse
can still throw down with the best of them and continues to
push the boundaries of what death metal can and should be.
Behemoth – The Satanist
Behemoth mastermind Nergal’s battle with cancer only
seems to have reinvigorated his passion for his music and
The Satanist is probably the band’s most cohesive and
artistically triumphant album of their storied career. Nergal
seems to have finally perfected his distinct blend of black
and death metal and as a result produces an album that will
be talked about for years to come.
– Slave to the Sword
Arguably the best thrash album of the year, Cali’s Exmortus
drag thrash metal, kicking and screaming, into the modern
age with this relentlessly raging and technically precise
record. This is the album, above all others this year, that
really adrenalized me and reminded me just how fucking cool
really well executed trash metal can be.
Orbweaver – Strange Transmissions
Miami, Florida’s Orbweaver deliver a truly tripped out
take on death metal with this absolutely godly release. Completely
off the wall, technically challenging, and psychologically
damaging, Strange Transmissions will make you question everything
you thought you knew about death metal.
Teeth – Ghost Chorus Among the Old Ruins
Speaking of completely off the wall, Baring Teeth’s
sophomore album challenges all known conventions of death
metal and engineers something that is truly unique. Words
like “experimental” and “avant garde”
don’t even begin to do justice to the complete mind-fuck
that Ghost Chorus Among the Old Ruins delivers.
Septic Flesh - Titan
These Greek symphonic black/death gods have been around for
a very long time and have developed into arguably the most
adept practicioners of the art of combining symphonic elements
with blackened death metal. Titan is Septic Flesh’s
masterpiece and is the album that bands like Dimmu Borgir
wish they could write.
Hideous Divinity – Cobra Verde
These Italian tech/death miscreants deliver one hell of a
ride on their sophomore release, Cobra Verde. It’s like
everything that has ever been cool about the entire 30 year
history of death metal distilled into one album. Technically
dazzling while still accessible, Hideous Divinity is definitely
an up and coming band that demands to be recognized.
of Saturn – Lugal Ki En
What can be said about this album other than, WOW. Rings of
Saturn take “deathcore” to new heights that have
already sent legions of metalheads back to the woodshed to
practice until their fingers bleed trying to pull off the
dazzling musical gymnastics that are par for the course on
this jaw dropping record. Game changing is an understatement.
Eyehategod – S/T
N’awlin’s sludge pioneers return from their long
slumber with the best album of their career. The various members
of Eyehategod have learned and experienced much in the nearly
15 years since the band’s last studio record and, finally
clean and focused, deliver a gloriously heavy and dirty record
of damn near perfect sludge and reassert their position at
top of the sludge/doom metal mountain that they almost singlehandedly
created all those years ago.
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
The infamous black metal assassins Mayhem re-emerge with a
new guitarist and prove once again that they can still move
the art of black metal into ever deeper, darker, and weirder
places. This album largely flew under the radar, an unfortunate
fact as this record is my favorite black metal album of the
year and should have gotten much more attention than it did.
Esoteric Warfare is the band’s best album since Grand
Declaration of War and is just as brilliant as that ground
breaking record ever was.
Crowbar – Symmetry in Black, Annihilated – XIII
Steps to Ruination, Death Penalty – S/T, Black Trip
– Goin’ Under, The Acacia Strain – Coma
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