10. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There
These guys first came onto my radar in this past year, as I am sure they did with many people, releasing one of the most underrated albums of 2014. What appears on the surface as just another notch on the belt of the recent emo-revival is revealed in this album to be so much more.
Sure, it was catchy when I first gave a listen… just enough punk to make me bob my head but emotional enough to make me want to look more into it. I then took the time to read the lyrics to every song while listening for the second time and fell for it even harder. I found tales dealing with loneliness, depression, self-discovery, death and loss.
These anthems are both sung and shouted with melodic guitar work and a dynamic rhythm section as the backbone of every minute on this album. Matching strength and “sight” of lyrics with tonal qualities and dynamics is so important and usually takes years to develop, but The Hotelier hit that mark here.
This definitely has my favorite “Introduction” song of the year.
9. Failures – Decline and Fall
Without a doubt this is my favorite hardcore album of the year. On this, their last effort, Mark McCoy (of Youth Attack Records, das Oath, Holy Molar, etc) and crew blast, no, obliterate fourteen songs in just about as many minutes. T
he sharp angular guitar work of Will Killingsworth (Ampere) with sadistic start and stop, manic drumming and shouted vocals have the ability to make your head spin…as they should. Strong lyrical themes are projected and explained just by their titles alone (such as “Hope,” “Role Model,” and more) but leave so much more to be understood by delving into their actual content.
Rejection, relationships, the inevitability of failure and death all seem to be targeted here in a very poetic written fashion. Production was handled by Killingsworth and is up to par with all his recordings, with just enough grime present to fit the nihilistic, attention-deficit-altering rippers.
Artwork, an important part of my judging for albums always, is both disturbing and fantastic- a hallmark for both McCoy and Youth Attack.
8. Young Widows – Easy Pain
I am willing to admit when I “have a thing” for someone. We all do it and have those people…someone in our lives can do no wrong and we always think what they did is the best. For some people it is their kids…some their spouse…some twisted people like myself, a band.
Young Widows is one of those bands for me. I honestly do not think these guys could do any wrong in my eyes, ever, short of putting out a dub-step album (which I would probably still listen to.) I have not missed a show they have played locally to me in years and plan on not missing them this March either.
Easy Pain, while not their strongest effort in my opinion, is one of those fantastic albums that I think we will look back upon and go “oh, I get it now,” when their career concludes in hopefully a hundred years from now. The album has all that Young Widows do so amazingly, coupled by a dark production that largely and appropriately took place in a converted funeral home.
The dissonant, blue-sy, reverb washed guitars of Evan Patterson matched by the absolutely slamming distorted bass and drum work bring back echoes of some of the AmRep noise-rock shadows they began under, but have since moved out of– allowing them to stand all on their own. Patterson’s dismal lyrics and haunting voice continue to grow stronger and stronger, almost representing him as the preacher for the end of all things.
While this one burns a bit slower than some of their albums have, moving them away further from their hardcore-tinged past, the song development and layers Young Widows are achieving makes this no less heavy or impressive.
Stand out tracks include “Doomed Moon” and “Godman.”
7. Creative Adult – Psychic Mess
I largely discounted this album from my Top of 2014 up until probably a few weeks ago. It wasn’t until I realized how many times I played it this year that I decided it had to be included.
I have been a fan of Creative Adult since the band started and feel this album, while I am sure far from their last, is a defining one. Coming from members of various California hardcore and punk bands, Psychic Mess takes what we recognize as “punk” and totally flips it on it’s head with washes of psychedelia, post-punk and more.
All the trademarks of the ever-popular “garage punk,” such as reverb heavy vocals, swirling Fender-esque guitar tones, driving bass, are here in full force. Production was handled by Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion and surely did not hurt the quality or aesthetic they were hoping to achieve.
Anthemic, catchy and experimental tunes like “Flash” and “Deep-End” make up this album that is sure to please fans of Pissed Jeans and newer Ceremony alike.
6. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Being alluded to in my article from last week, this ended up on my list, as well as many other’s reviewers this year. Forgoing all I mentioned about the drama pursued, Benji is a testament to the solidarity of Mark Kozelek’s songwriting.
His heart wrenching tales of family death, school shootings, love for his parents, sex and even seemingly pointless things like crab-cakes (see “Ben’s My Friend”) all have become his calling card. The man knows how to tell a tale, that while sometime can be longwinded, never makes you lose interest.
It’s like reading prose to a melodic guitar line and you never want the poem to end. Kozelek’s usual acoustic strings and calming voice are intact here with the occasional peppering of harmonies, vocal overdubs and full-band jams exploring other sonic territories, making for a good curveball every once and a while.
I highly recommend putting this album on during a drive where you can just listen to the words and take it all in, almost like an audio book for hipsters.
Because hipsters don’t like audiobooks…right?