After having a hard time compiling a best of list at the end of 2013, I decided to make a conscious effort in 2014 to see more shows, buy more records and be a more “active listener” and music fan. I also started doing a radio show again for the first time in almost 20 years.
Even with all of that involvement, there are still records I haven’t picked up yet and shows that I couldn’t make (I’m looking at you, Polaris). Some may disagree, but in my opinion, this was a great year for music.
Here are some of my favorites from 2014:
Overlake – Sighs (Killing Horse Records)
I knew this record would make my year end list after a single listen. It’s that good. A wonderful balancing act with slower songs bleeding into uptempo ones as Thomas Barrett and Lisa Opfer trade lead vocals over layers of reverberated guitars.
The songs are great, the production is great and the band’s execution is flawless. My Bloody Valentine is a definite influence (though not in an obvious or heavy handed way), but I hear a lot of early Yo La Tengo in their sound as well.
The Lees Of Memory – Sisyphus Says (SideOne Dummy)
Another band with a love of shoegaze, but since these guys are actually from the 90’s, you can’t really call it “90’s revival”. Like Overlake, the wall of guitar sound on Sisyphus Says is never used as a crutch. Top notch songs and melodies all around.
I’m a big Superdrag fan, so in my eyes anything John Davis touches is great, and this is no exception.
Lake Effect – Adolescence EP/Childhood EP (self released)
This was one of my later discoveries this year but I’m really glad I found these two EPs. Together they make a great “mini album”. More smart guitar rock with plenty of hooks.
We are playing with these guys and Stuyvesant on December 20th at Cake Shop in NYC and I’m really excited to see them live.
Pujol – Kludge (Saddle Creek)
I had not heard Pujol before seeing them open for Screaming Females at Asbury Lanes and I really enjoyed their entire set. I picked up a copy of Kludge at that show and it’s been getting a lot of spins at home.
Reminds me a lot of Jay Reatard and Radioactive/Mind Spiders but with a looser, folky vibe at times.
Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else (Carpark)
I was a little late coming around to Cloud Nothings, but both of the Steve Albini produced records (this and 2011’s Attack On Memory) are really good.
A lot of other bands seem to get quieter with each subsequent release but they keep getting louder and nosier.
Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)
It’s a shame that this didn’t come out in May, because Rips is a summer record through and through. I love everything that Mary Timony puts out, but this record is just so much fun to listen to.
It reminds me a little of the Elvis Costello/Joe Jackson records from the late 70’s in all the best ways. Shit, “Hot and Cold” even apes part of the guitar solo from “My Sharona” – who couldn’t love that?
Dentist – Dentist (self released)
Speaking of great summer records, Dentists’ self titled disc is another good one to play with the windows down. I love the way they bring some elements of surf rock into their songs without sounding exactly like a surf rock band.
I got to see them three times this year and enjoyed them each time, especially at Wonder Bar’s awesome “Happy Mondays” series. I attended a bunch of the Happy Monday shows and enjoyed all of them – I hope they’re here to stay.
Eastern Anchors – Dragging Your Axe Behind You (Viva! La Hara)
Leave it to the guys in Eastern Anchors to drop something this good less than a week before New Years, invalidating everyone’s best of list. But not mine. What a great finish to a great year.
Eastern Anchors – “Under The Influence of fIREHOSE” / “Above Your Station” (Viva! La Hara)
I love everything these guys do and everything about their sound. They put out two great singles this year and I can’t wait for the next LP.
Plus any band that name checks a train stop on the New Jersey Coast Line is alright in my book.
Polaris – “Great Big Happy Green Moon Face”
It’s kind of hard to call this a reunion since Polaris’ only LP was a collection of songs for the television show “The Adventures Of Pete & Pete”, but having three quarters of Miracle Legion back is better than having none at all.
Here’s hoping there is more where this came from.
Screaming Females – “Wishing Well” (Don Giovanni)
This is another band that can do no wrong in my eyes. This track is great because it shows they can ease off the volume and still write brilliant songs.
I was lucky enough to catch three Screaming Females shows this year and they were all great, but November at Asbury Lanes takes the cake.