You wanna start a war, huh? You wanna get some big ol’ firey conflict going on up in here? Well, the easiest way to do that these days is to write a Best Of The Year music list!
Now, BaDoink doesn’t particularly endorse conflict, nor do we really want it, but we do love a good old-fashioned debate, a few strong words here and there…it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
2014 has been another fantastic year for music. They all tend to be; thanks to the growth of sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, and the positioning of the major streaming sites and apps, music fans of varying dedication can get what they want, when they want.
But even as the methods of consumption shift, we still have the ability to remain as deeply entrenched creatures of habit. Thus, the age-old art of listing the year’s best can remain fun, interesting, informative and still containing some real powder keg potential.
In a show of Christmas spirit, I will take the heat off BaDoink and posit this list as my own personal choice. I’m sure a lot of my colleagues will disagree with my picks and nobody wants an awkward office Christmas party, right?
Julian Casablancas + The Voidz – Tyranny
Seemingly free of the Strokes if not forever then for the foreseeable future, vocalist Casablancas has delved into creating his own label, fostering his own acts and somehow found the time to push out this intriguing and noisy record.
Tyranny conveys a sense of a State of the Union address in a dystopian, but not unrealistic, world. The Voidz seem hung up on surveillance, the police state, war and all those other horrible things we see so much of. Indeed, Casablancas drawls about an “eye in the sky” on both Crunch Punch and Where No Eagles Fly. Further evidence of this nihilistic approach lies in M.utally A.ssured D.estruction, with its howled lyrics warning us of “black holes” that will pull us “into oblivion.”
This is by no means the perfect record. Some of it is unlistenable, some of it makes no sense, but when it does hit, it just doesn’t stop.
Shellac – Dude Incredible
The alternative underground’s poster boys of choice, Shellac are as uncompromising as you would expect any band fronted by legendary producer Steve Albini to be. The man who produced Nirvana’s final album, 1993’s In Utero, is all about noise. Ably assisted by Bob Weston on bass and Todd Trainer on drums, Dude Incredible is the musical equivalent of somebody shaking you by the shoulders and screaming in your face. That’s a good thing in this instance by the way. This record also has the distinction of being one of a select few whose name is the same as your reaction upon hearing it.
From the weird narrative of the record’s opening titular track (“Suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by a group of strangers. We resolve to fight them even though we are outnumbered.”) it’s one track after another of excellence. Ignore at your peril.
Melvins – Hold It In
Speaking of legendary alt bands…
Melvins have been around long enough to have inspired Kurt Cobain to give the whole music thing a go, and it’s a testament to their ability to endure that at about a million albums in they’re still crafting quality like Hold It In.
With their songs getting the usual Melvins ‘weird title treatment’ (Album tracks include Brass Cupcake, Onions Make The Milk Taste Bad and Sesame Street Meat), Hold It In is a weird and wild ride of heaviness, howls, horror, hate and all the rest of it. Essential listening for those already in the know or just looking to get started.
Parquet Courts – Content Nausea
Not content with taking their time and instead grabbing it by the scruff of the neck, New Yorkers Parquet Courts released two full LPs this year. The first, Sunbathing Animals, carried on mostly from where they left off on 2013’s Light Up Gold.
Content Nausea was the second and more intriguing effort and underneath the acerbic and downtrodden lyrics it appears that the record is a take/dissection/attempted destruction of the modern world. Life appears to have finally got to Parquet Courts and now we’re hearing all about it.
Is ‘Content Nausea’ a sly dig at the internet and the art of things ‘going viral’? Or is this the paranoid fantasy of a writer? Probably both.
Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation
Like a proverbial fine wine, Anton Newcombe and his Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) acquire more flavour with age. After 2012’s barnstorming LP Aufheben, it was difficult to consider just how they’d better it. Sure enough, the fittingly-titled Revelation did just that.
Drawing on the experience of living in Berlin for several years, Newcombe’s music is infused with English guitar mores made famous by the likes of the Rolling Stones, big crashing walls of sounds and a little continental mystery. The album’s opener, Vad Hande Med Dem?, carries the weight of heart-breaking lyrics sung in Swedish. The video below has the translation, but the beauty in in trying to form your own understanding.
Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
Another group where the “better with age” epithet applies. Even after all this time, different styles, traumas, whatever and ever…the Welsh trio still manage to make it back every time with something fresh and exciting. Futurology is no different and shows that there’s plenty of life in the old dogs yet.
The stunning soundscapes of Europa Geht Durch Mich, Sex Love Power and Money and Let’s Go To War blend the Manics’ old themes (power structures, social justice, hedonism) with an exciting drift into clanging industrial sounds and space opera-style instrumentals.
SKATERS – Manhattan
I talked about the Strokes early on in this piece, and SKATERS seem to be their natural successors to the title marked “Louche New York Guitar Band Of Choice” (note: not a genuine award). Their debut LP Manhattan is a joy from start to finish; the relentless drive of opener One Of Us is perfectly bookended by the frantic and desperate This Much I Know. In between this tasty little sandwich lies quality cuts like the reggae-spiced Band Breaker, the breakneck Deadbolt and the acidic Nice Hat.
Ryan Adams – 1984
11 songs in 14 minutes – what could possibly go wrong? Not a lot, as it happens. Famous for his musical profligacy, Ryan Adams (careful there…not the Canadian one of a similar name!) lets loose with 1984. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it affair. Don’t waste time reading my description, get listening before it ends!
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
We already looked at the minor controversy that surrounded Mastodon’s video for The Motherload this year, and the album this single came from is as fun, heavy and exciting. Continuing the slow but noticeable evolution in their sound since the release of 2002’s debut LP Remission, Mastodon straddle the line between gruff metal and mainstream rock…and we’re all a helluva lot richer for it (and so are they probably!).
High Road, the first single from the album, and its video is a call to arms for nerds everywhere.
Tweens – Tweens
The problem with a lot of music and its reportage is that people take it so damn seriously. Ok sure, music is art, and art is an outlet for expression, confrontation and all the rest. But by Christ sometimes we just want to sit down, crack a beer and rock out to something fun, sugary and addictive.
Tweens are essentially music’s pixie sticks but don’t let that think they’re all surface and no feeling. Their eponymous debut LP centres primarily on sticky young love, sticky nightclub floors and…well, other sticky stuff I guess.
Well, that’s MY top records of 2014. Got a different opinion? Let’s hear it!