Features Music Year End 2014 Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2014)

Year End 2014

Music: Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2014)

It's been another strong year for music in 2014 just gone – we've seen comebacks, unexpected debuts, strong follow-ups and soon-to-be classics from old and new bands alike. In this, our annual sitewide list, we've averaged and assembled our individual contributor's best-of-2014 lists into one superlist, amalgamating all of our diverse tastes and interests, to give you what we think are the best albums released in 2014. We're sure you're going to disagree with some of our selection and it wouldn't be a SPB year-end list if there wasn't at least one glaring omission (or indeed, inclusion). If that's your position, let us know in the comments below. Otherwise: on with the list!

Overall list

1

The Lawrence Arms

Metropole

Epitaph

When The Lawrence Arms released Oh Calcutta! back in 2006, it was billed by the band as a collection of songs utilizing the back-and-forth, high octane punk they enjoy listening to—a conscious decision to switch-up their sound for a record. Then, life happened and the group took eight years for a new album. 2014 brings Metropole, and even with the unexpected delay, the record feels more like a follow-up to 2003’s The Greatest Story Ever Told, rather than its predecessor. It’s a serious record, which isn’t new territory, but it feels a bit stern and more reflective. The record starts faster, with punk burners for the first three songs, showcasing their skills at articulate lyrical flow and speedy tempos, and they somehow turn the repetition of “You Are Here” into a positive thing, milking every bit of singalong they can out of just a few words. For all the time that has passed, little rust is shown, with the record a great companion piece in the band’s discography. – Loren

2

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Give the People What They Want

Daptone

It almost looked like this record wouldn't happen – the eponymous Sharon Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the middle of 2013 and had to postpone Give the People What They Want until the start of 2014. It was worth the wait though – Jones' brush with mortality hasn't shaken her — or her formidable backing group's — ability to make their classic-sounding funk/soul sound effortless. Opener "Retreat" is a powerful and throaty rebuke to a churlish lover and the other nine songs mix their way through classic R&B, upbeat funk and slower ballads. While some may find the kitsch retro-soul too overbearing, the sheer sound of a white-hot group having fun and writing songs that already sound like standards is clear for anyone to hear as they give the people, well, what they want. – Matt

3

Pallbearer

Foundations of Burden

Profound Lore

The expectations for the sophomore album of this doom metal act are now much higher, but they are still able to meet them. In Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer just top their game, taking their music a step forward. The amount of effort that the band has put in their guitar work is just unbelievable, with all those different guitar layers interacting with each other in the album. The result is that the band creates a very dense background, but they also manage to sound big and epic. When Sorrow and Extinction came out, I feared what the next step would be for Pallbearer. Their debut album was such an amazing release and thought the band would just try to rehash their ideas. But in Foundations of Burden, Pallbearer revealed that they are still pushing their music and are exceeding themselves. – Spyros

4

Swans

To Be Kind

Young God

To Be Kind, like the two releases immediately preceding it (and anything in the Swans back catalog for that matter), is likely to divide listeners. This is probably an album that any given individual will either “get” and appreciate or legitimately dislike. It’s extraordinarily well-performed, sprawling and extremely atmospheric but, to put it simply, this album isn’t meant for those who like instant gratification out of the music they listen to. It’s definitely not for all tastes but still, I’d have a hard time calling this album anything less than a remarkable achievement for Michael Gira and his collaborators. The way that these tracks often share musical and lyrical elements with one another ensures that this is a captivating, consistent listening experience. Although it may require some listeners to adjust their expectations, this is definitely one of the highlights of the year. – Andy

5

Against Me!

Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Total Treble

It's been a long time coming, but Against Me! have finally released their sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. It packs a hit harder than previous records. It's loud. It's powerful. It's full on rock 'n' roll! It's also the best album Against Me! have done in years. Its anger, alienation, fear, and grimness all rolled into one with songs ranging from catchy, to solemn, to fierce. Laura Jane Grace took the reins as producer and did a great job. Atom Willard makes his debut as their new drummer and doesn't disappoint. It's a great record that is already an easy contender for "album of the year." – Aaron

6

Indian

From All Purity

Relapse

From All Purity, the group's fifth full-length and second on Relapse, calls to mind something more akin to an accused pagan being confronted by fellow townfolk and being hung, drawn, and quartered for transgressions. Over six songs, From All Purity is a self-contained, isolated, and painful experience. Not to get the ropes twisted, it's a terrific record but one characterized by pained vocals and sheer terror. Throwing the "doom" label around can be a dicey proposition as it generally calls to mind the sinister exploits of an Electric Wizard or the sludge stomp of Sleep, but with regards to Indian it explains the evil pacing. It's only January but the gauntlet has been thrown. Indian is a heavy, terrifying band and they dare you to best them. – Chris Brown

7

Blut Aus Nord

Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

Debemur Morti Productions

Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry has arrived and the band releases a great album of high quality black metal, leaving behind their dark ambient sound. When they are playing black metal, they are awesome. When they go and throw at us full blown avant-garde industrial/dark ambient hybrid albums, they nail it. Can they actually go wrong? For a band to be able to split its attention between two different paths and excel in both of them, seems almost impossible. That does not seem to be a problem for Blut Aus Nord though releasing a stellar black metal album, filled with everything you love about the genre. – Spyros

8

Pharmakon

Bestial Burden

Sacred Bones

Just last year Pharmakon was putting out Abandon, tearing our brains apart. Margaret Chardiet (the artist behind Pharmakon) was collecting aspects of industrial, noise and power electronics, filtering all that through her mind and producing one of the most intense listens of (at least) 2013. Now how can you top something like that? The extent to which Chardiet will travel in order to make Pharmakon’s sound so extreme is incredible in Bestial Burden. And apart from that her will to feed off such a dark aspect of her life, and dig into something so personal for her in order to achieve such an emotional depth for her music is just petrifying. – Spyros

9

Eyehategod

Eyehategod

Housecore

With their first full-length album in 14 years, it's almost one's gut instinct to remark that Eyehategod haven't missed a beat in all that time and sound as lethal now as they did on 2000's Confederacy of Ruined Lives. However, to gloss over those nearly 15 years of time also kind of misses that point. 14 years is a long time. That's 14 years of doing other things. It's 14 years of new experiences. It's 14 years of pain, which the band felt this past December when drummer Joey LaCaze passed away suddenly. And before that, there was Mike 'IX' Williams' incarceration. Not to mention when Hurricane Katrina which touched down in the band's hometown New Orleans. Again, 14 years is a long time. Eyehategod has a crack balance between guitar and drum sounds. It toes the chalked line while still allowing Williams' words to breathe. It's the sort of structured anarchy that only an experienced band can make. The sort of thing that only an album 14 years in the making can achieve. – Chris Brown

10

John Frusciante

Enclosure

Record Collection

Over the course of an unconventional career as a solo musician releasing music on his own terms, John Frusciante has had a handful of outstanding albums, but in between these triumphs, he’s produced work that was entirely mediocre. It’s not surprising then that his output has proven to be divisive, a fact that’s unlikely to change with the release of Enclosure. This album is a slight improvement over the ones that immediately preceded it, and like most Frusciante releases, it displays unyielding conviction and has many genuinely unique ideas with regard to music composition. – Andy

11

Direct Effect

Sunburn

Tiny Engines

Registering in at roughly 26 minutes, the 13 tracks here on the band's Tiny Engines debut careen and crash all over the place. Amidst guitar riffs that spool out in all directions, vocals erupt out of a pile of empty beer cans and strike the ear like something out of Tremors. The throaty, confined direct vocals here serve as a veritable anchor used to navigate all the noise and squallor. While released back in March, Sunburn still holds up as one of the more exciting releases of 2014. Hard-charging and tuneful hardcore with a nod to garage rock, it's got staying power. It could even work as the soundtrack on your next car trip. – Chris Brown

12

The Murder City Devils

The White Ghost Has Blood on Its Hands Again

Murder City Devils

Off-stage Spencer Moody is a quiet, awkward if not unassuming man. But when he takes center stage for The Murder City Devils he transforms into a rascally, howling maniac. On this album, the Seattle-based band's first full-length since 2000, he's more hoarse-throated and irate than ever before. The White Ghost, in all its eerie, emotive garage punk glory, is quintessential Murder City Devils. – Nathan

13

Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)

Run The Jewels 2

Mass Appeal

There's a common misconception that Kim Kardashian and her bare naked cosmetically enhanced buttocks broke the Internet. But that's impossible because the Internet was already broken by Run The Jewels 2. El-P, for all his titled cap buffoonery takes hip-hop very, very seriously. And Killer Mike, well he just goes hard. One of the things that makes Run The Jewels work so well is the personality that that pair have cultivated as a duo. While their music is tough-as-nails hip-hop, their outwardly appearance is a satirical caricature-like ode to a much more dangerous time in rap music. – Nathan

14

The Dwarves

Invented Rock & Roll

Recess

I won’t say anything as hyperbolic as that the Dwarves invented rock ‘n’ roll, but I’ll still give them another borderline statement that fits on a press sheet: the 2014 Dwarves are a supergroup—not a supergroup side project of glossy mag pin-ups, but a supergroup that is honestly comprised of, well, Dwarves. Invented Rock & Roll is another record that meets expectations — a hell of an achievement for a band on full-length #10(?). The Dwarves continues to revel in their eternal youth and soiled dreams. The only real downside to the record is the, well, touchy lyrics that aren’t for everyone—but at this point in the game, it’s listener beware. – Loren

15

Panopticon

Roads to the North

Bindrune Records

Panopticon has been around since 2007, releasing great albums, from their self-titled full-length to the 2012 Kentucky. And it was with Kentucky that the band really made many heads turn. Their folk infused black metal was a breath of fresh air for the scene, with A.Lunn making things more interesting, using unconventional tactics. The only worrying part of all this was that Kentucky would be a very tough act to follow, and the pressure was in and the stakes were high for Roads to the North. But still, Lunn does not disappoint. Panopticon is a unique band. I considered Kentucky to be their pinnacle work and that it would be extremely difficult for Lunn to surpass that. Well, what do you know? I guess I was wrong. – Spyros

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Words by the SPB team on Jan. 7, 2015, 5:02 p.m.

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Scene Point Blank's Favorites: Year End (2014)

Posted on Jan. 7, 2015, 5:02 p.m.

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Pages in this feature:

  1. Records 16-30
  2. Individual Staff Lists
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Series: Year End 2014

Our annual round-up of the best music of the year 2014.

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