Monday, January 12, 2015

2014 Music Review, Part 005 (Albums 25-01)

Here it is! The end is upon us!

For those of you that have stuck with this entire list as I’ve counted down my top albums of 2014, I thank you for your dedication.

If you are just now visiting the list for the first time and would like to view the rest of my choices, check out the other parts of this countdown, here:
So, without further ado, here are my TOP 25 albums of 2014!


25. To Be Kind, Swans
Release Date: May 12, 2014

Swans will never cease to create incredibly expansive soundscapes of exploratory rock/metal/industrial tunes. There is really no way to describe this music. If anything, Godspeed You! is the only thing that comes close. Take 2.5 hours and immerse yourself in this thick beast of an album.

24. I AM KING, Code Orange
Release Date: September 02, 2014

They are not kids anymore. This album revolutionizes hardcore into a dominant sonic experience of relentless brutality. There is a reason Code Orange calls itself the “Thinners of the herd,” because anyone unable to keep up will be left in the wake of this commanding force.

23. Seeds, TV on the Radio
Release Date: November 18, 2014

I get stoked every time TVOTR comes out with a new album. The band always finds a way to reinvent its unique of electronic hip-hop, art-punk, and indie rock. Seeds is fun, dark, and accessible, which makes this a great release.

22. Awake, Tycho
Release Date: March 18, 2014

If you didn’t listen to this album at least 25 times in 2014, did you really experience 2014? Awake is yet another chill-step classic from Tycho. Scott Jansen just gets how to create some of the most positive upbeat tunes that create the perfect ambience for nearly any situation.
Play: “L”

21. ZABA, Glass Animals
Release Date: June 17, 2014

Another album I slept on for far too long because this was probably the best indie rock/pop-accessible albums of the year. ZABA is ripe with zestful, fun arrangements full of intricate instrumentation and capped with magnificent vocals. It’s a fun listen for a sunny day drive through the country.

20. In Humor and Sadness, ’68
Release Date: July 08, 2014

Something cool about Josh Scogin (the Chariot) is that his creativity and talent cannot be contained. After the Chariot disbanded, he was quick to team with drummer, Matt McClellan, to impulsively record this absolute shred-fest. This is a thrash punk duo that will not be stopped.
19. Mediumship, Dikembe
Release Date: July 22, 2014

I know some folks felt Brand New’s transition from Deja Entendu to The Devil and God was a bit abrupt. Well, if you felt this way, you’re in luck! Mediumship is the PERFECT bridge for those two albums. Dikembe does this while maintaining a consciously unique sound that makes them stand out among others in the emo-revival scene.

18. Nothing is Real, The Flashbulb
Release Date: March 12, 2014

This neo-classical/chill-step/post rock album earns the honor of my top instrumental album. I do a lot of reading/studying, so this album got A LOT of attention. It is one hour over 22 tracks of absolutely mind-bottling instrumental greatness. Beautiful tunes for chilling out or walking around. Loved it.

17. Pleasant Living, Tiny Moving Parts
Release Date: September 09, 2014

The award for most aptly titled album goes to Tiny Moving Parts. Pleasant Living is an album about feeling good with life and working through the difficult parts in positive ways—which often means yelling about whatever is on your mind.

16. Rooms of the House, La Dispute
Release Date: March 18, 2014

I got my La Dispute flower tattoo 4 days before this LP was released. I was celebrating my excitement for another chapter of their musical journey. Rooms didn’t disappoint. The group explored new terrain and new stories with subtle eloquence. It might not stack up to Somewhere at the Bottom, or Wildlife, but it certainly stands on its own.

15. You’re Dead!, Flying Lotus
Release Date: October 07, 2014

As the great nephew of John Coltrane, Steven Ellison, knows jazz. His body of work has become an evolution of electronic hip-hop and jazz with a twist of prog-experimentation. Time signatures are no match for these vibrant and daring arrangements, as Ellison constructs unreal beats and sounds. Kendrick Lamar guests on the albums only single, which was also one of my favorite songs of the year.

14. Maybe This Place is the Same and We’re Just Changing, Real Friends
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Real Friends did a lot of growing up on this album. Turns out, this album was a brilliant evolution of pop punk. So many tracks on this album are incredibly catchy, while others are short, sweet, and to the point. I was impressed by the expertly crafted flow of the entire album.

13. Ixora, Copeland
Release Date: November 24, 2014

Copeland surprisingly came out of hiding this year and released another incredible chill album that more than lives up to the expectations of the Copeland faithful. Aaron Marsh can do no wrong.

12. Charmer, Tigers Jaw
Release Date: June 03, 2014

Charmer got the most play time during the summer for me. Tigers Jaw came back with a completely full and energized sound that is both fun and brutally honest at the same time. They continue to revolutionize the emo revival.

11. Bloom and Breathe, Gates
Release Date: October 22, 2014

After a couple EPs, Gates went all-in with their evolving post rock sound on their debut LP. This is a dominant album for a band that was on the brink before this album released. And now the future is brighter than ever.
10. Correspondence (a Fiction), Levi the Poet
Release Date: November 17, 2014

I have a lot of respect for Levi Macallister—the man has dedicated his life to his words. He writes amazing words. I am constantly inspired by the work that he creates.

His first few albums were purely spoken word, which can be a bit difficult for people to listen to—however, on this LP (his fourth) he brings in an entirely new experience for his listeners. There are trumpets, there is atmosphere, and there is dynamic chaos to match the emotionally charged story he crafts within this album.

As funded by IndieGoGo, Levi was able to release this album in a massive way so that it reached as many fans as possible. I am thankful to have found myself lost in this incredible journey that only appears to be the beginning of a much larger project. I cannot wait for the subsequent parts and/or to see where this album takes Levi. Give it a listen if you enjoy La Dispute, mewithoutYou, or Bradley Hathaway.

9. The Joy of Motion, Animals as Leaders
Release Date: March 24, 2014

Honestly, I’m a bit shocked that this album was not on more year-end lists. This is by far the best album that Animals As Leaders has composed and I am so glad that I’ve been able to experience the entire progression of the band.

The instrumdjentmetalists have finally found a winning combination of metal, atmosphere, and jazz experimentation. There is so much groove on this album that I would often close my eyes while on the train and I’d miss my stop because I was grooving too hard. I am constantly blown away by the impressive guitar work of virtuosos, Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes. They have such an incredible working partnership that should be an inspiration to more metal acts that might suffer from egoisms.

What we have here is an album that truly encompasses the wherewithal to evolve a genre. Instead of becoming stagnant and setting, Animals as Leaders continues to change the pace of the game one signature change at a time.

8. Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me!
Release Date: January 21, 2014

This was the most socially important album of 2014. Laura Jane Grace has gained much attention since she came out as a transgender woman and has used this attention as a platform to support other transitioning individuals.

Her brutal honesty is such a refreshing change of pace to the formulaic lyrics that appear in much of today’s popular music. Laura Jane is frank in her observations of transitioning—“You've got no cunt in your strut/You've got no hips to shake/And you know it's obvious/But we can't choose how we're made.” Her lyrics transcend the naivety of popular culture and delve into the reality of a very important issue in global society.

The album is yet another anthemic piece of music from these kings of modern punk and it simply adds to already their impressive repertoire. I’m stoked to meet Laura Jane in a few weeks. Cannot wait to have her sign my copy of this vinyl.

7. Pink Lemonade, Closure in Moscow
Release Date: May 09, 2014

Australia has a way with creating some pretty interesting tunes. Five years ago, Closure in Moscow released an LP, “First Temple,” that sounded like the love child of early Fall of Troy meets Coheed and Cambria. Upon their return this year, the band brought in an overwhelming wave of groove and experimentation that feels like the closest we will ever get to having the Mars Volta back again.

Closure in Moscow decided to go more experimental with their tunes—allowing their vision to become more spacious, more funky, and more accessible. This album received a lot of summer time play for me because it is perfect for car rides in the sun with the windows down.

I tried to share this album with as many people as I could this year because it truly demonstrates how a band can take risks, completely rework a sound, and develop something brand new into a glorious resurgence of musical creation.

6. Amour & Attrition, Casey Crescenzo
Release Date: June 03, 2014

Not many touring musicians wrote, composed, and completed a symphony last year. But Casey Crescenzo (The Dear Hunter) did. And it is one of the greatest displays of crossover musical talent. Even on the first listen, you would assume this was some Mozart or Brahms album.

But nope! It’s one of the founding members of the Receiving End of Sirens constructing incredible classical music. And I mean, for those who are used to Crescenzo’s music with the Dear Hunter, this album was a long time coming. However, it is nonetheless impressive.

Amour & Attrition landed on NINE Billboard top albums lists this year, including #1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical and Top Classical Albums Charts. Casey clearly understands what he is doing with this venture and I cannot wait to see whatever else this absolute genius creates next.

5. Absent Sounds, From Indian Lakes
Release Date: October 07, 2014

A couple years ago, when I listed Able Bodies as my #6 album of the year, I said that From Indian Lakes were a band to watch out for. Little did I know how well the future would prove me right.

After signing to a record label, something I once spoke about with lead singer/principal songwriter, Joey V, at a show in Portland, it seemed like the band was going to get the attention they deserved. Joey told me it was never about getting signed, but more about telling his stories. And dammit, he gets to have his cake and eat it, too.

Absent Sounds is a visionary album. There is so much going on in this album that it completely immerses you. The great thing about it is that ALL THREE of From Indian Lake’s albums are THAT impressive. They find a way to combine all elements of today’s rock scene and combine them into an expert display of beautiful compositions and dynamic juxtapositions of sounds.

4. Half the City, St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Release Date: February 18, 2014

This is a big album that has not received as much attention as it deserves. Half the City is an incredibly important release from one of the most promising acts in all of music today. Not only does St. Paul pack a big band soul/funk musical experience, it is fronted by a man, Paul Janeway, who probably has the strongest voice out of ANYONE that released an album in 2014.

Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, these southern gentlemen have been selling out shows all across the country. I’ve tried to see them three times this year (across different cities) and I can never seem to track down tickets. This is an incredible accomplishment for a brand new act that doesn’t have as much mainstream exposure.

This debut album was my top choice for most of 2014 but slowly slipped as the top three were released. This was another album that I shared with many people that appreciate throwback 40s and 50s soul and funk music. It is one of the strongest debut albums I have ever heard.

3. Run the Jewels II, Run the Jewels
Release Date: October 24, 2014

Rarely—if ever—is the sequel better than the original. As Killer Mike even says, “Last album proved that we were fuckin’ brutal.” So what were Mike and El-P to do with their sophomore release? Apparently take over the damn hip hop world—because that’s what they did.

This is a cohesive, smart, cocky, intense, and dirty rap record. I kept telling people that it “makes me feel all sorts of ways,” because it is true. The beats that El-P creates are absolutely mind-blowing. And virtually no one compares to Killer Mike’s flow. Their combination is impenetrable.

If this album proves anything, it is that friendship means everything in collaboration. The bond these two men have is absolutely apparent in the way they write their music and their lyrics. I appreciate how forward they are with their respect for each other and for taking over the rap game together.

This is a very special album that may not work for everyone and it definitely isn’t an album you can readily share with your kids. However, their work thus far has cemented them as tops in the game. Now, the rest of the rap world gets to respond.

2. Descensus, Circa Survive
Release Date: November 24, 2014

After my frustration over Violent Waves in 2012, I was fully prepared to be completely disappointed by this album. But when I heard that Circa had signed a one-album deal with Sumerian Records AND that they were going into the studio with Will Yip—who also produced the new Code Orange album—I raised my excitement level because I had a feeling that this release had the chance to be something new for my favorite band.

I was hesitant at first—and it pains me as a Juturna-purist to say this—but this is their strongest and best album. Circa Survive found the pocket with Descensus. This isn’t your typical Circa Survive any more.

Everything the band has ever done led to this moment in their career. Descensus kicks off with the most powerful track the band has ever written—“Schema,” and does not relent until the most chilling track the band has ever written—“Nesting Dolls,” which is my favorite track on the album.

Amid Anthony Green’s and Colin Frangicetto’s difficult personal lives over the last couple of years, Circa was able put their strongest foot forward, creating all new depths of haunting experimentation with this release. It’s so refreshing and inspiring to watch a band reinvent themselves in so many ways in just a few years. It’s beautiful.

1. Keep You, Pianos Become the Teeth
Release Date: October 28, 2014

Here it is! Number one!

I have seen many people listing this high on their lists and that made me incredibly happy because this is a very special album.

As singer, Kyle Durfey made the brave decision to strip away his usual guttural screams for this album—opting to sing clean vocals instead. And it is beautiful. I’ve read how some folks didn’t understand why Pianos ditched the screams or how this album seems like them selling out. But those interpretations seem completely misplaced because instead of shredding his vocal chords some more, Durfey has easily adding years to his longevity as a vocalist.

And the vocal change shouldn’t be the main focus of this album anyway. It should be meaningful nature by which this album is composed. This is a patient album wrought with eloquent lyrical brutality. Durfey has taken three albums to process through the death of his father and this album is the release. This album is Durfey being comfortable with the loss. All of the tracks recount his struggle and demonstrate the strength it takes to deal with such a loss.

I am currently going through this process as I deal with the mortality of my father—which made this album (and their previous albums) even more helpful for me because I am not alone in my struggle or in my pain and nervousness toward being around my father.

This album was a rebirth of a genre. This album takes post hardcore and flips it on its head—sort of like As Cities Burn did when they released “Come Now Sleep.” If you are uncomfortable with such a drastic change like this album presented, that probably says more about you than it does about the band.

I am thankful for this album. I am thankful for this community.

I am thankful to share some of my favorite tunes and feelings with you all.
I hope you enjoyed this list.

I’ll see you next year!

- Crig.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2014 Music Review, Part 004 (Albums 50-26)

I’m back!
This countdown has been pretty difficult to narrow down because of how competitive all of these albums are for me.

This section was probably the most challenging to compose because I kept weighing all of my top 50 against each other so I could create a list I am comfortable with.

I have tinkered and tinkered and this section is finally complete.

Hope you enjoy!

Note: As always, f you want to view the rest of my list before moving forward, check these out:
We’re almost done!

50. Floating, Sleep Party People
Release Date: June 02, 2014

Not only is this one of my favorite album covers of the year, I stumbled upon this album at a time when I definitely needed some weird and airy music in my life. This album is perfectly industrial, creepy, beautiful, and accessible—has a Radiohead meets Nine Inch Nails feel.

49. De Oro, Jason Feathers
Release Date: August 19, 2014

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) produces tracks for Kanye—which means he needed to create his own rap album. So he did! With the help of drummer/vocalist, S. Carey, & MC Astronautalis (by way of voice modulator), he has constructed a weird, endearing, and impressive effort as the collective Jason Feathers.

48. LP1, FKAtwigs
Release Date: August 06, 2014

THAT VOICE, DOE! Tahliah Barnett has such an angelic voice and it creates such a unique tension when juxtaposed with minimalist beats and atmosphere. This album is as beautiful as it is jarring, which makes for a very special listen.

47. I’ll Be the Tornado, Dads
Release Date: October 14, 2014

Dads took a bold risk on this album because they ditched almost every shred of the band they were on the beloved jam rock, American Radass LP. Their risk paid off because this follow up has so much depth to it that the band has completely reinvented itself into a powerful force of rock fusion.
Play: “But”

46. COPE, Manchester Orchestra
Release Date: April 01, 2014

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Manchester release. They are easily one of my top three favorite bands, so I always have high expectations. This album is their heaviest to date, and while it never really lets up, we learn why later on this list. COPE is an incredible rock album by the emerging kings of rock.

45. Temple of Plenty, Somos
Release Date:

Somos is an emo/punk hybrid act that creates fun, honest, and accessible music. Their debut LP shows a lot of potential for the direction of this scene, as they emerge as front-runners for evolving what we thought we knew about emo and punk.

44. We Held Our Breath Until Our Hearts Exploded, Beneath the Watchful Eyes
Release Date: March 25, 2014

This is a post rock album for those who dig the industrial stylings of 65daysofstatic and/or God is an Astronaut. The drums and beats are chaotic, the riffs are infectious, and the atmosphere is borderline apocalyptic.

43. My Favourite Faded Fantasy, Damien Rice
Release Date: November 10, 2014

Damien Rice finally returned with a new album this year and yes, it is deliciously morose and somber as usual. Rice proves he is still one of the most vulnerable writers around.

42. ANTEMASQUE, Antemasque
Release Date: November 10, 2014

Okay, so the Mars Volta broke up. I’m okay with that. But I did not expect Omar and Cedric to already jump back into the game with a new rockin’ group that is nothing like any of their previous projects. Once the album starts, the jam is on! Flea even plays bass with this straight-forward experimental rock act.

41. Another Language, This Will Destroy You
Release Date: September 16, 2014

The first two TWDY albums are two of the greatest examples of instrumental post rock. I felt they fizzled on Tunnel Blanket. Yet, this LP completely brings the band back into form as they explore go from exploring noise to exploring uncharted atmospheres.

40. Wishful Thinking, Neck Deep
Release Date: January 14, 2014

Britain’s own pop punk rock masters, Neck Deep, released their first proper LP this year & it was a massive success. After seeing the band live this year, it was clear to see how their brand pop punk brings old and young fans together to appreciate the honesty, the childishness, and fun music this band creates.

39. Move on, Makes trails, Lost in the Riots
Release Date: June 30, 2014

Are you a fan of guitar tapping & upbeat instrumental music? Well, give this album a shot! I put my 2014 instrumental playlist on shuffle for much of 2014 & whenever LITR came on, I always started their album over. Such catchy riffs & infectious drums.

38. The Physical World, Death From Above 1979
Release Date: September 09, 2014

These dudes took years off from creating music together and their first release after the sabbatical has garnered them lots of attention for this brilliantly constructed rock album. There was apparently no dust to shake off. Just more classic tunes to create.

37. Sisyphus, Sisyphus
Release Date: March 18, 2014

Another collaborative album! This is from one of the most talented instrumentalists, Sufjan Stevens, as well as post rock/hip-hop producer, Son Lux, & rapper, Serengeti. This is one of the most creative albums I’ve ever heard. It isn’t folk, or hip-hop, or atmosphere—it's a full musical experience.

36. Oblation, Floor
Release Date:

Apparently I enjoy sludge and stoner metal now because I could not stop listening to Oblation in 2014. This droning metal performance is absolutely impressive. Each track builds onto the next as Floor crafts a powerful for virtually any metal head.

35. Modern Noise, Thomas Giles
Release Date: November 25, 2014

The lead singer of Between the Buried and Me is one talented man. Modern Noise is his third album and contains a massive array of styles and techniques, demonstrating that Tommy Rogers truly gets music. While I can’t wait for the next BTBAM album, at least I have this brilliant release to tide me over.

33. They Don’t Have to Believe, PUNCH
Release Date:

PUNCH crafted the punk album of the year. This 20-minute album packs such a—wait for it—PUNCH! This Loma Prieta side project takes no prisoners en route to being a nonstop thrill-ride of feminist punk.

34. HOPE, Manchester Orchestra
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Manchester announced this secret album OUT OF NOWHERE in August to a rampage of internet buzz. The band took all of the sounds from COPE and turned them into chill/acoustic arrangements. This added so much depth to the concept & inspired me to create my own mash up of the album, which is accessible here.

32. Guilty of Everything, Nothing
Release Date: March 04, 2014

I initially slept on this album. But after a few drives across Massachusetts I fell for this brilliant showgazey post-metal album. Basically, I just keep turning the album up louder and louder.

31. Built on Glass, Chet Faker
Release Date: April 11, 2014

Groovy, sultry, addictive—three words that sum up this album. I’m not sure that I need to say much more than if you enjoy fun electronic beats accompanied by soulful vocals, this is an essential album for you.

30. Eschaton, Waking Aida
Release Date: June 02, 2014

Talk about creating post-rock instrumental music that is so groovy it feels like each song is an out-of-body experience. Waking Aida dazzles on this epic instrumental album full of everything pleasing for post rock fans. 

29. From Parts Unknown, Every Time I Die
Release Date: June 27, 2014

ETID must've realized folks weren’t into Ex-Lives, so they decided to follow it up with an album that completely kicks ass. From Parts Unknown makes for one epic spastic-hardcore experience. ETID is most comfortable when pushing the boundaries & this album delivers.

28. Early Riser, Taylor McFerrin
Release Date: June 10, 2014

Easily one of the most chill albums of the year. Taylor McFerrin’s debut established his production and arrangement skills as tops in the chill-step game by meshing jazz piano/synth and drums, infectious bass, and atmospheric ambience.

27. El Pintor, Interpol
Release Date: September 08, 2014

I didn’t have the easiest time with Interpol’s previous self-titled album. However, holy shit! El Pintor was exactly what I needed from Interpol. They returned to form with their earlier sound, which gave me all sorts of feels and excitement for the success of this classic post punk band.

26. Head in the Clouds, Hands in the Dirt, Aviator
Release Date: August 19, 2014

It was great to hear a band release an incredible melodic hardcore album in 2014. I needed this one. It has such an old Thrice feel and certainly stood out to me for its perfect balance of intensity and eloquence.

There you have it!
Only one section left!

If you want to view the rest of my list, check these out: