Fester’s Lucky 13: 2014 Year-End Summary

Fast 'n' Bulbous Best Of 2014

Top 100 Albums of 2014 | 2014 Breakdown: Genre Lists | Shows, Videos | Movies, Television, Books & Comics

When year-end list season starts around Thanksgiving, I’m always enthusiastic, enjoying binge-listening on a couple hundred more albums I missed out on earlier in the year. This year though I felt a bit disconnected to what these writers were thinking and feeling when they chose their top entries. With the number of publications and sites participating in year-end lists increasing every year, I wonder if people are getting more self-conscious about their choices, second-guessing their tastes and striving to choose albums that are “important” and “substantial.” Was the Scott Walker + Sunn O))) album really on heavy rotation on that many playlists this year? Other list-toppers were Einsturzende Neubauten, Swans, Aphex Twin and FKA Twigs. With the exception of the latter, it’s a bunch of difficult listening for old men. I appreciate and even admire most of those albums which lurk somewhere in my lists, but man, that’s some hard shit to love. Okay, you’ve all proven how sophisticated and tasteful you are, but how about a little stupid, ridiculous fun? Where have we gone wrong when the majority of these publications act like heavy rock doesn’t even exist? Sure, some mainstream mags like to throw in a couple metal albums to show they aren’t completely oblivious. Last year’s go-to was Deafheaven (blech). This year doom is actually getting some critical love, with YOB and particularly Pallbearer. That’s great, but there’s so much more. But I guess that’s why you’re reading this!

Comebacks of the Year

While it’s been seven years since Shellac’s last album, they have pioneered a new working model that will become more popular in the future. Basically work their jobs and live their lives, and then gig and record whenever they damn well please. So that’s just normal for them. That’s probably the same situation now for Brazil’s Nação Zumbi, who also last released an album in 2007. That used to be a lifetime, literally (7 years is about the range of The Beatles’ entire recorded output). But as rock is in its seventh decade, 7 years is now a blink of the eye. Now with Godflesh, it’s been 13 years. We didn’t know if they would ever reunite, and while it’s not surprising that they did, a new album and tour was indeed a treat. During their time away, it seems their stature has only grown. A World Lit Only By Fire was their most impressively punishing since probably Songs Of Love And Hate (1996). D’Angelo just came back on December 15 with his first new album in 14 years, with a new band The Vanguard.

Debuts of the year

Blues Pills takes this race, with their self-titled debut placing in my top 13. Close behind were The Sea Kings, Lola Colt, Dark Blue, The Oath, Satyress and Demon Eye all impressively making my top 20.

Overrated of the Year

The War On Drugs. I don’t hate this band at all, and I can kind of see how their gauzy pop that also evokes classics from Dylan, Springsteen and Tom Petty can appeal to people. Sort of. But best album of the year in multiple lists? Nooooo no no no. Top 400 at best (it’s currently #522 for me)!

Disappointment of the Year

Overall I was pleased with the output from my favorite artists. My only disappointments really are just not getting to see highly anticipated releases this year from some of my favorites like Graveyard, Witchcraft, Ufomammut, Royal Thunder, Elder, Troubled Horse and Christian Mistress. But that just gives me more to look forward to. The freshest one in my mind right now is AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust. Black Ice (2008) was actually good, and I thought they’d possibly be able to even improve on it. Instead, we got this pile of tired cliches. Thom Yorke and Peaking Lights weren’t as high profile releases, but they also disappointed.

Underrated

As usual, the majority of my list would qualify, starting with Truckfighters. But at least they have super enthusiastic crowds at the shows, even if they don’t completely sell out most of the the clubs on their impressively frequent U.S. tours (aside from Graveyard and Kadavar, very few Swedish bands have even set foot in North America). Spiders without a freakin’ doubt would have very widespread, universal appeal if people just heard them, but unless you follow me and just a couple other genre blogs, you wouldn’t even know they exist. Ridiculous.

Without further ado, release the rock!

Fester’s Lucky 13 – The Best Albums of 2014

01. Truckfighters – Universe (Fuzzorama)

2014-truckfightersWhat kind of asshole wouldn’t like Truckfighters? Seriously, anyone who doesn’t hate rock music has got to have some issues if they turn their nose up at this band. Whether your preferences lean toward extreme metal or difficult listening for old men (I’ll get into that later), there’s much to love with these Swedes. At live shows and their “Fuzzomentary” movie they put forth an almost knuckle-dragging neanderthal approach to thick, fuzzy tones, hell-raising stage presence and self-deprecating humor. I’d imagine a similar kind of experience seeing AC/DC in a small Australian club in 1975. They’re not merely Kyuss stoner rock acolytes, but have integrated punk, grunge, psych and prog, with often soulful, melancholy lyrics. There’s heavier, prettier, more ambitious albums this year, but nothing that has come close to rocking me thoroughly all year long as Universe. | Full Review

Colour Haze - To The Highest Gods We Know (Elektrohasch, 2014)02. Colour Haze – To The Highest Gods We Know (Elektrohasch)

It took Colour Haze five years to put out their previous double album masterpiece She Said. But now that Stefan Koglek’s custom built studio is finished, they’re back to a more regular release schedule. Koglek and band have really honed their studio craft, and amazingingly, their 11th album is their most diverse, exploring all kinds of twists in turns in their musical journey. The orchestration from the last album continues on opening track “Circles,” and reach a shocking new level of experimentation on the closing title track, featuring acoustic guitar, and fellow München residents the Modern String Quartet, evolving from an Egyptian theme to some flat-out avant garde modern classical. Those are some ambitious arrangements, and they totally work. In between is “Paradise,” as close as they’ve gotten to psychedelic pop with gorgeous vocal harmonies, a unique take on Neu’s motorik rhythm on “Überall,” and “Call,” a lovely dirge that eventually opens up into thunderous guitar fuzz overdrive. Like the mostly singular word song titles, every cut is distinctly uncluttered, exuding a Zen sense of purpose that you only find with a band at the peak potency. At just over 42 minutes (including some silence before a vocal chant-like coda). Does the spiritual vibe to the whole set mean it’s Koglek’s own A Love Supreme? I don’t know if the gods he knows are from an ancient religion or aliens in an egg-shaped spaceship. Perhaps the point is it doesn’t matter, as long as it inspires us to make, and appreciate, some breathtaking devotional music.

Wovenhand - Refractory Obdurate (Deathwish, Inc., 2014)03. Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate (Deathwish)

I’m not religious but I respect Wovenhand so much that I follow their Facebook page and put up with the daily bible passages. David Eugene Edwards’ intensity and fervor is something everyone should behold. Formerly of 16 Horsepower, his second band already has over half a dozen albums, all worth having. On the latest and greatest, the basic elements remain, a spooky, gothic mix of Americana, country, folk and gospel, but with a much heavier dose of post-punk. Think Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds/Grinderman, Gun Club, Joy Division and Swans/Angels of Light, but with extra apocalyptic hellfire and brimstone. | Bandcamp

Spiders - Shake Electric (Spinefarm, 2014)04. Spiders – Shake Electric (Spinefarm)

I think the only reason these Swedish rockers aren’t taking over the world is that their label has completely dropped the ball in distribution, at least in the U.S. I’ve had the CD on order at my local record store for over a month now. The latest album by labelmates Electric Wizard was readily available, so I wonder the label isn’t actively promoting it beyond Europe (though you can order it from Amoeba). It’s a shame, because they’re one of the best kept secrets in rock right now. While many of the European bands I’m into these days are weighted toward stoner, occult psych or doom, Spiders are more straight-up garagey hard rock with a dark edge, and a few more 70s influences on their second album. One listen and many of you will think, oh my god why didn’t I hear them sooner, seek out their other album and singles, and seriously contemplate flying to Europe to see them play. | Full Review

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore, 2014)05. Pallbearer – Foundations Of Burden (Profound Lore)

When I first saw Pallbearer around the time of their debut album, they were so unassuming, keeping their heads down and churning out a seemingly workmanlike, polished doom, it took a while to sink in how much potential they had. It was simply a band completely focused on their music, that they had not yet considered any other kind of showmanship. Listening to their second album, they don’t really need it. The songs are so perfectly honed and chiseled, you just can’t help but get lost in the sound, engrossed to the point of being unaware of your surroundings. Yeah, it’s that good, a landmark release. Full Review

Electric Wizard - Time To Die (Spinefarm, 2014)06. Electric Wizard – Time To Die (Spinefarm)

Electric Wiz fans have become divided since their previous couple albums, Witchcult Today (2007) and Black Masses (2010) veered into a more psychedelic direction. Despite sounding kind of tinny and bottom-light, they gained a lot more fans. Time To Die returns to a much heavier, nastier sound, that’s even more blown out and uncompromising than We Live (2004) and Dopethrone (2000). The sound perfectly reflects their black, misanthropic character, and may not top Dopethrone, but certainly approaches that territory. Not that Electric Wizard cares what I or anyone thinks. | Full Review

Slough Feg - Digital Resistance (Metal Blade, 2014)07. Slough Feg – Digital Resistance (Metal Blade)

24 years into their career, Slough Feg finally got signed to a decent sized label, which immediately reissued three of their early classics (under their original name The Lord Weird Slough Feg) in a box set. It’s good to see something going right in the world. Their first under the new deal is Digital Resistance, which finds them on the upswing after 2010’s The Animal Spirits. While Mike Scalzi was unsatisfied by that one (it was still a good album), they’re once again operating at peak powers. While the storyline takes a different angle (old man complaining about technology), they pull it off just as well as their more traditional sci fi themes. And they remain one of the best live bands around. | Full Review

Witch Mountain - Mobile Of Angels (Profound Lore, 2014)08. Witch Mountain – Mobile Of Angels (Profound Lore)

It was a bit of a disappointing shock to hear the announcement that Uta Plotkin was leaving the band shortly after the album’s release, they did complete a final tour before she left. While some people remain fans of her work on previous albums, the third album (and band’s fourth overall) definitely has some of her all-time best work as she continues to grow from experience on the road and in the studio. The band has perservered for a long time, and will no doubt recover from the lost and find another singer to fill her shoes. Until then Mobile Of Angels is essential listening for any doom fan. | Full Review

Shellac - Dude Incredible (Touch & Go, 2014)09. Shellac – Dude Incredible (Touch & Go)

Shellac always had an easygoing, jokey rapport with its audience in their 21 years of live gigs, but their latest is really the first to nail the band’s personality on record. Not that the music isn’t as intense and disciplined as ever, but the quirky stories in the songwriting are more involving, and the riffs are stickier. Am I saying it’s better than At Action Park (1994)? It’s close! But like yeah, dude. It’s incredible. | Full Review

Blues Pills - Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast, 2014)10. Blues Pills – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)

Two ex Radio Moscow dudes leave Iowa via California and move to Sweden to join up with a French teen guitar prodigy and a Swedish woman with killer pipes, sounds like the stuff new legends are made of! Their debut, produced by Don Ahlsterber (Graveyard) delivers on that promise and then some. Let’s hope we’re so lucky for them to tour the U.S. | Full Review

The Sea Kings - Woke In The Devil's Arms (Iffy Folk, 2014)11. The Sea Kings – Woke In The Devil’s Arms (Iffy Folk)

This was one of those great, random finds that stunned me in my tracks. I’ve been preaching ever since, but I think only like one friend has actually checked them out so far. Yeah I know, the CD is hard to find and they’re not on Bandcamp or Spotify. You can buy it on iTunes though. What kills me is that the site that turned me on to the album which called it “album of the year contender” didn’t even include it in their top 200 list. Well fuck ’em sideways, this deserves better. I just about lost my mind when I first heard the lead single “Bible John,” which sounds like a long-lost single from 1984, a supergroup collaboration between The Smiths and Postcard groups like Aztec Camera, The Go Betweens and Josef K. Despite its celebratory ebullience, it’s actually a sinister tale about the 1960s Glasgow Barrowland killer. That’s pretty much the band’s m.o., tales about horrible things. Nick Cave would approve. The title track that kicks off the album is especially indebted to Cave, and also underrated Australian band The Triffids. Dark, heavy and brooding, it’s a magnificent start to the album. “Moonlit Range” is a plodding death waltz that made me wonder when they were going to pick up the tempo again. It turns out nothing else on the album remotely resembles “Bible John.” After adjusting expectations, the album’s brilliance spreads through you like the warm burn of a double Scotch. “The Night Of Broken Glass” takes place in 30s Germany where a young man fatally attempts to defect. “Is Paris Burning” has some particularly evocative imagery as a tragic love note from a jail cell. The band citing writer Alasdair Gray as an influence turns out to be no joke. These are truly literary songs. The album ends with another highlight, “Across The Coals,” a ghostly murder ballad with Ennio Morricone undertones and strings, like The Dirty Three with an excellent lyricist. You’d think the arrival of a colossal talent like this would call for some fanfare, but eh, it’s 2014 and everyone has their heads up their arses in their own particular micro scenes. | Bandcamp

TV On The Radio - Seeds (Harvest, 2014)12. TV On The Radio – Seeds (Harvest)

A new TVOTR album is always cause for anticipation and celebration. While I was initially disappointed by a few of the weaker tracks, it’s only grown on me since I reviewed it, and I now like it even better than their last one, Nine Types Of Light (2011). “Will Do” still slays me and I’m still confused and angry that it was never a big hit. After dominating the polls in 2006 and 2008, what I’d love to see is this band get some mainstream success. There’s more than a couple potential singles that could get ’em paid, if only Harvest could work that tricky pop machine. It’s not too late… | Full Review

Dark Blue - Pure Reality (Jade Tree, 2014)13. Dark Blue – Pure Reality (Jade Tree)

It was a tough choice deciding which gets this last lucky 13 spot. Despite heated competition from The New Christs, Wo Fat and The Oath, Dark Blue dispatched them with a deadly glower. I loves me some darkwave/post-punk as much as Gir loves tacos (see Invader Zim), and Dark Blue pushes that pleasure button in a similar way that Finnish newcomers Beastmilk did last year. This year the new guys are from Philadelphia, not quite as exotic as a bunch of death metalers from Finland. However, they have an interesting story, with John Sharkey III spending time in Canberra, Australia. He wrote many of the songs while working the graveyard shift as a night watchman, and had mixed feelings about having to return to Philly. Hooking up with members of Puerto Rico Flowers, Ceremony and others, Dark Blue brought these nocturnal songwriting sessions to fruition with Sharkey singing them in a suitably doomy Ian Curtis-like baritone. Full disclosure, my estimation of the album includes their fantastic single, “Just Another Night With The Boys,” which stupidly isn’t included on the fairly short 8 track album. You can buy it cheap on Bandcamp, and add ’em to your CD rip or iTunes download, along with the John Cale cover and yet another single from earlier in the year, “Subterranean Man”/”Skinhead Wedding in Canberra.” It’s a little DIY but worth it!

The rest of the top 20 and beyond
The rest of the best top 20 is no mere consolation or afterthought. I would do write-ups of the top 200 if I had time. How deep you go has everything to do with how much time you’ve got, and nothing to do with any significant dip in quality. I have albums buried deep in the lower 400s that have topped multiple year-end polls. So how hungry are you, rockers?

It’s as if newcomers Lola Colt read my mind as to what I’ve been craving, a mix of psychedelic garage noir with a touch of post-punk. Former Radio Birdman Rob Younger has been leading Australia’s The New Christs for 25 years and has reached a new peak with the latest. Wo Fat’s voodoo blues doom psych gumbo is more potent than ever on their fifth outing. Two women from Sweden and Germany recorded a stellar occult psych/proto-metal album as The Oath and promptly broke up before it was even released. Will they be forgotten or become cult legends? Hard touring husband-wife metal unit Castle are better than ever on their third album. Brimstone Coven self-released their first two albums, and after an appearance at Days of the Doomed fest in Milwaukee last summer, it was announced they were signed to Metal Blade. Remastered and combined on one disc, it’s not to be missed for proto-metal/doom fans. Satyress and Demon Eye explore more facets of psych and proto-metal with brilliant results.

Beyond the top 100 below, there’s so much more great music, some of which is covered in the genre lists. Or go here to view the entire 720+ album list for the year. | Spotify Mix Playlist | MP3 Mix | Spotify Album Playlist

2014-cds

  1. Lola Colt – Away From The Water (Fuzz Club) | Bandcamp
  2. The New Christs – Incantations (Impedance) | Bandcamp
  3. Wo Fat – The Conjuring (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  4. The Oath – The Oath (Rise Above)
  5. Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic) | Buy
  6. Brimstone Coven – Brimstone Coven (Metal Blade) | Bandcamp
  7. Satyress – Dark Fortunes (Satyress) | Bandcamp
  8. Demon Eye – Leave The Light (Soulseller/Megaforce) | Bandcamp
  9. Syd Arthur  – Sound Mirror (Harvest) | Bandcamp
  10. Doug Tuttle – Doug Tuttle (Trouble In Mind)
  11. Kikagaku Moyo – Forest Of Lost Children (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) | Bandcamp
  12. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Intensity Ghost (No Quarter) | Buy
  13. Thelightshines – Now The Sandman Sings (thelightshines) | Buy
  14. Quilt – Held In Splendour (Mexican Summer)
  15. Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack – …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire (Singlespeed) | Bandcamp
  16. The Skull – For Those Which Are Asleep (Tee Pee)
  17. Earth – Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord) | Bandcamp
  18. Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen And Unseen (Church Within)
  19. The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting (12XU) | Bandcamp
  20. Motorpsycho – Behind The Sun (Rune Grammafon)
  21. Goat – Commune (Sub Pop)
  22. Together Pangea – Badillac (Harvest)
  23. Les Big Byrd – They Worshipped Cats (Höga Nord/A Recordings)
  24. Wand – Ganglion Reef (God) | Buy
  25. Apostle Of Solitude – Of Woe And Wounds (Cruz del Sur) | Bandcamp
  26. All Them Witches – Lightning At The Door (+180 Records) | Bandcamp
  27. Hits – Hikikomori (Conquest Of Noise) | Bandcamp
  28. Ogre – The Last Neanderthal (Minotauro) | Bandcamp
  29. Mansion – Uncreation EP (Nine) | Bandcamp
  30. Purson – In The Meantime EP (Machine Elf)
  31. Alunah – Awakening The Forest (Napalm)
  32. The Well – Samsara (RidingEasy) | Buy
  33. Death Penalty – Death Penalty (Rise Above)
  34. Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
  35. Dawnbringer – Night Of The Hammer (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  36. The Estranged – The Estranged (Sabotage/Dirtnap) | Bandcamp
  37. Electric Citizen – Sateen (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  38. Messenger – Illusory Blues (Svart) | Bandcamp
  39. Comet Control – Comet Control (Tee Pee)
  40. Wedge – Wedge (Wedge) | Bandcamp
  41. The Socks – The Socks (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  42. smallgang – san (Damnably)
  43. YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot) | Buy
  44. Nação Zumbi – Nação Zumbi (Slap)
  45. Gallon Drunk – The Soul Of The Hour (Clouds Hill)
  46. Protomartyr – Under Cover Of Official Right (Hardly Art) | Bandcamp
  47. Greenleaf – Trails & Passes (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  48. Interpol – El Pintor (Matador)
  49. Spoon – They Want My Soul (Merge)
  50. Black Moth – Condemned To Hope (New Heavy Sounds)
  51. Ovvl – Screech (Magick Hermit/Lummox) | Bandcamp
  52. Heat – Labyrinth (This Charming Man) | Bandcamp
  53. Monolord – Empress Rising (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  54. Moab – Billow (Scion AV)
  55. Total Control – Typical System (Iron Lung) | Bandcamp
  56. Ought – More Than Any Other Day (Constellation) | Bandcamp
  57. Hands Of Orlac – Figli Del Crepuscolo (Horror Records) | Bandcamp
  58. Satan’s Satyrs – Die Screaming (Trash King) | Bandcamp
  59. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche) | Bandcamp
  60. Swans – To Be Kind (Young God/Mute)
  61. Floor – Oblation (Season of Mist) | Bandcamp
  62. Dwellers – Pagan Fruit (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  63. Lé Betre – Melas (Le Betre) | Bandcamp
  64. Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus – Spirit Knife (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  65. Spiral Shades – Hypnosis Sessions (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  66. Occultation – Silence In The Ancestral House (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  67. Hornss – No Blood, No Sympathy (RidingEasy)
  68. Tony Allen – Film Of Life (JazzVillage)
  69. Juçara Marçal – Encarnado (Juçara Marçal) | Free!
  70. Black Trip – Goin’ Under (Prosthetic)
  71. Mars Red Sky – Stranded In Arcadia (Listenable) | Bandcamp
  72. John Garcia – John Garcia (Napalm)
  73. Cardinals Folly – Our Cult Continues! (Shadow Kingdom) | Bandcamp
  74. Lo-Pan – Colossus (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  75. Hessian – Bachelor Of Black Arts (Hessian) | Bandcamp
  76. Papir – Papir IIII (El Paraiso)
  77. Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  78. Fu Manchu – Gigantoid (Redeye) | Bandcamp
  79. Saturn – Ascending – Live In Space (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
  80. Big Red Panda – Big Red Panda (Big Red Panda) | Bandcamp
  81. John Gallow – Violet Dreams (I, Voidhanger) | Bandcamp
  82. Boris – Noise (Sargent House) | Bandcamp
  83. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (Warp)
  84. Lecherous Gaze – Zeta Reticuli Blues (Lecherous Gaze) | Bandcamp
  85. Temples – Sun Structures (Heavenly/Fat Possum)
  86. Bong – Stoner Rock (Ritual)

2014 Breakdown

Psych
The Oath - The Oath (Rise Above, 2014)Lola Colt - Away From The Water (Fuzz Club, 2014)While 2014 seemed to be the year of doom as far as high profile releases, it turned out the genre with the most releases overall that held my interest was not metal, nor stoner rock, but psychedelic. To be honest the album I listened to the most this year was last year’s late discovery The Hidden Masters. I’m kind of obsessed with them, but unfortunately they kept an extremely low profile all year, rarely gigging even in their native UK. I hope that means they’re busy recording another album. Lola Colt is another late discovery for me. Produced by The Bad Seeds’ Jim Sclavunos, this UK group has concocted a stirring hybrid of psychedelic garage noir with a strong female lead (a Danish singer named Gun) who reminds me of Leslie Woods of post-punkers Au Pairs.  Mmoss had a couple good psych albums but came and went, breaking up before I’d even heard them. Their guitarist Doug Tuttle, however, put out a debut solo album that’s far more impressive. While as expected there’s plenty of fabulous guitar parts, riffs and solos to sink your teeth into, his songwriting has reached another level, invoking pop psych from the 60s and 70s while attaining a signature sound.  The Oath could just as easily fit into the metal category along with labelmates Death Penalty. The band is no more, but keep an eye out for vocalist Johanna Sadonis’ new band Lucifer next year (the guitarist joined Finnish post-punkers Beastmilk). Japan’s Kikagaku Moyo was another revalatory late discovery. They have two albums here, Mammatus Clouds and the more succinct Forest Of Lost Children. Thelightshines are a new discovery for me, a UK band that has a surface similarity with the Allah-La’s as far as 60s jangly psych pop influences. There’s even 80s and 90s elements with The Rain Parade, Shack and Spacemen 3, but also some Middle Eastern melodies and Popol Vuh that make them much more captivating than their peers. Earth could make itself at home in many other genres, including doom and post-metal. On the strength of their best track, “From The Zodiacal Light,” I’m slotting them here. With a mysterious back story, hidden identities under costumes and a fantastic stage show, Goat managed to improve on their very popular debut. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up along with countrymen Ghost. Swedish psych rockers Les Big Byrd is one of the most slept on releases this year. People really ought to be going apeshit over them to the extent that they do Tame Impala and Temples, but they gotta be lead to the water first. Finnish occult (for real) psych band Mansion has been percolating the past couple years with increasingly impressive EPs. When their full-length finally comes out early next year, they should blow up to the scale of at least Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats if not Ghost and Goat. Purson also would deserve the attention. Read more about some of my late discoveries in this list here. | Spotify

  1. Lola Colt – Away From The Water (Fuzz Club) | Bandcamp
  2. The Oath – The Oath (Rise Above)
  3. Doug Tuttle – Doug Tuttle (Trouble In Mind) | Buy
  4. Kikagaku Moyo – Forest Of Lost Children (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) | Bandcamp
  5. Thelightshines – Now The Sandman Sings (thelightshines) | Buy
  6. Quilt – Held In Splendour (Mexican Summer)
  7. Earth – Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord) | Bandcamp
  8. Goat – Commune (Sub Pop)
  9. Les Big Byrd – They Worshipped Cats (Höga Nord/A Recordings)
  10. Wand – Ganglion Reef (God) | Buy
  11. Mansion – Uncreation EP (Nine) | Bandcamp
  12. Purson – In The Meantime EP (Machine Elf)
  13. Electric Citizen – Sateen (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  14. Comet Control – Comet Control (Tee Pee)
  15. Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus – Spirit Knife (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  16. Temples – Sun Structures (Heavenly/Fat Possum)
  17. The Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)  | Buy
  18. Octopus Syng – Reverberating Garden No. 7 (Mega Dodo) | Bandcamp
  19. The Lay Llamas – Ostro (Rocket) | Bandcamp
  20. Dahga Bloom – No Curtains (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  21. Violet Woods – Violet Woods (Violet Wodos) | Bandcamp
  22. Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt (Trouble In Mind) | Buy
  23. The Love Dimension – Create And Consume (Warrior Monk) | Bandcamp
  24. Kikagaku Moyo – Mammatus Clouds (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  25. Heaven’s Gateway Drugs – Apropos (HGD) | Bandcamp
  26. Hookworms – The Hum (Weird World)
  27. The Golden Grass – The Golden Grass (Svart) | Bandcamp
  28. Sungod – Vision Space (Sungod) | Bandcamp
  29. Seven That Spells – The Death And Resurrection Of Krautrock: IO (Sulatron) | Bandcamp
  30. La Hell Gang – Thru Me Again (Mexican Summer) | Bandcamp
  31. Spidergawd – Spidergawd (Crispin Glover)
  32. Cult Of Dom Keller – The Second Bardo (Cardinal Fuzz) | Bandcamp
  33. CreaturoS – Popsicle (Primordial Sounds) | Bandcamp
  34. Bozmo – Leather Umbrella (Bozmo) | Bandcamp
  35. Jess & the Ancient Ones – Castaneda EP (Svart)
  36. Woods – With Light And With Love (Woodsist)
  37. Dead Sea Apes – High Evolutionary (Cardinal Fuzz) | Bandcamp
  38. Lumerians – Transmissions From Telos Vol. III (Cardinal Fuzz) | Bandcamp
  39. Has A Shadow – Sky Is Hell Black (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  40. Black Bombain – Far Out (Black Bombain) | Bandcamp
  41. Montibus Communitas – The Pilgrim To The Absolute (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) | Bandcamp
  42. Eternal Tapestry – Guru Overload (Oaken Palace) | Bandcamp
  43. White Manna – Come Down Safari (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  44. Ice Dragon – Seeds From A Dying Garden (Navalorama) | Bandcamp
  45. Monster Magnet – Milking The Stars (Napalm)
  46. 3rd Ear Experience – Incredible Good Fortune (3rd Ear Experience)
  47. Gulp – Season Sun (Sonic Cathedral) | Bandcamp
  48. Slow Motion Rider – Slow Motion Rider (Committee To Keep Music Evil) | Buy
  49. Pontiak – Innocence (Thrill Jockey)
  50. Haikai No Ku – Ultra High Dimensionality (Box) | Bandcamp
  51. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader (Heavenly)
  52. Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha (Three Lobed) | Bandcamp
  53. Liquido Di Morte – Liquido Di Morte (Sstars) | Bandcamp
  54. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent (Drag City)
  55. The Janitors – Evil Doings Of An Evil Kind EP (Bad Afro) | Bandcamp
  56. Anthroprophh – Outside The Circle (Rocket) | Bandcamp
  57. Wildest Dreams – Wildest Dreams (Smalltown Supersound)
  58. Monomyth – Further (Suburban World) | Bandcamp
  59. Villagers of Ioannina City – Riza (Mantra) | Bandcamp
  60. The Cosmic Dead – Easterfaust (Sound of Cobra) | Bandcamp
  61. Blank Realm – Grassed In (Fire)
  62. Cool Ghouls – A Swirling Fire Burning Through the Rye (Empty Cellar) | Bandcamp
  63. Three Seasons – Grow (Transubstans)
  64. Three Dimensional Tanx – Three Dimensional Tanx (Sunstone) | Bandcamp
  65. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation (A Records)
  66. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (Flightless)
  67. Sleepy Sun – Maui Tears (Dine Alone)
  68. Foxygen – …And Star Power (Jagjaguwar)
  69. Thee Oh Sees – Drop (Castle Face)
  70. Allah-Las – Worship The Sun (Innovative Leisure)
  71. The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia (Ghost Box)
  72. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Oddments (Flightless) | Bandcamp
  73. The Movements – Elephants 2 (Crusher)
  74. Black Lips – Underneath The Rainbow (Vice)
  75. Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency (Thrill Jockey)
  76. The Black Angels – Clear Lake Forest (Blue Horizen)
  77. Donovan Blanc – Donovan Blanc (Captured Tracks)
  78. Secret Colours – Positive Distractions | Bandcamp
  79. Elephant Stone – The Three Poisons (Hidden Pony) | Bandcamp
  80. The Soft Walls – No Time (Trouble In Mind) | Buy
  81. Pink Mountaintops – Get Back (Jagjaguwar)
  82. Bardo Pond – Looking For Another Place (Fire)

Psych Prog, Prog & Neo-Prog
Motorpsych - Behind The Sun (Rune Grammofon, 2014)Syd Arthur - Sound Mirror (Harvest, 2014)Psych Prog is mostly associated with music made between 1968 and 1972 when psychedelic music was evolving into progressive. However a few bands have been revisiting that territory and actually expanding on it, like Spirits Of The Dead, Wolf People and Hidden Masters. UK psych proggers Syd Arthur was a slow burner for me. They’ve toured with Yes but have more in common with Caravan and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Their first album pays tribute to 70s Canterbury prog and the second carries over some of the folky elements, with a focused sound that’s just so rich you want to soak in it. Norway’s psych prog masters Motorpsycho are on an incredible roll, releasing new albums almost every year. After such a long career, it seems they’re taken for granted. I so, so wish Opeth would have chosen Motorpsycho to accompany them on their North American tour. It would have been far more appropriate than In Flames, for fuck’s sake. However it was nice when 20% of the crowd exited the sold-out venue after In Flames’ set and before Opeth came on. The show was more of a span of career highlights, with only a few songs from their completely non-metal prog albums. I wouldn’t have minded an entire set of their prog, as Pale Communion was pretty great. British psych prog newcomers Messenger would have been perfect for the opening slot too. | Spotify

  1. Syd Arthur – Sound Mirror (Harvest) | Bandcamp
  2. Motorpsycho – Behind The Sun (Rune Grammafon)
  3. Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
  4. Messenger – Illusory Blues (Svart) | Bandcamp
  5. Atavismo – Desintegración (Odio Sonoro) | Bandcamp
  6. Amplifier – Mystoria (Superball) | Buy
  7. Knifeworld – The Unravelling (InsideOut)
  8. Closure In Moscow – Pink Lemonade (Sabretusk) | Bandcamp
  9. Liquido Di Morte – Liquido Di Morte (Sstars) | Bandcamp
  10. Agusa – Högtid (Transubstans)
  11. Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom (InsideOut)
  12. Sammal – No. 2 (Svart)
  13. Anathema – Distant Satellites (K-Scope)
  14. Gazpacho – Demon (Kscope)
  15. Lucifer Was – DiesGrows (Transubstans)
  16. Ethereal Riffian – Aeonian (Nasoni) | Bandcamp
  17. Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us (Season Of Mist)
  18. The Devin Townsend Project – Z2 (Century Media)
  19. Lunatic Soul – Walking On A Flashlight Beam (K-Scope)
  20. The Pineapple Thief – Magnolia (K-Scope)

Doom
The Skull - For Those Which Are Asleep (Tee Pee, 2014)Doom is really taking off lately. Last year Black Sabbath’s 13 topped the charts in both U.S. and Europe, and this year the latest from Pallbearer, YOB, Electric Wizard and even the lesser known Witch Mountain have been treated as significant events, which they are. With all the depressing shit going on in the real world, doom is more relevant than ever. But the secret is that while it acknowledges and often wallows in misery, it also turns it into a pretty damn good time! Not that Party Doom is gonna become a thing, but I have no problem dooming the fuck out nearly every day. Doom is also increasingly becoming an essential ingrediant in other psych, rock and metal bands like The Oath, Castle, Brimstone Coven, Satyress, Demon Eye, Death Penalty, Earth and many more. Another band deserving acclaim is The Skull, the majority made up of ex-Trouble members. I saw them at the Alehorn Of Power fest in 2013, but had no idea they would uncork such a special album. This is some seriously great psychedelic doom. | Spotify

  1. The Skull – For Those Which Are Asleep (Tee Pee)
  2. Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen And Unseen (Church Within)
  3. Apostle Of Solitude – Of Woe And Wounds (Cruz del Sur) | Bandcamp
  4. Ogre – The Last Neanderthal (Minotauro) | Bandcamp
  5. Alunah – Awakening The Forest (Napalm)
  6. The Well – Samsara (RidingEasy) | Buy
  7. YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot) | Buy
  8. Monolord – Empress Rising (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  9. Moab – Billow (Scion AV)
  10. Hands Of Orlac – Figli Del Crepuscolo (Horror Records) | Bandcamp
  11. Satan’s Satyrs – Die Screaming (Trash King) | Bandcamp
  12. Spiral Shades – Hypnosis Sessions (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  13. Occultation – Silence In The Ancestral House (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  14. Cardinals Folly – Our Cult Continues! (Shadow Kingdom) | Bandcamp
  15. John Gallow – Violet Dreams (I, Voidhanger) | Bandcamp
  16. FOGG – Death (Under The Gun) | Bandcamp
  17. Purple Hill Witch – Purple Hill Witch (Church Within)
  18. Conan – Blood Eagle (Napalm)
  19. The Wounded Kings – Consolamentum (Candlelight)
  20. Blood Farmers – Headless Eyes (Resurrection) | Buy
  21. Taurus –  No/Thing (Devout) | Bandcamp 
  22. Salem’s Pot – Lurar ut dig på prárien (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  23. Aleph Null – Nocturnal (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  24. Below – Across The Dark River (Metal Blade)
  25. Mortalicum – Tears From The Grave (Metal On Metal) | Bandcamp
  26. The Order Of Israfel – Wisdom (Napalm)
  27. Pilgrim – II: Void Worship (Metal Blade)
  28. The Flight Of Sleipnir – V. (Napalm) | Bandcamp
  29. Mount Salem – Endless (Metal Blade)
  30. Slomatics – Estron (Head Of Crom) | Bandcamp
  31. Druglord – Enter Venus (STB) | Bandcamp
  32. Dopelord – Black Arts, Riff Worship & Weed Cult (Dopelord) | Bandcamp
  33. Thou – Heathen (Gilead)
  34. Cosm – Primengender (Cosm) | Bandcamp
  35. 11 Paranoias – Stealing Fire From Heaven (Ritual Productions) | Bandcamp
  36. Clouds Taste Satanic – To Sleep Beyond The Earth | Bandcamp
  37. Serpent Warning – Serpent Warning (I Hate)

Post-Punk
New Christs - Incantations (Impedance, 2014)Last year saw a strong showing with post-punkers Savages, Beastmilk and PINS all making the top 13. This year there’s a nice, diverse group, Ought, Protomartyr and Iceage getting lots of year-end list love. There’s even more to love than those, mostly slept on albums from newcomers Dark Blue, who’s new album hits all the intense pressure points that Beastmilk did last year. Not to be missed are Aussie veterans The New Christs, The Gotobeds, The Estranged, and of course a really solid comeback album from Interpol. | Spotify

  1. Dark Blue – Pure Reality (Jade Tree) | Bandcamp
  2. The New Christs – Incantations (Impedance) | Bandcamp
  3. The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting (12XU) | Bandcamp
  4. The Estranged – The Estranged (Sabotage/Dirtnap) | Bandcamp
  5. Protomartyr – Under Cover Of Official Right (Hardly Art) | Bandcamp
  6. Interpol – El Pintor (Matador)
  7. Total Control – Typical System (Iron Lung) | Bandcamp
  8. Ought – More Than Any Other Day (Constellation) | Bandcamp
  9. Ştiu Nu Ştiu – Ultra Silvam (EDILS) | Bandcamp 
  10. Mode Moderne – Occult Delight (Light Organ) | Bandcamp
  11. Post War Glamour Girls – Pink Fur (HSR) | Bandcamp
  12. Iceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love (Matador)
  13. Lower – Seek Warmer Climes (Matador) | Buy
  14. Merchandise – After The End (4AD)
  15. Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World (Enemies List) | Bandcamp
  16. Schonwald – Dream For The Fall (Anywave) | Bandcamp
  17. Population – Beyond The Pale (Mass Media) | Bandcamp
  18. Eagulls – Eagulls (Partisan)
  19. Rat Columns – Leaf (R.I.P. Society) | Bandcamp
  20. The Blue Angel Lounge – A Sea Of Trees (8MM)
  21. Nicole Sabouné – Must Exist (Roxy)
  22. Esben And The Witch – A New Nature (Nostromo) | Bandcamp
  23. Universe People – Are Coming To The Dance (Dragnet) | Bandcamp
  24. Cult Of Youth – Final Days (Sacred Bones)
  25. Dekoder – Flowers To Blossom (Chaos Rules) | Bandcamp
  26. Cosmic Thoughts – Cosmic Thoughts (Cosmic Thoughts) | Bandcamp
  27. Dreamsalon – Soft Stab (Dragnet) | Bandcamp
  28. The Miami Dolphins – Becky (FPE Records) | Bandcamp
  29. Institute – Salt EP (Sacred Bones)
  30. Low Life – Dogging (R.I.P. Society)
  31. Creative Adult – Psychic Mess (Run For Cover)
  32. Cheveu – BUM (Born Bad) | Bandcamp
  33. The Nightingales – For Fuck’s Sake (Nightingales) | Buy

Stoner Rock
Wo Fat - The Conjuring (Small Stone, 2014)Bookending the year from the beginning with Truckfighters and end with Colour Haze (coming out December 15), stoner rock delivered quite the one-two knockout this year, with a whole mess of great stuff in between. Beyond the Lucky 13, Wo Fat delivered another reliably heavy and mind-expanding album. Germans Wedge are somewhat in the shadow of countrymen Kadaver, but distinguish themselves with songwriting more rooted in 60s psych. Graveyard’s influence can be heard in an increasing number of bands, most notably France’s The Socks. Post-Dozer supergroup Greenleaf rotated vocalists again, but came up with their most satisfying release yet. Looking at this list, label of the year is without a doubt Small Stone taking up half of the top 10! Nearly every release was a keeper this year, and they did a great job with making it easy and affordable to pre-order the albums via Bandcamp. They were also quite generous in streaming the albums before their release dates, a model I think more labels should seriously consider. | Spotify

  1. Wo Fat – The Conjuring (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  2. Wedge – Wedge (Wedge) | Bandcamp
  3. The Socks – The Socks (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  4. Greenleaf – Trails & Passes (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  5. Heat – Labyrinth (This Charming Man) | Bandcamp
  6. Dwellers – Pagan Fruit (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  7. Mars Red Sky – Stranded In Arcadia (Listenable) | Bandcamp
  8. John Garcia – John Garcia (Napalm)
  9. Lo-Pan – Colossus (Small Stone) | Bandcamp
  10. Papir – Papir IIII (El Paraiso)
  11. Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  12. Fu Manchu – Gigantoid (Redeye) | Bandcamp
  13. Bong – Stoner Rock (Ritual)
  14. Slow Season – Mountains (RidingEasy)
  15. Brant Bjork  And The Low Desert Punk Band – Black Flower Power (Napalm)
  16. Holy Mountain – Ancient Astronauts (Chemikal Underground) | Buy
  17. Pyrior – Onestone (Setalight) | Bandcamp
  18. Kamchatka – The Search Goes On (Despotz)
  19. OLMEG – Primordial Soup (OLMEG) | Bandcamp
  20. Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss (Candlelight) | Bandcamp
  21. Hypnos – Hypnos (Crusher)
  22. Valley Of The Sun – Electric Talons Of The Thunderhawk (Bilocation) | Bandcamp
  23. Stubb – Cry Of The Ocean (Ripple Music) | Bandcamp
  24. Rainbows Are Free – Waves Ahead Of The Ocean (Guestroom) | Bandcamp
  25. Craang – To The Estimated Size Of The Universe (Craang) | Bandcamp
  26. Mexican Chili Funeral Party – Mexican Chili Funeral Party | Bandcamp
  27. Snake Thursday – Iter (Snake Thursday) Bandcamp
  28. Elephant Tree – Theia (Magnetic Eye)
  29. The Grand Astoria – La Belle Epoque (Vuktyl) | Bandcamp
  30. Causa Sui – Pewt’r Sessions 3 (El Paraiso)
  31. Blue Snaggletooth – Beyond Thule (Blue Snaggletooth) | Bandcamp
  32. Humo Del Cairo  – EP1 Preludio | Bandcamp
  33. 1000mods – Vulture (The Lab) | Bandcamp
  34. Joy – Under The Spell Of Joy (Tee Pee)
  35. Limb – Limb (Limb) | Bandcamp
  36. Major Kong – Doom Machine (Major Kong) | Bandcamp
  37. Kadavar – Live In Antwerp (Nuclear Blast)
  38. Causa Sui – Live At Freak Valley (El Paraiso)
  39. Somali Yacht Club – The Sun (Bilocation) | Bandcamp
  40. Lizardia – Lizardia (Lizardia) | Bandcamp
  41. Vega – Vega (Vega) | Bandcamp

Hard Rock, Heavy Blues, Hardcore, Post-Metal
All Them Witches - Lightning At The Door (All Them Witches, 2013)When trying to distinguish between stoner rock, proto-metal, heavy psych and some traditional metal it gets messy. Basically all of those could be in the hard rock category. Since there are so many good albums in all those genres, I keep a separate batch for these guys that fall between the cracks. On the Lucky 13 podium of course are two killer young bands from Sweden, Spiders and Blues Pills. Blues Pills have gotten a good amount of attention, deservedly so. While their vocals and musicianship are better than Spiders, I ranked Spiders 4th overall because I just loved the songs just a little more. They have been grossly underrated this year. I’m just as excited to hear what Blues Pills does in the future though. I included All Them Witches last year, but since the album was reissued, here they are again! The return of Floor was cool treat, basically a doomy variation of Torche, who will have a new album out soon. Lé Betre is a psych-tinged French hard rock band that also bear some influence form the likes of Swedens’ Graveyard.  San Francisco’s Hornss are great fun, bearing some similarity with recent doom punk coming out of Texas. Sweden’s Black Trip are a bunch of death metal musicians having some fun with Thin Lizzy worship. Godflesh’s return was quite an event, and while it was satisfying to see them live again after 20 years, and the new album is monolithically impressive, I didn’t listen to it as much as the perhaps artistically lesser but more enjoyable albums above it.  | Spotify

  1. All Them Witches – Lightning At The Door (+180 Records) | Bandcamp
  2. Floor – Oblation (Season of Mist) | Bandcamp
  3. Lé Betre – Melas (Le Betre) | Bandcamp
  4. Hornss – No Blood, No Sympathy (RidingEasy)
  5. Black Trip – Goin’ Under (Prosthetic)
  6. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche) | Bandcamp
  7. Big Red Panda – Big Red Panda (Big Red Panda) | Bandcamp
  8. Boris – Noise (Sargent House) | Bandcamp
  9. Lecherous Gaze – Zeta Reticuli Blues (Lecherous Gaze) | Bandcamp
  10. The Vintage Caravan – Voyage (Nuclear Blast) | Bandcamp
  11. Radio Moscow – Magical Dirt (Alive Naturalsound)
  12. Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell – Check ‘Em Before You Wreck ‘Em (Rise Above)
  13. The Shrine – Bless Off (Tee Pee) | Bandcamp
  14. Giant Squid – Minoans (Translation Loss)
  15. Marmozets – The Weird And Wonderful (Roadrunner)
  16. Raspberry Bulbs – Privacy (Blackest Ever Black) | Bandcamp
  17. Melvins – Hold It In (Ipecac)
  18. House Of Lightning – Lightworker (Translation Loss) | Bandcamp
  19. The Dagger – The Dagger (Century Media)
  20. Hound – Out Of Time (SRA) | Bandcamp
  21. Fucked Up – Glass Boys (Matador)
  22. Sons Of Huns – Banishment Ritual (RidingEasy) | Bandcamp
  23. Märvel – Hadal Zone Express (Killer Cobra)
  24. The Graviators – Motherload (Napalm)
  25. High Spirits – You Are Here (Hells Headbangers)
  26. Mos Generator – Electric Mountain Majesty (Listenable) | Buy
  27. Abramis Brama – Enkel Biljett (Transubstans)
  28. SautruS – Reed: Chapter One (Pink Tank) | Bandcamp
  29. Lantlôs – Melting Sun (Prophecy)
  30. Zodiac – Sonic Child (Napalm)
  31. Mount Carmel – Get Pure (Alive Naturalsound)
  32. Drifter – Violent At Altitude (Desert Highways) | Bandcamp 
  33. Child – Child (Child) | Bandcamp
  34. Kyng – Burn The Serum (Razor & Tie)
  35. Doctor Smoke – The Witching Hour (Doctor Smoke) | Bandcamp
  36. Wolfmother – New Crown (Wolfmother) | Bandcamp
  37. Vega – Vega (Vega) | Bandcamp
  38. Killimanjaro – Hook (Killimanjaro) | Bandcamp
  39. The Atlas Moth – Old Believer (Profound Lore)
  40. Nadja – Queller (Essence)

Metal
Castle - Under Siege (Prosthetic Records, 2014)I’ve stopped trying to represent all the sub-genres of metal that I don’t really enjoy anymore, like black metal, grindcore and most sludge. Bands have already demonstrated they can push the limits of extreme for the past couple decades, and a small but I think growing number of fans and bands are just relaxing and doing what they enjoy, playing and listening to classic metal. We have extreme and death metal musicians forming groups like Twilight Of The Gods and Black Trip to have fun playing traditional metal and hard rock. Don’t forget about Slough Feg, who are on the top 13 podium, and as far as I’m concerned still untouchable as one of the greatest metal bands currently working. On their third album, husband-wife metal road warriors Castle have evolved from Witch Mountain’s bluesy doom toward more rockin’ metal along the lines of Christian Mistress. Or you can just call them by their self-chosen tag, “witch thrash”! Highly recommended. Satyress, Demon Eye and Death Penalty all dip into some juicy 70s proto-metal influences, while Dawnbringer has for some reason attracted less attention, despite another fine collection of tunes. Black Moth are harder to nail down, as they’ve used producer Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Grinderman, The Cramps) on both of their albums, and are aiming toward a hybrid of metal, doom, post-punk and slightly avant rock. Sounds like something critics would cream their underoos over were they to actually notice. | Spotify

  1. Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic) | Buy
  2. Satyress – Dark Fortunes (Satyress) | Bandcamp
  3. Demon Eye – Leave The Light (Soulseller/Megaforce) | Bandcamp
  4. Death Penalty – Death Penalty (Rise Above)
  5. Dawnbringer – Night Of The Hammer (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  6. Black Moth – Condemned To Hope (New Heavy Sounds)
  7. Ovvl – Screech (Magick Hermit/Lummox) | Bandcamp
  8. Hessian – Bachelor Of Black Arts (Hessian) | Bandcamp
  9. Saturn – Ascending – Live In Space (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
  10. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (Reprise)
  11. Grand Magus – Triumph And Power (Nuclear Blast)
  12. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
  13. Kröwnn – Magnafröst (Krownn) | Bandcamp
  14. Season Of Arrows – Season Of Arrows (The Path Less Travelled) | Bandcamp
  15. Dark Forest – The Awakening (Cruz del Sur)
  16. Convent Guilt – Guns For Hire (Cruz del Sur) | Bandcamp
  17. Darkest Era – Severance (Cruz del Sur) | Bandcamp
  18. Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  19. Falconer – Black Moon Rising (Metal Blade)
  20. Clan – Witchcraft (Clan) | Bandcamp
  21. Goat Wizard – Goat Wizard (Goat Wizard) | Bandcamp
  22. Vestal Claret – The Cult Of Vestal Claret (Cruz Del Sur) | Bandcamp
  23. Mausoleum Gate – Mausoleum Gate (Cruz del Sur) | Bandcamp
  24. Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls (Sony)
  25. Morbus Chron – Sweven (Century Media)
  26. Horrendous – Ecdysis (Dark Descent)
  27. Sólstafir – Ótta (Season Of Mist)
  28. Dir En Grey – Arche (Firewall Div.)
  29. Obake – Mutations (Rare Noise)
  30. Midnight – No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers)
  31. Babymetal – Babymetal (Toy’s Factory)
  32. Tombs – Savage Gold (Relapse) | Bandcamp
  33. Ocean Chief – Universums härd (I Hate) | Bandcamp
  34. Monarch – Sabbracadavar (Profound Lore) | Bandcamp
  35. Possessor – Electric Hell (Possessor) | Bandcamp 

Rock & Pop
together-pangea-badillacThis vague category for me includes a ton of indie rock and pop, and my favorites tend towards garage rock. On the podium are Shellac, The Sea Kings and TV On The Radio. Los Angeles’ Together Pangea is one of the best bands around, with their latest album full of witty, vulgar, and exciting songs. They wipe the floor with your Parquet Courts and Mac DeMarco and even Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. Pretty much everyone but maybe The Gotobeds, who I put in the post-punk list. Hits are another awesome newish band from Australia with their second album. I rarely get excited over indie rock like I did in the 90s, but smallgang recalls much that was good about it without the tired cliches.| Spotify

  1. Together Pangea – Badillac (Harvest)
  2. Hits – Hikikomori (Conquest Of Noise) | Bandcamp
  3. smallgang – san (Damnably)
  4. Gallon Drunk – The Soul Of The Hour (Clouds Hill)
  5. Spoon – They Want My Soul (Merge)
  6. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave (FatCat)
  7. The Shivas – You Know What To Do (K) | Bandcamp
  8. The Random Kids – Dire, Dire Docks (Random Kids) | Bandcamp
  9. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)
  10. Ex Hex – Rips (Merge)
  11. Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces (Asian Man) | Bandcamp
  12. PS I Love You – For Those Who Stay (Paper Bag) | Bandcamp
  13. Caves – Leaving (Specialist Subject)
  14. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture/Mom & Pop)
  15. Black Pistol Fire – Hush Or Howl (Modern Outsider)
  16. Posse – Soft Opening (Beating A Dead Horse)
  17. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – IX (Superball)
  18. Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie (Earache)
  19. Le Butcherettes – Cry Is For The Flies (Nadie Sound) | Bandcamp
  20. Keel Her – Keel Her (Critical Heights) | Bandcamp
  21. Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast (Sub Pop)
  22. Crow Bait – Sliding Through the Halls of Fate (Don Giovanni) | Bandcamp
  23. The Cancers – Fatten The Leaches (Cancers)
  24. Wild Smiles – Always Tomorrow (Sunday Best)

Global
Nação Zumbi – Nação Zumbi (Slap, 2014)Nação Zumbi
are a longtime favorite of mine, back when I heard about them in the mid-90s before their leader Chico Science died. Seven years after their last album, they’ve changed things up a bit, emphasizing a more psychedelic sound rather than their heavy Mangue beat. Not that they’ve totally mellowed out. Listening to “Foi De Amor” and “Pegando Fogo,” I’m pretty certain they’ve been listening to French environmentalist death metallers Gojira! Fela Kuti may have been the king of Afrobeat, but Tony Allen was the architect and engineer. As Fela’s bandleader and drummer, he pretty much invented and perfected the rhythm that influenced countless groups since the 70s. And he’s still got it, as his latest album shows. I really need to see the movie! If Juçara Marçal’s album were better promoted, I have no doubt she’d topping tons of lists, as people would love her fusion of sambas with sqwanky avant rock guitars. | Spotify

  1. Nação Zumbi – Nação Zumbi (Slap) – Brazil
  2. Tony Allen – Film Of Life (JazzVillage) – Nigeria
  3. Juçara Marçal – Encarnado (Juçara Marçal) | Free! – Brazil
  4. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni (Glitterbeat) | Bandcamp – Mauritania
  5. Moreno Veloso – Coisa Boa (Luaka Bop) – Brazil
  6. Seun Kuti + Egypt 80 – A Long Way To The Beginning (Knitting Factory)  – Nigeria
  7. Tinariwen – Emmaar (Anti-) – Mali
  8. Mombojó – Alexandre (Slap) – Brazil
  9. Kasai Allstars – Beware The Fetish (Crammed) – Congo
  10. Tom Zé – Vira Lata na Via Láctea (Passarinho) – Brazil
  11. Khun Narin – Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band (Innovative Leisure) | Bandcamp – Thailand
  12. Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté – Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit) – Mali
  13. Maurice Louca – Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot) (Nawa) – Egypt
  14. Anansy Cisé – Mali Overdrive (Riverboat) – Mali
  15. Ibibio Sound Machine – Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway) – UK
  16. Zongo Junction – No Discount (Electric Cowbell) – U.S.
  17. Bebel Gilberto – Tudo (Sony) – Brazil
  18. Gilberto Gil – Gilbertos Samba (Universal) – Brazil
  19. Acollective – Pangaea (Acollective) | Bandcamp – Israel
  20. The Cambodian Space Project – Whiskey Cambodia (Metal Postcard) | Bandcamp – Cambodia
  21. Ikebe Shakedown – Stone By Stone (Ubiquity) – U.S.
  22. Sheela Bringi – Incantations (White Swan) – U.S./India

Electro/Dream Pop, Shoegaze
gazelle-twin-unfleshAlcest – Shelter (Prophecy Productions, 2014)French black metallurgist Neige started out the Alcest project as a sort of hybrid of black metal and shoegaze (which some awkwardly call “blackgaze.”) On the fifth album, all blackness is abandoned for full on dream pop. Perhaps not as challenging as earlier work, but nevertheless gets under your skin. Judging from Elizabeth Walling’s songs on the latest Gazelle Twin album, I’d venture to guess she has some serious issues about her skin. The themes of body dysmorphia, death and decay are creepy as hell, but also morbidly fascinating. I don’t know if this will hold up for long lasting listening sessions in the future, but it stands out at the moment. Cold Cave is actually a compilation of singles from the past few years, which aren’t on any albums. It’s a mixed bag, but I like their overall darkwave energy in their electro pop sound. Islaja from Finland has converted from freak folk to electro pop. EMA and Wrangler strike a good balance between arty and accessible electro pop. Teleman are mostly former members of one of my favorite UK indie pop bands, Pete & the Pirates. | Spotify

  1. Alcest – Shelter (Prophecy Productions)
  2. Cold Cave – Full Cold Moon (Heartworm) | Buy
  3. Gazelle Twin – Unflesh (Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)
  4. Dead Horse One – Without Love We Perish (Dead Horse One) | Bandcamp
  5. Teleman – Breakfast (Moshi Moshi)
  6. Islaja – S U U (Monika)
  7. EMA – The Future’s Void (Matador)
  8. Happy Meals – Apéro (Night School)
  9. Wrangler – LA Spark (MemeTune)
  10. Trevor Something – Trevor Something Does Not Exist (Trevor Something) | Bandcamp
  11. Korallreven – Second Comin’ (Cascine)
  12. Warpaint – Warpaint (Rough Trade)
  13. Geoffrey O’Connor – Fan Fiction (Chapter)
  14. Dean Blunt – Black Metal (Rough Trade)
  15. Lust For Youth – International (Sacred Bones)
  16. The Horrors – Luminous (XL)
  17. Zola Jesus – Taiga (Mute)
  18. Nico & Vinz – Black Star Elephant (WB)
  19. Peaking Lights – Cosmic Logic (Weird World)
  20. Wampire – Bazaar (Polyvinyl)
  21. Marc Almond – The Dancing Marquis (Cherry Red UK)
  22. Perfume Genius – Too Bright (Matador)
  23. Virginia Wing – Measures Of Joy (Fire)
  24. Fujiya & Miyagi – Artificial Sweeteners (Yep Roc)
  25. ††† – ††† (Sumerian)

Avant Rock & Pop
forsyth-intensity
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band is kind of remarkable. Imagine your favorite guitar solos from Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Television and later period Jimmy Page, integrated into an eerie, cohesive whole. Yeah you need to hear this. Despite my poking fun at those who slap Swans at the top of their lists, I do like these guys. I think their albums are way too long, and exhaustingly indulgent, but there’s also a generous spirit and genuine affection for their hardcore fans. May they continue spewing out two hour avant slogs into the sunset. | Spotify

  1. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Intensity Ghost (No Quarter)
  2. Swans – To Be Kind (Young God/Mute)
  3. Gold Codes – Gold Codes (Gold Codes) | Bandcamp
  4. Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe (Bird)
  5. Carla Bozulich – Boy (Constellation)
  6. Richard Dawson – Nothing Important (Weird World)
  7. Camera – Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide (Bureau B)
  8. Haikai No Ku – Ultra High Dimensionality (Box) | Bandcamp
  9. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (4AD)
  10. Bo Ningen – III (Stolen)
  11. Circle – Leviatan (Ektro)
  12. Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD)
  13. Holy Sons – The Fact Facer (Thrill Jockey)
  14. Last Ex – Last Ex (Constellation)
  15. Chrome – Feel It Like A Scientist (King of Spades)
  16. Pere Ubu – Carnival Of Souls (Fire)
  17. Guardian Alien – Spiritual Emergency (Thrill Jockey)
  18. OOIOO – Gamel (Thrill Jockey)
  19. Dead Rider – Chills On Glass (Drag City)

Experimental, Modern Classical, Jazz, Improv & Ambient
einsturzende-lament
Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack - ...Awaits Silent Tristero's Empire (Singlespeed, 2014)Last year Laurel Halo and Germany’s Nils Frahm capture large audiences with fairly accessible albums.  Formerly a key member of alternately intense and self-deprecating noise rockers Lozenge, Kyle Bruckmann moved from Chicago to the Bay Area in 2003 and has built up a pretty amazing body of work of avant jazz, modern classical and improv music. I’m no expert in these areas, but …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire, created with long-running band Wrack, is one of his most fascinating, inspired by the novels of Thomas Pynchon. It’s not just the similarity of the instrumentation, but the last few minutes of “Part One (V.),” sounds as spirited as Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady! I didn’t know what the hell to do with Grumbling Fur. They could have been in my psych category or avant rock, but they ended up here. *Shrug*  Einstürzende Neubauten’s latest was more geared for a live theatre production about World War I, and actually is not entirely successful as an album. Nevertheless, it’s fucking Einstürzende Neubauten and they rule. Emma Ruth Rundle is one of the more accessible artists in the experimental/ambient area due to her practically dream pop vocal approach. | Spotify

  1. Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack – …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire (Singlespeed) | Bandcamp
  2. Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals (TQPC)
  3. Einstürzende Neubauten – Lament (BMG)
  4. Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean (Sargent House) | Bandcamp
  5. Secret Chiefs 3 – Ishraqiyun: Perichoresis (Web of Mimicry)
  6. Ian William Craig – A Turn Of Breath (Recital)
  7. The Bad Plus – The Rite Of Spring (Sony)
  8. The Bad Plus – Inevitable Western (Sony)
  9. Wadada Leo Smith – The Great Lakes Suites (TUM)
  10. Steve Lehman – Mise En Abîme (Pi)
  11. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos (Kranky)
  12. Michiru Aoyama – Warm Season (Organic-Industries)
  13. Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note)
  14. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Songs Of Forgiveness (BARO) | Bandcamp
  15. The Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope (Cryptogramophone)

Electronica, Techno & Dance
frost-aurora
Iceland’s Ben Frost’s By The Throat (2009) grabbed me by the balls. His latest just might have topped it. I followed Aphex Twin with great interest in the 90s, but to be honest I never, ever listen to that stuff anymore, and would be fine if I never did again. I don’t hate it, but that kind of IDM electronica feels completely irrelevant to my life and tastes these days. But for what it’s worth the new one is one of his more accessible. | Spotify

  1. Ben Frost – A U R O R A (Mute) | Bandcamp
  2. Aphex Twin – Syro (Warp)
  3. Bitchin Bajas – Bitchin Bajas (Drag City)
  4. Bracken – Exist Resist (Baro) | Bandcamp
  5. Fatima al Qadiri – Asiatisch (Hyperdub)
  6. The Soft Pink Truth – Why Do The Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey)
  7. Big Freedia – Just Be Free (QDM)
  8. SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land (Young Turks)
  9. The Bug – Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)
  10. Klara Lewis – Ett (Mego)
  11. Andrea Belfi – Natura morta (Miasmah)
  12. The Juan Maclean – In A Dream (DFA)
  13. Caribou – Our Love (Merge)
  14. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes (Thom Yorke) | Bandcamp

R&B, Soul & Funk
brownout-brownD'Angelo and The Vanguard - Black Messiah (RCA, 2014)Like Colour Haze, D’Angelo and The Vanguard released his album on December 15, too late for most publications to include in year-end lists. These are artists unconcerned, and even unaware of the significance of any critical rankings, as it should be. I don’t know what happened that it took D’Angelo 14 years to follow up his acclaimed Voodoo (2000). I vaguely remember some trouble with the law, and him getting shockingly fat. Better late than never, he’s got a new band of cracking musicians, some of whom have worked with Prince, audaciously and suitably named The Vanguard, and the bold title Black Messiah echoing Isaac Hayes’ similarly titled Black Moses (1971). Musically there are elements of Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Smokey Robinson, P-Funk, and of course his Purple Majesty. It may not be groundbreaking but it’s very high quality, and few working within R&B, soul and funk could touch it. My other favorite is a Latin Funk tribute to Black Sabbath. Seriously, it’s more than just a novelty, as Brownout is a truly great band and pull off some really creative arrangements that actually add to my appreciation of Sabbath’s songs, particularly Bill Ward’s swingin’ jazz roots! FKA Twigs (Gloucestershire’s Tahliah Debrett Barnett) could fit just as easily in electro/dream pop, being just as much influenced by Bjork as anyone. My opinion of her album was up and down this year, but ultimately she’s pretty cool even when the electro-sugar is a bit thick for me. My only regret over skipping (boycotting?) Pitchfork is missing Neneh Cherry. I’ve loved her work going way back to when she was in the avant post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic. As the daughter of world class jazz artist Don Cherry, she has integrated her avant jazz influences thoroughly into her recent work. The latest is not exception. While Kelis and Mary J. Blige are considered veterans in the R&B world, they’ve got plenty of creative juice, and if only they could get paid like all those white Brits! Prince, wow, he’s getting ambitious again, releasing two albums, screaming, playing guitar. He maybe should have combined all the best songs on one album though. | Spotify

  1. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)
  2. Brownout – Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath (Ubiquity)
  3. FKA twigs – LP1 (Young Turks)
  4. Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)
  5. Kelis – Food (Ninja Tune)
  6. Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions (Capitol)
  7. Prince – Art Official Age (WB)
  8. Chet Faker – Built On Glass (Downtown)
  9. How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart? (Weird World)
  10. Prince & 3rdeyegirl – Plectrumelectrum (WB)
  11. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Give The People What They Want (Daptone)
  12. Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband (Republic)
  13. Pharrell Williams – G I R L (Columbia)

Country, Folk & Americana
lanegan-phantom
Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather (Paradise Of Bachelors, 2014)I grew up with country music, but most straight-up country has too much cultural baggage that makes my stomach turn. Sturgill Simpson has been described as “outlaw country” on the strength of not being a cliched rightwing asshole. He’s a good lyricist and singer, and touches on some light psychedelia, but not enough to get me as excited as many seem to be. I much prefer my Americana dark and apocalyptic, like the mighty Wovenhand, and The Mark Lanegan Band. Steve Gunn has been making very good folk/Americana albums for years now, but his new one is especially hypnotically alluring, and psychedelic. A significant new twist of cosmic American music as envisioned by Gram Parsons. Richard Youngs is a Glasgow artist who veers into avant drone and psych, and is always a rewarding listen. Lydia Loveless is a supreme talent already on her third full length, who I hope can achieve at least similar exposure as Neko Case. 

  1. Steve Gunn – Way Out Weather (Paradise Of Bachelors) | Bandcamp
  2. The Mark Lanegan Band – Phantom Radio (Flooded Soil/Heavenly)
  3. Richard Youngs – Red Alphabet In The Snow (Preserved Sound)
  4. Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else (Bloodshot)
  5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
  6. Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson – Hirta Songs (Stone Tape)
  7. Vashti Bunyan – Heartleap (FatCat)
  8. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20)
  9. Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems (Columbia)
  10. Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters – Lullaby and? the Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch)
  11. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (Thirty Tigers)
  12. James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society (Domino)
  13. Marissa Nadler – July (Sacred Bones)
  14. Eleni Mandell – Let’s Fly A Kite (Yep Roc)
  15. Tweedy – Sukierae (dBpm)
  16. Luluc – Passerby (Sub Pop)
  17. Miranda Lambert – Platinum (RCA)
  18. King Creosote – From Scotland With Love (Domino)
  19. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold (Columbia)
  20. Jennifer Castle – Pink City (No Quarter)
  21. Old 97’s – Most Messed Up (ATO)
  22. Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap (Okrahoma)

Hip Hop & Rap
flyinglotus-your
While I don’t listen to hip hop that often throughout the year, I do enjoy catching up on some of the better releases at the end of the year. Flying Lotus is equal parts jazz fusion and electronica, but glued together by hip hop culture. Run The Jewels is a rare case of the hype being justified, relatively.

  1. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (Warp)
  2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)
  3. Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below (Computer Ugly)
  4. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata (Madlib Invazion)
  5. Amerigo Gazaway – Yasiin Gaye: The Departure (AG)
  6. Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)
  7. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (Top Dawg)
  8. Sage Francis – Copper Gone (Strange Famous)
  9. Busdriver – Perfect Hair (Big Dada)
  10. Kate Tempest – Everybody Down (Big Dada)
  11. Young Fathers – Dead (Big Dada)
  12. YG – My Krazy Life (Def Jam)
  13. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (Capitol)
  14. Ratking – So It Goes (Hot Charity)

Late Additions
2014-late-additions
As I try to finish this project earlier in the month (this year I published on December 12, hours before learning my grandmother died ten days before her 93rd birthday), it’s more difficult to capture everything that I want to highlight. Other year-end lists continue to roll out, occasionally highlighting something I’ve missed. I want to make sure these albums also get the attention they deserve. Additionally, since that date, Syd Arthur, Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, Protomartyr, Morgan Delt and Alcest moved up in the list as they grew on me. | Spotify

  1. Lola Colt – Away From The Water (Fuzz Club) | Bandcamp
  2. Doug Tuttle – Doug Tuttle (Trouble In Mind)
  3. Kikagaku Moyo – Forest Of Lost Children (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) | Bandcamp
  4. Thelightshines – Now The Sandman Sings (thelightshines) | Buy
  5. Quilt – Held In Splendour (Mexican Summer)
  6. Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack – …Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire (Singlespeed) | Bandcamp
  7. The Paperhead – Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind)  | Buy
  8. Octopus Syng – Reverberating Garden No. 7 (Mega Dodo) | Bandcamp
  9. Atavismo – Desintegración (Odio Sonoro) | Bandcamp
  10. Ştiu Nu Ştiu – Ultra Silvam (EDILS) | Bandcamp 
  11. The Lay Llamas – Ostro (Rocket) | Bandcamp
  12. Dahga Bloom – No Curtains (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  13. Heaven’s Gateway Drugs – Apropos (HGD) | Bandcamp
  14. Violet Woods – Violet Woods (Violet Woods) | Bandcamp
  15. The Love Dimension – Create And Consume (Warrior Monk) | Bandcamp
  16. Various – Killed By Deathrock (Sacred Bones)
  17. Kikagaku Moyo – Mammatus Clouds (Captcha) | Bandcamp
  18. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)
  19. Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe (Bird)
  20. Heaters – Solstice (Dizzybird) | Bandcamp
  21. Y’ALL – I’m Right Here Now (Y’all) | Bandcamp
  22. Knifeworld – The Unravelling (InsideOut)
  23. The Shivas – You Know What To Do (K) | Bandcamp
  24. Montibus Communitas – The Pilgrim To The Absolute (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond) | Bandcamp
  25. Spidergawd – Spidergawd (Crispin Glover)
  26. CreaturoS – Popsicle (Primordial Sounds) | Bandcamp
  27. Bozmo – Leather Umbrella (Bozmo) | Bandcamp
  28. Marmozets – The Weird And Wonderful (Roadrunner)

Reissues
beefheart-sun
Sun Zoom Spark is a four disc reissue with Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970), The Spotlight Kid (1972), Clear Spot (1972) and outtakes. Out of print since the early 90s, they’re finally available again, and remastered. Two of Beefheart’s best albums (and arguably his peak), this is essential listening for anyone interested in classic American avant blues art rock. CO2 is Colour Haze’s fourth album, and where they really started truly hitting their stride. I’d been waiting for double deluxe reissue of The Jam’s Setting Sons for a while. Most of their others have already gotten the treatment over the past decade, I don’t know why it took so long to get to one of their best. It’s the third time I bought the damn album but I couldn’t help it, it’s a better remaster than the 90s box set, better organized, and disc 2 is Live at the Rainbow Theatre, December 1979 when the band was at their most powerful and still hungry. The bonus discs aren’t all that exciting on the Led Zeppelin reissues, but hey, it’s freakin’ Led Zep. The Bats are essential listening for any fan of witty, jangly indie pop, as the New Zealand band set the standard. Just recently I was wishing aloud for the out of print Game Theory albums to be reissued, and here they are! The bridge between Big Star, R.E.M., Let’s Active and The Posies. I had completely written off Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Peepshow at the time as an embarrassing commercial sell out. Turns out it’s pretty good, and their misfire wasn’t until later. | Spotify

  1. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band – Sun Zoom Spark (Rhino, 1970-72)
  2. Colour Haze – CO2 (Elektrohasch, 2000)
  3. Various – Warfaring Strangers: Darkscorch Canticles (Numero Group)
  4. The Sound – Jeopardy, From The Lion’s Mouth, All Fall Down Box (1980-82)
  5. The Jam – Setting Sons (Polydor, 1979)
  6. Various – Killed By Deathrock (Sacred Bones)
  7. Led Zeppelin I – Houses Of The Holy (1969-73)
  8. The Bats – Volume I (1984-89)
  9. Grace Jones – Nightclubbing (1981)
  10. Big Country – Steeltown (1984) & The Seer (1986)
  11. Game Theory – Blaze Of Glory (1982) & Dead Center (1984)
  12. Siouxsie & The Banshees – Through The Looking Glass (1987) & Peepshow (1988)
  13. XTC – Skylarking (Ape, 1986)
  14. Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls (Les Disques du Crepuscule, 1981)
  15. The Bluebells – Exile on Twee Street: Songs From Glasgow 1980-1982 (Cherry Red)
  16. Lost Breed – The Evil In You And Me (1993)
  17. Nina Hagen – Fearless (1983)
  18. The Pop Group – We Are Time (1980)
  19. Rog & Pip – Our Revolution (Rise Above Relics)
  20. The Posies – Failure (1988)

Shows

2014-shows-jacketAfter slacking a bit in 2013, I made it to a lot of great shows this year. Shout out to my Metal Meetup mates. When so many of my favorite bands like Colour Haze, Motorpsycho, Spiders, Blues Pills, Spirits of the Dead, Troubled Horse and Ufomammut have rarely or never played in North America, the hard working Truckfighters and Graveyard make up for it. The quality of shows were so great that bands known for their great stage shows and costumes — Goat and Ghost, just missed my top 13, as did White Denim, Queens of the Stone Age and Floor. Rawk \../

  1. TRUCKFIGHTERS Reggies Rock Club, 5/12
  2. GRAVEYARD House of Blues, 4/26
  3. SLEEP Thalia Hall, 8/28
  4. DAYS OF THE DOOMED: JEX THOTH, EGYPT, BRIMSTONE COVEN, AGE OF TAURUS The Metal Grill,  6/21
  5. WITCH MOUNTAIN Beat Kitchen, 9/18
  6. PENTAGRAM, BLOOD CEREMONY, RADIO MOSCOW, BANG Reggies, 10/23
  7. ELDER, Reggies, 10/31
  8. WINDHAND, ALL THEM WITCHES, JEX THOTH Cobra Lounge, 9/10
  9. DEMON EYE Quenchers, 8/29
  10. SHELLAC Lincoln Hall, 7/6
  11. UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS Subterranean, 9/30
  12. SATAN Cobra Lounge, 10/18
  13. OPETH Riviera, 12/3

Videos

Wow, 200+ videos. Yeah, I didn’t really watch videos beyond the first time so I can’t really rank these. So in order of date published, enjoy!

Movies

I’ve barely seen any of the best movies this year so far. Damn Netflix. The Grand Budapest Hotel is the only one I’d say is great.

  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Obvious Child
  3. Martian Child
  4. Magic In The Moonlight
  5. Fading Gigolo
  6. Muppets Most Wanted
  7. Mr. Peabody & Mr. Sherman
  8. Finding Vivian Maier
  9. Guardians Of The Galaxy
  10. Rio 2
  11. Adult World
  12. Journey To The West
  13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Decent: The Lunchbox, Frank.

Have not yet seen: Boyhood, Birdman, Life Itself, The LEGO Movie, Whiplash, Gloria, The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, X Men: Days Of Future Past, Love Is Strange.

Television
youre-the-worst
With the Californication series ending it’s run with it’s seventh season, FX’s You’re The Worst was a welcome new adult comedy. The idea of an unromantic romance between two horrible people could fall flat, but the acting and writing made the all too brief first season a blast. The Mindy Project is still in contention for one of the all-time best comedy series, while season two of Adam Samberg’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine goes from strength to strength. I missed half of the Masterpiece Mysteries this year due to DVR fail, but the ones I’ve seen are great as usual. Elementary seems oddly underrated in its second season despite the always excellent Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Australian show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is so great I bought the DVD set of season 2. I wish they would air season 3 sooner than later. I’m not a big fan of dramas, and The Good Wife is exhausting, but, well it’s too good to stop now. Inside Amy Schumer is a welcome new show from the comedian. Married is another raunchy-ish FX show that’s promsing, but the seasons are way too short. I just started Marry Me, but haven’t been able to record new episodes due to conflicts with other shows. I still like Louie, but dude gets a bit too serious, with more cringe worthy moments than laughs lately. I have to admit, I’m following Gotham, Sleepy Hollow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I fast forward through the boring parts, which take up about half of each show, heh. Good thing, or I wouldn’t get any sleep. I missed most of the new episodes of That Metal Show, but to be honest the guests are so not timely that I wouldn’t know the difference if they were decade old re-runs. Selfie was actually promising (with John Cho!), but it was cancelled.

  1. You’re The Worst
  2. The Mindy Project
  3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  4. Masterpiece Mystery: Endeavour, Sherlock, Inspector Lewis
  5. Elementary
  6. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
  7. The Good Wife
  8. Californication
  9. Modern Family
  10. Married
  11. 2 Broke Girls
  12. Inside Amy Schumer
  13. Marry Me

Haven’t seen: Broad City, The Americans, Transparent, Boardwalk Empire, Community (current), Key & Peele, Looking

Books
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys: A Memoir - Viv Albertine (2014)As usual, it’s a mix of rock books, some contemporary fiction, and some sci fi and urban fantasy. I’ve read dozens of autobiographies by musicians, and at the moment I can’t think of any that are more witty, engaging and brutally honest, both about herself and the people around her, than Viv Albertine’s Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys: A Memoir. The Slits’ guitarist cured me of any residual romanticism about England in the early 70s. It was a dismal time, teeming with poverty, boredom, hatred and brutal violence. The threat of violence, physical, emotional and sexual, looms over Albertine nearly every day of her life, whether it be from her brutish French father who eventually abandoned the family, and every male who was offended or angered by her punk fashion sense, or daring to be a working musician in the 70s (apparently nearly every guy in England). There are notable exceptions, such as on and off boyfriend Mick Jones of The Clash who was mainly supportive, Keith Levene, and even Sid Vicious, who apologetically kicked her out of her fist band, The Flowers Of Romance. Much was made of The Slits’ amateurism, but the truth is that she developed one of the most strikingly original styles found in punk, post-punk, or any other genre. Her transition from a super fan who loves The Beatles, The Kinks and Captain Beefheart and sees shows as much as four days a week to picking up a guitar for the first time and avoiding sounding like any of her male influences, is so inspiring I’m tempted to pick up an electric guitar myself. Nothing came easy for Viv, her accomplishments in music, art, work, love, and family were littered with incredible obstacles. She’s totally honest about her doubts and insecurities, and if you don’t root for her all the way, then you’re just as bad as all the other assholes she suffered over the decades.

future-days

I used to love David Stubbs’ column Mr. Agreeable where he would take apart bands, both seriously and tongue-in-cheek. Future Days is very serious, and tackles a whole lot of history to put all the music in context. Mammoth. Season of the Witch isn’t as well written or researched (he completely skps over black metal, and attributes church burnings to Swedish death metallers!) as Future Days, and stopped at Ghost circa 2011, just before the latest wave of occult rock truly exploded, but it was entertaining. I think the author needs to catch up on what he’s missed via my site (hint, start with Jex Thoth), and go back and add a couple chapters. Haruki Murakami books are so odd and surreal that they’re often perplexing at the time, but then they haunt me for months after. The latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is far from his best, but definitely worth the read. Starting out with curiosity of what the heck was going on in the music industry from 1959 to 1963 when rock & roll was nearly killed off (basically the industry thought R&R was a dumb fad and they tried to wish it away). I got sucked into the epic The Sound Of The City, with only the first 20% covering the 50s, and moved on to cover the evolution of blues, folk, R&B, soul, Motown, country rock, psychedelia, funk, pretty much ALL music from 1950 to the 70s. Definitely a broad definition of rock ‘n’ roll!

  1. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys: A Memoir – Viv Albertine (2014)
  2. Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany – David Stubbs (2014)
  3. Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll – Peter Bebergal (2014)
  4. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami (2014)
  5. The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock & Roll – Charlie Gillett (2011)
  6. The Peripheral – William Gibson (2014)
  7. Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke – Rob Sheffield (2013)

  8. The Obsidian Pebble (The Artefact Quintet) – Rhys A Jones (2014)
  9. Golem In My Glovebox (Monster Haven Book 4) – R.L. Naquin (2014)
  10. Who I Am – Pete Townsend (2014)
  11. The 400 lb Gorilla – DC Farmer (2014)
  12. The Girl Who Would Be King – Kelly Thompson (2013)
  13. Queen Of The Faire – Gillian Summers (2014)

Comics
Saga - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (2014)This year I did some major housecleaning, selling off hundreds of my comics, and made the difficult decision to stop reading some long running series, including Fables and all its spinoffs, Unwritten and Morning Glories.  It just felt to me that the first two should have ended long ago and were spinning their storytelling wheels, while Morning Glories just doesn’t make any damn sense. Someday when they’re completed and I can get an affordable digital copy I’ll finish them off. In the meantime, I sought out new, fresher titles that would not be such a chore. Brian K. Vaughan’s space opera masterpiece Saga, however, has kept the pacing brisk, with many interesting (though grim) developments. I forgot how much I loved Rick Spears & Chuck BB’s Black Metal series until I revisited them before reading the newest installment. Their fantastic epic storytelling is often hilarious, and captures the true essence of metal \../.  In her third major project, G. Willow Wilson has hit her stride with a great book in Ms. Marvel that combines a coming of age tale with fitting in, friendship, ethnicity, religion, superheroes and a giant slobbery teleporting dog. I have to admit, Chew nearly lost me in its meandering story, but I’m hanging on, because the characters are so great, and I have faith that there will be a payoff. Deadly Class is horrifically violent, but I can take it in comics more than movies, and as grim as it is, there is a bit of nostalgia in invoking the alternative universe setting of San Francisco in 1987. There probably wasn’t really an arcane elite assassin school though. Sex Criminals’ first arc was pretty mindblowing, and while it’s faltered, it’s starting to pick up steam again. Wytches is as creepy as the title suggests, and since it’s only on issue 3, it’s hard to say where it’s going to go, but it’s very promising so far. Same with Trees, but hey, it’s Warren Ellis. As long as he doesn’t fucking abandon it like he’s done with other titles (most recently, the super cool Moon Knight revival was taken over by the capable Brian Wood), it remains very promising. The Wicked + The Devine is a great concept, gods returning to earth and interacting with people, some as rock stars. But like with their other titles, Gillen & McKelvie can be difficult to follow, and it may require re-reading previous issues. Tomboy by Liz Prinze,  Fatale and Ghost were also worth reading.

  1. Saga – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)
  2. Black Metal: Book Three – Rick Spears & Chuck BB (Oni Press)
  3. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona (Marvel)
  4. Chew – John Layman & Rob Guillory (Image)
  5. Deadly Class – Rick Remender, Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge (Image)
  6. Sex Criminals – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky (Image)
  7. Wytches – Scott Snyder, Jock & Matt Hollingsworth (Image)
  8. Trees – Warren Ellis & Jason Howard (Image)
  9. The Fade Out – Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Image)
  10. Moon Knight – Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire [Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood] (Marvel Now!)
  11. The Wake – Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy (Vertigo)
  12. The Wicked + The Divine – Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson & Cowles (Image)
  13. Black Science – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera & Michael Spicer (Image)

Others I might check out: Lumberjanes, Beautiful Darkness, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, This One Summer, Hawkeye,  Wonder Woman, Trillium, In Real Life, Pretty Deadly, Through The Woods. Read more about ’em here and here.

Shopping
Fewer and fewer stores exist that cater to my tastes, so I feel I should help promote the ones that do.

  1. Reckless Records – It’s depressing that browsing through record stores and finding amazing surprises is pretty much a thing of the past. It’s not all the stores’ faults, we just find our music differently, and the surprises take place on music blogs, forums, Bandcamp and Spotify instead. Nevertheless I still like to buy CDs of some of my favorites every year. I have had nostalgic experiences in browsing at Amoeba in San Francisco and Rasputin in Berkeley, but in Chicago, Reckless, with it’s three locations, reliable online database of their inventory and willingness to transfer and hold CDs and LPs for you justifies their survival as one of the last great record stores.
  2. 2014-chicago-comicsChicago Comics – For the past two decades I’ve really enjoyed the weekly ritual of picking up new titles every Wednesday (or sometimes later). Due to the time constraints of getting my place ready to sell, I submitted a pull list for the first time this year. I spend less time browsing, but I still intend to make the trip up to the old Lakeview neighborhood at least every month once I move. The staff is super awesome, even if all their music tastes are stuck in the 90s (I’m working on getting them to check out my Spotify playlists, mwa ha haaa).
  3. Aquarius Records – Given their amazing website, the store itself located in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco is surprisingly small. That doesn’t stop them from cramming in as much as they can. Last time I was there they had a makeshift poster art show going on, a free acoustic performance from Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless and Golden Void, and free beer!
  4. All That Is Heavy – Earlier this year they gave me a scare by closing due to family matters. Thankfully they came back. While I order more CDs directly from bands and via Bandcamp, nothing beats the excitement of getting the recognizable ATIH box in the mail full of goodies, and often an extra sticker and comp CD.
  5. Dusty Groove – This beautiful store is a pleasure to visit, and has remained a reliable source for soul, funk, reggae, jazz and Brazilian music and more. If you go to the store, I recommend doing an online order beforehand, because albums tend to get snatched up quickly from their brisk online sales.
  6. Shadow Kingdom Records – Great example of a record label that also offers a wide selection of other genre relevant titles in metal, doom and heavy rock.
  7. The Omega Order – In association with The End records, you can get a lot of titles normally only available as imports for domestic prices.
  8. Macy’s – Man I hate clothes shopping, but no one else is gonna do it for me. I used to have some luck with Nordstrom Rack, especially with English Laundry shirts and pants, but that dried up. Macy’s seems to have adjusted their business model to account for the recent closings of other discount stores, regularly having sales on good quality if not exactly high-end designer clothes for as much as 75% off (I’ve paid an average of about $25  for shirts the past few years).

Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2013
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2012
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2011
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2010
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2009
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2008
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2007
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2006
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2005
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2004
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2003
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2002
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2001
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 2000
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1999
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1998
Fester’s Lucky 13 — 1997

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