20. Cut Hands – Festival of The Dead William Bennett was accused of being a Nazi/Fascist/racist due to a politically radical piece he wrote in an art magazine in the 80’s. In 2013, he wrote a beautiful, well thought out article defending himself. I found myself agreeing with his points and ideas, but at the end of the day, you never really know about an artist’s personal life. First and foremost, it’s always about the music for me. William Bennett was another musician that got me into noise with his first musical output, Whitehouse. They called it power electronic violence, but Cut Hands is a whole other beast. Festival of The Dead fuses his noise techniques and African beats into one hell of an intense album. The album got my blood pumping, and the juices in my brain flowing. It’s no wonder why William Bennett is considered a legend in the avant-garde and noise community.
19. Pharmakon – Bestial Burden Margaret Chardiet achieves what some artists try to do in a lifetime, but can never bring to life. In the first minute and 32 seconds, she makes you feel something real. And that thing is human discomfort. It’s not just for the sake of making the listener feel uneasy; it’s therapy. In October of 2013, Margaret almost died from a cyst so large it almost made her have organ failure. The album’s concept takes from how her body turned on her, hence the track, “Body Betrays Itself” – one of the record’s standout moments. What makes her style so brilliant as a whole is that it still has structure in the weirdest way and a quality to draw you in. I’ve only noticed this done by noise artists such as Prurient. It’s one of the many reasons it makes this album very inspiring to me. It has opened up my ears to the gates of noise more than ever before.
18. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love Initially, when this album came out, I didn’t give it a chance. I had no reason in particular for doing so but as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes it’s just not the right time. But when something clicks later down the line, it’s like musical fireworks. Say Yes To Love is a refreshing punk album to say the least. The lo-fi sound, the raw noise, and Meredith Graves’ confessing lyrics make this album the charmer that it is.
17. Eagulls – Eagulls One of the first albums I loved this year. Eagulls make post-punk with a straightforward edge that mixes in a bouncy, nervous vibe. Beneath their tense post-punk are some of the most memorable tunes I have heard all year. The album has a lot of neurotic energy on the surface, but it’s never enough to make you think, “Holy fuck, I can’t handle this.” That’s because the music is catchy, demanding, and energetic. Put the members of this rookie band on your watch list in the future.
16. United Nations – The Next Four Years Geoff Rickly is back! But not with Thursday… It makes me so happy that someone for the early 00s Emo boom is making compelling music that is modern and matters in today’s musical landscape. Listening to The Next Four Years made me think of this stuff as the kind of music Geoff should have been making all along! A term used to describe United Nations sound is Emo violence. It sounds silly but it’s damn accurate. The album blasts you with blistering hardcore and doesn’t give you much time to breath until the album closes. Time to wake up the little hardcore kid hibernating inside of you!
15. Caustic Window (Aphex Twin) – Caustic Window Originally the music on this album was created in 1994, and had been sitting in a vault due to reasons only known to Richard D. James. But thanks to his strong fan base and a Kickstarter campaign, this album finally saw the light of day twenty years later in 2014. Richard did actually release new material this year with the highly anticipated Syro, but I prefer Caustic Window. The thing that makes it so amazing is that it doesn’t sound dated at all… It’s a breath of fresh air with a techno pulse. I wouldn’t say that this release is as much in the left field as his other work, but it does play with interesting melodies that are chopped up in the same style. Whenever I needed to think, create, or chill out, the sounds of Aphex Twin satisfied.
14. Ty Segall – Manipulator Ty Segall’s Manipulator is a culmination of everything he has ever done, on one record. It plays like an audio scrapbook of his career. That being said, out of his entire musical output, this is Ty Segall’s strongest work to date. Every track plays like an epic rock n roll jam only Segall could conceive. The songs are incredibly catchy and worm inside your mind, but one of the most overlooked elements on this album is that Segall is a boss at the guitar solo. It reminded me that I had missed hearing them. Why don’t more musicians embrace guitar solos in rock music today?
13. Lust For Youth – International With more control and a sound that’s grander than ever, this band rides the line between dark wave and new wave. If you have been following them, then you already know they’ve been heading in this direction for quite some time. My favorite track “Armida” is the core of the album’s sound, packing a killer hook with female guest vocals and a dance beat. It’s the perfect soundtrack for parties and nightlife!
12. Priests – Bodies and Control and Money and Power When I see a band that I’ve never heard of before play live, and they can convert me into a huge fan after just one night, this is something special and rare. Over the summer, I watched Priests at NYC’s Cake Shop (which happened to be the band’s album release for the show) and was blown away by how urgent and pulled together the band sounded. It was also Katie Greer’s stage presence, being equal parts Iggy Pop and early 00’s era Karen O, which sold me. I went home and downloaded the album immediately, and it became a staple for the rest of the year. The album is very political; calling out certain people in power (because we have a voice, so let’s fucking use it), while still being fun and rock n roll!
11. Honeyblood – Honeyblood I wouldn’t say we are in full-blown 90’s revival yet, but we are seeing more and more bands being influenced by that time while still finding a sound that’s fresh and original. Honeyblood, with only two people in this band, pull off the sound the best. On their debut album, they sound bigger than a duo with their catchy courses, sweet melodies, and relaxed yet confident guitar playing over simple percussion….Pick any of the material and it could be a massive hit! When I needed a good song for a mixtape or playlist, this is what I went to this year.
10. Klaxons – Love Frequency Considering the recent announcement of the band’s hiatus, we can say that Klaxons have gone out with a bang on their latest (and hopefully not last) album Love Frequency. Ladies and gentleman, if you are going to make a dance-pop album while still maintaining credibility; this is what it should sound like. Hell, if I made a pop record, I would want it to sound like this. This album pumps and swirls with synths over killer sing-along choruses, polished with production from James Murphy and Gorgon City. It’s a bright, summertime album with the perfect formula of a guilty pleasure.
9. Dum Dum Girls – Too True Since the release of the band’s first album, I Will Be, the Dum Dum Girls have evolved as musicians. On Too True, they show us they won’t be stopping in their tracks anytime soon. Just listen to the album’s first single… “Lost Boys and Girls Club” could be the anthem of this generation! The new album references a lot of 80’s psychedelic pop, more than it does to the 1960s era. It’s an ideal record to get lost in on lonely nights, during an intimate stroll. Underneath all of the lush production, personal lyrics, and bigger sound, what the Dum Dum Girls have here is a quintessential album for life in New York.
8. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes Most of us have been waiting for a new Radiohead album. Some speculated it would come out this year, but instead we got an excellent new solo album from Mr. Yorke. I’ll admit that I’m a total fanboy for Radiohead and any related side project. I have always liked Thom Yorke’s pop sensibility mixed with his knack for experimenting with electronic sounds. On Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Thom Yorke isn’t doing anything different or making groundbreaking music. But he is doing what he does best., which is enough to hold us over. He’s never gone wrong with making pop ballads wrapped up in weird electronics, so he’s delivered a great album.
7. Interpol – El Pintor This album has inspired me to dust off my suit, hit dimly lit bars, and start drinking watered down cranberry vodkas again. Interpol’s fifth full length is a back-to-basics album and the best they’ve made since 2004’s Antics. And it’s not just because you won’t find Paul speaking Spanish on this one! El Pintor is the result of a band comfortable with their sound. The band is tighter than ever and the songs are simple, classic Interpol. Tracks like “Ancient Ways” and “Breaker 1” almost sound like they could have been dug up from the archives… It’s good to have our band back, complete with their swagger!
6. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World Death From Above broke up in 2006 and then reformed in 2011. When bands reunite these days, it usually becomes a total crash grab and no new album comes from said reunited band. But with DFA 1979, it was a little different (even if money did play a factor)…. Eight years after the release of their masterpiece You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, they have given us an amazing follow-up. We might not be back in 2004, but it sure sounds like it. Musically, the band picks up where they left off, having that staple DFA sound everyone has come to love. The only difference is that lyrically, the band reflects on modern times. Even though a lot has changed, it still makes me want to blast this record at max volume, then go out and get a little scuzzy!
5. Total Control – Typical System Post Punk is my favorite genre of music. With Typical System, Total Control have created what sounds like all of my favorite post-punk music on one album, while still injecting new life into the genre. Every track sounds like a different band recorded it yet the album does not sound disjointed, and it flows well. The album is mixed with icy synths, minimalist punk, and garage rock. As far as I’m concerned, Total Control should be one of the biggest bands in the world right now. In reality, the band is on hiatus and hasn’t even done a tour of the album. We don’t even know if we will get anything more out of these guys! Let’s hope so… Until then, this band will be my secret weapon for anyone who needs something new and exciting to listen to.
4. Liars – Mess On Liars’ last album WIXIW, my favorite track was a dance banger called “Brats.” Although it was a great record, the track stood out like a needle in a haystack. Were they just testing the waters? What would a complete Liars album experience be like if they were to take inspiration from the song’s unique vibe? I never expected to get my answer…Liars have gone even further on Mess, stretching the elements and tendencies of “Brats” to make their most catchy and accessible music to date. Over the span of their career, Liars have become known for their willingness to experiment. And although we still get moments of experimental Liars on this year’s release, they ultimately show us that making something more approachable can be experimenting, too!
3. White Lung – Deep Fantasy I fell in love with White Lung’s second album Sorry as soon as I heard it – and after this year’s Deep Fantasy, I can now say that they’ve officially made my favorite bands list. Not too much has changed since the last release, except for slicker album production and the fact that White Lung has become an audibly tighter unit. There wasn’t much that needed changing to begin with, so why fix what isn’t broke? Deep Fantasy is 22 minutes of chaotic, intense, fast punk that swallows you whole – only to spit you back out in the end. Ultimate badass Mish Way’s vocals soar over Kenneth Williams’ jagged and ferocious guitar melodies. It makes me want to run for miles and do all of my errands in between. Their music is powerful, made of the stuff that will amp you up and tickle the brain. That’s what punk rock is all about!
2. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love Perhaps the most polarizing record of the year, this album splits Iceage’s fans down the middle. You have the people that love it and the people that hate it. I’m with the people that love it, and frankly the people that hate it just don’t get it. For one, the band is growing up, and they have different influences that shine bright on this album. If the Birthday Party and The Gun Club formed a super group, this is what it would sound like. The album is silly and doesn’t take itself very seriously. As much as I love rock music that has a serious tinge, I also like when it’s playful. Along with this new vibe and new sound, Iceage’s songwriting is at its best. These tracks will stick with you more than ever… I even found myself cooking and singing along to this record, like a teenage girl singing along to Taylor Swift!
1. Swans – To Be Kind Music has a way of coming into our lives at the perfect moment. For me, To Be Kind came out at exactly the right time. Not only do I consider this my album of the year, but this is no doubt one the most important albums of my thirties and a companion to the start of a new life chapter. What was it that clicked with me so much? Since Michael Gira reformed Swans, this is his most rock-oriented album. On To Be Kind, Gira is a rock n roll shaman who is at the front helm of taking us on a ride of dense instrumentation, backed by Swan’s other members. Along the way we discover heavy guitars riffs, wicked grooves, spacey synths, noise, hellish screams, and sweet whispers. Most people would associate these sounds with dark and nihilistic music – labels that Swans have been tagged with in the past – but for me, this record is by far one of the most positive and uplifting of the entire year. It’s an injection of power, strength, and persistence that encourages you to keep on living.
Illustration by Lucy Salgado