Cloud Nothings Here and Nowhere Else (March 2014, Carpark Records)
Their last record Attack On Memory was so good that I was worried their next one wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace. But, Cloud Nothings’ 4th record Here and Nowhere Else is their best yet. 8 months after its release, I still can’t understand how “I’m Not Part of Me,” “Now Here In,” Quieter Today” or “Psychic Trauma” have not had success on mainstream radio. Each are perfect alt-rock pieces with immediate pay off. Despite not connecting with the mass, it’s obvious that band leader Dylan Baldi’s super strong propensity for writing and creating excellent songs will continue to propel this band forward.
“Giving Into Seeing” is my favorite off of Here and Nowhere Else. It’s an aggressive, self-conscious confession ground out into a rock song that unfolds with hip rage.
Parquet Courts Sunbathing Animal (June 2014, What’s Your Rupture)
Another point of anticipation in 2014 was Parquet Courts’ follow-up to 2012’s excellent Light Up Gold. For their 3rd LP Sunbathing Animal, the band evolved beyond the quick-hit, short punk tracks that made up the majority of their previous effort and explored different techniques, song structures and approaches. “Instant Disassembly” is a sprawling indie rocker that plays over 7 minutes. “Dear Ramona” utilizes a mid-tempo progression that quiets for the refrain, “Not to no one, My dear Ramona.” The production work on the record is very well done and you can hear each instrument in the mix perfectly. Overall, Sunbathing Animal resonates with a distinct New York feel.
Track 12, “Raw Milk,” is a standout for me.
Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (April 2014, Hardly Art)
The follow-up to their 2012 debut No Passion All Technique, Under Color of Official Right has been in heavy rotation for me since its release. The album is a dark, mechanical post-punk feast part of which feels like an introspective exploration of the band’s life in their hometown Detroit City. In fact, I think that this record is the best music to come out of Detroit in quite some time. And the cover art connects with the gritty feel of the album perfectly.
“Tarpeian Rock” is a highlight on which singer Joe Casey weaves an allusion to ancient Rome with modern day social commentary over the bands aggressive play.
The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream (March 2014, Secretly Canadian)
The War on Drugs returned this year with Lost In The Dream, an impressively intricate soundscape of Americana folk n’ roll. The band has always been hit with comparisons to legendary classic rock names but in 2014 their sound stands out as unique amongst their peers. Adam Granduciel wrote every song on the record and plays over a dozen different instruments on it (and his playing is almost mathematical in its precision). The record may have a relaxed sound to it but, I find that the songs are so dynamic and interesting that my ear is constantly challenged and does not disengage.
With a piano part that reportedly took over 5 months to perfect, I think “Eyes To The Wind” stands out as the album’s pinnacle.
White Lung Deep Fantasy (April 2014, Domino Records)
The Canadian punk rockers’ 3rd record is 10 tracks/22 minutes of head-on ferocity. And I think that’s the reason I’ve enjoyed this record so much, it’s non-stop action. Amid the chaos, vocalist Mish Way delivers melodies with notable clarity. Way’s voice has a very nice tone and is a perfect match for guitarist Kenneth Williams’ rapid guitar work. Some have complained that the record suffers from poor dynamic compression and that the instruments are indistinguishable. I suppose it all comes down to how particular the listener is with the recording quality. If you ask me, the production work here is adequate and the music excels.
Track 2 “Down It Goes” is explosive, face-kicking fun.
SONGS The Brainstems “Nervous Conditions” (From Cold Sweatin’ May 2014, Peace Bath) Track 5 from the St. Louis outfits 2014 6 song cassette Cold Sweatin’ is a killer 8 minutes of anxiety driven garage rock mania. Springtime Carnivore “Name On A Matchbook” (From Springtime Carnivore October 2014, Autumn Tone Records) Singer/songwriter/musician Greta Morgan provides a modern, dream-pop update to the classic Motown sound. Beck “Blue Moon” (From Morning Phase January 2014, Capitol Records) A prime example of Beck’s impressive evolution, this track is an alt/country/folk jam built around a beautiful melody. Ought “Habit” (From More Than Any Other Day April 2014, Constellation) Cool, conversational dissection of self-control from Ought’s debut album More Than Any Other Day. Smashing Pumpkins “One and All” (From Monuments to an Elegy November 2014, BMG/Martha’s Music) For the umpteenth reincarnation of the Pumpkins, Billy put Tommy Lee behind the kit and they rip one of the best alt rock songs Corgan has crafted in quite some time. iceage “On My Fingers” (From Plowing Into the Field of Love October 2014, Matador) This mid-tempo, piano laced album opener is a dark and stark departure from what listeners have come to expect from the Danish punks. Parkay Quarts “Content Nausea” (From Content Nausea November 2014, What’s Your Rupture) A fast-paced stream of consciousness narrative that you may need to replay a couple of times just to feel like you haven’t been left behind. Naomi Punk “Television Man” (From Television Man August 2014, Captured Tracks) Excellently crafted, swampy art-rock from the Washington trio’s sophomore LP.