Best of 2014 - Mark Little's picks (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Best of 2014

Mark Little's picks (2014)

staff picks

[Mark Little is a contributing editor at]

After many years of participating in the Punknews community, 2014 marked my first year as one of the strange, slow and old editors of the ‘Org. As the kind of music fan that can border on the, you know, obsessive, it’s been a pleasure to be able to nerd out on the podcast with Adam and John, as well as the opportunity to hear and write about new releases on a regular basis. Going to Fest for the first time was a huge highlight for me, finally realizing a lifelong dream seeing the legendary Descendents. Tom Waits, you’re next.

Mark’s Top 20 in 2014


together PANGEA: Badillac

Harvest Records

Earlier this year I sent a message to my pal Derek who may or may not be in Fake Problems. It was a simple premise: Give me something new to check out. He didn't hesitate in recommending Badillac. It was only a few songs in that I was furiously sending Twitter messages for people to check them out. Furious garage rock with fuzz and distortion aplenty, together PANGEA got my attention in a big way. Check out "Alive," "River" and the title track if you think Derek and I are lying to you.


Beach Day: Native Echoes

Kanine Records

Kimmy Drake (vocals, guitar) and Skyler Black (drums) have been at it since 2011. Bonding over a mutual love of fun and '60s girl groups, the duo (with a revolving door of bassists) has been churning out bubblegum anthems evoking Ronnie Spector, her Ronettes and the entire Spector Wall of Sound. Their 2014 release, Native Echoes, finds the duo bringing the '60s into the modern day, with "Don't Call Me on the Phone," "How Do You Sleep at Night" and the Punknews podcast-featured "All My Friends Were Punks." Light the tikis and hold the one you love close, Beach Day wrote your soundtrack.


Mariachi El Bronx: Tres (III)

ATO Records

Tres? Three? MEB3? Title it whatever you want, but it's only going to be one of the biggest surprises of your year. What perhaps started as a joke a few years ago has turned into a full-fledged phenomenon with their third full-length. What was originally viewed as an alter-ego to the LA hardcore band The Bronx now threatens to overshadow them entirely. The hardcore-cum-mariachi combo simply nails it on their third release, with the album opener "New Beat" instantly sucking you in. If "Sticks and Stones" isn't stuck in your head for hours after you've heard it, you're a better person than me. Here's your party soundtrack.


The Coathangers: Suck My Shirt

Suicide Squeeze

Forming in 2006 as a joke, Atlanta's The Coathangers have turned into anything but. Their fourth full-length, Suck My Shirt, sees the trio amplifying their grrrrl punk rock dance party. "Follow Me" hooks you from the beginning with its grit and driving beat, the surf guitar of "Merry-Go-Round" keeps you moving and shaking, while "Derek's Song" combines all of the above making you shake your head and fist and any other appendage you may want to shake. Just like the band on the cover. THEY CAN'T STOP SHAKING!


The Dead Milkmen: Pretty Music for Pretty People

Quid Ergo

The Dead Milkmen were pretty important for me when I was a young spike. While they "came back" a few years ago with The King in Yellow, this year's release, Pretty Music for Pretty People, showed the real return to form that I had hoped for. The Milkmen wit is in full show on the title track, as well as "Make it Witchy" and "Big Words Make the Baby Jesus Cry." Rodney Anonymous maintains his signature snarky tone, Joe Genaro holds down the more sensitive side and Dean Clean keeps those beats steady and, well, clean.


The Gaslight Anthem: Get Hurt


Wow, this album was a surprise. The moment the first song, "Stay Vicious," came through my speakers, I was sure something was wrong. It definitely didn't sound like the record I was anticipating. It was much darker, much more brooding. As I listened a few more times, not only did I realize there wasn't anything wrong with it, but I heard it for the breakup album that it was. "1,000 Years," "Break Your Heart" and "Dark Places" tell you that Brian Fallon wasn't in a great place when he wrote these songs, and they sound appropriately dark. Anyone looking for The '69 Sound was disappointed. By releasing Get Hurt, Fallon and co., didn't release the album that fans expected, they released the album that they needed to make.


The Lawrence Arms: Metropole


Well that took awhile, huh? Eight years after Oh, Calcutta!, the 'Org favorites finally returned with Metropole. The various Larrys have been up to this and that over the years (having kids, writing blogs, playing acoustic), but that doesn't mean they lost a step. Sure, they may have sounded a little reserved once the record started, but once bad sandwich chronicler Brendan Kelly kicked into "Drunk Tweets," you knew it was going to be ok. A slightly grown-up Larrys, but better than none at all. Welcome back.


Restorations: LP3

Side One Dummy

Raise your hands if you didn't see that album title coming. I hadn't paid any attention to the Philadelphia-based band until a Twitter buddy brought them to my attention a couple months ago. That was all I needed to dive into this album and finally understand what all the fuss was about. "Wales," "Seperate Songs," "Tiny Prayers," "No Castle" ... pick one. Because I can't. I'm late to the Restorations party, but I'm glad I finally showed up.


The Smith Street Band: Throw Me In The River

Poison City / SideOneDummy

About a year ago, I was waiting outside the venue before a Frank Turner show when this scruffy group of Australians rolled up. Turned out they would rock my world later on that night and make me an instant fan. Fast forward ten months later, and their new release, Throw Me in the River is doing the same, times ten. "Surrender," "East London Summer" and the title track all make me want to be in a sweaty, packed pub, screaming along with my best friends, and those that are yet to be.


Fucked Up: Glass Boys

Matador Records

As the years go by, Fucked Up gets more epic. Starting as a band with quick, abrasive singles, Fucked Up has grown into a band weaving more complicated narratives into each successive release. While not quite achieving the epic scale of 2011's David Comes to Life, 2014's Glass Boys maintains the band's progressive leanings. The book-ending "Echo Boomer" along with "The Great Divide" and the titular album closer showcase another powerhouse of a record from the Toronto-based band.


The Copyrights: Report

Red Scare Industries

Pop-punk is deceptively simple; short songs that are to the point, yet with a rhythm and melody that will stay in your head for days. After a decade of honing their craft, it's safe to say that The Copyrights know what they're doing. Their sixth full-length, Report, brings you exactly what you would expect from the Carbondale, IL-based punks, and there's nothing wrong with that. Report is just under 30 minutes of sugary yet abrasive pop-punk goodness. Personal favorites include "Slider," "Telescope," "No Knocks" and "This World is Such a Drag."


White Lung: Deep Fantasy


Another band I was late in finding out about, but am so glad that I did. Mish Way's vocals are so cool, yet biting; equal parts alluring yet frightening. Backed up by a band whose abrasive guitar histrionics evoke early day Fugazi, White Lung is a band I instantly knew I needed to pay more attention to. Much more attention. Personal favorites like "Face Down," "Down With the Monster," "Sycophant" and "In Your Home" show a quartet that is hopefully just beginning.


Mastodon: Once More 'Round The Sun


Like whiskey, Mastodon just gets better with age. Their 2014 release, Once More 'Round the Sun, shows a band that not only knows what its strengths are, but also how to take advantage of them. From the opening, building strains of "Tread Lightly," you know you're in for a full-frontal assault of the senses, and Mastodon doesn't disappoint. "The Motherload" (controversial video aside), the title track and "High Road" keep you floating up, before "Feast Your Eyes" brings you gently back down. Put on your headphones, it's Mastodon time.


Masked Intruder: M.I.

Fat Wreck Chords

Never have I been so devoted to a band of miscreants as these guys. The four masked men named for the color of their disguise dominated my listening once again with their 2014 release, M.I.. I'll admit I'm a sucker for their gimmick of unrequited love, unbridled romanticism and unrepentant lawlessness. I mean, who hasn't been there? For almost two solid months if you were in my car, you were going to listen to "Crime Spree," "The Most Beautiful Girl" or "Hey Girl" -- and you were probably going to listen to them more than once. This album gave me some of the biggest smiles of 2014.


OFF!: Wasted Years

Vice Records

Much more than a "Circle Jerks cover band," OFF! continued to deliver the hard jams in 2014 with Wasted Years. Keith Morris still sounds as angry and ferocious as he did 30 years ago, and it only takes 20 seconds of any song from OFF!'s third full-length to drive that point home. If you have a physical copy of Wasted Years, lesser albums cower in awe.


Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin

Merge Records

More than two (nearly three) decades since the demise of Husker Du, and Bob Mould still writes the songs that make me move. His 2014 solo album, Beauty & Ruin, shows an older, wiser Mould who has kept playing as if time hasn't passed at all. Backed by bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster (both from the current rhythm section of alternative legends Superchunk), Uncle Bob is as melodic, loud and rocking as he ever was. "Low Season" and "Little Glass Pill" show he can still get noisy, while "I Don't Know You Anymore" keeps the melodies sugary sweet and "The War" shows the lyrical genius that Mould has displayed throughout his career. Criminally underappreciated, more people need to know and appreciate Bob Mould.


World/Inferno Friendship Society: This Packed Funeral

Alternative Tentacles

Me and the Inferno, we've got history. I've been a fan for the better part of a decade, following the band through huge lineup changes and subtle stylistic ones. Their 2014 was one I had eagerly anticipated, and I wasn't disappointed. This Packed Funeral continues more of the interplay between Jack Terricloth and Sandra Malak's vocals seen on their previous release, The Anarchy and The Ecstasy, with the emphasis on horns, violin and piano giving it a moodier feel. The Inferno doesn't quite sound like the anarchists of before, but as long as Terricloth is in charge, you know it's going to be just close enough so as to be dangerous.


Chuck Ragan: Till Midnight


At this point, it's safe to say that Chuck Ragan has a corner on that whole "punk gone acoustic singer/songwriter" thing. Each release is as good as, if not better than, the previous one, and his latest album is a thing of beauty from start to finish, with nary a dead space. From "Something May Catch Fire" to "For All We Care," Ragan and his Camaraderie have crafted an album that is as warm and familiar as a favorite pair of jeans. Not once has this album failed to put a smile on my face and have me wishing I could strum along. Not only one of my favorite releases of 2014, but my favorite release of Chuck's solo career.


Tim Barry: Lost & Rootless


Nearly a decade after closing the book on Avail, Barry recorded what is arguably the finest album of his solo career with Lost & Rootless. Relying mostly on guitar and vocals, Barry crafted an album exploring life changes, regret and heartache. His storytelling is in top form on the album, such as on standout tracks "Solid Gone" and "Older and Poorer." "The James" gives a subtle nod to his former band and his cover of Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons" is absolutely heartbreaking.Lost & Rootless shows Tim Barry as a songwriter and performer at the top of his game, and a man that is finally able to break free of the shackles of his past.


Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Total Treble

It would have been easy for Laura Jane Grace to just go away. It wasn't long after she came out as transgender in Rolling Stone that half her band had left, her studio was destroyed and she was back to square one as far as a new Against Me! record went. Instead, she reclaimed the band that she had lead since her late teens and recorded that band's most personal, soul-searching album to date. Sure, now fans can look at previous songs like "The Ocean" as to Grace's gender dysphoria, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues explicitly cries out as to the pain Grace has endured all this time, inviting every listener to wrap themselves in her most personal experience. It's personal, painful and uplifting. "Paralytic States," "Two Coffins" and the title track being personal favorites, it's a solid listen from start to finish. Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn't just a great album. It's an important album.

So there you have it, my top 20 of 2014. I’ll see you next year at Fest for the Fugazi reunion. I’m starting the rumor now.