The record I listened to most this year did not actually come out in 2014. Way back in 2013, Disney released
Frozen: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and this year, thereâ€™s no doubt that Iâ€™ve heard it from
front to back more than any other album in my collection. I know all the words to â€œLet It Go.â€ I know what frozen
things do in summer. Itâ€™s not that I want to know these things, itâ€™s that sometimes you learn things like this in
the course of listening to the only album that will get an 9-month-old to stop screaming in the car. That said, I
did have a small amount of time to listen to other records. This is what I thought of them.
My favorite LPs from 2014
I generally find deliberately lo-fi production to be contrived, but there's something about how the
technique is used on Ivy's self-titled record that has me willing to look the other way. I think it's because the
songs are good and the production isn't used as a distraction. In fact, it actually adds tension to an already
Yes, we've heard these songs before, and no, I don't care, because Kepi Ghoulie continues to make them
feel fresh and lively with each new reinterpretation. It's a rare feat to take such simple songs and make them feel
new again, but Kepi accomplishes it, seemingly with ease.
Lagwagon's first full-length in nearly a decade could have gone two ways -- a sad rehash by a band
attempting to capture its former glory, or a ripping return to form that firmly re-establishes the band's place in
the punk rock pantheon. Luckily for us, it's the latter, and while I've never been a huge fan, it's still nice to
hear that Lagwagon hasn't lost a step.
The Gotobeds: Poor People Are Revolting
This is a weird record. Some of the songs bring to mind the earliest art-rock-influenced punk, while
other tracks sound like they could have come off a Bridge and Tunnel album. There are clearly a ton of influences
converging here, and the end result is an interesting and varied debut album.
The last thing I want to do is damn a band with faint praise, but the best I can say is that this album
is pretty good. As someone who is a huge fan of Fucked Up's earlier work, I don't find Glass Boys to be
quite on the same tier. It's all relative though, and compared to most of what came out this year, it's still a
If you only know Hard Girls as the band that backs up Jesse Michaels in Classics of Love, you're missing
out. A Thousand Surfaces finds the band fully capable of standing on its own, and making a righteous noise
while doing so.
The days of seminal compilations are over, but that doesn't mean a good one can't come along once every
so often. In celebration of Red Scare's tenth anniversary, the label's trotted out new and unreleased tracks from
alumni like The Lillingtons, The Methadones and Enemy You, and that right there is enough to land it on any best of
Not all hardcore has to be fast and loud. In fact, Creative Adult put those tropes aside to a great
degree on Psychic Mess and succeed by creating menace and tension in the spaces in between the riffs and
Criminal Code combine hardcore urgency and post-punk tension to great effect on No Device. This
came out early in the year, but I didn't get my hands on it until recently, and I'm still lamenting the fact that I
missed out on enjoying this record all year long.
If The Copyrights' previous record, North Sentinel Island, was a departure from the sound most are
familiar with, Report is most definitely a return, though a few of the elements from North Sentinel
Island remain. I'm always wary of describing bands as "mature," but Report is very much what a "mature"
Copyrights record should sound like.
If last year's Third was the Steve Adamyk Band showing their pop-punk side, then this year's
Dial Tone is the grungy, garage-y other side. The songs aren't quite as catchy or upbeat, but the band is
just as tight as ever, and the album is just as good a listen.
Generacion Suicida: Todo Termina
I'm still not completely sure this is a full-length, but nine songs on a single-sided 12-inch is close
enough for me. Building on last year's Con La Muerte A Tu Lado, Generacion Suicida punch it up a notch with
a little bit of extra crunch to go along with their passionate lyrics, delivered entirely en Espanol.
I have no idea how long Masked Intruder's lovelorn lawbreaker shtick is going to last, but while it does,
I'm certainly going to enjoy it. M.I., the band's first full-length on Fat Wreck Chords, does everything
the first record did, and then some. It's got more sugary pop, more three-part harmonies and more songs about petty
The Manges have done something almost impossible on All Is Well. The self-proclaimed punk rock
veterans have managed to put together an album of songs about girls, leather jackets and all of those other pop-
punk tropes without sounding trite or derivative. In fact, their mature take on immature themes injects vitality
into a subgenre that sorely needs it.
Keith Morris continues to put contemporary lead singers to shame. At nearly 60 years old, Morris sounds
angrier, more direct and more purposeful than ever before on Wasted Years. It doesn't hurt that he's backed
by a band that brings many of the same qualities.
I really, really like The Brokedowns, and Life Is A Breeze is their best work yet. Ergo, I really,
really like this record. It's angry, it's catchy and it's clever. In other words, it's everything we've come to
expect from The Brokedowns, and if it weren't for the advance copy I got, it would have come out too late to make
this list. Thanks Toby!
Fistful of Hollow finds the Swingin' Utters in top form, with 15 tracks that dart across genres
but remain rooted in the band's familiar sound. If you listen closely, you'll also hear some new tricks, all of
which come off flawlessly. That's pretty impressive for a band with the Utters' longevity.
Good Throb's brand of hardcore-tinged post-punk is sloppy, angular and in-your-face, and all of those
attributes blend together nicely on the band's 2014 full-length Fuck Off. If you put early P.I.L., Fugazi
and Black Flag into a blender, the result would taste terrible, but it would sound a lot like Good Throb.
Neighborhood Brats combine the unhinged effects of baking in the California sun with the meat and
potatoes of the Midwest and the swagger of NYC and the result is a near-perfect distillation of American hardcore.
After a slew of shorter releases, Recovery shows a band that has no trouble performing over the long haul,
I've never been a huge Against Me! fan, and I'm even willing to admit that I spent most of the year
trying to find a way to not annoint Transgender Dysphoria Blues as the best record of the year. In the end
though, I couldn't deny the truth -- there's no other record this year that's as personal and passionate, and
certainly no other record this year that can continue to elicit goosebumps on each listen.
My favorite EPs, 7-inches and shorter things from 2014
Earth Girls crank out the kind of garage pop that you wouldn't necessarily expect to find on the Grave
Mistake Records roster, but thankfully, the label knows quality when it hears it. In a subgenre that's horribly
oversaturated, this is one band that differentiates itself from the pack.
Breakout: True Crime
Grave Mistake Records
Breakout's bio describes the band as hardcore guys playing second-wave British punk. On True
Crime, that combination manifests itself in the form of stomping but melodic riffs and raspy, half-spoken
vocals. If you own a pair of boots, put them on before listening.
Institute takes some of the signature elements of early British post-punk and sprinkles touches of Agent
Orange-y '80s surf punk into the mix to create a sound all their own. Giddy Boys showcases the band at their
moody best, and it's certainly worth your time.
Frau: Punk Is My Boyfriend
Static Shock Records
Yes, this 7-inch has a fantastic title, and no, that's not where the good stuff ends. Frau play a sort of
anarcho post-punk that blends elements of bands like Crass and The Slits, and the result is tense, challenging punk
rock that isn't for everyone, but is definitely for me.
Replica's Beast 7-inch is just that -- a ferocious, gnashing monster that grabs you by the
throat and doesn't let go until it's exhausted at the end of its seven tracks. It's the perfect soundtrack to a
living room circle pit.
No Idea Records uncovered a hidden gem when they put out the debut 7-inch from Seattle's Dead Bars. The
four beer-fueled pop punk anthems are all instant sing-alongs, and if you're a fan of Dear Landlord or Mean Jeans
and haven't added this your collection, I suggest you clear some space on the record shelf.
There's nothing new or groundbreaking about RVIVR's latest release, and that's just fine with me, as the
band has already perfected an equally earnest and ambitious sound. Unless something drastic happens, if RVIVR
releases music, it's going to end up somewhere on my year-end list.
Downtown Boys recently signed to Don Giovanni Records, and I can't help but imagine this 7-inch had
something to do with it. It's some of the best sax-infused punk to come around in a long time, and lyrically, it's
politically astute in two languages. Sure, you could compare them to X-Ray Spex, but that's just lazy.
New York's In School take it back to basics on Praxis of Hate, and I for one couldn't be happier
about it. The 7-inch hammers away with six angry bursts that owe much the bygone days of hardcore punk. If you like
your music without pretense, this one's for you.
I wonder how many lame post-punk bands packed it in and went home after hearing Priests. The music is
simply arranged but challenging, the lyrics are intelligent and thought-provoking and the vocal delivery is music
to these ears. Not dissimilar to Good Throb, though with a good bit more polish in the production.