2014 – A Half Year in Review (from that Collapse Board whippersnapper)
It’s almost July, kids – you know what that means? Well, over here in the US, Americans take that as a cue to load up on fireworks, booze, and propane for the 4th. But HERE, in the blogosphere of musique critique (not a real French phrase, by the by), we critic types take stock of our inventory and wax nostalgic over the best albums from the past six months.
Now, if you’d like a more extensive compendium of my top picks (or just can’t stand my writing), why dontcha crane yr ear to this Mixcloud show I cobbled together a few weeks back? Yeah, I know, it’s long. I had to open my big fat mouth.
However, if that don’t suit ya, then here’s my rundown of what were the best 10 (give or take) new-music-happenings of the year so far for me, in a very rough chronological order:
1. Mowbird – Islander (Shape)
Scuzzy playful rock of the highest order. Turning, ever turning, cartwheeling to the seashore. Hands in the air, bare feet in the sand. This was the first album I bought in 2014, I think, and it’s still on irregular rotation, even if they couldn’t make the first session for my program on Dandelion Radio.
2. Tunabunny – Kingdom Technology (HHBTM)
Before we advance any further, we should note here that I am impossibly, hopelessly, inextricably biased toward HHBTM, since the label to me is more than a defined sound or a solid track record but a bunch of really, really good folk who have put up with all my social shortcomings.
We should also note that I obtained the first cut of Kingdom Technology months before the release date, and its electric pop guided me home on many first nights out with a greater surge of confidence than I could’ve ever mustered alone. Besides. Dat bass.
3. Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts : Red Classroom (Bella Union)
After listening to this record, I never saw crosswalks in the same way again. And I had just moved into my new lodging, too, where I’d be doing a helluva lot more cross-walking. Any second, and I could be dashed against the pavement, or so I thought every time I walked out the door and approached Prince Avenue. And I have to cross Prince Ave just about EVERY day to get anywhere. You can imagine, then, the REALLY ACUTE paranoia I had for at least a week.
I also think that, somewhere between “Stupid in the Dark” and “Botanica De Los Angeles”, I may have had several serious orgasms. At least, I’m guessing pleasure that immense and direct and paralyzing – so much so that I shivered and fell into minute spasms – could be an orgasm. Beats me, though. How can a chick ever know?
4. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)
Y’know, I hate those self-called “anglophiles”. Perhaps ya haven’t met ‘em – they’re these Americans who think they know and love “Britishness”, and all the stereotypes it entails. The folks that swoon over accents, or wax poetical about the tourist trap landmarks of London, or wear those kitschy Union Jack shirts or “Keep Calm” attire, or profess an affinity towards that certain “British humor”.
I hate those people. I hate those stereotypes. THIS is today’s England, you twats.
5. Vulture Shit – The Joys of Employment (Money Fire)
One of the best sets I’ve ever seen this year. That poor audience (including me) didn’t see it coming – first some innocuous but bangin’ pop-punk act, then before they knew it – WHAM! Bodies over the tables. Bodies against the walls. Pure malice and delight in shattering waves from one bassist and his alien motherboard of horrors, and one raucous singer egging on the riot and pressing his beaky mug against our faces. YOU KIDS LIKE FIREWORKS?!
6. Millie & Andrea – Drop the Vowels (Modern Love)
Some things take time. Andy Stott crafts the kind of beats that seep into your head, that sound out the whole of yr grey matter and thrust you deep into the universal subconscious, that leave an echo which penetrates deeper and deeper with each listen. With Miles of Demdike Stare – a master of archival deconstruction – the two have formed a vicious entrancing thing, a shadowy conspiracy against dance music and its strobe light ecstasies.
That said, sharing and proliferating Drop the Vowels feels like a conspiracy in itself.
7. Eagulls – s/t (Deranged)
Of course they sound like Fugazi. And My Bloody Valentine. And Bauhaus, to an extent. Of course. And it may be entirely true that Eagulls are, collectively, nothing more than a sponge that has soaked up all the blackened waters of Leeds.
But FUCK. None of that matters when you’re blazing down the highway (accidentally, ‘cos usually I average about 63 mph), propelled by Eagulls’ raw unfiltered force. “Possessed” has, hands down, been the most compelling cut I’ve heard on college radio in months – and the whole album is JUST AS thrilling, if not EVEN MORE SO. FUCK, I say.
Can’t really nominate the rainbow-masked boys of Chimney Crow since their last LP was, err, back in 2013 – but here’s my fave cover of the year for ya, ‘cos this is up-to-date and therefore COUNTS:
8. Bastards of Fate – Vampires Are Real And Palpable (This Will Be Our Summer)
This one’s due a formal review, I swear. Shame on me for not yet wrangling its tornado-shaped madness and pinning it down into words. I’ve even been holding on to some jokes from the Arsenic Lullaby comics I bought.
“Do you know the difference between a baby that’s been struck by lightning and a baby that’s been zapped by a cattle prod?…No one does.” ZZZZZZZZT.
9. Bo Ningen – III (Stolen)
Because Jodi’s soooooo right about this one. Hail, hail the almighty thunderous racket and razor blade distortion.
10. TV Girl – French Exit
The latest summer crush, and it’s coming on strong. (Not to mention, the source for this article’s featured image.) Oh, lawd. No words. Just perfect forlorn fizzy synthy pop. Toss in a few genres, shake it up, and take a swig. Swoon at its creaminess. (You might also swoon ‘cos it’s laced with an unidentified toxic substance. Be warned.)
11. Muuy Biien – D.Y.I (HHBTM)
I wasn’t going to, because I already listed Tunabunny, but I can’t help it. The next best gig I saw this year was the Muuy Biien show I went to. And now I can’t hear a single cut from this album without thinking of that night, when I threw myself into a crowd of slam-dancing bodies and slammed myself numb. Do yourself in, indeed!
1. Girl Band – Lawman
Is it misogynist to call an all-male band “Girl Band”? Very likely. It’s a very unfortunate name, and I don’t approve (not as unfortunate or blatantly hateful as Rapeman, of course, but it’s on the same sliding scale of offense). However. The fact remains that this is a BEAST.
2. The Luxembourg Signal – Distant Drive (Shelflife)
As far as singles go, this has got to be one of the most alluring teases I’ve heard all year (aside from TV Girl’s “She Smokes In Bed” – but then, they’re already on the list, aren’t they?) What other faded horizons await the Luxes, after the glorious silver beacon of rolling bass on one side and the rollicking, bar-clearing b-side? I keep glancing back at the 80s, but the lines blur between the two tracks and I’ll pass out if I concentrate any harder. You connect the dots.
3. Chorusgirl – Alone/Oh, to be a defector
This doesn’t have a physical component yet. No matter. Fun and bouncy enough to buoy you across the street on a lonely summer’s day; fast and loud and edgy enough to fuel you with fire and courage. Should be some cooperation in the future with Odd Box Records.
AND OVERALL COOL LABELS TO WATCH THIS YEAR:
1. Tuff Enuff – Girl/queer/DIY haven and Riots Not Diets descendent in Brighton
2. Modern Love – a dual attack on the subconscious from Manchester
3. Kirigirisu – freshly minted experimental sounds from Tokyo
4. Metal Postcard – master curator of underdogs and the underground based in Hong Kong
5. Audio Antihero – hand-picked lovable losers from a one-man operation in London
6. Blue Tapes – cassette-only label that I can’t afford anything from, ‘cos they’re in the UK, but damn do they have fine taste.
7. HHBTM – spiritual home base and sole salvation for yours truly in Athens
There. That’s what I found in 2014 so far. Not exhaustive by any means, but represents accurately the biggest hits in my head. Questions/comments/compliments/ugly insults welcomed below.