:::::::::::: Dave Zero ::::::::::::
In no particular order…
JD MCPherson, Let The Good Times Roll (Rounder) – excellent 50s/early 60s influenced rock’n’roll, not retro
Chasity Belt, Time To Go Home (Hardly Art) – bare bones shoegaze that rocks
Peter Case, Hwy 62 (Omnivore) – an excellent storyteller and songwriter who can comment on political/social problems with hushed, soulful acoustic songs that paint a picture of people’s lives
La Luz, Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art) – psychedelic surf drone!
The Sonics, This Is The Sonics (Re:Vox USA) – still vicious after all these years
Death, N.E.W (Tryangle Records) – Don’t call it a comeback
Kendrick Lammar, To Pimp A Butterfly (Interscope Records) – when one of the biggest albums in hip hop is this weird and experimental we all win
Jim O’Rourke, Simple Songs (Drag City) – all of his albums are gems waiting to be found
Best Coast, California Nights (Harvest) – guitar heavy power pop, from California, glamours and hip
Tommy Keene, Laughing In the Dark (Second Motion) – guitar heavy power pop, from Maryland, veteran new waver
Sweet Talk, Double Perfect (12XU) – guitar heavy power pop, from Austin, dudes
Slim Dunlap, Old New Me/Times Like This twofer LP (New West)
Syl Johnson, Complete Twinight 45s LP (Numero)
Ork Records box (Numero)
Made In Madison:
The Hussy, Galore (Southpaw Records)
Mr.Jackson, The Golden Hour Groove Session (Self-Released)
Asumaya, The Euphemist (Self-Released)
Zebras, The City Of Sun (Secret Records)
:::::::::::: Vincent Presley ::::::::::::
Killing Joke, Pylon (Spinefarm) – “Best Killing Joke in many years” is the usual line. Great synths and really heavy guitar riffs on this one.
Lonesome Wyatt & Rachel Brooke, Bad Omen (Tribulation Recording Co.) – Second collaboration of Wyatt’s dark, gothy, gloom doom and Brooke’s traditional Carter Family / Hank Sr. style. One customer remarked “this sounds like Dead Can Dance doing a country album”. Great gloomy stuff.
Pinkish Black, Bottom Of The Morning (Relapse Records) – Dark and gloomy synth rock. Lots of Gary Numan influence mixed with some doom stuff.
Sumac, The Deal (Sige) – Great guttural heavy doom by members of Isis, Russian Circles, Baptists, etc etc.
Slayer, Repentless (Nuclear Blast) – If Slayer ever made a bad album it would still be better than your band.
Absolutely Not / Rat Hammer, Split LP (Berserk Records) – Absolutely Not are a great 3-piece Devo Influenced punk band from Chicago. This is a really solid rocker of a side. Apparently there’s a band on the other side too.
Snakefinger, Live In Melbourne 1981 (Secret Records) – Between 1971 and 1987 Snakefinger played on some of the most important albums by The Residents. Around 1980 he got in touch with Jello Biafra who helped him get a punk band together. Awesome revved up early punk version of Snakefinger that most people don’t know about.
Essential Vinyl Reissues:
L7, Bricks Are Heavy (Plain Recordings) – Reissue of the 1992 album. I picked up this reissue on a whim and think it’s one of the best 90’s albums I’ve heard. Solid, filthy rock n roll I should have been rocking for the last 20 years.
Butthole Surfers, Independent Worm Saloon Reissue (Plain Recordings) – After releasing the very mellow, folky Piouhgd in 1991, Gibby went to collaborate with Ministry on Jesus Built My Hotrod. Gibby and Al hated working together but it was a great sound and you can hear that influence on this LP. Independent Worm Saloon came out in 1993 and is probably the most ripping album in their catalog but you should probably get them all.
Christian Death, Catastrophe Ballet & Ashes Reissues (Season Of Mist) – Classic goth rock or “death rock” as the kids like to say these days.
Swans, Self Titled and other reissues (Young Gods) – Swan’s first EP was originally released in 1982 and now reissued for Record Store Day. This one really stands out in the Swans discography and would probably be described as “postpunk” and even “no-wave”. Very cool essential piece of Swans history. Plus, we just got word that a couple 90’s classics, “Love Of Life” and “White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity”, are coming in December. Super.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Let Love In and other reissues (Mute) – More essential reissues. For the last couple years Mute has been reissuing all of the Bad Seeds records and this year’s batch included Let Love In, Henry’s Dream, Murder Ballads, Tender Prey, The Good Son, Boatman’s Call, and No More Shall We Part. Murder Ballads is the one everyone always drools over but Let Love In is my pick of this bunch. Great sound, nice mix of song styles, and “Red Right Hand” and “Ain’t Gonna Rain Anymore” are classics.
:::::::::::: Bobby Hussy ::::::::::::
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop Records) – Incredibly wry and witty songwriting from this generation’s Liz Phair.
Chastity Belt, Time To Go Home (Hardly Art Records) – Simple pop songs hidden under shoegaze fuzz jangle.
Damaged Bug, Cold Hot Plumbs (Castle Face Records) – John Dwyer has reinvented himself as a synth damaged mastermind with his Damaged Bug project. This record is more accessible than last years’ debut Damaged Bug release.
Deerhunter, Fading Frontier (4AD) – Don’t miss them at the Majestic on December 15th!
Digital Leather, All Faded (FDH Records) – Digital Leather are the best synth based garage band in the world. This record sees the sound expanding with the addition of The Faint’s frontman Todd Fink.
Heartless Bastards, Restless Ones (Partisan Records) – Excellent neo garage rock n roll!
La Luz, Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art Records) – Incredible surfy summertime jams from the West Coast. Worthy of more repeated listens than their first LP “It’s Alive”
Obnox, Wiglet (Ever/Never Records) – Lamont Thomas is a madman who’s output is only rivaled by John Dwyer. This record proves the hype is real.
Pavement, The Secret History – Vol 1. (Matador Records) – Demos and outtakes from the Slanted and Enchanted era of Pavement….when they were at their strongest and most musically uniformed and untrained. Excellent slacker rock n roll.
Thee Oh Sees, Mutilator Defeated At Last (Castle Face Records) – Dwyer’s best record since 2012’s Putrifiers II!
Xetas, The Redeemer (12XU) – Texas’ best noise rock band. For fans of Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, and the Butthole Surfers.
:::::::::::: Chris Lay ::::::::::::
Aphex Twin, Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP (Warp Records)
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)
Knxwledge, Hud Dreems (Stones Throw)
Jim O’Rourke, Simple Songs (Drag City)
Arthur Russell, Corn (Audika)
Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge Records)
Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder)
Reissues / Archival:
J Dilla, Dillatronic (Vintage Vibez Music Group)
Syl Johnson, Complete Twinight Records 45s (Numero)
Neil Young & Bluenote Café - Bluenote Café (Reprise)
Scharpling & Wurster, The Best Of The Best Show Box Set (Numero)
Songs: Ohia, Didn’t It Rain Reissue (Secretly Canadian)
Various, Ork Records: New York, New York Box Set (Numero)
Decline Of Western Civilization DVD Box Set
:::::::::::: Claire Nelson-Lifson – Guitar/Vox Proud Parents, Cassette Mogul at Rare Plant ::::::::::::
(in no specific order):
Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge Records)
Bully, Feels Like (Columbia)
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
The Hussy, Galore (Southpaw)
Girlpool, Before The World Was Big (Wichita)
The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness (XO)
NO/NO, X.O./Drag (Gloss Records)
Radioactivity, Silent Kills (Dirtnap Records)
Favorite records of 2014 I wish I could include:
Mitski, Bury Me At Makeout Creek (Don Giovanni Records)
Kevin Morby, Still Life (Woodsist)
Ex-Hex, Rips (Merge)
Cassettes Rare Plant has released this year (and some of my favorite local bands):
Automatically Yours, The Trouble With The World Is Me
The Minotaurs, Secret Deals
Toothtaker Vol. 2 Compilation
Trophy Dad, Shirtless Algebra Fridays
Wood Chickens, Live At Karl’s Kastle
:::::::::::: Scott Gordon – Tone Madison Founder and Editor ::::::::::::
Scott’s disclaimer: There’s a lot I’m still catching up on from this year, so this represents a “best-of” but a list of things that I’m pretty sure I’ll still be excited about hearing years down the road. Also, hip-hop is neglected here mostly because I find myself really loving consensus favorites that you’re gonna hear a lot about in this year-end-list season anyway (Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06).
Noveller, Fantastic Planet (Fire Records) – Probably the record I came back to the most this year. New Yorker Sarah Lipstate’s project Noveller has expanded over the years from experimental solo-guitar work to focused, full-fledged electronic instrumentals. Using precisely sculpted guitar tones and restrained synth arrangements, Lipstate strikes a balance between textured atmosphere and affecting melody on all of Fantastic Planet’s nine tracks, but especially on “Pulse Point,” “In February,” and “Rubicon.”
Tenement, Predatory Headlights (Don Giovanni Records) – Wisconsin’s Tenement crafts fiercely catchy punk songs that somehow never feel at odds with the sheer experimental weirdness churning within. That’s been the case for years now, but Predatory Headlights is the marvelous Tenement thing writ large, a double album whose feats of songwriting and gritty execution (my favorite being “The Butcher”) would be notable even if not sequenced alongside experiments like “Theme Of The Cuckoo” and “A Frightening Place For Normal People.” So as usual, the band gives you a lot of poppy gratification but also demands to be grappled with on a much trickier level.
Gel Set, Human Salad (Moniker Records) – This sparse, witty, and warped electronic pop album is the best release yet from Chicago producer/singer Laura Callier, aka Gel Set. The beats feel taut and buffed down to essentials, but just as important is the persona Callier brings to songs like “Double Vision,” “Predator Or Prey,” and “Ether Or”—sly and a bit menacing, but giving you enough weird little fragments of melody to keep you invested.
Disappears, Irreal (Kranky) – The shorthand description of what Chicago band Disappears was just a few years ago—rock ‘n’ roll with tense grooves and a bombardment of sleek reverb and delay—gets thrown out almost entirely on their fifth album. Sure, another record like 2011’s Guider would have been fun, but on Irreal, Disappears prove themselves a vital, surprising band, casting the listener into a set of eerie, primordial takes on post-punk.
The Body and Thou, You, Whom I Have Always Hated (Thrill Jockey) – Favorite album title of the year, also another cavernous and unsparing collaboration between harrowing sludge/noise duo The Body and brilliant Baton Rouge, Louisiana metal outfit Thou.
Nervosas, self-titled (Dirtnap) – Columbus band Nervosas craft sharp, relentless punk songs on their most recent album, but everything’s coated in an achey darkness that’s hard to shake, thanks in large part to guitarist Mickey Mocnik’s expressive, chorus-drenched heroics. There’s plenty of hard-charging release to be found on songs like “Nothing” and “Temporary Address,” but no matter how fast things move, Nervosas bring the music across with nuance and humanity.
Obnox, approximately 6 million releases (12Xu Records, Ever/Never, ETC) – Cleveland punk/R&B/psych/hip-hop experimenter Lamont Thomas released three albums by his project Obnox this year: Boogalou Reed (12XU Records), Wiglet (Ever/Never), and Know America (Ever/Never). Taken together, they form a blasted-out universe that’s bursting with ideas and innovatively mangled sonics, and honestly it’s a bit hard to process, but I know I’ll be gnawing on these ones, and enjoying them, for a long time.
Locrian, Infinite Dissolution (Relapse)
Drainolith, Hysteria (NNA Tapes)
Dave Douglas, High Risk (Greenleaf Music)
Circuit Des Yeux, In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey)
Kowloon Walled City, Grievances (Neurot Recordings)
Bell Witch, Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)
:::::::::::: Justin Kibble – High Noon Saloon Master of Propaganda ::::::::::::
1. Murder By Death, Big Dark Love (Bloodshot)
2. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
3. July Talk, July Talk (Sleepless Records / Island)
4. Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)
5. Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)
6. Colleen Green, I Want To Grow Up (Hardly Art)
7. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Harmlessness (Epitaph / Broken World Media)
8. Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union)
9. Screaming Females, Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni)
10. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Skeleton Crew (Glassnote)
11. The Hussy, Galore (Southpaw Records)
12. Eagles Of Death Metal, Zipper Down (Downtown)
13. Tallest Man On Earth, Dark Bird Is Home (Dead Oceans)
14. Christopher Gold, Don’t Get Lonesome (Self-Released)
15. EL VY, Return To The Moon (4AD)