What a year. The past twelve months were powerful great for shows in South Texas, and collectively added up to a heavy and sleepless year that was totally worth it. What is melatonin? Shows grew more consistent and ‘bigger’ and even smaller, with weirdly huge things like the Zombies happening, as well as outliers like Ben Aqua, Lemuria, Container, and everyone in between of which I’m completely stoked to have worked with. I grew older, but with growing older, I also learned to let myself become younger. It works.
While I normally get more involved with these pieces, I am cutting this short as I did split up a lot of my year end pieces with other sites. For a more personal take on the year that was 2014, please visit fvckthemedia.com, of which I had the honor of contributing to their year end issue. FTM really is an amazing place, and all back issues should be mandatory reading! For a take on my favorite show of 2014, please visit heartbreakingbravery.com – a beautiful young site with a growing vision.
So, here we are – my favorite songs and albums of 2014, as well as non-songs of 2014, and other happenings of 2014 I had the pleasure of experiencing. I’m sure I’m missing many, but for the time being this is a satisfactory digital time capsule 🙂
Albums / WORKS of 2014:
the Cold Beat – Over Me
Royksopp & Robin – “Do it Again” (Moullinex Remix)
Youth Code – A Place to Stand
Impalers – Psychedelic Snutskaller
The Dead Space – FAKER
Makthaverskan – II
Xetas – Demos
Total Control – Typical System
Ghetto Ghouls – Ghetto Ghouls
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib– Piñata
Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea
Jesika Cueta & Carlos Salamanca – Swooned
Le1f – Hey
Iceage – Plowing into the Field of Love
Tops – Picture Me Staring
Container – Adhesive EP
Pinky Swear – Eternal Heartbreak
Lie – Consent
Priests – Bodies and Control and Money and Power
Beth Israel – Dental Denial
Institute – EP
Ausmuteants – Ausmuteants
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Tony Molina – Dissed and Dismissed
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Warm Soda – Young Restless Hearts
Protomartyr – Under the Colour of Official Right
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
Dark Blue – Pure Reality
Future Islands – Singles
Blocked Numbers – EP
Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers
Merchandise – After the End
Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
EX HEX – RIPS – *rock and roll album of the year*
Jessica Pratt – “Back Baby”
It’s 95 degrees on a mid November afternoon in South Texas and you just happened to be outside when the first cool breeze of a cold front swept through. Experiences like that are difficult to forget, if you know. That’s sort of how I felt when this silver gem lustered through my bedroom in the closing arc of 2014.
NOTS – “Reactor”
The women of Nots unleashed one of the best punk records of 2014, no doubt! We Are Nots sounds like it’s the soundtrack to a 1960s era sci-fi punk film, in large part due to the clever interplay between those weirdo synth sounds and the burly, reverb sprung guitar riffage. While Ex Hex pounded out the best rock and roll album of 2014, I really feel NOTS delivered that album that’s difficult to thumb down – psych? post-punk? rock and roll? The album adorned and yet advanced all of these genres while melting them all into one and being wholly none in a deconstructive, sonic sense. Some bands reproduce genres, others react.
Panda Bear – “Mr Noah”
Where would Noah Lennox be without Brian Wilson; where would Brian Wilson be without Noah Lennox[?]. God only knows, and a genuine fan of either could likely give less of a dusted shit, myself included. “Mr Noah” is a great track, delirious, coagulating synth work, wobbling vocal chants and all. When I dj’d a Christmas dance party this ‘past’ year, I mixed “Mr Noah” in after Escort’s “Cocaine Blues”. LOL. The sonic deluge after the moral deluge. People looked at me funny, and that’s ok, because the onlookers, who sat down, eventually wobbled back up and into hot mess to Drake. Which isn’t bad, but is also disappointing because “Mr Noah” is such a great dance track and is more accessible, for better or for worse, than much of PB’s gorgeous music. Here’s to what’s in store for 2015. Panda Bear I wish you weren’t so expensive.
Secret Prostitutes – Split w/Crooked Bangs
One of the best punk bands in Texas sounds like they’re from Indonesia. Secret Prostitutes are a Houston based three piece that writes, on average (lol I didn’t really figure this out), 47 second post-punk neck breakers, complete with erratic twisted guitar riffage and a tight drummer / vocalist who literally sings in Indonesian. This excellent band played in McAllen this past March at a show I am jealous I didn’t throw and put on one of my favorite sets of the year. While I’m certain the tracks on here appeared on albums / eps that came out in 2013, this really well produced split with Austin’s Crooked Bangs did come out in earlier 2014. If you’re a fan of lo-fi sounds, check out any other recordings by SP, otherwise this split, Crooked Bangs included, drills in some excellent tongue twisting post-punk.
Spray Paint – “Cussin’”
In January of 2014, I took a bunch of friends to see Spray Paint at Austin’s Beerland during this thing called “Free Week”. We huddled into the warm concrete cave of Beerland and Spray Paint shelled out a ridiculous show with frantic, pummeling guitars and delirious, bobble head chant vocals. I loved it. I eventually convinced them to play McAllen (ty so much Kana Harris + Greg Ahee for the help!), and they delivered a mean flippant and aggressive show at Cine El Rey this past September as well.
The Young – “Cry of Tin”
The rapid fire dismissal, or praise, spewed out and on to an artist is a godsend, wound, or just another disregard for artists living in the bloom and static of the internet age. Case in point: The Young, who were subject to this with the release of Chrome Cactus, a dark, gritty little rock and roll gem that sheered with a more black t-shirt punk feel than one of denim and snakeskin. A pretty awful pitchfork review was stamped on the band, but on the flip side, was so ridiculous it created the adverse “well, shit, I have to check this out now” effect on new listeners. But enough about that shit. The album is a misunderstood gift to fans of rock and roll believers who also deal with the anxiety and feel of the genre slipping further into the grave. My favorite jam is “Ramona Cruz” – huge, fuzzing, burgeoning guitars, a rattle shake clank of a tin drum, a flurried pitch harmonized guitar solo – I could go on. Alas, I couldn’t find a shoddy youtube link, so I posted my next favorite jam – the shadowy thumper of “Cry of Tin”, which is also one of the darkest and funnest videos I’ve seen all year.
Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek
I don’t know what the fuck being ‘real’ means, but I have this feeling that it sounds like the raw tear of Mitski’s voice on the whole of this incredible album. For a closer and quicker example, “Drunk Walk Home” makes immediate sense, but the feeling shudders in the entirety of Bury Me at Makeout Creek. I almost didn’t get into this just by the sheer amount of static and overwhelmth (made that up) the music realm on the net brings. But I’m floored I did.
Perfect Pussy – “Interference Fits” / Say Yes to Love
On “Interference Fits”, Graves’ vocals are a relentless beam. I almost mean this literally. Her microphone signal is so amped, that whenever Graves stops singing into the mic, a quavering hum of feedback fills in the vocal-less, noise driven space of the band. The recording technique is not new, but I do think it’s amazing because I know it’s intentional. Whether an artist likes it or not, their voice is on a social platform, even when they’re off it, and even when their words aren’t audible. This is an idea Perfect Pussy thrives with, particularly in Meredith Graves, who not only regularly derails and burns down ‘conventional’ ideas of a male dominated punk and music aesthetic with her place as a vocalist in PP, but also as a writer outside of the band. When I hosted PP at Galax Z Fair 2014, I distinctly remember walking into the venue and seeing the audience melt and thrash into a delirious mess, with girls clamoring the stage to tear at Graves’s dress, confused hardcore kids thrashing, and tough boys and girls holding cupped fists over their ears to shield from the noise, which was so loud it almost sounded like a static fizz. What happened after the show was predicted: many in attendance of the show were jolted new fans, but many, not surprisingly all men, expressed discontent about the band. “The girl is just shouting, I don’t get it” said every other dude with plugs and cargo shorts. I guess it was disappointing, but it was also affirming that a young punk band could deconstruct what it is to be a punk band to ‘regulars’ of a scene. The following day, the band, who stayed at my home, gifted me with Say Yes to Love, and after listening to the record, I couldn’t help but resonate on “Interference Fits,” which so aptly captures PP in their most relentless, unforgiving form.
TR/ST – JOYLAND
One of the scariest shows -for me, as a promoter, of 2014 was TR/ST at Cine El Rey. During the band’s encore, the fog machines on stage went on a full purge and created a huge LED illuminated cloud that consumed the stage and about 1/3 of the crowd. It looked incredible, except that in the midst of the haze a handful of TR/ST centric fans hopped the barrier and started grabbing and hugging at vocalist Robert Alfrons. Admitting, a part of me thought the smokey scene of a gang of silhouettes bobbing and thrashing up the stage towards a statuesque Alfrons looked tight, like some sort of sci-fi black and white still. But it was also dangerous, and while a sweaty post-show Alfrons told me later on that he loved every second of it, I also feel he was being nice, and I felt pretty bad for not providing a better security situation. But I don’t feel that bad, though. Anyways, Joyland is a goth-pop godsend for synth lovers and nu-wave aficionados, and it’s Alfrons’s incredible vocal range and melodic reach (which he can hit without auto-tune) that makes TR/ST such a cosmic standout.
iLoveMakonnen – “Club Goin Up on Tuesday”
I look back at previous year end lists I’ve made and I’m consistently befuddled by how wrong I was with what songs I predicted I’d remember most. Ciara’s “Body Party” was not listed as my 2013 jam of the year, but it certainly is my jam of 2013 now. I feel this way about “Tuesday,” except not necessarily as a jam but something more. It’s pop, but it’s also not about a popular demographic. Being in the working / poor class is not supposed to be popular, but it is the majority, and maybe that’s why “Tuesday” resonates and will continue to do so as a cultural text in years to come. Who’s weekend is generally their weekend? Rather, who’s weekday is their weekend? Dealers? Servers? Sales workers? Adjuncts with chaotic schedules (ha), part-timers, and pretty much anyone outside of a privileged salaried job? The list goes on, as could I with this track, but for now I’ll leave the rest for the weekend, whenever that starts.
Angel Olsen – “Windows” / Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a digital still of a metamorphosis. Previous masterpieces by Olsen captured her ability to lift listeners to the heavens with little more than her ethereal voice, an acoustic, and an organ – then drop them to the floor with a basic bass drum kick and stomp. Half Way Home, for example, captures Olsen’s more subtle aesthetic of instrumental production, but is certainly not lacking in its hints of genius. No Witness carries this gesture home with stripped tracks like “Unfucktheworld” and the crushingly spare “Enemy,” however the rest of the album is an open door to Olsen’s deeper gaze with composition and fuller instrumentation. It’s not necessarily that her full band has come into play here – which happens more consistently than ever – it’s how the instrumentation is utilized. From the flaming backbeat of “Forgiven / Forgotten” to the warm click and paintbrush kisses of the swelling opus of “Iota”, Olsen presents a deeper mastery of instrumentation here. My favorite track, though, is really where this shines. It takes places in “Windows”. Olsen’s voice is both a voice and a texture, a blanket quavering in the wind behind herself, held by the frame of a slow rising sun right before its flight.
Mr Twin Sister – Mr Twin Sister
In 2014, Twin Sister changed their name to Mr Twin Sister and self-actualized all over their new self-titled album. Otherness and collectivity melted into something cloudy and pink, as well as something that makes the small pools in a wet street outside a club ripple. I want to go off on this, about how “Rude Boy” makes me feel awful and hopeful, about how “Blush” is a tender masterpiece on sexual and gender identity, about the disco sulk and nite of “In the House of Yes”, but this album became myself after relentless listening, and I’d rather just let the other me do the speaking.
Songs of 2014 of not 2014:
Robyn Hitchcock – “Linctus House”
Bobby Pulido – “Desvelado”
Kate Bush – “Moving”
Morrissey – “Driving Your Girlfriend Home”
Angel Olsen – “The Waiting”
Harry Nilsson – “Don’t Leave Me Baby”
the Zombies – “Tell Her No”
The Killing Joke – “Love Like Blood”
Robyn – “Dancing on My Own” – Fred Falke Mix
the Smiths – “Reel Around the Fountain – John Peel Session”
Nervous Gender – “Alien Point of View”
Pete Astudillo – “Como te Extrano”
Drake – “Hold on, We’re Going Home”
SSLEEPERHOLD – ‘Beatsslave’
the Damned – “Street of Dreams”
New York Dolls – “Trash”
Lauryn Hill – “Ex Factor
Ministry – “Same Old Madness”
-Making life decisions around the very real idea that a job is not necessarily a career, and a career is definitely not always a life
-Staying up late to arrange a last minute show with Frankie Rose
-Frankie Rose at Cine El Rey
-Curating this Monday Mix for THE LE SIGH
-Laura Jane Grace of Against Me giving a solemn, disapproving nod to her bassist after he awkwardly greeted me with a ‘buenos nachos’ and a smirk
-Watching Perfect Pussy devastate their set at Galax Z Fair
-watching Dru Molina / Criaturas absolutely burn down what was left of Galax Z Fair after Perfect Pussy
-Dru and Meredith Graves meeting after all of that
-Fans rushing the stage at Cine El Rey during TR/ST.
-Watching Swearin’ at O.K. Fest at the Golden Tea Room in Philly
-Staying up until 4 am with Riley and Jane from TOPS in my living room to discuss the role of the artist in society
-Pinky Swear opening for Lemuria at Cine El Rey
-Listening to Selena on a Subway in NYC
-Telling a young man to ‘shutup’ during Angel Olsen at Cine El Rey
-Having breakfast at Rex Cafe with Spray Paint and Ben Wallers
-Staying at the Silent Barn for a few days in August and being housed by amazing people (ty again, Liz and Tali <3)
-Shopping at a Yerberia with Hidden Ritual
-Container at Metropolis
-Playing in a Smiths cover band called the Strange Gueys on Halloween
-Watching Secret Prostitutes at Thirsty Monkey
-My homie Edgar Durden starting his own Tape Label, Edgar’s Friends
-Not going to sxsw – getting lots of sleep.
-The Dead Space at Space16th-both times
-Having to fill in as a last minute dj during a dance party while a fight broke out, not knowing what to do, playing Drake, and having the room turn from quake to sulk and groove. I felt pretty special and stayed up all night.
-Staying in Queens for 18 hours
-Jock Club at the North Door
-Talking with Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces about segregation in McAllen, TX
-Playing my last show with the Young Maths and having 100% of the proceeds go to helping friends battling cancer. Rest in peace, Amanda.
-Seeing Morrissey play “Asleep” in Austin
-My mom dancing to the Zombies at Cine El Rey
Again, what a year. Here’s to whatever the cosmos has in store for 2015. See you at King Tuff / Ex Hex.