Welcome to the latest episode of ‘My Opinion Is More Valid Than Yours’. For those that don’t know, this is an ongoing series of how my opinion matters more than yours. Pleb. Anyway, in this episode, we will be examining the best albums of yonder that have emerged in the first part of 2014.
10. The Lawrence Arms-Metropole
For a long time, The Lawrence Arms always existed outside of my consciousness. I never paid heaps of attention to them, and the songs I had heard only mildly piqued my interest. But a copy of their new record ‘Metropole’ changed that, and it actually made me believe that pop-punk hadn’t been completely soiled by shitty bands that confused slitting wrists with amazing melodies. On ‘Metropole’, The Lawrence Arms pump out track after track of infectious blue-collar punk tunes, intensely wrapped in headbanger blues. ‘You Are Here’, ‘The YMCA Down the Street From the Clinic’ and ‘Paradise Shitty’ are probably some of the best pop-punk tunes to have existed since the last apocalypse false warning.
9. The Men-Tomorrow’s Hits
It always seemed like The Men were one step ahead of the game. They were releasing visceral, ravaging post-punk and noise music before No Age were even foetus’ (sic). But they always managed to evolve and re-evaluate their position on the musical compass. So for their fifth outing, they went alt-country. Now usually, I’m of the ‘Fuck Alt-Country’ persuasion, but The Men managed to turn the genre into a romper of a good time. Songs like ‘Different Days’ and ‘Pearly Gates’ unfolded with majesty, more blue-collar punk, but this time pushed through a birth canal of harmonica and twinkling guitar.
8. Damaged Bug-Hubba Bubba
John Dwyer is more famous for his Thee Oh Sees project, who released a pretty fantastic album this year as well. But it was Damaged Bug, his new solo electronic-tinged outing that got my underwear soaked. It’s a morbid fantasy, morose guitars drowning under thick, black synth work. It’s like Dwyer’s voice is being held under a lake of caviar, like in that scene from James Bond. And just like James Bond, Damaged Bug emerges on top of his game with a world class entertainment product, full of explosions, exotic locales and evil incarnate defeated…for now!
7. The Black Lips-Underneath the Rainbow
Finally, The Black Lips, one of my all time favourite groups, released a new record. It’s a lot more cleaned up to say the least, but it’s got just the same amount of unruly ruckus that has stained the legacy of true rock n roll. The Black Lips throw down some Southern Comfort, slaughter a few teenagers and strap down their guitars for a full-blown massacre of garage rock on this album. They blow through 12 songs with the dashing handsomeness of Prince Charming on backyard meth. And the result is an insanely enjoyable record.
6. Future Islands-Singles
It seems like with ‘Singles’, Future Islands are finally going to break the mainstream. I mean, they always hung out on the precipice of global adoration, but this new album is so completely orgasmic, it’s hard to imagine them getting ignored again. Obviously there’s the new ‘Let’s Stay Together’ in ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’, a song so readymade to be the new token making love track it’s a surprise it’s not on the soundtrack of every sappy romantic comedy being released this year. But the rest of the album continues on the breathless synth route that worms its way into the heart of everyone with even a semblance of romanticism.
5. Mogwai-Rave Tapes
Mogwai have released another epic album, complete with huge, lengthy songs that manage to be more dangerous than having sex with a pufferfish. The notes are razor sharp, trawling through the mire of Death Star-esxplosion level synth work, and Hiroshima-level devastation. Mogwai have never sounded as huge or as carnivorous as they do on this record.
Likewise to Mogwai, Liars did a 180 on their previous post-rock/noise sound, and evolved to some kind of tortured disco. Songs like ‘Mess On A Mission’ and ‘Pro Anti-Anti’ sound like the Grim Reaper had too much sugar, and found himself a set of decks. ‘Mess’ makes you want to dance yourself into the apocalypse, both terrifying and completely alluring.
3. Sharon Van Etten-Are We There
Unfortunately never got around to reviewing this one, but it is simply too stunning of a record to ignore. In this album, Sharon Van Etten hits her ultimate stride of marrying beautiful, love-torn lyrics with hypnotising music. She’s done it splendidly before, but whereas before it was all about recognising and sympathising with the listener, this time around she actually causes the heart to crack and break under the brunt of her brutal honesty and sadness. When ‘Break Me’ and ‘Our Love’ ring in, you’ll be swimming in a pool of your tears, whilst the anaconda of ‘Are We There’ slowly strangles you, whilst Jon Voight looks on in sick fascination. Sick 1997 film reference, bro!
Whilst the overwhelming majority of buzz bands manage to fail, or at least disappoint, on their debut albums, Eagulls simply raised expectations to ear-shattering levels. They shook off their Killing Joke-rip off comparisons, and made the original look like a copy. That’s some Inception-like shit right there. But ‘Eagulls’ greatest strength is putting together enormous, tidal riffs and clashing them with pop hooks that would make Michael Jackson weep. The result is a explosive and spine-snapping record that has contributed to way too many mosh-pit related hospital visits.
1. Cloud Nothings-Here And Nowhere Else
Easily the best record of 2014 so far, Cloud Nothings shun their indie rock/lo-fi past, and scrape the barrel of intensity for a truly visceral and honestly breathtaking record. It’s eight tracks of pounding fury, each song building a giant demolition machine that’s knocks down jaws and floors expectations. ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ is an album that examines loss, fragility, the unknown, disappointment, and separation, and lays these themes down next to some of the most white-knuckle riffery and jarring music heard. Every song on this album is worthy of your attention, a real no-filler, all killer record. Sorry Sum 41, Cloud Nothings actually came through on that promise.