Archive for January, 2015

Darryl Zero’s Albums of the Year 2014

Posted in best of lists with tags , on January 15, 2015 by darryl zero

Honorable Mention:

Indian, From All Purity

St. Vincent, St. Vincent

Pink Avalanche, The Luminous Heart Of Nowhere

Cloakroom, Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden

Actress, Ghettoville

Couch Slut, My Life As A Woman

10) Atari Teenage Riot – Reset

Atari Teenage Riot popped back up in 2010 with Is This Hyperreal?, a pleasant extension of the band’s distinctive sound that nonetheless stayed true to its simplistic beginnings.  The “new” line-up–founding member Alec Empire, his chief collaborator Nic Endo (part of the group since 1997) and American hip-hip iconoclast CX KiDTRONiK–only lasted one album, though.  CX left the group, and was replaced permanently by his European tour replacement–British electro-hopper Rowdy Superstar.  Reset is actually better than its immediate predecessor for this reason; Superstar is a full-fledged part of the group, and his energy actually comes across as, well, happy.  The band’s overall sound reflects the shift–emphasizing their dance influences more.

9) Uncommon Nasa – New York Telephone

East coast rapper Uncommon Nasa spits his lyrics with a cynical poet’s affinity for chaos.  While Telephone‘s production-by-committee leads to the predictable inconsistency of tone, Nasa’s flow (an unmistakably NYC, rhythmic drawl) is a great continuous thread.

8) Jucifer – District of Dystopia

It didn’t come out until the tail end of the year, but the 21-year-old band’s latest album continues the band’s continual metamorphosis into the grinding, roaring powerhouse on-record to match their deafening live show.  District‘s lo-fi recording (in the band’s own Nomadic Fortress) surprisingly makes the sonic blitzkrieg seem more intense.  While not as ambitious in scope or execution as 2013’s There Is No Land Beyond the Volga, the lyrics are even more focused, plainly skewering US politics past and present.

6) Electric Wizard – Time To Die

 Stoner metal gods revive their twenty-plus year formula by wisely sticking to it.  The band’s emancipation from longtime label Rise Above finds them DIYing it to the Nth degree, from production (handled by guitarist/only original and consistent member/frontman Jus Osborn) to release.  Not a lot new to note here–the same old crypto-satanic imagery, dark sense of humo(u)r, and bludgeoningly heavy riffs abound–but they’re delivered with new verve and power, perhaps because Osborn and company have more of a personal stake in it.  The album’s title track (presumably a reference to Blade Runner) is the head-nodder, but really every cut on the album is golden.

5) In The Mouth of Radness – Gone Rad With Power

Iowa City thrashers not only have a name referencing the greatest John Carpenter film not named They Live, but they also merge the frantic dirt of Motorhead with the funky soul of any Josh Homme project and the guitar shriekery of latter-era (think self-titled) Daughters.  While the band’s reluctance to take themselves too seriously undermines them at times (the wordplay on “Dude or Die” and “Envision the Bitchin'” is good for a couple of sideways glances), their hilarious lyrics, obscenely good drum work, lustworthy bass tone, and nutso guitar work combine to make a high-energy wall of sound equally proggy, punky, and headbangy.

4) Against Me! – Transgender Dysmorphia Blues

I never cared much about Against Me!, which is less an indictment of their music and more a reflection of the idea that straightforward punk rock has always seemed to be kind of anachronistic.  That’s never really changed about the band, even if their dalliances into slicker (read: Butch Vig) pop sounds have alienated some of their more fundamentalist followers.  Regardless, Laura Jane Grace coming out as transgender managed to make the band interesting to me–and, more importantly, added something to band beyond the affect of their punk roots.

Indeed, the earnestness and comfort Grace carries into the album is so unaffected, it’s surprising to know the band turmoil (with members coming in, members coming out, and members joining Slipknot) that went into the making of the album.  Still, Grace handles herself well, with riffs and lyrics telling great stories.  The punk anachronism is still there (further bolstered when, after the album was recorded, International Noise Conspiracy bassist Inge Johansson joined the band), but Against Me! sounds fresh and new.

3) Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors

To be clear, my beloved Helms Alee’s album is actually the best of their three full-lengths, so the fact that it doesn’t top my list is less due to an drop in quality and more to how good the other releases in front of it are.  The Tacoma trio navigated the end of their former label (Hydra Head) by crowdfunding their recording sessions, then found a new home on Sargent House.

I’m not being hyperbolic; Sleepwalking Sailors is a masterpiece.  the band doesn’t modify their approach too much; three-part vocal harmonies, alternatingly jangly and mammoth-heavy guitars, and that extra gear Ben Verellen gets on his scream when he pulls from his gut and howls.  However, there’s an unmistakable triumphant glee to the songs on this album, something present atmospherically on the band’s previous releases but appears here in brazen glory.

2) Morgue Vanguard & Still – Fateh

Onetime Dälek turntable-destroyer Hsi-Chang Lin (still to the nasty) hasn’t gone away–he popped up a few years ago after a long absence with the Brutalist School and is still making music.  After being contacted by Indonesian political MC Morgue Vanguard, Lin applied his considerable talents to burning the fucking place down.

Seriously.  Fateh is only an EP, but the smoldering fury of Morgue Vanguard’s flow combined with the swirling roar of still’s production create a fucking avalanche of sonic brutality that recalls Faust as much as it does Public Enemy.

1) Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean

Marriages/Red Sparowes guitarist Rundle’s inevitable solo album succeeds on multiple levels, avoiding the trap of heavy band frontwomen whose solo project invariably ends up being acoustic singer-songerwriter by simply being heavier than her other nominally metal projects despite being largely acoustic.  Ocean‘s somber airiness recalls, among others, Cold Specks or Julie Christmas, but with a snarl born and bred on PJ Harvey.  Frankly, this is the album I would have wanted Harvey to make instead of Let England Shake, only with Rundle’s distinctly stern voice.