It’s time to do a recap of some of our favorite staff picks as far as 2014 musical peaks go. Each of us on the production crew that brings you your weekly doses of sessions, streams, interviews and the like finally get a chance to cut loose and spill our guts about our favorites jams rather than do our best to supply you with original content from yours.
I could go on some tirade about who/what/why and blah blah blah but I’d rather just say this: It was a pretty damn good year for records. If you disagree with this, I hope that my list maybe exposes you to some you might not have been aware of. Regardless, lets be friends. Fine me at Bryanrecommends. Come shout at me so we can chatter about some of these tunes. OR hit me up with your recommendations, because I can never have enough new stuff under my belt. The staff are on twitter too @lastfmoriginals
and oh… look at that – I organized it for you. Listen along while I walk you trough my scrobbles.
Animals as Leaders: Joy of Motion – release date: 25/3 tags: progressive metal, instrumental
I just can’t get enough of this record. I have struggled with whether it usurps the trio’s self-titled debut but ultimatley… yes I think this is a stronger record. Just impecable production, engaging melody from start to finish. It hasn’t left my commuter iPod since the March release and has hit my ears in some way shape or form virtually every single day this year at roughly 3 songs every single day on average according to my scrobbles.. even though I am still somehow not a Top Listener. This was especially true during my stint reading the Attack On Titan manga series (trust me, its a badass readalong soundtrack.) – Hands down one of my favorite sonic-experiences of all of 2014 is the track “Physical Education” that just has this pulsing industrial appeal to it.
Code Orange: I am King 24/9 tags: hardcore punk, sludge metal
Code Orange (kids) is one of the most significant breaths of fresh air I have come across in the hardcore/metal community. They blew me away when they opened for Every Time I Die at St Vitus in Brooklyn last winter and I have been a fan ever since. This record is their first major step into becoming timeless icons in heavy music. This much sludgy talent and passion at a young age almost makes me want to give up where I stand.
Funky DL: February 13/9 tags: jazz hop, chillout
When the world lost the acclaimed DJ Nujabes (Jun Seba) back in 2010 I didn’t think we would ever recover. Contributing to the soundtracks of Samurai Champloo amongst other projects brought me through the door, but the intoxicatingly mellow beats kept me there (for a cool 1,000 scrobbles and counting). Now, at long last I feel we have found his successor in the form of British producer/MC Funky DL. He has been on the scene for a while but only lately had he really come through my radar .. and damn has it been worth it. Heartfelt, intelligent & sincere – Funky DL’s tribute ‘February: A Rest In Beats Tribute to Nujabes & J Dilla‘ was one of the best IndieGogo/Bandcamp investments I ever made. Featuring nods, love letters and even a direct follow-up/remix to Nujabes’ Modal Soul “Luv Sic” song series feat. Shin02, its the perfect commemoration for any fan of the genre to enjoy.
Bane: Don’t Wait Up 13/5 tags: straightedge, punk
After making the announcement that this was their swan-song, it was difficult to not fall instantly in love with this record. Hearkening back through their (nearly) 20 year career – a feat that is practically unheard of in heavy/alternative music – all the feelings start flooding back, yet the band finds a way to tip the dam with an new peak in emotional stride. The clock is unfortunately ticking for the band and while they haven’t called it completely ‘quits’ yet, you better get out there and get some more shows under your belt… and if you need more convincing then just take a sample of of the song (once described to me by my closest friend as “a devastatingly beautiful mess”) ‘Calling Hours.’
Homeboy Sandman: Hallways 2/9 tags: underground hip-hop, rap
Homeboy Sandman was one of my go-to favorite ‘pleasant surprises‘ throughout our 600+ artist roster of Last.fm Sessions. His genuine nature, avant-garde composition & overall pleasant attitude are all too rare in hip-hop… all music frankly. Also – props to Queens musicians. “Problems” is one of those tracks thats almost uncomfortably familiar before you even hear it.. and then it proceeds to haunt you for weeks.
Between the Buried and Me: Future Sequence – Live at the Fidelitorium 26/9 tags: mathcore, metalcore
These guys have yet to disappoint. Some of the most technical musicianship on the market… in history… since the beginning of the concept of the multiverse… Anyone who’s ever picked up an instrument can appreciate these fellows: whether you admire their dexterity – or hate them for being so deadly accurate. Then they go and do this – essentially schooling the crap out of us who do live sessions for a living. A virtually flawless rendition of their 2 part album Future Sequence… live on the spot at the Fidelitorium. #Ragequit.
Minus the Bear: Lost Loves 7-10 tags: experimental, indie rock
I was admittedly late to the game with Minus the Bear, but they’ve been providing me as a listener warm fuzzy and sometimes confusing feelings for years now. One of the softest spots I have in my collection is Planet of Ice from 2007 – as would be testified amongst other users by their last.fm Top Tracks charts – but man oh man, Lost Loves was/is such a beautiful return to form (not criticizing the past two releases by any means) but my point remains that there was something nostalgic about this record – a shimmer from the days of Ice & Highly Refined Pirates that well… just makes you tingly inside.
It’s unfair to call No Machine a Dillinger Escape Plan side project but I will admit: that is what got me through the door. But their sound is so brutal… so unforgiving…the talents of Billy Rymer, Isaac Bolivar, & Michael Sadis recall the grittiest and gnarliest of eras in basement hXc music.
Unearth: Watchers of Rule 10/29 tags: metalcore, thrash metal
Posi-core incarnate – the band is one of the most fun (with a touch of fright) experiences you can have out there with one of the warmest & most inviting mosh pits… a strange sentiment I know. An appropriate Halloween release, the record is brimming with all of the youth crew, shred fest, and in-your-face gratuitous breakdowns that you come to desire like a drug after listening to the band for such a long time.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (soundtrack by Alan Silvestri) 3/3 tags: amazing, space
My dark horse of the bunch. I love a good soundtrack as much as the next guy… but they rarely content side-by-side with more traditional releases when I am considering a countdown such as this. Not the case here – this is beyond epic. The television series was larger than life – a stunning continuation of Carl Sagan’s legacy… yet with out Silvestri’s massive intergalactic score work it would not have given me the same chills.
Every Time I Die: From Parts Unknown 1/7 tags: chaotic hardcore, buffalo
Biased. Guilty. Hometown heroes.. sue me. ETID is kind of a rite of passage in my inner circle of friends. But c’mon… these records by the Buffalonian boys are ridiculously fun & translate seamlessly into the live experience. They have gone through years of growth and development, trials and tribulations but have always ALWAYS come out the other side stronger than before… and this LP is no exeption. Plus: ‘Overstayer’ is one of the most crucial breakdowns I’ve heard outta them since ‘Cities & Years’ off of 2007’s The Big Dirty.
Reign of Kindo: Play With Fire 30/7 (2013) tags: art rock, piano rock
Did Chicago come full circle and nobody told me? The layers in this band fit together like the finest lasagna… each bite more satisfying than the last. Spiritual yet not necessarily religious poetry fluxed with harmony, horns upon horns & orchestral accompaniment and rocking bridges? Sign me up. I am breaking the rules on this one… Play With Fire TECHNICALLY came out in 2013, but in their true-to-form regular chiptune reissue SOP we got Play this year… so it still counts.
Killer Be Killed: Self Titled 13/5 tags: groove metal, thrash metal
Is it a supergroup? Kind of. But a lot more. Another one where a member of Dillinger Escape Plan was in the headline so naturally I dropped everything… but then you realize that we also have ingredients from Mastodon, Soulfly/Sepultera, The Mars Volta and Antemasque… and the world has yet to implode. It’s not hard to hear the little bits and pieces of influence from that roundtable, however the end result was something truly amalgamous and unique.
Trioscapes: Digital Dream Sequence 19/8 tags: avant-prog, fusion
Been heavy into prog this year. Donno why… just a lot of interesting new technical feats happening out there and being both a sound geek & an ex-orchestra member I can always appreciate someone who truly knows their instrument. This is exemplified perfectly by the likes of Trioscapes… featuring members of Casual Curious, Brand New Life, Eyris, and … you guessed it… Between the Buried and Me, they are like a contemporary answer to King Crimson. Trippy, bizzarre, satisfying. When you are surrounded by the same recycled two-step pop noise day-in day-out its really uplifting to be kept you on your toes as a listener.
Chris Letchford: Lightbox 15/7 tags: funk, virtuoso
Oh look, more prog. Don’t hate, its my list… go make your own. Chris Letchford is responsible for prog-metal group Scale The Summit. Chris Letchford can play heavy music and stay mad chill. But Chris Letchford finally went and created a solo vehicle for himself to be, well… himself. Jazzy, mellow, but still grotesquely quick and rather intense. Also – neat factoid: received support on the recording from Reign of Kindo.
Weird Al Yankovic: Mandatory Fun 15/7 tags: parody, badass (Do I really need to comment on this?)
Buck 65: Neverlove 10/9 tags: canadian, hip-hop (hip hop doesn’t get much cooler or smarter than this)
Thank You Scientist: Maps of Non-Existent Places 8/6 tags: jazz fusion, progressive (the hardest thing I have ever tried to classify. Won’t even bother. Go experience)
Moon Hooch: This is Cave Music 16/9 tags: nujazz, acid jazz (drum n’ bass? no. drum n sax. dubsax)
Andy McKee: MythMaker 8/4 tags: acoustic, fingerstyle (The most talented unorthodox guitarist you will ever experience)
Nods to stuff that I just discovered in 2014 but have been killin’ it for way longer.
Com Truise – my new go to chill jams featuring a significant amount of circuit bending & retro beats
Sea in the Sky – what else: prog metal! But with a silly, upbeat, fun edge to it
Tesseract – the opposite of Sea in the Sky – deep dark mysterious chronicles of instrumental & vocal journey.
BONUS: David Matthews (producer/composer… NOT Dave Matthews): Dune – jazz/funk rock opera about the book/movie Dune. You will NOT be disappointed. Never licensed so borderline impossible to find… except on Youtube!
And just for good measure: my favorite shows attended in 2014
– Yes it was awesome. Yes I got drunk and sang along with Matt Pinfield. Yes I feel old.
– Reunion sensory overload. All my fondest Upstate NY youth era bands back in the same room after years. Euphoric.
– Little android man born without a soul…(show photos)
– I was always the guy who flipped the split EP over to the Hot Water Music side, but these guys are essential for anyone in my generation and many beyond. It was an honor to partake in this event that chronicled such a massive career.
– Yup. Witnessed the real live band from the Adventures of Pete and Pete… WITH Pete & Pete!!
Unearth @ The Studio @ Webster Hall
– As mentioned before, super posi crew. Show was a sweat bath but worth it.
– Bucket list… check.
He Is Legend @ St. Vitus
– Adore these guys. So tight live. Couldn’t have a better setting either. Punk mecca. Photos from the show
– Perks of the job. Peaks of the festival.
Every Time I Die @ Webster Hall
– Birthday cake. Crutches. Canada. Well balanced setlist. No selfies. Great openers (The Ghost Inside, Architects, Hundredth, Backtrack) All around win.
Pig Destroyer @ St vitus
– The closest to death I think I ever came. 10/10 would do it again.
Pretty winded, but was fun to get it all out there after bottling it up all year. Lookin forward to hearin about your jams & the jams yet to come in 2015. Happy Holidays, all.