Keith’s Best of 2014


2014 was an amazing year for new releases, many of which came from some of my favorite artists (so there’s a bit of bias here).  I also had the pleasure of discovering some new sounds as well with some newer bands. Some of these you will no doubt have seen on other “Best of” lists floating around, but hopefully this list will also expose you to some tunes you may not have otherwise come across!

Here is a Spotify Playlist to help take you through my picks:

Here we go!:

1) Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

tags: anarcho-punk, riot folk


I had been a casual listener of Against Me! for a while, but it wasn’t until seeing them live at Riot Fest 2013 in Chicago that I became hooked. A few months later, they released what I think is easily one of their best records yet. It’s one of those albums you can’t help listen to from start to finish each time you turn it on. Multiple tracks have made it to various playlists I’ve made this year. Before this release, I never really saw these guys as a favorite band, but that quickly changed.

Fuckmylife666 Lyrics
The ease of your pose, the grace of your silhouette
The way that your shoulders meet your slender neck

Where would we be without all the distance?
You know I'm already just a skeleton

2) Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

tags: chaotic hardcore, buffalo


Being a proud Buffalo, NY native, naturally when my hometown-heroes in ETID release a new record, of course it’s going to end up in my top picks of that year. This one has definitely earned its spot here. From Parts Unknown only continued to prove that these guys continue to build and improve their unique brand of hardcore. This record really left me with chills. From start to finish, it’s relentless! I knew fans were in for a treat when this teaser was posted while recording the album:

So it goes with out saying, “Idiot” is my go-to song on the album. And boy-howdy these new songs sure do rip live!  

Idiot Lyrics
From my skin I emit flashing lights
In my eyes all you find are flashing lights
From my mouth every sound a warning bell
Fill the room
Kill the mood and overwhelm

3) Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

tags: garage, punk

I just started getting into these guys last year, with their previous album Sports and i quickly became hooked. The album as a whole just instantly puts me in a good mood and transports me to simpler college days with lyrics like “To hell with the spins I’m stayin in, there’s no good reason why I should leave your bed tomorrow, we can watch Planet Earth and brainstorm tattoos”.

Wedding Singer Lyrics
Find it hard to believe tonight
In a curiously well-kept house built before I was born
This year we're gonna stamp out the sorry feeling
Rain on summer vacation
Five blocks from Tasker-Morris station

4) Taking Back Sunday – Happiness Is

tags: long island, post-punk


Of course there was a lot of hype behind TBS’ second release since re-grouping the original line-up, but it proved to be well deserved. The album cover art along won me over. It’s old classic vinyl look is very indicative of the feel of the whole album. Another great listen from start to finish that demonstrates a more evolved Taking Back Sunday that still incorporates the catchy hooks their fans love.

They Don't Have Any Friends Lyrics
It's a free for all
First come and served
I've listened in
I've been watching to the end yeah
I've been watching to the end

5) Circa Survive – Descensus

tags: experimental, eargasm


Another band that I continue to be impressed by. This album is easily their heaviest yet, with some equally heavy themes. Circa have no doubt outdone themselves again

6) PUP – PUP

tags: canadian, punk


These fellas came highly recommended by a friend. I was told to go an check them out live, and I had heard multiple stories of how solid their sets are. I finally got to check them out at Riot Fest and damn, they weren’t messing around! These guys are just fun, energetic and perfect listening material for all occasions.

7) Manchester Orchestra – COPE

tags: garage rock, modern rock

@manchesterorchestra #cope #manchesterorchestra A photo posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

  I’ve been a Manchester fan for a while now, but wasn’t blown away by their last album, Simple Math. Right out of the gate with the opening track, “Top Notch” it was already clear this was a giant leap for the band. They also released HOPE, a companion album to COPE that features alternate versions of the tracks with a more acoustic, Piano-driven vibe.

Top Notch Lyrics
There's two twin deaf kids and they've gotta make
An ungodly decision
They decide which one gets to leave this place
And which one will forsake it, to make it

8) Braid – No Coast

tags: chicago, midwest emo

I like many others had been eagerly awaiting new Braid music since their reunion a couple years ago, and I think the band really delivered with this one. This sounds like the classic Braid we wanted.

This Is Not A Revolution Lyrics
Verse 1:
Business is good
And the children are high
And we're counting coffee beans
And soaking up the energy

9) Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion

tags: math-metal, epic


One of the most talented bands in the business! Their music is truly larger than life, they put out more sounds and noise than any other band I know, and they only have three members! There’s rock, metal,  and jazz all fused into one. But if you really want the full experience of these guys, go get your face melted at one of their shows.

10) Conor Oberst – Upside down Mountain

tags: alt-country, americana


I’ve been a bigger follower of Bright Eyes than Conor’s solo material in the past. This one really stuck with me though. Seeing him perform these songs in a live setting, I gained a lot of respect for him as a showman.

Time Forgot Lyrics
Polished my shoes, bought a brand new hat
Moved to a town that time forgot
Where I don't have to shave or be approachable
No I can do just what I want

 Honorable Mentions:

’68 – In Humor And Sadness

The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde


Aaron West &  The Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other

I Am The Avalanche – Wolverines

Code Orange Kids – I Am King


Favorite Live Shows of 2014:

American Football – Reunion Show – Webster Hall, NY

American Football last night at Webster Hall.

A photo posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

Another reunion show I really wanted to catch. Since they only have one album, the night was short and sweet, but still beautiful.  

Neutral Milk Hotel Reunion Tour – Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY

“Holland 1945”. #neutralmilkhotel A photo posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

The perfect atmosphere to see this band. Outdoors during the Summer. I had waited a really long time to see these guys

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Reunion – Best Buy Theatre, NY

The Sound of Animals Fighting. Wowie! #thesoundofanimalsfighting #anthonygreen #rxbandits

A photo posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

One of those bands I never thought I’d see, but I’m so glad I got to experience them live. 

Modern Baseball – The Brooklyn Night Bazaar, Brooklyn, NY

@modernbaseball #brooklynnightbazaar. The sweatiest of shows. #modernbaseball A video posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

No exaggeration, this was the hottest show I’ve ever been to. It was packed. It was the perfect atmosphere to see this band play, and not to mention, free!

The Fall of Troy Reunion – Webster Hall, NY

Welcome back #thefalloftroy

A photo posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

Real glad these guys are back! #thefalloftroy #tfot A video posted by Keith Barker (@keithbarker) on

In the back of my head, I knew these guys would be back, but I thought we’d have to wait much longer. The crowd made it clear, they were missed, and the band had never sounded sounded better!

Saosin – Skate and Surf, Asbury Park, NJ


Between Circa Survive, The Sound of Animals Fighting, and Saosin, I saw Anthony Green perform more times than I can count. A year ago, nobody would have predicted his reunion with his former band, but somehow, the stars aligned.

The Early November Acoustic, The Studio at Webster Hall, NY

I’ll go see this band play any opportunity I can. This was a special, stripped down, acoustic show, with songs that are already prime for sing-a-longs. It was a really fun, intimate night!  

Polaris – The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY


Seeing the band from “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” at a special show curated by Pete and Pete themselves, Danny Tamberelli and Mike Maronna, was a really crazy, full circle moment.


Every Time I Die – Webster Hall, NY

ETID’s largest sold out American show to date. No matter how many times I see them, they always blow me away live. It was really great to hear the new songs worked into the setlist too.


All photos by Keith Barker | CBS Interactive

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