Sunday, December 21, 2014

Top 30 Records of 2014: 20-11

Here is part two of my favorite records of 2014.

20.  Red Scare Industries: 10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit by Various Artists
From my review
Red Scare Industries is one of the best record labels in punk rock today.  This label has given us the likes of Teenage Bottlerocket, The Copyrights, The Menzingers, Masked Intruder, and The Sidekicks just to name a few.  10 Years Of Your Dumb Bullshit is a collection of new songs from some of this label’s best acts past and present.  Included herein are tracks from Teenage Bottlerocket, The Copyright, The Falcon, Masked Intruder, Elway, Direct Hit!, The Methadones, Druglords of the Avenues, The Sidekicks, and Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds.  One of the record’s standout moments is Nothington’s brilliant “So It Is,” a song that showcases that Red Scare isn’t just a pop punk label.  In a lot of ways I see Red Scare as a modern-day Lookout Records.  Both labels were known for classic pop punk bands and albums but both have put out records from across the punk spectrum and that is what made Lookout so legendary and makes Red Scare such a tour de force.  

19.  M.I. by Masked Intruder
From my review
Masked Intruder’s sophomore full-length M.I. isn’t just as good as their stellar self-titled debut—it’s better.  M.I. is 13 songs of pop punk perfection with unforgettable hooks, beautifully crafted melodies, and lyrics that are so earnest that they make you forget that this band’s thing is a gimmick.  It’s actually that final point that makes the gimmick work.  The band is supposedly a group of ex-cons that have been known for breaking into girls’ houses (among other things) and wear colored ski masks to protect their identities (like a burglar).  They play the gimmick so straight that it works perfectly and makes for some of the most fun and entertaining music out there today.

18.  Rented World by The Menzingers
From my review
...The Menzingers’ fourth full-length record Rented World is the sound of a band dealing with maturity.  If the band’s previous album, 2012’s On the Impossible Past was the sound of a band growing up, then Rented World is the realization of what it means to be an adult.  Sonically this record is the culmination of all that came before it, mixing elements of pop punk, emo, indie rock, post hardcore, and classic rock resulting in an album that sways from driving anthems (see the amazing album opener, and possibly best song of the year, “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore”) to delicate ballads (the closing “When You Died”) to mid-tempo rockers (“When Your Heartache Exists”) and a seemingly Rilo Kiley inspired ditty (“Rodent”).  The Menzingers find themselves living in that newly ambiguous area of punk where bands like Luther, Restorations (both also from Philadelphia), The Radio Reds, and The Gaslight Anthem reside.  This style seems to be born of bands that grew up on the punk and underground rock of the ‘80s and ‘90s, taking all of those various genres and sub-genres and throwing them into a pot to boil and stew.  Of these bands The Menzingers are one of the finest with Rented World being a stellar output...

17.  Beauty & Ruin by Bob Mould
Bob Mould returned to his classic form with 2012’s brilliant Silver Age, harkening back to the days of Husker Du and Sugar with songs so catchy and fun that they sound like they could have been recorded during the Flip You Wig or Cooper Blue sessions.  Beauty & Ruin picks up where Silver Age left off and turns things up a notch with more phenomenal songs that remind us that Bob Mould is just that damn good. 

16.  Transgender Dysphoria Blues by Against Me!
From my review
Simply put, Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues is brilliant.  The concept record tells the story of a transsexual prostitute but what makes it so compelling is how guitarist and lead singer Laura Jean Grace has crafted these songs with such grace that they are not only some of the catchiest the band has ever released, but they take an extremely difficult topic and make it understandable and relatable for the listener.  Grace has always been a passionate singer and songwriter but this record is different and just showcases how freaking good she really is.

15.  Get Hurt by The Gaslight Anthem
From my review
The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth full-length album Get Hurt is easily their most ambitious effort to date.  Opening with the trudging, stoner rock, blues infused “Stay Vicious” Get Hurt announces that this record is unlike any Gaslight Anthem album before it.  While having a punk heritage, Brian Fallon and company have never shied away from their love of straight up rock ‘n’ roll music and it is that love, especially of the classic rock of the 1970s and the inspirational arena rock of the 1980s, that is on full display here.  The record is dark and moody, but it’s not a downer or a depressing record, part in thanks to the big and uplifting choruses in songs like “1,000 Years,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” and “Dark Places.”  Get Hurt is not a record that grabs you on the first listen; it requires time and patients and multiple listens before its brilliance finally sinks in.

14.  ‘Till Midnight by Chuck Ragan
From my review
Till Midnight is a record that brings the love song to the forefront, making nearly the entire record an ode to the heart.  Ragan’s unique perspective and take on this well trodden territory is as refreshing as it is honest and earnest.  Where his previous album Covering Ground was conceived to mirror Ragan’s live sound (especially as seen on the Revival Tour), Till Midnight brings a full band to the table and the extra instrumentation helps carry these songs to a full and vibrant life mixing elements of country, folk, and roots rock.  The bottom line is this: Chuck Ragan is a freaking genius and everything he touches is solid gold and Till Midnight is no different.

13.  Ordinary Life by The Tim Version
From my review
The Tim Version’s fourth album Ordinary Life is nothing short of brilliant.  Perfectly mixing elements of punk (ala Hot Water Music), college rock (ala The Replacements), and alt country (ala Lucero and Drag the River), the result is a powerful blast of everything that is good in rock ‘n’ roll music.  The record moves effortlessly from high octane rockers (“For the Birds” and “Hello, Waterface”) to haunting ballads (“The Future Of Humanity Is Dogs” and “Die In Yer Sleep”) to mid-tempo anthems (“Plague Dogs,” “Funny Movies,” and “A Dream About Dean’s Dream”).  From top to bottom, Ordinary Life not only works but excels at being a top notch rock ‘n’ roll record that is easily one of the best releases of 2014.

12.  All Messed Up by Textbook
From my review
Textbook’s fifth full-length album All Messed Up is 11 songs of Midwestern, pop punk indie college rock perfection.  Having boasted members of bands like Noise By Numbers, Dan Vapid & the Cheats, Not Rebecca, and The Bomb, Textbook is the quintessential Chicago band.  All Messed Up opens with the insanely catchy “Everything I’m Not” perfectly setting the stage for what is to come.  The record is filled with hooks and melodies and sing-along choruses that dare you to not fall in love with them.  What’s great about All Messed Up, and Textbook’s music in general, is the timelessly fun while simultaneously feeling nostalgic and fresh.  This is the kind of music that would have fit just as perfectly next to Flip Your Wig and Tim in 1985 as it would have next to Big Red Letter Day, Fore, and Come On Feel The Lemonheads in 1993, Indecision and Awake is the New Sleep in 2005, and All the Ways You Let Down and Who Would Want Anything So Broken? in 2014.

11.  Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street by Beach Slang
From my review
Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street succeeds in every way that a follow-up release should by taking the energy and excitement of the previous release and adding to it new levels of nuance and passion.  The four song EP takes the band’s punk-as-seen-through-college-rock approach of Who Would Ever… and tweaks it by adding layers of deeper sorrow and heartache and touches of Joy Division and Echo & the Bunnymen.  The resulting sound is still clearly Beach Slang but displays a growth to this band’s already passionate and deep work.  While Cheap Thrills… is less in-your-face than its predecessor, the slower tempo and refined approach make it just as invigorating and powerful.  This band is seriously something special and one to watch.

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