Guest Review: Clifford Parody's Top 10 Albums of 2014

Running a label makes creating a year-end album list quite difficult. When I sat down, a large part of me wanted to load this up with all the albums we released this year on Swan City Sounds because really, I love everything we put out. BUT I figured that would come off snarky so to avoid feeling/looking like a self-aggrandizing asshole I decided to leave them all out (although I still encourage you to give them a listen). So, the list: this is really in no particular order, was very hard to narrow down, and the numbers are here for no other reason than to make the list a little more listy.

1. OFF! – Wasted Years (Vice Records)
            This album just rips. The longest track clocks in at a little over two minutes and the majority of them never reach the minute and a half mark. If you are looking for some quality stripped-down hardcore punk to destroy your eardrums with, this is a good place to start. Favorite track: “Death Trip on the Party Train”

2. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days (Captured Tracks)
            My wife isn’t a fan of a lot of the music I listen to, but this was one of a handful of albums dropped out this year that both of us can agree on.  I have talked to some other people who burned out on Salad Days after a number of listens but for me, this album gets better every time. This is bedroom pop for people who don’t really get down on most bedroom pop. The guitar tone is         killer and DeMarco’s gap-toothed croon shines. I love everything about it. Plus, judging from interviews and live performances I have seen, DeMarco may very well be the coolest dude in rock music today. Favorite track: “Let Her Go”

3. Supervixens – Nature and Culture
            My introduction to Supervixens came with the video for Loud Loud Loud!, a live recording of the band working in what I think is the studio but may just be their practice space, I don’t know. Either way, I was pretty blown away. Supervixens mesh beat driven guitar and bass riffs with straight noise so seamlessly that I have a hard time classifying just what kind of music it is. Loud Loud Loud is most definitely the stand out track and shifts back and forth from some of the most aggressive minutes of music I heard all year to some of the most haunting bits of ambience/noise I may ever hear in my life. These dudes incorporate hammers, chains and even power saws into their jams. What more do you need to know? Go listen to it. Favorite track: “Loud Loud Loud/Split Head”

4. Big Waves of Pretty – It Is a Sight He Never Forgets (Bridgetown Records)
            I met these guys when they played in the kitchen of my buddy Sam Martin’s (Three-Brained Robot) house last year when they were on tour with Kevin Greenspon taking on 100 dates in four months (seriously, holy shit). Not only were they both just super sweet guys, they absolutely tore it up to a crowd of maybe 20 or so people, which leads me to believe that the track “If You’re Not Going to Sparkle What the Fuck Did You Come For?” is more than just a song title – it’s words these dudes live by. BWOP is tapping into something real special on this album. They have managed to break into some kind of hyperactive spirit world and come out on the other side with six out of        control yet controlled freak out sessions to share with the masses. Favorite Track: “If You’re Not Going to Sparkle What the Fuck Did You Come For?”

5. Spooky Black – Black Silk (Self-released)
            What can I say about this? I admit, the first time I saw the video for “Without You” I thought I was being trolled. Who is this white dude in a doo rag and turtleneck? How old is he? Is he wearing a FUBU jersey? What the hell am I watching? But I kept watching, over and over again, and I soon realized   Spooky Black is not only legit, but has quickly become one of my favorite R&B             singers to date. The production on this album (album? mixtape?) is crucial – lo-fi spacy synthy beats that you can’t help but want to make babies to – and Spooky Black’s laid back and really just beautiful vocals make for the perfect compliment. Oh, and did I mention he is SIXTEEN!! Favorite track: “Without You”

6. NOTHING – Guilty of Everything (Relapse)
            Before this album came out I heard the first single, “Dig,” and I already knew it was going to be in my top ten, top five, and maybe even be my favorite album of the year period. It is. This album is, in my opinion, perfect. The hyper-present elements of shoegaze combined with the aggression of punk   and near-anthemic riffs littered throughout create something completely fresh and well-worthy of all the praise this band has received so far this year. The way the album crashes in, a minute and a half into the opening track “Hymn to the Pillory,” give me goosebumps every time. The mixing is spot on   and every tone is given just the right amount of room to burn through. Yeah, this is my favorite album of the year. And seriously, Guilty of Everything? Can you think of a more bad ass name for an album? Favorite Track: “Bent Nail”

7. Avishai Cohen’s Triveni – Dark Nights (Anzic Records)
            In many ways this was the year of jazz for me. For some reason I felt myself dragged towards Mingus, Coltrane, Davis, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and a slew of other old-school dudes that changed the face of music as we know it. As I dug deeper into the older stuff I got to wondering if any contemporary cats were keeping those traditions alive and continue to push the envelope in the jazz-realm. Then I found Avishai Cohen. Cohen knows his way around a trumpet and, from what I have heard from him in interviews, is staying true to the improvisational and experimental motives of his predecessors. This   album was recorded in one day with only two takes of each track laid down – the best of both was then chosen for the record. Cohen’s sister pops in for a track and a couple other guest appearances round out the ever present bass-trumpet-drums trio. This album burns at the perfect speed and Cohen seems to know just when to drop in the flourishes. This is soul. Favorite track: “Dark Nights, Darker Days”

8. Mantar – Death By Burning (Svart)
            So yeah, in many ways this was the year of jazz for me, but I also found myself gravitating towards the heavier stuff. Out of all the metal I treated my ears to this year, Mantar are the stand-outs. I listened to this album four or five times before I started doing a little research on the band and couldn’t   believe when I found out it was just two guys. Seriously, this shit is soooo thick; I figured there were two guitars and a bass but no – just a drummer and guitarist. If you are looking for a little something special to bang your head to, check this album out. This guys are the future of the genre. Favorite track: “Cult Witness”

9. Kairon; IRSE! – Ujubasajuba (Self-Released)
            2014 was an amazing year for shoegaze and while bands like NOTHING and Whirr seem to be leading the charge, Kairon; IRSE! are by no means brining up the rear. This Finnish quartet, like their contemporaries, owes a debt of gratitude to the late 80’s/early 90’s ‘gazers but, again, like their contemporaries, are taking the genre and putting their own spin on it. The Kairon; IRSE! spin comes in the form of saxophone and clarinet. What? Sax and clarinet in a shoegaze track? Yes. Exactly. It’s awesome. Listen to it.   Favorite track: “Valorians”

10. Clearance – Catologue Nos. (Unsatisfied Records)
            Somehow this band flew under my radar in 2013 and I never caught wind of either of the two 7”s they released in that time. That’s okay though because now I know, and Catalogue Nos. puts both of those first 7”, some digital singles, and a couple unreleased tracks all in one place. This is quintessential 90’s slacker rock a-la everybody’s favorite band Pavement. If you love             Crooked Rain you will love Catalogue Nos. Simple as that.  Favorite track: “She’s a Peach”

Honorable Mentions:

Man Watching the Stars – “Dusk”
Kvulthammer – “Kvulthammer”
Whirr – “Sway”
Whirr/Nothing – Split
Flying Lotus – “You’re Dead!”
Iron Regan – “The Tyranny of Will”
Pup – “Pup”
thestand4rd – “thestand4rd”
Perfect Pussy – “Say Yes To Love”
Aphex Twin – “Syro”