I love Baltimore’s music scene over all others, so it gets its own top ten list. In no particular order, my ten favorite Charm City releases for 2014. I also made a mixcloud mix with a track from each.
1. Roomrunner – Ideal Cities: I have been a Roomrunner fan since the first EP. Finally they released a full length. This is throwback noise rock, at times reminiscent of the grunge days, but yet still its own sonic beast. My favorite parts tend to be the squeals between the chords, when experienced live is almost a religious experience. I am glad I can call Baltimore Dragged to Hell’s home base, as I was able to see Roomrunner a total of five times in 2013, and each time was great. For some reason I haven’t seen much love for this album on “Best Of” lists, which is just sad. Maybe this is their Bleach, and everyone else catches on later (yes a Nirvana reference, NO I don’t think they sound like them). Bonus points for being released by one of my favorite labels, Fan Death Records. And double bonus points for Jake Reid of Screen Vinyl Image (another one of my favorite bands) for his excellent mastering work.
2. Wing Dam – Thick Phase / No Splash: The first Friends Records release on this list, and far from the last. Wing Dam used to be a solo act. I never caught Austin Tally live back then, and the music was a bit chill (ie not fuzzed out). Fast forward to 2013, and Wing Dam is a threesome (also featuring Sara Autry aka Which Magic on bass and Abram Sanders on drums). Some of the old tracks are in new form. Some are new. All show a sophisticated sense of songwriting, with the tracks featuring interesting riffs and lyrics that never bore; while at the same time retaining a youthful exuberance. This is a summer record. You put it on while skinny dipping. You put it on around the bonfire. Its joy, but under the surface there is also sadness (like in Stars, “Man, you can months without seeing stars… Start to think things are more important than they are”, a lyric that is very personal as I grew up in a place where you do see stars, and have lived in this area for pretty much my whole adult life). Also Austin has one of those unique singing voices that I instantly fell in love with.
3. Weekends – New Humans: Weekends are a two piece. Drums and guitars. Switched between certain songs. Weekends third full length is more of the same of what I love, reverbed out garage rock with that Baltimore sheen on it (not a literally one, this is dirty fuzzy music). I would also put it in the summer jams section. Sadly I haven’t been able to catch them live since this came out, and look forward to remedying that in 2014. Also courtesy of Friends Records.
4. Secret Mountains – Rainer: Just for tracking purposes, this is Friends Records release three from this list. This one makes me the saddest. After this was released, the band semi-dissolved, with some members including their singer, leaving the band. But they soldier on, and said they have new tunes for the next year. I hope so, as this flawless, female vocal driven psychedelic gem is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish.
5. Double Dagger – 333: This was my big score for Record Store Day (along with the A Place to Bury Strangers release), the first I ever participated in. I saw Double Dagger back in 2010, and they lasted a little while longer. They do the post-punk thing with their vocal , bass, and drums attack. This final release shows that they still had plenty of tricks up their sleeve, and the members are all still making music in the Baltimore scene (Roomrunner, Pure Junk, Peals).
6. Raindeer – Tattoo: Friends Records number four for this list. Tattoo is full of synth and guitar based jams. This band was really fun watching live, and I was able to see them a couple of time in 2013.
7. Scott Russell – A Guide to Rational Living Volume One: Noise rock from Friend Collector drummer Scott Russell. This release features riffs for days, and shows Scott as being as comfortable being a frontman as he is behind the skins.
8. ABDU ALI – Push+Slay: I am not sure if this is considered a mixtape, or an album; either way this release slays. Abdu Ali has a very confrontational style of lyricism and the earnestness of his music shines in his vocal performances. The beat selection is impeccable, with fellow Baltimore resident Schwarz (among others) dropping some real bangers.
9. Dungeonesse – Dungeonesse: Jon from the Art Department/White Life and Jenn from Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes team up for this pop/R&B release. Sing along choruses, memorable hooks, Jon’s production sheen, and Jenn’s vocals made this one I was revisiting several time this year.
10. The Snails – Worth The Wait: The final release on this list is also the fifth Friends Records one (man I love that label). This Baltimore super group dons snail outfits and features members of Future Islands and other groups, listed on Bandcamp as “the current cast of snails: Snail Braham, Snailburne, Sammy Snail, Snailliam, and Sandy Snailbelow”. They also made one hell of an EP, one that reminds me of beaches, waves rolling in, while sipping a piña colada.
cover image of Rommrunner taken by me at Hampdenfest 2013