Today I am playing catch up on blog posts. After making a resolution to blog about every show that I attend in 2015, i immediately disregarded it and now I have three shows to write about at once. Oh well, I can do this. I promise to step it up and at least do my show write ups in a timely manner, and with the event fresher in my mind.
First off, it was a cold night. Snow was piled everywhere in Baltimore, and it took us a long time to find a parking spot. When we did park, it was a sprint down several snowy blocks of city and we arrived shivering at Metro Gallery with opening band Black Clouds already playing on the stage. I did not miss much of their set, and was really into their post-metal jams. I did not realize that this DC band was a three piece, as they have a sound that sounds like more than three people are creating it. They do this by having a guitarist who also handles synth duty. Their light/laser show was a lot of fun as well, and added an extra element to their set.
After they finished, it was the band that I was the most excited to see that night, Thrushes. This Baltimore shoegaze band has been one of my favorites for over five years, with their albums Sun Come Undone and Night Falls in heavy rotation at various points. They went away a couple years ago, and I was surprised to see that they were playing again. They played some new tunes (which they are recording with J Robbins) and plenty of old ones as well. I thought they sounded great, and even with a long break, did not sound rusty at all. I really look forward to seeing them again, and hearing the new record. With Thrushes, Wildhoney, and Dead Mellotron all currently active/semi-active, the Baltimore shoegaze scene is healthy and I look forward to many future shows.
After Thrushes came another Baltimore band, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. I do not think I had seen them since the last Whartscape in 2010. Too bad, as I was blown away by the tunes, the showmanship, and the stage banter of Ed Schrader and his bass playing cohort, Devlin. They played in darkness, with only a light under the floor tom Ed bangs on, for illumination. He was really funny and I do not understand why he is not a major star in the United States.
The last band of the night was A Place to Bury Strangers. They were on tour to promote their new album, Transfixation. This was my second time seeing them (the first being at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC a couple years ago). They did not disappoint. They played loud. The drums crashed and thundered. The bass roared. The guitars screamed. Everything including vocals was covered in a haze of fuzz. As for the assault on my other senses, their light and laser show, and insane amounts of fog kept the visual stimuli interesting. The guys are really insane showmen. Guitars swing, guitars are thrown to the ceiling, pedals are stomped and heads in the crowd are banged.
This is my last list of releases and it was probably the hardest list make. I think 2014 had some excellent releases across all genres/subgenres of guitar based rock and roll music. From heavy metal to indie, there were some excellent releases. As with my first two lists, I made a mix that you can listen to on Mixcloud with a track from each release.
Ramesh – the King: I was a huge Voxtrot fan, and was able to catch them live a few times before they decided to call it quits several years ago. And then here comes Ramesh, dropping a solo record that made the Voxtrot fan in me smile.
Holy Wave – Relax: This is the first of two psychedelic releases that I included on this list. I saw them open for GOAT once and have been a big fan ever since. This is a playful, summer record. Sometimes I get a Beach Boys vibe off of them.
Temples – Sun Structures: This is the second psych release on the list. They have really blown up this year, going from DC9 to the 930 Club for DC venues, quite the upgrade. They have nice sing-a-long sound with lots of harmony; also, slightly hypnotic and groovy.
Lagwagon – Hang: I was not into Lagwagon in the 90s, but started listening to them in the early 2000s when I saw a CD of theirs at a used record shop and noticed the Fat Wreck Chords stamp on the back, and I have not looked back. Everything they do is great. Joey’s voice is as good as ever, and while the lyrics of his music reflect a more grown up persona, there is still that playfulness that is a Lagwagon trademark. Oh, and it has been 9 years since their last full length (6 since their last EP) and it doesn’t sound at all like they have missed a beat.
Sorority Noise – forgettable: This was a random find, and I am glad I found them. I was checking out random bands playing Metro Gallery in Baltimore, and found these guys. While I didn’t go to the show (which I regret), I have become a huge fan. I don’t know what to call this. Pop-Punk. Emo. Post something or another. Whatever it is, it is another one you can sing with, with songs about life. I can see these guys becoming a Hot Topic crowd favorite, but wont let that stop me digging them. Plus my fiance likes them, so it is always good when we can enjoy the same bands.
Nothing – Guilty of Everything: Although I am still a huge shoegaze fan, Nothing was the only band making that kind of noise to make this list. They are also extremely polarizing. I have friends who dig them, and friends who hate them. I am on the love side of the spectrum, and finally caught them live at the Ottobar for a festival.
Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire: Goldflesh! They are the Aphex Twin of this list, as it was also thirteen years between their records. This is heavy industrial music. I was a big industrial fan in the 1990s for a while, and this release brings me back to that time in my life.
Swans – To Be Kind: This is a hard listen. Long songs. Two hours long. Brutal riffs. Beautiful melodies. Gira and company continue their trajectory of making excellent albums after their 14 year absence from 1997 to 2010. My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky is still my favorite post-reformation album by them, but this one is still great. I look forward to seeing them for time number three next year.
Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium: I have been a fan of Max and Igor Cavalera for a long time; ever since Chaos AD came out by Sepultura. I do not dig new Sepultura without Max, and I do not really dig Max’s band, Soulfly. But Cavalera Conspiracy? Them I do dig. Crushing riffs, brutal drumming, Max’s roaring vocals – it is everything I would want from those brothers. They even include traditional Brazilian elements to some of the songs, which was always one of my favorite parts of their old music.
the Skull Defekts – Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown: I saw the Skull Defekts twice. Once with Daniel Higgs, and this year, without him. It was still an uplifting night of what they dub street metal. This album captures that same vibe, with their music being very percussive and can almost induce a trance in the listener. I cant wait to dig into their SECOND 2014 album, which they actually called Street Metal, one of these days soon, as I bet it also shreds.
Photograph/cover by me of the Skull Defekts at the Gold Bar in Baltimore in 2014
2014 was a great year for electronic music (or at least for the kind that I like). From noise, to experimental, to pop remixes, to hip hop, to shoegaze, and witch house; there were great examples of all kinds of knob twiddlers this year across a ton of genres. These are the ten “electronic” releases that I enjoyed the most this year. As with my Baltimore list, I included a link to Mixcloud that features a mix that I made highlighting one song per release.
That Was Then This is Now – Fables: This duo (producer BLVCK CEILING and vocalist Moon Mirror) make dark electronic music heavy on the beats and the melodies. They make music that could be described as haunting, and beautiful. This full length by them was in heavy rotation for me this year.
Screen Vinyl Image/Bloody Knives – Split: This was one that could have either gone on this list (it does feature synths) or on my next list, for “rock” releases (it does feature guitar/bass guitar). I am a huge fan of both bands, and am glad they were brought together for this twelve track release by the ever excellent Accidental Guest Records. RIYL Shoegaze.
Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes: Two things about this release. 1. It is minimal interesting little electronic ditties by Thom, RIYL Kid A. 2. He had an interesting way of releasing it, focusing on torrents (link is in the title).
clipping – clppng: Clipping might have been the most exciting act that I saw this year, (I am still working on my live list) and also dropped an album that is the perfect mash of noise and rap. The lyrics are tight and delivered with a fast flow, while the beats bang and hiss, just on the edge of being grating (in a good way).
Meth Dad – Remixes: This is the first ever non-Baltimore release that Friends Records has put out. And for good reason, Meth Dad slays the pop world and makes beautiful beats. This features his re-imaginings of such artists as Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.
the Body – I shall die here: The Haxan Cloak plus the Body? Yes please. This eerie album pairs scary atmospherics with a relentless beat and pounding bass. Wailing is had. This is what pain sounds like.
Pharmakon – Bestial Burden: Pharmakon delivers another monster of an album. Seeing her live is quite the treat, and she is able to somehow capture the intensity of her live shows, in record form. I look forward to seeing her again (saw her at Hopscotch in 2013) next year.
Aphex Twin – Syro: I bought Drukqs while living in South Korea, and was quite disappointed by Aphex Twin’s (one of the first electronic musicians that I got into in high school) last album. That was a long 13 years ago. A lot has changed. Including the fact that their is now a new Aphex Twin album, and it is actually good. The tracks are all solid, beat driven affairs. The formula is followed: glitchy beats, distorted and twisted sound and synths, and weird track names.
††† (Crosses) – Crosses: Chino from Deftones side project that is a mix of shoegaze like guitars, electronic beats, and synth soundscapes. Prurient might be my favorite song of the year. I was really blown away by the tunes, and this one ranks up there for me for amounts of times I listened to it.
Zola Jesus – Taiga: Rounding out the list is Zola Jesus. I have been a fan for a couple years, but this album really caught my attention on first spin. Masterful electronic tracks that recall a handful of subgenres, her music could definitely blow up and become the next big thing. I could see this competing against some of the other heavy hitters making modern pop music.
Cover image of clipping is by me, taken at Metro Gallery in Baltimore in 2014.
Dragged to Hell 17 features 22 rock and roll tracks from some amazing female voices that are currently kicking ass. The tracks run the gamut from indie folk to noise-punk. 1 hour and 10 minutes long. Image was taken by me of the only Afghan girl that I saw in 9 months.
SoftSpot – The Cleansing Hour
Which Magic – High Already
the Courtneys – Insufficient Funds
Body/Head – Everything Left
SLUTEVER – No Offense
NUDITY – BADD TEEETH
Jail Solidarity – Cries and Hues
Manic Sheep – You Lie, You Choke the Rules We Trust
Pleasure Leftists – Passage on a Ghost Ship
Shannon And The Clams – Into A Dream
Potty Mouth – Damage
White Murder – Safety in Numbers
Speedy Ortiz – Tiger Tank
the Stargazer Lilies – Sad Colored Tears
SISU – Light Eyes
Veronica Falls – If You Still Want Me
Joanna Gruesome – Satan
Young Trynas – Be Gone
GOAT – Run To Your Mama
Hunters – Brat Mouth
Magik Markers – Mirrorless
Perfect Pussy – III
Beyond Inversion was released by label Accidental Guest Records (a local to my area, label ran by Sean Grey, who also partly runs Fan Death Records, another favorite label of mine) late last year, and features 23 tracks from across the spectrum of punk and post-punk music. There is seriously too much goodness on this compilation (I can’t imagine me liking any other comp as much, for at least the next year) to go through it all. First off, it is a benefit release. Bandcamp lists this for info on the benefit:
all proceeds will benefit Rachael’s Women’s Center in DC, a nonprofit agency which provides resources and opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless women. A silkscreened poster accompanying this release will also be available for purchase, with proceeds also going to Rachael’s Women’s Center.
About Rachael’s Women’s Center:
To provide homeless and formerly homeless women with opportunities to develop their independence, sense of self and hope by:
Providing safety, shelter, food, showers and laundry in a nurturing, homelike environment;
Helping women to reach their potential through intensive case management and programs that empower them to take control of their lives and advocate for themselves.
Rachael’s also reaches out to individuals living on the streets, enabling and encouraging them to access services and benefits available to people who are homeless.
Rachael’s Women’s Center is a place of hospitality and hope for women who are homeless. When given the chance to heal in a caring and challenging environment, women can be enabled and empowered to bring forth their forgotten and lost potential. The Center asserts the right of all women to be treated with respect and dignity. We believe that in a non-judgemental and supportive environment that all women can find meaning, self-respect, hope, personal power, and love regardless of race or life experiences. In this environment we maintain that all women can evolve into more independent, self-reliant individuals who can more effectively contribute to the communities in which they live.
Rachael’s Women’s Center
1222 11th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Next up, the music. Here are some of my highlights from the record. Perfect Pussy offer up another slice of noise punk goodness (much needed after such a short EP). Bret Lanahan (drummer of Roomrunner) proves he is equally as bad ass on both sides of the drum kit, with an excellent solo blast. Hive Bent lends Tomgirl, a personal favorite of mine from their last release. Clean Girls also gave a track I already had, but a good one. Roomrunner have a demo of the mythical ESPN Zone. Scott Russell’s A Guide to Rational Living track Careful kills it. Technicolor Teeth makes shoegaze but not really. Stillsuit, love the name (huge Dune nerd), and this song is bananas; free-jazz noise freakout punk? Jail Solidarity brings the heaviness. Sadie Dupuis (of Speedy Ortiz fame) shows that she can rock it 90s style solo or with her band. Ok, enough ruminations on these tracks. My descriptions definitely don’t do these songs justice. GO LISTEN/SUPPORT THIS ALREADY!
Dragged to Hell 16 was released on December 31, 2013 and features some of the music I was enjoying at the end of the year.
DJ Dog Dick – Dried Old Leaves
Gatekeeper – Imperatrix
Thundercat – Seven
Death Grips – This is Violence Now (Dont get me wrong)
the Stargazer Lilies – How We Lost
Purple – The Club
Teams – Alchemy
∆AIMON – Darkness
ANTWON – work 4 me ft. himself (prod. by dj sexplay)
Zombelle – Tropocalypse
MADDEN – You Thawed (Party Trash remix)
signs – ILUVYOU
Police Academy 6 – Moss Agate (80’s Stallone Remix)
Laurel Halo – Melt
TOO DEEP – TRY THIS
Ellah a. Thaun – We melt again
David Lynch – Last Call
I am going to keep the descriptions short and sweet. These 20 releases made up my other favorites that aren’t from Baltimore, or dark/electronic. A very East Coast heavy list, with Massachusetts having a strong showing. In no particular order, the rest of my favorites (and a mix).
1. ovlov – am: catchy noise rock is what these brothers deal in
2. Exit Calm – The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be: second album of soaring British shoegaze; vocals are up front unlike a lot of their peers
3. The Courtneys – The Courtneys: probably what I sang along to the most this year in traffic was from these Canadian Keanu Reeves enthusiasts
4. BAMBARA – DREAMVIOLENCE: noise powered pedal theatrics from this NYC band; their day time set at Hopscotch this year was easily among my top five favorite for the year
5. The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True: the only kickstarter project I supported this year; I have drank their Kool Aid for over a decade, and this one didn’t let me down
6. Sebadoh – Defend Yourself: one of my favorite bands of the 90s return to form; I am glad I was able to see them on tour for this
7. Locrian – Return To Annihilation: I was lucky enough to see them on their short tour for this album; their set’s mix of ambient metal synths and guitars let me wanting more
8. Wolf Eyes – No Answer: Lower Floors: I always thought I wouldn’t like them because they would be too harsh; this release is just the right combo of noise and songs (also another killer band I was able to catch this year)
9. Weekend – Jinx: beat driven shoegaze release
10. Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen: pop from London; another sing along fest
11. The Stargazer Lilies – We Are The Dreamers: ethereal shoegaze release from Soundpool alums
12. Placebo – Loud Like Love: another strong release from a mainstay in my favorite list; I am not sure if this will convert anyone, but is a treat for fans of the band
13. Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving: I like all the post-Sonic Youth bands but only wanted to include one; CLM made the cut since I listened to this the most, and also really enjoyed the tracks when I experienced them live
14. Kal Marks – LIFE IS MURDER: Guitar heavy Boston band featuring a vocalist with one of the most unique voices I have heard in rock music in a long time
15. Paint Branch – I Wanna Live: the only DC based band on this list; which is sad, I spend a lot of time every week in that city; smart, vocal driven pop from ashes of Q and not U
16. Krill – Lucky Leaves: another reason Massachusetts kicks ass with its music scene
17. Palehound – Bent Nail: another release that has a 90s vibe to it; nice mix of acoustic and electric parts and also singing about a range of topics including pet carrots
18. DJ Dog Dick – The Life Stains: NYC based noise artist releases a instant noise pop classic; beats, singing, basslines, and melodies abound
19. PERFECT PUSSY – I have lost all desire for feeling: probably the noisiest of all of these releases, shoegaze ones included; too short at four songs and they leave you wanting more
20. Potty Mouth – Hell Bent: this band of punk rockers put on one of the funnest sets that I attended this year at an all ages event at an alternative worship place; much ass was kicked
the image of Locrian synth player/singer Terence Hannum at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore was taken by me