Tagged: Swans

My Favorite Rock releases of 2014

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.

MIXCLOUD LINK

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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

My 25 Favorite Sets of 2014

As 2014 winds down, it is the time of the year to reflect on some of the music I saw live this year.  These were my favorite 25 sets out of ones that I saw this year (I will be finishing this year at around 50 shows/festivals attended, almost one per week, and I am not sure how many total sets I saw (and I am not going back to count that). Anyways, here are my 25 favorite sets of 2014 with a short reason why I dug them so much and a picture taken from my Instagram account for each.  They are more or less in chronological order.  Most were in Baltimore or DC, unless otherwise noted.  All pictures are by me.

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Pixies, Electric Factory in Philly, January 2014

This was a cold night.  We braved the cold and drove the two hours to the show, barely making it in time to catch all of Pixies set.   It was crowded, a heater was blasting me while a draft on the wall was also freezing me, but it was a great time.  I finally saw Pixies live, and with someone who was also a huge fan (my fiance). Plus it counted as a celebration for my birthday for this year.  Even leaving the city heading the wrong way and having an hour added to our commute home cant tarnish the memory of their set, seeing all of these classics live with an enthusiastic crowd of fans.

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Weekends, Ottobar in Baltimore, January 2014

I am a big fan of Weekends.  Too bad they are going on a break, with one member moving away.  The music these two can make sounds as big as a four piece band.  Plus I love it when people switch instruments during a set.  I am glad I get to see them at least one more time, at the upcoming Friends Records Anniversary party at the Ottobar.

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Multicult, Stem Graphics in HarCo, February 2014

This whole night was pretty memorable.  From the fist fight during Roomrunner’s set, to excellent offerings from One Watt Sun and Two Inch Astronaut, it was an all around good night of music.  Multicult were no different, ripping through a set of precise and chugging riffs.  This was also only one of a few times I saw them this year.  Each was great.  They do not disappoint.  RIYL Shellac.

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Priests, Barclay House in Baltimore, April 2014

I am a casual fan of Priests.  I saw them a long time ago at the Black Cat in DC (with at least one less member I think).  And then I saw them at a house show.  And they were pretty rocking.  Singer Katie is one hell of a front person, yelping and singing her way through politically charged ditties.  The band played their surf punk rock and we had a blast in a basement.  One day they will be huge and I will be able to think back on seeing them in a basement. With a pentagram on the wall.

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Wolf Eyes, Current Space lot in Baltimore, April 2014

April.  An outside show.  What could go wrong?  How about the coldest show that I ever experienced?  It was freezing but the jams these trip metal masters brought were warm.  This was my second live Wolf Eyes experience, and it was just as brutal as the first.

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Cloud Cult, Sixth and I in DC, April 2014

Cloud Cult are one of my favorite bands.  Their music helped me get through some tough times.  Sixth and I is usually one of my least favorite places to see a show.  But for some reason, this time it was just right.  Cloud Cult did two sets, one acoustic and one electric.  The reworkings of the tracks into acoustic songs was a nice touch to old favorites, and they brought their normal energy.  I almost had to skip it because I was sick, but I sucked it up and ventured out and am glad I did.

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Swans, Black Cat in DC, May 2014

Swans are one of the best bands I have ever seen live.  This set was similar to the first one that I saw.  Crushing riffs, 30 minute songs… Two hours long… But at least this time the no Air Conditioning rule was not in effect, as it was the first time I saw them.  I am looking forward to seeing them next year at a different venue, in Baltimore.

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The Skull Defekts, the Gold Bar in Baltimore, May 2o14

Sadly, this set was sans Daniel Higgs.  But, they still rocked.  They played what they call Street Metal, and I rocked to the percussive big muffed tunes.

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Matmos, Fifth Dimension in Baltimore, May 2014

This was at a fundraiser for High Zero.  There were not that many people there at the warehouse space.  Matmos were very friendly and Drew let me and my friend sit on the stage during their set.  It was a mix of video and electronics, and was but one part of an incredible night that also featured a synth piece by Dan Deacon and a killer set by Horse Lords.

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Microkingdom, the Crown, May 2014

What happens in Baltimore?  Not only will you get a great set by jazz weirdos Microkingdom, but you will also get Sam from Future Islands to join them for a cover.  Which they set up on the spot.

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Wildhoney, the Crown in Baltimore May 2014

Wildhoney get better and better.  Their shoegaze really sounds great live.  I have been a fan for a long time, and am really enjoying experiencing their evolution.

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Wing Dam, Ottobar in Baltimore, June 2014

Wing Dam are one of my favorites.  They are super nice people who play some chilled out fuzzed out rock and roll.  I have seen them a few times, and this one was as rad as never.

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Guerilla Toss, Metro Gallery in Baltimore, June 2014

I did not know what to expect from Guerilla Toss.  What I did experience was a short, intense set of rock and roll with a memorable jumping around like a wild person, front woman.

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Dark Blue, Metro Gallery, July 2014
I finally saw a Sharkey band.  I was actually at a show for another of his projects, Puerto Rico Flowers, but sadly I left early.   This band, while way different, still allowed me a chance to see Mr Sharkey and company rock out.  This Philly band should be seen by all rock fans.

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Kowloon Walled City, Metro Gallery, July 2014

These guys rock.  They are heavy, heavy, heavy.  This whole bill was stacked, but this set was really special since I don’t have the ability to see Kowloon Walled City that often.

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Neutral Milk Hotel, Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 2014

This was my third experience seeing NMH live.  I saw them at 2640 Space for their return show in 2o13.  I also saw them at DAR in DC earlier this year.  But this set was my favorite.  The set was about the same, but it was the night before I went on vacation with my fiance and her family, and the day before I proposed to her.  It was us and her sister and her sister’s boyfriend, and we had a great time listening to great music on a summer night, while I was still on a high from telling her parents my intentions to marry her, immediately before the show.  (also, another no picture NMH show so I snapped this crap one just because).

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Charanjit Singh, Tropicalia in DC, August 2014

I heard of Charanjit Singh from a friend, and went to a Kennedy Center show that was cut way short due to a transportation issue.  But he was also playing that night at a nightclub, so all was not lost.  He rocked his 1980s seminal album and had the DC crowd dancing.
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Joanna Gruesome, the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC, August 2o14

I saw these Welsh musicians with a stacked bill – which included Potty Mouth and Perfect Pussy.  They did not let me down.  They had an infectious energy that did not let up their whole set.

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Horse Lords, Fields Festival, August 2014

I have seen Horse Lords hypnotic krautrock several times, but this set was my favorite.  Usually they play two long songs, for about 20 to 30 minutes.   This night under the stars in the woods with a lot of the Baltimore arts community for 45 minutes, it was true bliss.

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clipping, Metro Gallery, September 2014

Clipping make noise.  Clipping make raps that make you think.  Both are delivered with a technical precession, both live and on album.  I cant stress enough how noise and hip hop heads need to check them out.

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Placebo, Fillmore Silver Spring, October 2014

This was a dream come true.  I first heard Placebo in 1998, and really got into them in 2001 while living in South Korea and have been a huge fan ever since.  The only chance I had to see them was about five years ago in Baltimore, but that show was cancelled due to illness.  This was worth the wait.  The Fillmore’s sound system rocked that night, and they played a set of old and new tunes.

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Roomrunner, Metro Gallery, October 2014.

Roomrunner is one my favorite bands.  Favorite locals bands.  Favorite live bands.  Just the best.  Their 90s grunge throwback sound has been updated a bit, and their more melodic side was shining through this night.  It was a release show for their excellent J Robbins produced Separate EP, and the hometown crowd of friends and fans went nuts.

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Slowdive, 930 Club in DC, October 2014

I was never a huge Slowdive fan, but went to the show with a friend who had an extra to spare.  And I am glad I did.  I love shoegaze and they did not disappoint.  They were loud, but not overbearingly loud.  The sound was perfect.  So clean, with every element of the music, every guitar texture and vocal, clear and beautiful as can be.  I do not go to the 930 Club that often now, but used to go quite a bit; and I think this set stacks up with almost anything I had seen there.

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Riff Raff, Baltimore Soundstage, October 2014

This was my second time seeing Riff Raff.  It almost could have been the worst thing of the year.  Riff Raff’s plane was late, causing the openers to have to stay on for three hours (the crowd was booing, they were restless).  He played a short set (30 or so minutes) but he put a lot of energy into it, and it seemed like he was actually rapping more of his lyrics than he did the first time I saw him.  It was a party for sure, but his set was almost a warm up for the party that was Waka Flocka.  Whatever it was, I had a lot of fun; possibly due to the fact that his album has been out for a while and I am a fan of all of the songs that he rapped.

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Yusuf, Tiny Desk Concert, October 2014

I finally got to see Cat Stevens aka Yusuf live.  He played four songs, two old and two new.  I was able to say hi to him afterwards, shake his hand, and get my CD signed by him.  It was a day of pure elation.