The end is near… Of 2015! And my top 30 favorite sets of 2015. Here are the last 10.
This show is on the list for a few reasons. This was probably my 14th or 15th time seeing this Baltimore group since their formation several years ago, and this was to be my (and everyone’s) last time to see them. Their UN Fest (an excellent festival in Baltimore) set was advertised as their last, and I was able to experience the loudness and wild crowd, one last time.
The second set on this list was Pleasure Leftists opening for Chameleons VOX, at Metro Gallery. I have been a fan of this Midwest post-punk group for a while, and it was nice to finally see them live. I loved the singer’s dance moves.
The next one was something random for me, Sun Ra Arkestra at the Ottobar. I was hooked on their weirdo jazz, and loved every minute. The pissed off looking dude was my favorite performer of their raucous set.
This was one of the Wildhoney sets I saw. This noisy group gets better and better. This was their first set with a new guitar player.
Expert Alterations are some nice dudes and local indie pop heroes. This was their debut album release show. I made it there just in time to see them (performing with a member of Wildhoney as a quartet) give an inspired and impassioned performance.
I saw the Polyphonic Spree for a third time. This time I had a front table seat at a sit down venue. The Spree tore it up for two sets; one being their first album in it’s entirety, the second a greatest hits and covers and rarities set. I love the Spree and this performance further cemented my love.
I have seen Wolf Eyes a few times now. This was the weirdest of all of the sets. Which is saying a lot for the mavens of Trip Metal. This was almost a jazz set, and I think it was mostly improv. I could be wrong, but it didn’t sound like their new LP.
Wing Dam is one of my favorite bands. They always rock. They played Cocoon which is my favorite song by them and one I think they had not played the last couple times I saw them. They also had the best shirts (Miley Cyrus ones that can be seen in the picture below) and I added one to my collection.
At number 9 is DC band Paint Branch. This show was in a library basement. They are another band I have been into for a few years and finally saw. I think they are the new America (the band) with their harmonies and interplay (guitar and vocals).
The last of my favorite sets was actually tonight. And no I am not just throwing them on here. I felt like i might really dig it so I saved a slot, just in case. Good thing I did because the unseasonable heat and a packed basement in DC with one of my favorite singers belting out her old and new songs was too excellent. I had heard they were gonna break up, now it seems like they wont. Good, I want to see them again…
Until 2016 (and the one last show I have this year, or maybe two) my friends!
All images in all show pictures by me
Friends Records is a label that features releases from Baltimore artists (plus one release from Meth Dad, a non-Baltimore musician). They just celebrated their fifth anniversary (which is where the picture of label head Jimmy was taken jamming to Microkingdom on night 1 of the festivities). Friends Records is just that, people who are friends (and also make great music). Over the last five years, they have put out rock and hip hop and jazz and anything you can think of.
I am not going to link to all of the artists pages, just to Friends Records Bandcamp, where you can find these and other tunes. I will talk about each of the songs/artists in the tracklist.
Edit: I am adding in label head Jimmy’s comments on each release.
Tracklist (quotes are Jimmy MacMillan):
- Chester Endersby Gwazda – Globes: I have seen Chester a few times, and he is always a blast. Shroud is a great album and I find my self revisiting it quite often.
Chester has been such a big part of the label as far as production goes. He recorded more than a handful of our releases and has always been an excellent friend, resource and all around man of inspiration. He has new material coming out with Outer Spaces in 2015!
- INEVERYROOM – EM E GEE: I am not sure what happened to them. I believe this is one of the oldest releases on this mix.
INEVERYROOM is Chase O’Hara and Amy Reid … became Chase N’ Amy for a minute and eventually they started Chiffon together. Our most limited release is a INEVERYROOM/Lands And Peoples split cassette which was our 2nd cassette release. We only ever made 23 copies for a tour that they did. I’ve completely worn out my only copy and it doesn’t exist digitally. FRCS002 RIP. Long live Chiffon!
- Celebration – I Will Not Fall: I love Celebration, and singer Katrina Ford. Their music is beautiful and is almost transcendent live.
For me, there is no almost about it. In 2009 Celebration started releasing songs and videos for Hello Paradise – Electric Tarot in a digital format only. For the first year that the label existed, Brett Yale, the other half of Friends Records, had been emailing the band, offering up our services, on a regular basis. One night he got an email asking if we could all sit down. We went over together and before we went in we sat in the car and talked about how weird it was that we were meeting people that we didn’t know really and seeing if we could work together. Up until that point we had only ever worked with people that either one or the other of us had known already. So we went into Katrina and Sean’s house. We spent about 3 hours sitting around a kitchen table making 6 great new friends. 4 years later I still find myself sitting at that kitchen table listening to and telling stories and jokes and talking shop. You really couldn’t ask for a more complimentary band to associate ourselves with. They brought a lot of attention to a lot of other bands just by working with us and for that I am forever grateful. They ruled the second half of 2014 and I don’t see 2015 being any different.
- Blacksage – Sexsomnia: Pure sex in music form. One of the best things I have heard in a while. Electronic jams for days.
Josie and Drew don’t sound like Baltimore to me. They don’t sound like anywhere. Their music is all encompassing and blocks out any light from the outside world when you play it. I know that they already have some new Blacksage material in the works but Drew Scott just dropped The Drewcifer Tape last month and Josie is hard at work on both Softeyes and her solo work. They’re both fountains of awesome shit right now. Get a cup and try to catch some while its flowing!
- Moss of Aura – Slick: Future Islands synth man rides the solo jams.
Looking to reissue Wading in LP (it’s sold out currently) and we have been talking about a cassette boxset rather than individual reissues of his 6 (!) albums again. I don’t think there is any movement in the Moss Of Aura department at the moment but he is out setting the world on fire with his friends.
- Ke$ha – Die Young (Meth Dad Remix): Meth Dad dropped an awesome cassette of remixes for Friends Records and earned the distinction of being the first person not from Baltimore to be released by the label.
I’ve talked about Meth Dad aka Tyler Walker recently. Dude changed the way that I listen to pop music in a huge way. He just put out a remix of Taylor Swifts “shake it off” on his soundcloud. While I would never advocate for Swift, Meth Dads remix is outstanding and should be played in every coke commercial and New Year’s Eve party ever.
- Flock of Dimes – Prison Bride: Jenn From Wye Oak’s excellent side project. I hope for an album all the time.
You and me both. Jenn always surprises me: This year I saw her take part in the Gene Clark tribute at Floristree and 9:30 Club. They were 2 of the best live performances that I’ve ever seen. I don’t expect it to be topped ever for me. Then I drove up to Lancaster and watched her and Andy move a whole room of people as Wye Oak. I think that they’re on top of their game with their latest album and doing the most interesting music since the Monarch days. Then there was her Flock Of Dimes performances at Fields Fest and at the Horse Lords release show at the Crown. She had really secured her sound as Flock of Dimes and much like Microkingdom, every time I see her play its my new favorite time that she has played. Total pro with a heart of gold.
- Raindeer – Monster: Raindeer and the chill jam masters. Go see them.
Look for a new Raindeer release very very soon! The set that they played at the recent anniversary show floored me. They’ve come so far as a band since the lineup change.
- Vadya – Out to sea: I saw Vadya in a very intimate setting (at a Mobtown Microshow) recently, and was impressed with her song writing, and slow synth jams.
Brett always had a space reserved for Liz on our roster. It has been 3-4 years now of waiting for “take me out to see” but it was well worth it.
- Height with Friends – Mustard Seed: Height is pretty much king of hip hop.
This song is particular is my jam. Height is the most prolific artist that we work with. He has put out 5 full length albums since we started the label 5 years ago and he has another one in the chamber about to drop real soon. We have been trying our hardest to keep up with him. Look out for his tour later this month.
- Future Islands – The Ink Well: Future Islands just had one hell of a year. I got this vinyl at the release show for it.
This record was the reason that the label was started in the first place. In October 2009, Brett was interviewing Future Islands, drinking beers on a roof, when they started talking about how much they wanted to put out a split with their friends from college, Lonnie Walker. Brett said he would do it and the first light of the label went on. Over the next 2 months we ended up making plans and laying groundwork. In late December 2009 we had our 3rd of 3 Sunday brunches at Morning Edition on Patterson Park (RIP) and decided to go ahead with the idea. We had decided that if we were going to do it that it wouldn’t just be the one release but we would do 3 releases to start (weekends and Sri aurobindo and the f.i/lonnie walker split). Almost immediately the f.i. split got postponed and by early January we decided to release Height With Friends “Bed Of Seeds” in the meantime. We have gone on to work with them every chance that we get. The success that they’ve found came from the hardest hustling and grinding that I’ve ever seen in this business and it couldn’t have happened to a group of kinder and more deserving dudes. I love that they still rep and support us whenever they can and I love continuing to support them. I got to see them live in New York for the Letterman taping this year and you knew right away that they had just changed everything. I also got to see them turn The Avenue in Hampden into a sea of people this summer. Monday I fly out to Boston to follow them for a short run of dates with Wing Dam.
- Wing Dam – Back Float: I probably go on too much about Wing Dam, but I cant help it; they rock. I think they are making the timeless jams.
Speak of the devils. One night ,3 or more years ago, Austin And Sara came into my store and wanted to put their cassettes up for consignment. Austin was Wing Dam and Sara was Which Magic. It was and still is so much fun to watch them grow as artists. They joined forces with eachother and then with former Lower Dens and sometime Snails drummer Abe Sanders. Abe is a hell of a dude. I first met him when he directed a Moss Of Aura video for us and then really got to know eachother a bit better on the Snails tour in early 2013. They’ve kept the candle lit in the Friends Records house a lot this past year, getting all kinds of attention, press and year end list mentions for their most excellent “Shifter Bliss” record.
- Weekends – Basement Fuzz: Too bad they are not a band anymore, but at least I saw them twice last year. I hope this two piece reforms, but geography is making that impossible at the moment.
Look out for Adam Lempel releases this year but no more Weekends for a while. Was glad to see them end it properly at the Ottobar a few weekends ago.
- Sri Aurobindo – Eyes: Old school psychedelic, fuzzed out madness. I am not sure what is going on with them, but I did enjoy their music and seeing them live a few times.
Sri Aurobindo RIP. The band called it quits this past year when one of the members moved away. Mike Romano who played bass/guitar in Sri as well as on the first Vincent Black Shadow record has a new band named Cryptid. They played their first show at the Anniversary shows. The band features Mike, Elijah Forrest, Aaron Estes and Spencer Adams. Expect to hear something sometime.
- the Snails – Coconut Boat: Side project. Members of Future Islands. Saxes. Snail suits.
This is the most fun thing that I’ve done ever. We put out their debut double 7″ and then proceeded to go on tour with them for 8 dates. Most fun. Ever.
- Secret Mountains – Dead Sea: This one saddens me. They release their excellent Rainer LP and then go away due to members moving. Oh well, I at least saw them once in DC. They could have been one of my all time favorites… So good.
- Jacober – New Soda: Dope Body drummer solo shenanigans. This album is fun from start to finish.
Dave Jacober for President! The dude can do no wrong. So chill and so right on with everything he does. He has 2 new solo albums prepped. Both radically different from eachother, both amazing. Keep an eye out for those.
- Microkingdom – God’s Total Woman: Are they jazz? I love them. So I guess I love jazz. They always put on a hell of a show.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a diehard Microkingdom fanatic. I know that I say that every time that I see them is my favorite time but their set on the first night of the anniversary shows was the best thing that I’ve ever seen them do. Look out for the new LP officially getting a release on Valentine’s Day 2015.
(photo by me at Friends Records Fifth Anniversary show Day 1)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
December – snow, playoffs, fireplaces, Christmas… And end of the year lists. This is the first of three that I will be posting. Each will be 10 releases, LPs or EPs, grouped together in a particular way. The first list is my favorite (not best of, I hate that term) releases from Baltimore artists in 2014. In addition, I made a mix that can be heard on Mixcloud, featuring one track from each release:
WIldhoney – Seventeen Forever: First up is the newest EP from shoegazers Wildhoney. Three slabs of walls of sound, mastered by Jake Reid of Screen Vinyl Image fame.
Wye Oak – Shriek: Wye Oak changed it all up. No longer did guitars rule this duo. The old formula was vocals plus guitar plus drummer who is also playing bass parts as he drums. The new formula was singer playing bass with a drummer who is also playing lead parts on synth. This new synthpop sound really works for them, and I spent an excellent evening at the 930 Club this year watching them do their new thing.
Mt Royal – Mt Royal EP: Anything Katrina Ford is on is excellent. Mt Royal’s debut is not any different. I had patiently waited for this for a long time after seeing them perform a few times.
Future Islands – Singles: This could almost be called the year of Future Islands. They went from local darlings to one of the biggest indie bands in the planet. Their Letterman appearance shouldn’t need to be mentioned – their music does the speaking for them. This release followed their trajectory of pushing their envelopes with lyrical composition, vocal styling, soundscapes and other synth goodness, and their ever steady bass anchoring it all together.
Silk Rhodes – Silk Rhodes: This release is pure funk. Disco, funk, soul… It all exists in the same realm for these two Baltimore artists. This is extremely danceable. I have not had the pleasure of catching them live (versus every other artist on this list, at least once, if not several times) but hope to remedy that in 2015.
Wing Dam – Shifter: Wing Dam followed up their last classic with another classic. I had already heard a lot of these songs live, and instantly dug it. I was fortunate to be allowed to sit in the producer booth while they recorded a couple of these, and for that I am eternally grateful. It was quite the experience and it was a lot of fun to hear the finished product, and see some of the recording process first-hand. They are one of the funnest bands to catch live, and some of the nicest people around.
Hive Bent – dyatlov: Two piece that crush. Heavy heavy heavy. I don’t have much more to say other than I love Hive Bent. Go grab their newest EP, you wont regret it.
Multicult – Variable Impulse: Multicult are another great band on record and live. The on one hand look to Shellac for inspiration and on the other surpass them in terms of energy.
Roomrunner – Seperate: Roomrunner’s newest EP is a bit of a departure for them sonically. This time around they recorded with J Robbins, who helped the record catch a slightly different groove than their previous (and excellent) releases. They still look towards the 1990s, but this time you can feel a variety of influences creep in.
Horse Lords – Hidden Cities: One of the most intriguing bands to see live. Their rythum cant be beat. I have been mesmerized in a trance every time I have seen them. This record does a good job of captuing their vibe, but if you haven’t seen them live, do yourself a favor and check them out.
If only I was usually this prolific! Three posts within a day? Unheard of around these parts. I told myself I was going to write more, and then I only post once in January. Once. Oh well, I now have to play catch up, as I went to a few concerts since then, and definitely have been enjoying new music.
I wont go into too many details, but I promised someone a ride to Baltimore and I had to deliver. I was beat. I was starting to feel sick. But I sucked it up and got my ass to the Ottobar. Because, what can only be labeled a “chill rager” was about to happen.
I got there early and had a bit of time to kill. I grabbed a beer and a spot near the stage. The venue was extremely empty, and after a slight delay, it was showtime. Goblin Mold was up first. They had been on my radar for a little while (after touring with Wing Dam) but this was my first time experiencing them live. The band featured two guitarists (one that sang and one that looked barely old enough to buy smokes) and a drummer. They played mellow tracks, masterfully sewn together with quick guitar phrases and a steady beat.
Next up was Wing Dam. This was my third time seeing them, but the first time at a proper rock club (both other times on outdoor stages at music fests; ScapeScape and Hopscotch). They played a set of (almost) all new material (the exception being one of my personal favorites, Cocoon) that should be getting recorded for their next release over the next few months.
Small Apartments played third. This spinoff band (of Free Electric State) played a fun set. I do not know their music all that well, but enjoyed what I heard. By this point the crowd was getting packed, and they seemed to also enjoy the rocking tunes.
Last up was Weekends. I was ready. I hadn’t seen this fun two-piece since a show at former DIY spot in DC back in 2011. They were just what I remembered. Fuzzed out rock, played by two guys taking turns swapping singing, guitar playing, and drumming. The crowd loved it and sang along to their signature delayed vocals. I was in bliss. I left the venue glad I made a promise to give someone a ride, or I might have skipped out on an awesome music experience with some of Baltimore’s finest.
(pictures by me)
In chronological order, one image for each of my 20 favorite live music sets of 2013. All images are from my Instagram account.
1/29 – Quicksand at Black Cat
2/9 – the Evens at 2640 Space
4/18 – Dead Mellotron at Club K
4/25 – GOAT at Black Cat Backstage
5/22 – Future Islands (mainly unreleased songs 90 minute set) at Metro Gallery
5/29 – Roomrunner (record release show) at Metro Gallery
6/7 – Celebration at Metro Gallery
6/30 – Locrian at Metro Gallery
7/27 – Potty Mouth at La Casa
9/1 – the Art Department (surprise set) at ScapeScape
9/5 – Pharmakon at Hopscotch
9/5 – Merzbow and Wolf Eyes (surprise collab set) at Hopscotch
9/6 – Magik Markers (improv set) Three Lobed Records Day Party at Hopscotch
9/7 – Wing Dam SPAZZSCOTCH Day Party at Hopscotch
9/7 – BAMBARA DAY-DREAM Day Party at Hopscotch
9/7 – Matmos at Hopscotch
10/2 – Dan Deacon (brand new songs set) at the Crown
10/11 – Neutral Milk Hotel at 2640 Space
11/13 – Chelsea Light Moving at the Ottobar
12/1 – Animal Collective at 930 Club
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