[Please refer to Vol. 59 for the introductory paragraph.]
1. Lower – Bastard Tactics (Radio K)
Seek Warmer Climes was a restless and unforgiving record that found Lower making huge strides and revealing a widescreen ambition. “Bastard Tactics” was one of the standout moments and a song that suggested the band was in search of something more. Radio K let the band invade its studios and filmed them as they tore the subtly foreboding “Bastard Tactics” to shreds.
2. Perfect Pussy (Pitchfork)
No band has meant more to this site than Perfect Pussy. No band has been covered on this site more than Perfect Pussy. Why? Time plays a factor; the band was just starting to emerge when the site was just starting. Perfect Pussy’s politics match up with what this site strives to enforce either implicitly or explicitly. Their music exists on a spectrum that this site was built to support and the band readily embraces a DIY ethos that this site was built to celebrate. They’ve become one of the most divisive bands of the last several years and incited a staggering amount of vitriol over policies built off of an empathetic foundation. Vocalist Meredith Graves has emerged as one of the stronger voices in a variety of things that can no longer be neglected and has penned some of the most memorable lyrics of the past two years. While a lot of these statements are extremely subjective, one thing isn’t: this band lives for the live setting. No matter how battered they are mentally or physically, no matter how much adversity they’re (somewhat inexplicably) forced to face, and no matter how downright exhausted they are, one thing never changes: they transform into extremes of themselves after all of their amps are up and running. Graves may be on the verge of losing her voice because of her repeatedly public exorcisms (which are often violent) of extremely personal information while on stage and things may sound like their threatening to fall apart at any given second but that’s part of what makes the band fascinating. There’s a palpable sense of danger and uncertainty that the band conjures up while they’re on whatever stage they’re given and, no matter how rough things get, they’ve never failed to come out of the other side grinning through their collective grimace, that much stronger for the battle. Their marathon set for Pitchfork Paris? No exception.
3. Strand of Oaks – Mirage Year (Out of Town Films)
Strand of Oaks’ Heal was as immersive and elegiac as just about anything to have been released over the past 12 months. Easily the band’s finest work to date, it saw them expanding on early promise in leaps and bounds. “Mirage Year” was one of the most startlingly gorgeous moments on an already unreasonably strong album. Out Of Town Films set up camp and turned their lenses on the band as they set to work on delivering a jaw-dropping performance that only gets stronger as it goes, with everything culminating in a breathtaking guitar freakout that brings the song to a smoky close. Add in some top-tier cinematography and the end result’s not only inexplicably moving- it’s also one of the best live clips this series has ever had in its ranks. Watch it below.
4. Ought (Pitchfork)
Was there any record more unexpected this year than Ought’s More Than Any Other Day? More importantly, how many were as brilliant? For just about 46 minutes, the band fearlessly collapses the connections between post-punk, electro-pop, noise-punk, and brit-pop while exploring the lightly-treaded territories that best suit their whimsy. More than just about any record, More Than Any Other Day sounded like a mission statement that was shot straight through with youthful abandon, disregard for conventionalism, and a slightly askew professionalism. Endearingly spastic and undeniably strange, their set for Pitchfork Paris becomes hypnotic and nearly impossible to evade once it’s in motion. Piercing and precise, the band’s already shockingly close to a willfully weird perfection.
5. La Sera – Hour of the Dawn (Last Call With Carson Daly)
In 2013, Mikal Cronin made his name known by virtue of releasing the perfect summer album in MCII. La Sera came dangerously close to achieving the same thing this year with the towering Hour of the Dawn. Last Call With Carson Daly has been the most music-centric late night network television program going for some time now, allotting multiple-song performances to their featured artists on a regular basis. As was previously mentioned, even in crowded company, La Sera’s stood out as one of the best the show’s ever seen. “Hour of the Dawn” is the second of the three songs to be featured in one episode- and in this setting, it comes vibrantly alive.
[Due to some technical issues, this video can only currently be seen here.]