Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Thee Oh Sees

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. III

The first two parts of this four-part series shedding light on some of the finest live videos to see the light of the day over 2017’s first three months largely focused on single song takes, with a few two-song performances for good measure. The latter two of this series turns the attention to full sessions. Part three, specifically, focuses on long takes of these sessions encompassed in a single video, an area that places like KEXP — who are featured here multiple times — have wisely made their calling card. All of the performances and bands featured in this third installment of this review are worthy of celebration. So, as always, get excited, try to keep calm, lean in, hit play, and Watch This.

PART III

1. Car Seat Headrest (KEXP)
2. PWR BTTM (NPR)
3. Sad13 (WKNC)
4. Cloud Nothings (KEXP)
5. Mannequin Pussy (Audiotree)
6. Hazel English (Rough Trade)
7. Alvvays (CBC Music)
8. Big Thief (NPR)
9. The Spirit of the Beehive (WKNC)
10. Jeff Rosenstock (Little Elephant)
11. Crying (Audiotree)
12. Priests (PressureDrop.tv)
13. Lee Fields & The Expressions (KEXP)
14. Horse Jumper of Love (Audiotree)
15. Angel Olsen (KEXP)
16. The Regrettes (PressureDrop.tv)
17. Thee Oh Sees (KEXP)
18. Mall Walk (PressureDrop.tv)
19. Los Campesinos! (KEXP)
20. Fai Baba (KEXP)
21. Terry Malts (PressureDrop.tv)
22. Haley Bonar (KEXP)
23. Let’s Eat Grandma (KEXP)
24. Valgeir Sigurðsson & Jodie Landau (KEXP)
25. Explosions In The Sky (Moshcam)

Young Jesus – Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage (EP Review)

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As another week begins, another slate of new streams finds their way out into the world. DonCat, Public Eye, Joyce Manor, Lydia Loveless, Notches, James Edge and the Mindstep, Midnight Faces, Zula, Swoon Lake, and Naked Giants all unveiled strong tracks. There were also impressive music videos from Teen Suicide and Dennis Callaci as well as formidable full streams from Thee Oh Sees and Puppy. While those proved to be fascinating titles, site favorites Young Jesus secured themselves another headline spot with the surprise release of the Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage EP, which sees bandleader John Rossiter continuing the influx of new material that was promised with last month’s extraordinary “1“.

In keeping with the pattern set by “1”, all of the song titles are assigned numbers and pick up after “2“. Don’t be fooled by the chronological system, each of these four tracks are imbued with the singular personality that’s defined the band’s past few releases. A recurrent thread throughout that past work has been an intangible sadness that finds intriguing ways to manifest. The most direct examples of that trait tend to be Rossiter’s lyricism, which tends to evoke an empathetic, even contemplative sense of basic understanding.

Right from the outset of Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage, those characteristics are in full effect. “3” is the kind of genre-defying slow-burner that’s become a Rossiter specialty, melancholic and memorable. “Act like I’m seeing with my eyes, act like I’m bleeding all the time. I’m doing fine, I’m doing fine.” is the line that closes out “3” and one of Neverending Catlaogue of Total Garbage‘s most defining moments. It’s simultaneously an unfiltered look at the fractured psyche of the central narrator and a therapeutic release.

While “4” and “6” both sustain the EP’s sense of trajectory, they’re slightly more experimental affairs (the latter, especially so). Even with that experimentation, there are moments of bruised romanticism, underscoring the potential value of this entire project on a grand scale. “5” may be the most traditional inclusion of Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage and the first of the new recordings to incorporate any sort of percussion. The song also manages to be one of the EP’s most direct moments and still retains the EP’s sense of poetry.

All told, Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage is a thing of beauty. As a reaffirmation of Young Jesus’ innate artistic ability, it’s heartening. As a continuation of a standalone project, the EP is fascinating. As its own entity, it’s surprisingly essential. Antithetical to its title at every turn, Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage winds up being a perfect example of 2016’s unexpected vibrancy. Don’t let this surprise release become a glossed-over footnote, provide it with the investment it deserves and walk away rewarded.

Listen to Neverending Catalogue of Total Garbage below and pick it up here.

Young Jesus – Void As Lob (Single Review, Live Video)

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Wednesday proved to be exceptionally busy and just as fruitful, unloading a whole host of excellent material in all three major categories. For single songs, there were strong new offerings from Leapling, Dories, Feels, Dogbreth, Vacation, Nils Frahm, Big Jesus, Broncho, No Joy, Haux, Iji, American Monoxide, Look Mexico, Jenny Hval, Cedar Spring MotelThee Oh Sees, and VHS. As if that wasn’t enough there were also great clips from Honus Honus, Dentist, and Cloud Becomes Your Hand as well as impressive full streams from Clique, Karen Meat, and New England Beach Snobs.

All of those titles are worthy of healthy investment but it was a single release from last week that slipped through the coverage cracks to earn today’s feature spot. Occasionally those gaps in coverage are caused by a clerical error, occasionally they’re caused by the wait for an announcement, sometimes (like in the case of this post), it’s a little bit of both. Last week Young Jesus released their latest single, Void As Lob, which pairs live staple “Baked Goods” with the more stream-of-conscious “Hinges”. Earlier today, they announced their Wisconsin date for their tour with fellow site favorites POPE, providing a perfect opportunity to bring up their latest release.

Void As Lob is the band’s first single since last year’s Grow/Decompose, which rightfully earned a place in this site’s Best Albums of 2015 list. The new single continues an astonishing winning streak that started with their breakout effort, Home (which remains a very real Album of the Decade candidate) , and has spanned four years, a cross-country move, a lineup shift, several tours, and an unpredictable rollercoaster of other peaks and valleys. “Baked Goods” and “Hinges”, in that respect, could have easily served as a victory lap but opt for a more challenging approach that makes it abundantly clear that Young Jesus is committed to perpetual growth.

The band’s guitarist/vocalist and principal songwriter (and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor) John Rossiter revealed that both “Baked Goods” and “Hinges” were the most personal he’s allowed himself to be in his songwriting in some time and that honesty’s evidenced and enhanced by his impassioned delivery, which cuts a touch more sharply than usual.

“Baked Goods” opens up the two-song collection with a narrative that invokes characters from the band’s past as it looks to the future, flashing a renewed emphasis on obtuse storytelling that’s punctuated by acute detail. Musically, it’s a sprawling odyssey that complements the song’s thematic structure to a tee, playing perfectly into Young Jesus’ penchant to defy genres with an instrumental tapestry that pulls from enough sources to sound legitimately singular.

“Hinges” sees the band continuing on in that function, only this time opting to scale back Rossiter’s songwriting flourishes in favor of something more unflinchingly immediate and bravely direct. After a somber piano figure opens the song, “Hinges” evolves into one of the band’s most impressive songs to date. Quiet and heartbreaking, “Hinges” hits its culmination with one simple line: I am ashamed to believe in myself. It’s a line that hits with enough blunt force to knock the wind out of just about anyone, all at once amplifying a host of darkly intimate moments.

As Void As Lob dies out in “Hinges” final moments, which exclusively focus on personal disintegration, the entire release feels like its much more than just two songs. In just over nine minutes, Young Jesus issue a searing statement of intent. Now that they’re firmly settled into their current iteration in their current home, they’re ready to look forward to the future, even if that requires tearing themselves apart. It’s a bold gambit but they’re talented enough to exercise total control and that control pays off beautifully. Void As Lob may only be comprised of two songs but it confidently stands as one of the most exquisite releases of 2016.

Listen to Void As Lob below and pick it up from the band here. Below the bandcamp embed, watch a live clip of the band performing “Baked Goods” last fall.

Lucy Dacus – I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore (Stream)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: With the site now entering emergency year-end catch-up mode thanks to the cruel, mocking nature of time, tonight’s trio of posts will simply be short reviews of the song(s) in the headline(s) and an accompanying list of tracks that deserve to be heard.]

Sometimes a song comes along from an artist you’ve never heard of and lays you flat. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of those songs for me, a determined exploration of identity from Lucy Dacus that’s laced with a self-flagellating venom. Even in the midst of its own internal cruelty, though, its aspirations are commendable and showcase a startling drive. Singular, memorable, and incredibly endearing, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was one of the brightest musical moments of the past several months. If it’s any indication of what Dacus has in store, the songwriter may just emerge with one of 2016’s most celebrated collections.

Listen to “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” below and keep an eye on this site for more from Dacus in the future. Underneath the embed, explore a list of great songs to have appeared over the course of the last several months.

The Weasel, Marten Fisher – Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains)
Thee Oh Sees – Fortress
Big Putts – Prism
Copperfox – War Horse
Slow Culture – Hoax
Ulrika Spacek – She’s A Cult
Sudakistan – You And Your Way
Washer – Figure Me Out
Littler – Not My Market
Stardeath and the White Dwarfs – What Keeps You Up At Night
Bryce Dessner – Imagining Buffalo
Mass Gothic – Nice Night
Sioux Falls – Soaked In Sleep
Johnny Gallagher – Two Fists Full
The Besnard Lakes – The Plain Moon
Florist – The Birds Outside Sang
The Starting Line – Anyways
Public Access TV – Here Come The Bells
Pinemen – That Certain Flavour

So Stressed – Apple Hill (Stream)

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Over the course of the year, one format or another has been stuck functioning in catch-up mode. Today, with this post, everything that falls under the regular umbrella coverage will be brought up to the present release cycle. In a way, then, it makes sense that something as blistering and urgent as “Apple Hill” grabs this post’s focus. Even more fitting is the fact that it comes from the first band to be signed to Honor Press, the newly created label of Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves (whose fundamental importance to this site and its continued existence simply can’t be overstated). While all of that will be addressed shortly in greater detail, it wasn’t the only excellent musical offering ushered out into the world over the past week. To that end, just as in the preceding post, a list of full streams and songs that deserve hearing.

Full streams: Miserable Friend’s Thawed, Flawed and Suffering, Pinact’s Stand Still and Rot, Telepathic’s Powers of Ten, Thee Oh Sees’ Mutilator Defeated At Last, Ceremony’s The L-Shaped Man, Holly Miranda’s self-titled, Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense?, God Damn’s Vultures, Weedeater’s Goliathan, Super Unison’s self-titled, and a split from Martha and Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Songs: Ancient Sky’s “Two Lights“, Wild Pink’s “Is This Hotel Haunted“, Cancers’ “Missed“, The Absolute’s “Smile“, Kevin Devine’s “Gießen“, Jaill’s “Got An F“, Methyl Ethel’s “Twilight Driving“, Ecstatic Vision’s “Don’t Kill the Vibe“, Hollow Sunshine’s “Morning Green“, and Sweet John Bloom’s “Next Thing” (which very nearly earned this post’s feature spot). Rounding everything out was Run The Jewels’ strikingly animated clip for Run The Jewels 2 highlight “Early“. Then, of course, there was So Stressed’s hellishly snarling “Apple Hill”, which shows the band greatly expanding on the potential hinted at by their lead-off single “Merv King & the Phantoms“.

“Apple Hill” scales back the feverish tenacity of “Merv King” for something that manages to come off as both more brutal and more refined. Marrying post-punk, noise punk, and one of the more sinister breeds of hardcore definitely isn’t an easy look to pull off convincingly but “Apple Hill” wields that formula like a weapon. Brimming with an astonishing confidence and unerring conviction, it immediately transforms itself into something undeniable. Starkly unforgiving and shockingly immediate, it lays some deeply compelling groundwork for the band’s upcoming record, the exquisitely titled The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. It’s a deceptively intuitive piece of songwriting that revels in its own pent-up frustration and, finally, the shards of cathartic release embedded throughout “Apple Hill”. The bass gets buried in fuzz, the drums zero in on the instruments intrinsic ability to become propulsive, the guitar line throws convention to the wind, and the vocals take the whole thing to a fascinating, wild-eyed realm. By the song’s end, So Stressed have created an immersive world that’s as punishing as it is intriguing; an unexpectedly strong effort that sets up The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. Give into its whirlwind ferocity or get the hell out of the way.

Listen to “Apple Hill” below and pre-order The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art from Honor Press here.

Connor La Mue – Stargazer (Stream)

The Sleepwalkers II

I’ve come to regard a lot of my friends as family over the course of my time playing in bands, booking shows, and documenting as much of Wisconsin’s music scene as I possibly could. Two of the bands I made really early, meaningful connections with were The Sleepwalkers and recent Texas Is Funny signees The Midwestern Charm; two bands that have been intrinsically connected since their formations. Both acts have shared members for years, one of which being Connor La Mue (who fronts The Midwestern Charm and is The Sleepwalkers’ bassist), who has quietly been releasing solo demos under his own name. One of them, “Stargazer”, is among the best La Mue’s ever written. Before going too in-depth on that, though, it’s worth noting that yet again there’s been a lot of incredible music to appear over the past two months. Among those songs: Thee Oh Sees’ blissed-out psych-punk tune “The Ceiling“, Algiers’ punishing, soulful “Black Eunnuch“, Braid’s propulsive “Because I Am“, Damien Jurado’s magnetically weary “Oh The Land Blues“, and Ancient Sky’s massive, brooding “Garbage Brain“. Continuing to rack up the great songs count were Tracey Thorn’s gentle “Let Me In“, Michael Rault’s breezy psych-pop throwback “Lover’s Lie“, Ryn Weaver’s enchanting ambient pop piece “The Fool“, Blanck Mass’ unrelenting “Detritus“, and Tim Kasher’s sprawling folk-tinged Chris Farren cover “Half Full“. Now, with all of those accounted for, it’s time to refocus on the punchy, lo-fi micro-punk of “Stargazer”.

La Mue’s built himself a consistently impressive discography but hasn’t gone the full solo route since his formative years in music. Now, he’s grown restless, with the attention surrounding his work at an all-time high. That restlessness seeps its way into “Stargazer” which is, all at once, the shortest, most immediate, most bruising, and most freeing thing he’s committed to any sort of recording. Built around a drum track, La Mue fully indulges a 90’s influence that may owe a bigger debt to Guided By Voices than his work with either the Charm or The Sleepwalkers may have suggested. Raw, exhilarating, and bold, “Stargazer” hinges on the repeated mantra of “Do you ever wonder where we came from?” betraying its creators sense of wonderment to a fascinating degree. When the solo comes sweeping in to lead “Stargazer” to its rousing finish, it’s a genuinely stunning moment. Gritty and absurdly promising, “Stargazer” seems to point out, against all odds, that La Mue- after around 10 years of making and releasing music- is only just getting started.

Listen to “Stargazer” below and keep an eye on this site for more from La Mue’s other projects.

Bruising – Think About Death (Stream)

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Any band that’s origin story can be traced back to a Perfect Pussy t-shirt’s going to be one that will have at least some of my attention. That’s getting a little ahead of schedule, though, so we’ll come back to that later. Just as all of the preceding posts have done, this one will start with 10 tracks well worth hearing. Among them are two tracks from Thee Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer from both his main vehicle (“Withered Hand“) and his new(er) Damaged Bug project (“Jet In Jungle“)- both of which sound like some of the songwriter’s most vital material yet. Slow Down Molasses indulged their atmospheric sensibilities with “Home“, Protomartyr turned in their most biting lyric track to date with “Blues Festival“, and Spray Paint continued to sound downright feral with “Day of the Rope“. Miniboone unveiled a surprisingly punchy indie pop tune in “Any Other City“, Your Old Droog unleashed a masterclass in throwback hip-hop with “Hidden Persuaders“, and Honeyblood turned vicious in “The Black Cloud“. Rounding everything out was Oddissee’s typically inviting “Belong To The World” and Paul de Jong’s typically inventive “Hollywald“. All ten are worth attempts at total immersion but the focus for this particular post falls on yet another duo: Bruising.

The duo, as mentioned above, formed in a Leeds nightclub after guitarist/vocalist Naomi Baguley saw Ben Lewis wearing a Perfect Pussy shirt (the band this site has covered to exhaustive detail). If that meet-cute scenario wasn’t enough, the band they formed now has a makeshift home in site favorites Art Is Hard, a label that’ll be releasing the second volume of their excellent Family Portrait series on May 11. Topping everything off, the song they’re contributing to the series- “Think About Death”- is precisely the kind of song this site was created to celebrate. Clearly clinging to a DIY ethos while bringing in elements of twee, powerpop, basement punk, and shoegaze to create something that feels new and exhilarating, the band’s latched on to a kind of near-magic that’ll serve them extraordinarily well going forward. As ambitious as it is easygoing, “Think About Death” is an absolute triumph for a band that seems to have already figured out exactly who they are what the want to achieve. One climactic moment crashes in after another, with gentle vocals floating over impassioned drumming and urgent guitarwork, weaving one of the year’s most captivating tapestries. Only a few songs into their career, Bruising have already emerged as one of the most exciting young bands of today- a point driven emphatically home by “Think About Death”.

Listen to “Think About Death” below and pre-order Family Portrait Pt. II from Art Is Hard here.

Waxahatchee – Under A Rock (Music Video)

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After the Downies review and accompanying round-up ran yesterday, the plan that was laid out in the introductory paragraphs was set in stone. Then today happened. Over the past few months, the sources where I turn to for material increased- as did the amount of emails I’ve been receiving. Every day, I’m finding roughly twenty things I wish I could dwell on for paragraphs. Contesting that desire is the harsh reality of time- so a few adjustments are going to be made. I currently have more than 250 songs from 2015 to link on the site so I’ll be providing lists of 75 (and one of 25) until that number’s brought to 0. It’ll be an additional part of what- as of tonight- will be regular daily coverage of new content. By the end of next week, things should be back to their normal pace.  It’s been a difficult, transitional time but it killed me to force the site into relative inactivity over the months following the 2014: A Year’s Worth of Memories project (and once again, I’d like to take the time out to sincerely thank all of that series’ incredible contributors- I’m sincerely grateful for your work).

Getting back to what matters, the material to have surfaced today has only reaffirmed the fact 2015 has been an absurdly strong time for music. For full-lengths, there was a powerful self-titled from American Wrestlers and a feral 7″ from recent Don Giovanni act Pinkwash. Music videos had even more to offer with Kopecky unveiling a charming lyric clip for “Quarterback“, Crushed Beak’s astonishingly lovely “History“,  TOPS’ unnerving animated adventure in “Driverless Passenger“, BETS’ artful black-and-white tryst in “Jenny“, and Froth’s blistering “Postcard Radio” (which very nearly earned today’s feature spot). Most of all, though, there were songs.  Site favorites Speedy Ortiz raised expectations for their forthcoming record even higher with the gnarled “Puffer“, Total Babes (who feature Jason Gercyz of Cloud Nothings) unleashed the spiky “Heydays“, and Slonk Donkerson reveled in a heavy sludge influence on “Painted From Memory“.  Death Valley Girls looked forward to warmer weather with “Summertime“, Hip Hatchet wove a delicate folk tapestry with “David’s Wolves“, while Meg Baird followed a similar pattern with “Counterfeiters“. Wave & Rome demonstrated an increasingly tired genre’s potential with “Across the Map” while The National demonstrated their propensity for an elegant consistency via the Sharon Van Etten-assisted “Sunshine On My Back“. Rounding everything off was Yazan’s rousing “Tell Me Baby” and Creative Adult’s hypnotically bleak “Ring Around the Room“.

While every single one of those is worth some level of investment, there’s just something about seeing your friends having a good time that elicits an inexplicably great feeling that’s impossible to sideline. Which is precisely why Waxahatchee‘s new video for “Under A Rock” is falling under tonight’s most meticulous level of scrutiny (and most thorough level of affection). I’ve long held a fondness for videos that celebrate lo-fi, VHS home video aesthetics. There’s a certain sense of time and place that accompanies the aesthetic, which winds up being a perfect match for the subtle sense of nostalgia that permeates all of Katie Crutchfield’s work as Waxahatchee. As one of Merge Records’ newest artists, Crutchfield and her collaborators have started off- predictably- on an extended series of grace notes. Now that NPR has verified Ivy Tripp is as incredible as its previews suggested. It’s fitting then, that the footage that comprises “Under A Rock” feels like a hard-won victory lap. From the lineup that performs the song in the video (it’s difficult to see Allison Crutchfield join her twin and not be reminded of Bad Banana or PS Eliot, two bands that meant a lot to me as I started exploring DIY punk’s fabric nearly a decade ago) to the faces in the crowd (Radiator Hospital‘s Sam Cook-Parrott and Cynthia Schemmer are always a welcome sight- as are the innumerable other familiar faces to appear throughout the clip), “Under A Rock” feels like a homecoming celebration built on mutual fondness and respect- which is a trait that this site will always support.

Watch “Under A Rock” below and pre-order Ivy Tripp from Merge here. Below that, explore 75 great songs from 2015’s first quarter that caught my ears (a few of them are on records that are already out but they’re definitely worth revisiting). Enjoy.

Treasure Fleet – Settle Your Mind
Frankie Teardrop – Get It (Kelly)
Alright – Cold Feet
Erase Errata – History of Handclaps
Modest Mouse – The Best Room
Computer Magic – Shipwrecking
Toner – High & Dry
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Requiem
Bully – I Remember
clipping. – Summertime
The King Khan & BBQ Show – Illuminations
Seratones – Chokin’ On Your Spit
Rye Pines – Pessimist
Los Angeles Police Department – Insecurity
Johanna Warren – Less Traveled
Mac McCaughan – Lost Again
The Amazing – Safe Island
Death – Look At Your Life
Outfit – Genderless
Lord Huron – The World Ender
Torres – Strange Hellos
The Cribs – Different Angle
Downtown Boys – Monstro
The Twilight Sad – The Airport
Torche – Loose Men
Will Butler – Madonna Can’t Save Me Now
Cillie Barnes – Facework
Dead Heavens – History in My Hands
Blood Sister – Ghost Pussy
Bright Like The Sun – White Lights
Peter Doherty – Flags of the Old Regime
The Babies – Got Old
NEEDS – The Only Good Condo Is A Dead Condo
The Mountain Goats – The Legend of Chavo Guerrero
Ava Luna – Billz
Braids – Taste
Marriages – Skin
Pope – Let Down
Obnox – Menocause
Andy Gabbard – Octoman
St. Vincent – Bad Believer
Nude Beach – Been Waitin’
Mexican Slang – Fever
Never Young – Like A Version
Simon Joyner – You Got Under My Skin
Sun Kil Moon – Ali/Spinks 2
Stalls – Tooth and Nail
Nano Kino – Never Seemed to Happen
TULA – River
In Tall Buildings – Bawl Cry Wail
Frank Black – How You Went So Far
Troy Samuela & Monsoonsiren – Fiend
Passenger Peru – The Best Way to Drown
Girlpool – Ideal World
RA – These Days
Native Lights – Blue Star
Soft Cat – Somebody
Steady Lean – Atkins
A Place to Bury Strangers – We’ve Come So Far
Gill Landry (ft. Laura Marling) – Take This Body
Aero Flynn – Crisp
Calexico (ft. Ben Bridwell) – Falling From the Sky
Lieutenant – Rattled
Laura Marling – I Feel Your Love
Dave Segedy – Car
Jet Setter – Forget About It
Paridolia – Violent I
WAND – Reaper Invert
Young Guv – Crawling Back to You
Chromatics – I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around
Inventions – Peregrine
Thee Oh Sees – Web
Honeyblood – No Big Deal
Warehouse – Promethean Gaze
ADVAETA – Hazel/Blue Eyes

14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014

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One last time for one last 2014 list: “best” is in no way an attempt to be an objective statement. The terminology is shorthand to reflect personal taste and is not to be construed as anything more. Also, for the purposes of a more personal summary in this year-end coverage period, this site’s regular restriction on first person will be lifted. In 2014, I listened to more music that was released throughout the year than any other in my life. Numbering well upwards of a thousand releases, it proved impossible to keep tracks on everything (I’m already certain a few of these lists are missing more than a few titles that I genuinely loved)- but there were a few items that were worth remembering. Below are 14 records that managed to carve their way into my esteem both instantaneously and through the process of time. Below that is what turned into the most extensive list I’ve ever assembled, one that acts as an unnecessary validation that good music is being created at an excessively high volume (all of which is hyperlinked to either a full stream or a representative portion). We’re living in a golden age for access and music continues to reap the benefits allowed by technology.  In that spirit, it’s worth noting that a lot of the names included below won’t always be the most recognizable- this is due to both that volume and the fact this site’s built on a foundation that ensures bands who are marginalized will be given the consideration they deserve. So, with all of that noted, it’s time to move on to the main attraction: 14 of ’14: The Best Albums of 2014.

14. Taulard – Les Abords Du Lycée

2014’s most unexpected gem, Les Abords Du Lycée, is a mesmerizing listening that drives home taut organ/drums/vocals post-punk with a startling amount of verve. Endlessly charismatic and unpredictable, the dozen tracks on display here constantly twist and turn, never once daring to let the listener catch their breath. Mood and tempo changes abound on one of 2014’s most fearlessly unique records. Even for those who aren’t even remotely well-versed in the French language, Les Abords Du Lycée should be a thrilling listen; something like unbridled passion can always translate well enough to near the universal.

13. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

What’s easily one of 2014’s boldest concepts roots La Dispute’s mesmerizing Rooms of the House, a record that shows La Dispute’s rapid maturation with a weary grace. Centered around a meticulously brilliant narrative device, it’s a record that stunned me on my first few listens before growing into an inescapable force of nature that refused to leave my thoughts. As bleak as anything the post-hardcore has ever produced, Rooms of the House finds its strength through focus and restraint, zeroing in on difficult topics with a keen eye and an abundance of determination. Blisteringly personal and nearly voyeuristic, it stands as one of 2014’s fiercest artistic statements.

12. Two Inch Astronaut – Foulbrood

Two Inch Astronaut’s Foulbrood has come up more than a few times on the site over the past handful of months thanks to its casual brilliance. Wielding an enticing palette of influences ranging from Drive Like Jehu to their contemporaries in Exploding in Sound, Two Inch Astronaut managed to conjure up one of the most impressive sophomore efforts of the year. The title track, “Part of Your Scene“, and “Dead White Boy” all earned themselves individual write-ups on the basis of their appealingly off-kilter and ragged identity. Foulbrood‘s a record that knows exactly what it wants to be and goes straight for the throat, sending a trail of viscera flying it its wake.

11. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

One of the things I kept coming back to throughout the course of music in 2014 was Jayson Gerycz’s drumming on this record. Not just because it’s a staggering individual performance but because there’s an undefinable, inherent quality that exists within that drumming which drives this record to obscene heights. Impossibly, stripped of the drumming, the record succeeds wildly in an acoustic setting and demonstrates Dylan Baldi’s increasing proficiency as a songwriter, a vocalist, and a guitarist. After losing a member in guitarist Joe Boyer, Cloud Nothings somehow managed to transform themselves into an act that was simultaneously heavier and poppier than when they were a quartet. Importantly, this is a record that’s built to last and it’s only grown on me as the year’s progressed (and that trend’s not showing any signs of slowing).

10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day

As beguiling as it is bewitching, Ought’s brit-pop influenced post-punk masterpiece was a record that sounded triumphant right out of the gate. Slowly, that triumph turned to transcendence and the songs contained within More Than Any Other Day became unavoidable mission statements. In terms of scope, the majority of More Than Any Other Day feels as epic as LCD Soundsystem operating at their best. Both acts share a penchant for sprawling structures and self-containment, bridging a gap between intimacy and grandeur with a knack for deceptive, intricate songwriting. Anthemic and mundane, More Than Any Other Day was like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, waiting for the resuscitated with a sly grin and a memorable, tossed-off joke. Excessively charming and utterly winsome, it’s a record that felt (and still feels) necessary.

9. Jawbreaker Reunion – Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club

“E.M.O.”, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club‘s thrilling centerpiece, recently appeared in this site’s best songs of 2014 list- but the song’s only one part of a much larger picture. At once, one of the year’s most joyous and pissed off releases, Jawbreaker Reunion tore through a variety of serious issues with aplomb on their absolutely stunning debut effort. Other than distilling songs like “Laughing Alone Eating a Salad” with a wicked sense of humor, the whole affair’s imbued with an enviably powerful sense of songcraft. Lo-fi, DIY, punk, and teeming with an understanding of classic pop, Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club was one of 2014’s boldest introductions- it was also one of its best.

8. PURPLE 7 – Jewel Finger

PURPLE 7 boasts a lineup that’s accompanied by an impressive pedigree. Members of the band have previously played in bands like Defiance, Ohio, Landlord, and Hot New Mexicans (whose self-titled record ranks among my all-time favorites and currently leads my “best of decade” selections). Unsurprisingly, their debut LP effort hits a lot of sweet spots, including a gritty middle point between basement punk and basement pop. Simply put, this is a stunning collection of songs that was overlooked by most to a baffling degree after its release. Grounded, humble, and heartfelt, Jewel Finger is one of the records that reminds me of the reasons I started this site. This is music that deserves to be celebrated.

7. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Arguably 2014’s first truly great release, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness saw the songwriter transition from a promising talent into one of the year’s most arresting figures. Embracing a fuller sound and a newfound confidence, Burn Your Fire For No Witness broke Angel Olsen’s career wide open with an onslaught of genuinely haunting tunes. Whether they were relentlessly spare or soaked in noir-ish tendencies, they were uniformly captivating; both the storm and the eerie silence before. Raw, tender, and occasionally antagonistic, Burn Your Fire For No Witness was one thing above all else: unforgettable.

6. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

From the devastating opening lines all the way through to the climactic finish, LOSE holds its ground as one 2014’s most frighteningly personal albums. Largely influenced by the death of a friend close to the band, it’s a meditation on loss and the surrounding aspects of something so tragic. Easily Cymbals Eat Guitars’ finest work to date both lyrically and musically, it’s a powerful (and powerfully moving) listen. “Warning”, in particular, cuts deep- which is one of the reasons why it wound up on the best songs of 2014 list just a few days ago. Incredibly impassioned and brave in its sincerity, LOSE finds a level of catharsis in its emotional turbulence, lending it a charge that renders it one of the year’s most human (and most important) releases.

5. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

Perfect Pussy, for better or worse, have become intrinsically linked with this site. From Meredith Graves’ insistence on tangential involvement (which I’ll forever be grateful for) to the fact that the band’s greater ascension matched up with the very start of this site, they’re a band I’ve gone step for step with since bringing Heartbreaking Bravery into existence. None of that would have happened if I hadn’t been so fiercely drawn to the things that they were doing, though, which is why I approached them in the first place. Ever since those beginnings, it’s been a privilege to watch them progress, to travel at lengths to watch them play, and to see them release a record as enormously powerful as Say Yes To Love, a collection which houses my favorite song of 2014 (and possibly of this decade so far). Unapologetic, personal, damaged, resilient, powerful, feral, oddly triumphant, and unbelievably intense, Say Yes To Love operates as a perfect reminder for all of the reasons why I fell in love with this band- and why I’ll continue to pay close attention to their movements.

4. Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love

No band in 2014 made a more stunning artistic leap than Iceage, who went from a static blur to matching the swaggering heights of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds after discovering their voice. Plowing Into The Field Of Love was a startlingly radical change of pace for Iceage, who imbue the record with a curious restraint and a sense of deeply haunted Americana. Southern Gothic touch points are littered throughout the record’s bleak landscape, while making room for plaintive ornamentation in the form of brass, string, and piano figures. Darker and more self-aware than anything in the band’s career, Plowing Into The Field Of Love earned them quite a few words of praise from this very site. Augmented by some legitimately extraordinary music videos, Plowing Into The Field Of Love proved to be an unexpectedly rattling experience. Easily one of the year’s most divisive records (as is the case with any left turns this sharp), it suggested Iceage’s ambitions ran way deeper than anyone expected and, subsequently, that they had the know-how to see those ambitions to fruition. In chasing their whimsy they wound up with something I wouldn’t fault anyone for calling a masterpiece.

3. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek

My connection with Mitski’s music is something that will always hold a very personal resonance. I’ll leave most of the reasoning behind that statement to a forthcoming piece but it’s worth noting in regards to a record that’s so unabashedly self-exploratory. Bury Me At Makeout Creek was an enthralling re-introduction for Mitski, who saw it rightfully skyrocket her name recognition. Top to bottom, it’s an extraordinary effort that re-defined her artistic capabilities after a string of meticulously composed records that leaned on chamber pop tendencies. Here, that past gets blown to bits almost immediately. One of my favorite experiences in music listening all year came when “Texas Reznikoff” explodes in its final section- another came while listening to one of the best songs I’ve heard this decade (for obvious reasons, considering that statement). Where Bury Me At Makeout Creek manages to approach the transcendental is in the process of allowing listeners to hear an artist coming into their own. Part of Mitski’s identity is laid bare by Bury Me At Makeout Creek: it’s the unwillingness to accept identity as a static object and the desire to question its cumulative elements. That search is what gives Bury Me At Makeout Creek its bruised heart- and it’s why musicians will use it as a source of inspiration for several years to come.

2. Radiator Hospital – Torch Song

After the exhilarating highs of Something Wild, Radiator Hospital had a tall order for their follow-up. Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), they obliterated those towering expectations with Torch Song. Sounding more confident- and more polished- than ever before, Torch Song cemented Sam Cook-Parrott’s status as one of this generation’s keenest emerging voices. Paying attention to the minutiae of everyday experiences and injecting them with a self-deprecating sense of poetry laced with pessimism, the songs contained on this record all aim to cut and find their mark with an incredible amount of ease. Having already established themselves as one of today’s more formidable units musically, Torch Song has the added benefit of having four loaded personalities find each other in total harmony, each acting as a complement to the other. Personal diatribes, small journeys of self-discovery, and a sense of empathy inform Torch Song and help cultivate its unassuming charm. There’s not a weak track among the record’s 15 songs and it maintains an assured sense of pace throughout its relatively breezy runtime. By the time it draws to a close, it stands as one of the most fully-formed and rewarding records of recent memory.

1. LVL UP – Hoodwink’d

I don’t think any record resonated more for me throughout the course of 2014 than LVL UP’s Hoodwink’d, which I revered with literally no reservations. 2014’s strongest sophomore effort, Hoodwink’d saw LVL UP expanding most of the elements that made Space Brothers such an incredible release and retained all the others. Unreasonably refined and exceedingly personable, LVL UP have always found a strength in accentuating their members’ unique personalities and that trend got pushed to the forefront for their second full-length (which was co-released by Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound). Utilizing a distinctly unique take on their 90’s influences, the band also reveled in the benefits of a cleaner production that allowed them to sound more massive than they ever have in the past. No release felt more timely than Hoodwink’d, either, with the record practically serving as a stand-in voice for a disenfranchised sect of people. Alternately crushingly heavy, viciously poppy, relentlessly personal, and completely worn-out, Hoodwink’d never loses sight of its own mechanics. There’s a level of mutual understanding on display here that separates it from the rest of the year’s releases. Everyone feeds off each other, everyone supports each other, and everyone contributes to one hell of a set without even coming close to overstaying their welcome. Conversely, Hoodwink’d also ranks as one of the year’s most welcoming releases, radiating an empathetic warmth in its tone (and in its tones). As an entry in LVL UP’s catalog, it’s their career best. As a general 2014 release, it’s the best thing I had the privilege of hearing all year.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: All of the titles below without an accompanying link can be streamed in the order they’re listed via the embedded spotifly player below the list.]

Albums from 2014 that deserve to be heard:  Mean Creek – Local Losers | Happyness – Weird Little Birthday | Dark Blue – Pure Reality | Band Practice – Make Nice | Little Big League – Tropical Jinx | Happy Diving – Big World | Tweens – Tweens | Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static | Geronimo! – Cheap Trick | Greys – If Anything | Alvvays – Alvvays | White Lung – Deep Fantasy | Caddywhompus – Feathering A Nest | Left & Right – Five Year Plan | Ty Segall – Manipulator | Brain F/ – Empty Set | We Need Secrets – Melancholy and the Archive | Makthaverskan – II | Playlounge – Pilot | Eternal Summers – The Drop Beneath | MOURN – MOURN | Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 | The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something | Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! | Trace Mountains – Buttery Sprouts | Dead Stars – Slumber | Fear of Men – Loom | PAWS – Youth Culture Forever | Swans – To Be Kind | The Yolks – King of Awesome | Crabapple – Is It You? | The Coasts – Racilia | Purling Hiss – Weirdon | Reigning Sound – Shattered | Creepoid – Creepoid | Saintseneca – Dark Arc | Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert | Fucked Up – Glass Boys | Music Band – Can I Live | Glish – Glish | Liam Betson – The Cover of Hunter | Frankie CosmosZentropy, Donutes, Affirms Glinting | Girl Tears – Tension | Martha – Courting Strong | Hurry – Everything/Nothing | The Spirit of the Beehive – The Spirit of the Beehive | Protomartyr – Under Official Color of Right | The Gary – Farewell Foolish Objects | Spit – Getting Low | Nothing – Guilty of Everything | Sharpless – The One I Wanted To Be | Legendary Wings – Do You See | Therapy? – Act of Contrition | Chris Weisman – Monet in the 90’s | Mumblr – Full of Snakes | Cayetana – Nervous Like Me | Free Cake for Every Creature – “pretty good” | Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Party Jail | S – Cool Choices | Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place | Sneeze – Wilt | Quarterbacks – Quarterboy | The Twilight Sad – No One Wants To Be Here And No One Wants To Leave | Filmstrip – Moments of Matter | Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt | La Sera – Hour of the Dawn | Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica | Gold-Bears – Dalliance | Sharon Van Etten – Are We There | Nude Beach – ’77 | A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos | The Gotobeds – Poor People Are Revolting | Nots – We Are Nots | Alex G – DSU | Lower – Seek Warmer Climes | Young Widows – Easy Pain | CreaturoS – Popsicle | Mr. Gnome – The Heart Of A Dark Star | Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal | Ex Hex – Rips | Trust Punks – Discipline | Failures’ Union – Tethering | Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled | Beverly – Careers | The Number Ones – The Number Ones | Tigers Jaw – Charmer | Tiger High – Inside The Acid Coven | Straight Arrows – Rising | Dead Soft – Dead Soft | The Lemons – Hello, We’re The Lemons | Baked – Debt | MAZES – Wooden AquariumSleepyhead – Wild Sometimes | Native America – Grown Up Wrong | The Wans – He Said, She Said | Trophy Wife – All the Sides | Doe – First Four | Lushes – What Am I Doing | Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting | Haley Bonar – Last War | The Casket Girls – True Love Kills The Fairy Tale | Slothrust – Of Course You Do | Sorority Noise – Forgettable | Team Spirit – Killing Time | Feral Trash – Trashfiction | Blank Pages – Blank Pages | Mr. Dream – Ultimate In Luxury | Carsick Cars – 3 | SUNN O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials | This Will Destroy You – Another Language | Vanna Inget – Ingen Botten | The Real Energy – Beyond Delay | Muuy Bien – DYI | Young Ladies – We Get By | Eureka California – Crunch | Negative Scanner – Negative Scanner | Violent Change – A Celebration Of Taste | Black Wine – Yell BossImpo & The Tents – Peek After A Poke | Tomorrows Tulips – When | Mountain Bike – Mountain Bike | The Lees of Memory – Sisyphus Says | Telepathic Lines – Telepathic Lines | The Shivas – You Know What To Do | Allah-Las – Worship the Sun | Das Rad – Radiation | The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt | Crow Bait – Sliding Through The Halls Of Fate | together PANGEA – Badillac | Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita | PUJOL – Kludge | FF – Lord | Aj Davila Y Terror Amor – Beibi | Emilyn Brodsky – Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings | Young Statues – Flatlands Are Your Friend | Cancers – Fatten the Leeches | Sam Coffey + The Iron Lungs – Gates of Hell | Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas | The Ar-Kaics – The Ar-Kaics | Beach Day – Native Echoes | Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers | Dude York – Dehumanize | Gino & The Goons – Shake It! | Kevin Morby – Still Life | Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin | Wyatt Blair – Banana Cream Dream | Queen Jesus – Darkness Yea, Yea | Joel Jerome – Psychedelic Thrift Store Folk | Espectrostatic – Escape From WitchtropolisCheap Girls – Famous Graves | Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos | Parts & Labor – Receivers | Nick Thorburn – Music From SERIAL | DTCVHilarious Heaven, The Early Year | Bellows – Blue Breath | Teenager – E P L P | Spider Bags – Frozen Letter | The Paperhead – Africa Avenue | Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea | The Jazz June – After The Earthquake | Michael Sincavage – Empty Apartments (Supporting Actors) | Restorations – LP3 | MONO – The Last Dawn, Rays of Darkness | Matthew Melton – Outside of Paradise | The Vaselines – V For Vaselines | Total Control – Typical System | The Velveteens – Sun’s Up | Step-Panther – Strange But NiceExit Verse – Exit Verse | Slippertails – There’s A Disturbing Trend | Globelamp – Star Dust | Champ – Champ | Le Rug – Swelling (My Own Worst Anime) | VLMA – VLMA | Turn To Crime – Can’t Love | ScotDrakula – ScotDrakula | Warehouse – Tesseract | Muhammadali – Future Songs | Unwelcome Guests – Wavering | Baby Ghosts – Maybe Ghosts | White Mystery – Dubble Dragon | Constant Lovers – Experience Feelings | Future Islands – Singles | Maica Mia – Des Era | Tacocat – NVM | Popstrangers – Fortuna | Curtis Harding – Soul Power | New Swears – Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever | The Miami Dolphins – Becky | Thee Oh Sees – Drop | Fasano – The Factory LP | Dum Dum Girls – Too True | Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos | Metronomy – Love Letters | Great Cynics – Like I Belong | Neighborhood Brats – Recovery | Connections – Into Sixes | Three Man Cannon – Pretty Many People | Grouper – Ruins | YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend | Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything | Apollo Brown – Thirty Eight | Hookworms – The Hum | Wrekmeister Harmonies – Then It All Came Down | Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean | What Moon Things – What Moon Things | Guided By VoicesMotivational Jumpsuit, Cool Planet | Gem Club – In Roses | Saturday’s Kids – The Lunatic | King of Cats – Working Out | Shopping – Tvff Noogies | The Love Triangle – Clever Clever | Nightmare Boyzzz – Bad Patterns | Future Virgins – Late Republic | Parasol – Not There | Lenguas Largas – Come On In | Cocktails – Adult Life | Generation Loss – Generation Loss | Feral Future – Haematic | Posse – Soft Opening | Diners – Always Room | Mimicking Birds – EONS | The Freezing Hands – Coma Cave ’13 | Amanda X – Amnesia | Predator – The Complete EarthWatery Love – Decorative Feeding | The Estranged – The Estranged | Steve Adamyk Band – Dial Tone | The Cry! – Dangerous Game | Ruined Fortune – Ruined Fortune | Good Throb – Fuck Off | The Elsinores – Dreams of Youth | The Bugs – The Right Time | Vacation Club – Heaven Is Too High | Freinds of Cesar Romero – Cinco Seis | Leather – Easy | Los Pepes – Los Pepes For Everyone | Juanita Y Los Felos – Nueva Numancia | Dan Webb and the SpidersEine Kleine Akustichmusik, Now It Can Be Told | Bozo Moto – BozoMoto | Low Life – Dogging | Moth – First Second | Rhythm of Cruelty – Dysphoria | Siamese Twins – Still Corner | Departure Kids – On The Go | Blessed State – Head Space | Flagland – Love Hard | Manateees – Sit N Spin | White Ass – White Ass | Ausmuteants – Order Of Operation | The Gutters – Eventually | Hysterese – Hysterese | The Ricky C Quartet – Recent Affairs | Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety | Arctic Flowers – Weaver

Songs in Screens: A Look Back (Music Video Mixtape)

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We’ve hit the approximate 2/3’s mark of the year 2014 and this very post is the 250th to run on this site. Over the course of its duration Heartbreaking Bravery has included a fairly strong emphasis on the music video and this year’s offerings made that commitment a complete non-issue by virtue of their excellence. Songs in Screens: A Look Back is a visual-based “mixtape” and serves as a reminder of a lot of the videos that earned acclaimed here- and a few that, whether due to time or an overabundance of other predetermined material, were egregiously overlooked. For all of the videos that have been featured, there will be a hyperlink leading to their respective write-ups. Those that didn’t receive a write-up will get a very brief one below the mix itself. All of these videos came out in 2014 and made an impression- and they all deserve to be remembered. Let’s give them the recognition that they deserve.

1. Perfect Pussy – I
2. Bleeding Rainbow – Images
3. Creepoid – Baptism

4. Thee Oh Sees – Drop

While Thee Oh Sees’ “The Lens” did land itself a nice write-up, “Drop” was unfairly pushed to the side during its release. Arguably the better of the two videos (and songs), it gets the most out of its constantly evolving, simplistically animated black-and-white presentation and felt like a more appropriate inclusion for this list.

5. together PANGEA – Offer
6. Diarrhea Planet – Babyhead
7. Potty Mouth – Black & Studs
8. Dead Stars – Summer Bummer

9. The Coasts – I Just Wanna Be A Star

It’s almost cruel that both this song and this video were overlooked due to festival coverage. Both are either perfect or near-perfect and embody just about everything this site loves most. “I Just Wanna Be A Star” is a joyous celebration on record and the video gets one hell of a performance out of its unlikely lead. Make sure to not skip this one.

10. PUP – Guilt Trip

11. Anna Calvi & David Byrne – Strange Weather

This spot was always intended to feature an anomaly- an act or style that doesn’t regularly earn a feature spot on this site. clipping. came a hair’s breadth away from claiming it with their mercilessly arresting video for “Work Work” but Anna Calvi & David Byrne made something so staggeringly beautiful and emotive with their video for their “Strange Weather” cover that it would’ve been criminal to ignore it. No video this year had cinematography this stunning- or a mood this anxious. A genuine work of art.

12. Beverly – Honey Do
13. Mean Creek – My Madeline
14. Fucked Up – Sun Glass
15. Mozes & the Firstborn – Bloodsucker
16. Tweens – Forever
17. PAWS – Owls Talons Clenching My Heart
18. Iceage – The Lord’s Favorite
19. The So So Glos – Speakeasy
20. Marvelous Mark – Bite Me
21. Savages – Fuckers

22. Lower – Soft Option

No video from 2014 had this amount of unrelenting tension. From its bare-bones premise to the engaging execution, it’s something with the potential to be permanently embedded into the brain of anyone lucky enough to come across it.

23. Greys – Guy Picciotto

24. Cloud Nothings – Psychic Trauma 

At this point, it’s fairly evident that Here and Nowhere Else will stand as one of 2014’s best records. The video for “Psychic Trauma” comes as a welcome reminder of that fact and features some basic (albeit eye-catching) visual effects. That combination’s enough to land it a spot in this list.

25. White Lung – In Your Home

Of all the 2014 music videos to be released so far, very few approach the levels of insanity attained by White Lung’s fiery “In Your Home”. Mixing a lot of the items featured prominently throughout this list (unexpected psychedelic imagery, contained animation, and the black-and-white aesthetic, especially) with something that’s uniquely their own, “In Your Home” stands tall as a testament to the fact that being weird is way more fun than being standard. And it offers up a perfect wrap for this mix. Roll credits.