Katie Crutchfield’s no stranger to this site, seemingly all of the songwriter’s projects having been covered in some capacity. Waxahatchee has become Crutchfield’s calling card in recent years and remains the most singularly focused of the musician’s artistic output. Here, Crutchfield and company rip through an enticing new song entitled “No Curse” for Weathervane’s outstanding Shaking Through series. It’s a potent reminder of the inherent power of one of this generation’s finest artists.
2. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Living in the City (The Current)
A handful of releases into an increasingly notable career, Hurray for the Riff Raff continue an impressively upward trajectory. Each consecutive record and performance seems to constitute a new career high for the project, which has never been anything less than commendable. “Living in the City” is just the latest upward rung on a never-ending ladder that seems poised to reach stratospheric heights. Looking down from where the act is now, it’s more than enough to induce a serious amount of vertigo.
3. Vundabar (Audiotree)
One of the more intriguingly frenetic punk bands of recent times, Vundabar have carved out a reputation for themselves by meticulously crafting unpredictable music. Recently, the band swung through Audiotree’s studio to record a session perfectly showcasing the tension and urgency the band’s so adept at creating. Every song in this session is eye-opening and executed to perfection without anyone in the band sacrificing even an ounce of conviction.
4. Nothing (Amoeba)
Watch This veterans, Nothing keep finding new ways to impress. In this Green Room session for Amoeba, the band sacrifices their signature onslaught of volume for something far more intimate and contained. In passing up one of their most noted trademarks, the band also ably demonstrates how good the songs lurking underneath have been since the beginning. Utterly transfixing and devastatingly sincere, this acoustic session stands as an entirely unlikely but wholly welcome new high for the band.
5. Allison Crutchfield (KEXP)
While Katie Crutchfield may have taken the opening slot on the features list in this volume of Watch This, Crutchfield’s twin sister is the one to close it out. As another musician whose projects have been well-documented on this site throughout a lengthy career, Allison Crutchfield seems poised to spearhead a sterling solo career. A lot of supporting evidence can be found to back that claim up, including this abbreviated set for KEXP, which finds the band (which includes Radiator Hospital‘s Sam Cook-Parrott) running through an impressive array of new songs with a sense of unified purpose.
Over the past week and a half there was a vast arsenal of material that found release across all three major formats. All of the titles that made a sizable impression will be linked to below and all of them are well worth exploring. Over the next few days there will be a laundry list of individual items to find small features but that in no way should deter from the immense value of the songs listed below. If there was enough time to provide each and every one of these entries features of their own, a regular day would have to be well over 24 hours. As it stands, the best approach is to simply bookmark this page and peruse these selections at a preferred pace. Keep an eye out for more updates from this site very soon and enjoy the incredible offerings that are available below.
As always, all of those entries linked above are worth jumping over to and exploring with a certain level of intensity. However, they weren’t all that wound up being released Thursday. Screaming Females‘ Marissa Paternoster’s Noun project made an unexpected return with the jagged, lo-fi “Fame and Famine”. Quietly uploaded to Paternoster’s tumblr, “Fame and Famine” winds up benefiting from a pre-established tone of unpredictability.
While Paternoster may get the most recognition for Screaming Females, Noun has proven to be a project just as worthy. 2010’s Holy Hell, a consistently overlooked triumph, may even be Paternoster’s finest record to date (though the last few Screaming Females records have been hitting some exhilarating highs). Noun’s consistently allowed Paternoster a wider range of possibilities, making a new entry into the project’s discography a tantalizing prospect.
For “Fame and Famine”, Paternoster takes a direct, immediate route that fully commits to its lo-fi aesthetic and elevates itself via a comprehensive understanding of the format. There’s a surprising amount of nuance in the ambient beds that swirl beneath the insistent, repetitive main section that serves as the engine of “Fame and Famine”. Enhancing the aggressive disconnect that manifests in the narrative of “Fame and Famine” is the artwork the song’s projected over, one of Paternoster’s characteristically striking chalk-based originals.
Everything packaged together winds up being as disconcerting as it does galvanizing. There’s a nervous undercurrent of stress that imbues every second of “Fame and Famine”, lending it a feeling of completeness that can be rare in demos. It’s a fascinating glimpse towards one of today’s most fascinating, tireless artists and it’s another in a long line of formidable examples of Paternoster’s creativity and commitment. Tenacious, unnerving, and more than memorable, “Fame and Famine” is one of the best surprise standalone releases of recent memory.
Listen to “Fame and Famine” below and keep an eye on this site for more updates on the project.
While all three dozen of those entries are worth a hefty amount of investment, it was Eluvium‘s characteristically breathtaking “Rorschach Pavan” to earn this post’s featured spot. Following on the heels of the spine-tingling “Regenerative Being“, Matthew Cooper once again demonstrates what’s made his discography one of the richest — and most celebrated — in ambient music. “Rorschach Pavan” is one of Cooper’s finest offerings to date.
Once again, there’s an air of tranquility that permeates through “Rorschach Pavan” as well as a genuine sense of peace. Cooper’s stated that False Readings On is meant to be a meditation on cognitive dissonance and that thread reveals itself in patches throughout the course of this track but never overwhelms the proceedings, acting as a brief reprieve from the aggressive punctuation of “Regenerative Being”. Even with feedback and white noise swirling through its veins, “Rorschach Paven” registers as one of Cooper’s more calm, cerebral works.
The structure of the bulk of Eluvium’s music demands the songs to slowly unfurl, revealing themselves in layers while simultaneously adding new, overlapping themes, motifs, and instrumentation. Here, that approach hits an apex just after the 3:40 mark as a bass suddenly lifts the melody skyward in what’s one of the most beautiful sequences of music anyone’s likely to hear all year. That specific moment winds up being the definitive one for “Rorschach Pavan” as the gentle climax slowly cedes and the track begins to calmly disintegrate.
Otherworldly, intimate, and unfathomably gorgeous, “Rorschach Paven” is classic Eluvium, through and through. Beyond that, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring songs of recent memory. If the rest of False Readings On can live up to the standards set by its precedents, it’ll likely stand as one of the most beautiful records of 2016. Until then, “Rorschach Pavan” should be more than enough to tide anyone over. Fall under its spell and drift off on a sea of muted bliss.
Listen “Rorschach Pavan” below and pre-order False Readings On here.
As always, two quick disclaimers: “best”, in year-end list cases, is a shorthand term indicative of personal admiration which is in no way an attempt to be definitive and the first person restrictions will be lifted for this site’s year-end coverage. This list will be focusing on releases that came out in the 7″ format throughout the course of 2014. Some may fall under the EP umbrella (which will be the next list to run) but each and every title on this list wound up with my appreciation. A staggering amount of 7″ records were released this year and I had the privilege of listening to hundreds throughout the past 12 months. Below will be the 14 strongest 7″ records that I heard all year- the records that stuck with me or gnawed away at my memory. Just like the previous list, below those 14 selections will be a list of every 7″ released in 2014 that made a deep enough impact to be put into consideration for this list (or, rather, every release I came across that deserves to be heard by as many people possible). Enough exposition; onto the picks.
14. Communions – Cobblestones
Expertly blending new wave, post-punk, and something entirely undefinable, Communions’ Cobblestones was one of the year’s most immediately gripping releases. Cobblestones is the kind of release that teems with enough determination and conviction to convince anyone that Communions are in this for the long haul.
13. Mikal Cronin – I Don’t Mind b/w Blue-Eyed Girl
Part of Polyviny’s four-track singles series, “I Don’t Mind” and “Blue-Eyed Girl” were both perfect demonstrations of Mikal Cronin’s penchant for winsome folk-oriented (and punk-informed) pop music. It’s a show of force as much as it is a reveal of Cronin’s most delicate sensibilities. Unfortunately, the A-side is no longer available for streaming but the compellingly plaintive B-side’s been included below.
12. Girl Band – Lawman, De Bom Bom
Girl Band turned in a few of 2014’s most feral offerings. From the 25-second “The Cha Cha Cha” to the songs that give the Law Man and De Bom Bom 7″ releases their name. Serrated and cut-throat, Girl Band have been unleashing bruising post-punk that occasionally verges on hardcore and powerviolence at a steady rate. Watch out for whatever route they decide to take with their upcoming full-length.
11. Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid
Taking cues from 90’s powerpop and injecting it with a ferocious energy (and no shortage of grit), Dogs on Acid have crafted something incredibly appealing with their self-titled 7″. Like early Ben Kweller with an added punk bite, both “Make It Easy” and “Waiting For You To Come Home” are ridiculously easy to leave on repeat and more than worth a heavy amount of investment.
10. Jeff Rosenstock – Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross
After Bomb The Music Industry! halted operations, Jeff Rosenstock had quite a few roads open to him. He took full advantage in 2014 by not only releasing two outstanding EP’s in his collaborative project with Fake Problems’ Chris Farren as Antarctigo Vespucci and going straight for the throat with his strongest solo effort to date, the fierce Hey Allison! b/w I’m So Gross 7″. The stop/start rhythms in the chorus of “Hey Allison!” alone would have put this in contention for a spot on this list- luckily the rest of the release lives up to that moment.
9. Kindling – Spike & Wave
Kindling’s Spike & Wave7″ caught my attention immediately after its release. It’s another release heralding in a new era of shoegaze that refuses to back down from experimenting with the genre’s limitations. Subtly embracing elements of twee pop and basement punk, it’s a release that deserves to be in a whole lot of collections.
8. Audacity – Counting the Days
When I started this site, I did it with a post about Audacity, whose Butter Knife was one of 2013’s strongest highlights. In 2014, the band provided another incredibly strong moment with “Counting the Days”- a 7″ headlined by a song that earned both a write-up and a Watch This entry spot. My feelings on that song haven’t changed but Counting the Days’ other song, “Mind Your Own Business”, pushes the whole package (which also features some incredible album art) way over the top.
7. Ausmuteants – Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale Black Music, Fed Through A Tube
Ausmuteants had an absolutely monstrous 2014, releasing no fewer than five titles. Three of those were incendiary 7″ releases that would have easily made this list individually. Grouped together, they’re an absurdly powerful package than goes a long way in cementing Ausmuteants’ reputation as one of the most exciting things happening in music. Felix Tried to Kill Himself, Stale White Boys Playing Stale BlackMusic,and Fed Through ATube are overflowing with a hyper-charged psych-tinted punk that’s completely electrifying.
6. Terry & Louie – (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him
The Exploding Hearts have achieved a deserved status as powerpop legends. Since that band’s tragic ending, two of their members have been steadily releasing incredible music with various outfits. Terry Six and King Louie Bankston have once again teamed up for a new project, Terry & Louie, who now have one powerful career entry with (I’m) Lookin’ For A Heart b/w She Loves Him. The same infectious energy that turned Guitar Romanticinto such a beloved classic is on full display here, with Six and Bankston’s pop sensibilities fully in tact. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this project.
5. Cloakroom – Lossed Over b/w Dream Warden
At this point, I’m not sure any band’s been mentioned more times without receiving an outright feature spot than Cloakroom (with the exception of a Watch This). There’s a reason they keep showing up; they’re quietly crafting some extraordinary songs and sculpting what promises to be a celebrated career long after they’re gone. Both “Lossed Over” and “Dream Warden” are brooding powerhouses that are towering in scope and deeply nuanced in their dynamics. Cloakroom keep improving with every subsequent release and it’ll only be a matter of time before they get the levels of recognition they deserve.
4. Sheer Mag – Sheer Mag
Sheer Mag exploded into just about everyone’s good graces with their self-titled 7″ release and it’s not difficult to see why; this hits an impressive number of sweet spots for people associated with DIY music. It’s scrappy, it’s lo-fi, it’s undeniably punk, it’s extraordinarily catchy, and it comes loaded with a staggering amount of conviction. These four songs have fought their way into regular rotation since they first came out, refusing to be pushed back and only growing stronger with time.
3. Crimson Wave – Say
Say caught me completely off guard when I first heard it; I was completely entranced and blown away by Crimson Wave’s subtle, understated take on post-punk. Each of these three songs are as balanced as they are delicate as they are cutting. The 7″ is somewhat of an anomaly for the reliably great Accidental Guest Recordings who normally tend towards more noisy, aggressive, and blown-out fare. It’s the level of restraint in Say that helps make it stand out, something that’s accentuated by the cold production. Impossible to shake and easy to latch on to, Say is something that demands to be remembered.
2. Dilly Dally – Candy Mountain, Next Gold
No band in 2014 made a bigger entrance with their 7″ releases than Dilly Dally. Both Candy Mountain and Next Gold feel like instant classics; releases informed by years of genre touch points and a deft sense of how they can all line up into something impossibly gripping. Taking cues from all of the right places and emerging with a fully-formed identity and a real sense of purpose, Dilly Dally offered a welcome jolt to the year’s proceedings. “Candy Mountain” was only the third song to be released in the band’s career and it already feels important; a defining moment not just for a band but their surrounding environment. The amount of weight thrown into these songs is unbelievable and showcase Dilly Dally as a band worth all the excitement in the world.
1. Pile – Special Snowflakes b/w Mama’s Lipstick
It’s difficult to no where to start with a song as monumental as Pile’s earth-shattering career highlight “Special Snowflakes”. I was fortunate enough to witness this song in a live setting only a few months back and completely lost my sense of self. In that moment, everything that wasn’t “Special Snowflakes” faded from my care. Completely spellbound, the band tore through that one song and the audience in front of them reacted accordingly. That experience wasn’t too far removed from the first time I heard “Special Snowflakes“. For more than 7 minutes, I was pummeled into awed submission by what’s not only (easily) one of the best songs of this year but of this decade. “Mama’s Lipstick” provides a haze of smoke in the form of a (very) loose reprise- along with some other comparatively brief moments of brilliance (that piano figure!)- after the hurricane storm of the release’s A-side, assuring its status as one of the most important releases of 2014.
One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement. Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time. Enjoy!
Let’s Pretend Records are one of the most consistent record labels in America, yet their releases are niche enough that they haven’t had an act break through to a wider audience. While it’s unlikely that day will ever come (though it’d be welcome if it did), they’re probably better off for it. Between Vacation, Dead Dog, Treasure Fleet, PURPLE 7, Tight Bros, Vånna Inget, Kicking Spit, and Nervosas, they’ve had a direct hand in some of the very best records of the last few years. Now, to extend their unlikely winning streak, the label’s partnering up with Rad Girlfriend Records to release Two Houses’ Disappointer7″.
Operating in a left-field punk-leaning basement pop vein (a la Cheap Girls, Sundials, The Sidekicks, etc.), the Chicago-based trio’s crafted an unlikely collection of songs, highlighted by the title track. While all of the songs include unexpected passages, it’s “Disappointer” that twists and turns the most, making room for atmospheric riffing, surprisingly effective syncopation, and a very strong lyrical outing that underscores how arresting blending miniature vignettes into something whole can really be. It’s an incredibly strong moment that defines what’s easily the band’s finest offering yet.
Listen to “Disappointer” below and pick up a copy of the EP here.