This was either a particularly great year for metal, or just a continuation of my long slow slide back into metal as my favorite music. I guess either way it was a particularly great year for metal.
This year I’m posting a single top-20 list with locals and non-locals intermingled. It’s also in numeric order (!). There are additional lists below it, which kind of calls the whole notion of a top-20 into question, but whatever, it’s my list.
Fingers crossed that all of these multimedia embeds don’t break The Internet.
1. VHÖL – VHÖL
West-coast supergroup of black & doom metallers dipping into their shared history with/fondness for hardcore & D-beat to make the most exuberant hardrock album of the year. This literally spent a solid 6 months in my car CD player with no breaks.
2. Goner – Faking the Wisdom
These Raleigh indie-rock lifers have been writing gripping character studies of aging townies in a college town for a decade now, but this album is where everything finally exploded fully into multiple dimensions.
3. Savages – Silence Yourself
If you’re not still obsessed with UK postpunk, I don’t know what to do with you. If you are, and you haven’t heard Savages, then … .
4. Scout Niblett – It’s Up to Emma
I never paid that much attention to Scout Niblett, but this one’s such a throat-grabber there was never any question of attention: She demands it from the first note of the first song.
She also put on the show of the year at Hopscotch.
5. Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw
This is the sort of gospel music I can fully embrace: slow Southern country gospel with a strong agnostic streak.
6. Gorguts – Colored Sands
Given that I never really got into death metal the first time around, it’s a little bit baffling even to me that I have two absurdly complex technical death metal albums in my top-20 this year. This is such astonishing music.
7. Audubon Park – Crazy Crazy for Feeling
Audubon Park are scattered across at least three different states, and apparently no longer bother even practicing before recording. And yet their skewed 5-things-at-once indie-rock is better than ever on this album.
8. Lorde – Pure Heroine
You can be cynical & call it electro-pop for middle aged white former rock critic dudes. Or you can be non-cynical & just enjoy her amazing voice.
I determined during her run at #1 that the last time I was unabashedly in love with a #1 single, it was “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which makes too-perfect sense.
9. Midnight Plus One – Midnight Plus One
Such urgently weird rock music, like all the best snippets of 80s/90s Kim-sung Sonic Youth songs distilled down to 2-minute bursts.
10. Desert Heat – Cat Mask at Huggie Temple
The more Steve Gunn & Cian Nugent collaborate, the closer the universe gets to achieving oneness. Another band whose Hopscotch show is solidly in my top-5 for the year.
11. Inter Arma – Sky Burial
When I finally heard this album, I began endlessly kicking myself for all the times I missed these guys at Slim’s.
12. Sylvan Esso – Hey Mami
Just a tiny-but-perfect taste of what this duo has in store for us in 2014, I hope.
13. Schooner – Neighborhood Veins
All of Reid Johnson’s competing pop/non-pop instincts finally fuse into a fully cohesive & brilliantly realized whole.
14. Arnold Dreyblatt & Megafaun – Appalachian Excitation
I don’t listen to that much experimental pulse/drone music, because when I do, I want it all to be this good, and it rarely is.
15. Inquisition – Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
The most distinctive & unholy black metal racket, all from just two dudes. Dagon’s crazy interstellar demon frog vocals & his utterly unique bend-heavy guitar style are like nothing else in the multiverse.
16. Golden Gunn – Golden Gunn
I love living in a world where two heroes can dream up a goofy 70s boogie haze back-story *and* write & record an amazing album to go with it, all more or less on a lark.
17. Wormed – Exodromos
I only bought this album a few days ago, but it has blown my mind so thoroughly in that time that there’s really no question about its inclusion here. Outer-space tech death with unearthly overtone throat-singing vocals? YES.
18. Bryan & the Haggards featuring Dr. Eugene Chadbourne – Merles Just Want to Have Fun
Eugene Chadbourne has been exploring the overlaps between jazz and country for well over thirty years now, but rarely before has he found such sympatico partners-in-crime as Bryan & the Haggards.
19. Airstrip – Willing
Proving definitively that all krautrock-influenced electropop needs to involve the services of a top-flight heavy metal drummer.
20. Janelle Monáe – Electric Lady
I like the first “suite” on this one better than the second one, and overall it could probably stand to be shorter, but the highlights here are so high that it hardly matters. There is NOBODY else on earth making weirdo futuristic soul music on this level.
Five albums by 90s indie-rock titans that I’m kind of amazed didn’t make my top-20 list
Ten more local releases that I truly enjoyed playing on the radio, every time I did
Gross Ghost – Public Housing
I’ll probably make a list of memorable local shows I attended, but that’ll require some more thinking.