In Review: Our 2014 Albums of the Year
With the end of the year quick approaching, most of us are busy thinking about our top picks for the 2015 year. What did we like? What’s stuck with us for nine months? What upcoming albums are we saving spots for? However, rather than looking forward, I have a different question: did your top picks from last year hold up?
A few days ago, I pressed play (yet again) on my top pick of 2014: Baring Teeth’s Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins. As I immersed myself in the complex layers of aggressive skronk, I began to wonder to myself: would I still say, months later, this was my favourite album of 2014?
I looked back over my list, and felt with certainty were I to rewrite it today, it would look different. My initial love of Mastodon’s Once More ‘Round the Sun has faded over time; I’d much rather have placed the Stockhausen recommended Lux Occulta release, Kołysanki, in its place. Death From Above 1979 would likely have usurped Freak Kitchen’s spot, while Kindly Bent to Free Us may not have even obtained an honourable mention.
Despite not feeling as confident with my year-end list now as when I wrote it, as I listened to my favourite Baring Teeth track, “Mountain”, I felt confident in my choice. Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins is one of those rare albums that comes along at just the right moment, yet doesn’t disappoint or grow less interesting over time; quite the contrary. Initially, I found the album quite challenging. I no longer feel the same struggle to understand the music – which in no part is an indication of the music being simple or temporal, but rather a testament to the music itself. I stand by my original description: this is not an album for the faint of heart, but it is an album for those who enjoy fighting through difficulty to reach a reward, and who embrace the struggle as an essential part of that realization.
After a time of thinking, I posed the same question to the Toilet ov Hell writing crew, to see what they had to say about their own #1 picks for 2014. Though their picks were varied, most of their answers rang with a common theme.
Joe Thrashnkill (A Pregnant Light – My Game Doesn’t Have a Name): “After dozens and dozens of listens, I have completely burned myself out on this record. I don’t want to hear it for another 4 years, at which point I will give it a few dozen repeat spins and burn myself out on it for another few years.”
MoshOff: “Last December I declared Misery Index’s The Killing Gods my album of the year, and with good reason. After ignoring it for the better part of 2014, I started giving it more play time and sort of just forgetting about my increasing neck pain altogether. I’m proud to say that some nine months after the fact, my head is barely being held by anything anymore. Often times I find that albums I grow infatuated with only maintain a top-tier status in my mind for a couple of months and then just get filed under ‘that album was really good, I should listen to it more often.’ That hasn’t been the case with The Killing Gods: if I could, I’d name it my album of the year for 2015 as well. It’s turned out to be one of those rare albums that just gets better with each successive listen, and I really can’t count how many times in the past months I’ve blasted it to get that much needed energy boost in a variety of situations. Misery Index managed to make an album that is simultaneously fast, groovy, technical, melodic, heavy, atmospheric, densely layered and infectiously memorable, all without losing the essence of the grind-influenced quality death metal that they’ve been churning out for the past decade and a half. If it were up to me, The Killing Gods would go down not only as Misery Index’s best album, but as one of the all-time best in the genre. If for some reason you skipped this album, you know what to do.”
James Jimmy McNulty: “My favorite album of 2014 was Abysmal Dawn’s Obsolescence. So how well does it hold up a year later? Very well, for its heaping helping of no-frills death metal performed in a modern setting. Don’t get me wrong, the label ‘no-frills’ isn’t a bad thing at all; it just means the band’s sound is built upon a proven foundation of speed, kick-ass riffs, and and slick solos. Aside from the production, there’s nothing on this disc to date it.
“Having said all that, I’m not as into this style of music as I was last year…something for which I have all you glorious Toileteers to credit[/blame]. In 2014 most of my top 10 picks could be found at any random Best Buy; this is not the case in 2015. You all have exposed us to hundreds of bands of all sub-sub-genres of metal, many of which can only be found on Bandcamp. Expect my top 10 this year to be quite different from last year’s.
Edward: “When the resident avocado-based dip of Dante’s Bowl asked us to contribute some thoughts about our favorite albums from 2014, I leapt at the chance. Interestingly, it was something I had been thinking about and had even written a little about in some god awful Microsoft Word draft . Toilet founder Joe was kind enough to publish my favorite albums of last year for the site, and I choose Pyrrhon’s The Mother of Virtues as my number one pick. Guacamole wanted to know if my pick held up over the year – it did.
“My love affair with Pyrrhon began before the release of The Mother of Virtues, and they delivered on all sides with their 2014 release. The album is a volatile blend of frenetic grind, unhinged death metal, and viscous noise rock, blended seamlessly and wholly oppressive. Some writers for our site accused the band of being a derivative blend of Gorguts-esque skronk and Amphethamine Reptile era noise rock, but I didn’t hear a record like it last year and only a few albums contended to bring Virtues levels of imploding decay. It didn’t hurt when Pyrrhon again delivered the goods on their 2015 EP Growth Without End – they’re one of my favorite bands after all.
“It’s worth mentioning that my most listened album from last year has been Krieg’s Transient. It didn’t even make my list last year, which is an atrocity and I’m not sure what the fuck I was even doing to allow that to happen. I’ve listened to it more than The Mother of Virtues and as much as most releases from this year. It’s nearly flawless in my mind, except for Thurston Moore’s spoken word excerpt in “Home”. I heard a rumor Krieg founder Neill Jameson left in as a fuck off to Moore. Otherwise, it’s a ferocious black metal record throughout. It has undeniable riffs, stomps more than most black metal records, and I can’t get the long, clear screams of “Winter” out of my head, ever.
Leif Bearikson: “Pallbearer still rules, fuck you.”
Thanks to all the authors who contributed to this look-over-our-collective-shoulder post. Now it’s your turn: did your year-end top pick make the cut, or would you now place something above it? Share your good music in the comments below.
(Header image: “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali)