Defined By Sonic Residues: A Resonance Of 2014


2014 was a year of polarity. Conflicting forces spinning me in all different directions, fighting to find which molecular force was the strongest. Flipping through the albums that left a mark on me through the entire year, I found that each one presented itself as a singular head-space, an isolated escape. Ranging from a dark and harrowing place, to open invigoration fueled by the sun. It is with this collected communion that I will find myself human, in an incredibly increasingly dehumanized world. It is music, and sounds, and the way in which they vibrate in your ear that proposes an investigation.

It is my hope to share these experiences, these polarities with you, with the gains that you will either be remembered of something you loved from this year, or find something new, or even find yourself in disagreement with me, and hopefully remind yourself of your own musical enlightenment from this year.

As with contrasting experiences, attempting to place these albums in any order would be doing their individual rewards a dissatisfaction (though if I had to put one “first” it would totally be S. Carey), so I hope to present these as simply a journey through my sonic backdrop of 2014.

Please investigate, learn, inspire, and move forward with or without these albums, but be sure to remind yourself of what music gave you in 2014, as I am here, for what are we without textures of sounds to fall back on when we are stripped down to our simplest forms of human expression?

S. Carey – Range Of Light

I had the pleasure of reviewing S. Carey’s sophomore album Range Of Light, and boy is it beautiful. Consciously proposed as an album highlighting the rewards of nature, Range Of Light paints a picture of environmental earnings just as real as the sounds emanating from it. With Carey’s slow, smooth and flowing voice, backed by a flood of sound, Range Of Light will hit you best as a soundtrack to the world around. Just as S. Carey did with the writing of the album, be sure to experience this album while expanding your “range of light,” or your growing experiences with nature.

Experience: “Fire-Scene”

D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

Where the hell did this album come from? Fourteen years since Vodoo, the newly titled D’Angelo and the Vanguard present the soul-on-acid thundering that is Black Messiah. If the opening brooding sludge of D’Angelo’s first dense vocal layering on “Ain’t That Easy” isn’t enough to get you grooving hard wherever you are, then the Vanguard may pass you by. Black Messiah is stocked with weird, soul, gospel, jazz, blues, pop, and so much more. With distinct guitar tones that disgustingly work in harmonious synchronization with D’Angelo’s soaring melodies, and a fantastic–and I really mean it–rhythm section, Black Messiah coming out of nowhere may have been one of the better sonic gifts of the year.

Experience: “Ain’t That Easy”

Nothing – Guilty Of Everything

I saw Nothing before they released their debut LP, Guilty Of Everything, at the Great Scott in Allston, MA, and their performance shook me to my core. Easily one of the loudest shows I had ever been to, Nothing made sure that their sound was felt not only in my ears, but in my gut. Every sonic explosion released by their hand crawled all around me, encompassing me. Once Guilty Of Everything, an album which I was also able to review, made it to my ears, I was happy to find the band was keeping with the same sonic presentation. Guilty Of Everything is loud, beautiful, depressing, horrifying, cathartic, and more, all presented in a sea of distortion with hidden beauty throughout.

Experience: “Bent Nail”
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The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

Get Hurt was an album that needed to happen. Yeah, Handwritten was fantastic, but to be completely honest I was getting a little bored of Gaslight’s systematic sound to this point. I was hungry for something new. So when I first heard the clip of what would come to be known as “Stay Vicious,” one of the album’s best tracks, I was immediately intrigued by what the band was up to. A record that lyrically and thematically sat far darker than anything the band had done before, and with an expanding roster of sound, Get Hurt may not be for every Gaslight fan, but it screams attention.

Experience: “Stay Vicious”

Young Widows – Easy Pain

A lot of the albums talked about thus far are far too pretty, so thankfully Young Widows is here as well. Easy Pain may be one of the ugliest records of the year, but goddamn do I need it every now and again. Thundering drums and static guitars will come in and out of the foreground, heard with some of the dirtiest and fuzziest tones needed. If you are not on board by the opening “Godman,” then move aside, this train will pummel right through otherwise.

Experience: “Kerosene Girl”

Mimicking Birds – Eons

It was a long wait from Mimicking Birds’ debut LP, Mimicking Birds, to the release of Eons; four years actually, but it was certainly well worth it. While the debut self-titled was great, there was a bigger sense of presence fulfilled on Eons. With more dynamics, more full band tracks, and more gut-wrenching melodies, Mimicking Birds truly found themselves with Eons, and it is a damn shame the band hasn’t been getting the attention they deserve.

Experience: “Bloodlines”

Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

LOSE is one hell of an album. An intriguing collection of alternative rock, punk, shoegaze, weird, and New Jersey angst, LOSE may be one of the most interesting albums of the year. Featuring eccentric riffs funneling in and out of angry melodies, founded by a strong rhythm section, LOSE, most notably “Warning,” is the kind of experience well sanctioned in a late night driving session, screaming lyrics to yourself as the yellow lines guide your way.

Experience: “Warning”

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Sun Kil Moon’s Benji is easily one of the most emotionally trying experiences of the year. If the opening “Carissa” doesn’t immediately make you feel it all, then Sun Kil Moon most likely isn’t for you. There are plenty of things at play that bound Benji in such realism that makes it transcend speakers and truly speak to its listeners. From Carissa burning up in flames, to remembering where we were during troubling times a la “Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes,” Benji will instill some of the hardest parts about being a person in the simplest way, which is why it may be one of the most important albums of the year. With so much overproduction and over-exaggeration, Sun Kil Moon remind us that life, while presently simply, can be one of the hardest things to wrap your head around. Remembered by the lines, “Carissa was thirty-five, you don’t just raise two kids and take out your trash and die,” will make anyone question what the fuck anything is supposed to mean.

Experience: “Carissa”

Tycho – Awake

Tycho’s Awake is easily one of the most subtly inspiring experiences of the year. The band has always had a way of masking inspirations deep down within layers of sound, but with the opening “Awake,” the band sets the tone for a hopeful and open experience to find yourself. Always seemingly able to find the right groove, and present the listener with an open space of shapes, textures, sounds, and experiences.

Experience: “Awake”

Grouper – Ruins

Ruins is easily one of the most harrowing albums of the year, breaking down Grouper’s formula to mainly a haunting piano, coupled with the softly delivered, but seemingly difficult execution of the vocals. From the eerie upbringing of the melodies in “Clearing” to the subtle stillness of closer “Made of Air,” Ruins is an album that is screamed (softly) to be experienced alone.

Experience: “Clearing”

Glass Animals – Zaba

Zaba is the kind of album I typically would not like on paper, but for some otherworldly reason, when its sounds made it to my ear, I was hooked. Sexy grooves and textures layer shapes erupting and evolving into all different forms, Zaba is an album that is collected in its minimalism so well that when it comes time to divert course, Glass Animals make it immensely known.

Experience: “Flip”

Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

If there was one album this year to make me excited about heavy music again, it is most certainly From Parts Unknown. From Parts Unknown takes the thrash of Every Time I Die and forms into a windchill on a below freezing day, and slaps you in the face with it. Deep into their career, it was refreshing to see Every Time I Die release their most interesting album to date.

Experience: “Idiot”

The American Scene – Haze

I won’t lie: in my first few months with Haze, I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it, but I only seemed to like it. My anticipation was high, and maybe that was part of the problem, but the album didn’t stick with me as I had hoped. Flash forward a few months to the end of the year, and I found the album again. Casually throwing it back into rotation, and things just seemed to click better. I still believe the band is capable of more, and with the exception of “Royal Blue,” “Nails Of Love,” and “4th and Broadway,” Haze doesn’t deliver huge standouts, but Haze as a whole can be something to be remembered. I found that without a high stakes or anticipatory mindset, Haze was a much more rewarding experience. Sure, a lot of the tracks blend with similarities in musical expression, but all it takes is that one guitar line, drum fill, or lyric to hit you at the right time to re-open the book, and enlighten your experience.

Experience: “Nails Of Love”

Copeland – Ixora

I hate to admit that I never loved Copeland. I enjoyed a few tracks, but really only knew of the band through singer Aaron Marsh’s guest vocals on Underoath’s cathartic “Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape.” So when Ixora was announced, I was excited for fans of the band that had so missed their presence, but that excitement didn’t become personal until “Ordinary” made its way to my ears. In a time in my life where friends and family are getting engaged, having kids, moving away, and leaving the safety of the adolescent squares of my hometown, “Ordinary” reassured me of the road ahead, and how life will change, but that may not be the worst thing in the world. Yes, it is incredibly cliché, the master plot of growing existence, but when in sonic form, and as beautifully executed as Copeland does, it feels fresh. Ixora is made up of beauty, and though it was long wait for longtime fans of the band, it was surely worth it.

Experience: “Erase”

Hemingway – Pretend To Care

A lot of the albums I take away from 2014 are seemingly “heavy.” Be it thematically, emotionally, sonically, or more, so when it comes to Hemingway’s Pretend To Care, getting lost in the power chords, palm mutes, angst ridden melodies and pretend-to-care vocals, it’s easy. Taking me back to full choruses, basements, all-ages shows at local churches and venue halls, and more, even though 2014 is the twenty-third year of my life, Pretend To Care reminded me of my sixteenth, and I truly needed that.

Experience: “Northwest”

Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Well, it finally came. The long-awaited release from Damien Rice, the eight track album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, is as emotionally draining as you would expect. There was a time where many believed Rice was done making music. Mentioning in interviews that the breakup of his highly publicized relationship with collaborator Lisa Hannigan drove him to the inability to write music, but thankfully, he found a way. My Favourite Faded Fantasy is strikingly beautiful, and just as painful. From the destructive ended to opener “My Favourite Faded Fantasy,” to the minimalist “The Greatest Bastard,” and the desolation of “I Don’t Want To Change You,” Rice’s latest presents each track with careful musicianship, making sure each of the eight windows are distinct from each other, while all presenting various views into a life long played out in daydreams and pain.

Experience: “I Don’t Want To Change You”

Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You

Keep You is an album that takes time. The absence of screams will surely be talked about by fans, but by no means is the absence of screams felt in any way besides that of refreshing. In a genre that is now growing tired and over-saturated, Pianos Become The Teeth have the courage to evolve into the most advantageous form. The power behind the band’s music is only weighted heavier by making each single strum, drum hit, and vocal count for everything. When tracks get big, they get bigger. When they get soft, they become more harrowing. The absence of screaming and the introduction of more musical variation brings an album that latches on from first listen, and begins to truly show form months later, leaving its mark more noticeable with each successive listen.

Experience: “Lesions”

Editorial written by Drew CarusoFollow him on Twitter.

Drew Caruso

Drew Caruso is a Bostonian who, when not writing about music and film, spends his time getting lost in New England, reading books, talking about science whether people want to listen or not, and more. To see the thoughts of a scientist by day and a writer by night, follow him on Twitter.
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