2014 was quite the year in popular music. Can you believe that guy won a Grammy? I was happy for him, but felt bad for the other one. The awards were quite the roller coaster in 2014! I guess we all knew that when the new album by that one chick dropped it would rocket to the top of the charts, but did we really expect it to do so well? I think she has reached a new level of stardom and it is well deserved. And how about the feud between those other two? Deliciously outrageous! One can only wonder what the wise corporate computers that generate our highest quality, profit maximizing music and select charismatic youth to lip synch it have in store for 2015! But before we discard last year’s purchases to make way for new ones, here are my top 5 albums of 2014.
5: Econochist – Trained To Serve
Econochrist’s only weakness (shared by many hardcore bands) is that they sit on occasionally pedestrian verses for too long. A more wham, bam, thank you ma’am approach might have lead to legendary status because their hooks, samples and general asskicking are at a very high level. It’s all here: snarling vocals that express an aversion to authority, galloping, Maidenish bass, chaotic drums and pure energy.
One Track Sales Pitch: I’d skip to Deadlocked at the 5:00 mark because the intro is great and the bassist goes nuts later in the song, though he does that a lot. The single best song, however, is Divine Right, the closer that starts at 24:50.
4: Spazz – La Revancha
Spazz just wanna have fun. They are very influential for helping to define the genre of power violence. The are also not very influential because the genre they help to define is power violence. Goofy lyrics, samples from Kung-Fu movies and whatever else they find funny… they are in the tradition of SOD if that helps any. Massive breakdowns broken up by spazz outs. Plus, this album features Kool Kieth. They also have good splits with Romantic Gorilla and Charles Bronson.
One Track Sales Pitch: Their songs are like 30 seconds long. Just play any five minute segment of the album and you’ll get the gist of it.
3: Deltron 3030 – 3030
The best rappers to me have always been weirdos and black nerds, as they are more creative and say things I never would have thought of in a million years. Deltron Osiris (real name, Del The Funky Homosapien) is full of colorful accounts of life 1,300 years into the future, when he is on a mission to restore creativity and artistic expression to a militarized dystopia. Dan The Automator and Kid Koala work in some combination to produce richly layered but low key music that is beautiful and serene, with a consciously mechanized sound, which gives it the right space/sci-fi feel.
One Track Sales Pitch: I used a video of the album being performed with an orchestra and choir and all that junk because it’s awesome and good, live rap performances are such a rarity. But a total noob should just check out “3030” or “Madness.”
2: Fifteen – Lucky
It is funny and weird that people give a serious shit about lyrics. Wow, that 24 year-old can come up with a good guitar lick, I wonder what he thinks about religion! On the off chance he has something interesting to say, what are the odds that he is also good at poetry? Pretty remote, I’m afraid. But every time Halley’s Comet passes a single individual is granted the ability to write lyrics I not only pay attention to, but admire. Fifteen’s Jeff Ott is a shamelessly earnest leftist driven by anger that is driven by authentic compassion (rather than the usual self righteousness and parent hating) who writes heavily romantic music (scholars most often compare Fifteen to Beethoven). His approach is to cut directly to the heart of the matter without flourish as the bluesy, anthemic music surges. “My congressman says I can’t give my brother a clean syringe. If he should get AIDS and die, that’s just too bad.” “How does a mother tell her children their daddy got killed by the police?” Or the anti-suicide anthem “Lucky,” that’s just a straightforward recounting of his friend and former bass player’s suicide and recollections of their friendship, building up to a crescendo in which he addresses the listener “Hey, kid I hope you know/ Sometimes life is gonna suck/Hey, kid I hope you know/Sometimes everything is gonna be fucked up/Hey, kid I hope you know/The only way around your problems is straight through them/Nothing is insurmountable, nothing is undoable/Nothing is unbeatable, nothing is impossible.” I can really imagine the song helping a suicidal person, which means Ott really has done the impossible: been a positive influence without being a massive lame-o. Of course, he is a little lame, but just enough to be lovable.
One Track Sales Pitch: Stolen Lives. Two true stories, from north of the Bay where Ott and I both lived at the time. An Asian father was shot by the police for brandishing a broomstick. A black kid, incorrectly suspected of stealing a walkman, was shot while walking away from a Santa Rosa cop, unarmed.
1: El Dopa (aka 1332) – 1332
El Dopa are the most underrated band in history, as they are obscure even by punk rock standards. Sometimes I think about these guys, having unleashed this album and thinking “wow, I think we might have made a classic here,” and then not that much happening. They’re probably still somewhere saying, “you know, I thought that album was really good. It came out just how we wanted. Am I wrong?” The were a big draw at Gilman Street during their brief existence, but nothing much happened beyond that.
I’d describe this as crust core meets Black Sabbath performed by life hating junkies. The bone crushing heaviness made them too metal for some, but I love metal and heaviness. The vocals almost have kind of a black metal feel, though they are mostly screaming, because they are laced with so much venom. I ever decide to commit genocide, this will be my soundtrack.
One Track Sales Pitch: The opener, 1332 delivers. You get the Sabbath element in the opening, and the hard core element in the verse.