Clayton's Best of 2014 - Part II: Top 10 Non-Metal Albums

Because man cannot live on metal alone, here’s a list of my 10 favorite non-metal releases of 2014. My tastes tend to be kind of eclectic, so there should be a little something on this list to appeal to everyone. (Editor's Note: All releases below are hyperlinked to either the artist's webpage or where you can listen to the entire album.)

10. Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean

Probably best known to our readers for her work with Red Sparowes, the prolific Rundle—who also fronts Marriages and has released a pair of records with The Nocturnes—released her first non-instrumental solo record, and it’s (predictably) wonderful. Perhaps picking up a few tricks from her Sargent House labelmate and frequent tour partner Chelsea Wolfe, Some Heavy Ocean is a collection of reverb-and-effects heavy drone folk/dream pop that is absolutely gorgeous.

9. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

I’ve liked pieces of this band’s first two records, but LOSE is where they really pull it all together. Veering stylistically from noisy indie rock to folk/punk to almost Prince-like ballads (frontman Joseph D'Agostino has one hell of a falsetto), there’s a little something here for everyone. Bonus points for taking their name from a Lou Reed quote describing what the Velvet Underground sound like.

8. You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing

Everybody has his or her secret musical shame. Mine is an unabashed love for guitar-centric emo, like Weezer’s Pinkerton or the first couple of Get Up Kids records, so I’ve been absolutely loving the ‘emo revival’ of the past couple of years. It took me about 30 seconds to fall in love with Keep Doing What You’re Doing, which is the catchiest collection of songs about feeling like shit that I’ve heard in ages. I guarantee you won’t be able to listen to “Match & Tinder” and not have it stuck in your head for the rest of the week.

7. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

I love this band and their garage rock-meets-post-punk style more and more with every album. “Psychic Trauma” has probably my favorite riff of the year, and album closer “I’m Not Part of Me” has a chorus that’s catchier than head lice.

6. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Progressive bluegrass (also occasionally called jamgrass): yes, it’s a thing, and yes, you should be paying attention to it. Kalamzoo, MI’s Greensky Bluegrass would be a fine place to start, because not only do they have chops for days, but, unlike a lot of bands who put jamming ahead of songcraft, they can also write fantastic songs. Plus, Paul Hoffman has one of those fantastic, lived-in sounding voices that can make even the happiest lyric seem heartbreaking.

5. Self Defense Family – Try Me

My favorite band that no one seems to have heard of, Self Defense Family (fka End of A Year) is an almost maddeningly prolific (in addition to Try Me, 2014 has also seen them release four 7” singles and an EP that I’ll be talking about later) post-hardcore band that really doesn’t sound like anyone else I’ve ever heard, though their roots are certainly in Revolution Summer DC hardcore bands like Rites of Spring. Anchored by lead singer Patrick Kindlon’s distinctive yelp, the band has a loose, revolving door membership (there are currently something like 15 semi-active members of the band) that keeps each release sounding fresh, even with how prolific they are. Start with “Turn the Fan On,” arguably the best song about an abortion ever, and branch out from there.

4. Swans – To Be Kind

I think this one ended up so low on my list because I ended up not spending much time with it; so much of it was familiar to me before it even came out that it didn’t feel that much like a new Swans record. Still, as I noted in my review, it’s another stellar outing from Gira & co. I don’t know that there’s a scarier band on the planet right now.

3. Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You

Is post-emo a thing? It might be now that Pianos Become the Teeth have moved away from their screamo roots with Keep You. The newfound maturity suits them, as lead singer Kyle Durfey has a surprisingly plaintive singing voice (he almost exclusively screamed on the rest of the band’s previous output). This is a gorgeous, shimmering album that’s as addictive as it is depressing. I listened to it for two straight weeks when it came out and was bummed out pretty much the entire time.

2. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

A stellar outing from several members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor that might be better than GY!BE’s heavily lauded comeback album Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! See my review of the album here.

1. Self Defense Family - Duets

Even though it’s only a five song EP, Duets is easily my favorite release of 2014, and probably the high point in SDF’s vast catalog. As the title suggests, the songs are mostly duets (Kindlon doesn’t sing on closer “Cancel Man”) between Kindlon (who has refined his yelp into something more resembling a croon for this EP) and occasional member Caroline Corrigan. The end result is a fantastic collection of relationship-gone-wrong songs that, in a perfect world, make SDF household names.