George's Favorite Albums of 2014

Another year full of great music, over 30 albums here that I really enjoyed... a few of which were my very favorites of 2014. First, here's everything that piqued my interest... albums I enjoyed over repeated listens. It was a big year for drone, shoegaze, and experimental music, as well as a big comeback year for cult acts like ExHxGx, Godflesh, and more.
 
Aphex Twin - Syro
The long awaited return from one of the most talented creators of electronic music was just as good as most everyone had hoped, showcasing his intricate yet very human sounding beat programming and his advanced sense of melody. I instantaneously likened it to a combination of the style of Richard D. James album and the medium of the Analord series by AFX, and I think that lazy comparison is pretty apt still.
 
Cheatahs - s/t 
This one was my summer soundtrack, bright sounding but rocking noise pop with overt psychedelic shoegaze trappings. Almost like My Bloody Valentine's EPs meet Dinosaur Jr, but not... it reminds me of something though.
 
Crisis Arm - Rend
In my opinion, the only band to come close to sounding as out there and emotionally charged as Loveless, including MBV. No other band sounds more like actuated shoegaze revivaling as Crisis Arm. This was far and away one of my favorite albums of the year, full of haunting melody, crushing emotion, and distance.
 
Earth - Primitive and Deadly
An Earth album with vocals was not something one would expect, but that they fit in perfectly on perhaps their heaviest work to date while avoiding stereotypes was a rather badass move by Dylan Carlson and co. Especially when considering Mark Lanegan is one of the said vocalists. Another one of my top albums of '14! I listened to it nearly non-stop for months after I got it.
 
Eyehategod - s/t 
The NOLA stalwarts of sludge and bluesy noise rock return and did not disappoint, churning out one of their best albums yet and continuing to evolve while staying true to their roots throughout. RIP Joey Lacaze, one of my favorite drummers.
 
Floor - Oblation 
This album in its thunderous complex density is somehow still super catchy and memorable... like an advanced version of Torche.
 
Funereus - Return of the Old Goat 
Old school black metal, which really is just straight up raw rock 'n roll with dark energy.
 
Giant Squid - Minoans 
Yup, a well executed, sweepingly epic art metal concept album about the Minoans.
 
Godflesh - A World Lit Only By Fire
I will probably remember 2014 as the year of the big comeback album. Godflesh teased us with a new EP, then upped the ante with this LP, which was quite good. Stripped down to its bare essence on both, Justin K. Broadrick and BC Greene bring ten tons of gnarled, mangled wreckage sculpted into a terminating goliath. Broadrick reminds us again where he comes from and that he is another lord of the riff.
 
Gong - I See You 
This is just a really fun album and a lot better than expected. Not that I expected bad as Gong is a great band, but it was a pleasant surprise. Very jazzy yet still prog rock, it's a must have for prog and kraut rock fans.
 
Grumbling Fur - Preturnaturals 
For the second year in a row, Grumbling Fur released one of the more interesting albums, combinations of the avant garde meet up with varying levels of new wave music that recalls Depeche Mode, but with weirder lyrics. Even if this sounds terrible to you, at least check out the track "Feet of Clay," which is one of the best songs over the past few years.
 
John Zorn - Psychomagia 
Zorn threw us a curveball of a fusion styled prog rock album with a whole new lineup of musicians. The ever prolific composer showed his versatility while letting the musicians' own energies shine through. I listened to this for months on end after I got it. Somehow even better than my other favorite Zorn release of 2014, Valentine's Day... which also needs to be heard as another new direction for John Zorn: sinewy Shellac-like avant rock but with better musicians and no annoying vocals.
 
Lawrence English - Wilderness of Mirrors
I waded my way through various drones and other weirdness, but this was the main one to emerge as very very interesting. Also enjoyed Saaad's Deep/Float and Sublamp's Lianas quite a bit, but English stole the show.
 
Mark Lanegan Band - Phantom Radio 
The thing about Mark Lanegan is that he does what he wants to do, and people like that. This album is all over the map and showcases is varied experiences as a person and a musician. "I Am The Wolf" is one of the best singer/songwriter styled songs I've ever heard, stripped down and compelling. Then there's that disco track on there! WTF!? Awesome.
 
Medicine - Home Everywhere 
I almost wrote this album off as nonsense, that's how bizarre it is in its creation. Instead, it is highly original, envelope-pushing shoegaze/noise pop. I still haven't really wrapped my brain around this one, but trust me, it is interesting to say the least. Futuristic and captivating and like nothing else I've heard before, which doesn't happen very often anymore.
 
Merkabah - Moloch 
There were a ton of great albums this year, but this one from these Polish avant jazz musicians might damn well be my favorite. They opened the book on King Crimson and studied it well, boiling it down to its elements and interpreting it with noisy drumming, taut guitars that drone when they need to, and a rather intensely evil saxophone. Editor's Note: Read our review here.
 
Mouse On Mars - '21
Again my favorite collaboration album of last year, Mouse On Mars worked with many different other sound artists and produced a varied and interesting work that both sounds like them and others; there may be some filler here over two discs, but its still well worth checking out if you like MoM.
 
Mr. Oizo - The Church 
Goofy ass dance music from France, each album is weirder and more booty shaking, however. Sarcastic, weird party music.
 
Murmur - s/t 
I honestly haven't really put this album through its paces yet, but I heard it on a friend's year end list and liked the track he picked quite a bit. Then I found out it has a cover of King Crimson's "Larks Tongues In Aspic" on it, and I was sold. Can you tell I'm a little biased?
 
Noxagt - Brutage 
One of the most abstractly heavy albums of the year, Noxagt keeps sounding like nobody else out there while not repeating themselves. This time around it's three long form noise rock masterpieces that will blow your mind and everyone else's. Sure there's filler in the form of two atmospheric tracks that didn't really do much for me, but the three intense avant rock tracks were all it took as they are some of the most heavy things you'll hear in music.
 
OOIOO - Gamel 
I'm not sure what to say about this, it's like really really good world music, man. Not the cheesy kind of world music, the good stuff. It's just a fun album I guess? Definitely weird, if you like the Boredoms check it out.
 
Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O'Malley, Randall Dunn - Shade Themes from Kairos 
I go back and forth about this one and the Merkabah album, it's pretty much a tie; both albums came out of nowhere for me, found them on the Quietus list I think. I thought this one sounded so well produced that I bought it on vinyl to hear it in all its glory. And it sounds outstanding and astounding, like good film music should. I was not even a fan of any of these artists works before this, but as a team here, they shined (albeit, darkly).
 
Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden 
These guys stick to the style of their excellent previous album but make it a little more gothy and perhaps even more DOOM. Super dense and heavy, it is offset by more lively singing.
 
Philm - Fire From The Evening Sun 
Say it with me: Dave. Lombardo's. Drumming. Dave. Lombardo's. Drumming. OK, got it? Dave Lombardo drums here. And it's awesome. Great variety of songs and excellent guitar work too. It doesn't sound like Slayer, but here's already plenty of good Slayer out there. Very original, high energy punk art metal, or something like that. 
 
Plebeian Grandstand - Lowgazers 
This wasn't quite as good as many of these other albums I'm writing about, but I'm including it if for no other reasons than that band name and that damn drummer. Wow.
 
Primus - The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble 
It took Primus showcasing their love for the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film, wanting to erase the memory of the Tim Burton version from the collective unconscious, and the superb return of Tim Alexander on drums to gain my interest again. The whole album is fantastically produced and an adventure in sound. Sure, we'd all like to hear them do Frizzle Fry again, but this is probably more befitting of their maturity at this point.
 
Secret Chiefs 3 (Ishraqiyun incarnation) - Perichoresis 
Another contender for album of the year, this one came from out of the blue, as I expected Book of Souls Folio B to be their next release. Instead, we got something far better than last year's Folio A, an Ishraqiyun album! Some of the most complex yet natural sounding music you can find.
 
Swans - To Be Kind 
I almost didn't include this because it is to me a not quite as good version of 'The Seer', but I still got a lot from this album. To be able to put out back to back quality double albums is definitely a feat and Swans were quite capable of pulling it off at this point in their career.
 
The Bad Plus - Rite of Spring 
Avant classical music, or jazz? It's really good, whatever it is. The Bad Plus bring it on this one, interpreting what else but The Rite of Spring. Bring it!
 
The Nels Cline Singers - Macroscope
Nels Cline is one of my favorite guitarists, but the 'Singers albums have been a little lackluster lately... until this one. I really enjoyed it, and oddly enough my favorite song from Macroscope is a smooth jazz track. Go figure!
 
Thou - Heathen and Ceremonies of Humiliation
One of the best bands in the past decade when it comes to heavy music, Thou climb the mountain one more time and look down upon the deepest valleys, plunging ever deeper into desolation and the reality of our rapidly changing world through drawn out sludge epics. They remain ever prolific, but to me the Heathen LP and Ceremonies EP were the crushingest. 'Heathen' is one of my top albums of 2014!
 
Today Is The Day - Animal Mother 
Much better than the previous Today Is The Day release but retaining the excellent production, Animal Mother hearkens back to the peak TITD albums from the late 90s. The drumming is super tight, the guitar sound as gnarly as ever, and the rhythm section is hugely encumbered, like a runaway freight train on a collapsing landscape. The variety heard here is what sets them apart from other death metal and grindcore/sludge bands, as well as the levels of brilliantly absorbed prog rock tendencies.
 
Whirr - Sway 
Yet another great shoegaze album from 2014, one of my favorites. The heaviest but most catchy, hollow sounding but layered shoegazer album of the year. You won't be able to get these fuckers out of your brain. 
 
So that's what I was really into this past year. If I had to choose my very favorite releases, it would be the albums by Crisis Arm, Earth, Eyehategod, Gong, John Zorn's Psychomagia, Lawrence English, Ambarchi/O'Malley, Merkabah, NOXAGT, Ishraqiyun, Thou, and Whirr, all of which I consider must-haves.