My favorite albums through the first six months of 2014.
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – I love it when a band manages to mix chaotic musical departures with strong song-writing, a la the Mars Volta. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra has that ability, creating complex sonic pastiche while just barely clinging to traditional rock structure.
Guns + Ammunition, July Talk – In my songs list, I said the dueling vocals of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay sounded a bit like Nick Cave and Tonya Donnelly. Musically, this one-two singer punch helps give July Talk an interesting edge.
Half the City, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – These southern boys aren’t reinventing the wheel here. This is old school, big band soul, plain and simple. But the thing about that old school, big band soul sound is that, when done well, it’s impossible not to listen. Paul Janeway and his crew display power and deftness on their debut.
Indie Cindy, Pixies – It’s not strange that the Pixies are on this list. Indie Cindy is the outlier among rock albums from bands who broke up for an extended period of time then got back together to record in that it doesn’t completely suck (see the Fleetwood Mac catalogue, anything after Stevie Nicks’ initial run with the band). What is strange is that the Pixies, indie underground darlings of the late 1980s and early 1990s, are easily the most recognizable band on my list.
Out of the Black, Royal Blood – If you like Queens of the Stone Age, give these fellas a shot. Thick, heavy guitars and active drumming drive Royal Blood’s sound, and singer Mike Kerr provides strong, melodic vocals to play against the wall of sound.
Say Yes to Love, Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love makes beautiful noise, from the opening track Driver – a full-throated roar over music that is constantly spilling from melody to chaos – to points deep in the disc, such as the schizophrenic vocals and slow, quiet fade out of Interference Fits. Sublime punk rock.
South of Nowhere, Spanish Gold – Southern rock, reggae, psychedelic rock, blues … Spanish Gold touches a bit of everything, committing only to make the best album they possibly can.
Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts – I think of Pavement and 1980s skate punk quite a bit while listening to Sunbathing Animal. That’s a good thing. Parquet Courts use some conventional punk and garage rock song structure, but tend to throw the occasional feedback solo or wall of noise in spaces where the average fan probably isn’t used to hearing them.
Honorable mentions: Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Angel Olsen; The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, Courtney Barnett; Girl, Pharrell Williams; Give the People What They Want, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings; Stay Gold, First Aid Kit; Standing By Your Side, Lee Fields & The Expressions; Theosophy, Pete Molinari; To Be Kind, Swans