Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Difficult 2014—Part Three

Sorry for the delay; there was a massive screwup behind the scenes with my year-end posts. I’d continued work on A Difficult 2014, writing some pretty comprehensive reviews for the remaining ten albums. The final two posts in the series were looking good...and then I lost everything due to a corrupted goddamn USB stick.

Motivation and inspiration are hard enough to come by these days, and this incident nearly finished me for good. However, I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging, so to salvage the situation, I’ve:
  • Sacked the Difficult Music IT department.
  • Reimagineered my top ten albums of 2014 and posted them below with pics and some half-remembered, half-assed blurbs below.
Taurus—No/Thing (self-released)
Definitely the most unsettling album I heard all year. The duo of Stevie Floyd and Ashley Spungin wield twisting riffs, spoken word samples and loops, and well-crafted noise to create their harrowing, intensely human vision.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell—Check ’Em Before You Wreck ’Em (Rise Above)
They’re rocking it loose and trashy this time out—more MC5 than Budgie, say—but these three greasehogs are loveable as ever.

Archspire—The Lucid Collective (Season of Mist)
Vancouver`s Archspire are resolutely inhuman and punishing in their approach to tech death. They also seem to be aware that they’re steering the genre down absurd pathways of speed and virtuosity. It’s those moments of breakneck eccentricity that make this album a thing of wonder and awe.

Earth—Primitive and Deadly (Southern Lord)
After taking their music to the brink of dissolution on the two Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light albums, I was hoping Earth would make a shift. Indeed they did. On Primitive and Deadly, the riffs are more vigorous, the songs more concise, and incorporating vocalists Mark Lanegan and Rabia Shaheen Qazi was a genius move. This is the closest thing to a real rock album they’ve made since Pentastar.

Wounded Kings—Consolamentum (Candlelight)
The Wounded Kings do doom with just the right amount of grandeur: not overly dour, with no trace of camp or archness. Sharie Neyland’s vocals are pitched perfectly atop the power-chorded riffs (shame she’s left the band). A touch of Mellotron adds a macabre edge. It’s odd which bands catch on and which don't. Consolamentum is as good as the Pallbearer album, yet The Wounded Kings remain a bit of a secret.

Opeth—Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
Reviewed in full at

Morbus Chron—Sweven (Century Media)
Swedish death metal always had a pronounced weird streak, and Morbus Chron carry on that same mind-bending spirit. Sweven spirals up to the astral plane with unusual chord voicings (I understand the album features no powerchords at all), a murky yet listenable mix, and no choruses to speak of. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s a concept album. Is Sweven the product of alien intelligence or some youngsters raised on Entombed, King Crimson and Rush? Either seems plausible.

Pallbearer—Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)
Regarding Pallbearer’s debut, Sorrow and Extinction, I decided that I liked the demo better. Yes, in that instance I had to be that guy. The demo was a pleasingly simple recording, while the album overcompensated, I felt, with production that smothered the songs with brutal volume. I was happy to hear that Foundations of Burden was sonically richer experience, and the songs had evolved to match the production. Factoring in a much-improved live sound, Pallbearer really deserve all the acclaim they're getting.

Yob—Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot)
Reviewed in full here.

Motorpsycho—Behind the Sun (Rune Grammofon)
My number one album of 2014 is a bit embarrassing to me... Embarrassing because I hadn't discovered Motorpsycho earlier. What kind of music nerd am I? This band has been kicking for 25 years and I didn’t have a clue. I think they’ve even played Vancouver before, the idea of which makes me want to punch myself in the face for missing out. I’d seen the name, but the name alone wasn’t enough to clue me in to how awesome they are. Motorpsycho may be veterans, but they sound fresh and vital to me. The songs on Behind the Sun embody everything I value: they’re varied, quirky but not cute, organic (they could have existed in 1974 or 2014), rocking, and wickedly played and crafted. They do not let up either; the quality never wanes as the record progresses. Each song, whether a ballad, rocker, or instrumental epic, declares its supremacy. “Ghost” will bum you out and bruise your heart (Mellotrons can do that); “On a Plate” and “The Promise” will set you thrashing upon your comfy couch. The album also features the inimitable Reine Fiske on guest guitar, for those who like to keep track of what he gets up to. Some of the best bands are like private societies, with their own discourse communities and iconography. I feel like I’ve learned the secret handshake after absorbing this album. My top discovery of 2014 is also my favourite album of 2014.