Amanda Laskey’s Best of 2014

January 13th, 2015 · 8 Comments · By

So I know I don’t actually live in Charlottesville anymore, but I lived there for 75% of the year so I’m going to count myself as a C-villian for 2014. As always, I am terrible about listening to music in a timely manner, so apologies if I missed something that was great. I’ll keep it short and sweet and hopefully just keep this as a place where our readers can post what they listened to and saw this past year. I’m so thankful to have been a part of the Charlottesville music scene as the person booking/running sound/taking your money at the Tea Bazaar, a member of the UVA Music Arts Board who helped bring Philip Glass to UVA, and a (kinda) Nailgun writer. Thanks to everyone who put out great records and played great shows this year, and special shoutout to Danny Shea and Graham Partridge who always enabled me to see any of the rad shows in Charlottesville.

Best Charlottesville-ish Band Albums of 2014:

Big Air – Buds – Garage pop punk with the best guitar riffs and drumming that helped flush out a small but powerful lineup. I was especially sad when The Fire Tapes broke up and was really pleased to see Rob Dobson creating some new material with Greg Sloan, known for his participation (at the time) in Dwight Howard Johnson and The Ha-Rang. This band grew tremendously over the course of the year (well, not people-wise, that always stayed at two), and this tape’s eventual release on Wiener Records, the lil sibling of Burger Records, was well-deserved.

Y’all – I’m Here Right Now – When The Invisible Hand dissolved this past year some of us didn’t know what would happen in the Charlottesville music scene. It actually ended up benefiting our town because we ended up with two great bands, New Boss, whose first show was one of my favorite memories in town, and Y’all. Invisible Hand was great, but it always felt like a band of singles, rather than a band who made albums. I’m Here Right Now is an album, not a collection of songs. When you run a venue and live in a small city, there is sometimes the tendency to not listen to recorded music that your friends are making. But I *wanted* to listen to this album, and I still do.

Left & Right – Five Year Plan – I remember leaving some terribly attended Tea Bazaar show where someone (perhaps Wayne Coyne’s nephew’s cough cough) was unbelievably rude to me and I basically had enough. I gave Zak Krone, the face of the Tea Bazaar shows in my absence the past summer, a call, just so I could vent. And it was actually perfect timing, because he was able to tell me that Infinity Cat was going to be releasing their new album as part of their cassette series, and that their first show together with Diarrhea Planet at the Tea Bazaar had made this possible for them. I had never felt so much pride and happiness for a band, because not only did I like the boys of Left & Right, I loved their new album. From shoegaze-y tunes such as “My Favorite Ghost” to the 90’s style fuzzed out punk of “Low Expectations”, Five Year Plan had the focus and range of seasoned pros. Left & Right is no longer a local band to call when you can’t find an opener. Left & Right is the reason to go to the show, and they have been proving this time and time again. Five Year Plan is going to be released on vinyl in 2015 through Cville’s own WarHen Records and Old Flame Records, so maybe it’ll get a chance to pop up on someone else’s list next year…

Best Albums of 2014:

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

I originally planned to write full-writeups about all the records I loved in 2014, but truthfully I keep on coming back to this one. It’s been almost a year since this record came out and I could still listen to it every day. I purposely walk places without people so I can sing along (these are the struggles of not owning a car). Since her previous full length, Half Way Home, Angel Olsen has continued to build to her music, most easily understood by adding a full band for her live shows, but also seen through her lyrical development and the range of her songs. As you may see by looking through my list of favorite shows of 2014, I am mostly seen at more experimental punk and noise shows over concerts with NPR songstresses, so I think my firm stance that this is the best record of 2014 should stick with you, and maybe you should give it a listen.

The Runners-Up:

Ava Luna – Electric Balloon

I saw this band twice in one day. They sound like the best combination of Can, Talking Heads, and Solange. They had Dirty Projectors-like tight harmonies without any monitors. Thoroughly impressed.

Big Ups – Eighteen Hours of Static

Honestly, I really disliked this album the first time I heard it. Their vocalist has “theatrical” vocals which is not normally my style, but I’ve grown to love this band. Amazing lyrics, aggressive bass parts, guitar melodies that draw from noise influences. I’m pleased.

Celestial Shore – Enter Ghost

This is Celestial Shore’s second full-length and it’s significantly more accessible. It’s a great art psych rock album.

Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita

A lot of the bands that made great records this year made records that sounded like Deerhoof (see: Ava Luna, Celestial Shore). But nothing can compare to the pop bubblegum weirdness that is Deerhoof. Everything is a hook, everything is planned to suck you in. It’s really smart pop music.

Ex-Breathers – Exbx

Hey! I liked a hardcore record! 11 minutes, 12 songs. When I saw this band play they yelled at rowdy kids at Macrock about being disrespectful. That’s my kind of hardcore band.

Grouper – Ruins

It’s really strange to be able to hear the lyrics on a Grouper album. The clear vocals and piano-driven songs are a change, but Grouper is still one of the best songwriters out there.

Guerrilla Toss – 367 Equalizer / Smack the Brick

They’re weird as hell, but if you put in the time it’s worth it. If you start a fitness class to the music of Guerrilla Toss let me know because I wanna come. Nothing gets me pumped more than Guerrilla Toss.

Habibi – Habibi

Habibi isn’t a band to push the envelope, but they make perfect pop songs. “I Got The Moves” might be my favorite song of 2014. Put this on at your next party.

Horse Lords – Hidden Cities

Horse Lords are making some of the best music out there, and it’s great to see a more traditional full-length from them. (Their last record was composed of 2 songs, though it still clocked in at 38 minutes) A great mix of noise, krautrock, and more academic experimental music.

Lorelle Meets the Obsolete – Chambers

I was introduced to the amazing song “What’s Holding You?” during the rock marathon by the legendary WTJU DJ Goldfinger. Classic psych rock jams.

Mitski – Bury Me at Makeout Creek

Besides Angel Olsen, there were many other great female songwriters putting out music this year. Mitski is a perfect example of that. Her song “Townie” is a great young-adult anthem for women, even “well-behaved” ones like me. Because who hasn’t thought “I am not gonna be what my Daddy wants me to be – I wanna be what my body wants me to be.”

Pontiak – Innocence

Pontiak live on a farm only about two hours outside of Charlottesville and put out this record on Thrill Jockey, but still seem like foreigners in our town. They are three brothers making extremely loud classic psych rock-and-roll tunes. Though the album reads “Please play at maximum volume”, the quiet songs on the album are also real stunners.

St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Truthfully, I tried to avoid this album for a long time. I thought the St. Vincent phase of my life was over, but this album rips. She is one of the best guitarists making music these days and she does it in such an unconventional way I can’t dismiss it.

Three Legged Race – Rope Commercial Vol. 1

Robert Beatty is mostly known for his involvement with the noise outlet Hair Police, but has been steadily gaining more traction by creating album art for Oneohtrix Point Never and Real Estate. His 2014 EP “Rope Commercial Vol. 1” is a weird mix of no wave, ambient, and noise music. The first track All Ajax Dial should be a treat for anyone who appreciates electronic and tape music.

Wand – Ganglion Reef

I asked psych garage rock expert Rob Dobson for his suggestions for best albums in that genre and this one showed up on the list and stuck out. There are a lot of bands making music like this, but I always appreciate the “wall of sound” approach, and Wand delivers.

Albums I seriously thought came out this year:

Krill – Lucky Leaves

Even though this came out in 2013, it falls into the category of smart pop music that dominated my 2014. Who doesn’t like a weird time signature?

Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

There’s something so therapeutic about being able to “I’ve been waiting to crush your fucking skull”. True stunner is Wussy Void which sounds like a Swearin’ song without the whine.

Best Band to See Live in 2014:

Guerrilla Toss

I first came across Guerrilla Toss when I found out Left & Right was going to be the third tape in the Infinity Cat Tape Series and wanted to check out the previous bands featured. I turned on a 4 song freak out album and was really confused. I am normally really accepting, but found the songs to be totally jarring. Still, I figured I would give them a chance and go see them live at Hopscotch. I ended up in the second or third row in a venue that is possibly smaller than the Tea Bazaar, but with the same long, narrow layout. And during their first song I was hooked. I’m not normally a fan of a shtick, and for a band with a shirtless bassist and a lead singer who seems to be leading an intense dance workout, Guerrilla Toss could be seen as a shtick. But everything comes across as completely genuine. Everyone started dancing along, and not in a “let’s have fun seeing this DJ in concert way!”, but in a positive, yet extremely aggressive environment. I saw them twice more before the end of the year and had a blast every time. I don’t like fun normally, but Guerrilla Toss changed me. Go see them in a crowded room and be a fool. I think it will probably be good for your health.

Best Shows of 2014:

January 14 – Math the Band + Close Talker + Nu Depth @ The Tea Bazaar
January 28th – Pontiak + Sharkopath + Astronomers @ The Tea Bazaar
February 22nd – Horse Lords @ The Creative Alliance, Baltimore
February 23rd – Air Waves @ The Southern
March 6th – Juan Wauters + Gull @ BON (simultaneously the worst show of the year)
March 23rd – Future Islands @ The Southern
March 29th – Peak + Klauss + New Boss @ The Tea Bazaar
April 1st – Philip Glass @ Old Cabell Hall, UVA
April 5th – Disco Doom + Ovlov + Ex-Breathers + Psychic Teens + Big Ups @ Macrock 2014
4/20 – Weed @ Golden Tea House, Philly
April 25th – Titus Andronicus @ Blue Nile, Hburg
May 9th – Bleeding Rainbow + Y’all + Big Air @ The Tea Bazaar
June 6th – Your Friend + Weird Mob @ Tea House
June 14th – Anchor 3 (now known as Swings) + Skullkid @ The Tea Bazaar
June 18th – Bad History Month + Dust From 1000 Years @ The Tea Bazaar
July 4th – Fucked Up + Weed @ Strange Matter RVA
July 8th – Flower Girl + Big Weird @ Tea Beezy
July 25th – Against Me! + Jenny Owen Youngs @ The Southern
August 8th – JEFF the Brotherhood + Nu Depth @ The Southern
August 30th – Andrew Cedermark + Liam Betson @ Shea Stadium BK
September 4th – Lee Noble + Axxa/Abraxas + Guerrilla Toss + Tim Hecker @ Hopscotch, Raleigh, NC
September 5th – MV&EE @ Three Lobed Day Show, Matt Northrup + Palehound + Ken Mode @ Hopscotch, Raleigh, NC
September 6th – St. Vincent + Zomes + Weyes Blood + Ava Luna + Sun Araw @ Hopscotch, Raleigh, NC
October 11th – Whatever Brains @ Death by Audio BK
October 17th – Guerrilla Toss @ Secret Project Robot BK
October 31st – Diarrhea Planet + Mitski @ Brooklyn Night Bazaar
November 2nd – Ex Hex + Speedy Ortiz + Big Ups @ Mercury Lounge NYC
November 4th – Reading Rainbow + Ar-Kaics @ Death by Audio BK
November 7th – Grifters @ Glasslands BK
November 15th – Rhombus @ Michael Jordan, Philly
November 20th – Thee Oh Sees + Natural Child + Jack Name + Skimask @ Death by Audio BK
November 21st – METZ, Protomartyr, Nots. Sleepies @ Death by Audio BK
November 22nd – Final Night of Death by Audio BK – Lightning Bolt + A Place to Bury Strangers + JEFF the Brotherhood + Grooms
December 9th – Angel Olsen @ Bowery Ballroom NYC
December 12th – Swans + Liturgy @ Warsaw BK

A Definitive Ranking of the 14 times I saw Left & Right in 2014

March 21st – Left & Right @ Speakertree Records, Lynchburg
January 31st – Left & Right + Lil Huffy + Snowy Owls @ Tea Bazaar
December 5th – Left & Right + Mannequin Pussy + Big Ups @ Girard Hall, Philly
June 24th – Left & Right @ PhilaMOCA
February 1st – Left & Right + Lil Huffy + Snowy Owls @ My Mansion, Harrisonburg
September 3rd – Left & Right + Diarrhea Planet + Y’all @ Tea Bazaar
November 6th – Left & Right + Desert Sharks @ Shea Stadium BK
February 8th – Left & Right @ Moonbase Nix, Philly
January 30th – Left & Right + Lil Huffy + Snowy Owls @ Strange Matter RVA
April 3rd – Left & Right + Big Air + Other Colors @ Tea House
September 1st – Left & Right @ Velvet Lounge, DC
December 27th – Left & Right @ Yarga’s Basement Philly
April 5th – Left & Right @ Macrock
May 22nd – Left & Right + Big Air @ Milkboy Philly

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 coogan // Jan 13, 2015 at 10:41 am

    this is an epic list! and real comprehensive. i can certainly empathize with the reoccurring thread of ‘i tried to ignore this for a while, but then i listened to it and it was great.’ can you elaborate on gull and juan waters being best/worst simultaneously? i found that a particularly delightful parenthetical.

    re: angel olson let it be known the video for ‘windows’–the haunting last track on ‘burn your fire’ is real great (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CQSOoFlaxI). shot in richmond, directed by rick alvarez, with charlottesville’s ANTHONY RESTIVO credited with production coordinator (more like art director, he would never say but i will). it’s a stoic video, complementing olson’s song craft amazingly.

  • 2 coogan // Jan 13, 2015 at 10:44 am

    RICK ALVERSON WHOOPS

    c&o wires crossed, video is not angel olson meets gypsy jazz..although that could be weird.

  • 3 davis // Jan 13, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Nice list! You went to a LOT of shows. And hell yeah, thanks for helping make the Tea Bazaar the place to be for a lot of 2014. Don’t forget that you introduced me to a label-mate as well, so big big thanks for that as well. Hope 2015 is even better for you.

  • 4 james // Jan 13, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Horse Lords are my favorite band in Baltimore! other bands from up here that I saw and really loved this year include: Wume, Smoke Bellow, Matmos, Pony Moon, Ami Dang, Sunatirene, Turing-Lovelace, Needle Gun, the Creepers, Adventure, Soft Cat, Zomes, and Dan Deacon.

    —-

    I didn’t make a best-of-list this year because I didn’t do much music writing, but I liked:

    – that Angel Olson record
    – the new White Fence is his best one
    – Motion Sickness of Time Travel put out a 12-hour long, 6-cassette box-set with a song for every full moon of the year
    – the new Aphex Twin was nice
    – the latest Skullflower, plus all the other recent Black Sun Roof / Voltigeurs etc I picked up this year
    – the Astral Social Club CD+LP, and all three Vibracathedral Orchestra CD-Rs (thanks, Julian!)
    – that Bill Orcutt LP from the VDSQ series

    Turn-offs / overrated:

    – I thought the new Swans was OK but really forced and self-conscious, lacking the raw danger and weirdness of classic Swans stuff, it’s an OK record that I’m glad to own, but I definitely would not put it anywhere near a best-of list
    – I tried to like the new Silver Mt Zion, but ultimately could not
    – The Invisible Hands (plural), which are completely unrelated to Charlottesville’s late group, are an Egyptian psych-rock group led by former Sun City Girl / Sublime Frequencies label co-chair Alan Bishop (whose work is usually excellent, or at least upsetting and bizarre enough to be captivating, if not good) — but their new album, “Teslam,” is easily the worst album that I have paid full retail price for in my adult life.

    —-

    older music that I discovered/loved this year:

    – everything by Henry Flynt ( especially “Hillbilly Tape Music” )
    – Mindflayer’s “It’s Always 1999” (Mindflayer = Brian Chippendale + Matt Brinkman)
    – Sandy Bull
    – Moondog
    – first two Exuma records
    – the reissue of the Space Lady album
    – Mickey & Sylvia
    – Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (that RSD reissue of their lost tapes is pure gold, a guy I worked for bought it and brought it to work and it got me through a couple dull weeks at a job I hated )
    – Lilys “the 3 Way” (does this count as “local” music? is Kurt still around town?)
    – lots of early Mantronix and Juan Atkins and Man Parrish
    – even more Morricone, as always, there is always more
    – apparently there’s always more Cluster solo albums from the late-70’s/early-80’s, too
    – “Thunderboy” (that early-70’s Tony Conrad record that’s just an hour of his two-year-old kicking and chewing on a spinning Paul Anka 45)
    – Little Ann’s “Deep Shadows”
    – Little Willie John
    – Gary US Bonds
    – more and more Lungfish

    —–

    so far in 2015 I’ve been listening to lots of Coleman Hawkins stuff from the 20’s-40’s and a bit of 80’s thrash metal (can anyone recommend me some good stuff outside the “big 4,” preferably leaning more towards the Slayer / “Kill ’em All” end of the spectrum?)

  • 5 James // Jan 13, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    oh yeah, Davis’ side of the Dais Queue / Mope Lounge split is good as fuck. haven’t flipped it to the b-side yet but I will

    oh also two of Amanda’s favorite albums were ones I did cover art for, which I mention only because: instead of asking to be paid for making the cover art I just asked the musicians to give me a copy of the tape when it came out, but neither one of them actually followed through, so now I’m publicly shaming them for it here, but I won’t say which who they are ‘cuz I’m not TOO mean. one of them I just finally got a copy of (through other means) two days ago and haven’t had time to listen to yet, the other one I still haven’t seen or heard yet, but I’m glad other people are enjoying them, because I like the people who made them… even if they owe me a tape!

  • 6 davis // Jan 14, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Thanks James! Glad you dug it. Hopefully a more active release schedule to come in 2015, but we’ll see.

  • 7 Adam Wolcott Smith // Jan 14, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Ah shucks, thanks Amanda!

  • 8 james // Jan 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    so what music did everyone else like this year?