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11.15.15 Wash Away the Stress04.21.15 Summertime Jams
04.11.15 Hip-Hop04.04.15 Mark's Q1 2015 List
03.23.15 New Old Records03.08.15 Vinyl Collection Started
02.22.15 Recent Finds01.10.15 Missed 2014 Gems
12.20.14 Mark's Top Fifty Of 2014 11.09.14 Work Listening
11.02.14 Favorites Of 2014 Thus Far08.29.14 Choose My 50th Review
08.19.14 Got my promotion at work!07.30.14 High School, Revisited
07.23.14 Interview Today07.15.14 Recent Digs
05.22.14 Work Jams05.21.14 Favorite Bands Of The Moment
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Mark's Top Fifty Of 2014
Grand Morbid Funeral

Grand Morbid Funeral is simply evil as fuck. Bloodbath have created an album that reeks of
osdm, but still possesses enough originality to stand on its own. This can be said of a lot of
bands in this genre, but the dark atmosphere achieved in songs like "Unite in Pain" show that
this band has an exquisite eye for production and songwriting.
49The Amity Affliction
Let the Ocean Take Me

The Amity Affliction have undeniably created a passionate album with Let The Ocean Take Me.
The post hardcore genre is saturated as ever, but armed with the soaring cleans of Ahren
Stringer and personal lyricism they are a notch above most that crowd the genre. The boys
choir in penultimate track "Pittsburgh" is nothing if not affecting, and it's that catharsis that
ends up making this an enjoyable listen.

On paper, this should be Chino Moreno's most enjoyable side project for me. Lush electronics
mesh with his ever-changing croon, and though it falters as a full album, Crosses provides
some of the best songs of the year. "This is a Trick" matches a Deftones-esque chorus with
dark electronics, and "Bitches Brew" is possibly the best Moreno output in the past five years,
period. There are plenty of gems to be found here, so let Crosses keep things dark and catchy
for you.
47Essence Beyond

Essence Beyond has provided death metal lovers with a walloping, kickass little EP. Carnivalism is evil, dense, and technical, bringing
Decapitated in their prime to mind. The songwriting prowess displayed is definitely a sign of great things to come, as the gurgling
vocals and impressive bass are just a few standouts.
Hammer of the Witch

Ringworm have been around the block, but Hammer of the Witch is incredibly inspired and
their best release by far. The thrash elements combined with Human Furnace's screams make
for a dynamic listen, and the old-school hardcore feel allow for fans of the older material to
enjoy what is present here. To be around for twenty years and still kick this much ass is
something only a band like Ringworm could do, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
45Best Wishes
Best Wishes

The blend of shoegaze, folk, and indie is superbly done on this release. It is apparent from the
get-go that Best Wishes have plenty of experience under their collective belt, if only for the
fact that this EP is excellently done. The psychedelic feel of "Riverwild" is both meandering
and interesting throughout its six minute runtime. The closer ?Friendship? encapsulates
everything that Best Wishes has to offer, and points to an excellent full-length in the future.
Sorrow has never sounded so happy before.
44Oxford Drama
Oxford Drama

Oxford Drama is giving us more of what we have been seeing in pop music recently. The
genre is being expanded, and now gorgeous female vocals are not constrained to tired pop
cliches. The electronic leanings allow for this duo to sound ethereal while still being incredibly
catchy. Oxford Drama is a precursor to what will certainly be a fruitful career in electro-pop.
Throne of Reign

At this point in time, it would be foolhardy for any Pathology fan to expect a huge deviation in
style. Deep, gurgling vocals are matched up against inhuman drumming and lightning fast
solos, and Throne of Reign is simply the next chapter of the same story for the band. That's
obviously a good or bad thing, depending on what you are expecting. Fans of brutal death
metal in general will find much to enjoy here, as this is one of Pathology's strongest offerings
to date. The album is filled to the brim with absolutely gargantuan riffs and earth-shattering
grooves, and the brevity here is one of the saving graces of Throne of Reign. It seems as
though the band has perfected their craft and have no intention of branching out; whether that
is a positive or negative is entirely up how much you enjoy brutal death metal.

Quarterboy is just one of those releases that is nostalgia personified. When life was a little
simpler, you might spend your days agonizing over girls with your friends; that was a few
summers of my life quite a long time ago (longer ago than I care to remember, honestly). It's
trivial looking back at it now, but what this album provides is 16 minutes of gentle, inoffensive
twee pop. The quick compositions and tongue-in-cheek lyrics make this quite the listenable
little gem; although to that end, it comes and goes without any real highlights. Quarterbacks
crafted a full-length that left me interested enough to follow their progress to see how they
mature in the coming years, because the potential is certainly there.
Lost Forever // Lost Together

Lost Forever // Lost Together does everything that is expected of Architects at this point, but
they haven't done it this well in quite some time. The renewed vigor shines through the entire
album, most notably in standouts "Gravedigger" and "Broken Cross", but the album in general
is a step in the right direction. The improved melodic vocals and pervading atmosphere give
more depth to the album as a whole, and this is my pleasant surprise of 2014.
40I Killed the Prom Queen

Metalcore veterans I Killed the Prom Queen are back this year with a new LP, and they
certainly haven't lost any steps during the time that they were inactive. New vocalist Jamie
Hope (ex-The Red Shore) fills the big shoes, and the music is considerably more spacious and
grandiose than on previous releases, boasting some orchestral sections ("Kjaerlighet") and
more melody than you can shake a stick at ("Beginning of the End"). The punishing
breakdowns are still present, and the melodic leads are everywhere, so it's certainly no
question that this is the best version of the band that we have seen yet.
The Necrotic Manifesto

Aborted have shown quite a bit of progression throughout their career; they have adopted
many different tempos and styles into their gore-laden approach. The Necrotic Manifesto feels
like a culmination of their entire illustrious career; vocalist Sven has never sounded more
varied and the music is technical but never sacrifices that for the heaviness of the record. The
drums are absolutely inhuman, especially in tracks like "Coffin Upon Coffin" and "The
Extripation Agenda", and the band is also not afraid to adopt a doomier approach as evidenced
by passages in "Cenobites". If this album is any indication, Aborted not only have plenty left in
the tank, but are also only getting better with age.
38Kool A.D.
Word O.K.

Throughout Word O.K. Kool A.D. makes a habit of stating that he is the best rapper in the
world. It's closer to an ironic statement on the braggadocio that infects the genre as a whole
than it is him truly believing it, but he has released one of the best and most diverse hip-hop
albums of the year. Whether it?s the chilled-out vibe of "I'm On A Plane" or the fiery way that
he spits through the six-plus minutes of "Special Forces", Kool is taking you through every
facet of hip-hop in a way that is inexplicably his own.
Through Art We Are All Equals

Through Art We Are All Equals is certainly Jonny Craig's project through and through. It ends
up being a question of how much you enjoy his vocals, because instrumentally speaking there
simply isn't much going on here that we haven't heard before. Most of what is going on here
has a second-rate Emarosa feel to it, but the good news is the lyrics on here are much more
honest and revealing than on past projects. Vocally we haven't seen Craig this good in awhile,
and this album seems the stepping stone that was necessary in order for him to release a
truly genre-defining album in the future.
36Kitty Pryde

It's easy to write off Kitty for multiple reasons; the frothy and cutesy aesthetic could turn off
a ton of potential fans. Impatiens is more than meets the eye, however. With excellent
productions, original beats, and a hip-hop/pop hybrid to boot, she certainly knows what she's
doing here. The trance-like "m0rgan stop" boasts a slow-burning beat that perfectly
compliments the murky lyrics, and the dream pop of "brb" is quietly one of the best songs of
2014. This will be the guilty pleasure of every metalhead that gives this a chance, mark my
35The Hotelier
Home, Like NoPlace Is There

It's strange; this album took a very long time to grow on me, and I really don't know why I
listened to it so much when I didn't care for it initially. It's passionate and gritty, honest and
revelatory. It possesses an identity amongst a gluttony of bands that don't dare to be so
strikingly personal. The lyricism paints a picture that is easy to understand, and it almost
seems like you're just listening to a friend recount a difficult time in his life where nothing
made sense and everything was an uphill battle. Musically speaking, it is almost painfully
average. With that being said, this is an album that will mean quite a bit to so many music
lovers out there, and that cannot be taken away no matter what. I would advise anyone who
is into pop punk and emo to check this one out, as it is incredibly affecting.

Hauntpop takes some of the less inventive music of the mainstream (Lady GaGa, Linkin Park),
slows it down, and just plain messes with it until they all sound like completely different
songs. More than that, Hutcher seems to give the vapid selections more meaning in his creepy
renditions, adding a much more-you guessed it-haunting atmosphere in these tracks. What
may sound like a joke on paper ends up being a very worthy endeavor, especially given the
success of the EP in general. Ultimately, Hauntpop is a great idea that is delivered on in the
best way imaginable. While it may not appeal to everyone, there is an interesting dichotomy
present here in that there are both catchy melodies and multi-layered ambient soundscapes
present. Just check the excellent reinterpretation of Adele's "Someone Like You"; the haunting
and poignant tracks leaves one simply wanting more.

As innocuous as the album cover may be, Abalam is pure evil from start to finish. Hailing
from Denmark, this band mixes hardcore, black metal, and sludge to create an aural assault
that is as brutal as it is varied. The shorter song structure works in Hexis' favor, as tracks
never overstay their welcome. This is especially important, given how oppressive the
heaviness can be on the album. If you (like me) were disappointed in Trap Them's 2014
release, this will slake the thirst. It's grimy, sludgy, and seemingly impossibly heavy.
Please Explode

With ex-members of Wretched, Glass Casket, and Vehemence, my expectations were very
high for Please Explode. This grindcore/death metal behemoth definitely does not disappoint
with sixteen tracks of punch-to-the-face heaviness. The stop-start shifts and impressive vocal
range keep things interesting from beginning to end, and even if grindcore isn't generally
something that you find yourself interested in, the death metal influence sprinkled in will
impress most heavy music fans. As songs like "Punching Nancy Grace" and "The God Clause"
prove, this is undoubtedly the underrated album of the year.

Forevermore employ a style reminiscent of metalcore titans August Burns Red, and though it's
nothing new in the grand scheme of things, they deliver a compelling record with plenty of
replay value. The serpentine leads and impassioned screams of vocalist Kramer Lowe are the
highlights here, but the band hardly makes a misstep. The progressive element of their music
is intriguing, and it's clear from Telos that they intend on continuing down that path.
Roads to the North

Roads to the North was a pleasant surprise for me. I haven't heard much in the way of
Panopticon before this year, and their latest release mixes black metal with bluegrass in a
way that is both cinematic and invigorating. The meshing of different influences should be
stark and off-putting on paper, but this album ends up being a journey from beginning to end.
It embodies everything you would expect from a record like this and more, giving a metric ton
of melody and atmosphere to the affair. After listening to the album front to back, it's worth
noting that Roads to the North is a full-on experience. There is a lack of highlights because the
entire damned thing is the highlight. If you've somehow missed this and enjoy any of the
genres that this incorporates, do yourself a favor and put aside an hour and a half for this
beautiful beast.

With Tim Lambesis' departure from As I Lay Dying leaving the band without a frontman, it was
easy to speculate what direction they were going to head in. Wovenwar is not what many
would expect, as Jordan Mancino and company elected to use the talents of Shane Blay (clean
vocalist/guitarist of Oh, Sleeper). The soaring cleans present here are quite a far cry from the
visceral roars of the past band, but it was precisely the reinterpretation needed in order to
breathe new life into the songwriting formula for these musicians. There is a homogeneous
quality that cannot be denied here, but the most redeeming part of that is the high quality of
the songs present is easily identifiable. "The Mason" boasts some of the album's best riffs and
also transitions to an epic buildup with one of the album's only screaming sections. As it
stands, Wovenwar is set to make their own imprint in the metalcore world.
The Satanist

Never mind that The Satanist is Behemoth's best record as of late, this album rules on its own
accord regardless. After vocalist/guitarist Nergal's bout and by all accounts extremely close
call with leukemia, it was fair to assume that this record would be a bit different. It definitely
is different, but only slightly so. The changes are minimal and inconsequential given the fact
that the main reason the album works so well is because it integrates everything one would
expect from Behemoth in the best way possible. The dark atmosphere helps to make The
Satanist more listenable than any other Behemoth record for me personally, and songs like
"In The Absence ov Light" and the title track show just how diverse their sound can be.
27Comeback Kid
Die Knowing

Comeback Kid haven't lost a step since they were a young, hungry band; rather, they have
upped the passion and aggression in their music. Die Knowing is the perfect combination of
their punishing breakdowns and catchy vocal lines. The true spirit of hardcore bleeds through
with gang shouts aplenty ("Wasted Arrows"), while not being afraid to be infectious as well
("Unconditional", "Didn't Even Mind"). It's not a crazy departure from their previous releases,
but rather the band taking all of the interesting aspects of past releases and mashing them
together. Die Knowing is a not-so-gentle reminder that the electronic-laden, overly-polished
hardcore will never fully replace the passionate grit that came before it, and for that I am
26Hour of Penance

Hour of Penance pummel their way through all of Regicide. That should be fairly obvious even
without listening to the album if you're a fan of them, and honestly this one is no different
than prior releases. The only real difference is that Hour of Penance have honed their
songwriting to a fine point, and little flourishes like the beginning of "Resurgence of the
Empire" are what make it so memorable. Hour of Penance were underrated as it is, but now
that Regicide exists it's even more glaring. Bask in the blatant mocking of organized religion
and headbang in the name of Satan, HoP commands you.
Dirges of Elysium

Incantation will always be one of my favorite death metal bands. There is just something
about their sound that is so deeply malevolent; their production even sounds as if the albums
are recorded in the depths of Hell. Dirges of Elysium is no different here, and it's obvious that
Incantation put their best foot forward when they are simply recreating what they've done for
25 years.
24The Grouch x Eligh x CunninLynguists
The Winterfire EP

The Winterfire EP is one of the most exciting collaborations of the year, as these artists have
incredible chemistry with one another. It doesn't sound like hip-hop artists working together,
but rather a well-oiled machine that has been pumping out solid tunes for years. The different
flows and styles help to keep the verses both interesting and varied. The beat in "Only the
Past" is nostalgic and lends to the wistful lyricism present. This is simply a situation where
everyone involved simply caught lightning in a bottle; everything works and has its own place
in The Winterfire EP.
Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel

I didn't fully appreciate Carcass until I saw them live earlier this year. After listening to them
blast through decades of incredible material, I remember getting home and excitedly re-
listening to their discography. The fact that they constantly reinvented themselves and gave a
middle finger to expectations is admirable. These five songs are simply just Carcass proving
once more that they will never really fade into obscurity (or for that matter, release a bad
album). The slow, larger-than-life riff in the beginning of "Intensive Battery Brooding" and the
nostalgic value of "1985 (Reprise)" are just a few highlights in one of the best EPs of the year.
22Within the Ruins

Upon repeated listens of Phenomena, it's fairly safe to say that this is the band's best work to
date. There are plenty of chugs and breakdowns in this album, but I'll damned if this isn't the
catchiest metalcore release of the year. "Gods Amongst Men" starts the album off as one of
WtR's best songs, and it becomes obvious after a few listens that there is zero filler on this
album. The vocals are better than they ever have been in the past, and the tight interplay
between all instruments show a band that has become very comfortable in its collective skin.
Both instrumental tracks rank as some of the strongest songs, with "Enigma" boasting guitar
licks very reminiscent of both Mario Bros and Inspector Gadget. The fun that Within the Ruins
had making this one is translated well on the record, and the band have not sounded tighter in
their playing than they do now.
21A Slow Descent

One man group A Slow Descent creates icy, vast soundscapes that are both experimental and
captivating. Concept-wise, A Slow Descent focuses this time on a group of machines that rise
up and destroy mankind, forming a utopia in the wake of the destruction. He pulls this
delightfully weighty concept by using everything from screaming synth sounds to crashing
distortion, and if you're even a little interested in sci-fi, you owe to yourself to check this
piece of art out. Utopias is foreboding, intricate, and thought-provoking. Sit back, close your
eyes, and allow this album to tell you a story that is somber and entertaining at the same
Approaching Silence

Yoma play an amalgamation of meandering post rock and driving post metal, with their
minimalist attitude being the most memorable thing about them. Instead of the valleys-and-
peaks songwriting formula present on many post rock acts, the band opts for a much more
subdued, introspective approach most of the time. Approaching Silence is an album that was
enjoyable from the beginning, but upon repeated listens it really began to reveal itself to me
as a listener. The anguish in the guitars in "To The Fall" and the downtrodden feeling that you
get from the beginning from "Tides" are just a few examples of how well Yoma did injecting
the album with unrestrained emotions. The time that you invest with this one will be equal to
what you get out of it, and it is certainly worth your time.
19 Morning Effort
I heard you the first time, it just wasn't funny

Morning Effort's most recent EP is certainly charming, but the 11-minute release is more than
that. It's the perfect combination of sloppily endearing instrumentals, shout-along lyrics, and
self-referential humor (a song called "shitty kinsella rip-off" can attest to that). I heard you
the first time, it just wasn't funny is catchy, wry, and exactly what it needs to be in order to
differentiate itself from the pack. It doesn't overstay its welcome, which makes highlights
such as "Midwestern Self-Depreciation" all the more sweet. The jaunty beginning to "All-
nightr" shows the perfect transitioning of the low-key emo stylings into a more energetic pop
punk feel. "For Tabasco Use Only" apes Your Favorite Weapon's vocals a bit more
aggressively while having a fun stop-start rhythm that keeps its identity despite the vocal
similarities. Much like the kid who is the first to make fun of himself stops the other children
from picking on him, Morning Effort lay their quirkiness out in the open which allows the
listener to enjoy all aspects of the music, including the negatives such as poor production
quality and at times sophomoric lyrics. I heard you the first time, it just wasn't funny is the
surprise of the year, and boasts of great things for the future of the band.
18Job For a Cowboy
Sun Eater

Sun Eater is massive in scope, and the album that Job For a Cowboy have been aiming to
make for years now. The progression that the band has underwent is staggering; they are a
long way from the Doom-era deathcore that they began with. This album's biggest strength is
the way that the band takes their time crafting the compositions (many of the songs are six-
plus minutes), incorporating doom metal passages that segue into ripping guitars and the
demonic roars of vocalist Jonny Davy. What it boils down to is that Sun Eater works in every
aspect, and fans that have been defending them for years have reason to rejoice. This is the
band confidently etching out their niche in the extreme metal scene, and it's certainly well-
deserved after all these years.
17 Mastodon
Once More 'Round the Sun

Mastodon can seemingly do no wrong; no matter what genres they decide to utilize, they
succeed to a head-scratching degree. Once More 'Round The Sun is probably the catchiest
Mastodon record yet. Tracks like "Tread Lightly" and "The Motherload" are melodic and riff-
tastic from start to finish. Though there are fans mostly likely pining for the band of past
releases, it's certain from this album that they will continue in their trend of releasing
whatever they want and still gaining critical acclaim. It's well-deserved because...well,
because it's Mastodon.

Sines is incredible. Everything about it just screams adjectives that I love to associate with
post-rock. Moody, ethereal, and cinematic come to mind, but that seems to not quite do this
album justice. By the time that "Blind Them With Science" ends and you realize that you still
have six more tracks to experience, "Emergent" comes gently floating into your headphones.
The genius of Jakob on this record is shown through the fact that every track utilizes different
textures and moods to achieve a truly unique listening experience. While this wasn?t an album
that I was anticipating, it became the album that I listened to whenever I had the time alone
needed to digest it. If Sines is any indication, Jakob are on their way to creating an absolute
In Heaven, Everything is Fine

This band is just perfect; pissed off hardcore punk songs that aren't afraid to be mid-tempo
even with short lengths. For those that enjoyed the band Cerces, this is the same band except
with a new (male) vocalist. Though it's a little different than the previous band, the
trademarks that make them so listenable are still there. The vocals are sneering and the lyrics
are somehow satirical and impassioned at the same time. In-your-face feedback and spastic
drums greet you from the beginning and never let up in the less than fifteen minutes of
material present. The replay value for these guys is incredible, and they are sure to make a
name for themselves if they stick around.
The Fall of Therenia

The Fall of Therenia was one of those albums that I simply stumbled across, and the album
cover left me dubious at best. As soon as first track "The Fall of Therenia" kicked in, I was
hooked until the end. Aspherium have created melodic death metal that sprinkle in bits of
black metal, progressive metal, and any other spacey element you could possibly imagine in
order to create something that is both natural and multi-faceted. When you can listen to a
song that is over ten minutes ("The Revenant") and not have it drag at any point, it points to
quality songwriting and enough experimentation to keep things dynamic.
13Wolves in the Throne Room

Though it's hard to determine if this ambient album is the new direction for Wolves in the
Throne Room or simply an experiment, this much is certain: Celestite is absolutely engaging.
It's ethereal with crystalline production, and the compositions are masterful. For a genre that
is notoriously slow-moving, Wolves in the Throne room seem to have no problems conveying
feelings of despair and gloom one moment (the end of "Turning Ever Towards the Sun") and
then scoring what sounds like an alien version of The Odyssey the next ("Initiation at Neudeg
Alm"). Celestite may not be for everyone, but it's certainly a must-listen for fans of spacey
ambient music.
12Mac Miller

Mac Miller has been progressing at an impressive level. His lyricism is getting better but the
production is amazing as always; however, that doesn't stop Faces from being startlingly
honest at times. It's interesting to watch Mac work backwards from most hip-hop stars, in that
the shitty mainstream aspect of his music came first and he has progressively gotten weirder
(in a good way). The production and attention to detail on some of these beats are astounding,
and he sets himself up with some very impressive features spanning from Rick Ross to Vince
Staples. "Polo Jeans" sees Miller and Earl Sweatshirt spitting fiery verses over an intricate
beat and samples of kids cursing. "Rap Diablo" alone is enough to prove how far Mac has
come as he tackles his own insecurities and thoughts of suicide, but it is more esoteric than it
sounds. He has these moments of depressive clarity amongst his drugged-out pop culture
references. As he continues down the path of addiction and depression, he will continue to be
more interesting. I have this pervading notion that he will end up being one of the best, and
Faces begins to solidify this idea. This is easily the most overlooked hip-hop album of the
11Pet the Preacher
The Cave and The Sunlight

Pet the Preacher have struck gold with the formula present on The Cave & The Sunlight.
Soulful vocals are matched with a riff-rock/blues sound, retaining a classic sound without
sacrificing originality. It's hard to label a band as retro without also damning them as a band
that isn't forward thinking, but "Let Your Dragon Fly" shuts up would-be critics of the sound
with its heavy riffs and infectious vocals. This is the type of record that would generally
remind you that you haven't re-listened to Black Sabbath's self-titled in a couple of months,
but they do it better than most present-day bands and this trio from Denmark prove that this
type of music can still be relevant and enjoyable.
10Pianos Become the Teeth
Keep You

A lot has been made of Pianos Become The Teeth's decision to go from gut-wrenching,
passionate screaming to a clean vocal delivery. It's certainly unexpected, but that doesn't
mean that Pianos have sacrificed any of their emotional impact. Vocalist Kyle Durfey has
always been focused on delivering personal lyrics, but they are far more reflective and
focused than they have ever been before. Keep You is quieter than previous endeavors, but
it?s also a fuller and richer-sounding record. This change in sound has allowed the band to
flesh out the deep, painful crevice that they occupy. The gently picked guitars in "Repine" help
Durfey's hushed, emotive vocals perfectly frame the excellent lyrics; by the time the drums
come in, it's clear that this is a band that is on the same page. This simply isn't a band that
knows any other way than being authentic, and the painful truths behind the lyrics are far
more hard-hitting than any chaotic scream or discordant guitar. Keep You is the sound of a
band following their trajectory, and doing it brilliantly.
9Joyce Manor
Never Hungover Again

I remember the first time that I listened to Joyce Manor, and I recall marginally enjoying
them. It was several hours later when I was humming "Beach Community" (off of their self-
titled debut) to myself while doing the dishes that I realized they were onto to something
here. Their blend of pop punk and emo amongst other influences is both relatable and
catchy.The construction of the songs on Never Hungover Again is a bit like a sampler platter,
as it displays the gamut of everything that Joyce Manor can do, and it does so in less than
twenty minutes. For a genre that can seem so one-dimensional at times, Joyce Manor expertly
inject just enough influences to sound completely different than any other band in the genre.
"Heart Tattoo" shows the heart-on-sleeve, upbeat pop punk side to them, but the closer
"Heated Swimming Pool" leans more toward emo tendencies with jangling guitars and a more
subdued approach. The vocals of Barry Johnson are endlessly listenable here, as he goes from
a plaintive yearning to a passionate yell within seconds naturally. While not necessarily
carrying the dramatic weight of some recent pop punk bands, Joyce Manor keep it emotional
but not bleeding heart and are all the better for it.
8Sunn O))) and Ulver

This monster of a full-length is really difficult to describe to someone who hasn?t heard it
before. The whole affair has an intense and paranoid feel to it, and it is constantly building to
a resolution that is unknown to the listener. The beauty of ambient music (if you could be
bothered to call this ambient) is that you can associate your own images and storyline in your
head as the music develops. This is a slow-moving behemoth of an album, but the small
details are what make this an engaging listen. The bits of what sound like a sitar, the forlorn
sounds of a violin, and the dramatic and effective vocals courtesy of Krystoffer Rygg in
?Eternal Return? all help to build an intriguing and expansive sound. It?s everything fans of
both projects should have expected and more, and this is one that I will be revisiting quite a
7The Gaslight Anthem
Get Hurt

Barring opener "Stay Vicious', I haven't skipped one track off Get Hurt one time. Keep in mind
that I have listened to this many times over the course of this year. There just aren't any
tracks that I feel are weak links at all. Penultimate track "Get Hurt" is solemn and
confessional while still carrying one of the best choruses of the year. The lyrics deal with
heartbreak in a way that is both personal and universal, and the glut of songwriting influences
have made this their most diverse record by far. They have found a way to meld Springsteen-
esque rock, modern day pop punk, and catchy alternative rock into something that is wholly
The Gaslight Anthem. Brian Fallon's weathered and worn croon is still the best thing about this
band, and Get Hurt is chock-full of snarling verses and heart-on-sleeve choruses. This is
certainly an album that will stay with me long after 2014 ends.
6Every Time I Die
From Parts Unknown

To say that Every Time I Die have been around the block would be a gross understatement at
this point; these good ol' boys have been providing excellent offerings of chaotic yet groovy
metalcore for the better part of fifteen years. The most interesting part of Every Time I Die?s
consistency is that it has been unerringly forward progress with every release. Keith Buckley
and company have somehow been able to present their music in a fresh way every album
while still retaining the trademark characteristics that have always made them so endearing.
"The Great Secret" is a blistering opener that features furious drumming and an extremely
memorable guitar riff, while "Decayin' With The Boys" features the all-too-familiar southern
rock influence complete with a cleanly-sung chorus. From Parts Unknown has easily skipped
its way to the forefront of the better Every Time I Die albums, further expounding on the
spastic and extremely (at least for the genre) aggressive sound that has dominated the past
two excellent releases.
5Musk Ox

Woodfall, like many other releases I enjoyed this year, was not something that I knew of
before it was released. Five tracks of instrumental folk metal that span the length of over an
hour sounds like the very essence of inaccessible, but it simply isn't the case. The transitions
are both epic and smooth, and each section doesn't overstay its welcome. "Part 1 - Earthrise"
acquaints the listener early on with the beautiful coupling of violin and acoustic guitar,
sounding like a fleshed out (and better, obviously) version of a Coheed and Cambria intro. For
such a specific sound, Musk Ox expertly navigate around the dangers of repetition and release
one of the best albums of the year.
4The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream

While Lost in the Dream is potentially one of the most immediately accessible albums of the
year thus far, it is also the one that stays in your head long after the last song fades out. It
exemplifies the understated strength of simple songwriting and layers upon layers of reverb,
allowing listeners to get lost in the hazy atmosphere and get brought back to reality with
harsh but to the point lyricism. Lead vocalist/guitarist Adam Granduciel is the driving force
behind the album, combining dreamy compositions with sometimes cracked and wounded
proclamations, other times soft-spoken ruminations. "An Ocean in Between the Waves" keeps
a brisk pace throughout its seven-minute runtime, throwing a smoother and shoegaze-ier (if
you will) vibe with an Americana sound that just engages the listener the entire time. The
songs seem to lazily float by, but Lost in the Dream has efficiently and dexterously been
created as an original and gripping listen.
3Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 2

I'll be honest-I almost wanted this release to disappoint me. Many friends had a countdown
going for the release date, and I soon became tired of hearing about the album before I even
heard the first song released. However, the good news with Run the Jewels 2 is that the
chemistry between Killer Mike and El-P has only gotten better this time around. Truly what it
comes down to is that these two bring the best out of each other whether they?re
introspectively rapping over a subtle beat on ?Jeopardy?, or simply slinging their patented
creative braggadocio on tracks like "Blockbuster Part 1" or "All My Life". The Zach de la
Rocha-featured track "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" should have stood out like a sore
thumb on this release, given the fact that his style couldn't be further from Killer Mike's
syrupy Southern delivery and El-P's quick-draw precision. It ends up not only being a strong
standout, but it left me wistfully hoping that the dynamic duo would soon be allowing a third
into Run the Jewels due to the natural collaborative effort. Killer Mike and El-P have waited a
long time for their time in the limelight, and they obviously have a death grip on it now. We
might as well enjoy the ride.
Oh, Common Life

It's difficult describing exactly how hard Oh, Common Life hit me. It was subtle at first; only
after the first few listens did it begin to resonate with me. I consistently look for albums that
speak to me about the difficult emotional journeys that we all go through; that personal
connection to an album that just makes you want to curl into a ball and leave the rest of the
world behind. Oh, Common Life came to me at a time when I needed it desperately, and it
was something that I didn?t even know I was missing. Vocalist Dave Mackinder lost his father
prior to the recording of the album, and it truly shows in the honest lyricism present on the
album. When he isn't utilizing his unique vocals to recall heartbreakingly fond memories of his
father, he's providing lyrical gems about fighting depression and fears of getting older. The
lyrics often feel more like internal dialogue turned poetic than things anyone would feel
comfortable spewing out through a microphone. And that is what makes this record so special;
Mackinder is letting the listener into his world in a very personal way. The music switches
from a jaunty pop punk sound to an energetic indie rock that swings from one end to the other
to complement the vocals perfectly. Whether it?s the insanely catchy qualities of "Flies On
Tape" or the morose lyrics of "Woods", there is something here for any listener willing to open
themselves up as well. Oh, Common Life ripped open a personal wound of mine that I had
simply put a band-aid on, and I am all the better for it. It forced me to look at a life-changing
event that happened over five years ago and dissect how painful it still is to me. Fireworks
provided me a soundtrack that will allow me to grieve whenever I need to. Common life,
Pale Blue Light

Manners have created something that is depression personified; from the desperate howls of
the lead vocalist to the startlingly black metal-influenced guitar sections, the mood of this
release is as varied as it is emotionally impacting. Album opener "Boiling Point" starts off with
gorgeous guitar melodies and then veers into a mid-paced example of what can be expected
throughout the album; raspy, screamed vocals with lyrics ripped straight from a personal
journal entry. The thunderous double bass that rears it head on ?Wallflower? is matched in
intensity only by the plaintive screams of, "I don't want to be faceless, nameless/But I can't
stand to change this/So I guess I'll remain this/The haunted and wasted". The real culmination
of the album is on the track "Rent". The anguished screams coalesce with the one of the most
gut-wrenching lyrical displays I have ever heard. As the last seconds of "Living Will" fade out,
I can't help but compare the feeling I am left with to the equivalent of getting to the end of
your favorite book. You read through the book multiple times, not because the story within
changes, but rather because different emotions and ideas can be taken from the same pages.
This is not a perfect album in any critical sense, and many people will state that this is just
another excellent melodic hardcore release. Its imperfections are what speak to me in a way
that an album has not spoken to me in a very long time. Pale Blue Light is nothing and
everything all at once; a not-so-gentle reminder that not only is life difficult, but that you are
not alone.
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