Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Huntsman – Top Ten 2014

By this time I’m sure you’ve browsed many other best of the year lists. I look forward to this time of year. Not only do my kids get to experience Santa Clause and all that excitement, but daddy gets to dig into even more great albums from other people’s lists that he may have missed out on. Not only am I a list junkie, but 2014 welcomed me into the kingdom of vinyl obsession, which only fuels the list fire. Take that for what it’s worth, I try and buy the records that I like the sound of and started out doing it without even owning a turntable. I didn’t get a turntable until months after I began collecting online from the good folks at Ripple Music, STB Records, Easy Rider Records, various bandcamp stores, and numerous other, mostly independent, record labels and outlets online. It’s probably a good thing my city doesn’t have a decent record shop cause I would have probably spent even more hard earned money essentially stealing from my children’s dinner plates. Little do they know, I am actually doing it all for them. At this rate, by the time I’m dead and gone they will have one bad ass inheritance of records to cherish or sell off for drug money. I even thought about buying them records for Christmas this year, they are 2 and 5 years old, straight from daddy’s wish list. Anybody else get it that bad? Of course, I would take very good care of them until they were old enough to know how awesome their dad is. Anyhow, I decided against that and just bought more records for myself and some stuffed animals for the kids. And who am I joking, the second a square cardboard box arrives inside my house it gets opened up and admired. No way would I actually have the patience to wrap it up and wait it out until Christmas to watch my kids open it up and hand it straight back to dad as if they got it for me. All joking aside, 2014 was a tremendous year for music in my opinion and I had a blast discovering record amounts of records throughout.

Each and every year since I started doing lists for music it seems they keep getting better. I think my first list was back in 2010 so it’s only been a few years. Since then the amount of music has increased each year, as has the quality and enjoyment I’ve found in the music being released. This year I estimate I listened to close to 1,000 new albums, based on my play counts, bandcamp streams and tallies. So it was a tough run leaving off literally hundreds of albums that I adore immensely. I was able to whittle it down to ten albums that I felt strong enough about sharing to call them my “Top Ten of 2014”. Here goes ranked from best to best:

10. Truckfighters  - Universe
Universe came out very early in the year and wasted no time in grabbing my attention. It sat at #1 on my charts well into mid-year. The progression and diversity the 3 piece displayed on Universe really caught my attention. I’ve heard a lot of people expressing their dissatisfaction with the album but I just don’t buy it. It is a bit more of a controlled output from an auditory production standpoint, straying a little bit from the straight up fuzzed out desert riffs they are known for and into progressive rock territory at times. Seeing their live show completely blew my mind and hands down, if I were to make a list of favorite live shows I attended number one would easily be the Truckfighters early in the Spring. I’ve never seen anything like the way the 3 dudes shook the stage with a riveting wall of fuzzy riffs and crystal clear vocals. They played practically the entire Universe record and it was immense!! Bought the vinyl along with the 3 disc box set they had available, which turns out was one of my smartest buys of the year.

9. Biblical – Monsoon Season

Biblical came onto my radar from an online friend of mine who knows I like the psychedelic stoner jams. Sure enough I was hooked after just hearing a preview of the debut record coming out on
Maple Music, a Canadian music label which had the pre-order of the sky blue record available. I
pre-ordered the record blindly on a hunch that this was the real deal. My hunch proved successful as the music hit all the right spots. Comparisons to QOTSA have been made with good reason. However it’s far from a direct rip-off. There are a bit more psychedelics going on and a bit less “weird” to deal with. The title track alone is better than most complete albums included on side B which was played over and over repeatedly for some time at my house.

8. Mothership – Mothership II
After being somewhat late to the game on Mothership’s debut album, I finally came around and was able to know enough about them to know I couldn’t miss their live show in my hometown of Reno, NV back in 2013. Totally blown away, one of the most intense live rock shows I’ve ever witnessed. I was within arm’s reach of Kelley Juett, the shirtless lead guitarist the entire show, sneaking a toke right up front of an intimate dive bar named “Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor”. The anticipation for the new album was peaked when I got word that none other than Ripple Music was putting out the new one in 2014. I contributed early to the kickstarter which scored me one of the stunning blue/white swirl limited editions. The record is rock n’ roll and compared to the first one, it’s an improvement to an already skilled game. The diversity of the album is what pushes the envelope with multiple instrumental jammers placed in just the right places, and the riffs are hard and heavy through and through as expected. I was bummed I missed their 2014 tour and the new album is surely not to miss. Highlights include Hot Smoke and Heavy Blues and the instrumental scorcher Tamu Massif. I don’t know what Paul Rote wrote on the bandcamp page linked below, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. I think he’s been spending too much time on Instagram under the hashtag for #mothership…..   
(Go look and you’ll know what I’m talking about)

7. Slow Season – Mountains
I still don’t think I’ve been as impressed out of nowhere as I was after discovering Slow Season’s debut album a couple years back with a free download on their website. There was an immediate connection to Led Zeppelin, which I hadn’t heard by any other band except Led Zeppelin.  However they bring enough modern riffage to elevate them into their own class. Modern times need a band like Slow Season. Nobody really wants to hear more Led Zeppelin do they? Plant has his own solo thing going on, and that’s great. We don’t need more Stairway, it’s cemented in time forever. I bought a copy of every variant available to the public including the clear limited to 75, blue limited to 100, and the black. I couldn’t miss out on this as I’ve been complaining to myself ever since hearing the self-titled that somebody needs to put this band to wax, and luckily for us Riding Easy Records did just that.

6. Moab – Billow
Scion A/V really hit the nail on the head with this free download from a Southern California retro doom band called Moab. I listened to a few songs on their soundcloud stream to know enough to panickly hit the download button to get the whole thing in my possession and go on to play repeatedly for days on my ipod. Wicked riffs encased by Ozzy-esque vocal moans carry Billow deep into an intoxicated state. The cool thing about Billow is upon pushing play on song 1 your attention is peaked and as the album plays each song seems to build onto the previous, and gets better and better to where by the end you are so jacked up that nature runs its course evidenced by the repeat button being pushed. It grew on me incessantly over the year and I was able to snag a clear vinyl copy from the band. Fantastic album and available completely for free on the link below.

5. Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus – Spirit Knife
Opening song Fog of the Steep wins the award for biggest set of chills running down my back upon multiple takes of any song all year. Hell, I played this record more than almost every record I gathered this year. Here is the full review I came up with. Small Stone Records rarely disappoints and I sure am glad I discovered this band this year. Their back catalogue is fantastic as well.

4. Stubb – Cry of the Ocean
You probably think I’m biased at this point including two of close to 1,000 albums on the Ripple Music roster on the Ripple Music page which I contribute to? Hell, maybe I am, but let it be known that I am biased to only the best heavy blues and retro rock the world has to offer. Stubb follow up their debut with an absolutely mesmerizing release. The opening “Cry of the Ocean” saga sets the stage for the rest of the masterpiece. The vocals remain hypnotic, the guitars sail like a breeze across the open sea as the retro fuzz tickles your mind into an earlier time. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, as after each song plays I feel like it supersedes the prior. Anyone snubbing this album as anything short of brilliant must be having a rough time in life, which I would prescribe they listen to Cry of the Ocean for a cure.

3. Planet of Zeus – Vigilante
Well, what more can I say about Vigilante? If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t own this one on vinyl, as it’s not available at this time that I know of, this may very well be my #1 album of the year. I haven’t recalled many other lists ranking Vigilante so high and I don’t care. Clutch’s Earth Rocker was my #1 album of 2013, and Planet of Zeus reminds me quite a bit of Earth Rocker era Clutch. The singer has the ability to effectively switch between Neil Fallon-esque party preaching into a jagged and onerous wail which balances the album out perfectly in my opinion. Each song has elements of heavy metal to classic stoner rock fuzz, grit, and straight on good time vibes. The album begs for maximum volume, and if I were to give it a comparison I couldn’t deny that it has a heavy Clutch vibe plus the thrashy, sludge soaked chorus runs, which really are the highlight of the record.

2. Aleph Null – Nocturnal                                                           
It took me a little bit to jump aboard the Aleph Null bandwagon with their stellar run of Eps back in 2012 and 2013, but Nocturnal was instant. The wickedest, spookiest, grungiest combination of riffs and noises one is likely to have heard all year. The groove is eerie as the grungy vocal chops power amongst gnarly time signatures. Songs 2 and 3 back to back create hands down the baddest ass pair of back to back songs of the year. Don’t believe? Listen to Backward Spoken Rhymes and Muzzle of a Sleeping God and tell me you aren’t completely hypnotized. Luckily Riding Easy Records stepped up to the plate once again and put this out on a massive 180 gram clear 2LP. The artwork alone will give you nightmares and you will have to rent a forklift to unload the vinyl package as it is that heavy!!

1. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
No matter how much this guy has blown up over the course of 1 year, don’t fall for the typical story fortune and fame in the music biz, and believe what you are witnessing. Sturgill Simpson has done what we all have been dreaming of ever since Rascall Flats came aboard and completely trashed country music. Actually, it happened sometime before that, but you get the drift. Sturgill has crafted one of the truest, most genuine albums in the last decade and it happens to fall into the country music category. I’m not ashamed to say I listen to a lot of country inspired artists and Sturgill has set the bar for greatness. Between his classic voice with somewhat of a slurred lyrical delivery and expertly strummed guitar passages, Sturgill has broken the big label barrier and given hope that humanity is only marginally idiotic. Give it a shot, I bet you surprise yourself.  Just get one of those big 43 ounce bottles of mountain dew, jump in the car, and push play, and drive on down the highway.

Until next time my friends. 2015 is already shaping up to be a big year. I’m expecting some big things. I know there are rumblings in Ripple camp on the horizon sure to cause some tidal waves. Let us know what you think and which bands I totally left off. I will not be offended if you tell me how shitty my taste is. In fact it just makes this stuff that much more fun.

Honorable Mentions:
The Graviators – Motherload
Wicked Snakes-Sleep Dance

-The Huntsman

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