I had a very enjoyable 2014 – and I hope that the same is true for you, dear reader. I got to do a decent amount of traveling again this year – Portland (OR), Philadelphia, Vancouver BC, Japan, Norway, Iceland… and in all those places I made sure to check out at least a few record stores. Which meant also adding a new Ikea Expedit set of shelves to house all this vinyl. And I’m dangerously close to needing another.
So, with that in mind, here’s my annual serious of Top 5 lists for 2014.
Top 5 New Releases in 2014
1. Mexico – Gusgus
2. MALLEVS – MALLEVS
3. On Top! – Mudhoney
4. Skálmöld Og Sinfóniuhljómsveit Íslands – Skálmöld
5. Lese Majesty – Shabazz Palaces
I was torn when it came to the top two spots on this list. I really, really, really wanted to go with MALLEVS – they’re “the little guy,” they just got a limited vinyl pressing of their album, I randomly ran into the label guy in Portland… but at the end of the day, Mexico is just too good of an album to not hold down the top spot. Staggeringly good. Both the 2014 Skálmöld releases have been growing on me in a big way over the last month or so, and I could have just as easily gone with their studio album Með Vættum… but frankly the live CD with the orchestra is just too awesome to not make the list. I feel like Sólstafir’s Ótta may have deserved a spot in the Top 5, but honestly I just didn’t listen to it enough, so maybe that’s on me. This the second year in a row that Mudhoney made the Top 5, with Vanishing Point in the #2 spot last year, and Skálmöld also gets props for a repeat Top 5 appearance as they held down the #5 spot in 2012 with Börn Loka. Honorable mentions go out for Shellac’s Dude, Incredible, Slow Dance’s Hunks, and the self-titled debuts from Börn and Kiasmos.
Top 5 “New To Me” Bands
1. MALLEVS (US)
2. Imaginary Friends (US)
3. Big Black (US)
4. RVK Soundsystem (Iceland)
5. Lou Champagne System (Canada)
MALLEVS definitely makes the top of this list, hands down, bar none, and I’m glad the band not only emailed me about their album, but then followed up with me when I failed to respond. Because their record is awesome, and I would have missed it (though ironically I would have heard it playing at Crossroads in Portland in August… I wonder if I would have asked about it…). Of the five on this list, Big Black probably sticks out the most since it’s not like they’re new. I mean, they don’t even exist any more. But I missed the Big Black train back in the day, so when I finally broke down and bought Songs About Fucking earlier this year (an impulse buy from the used CD section as I was standing in a seemingly endless line during Record Store Day) it blew me away and I went out and got the rest of their stuff too.
Top 5 Vinyl Purchases
1. Tackhead Tape Time – Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System
2. Icecross – Icecross
3. Dead Comet – Dead Skeletons
4. Seattle Graffiti – Led Zeppelin
5. MALLEVS – MALLEVS
There weren’t any major exciting rarities or collectibles this year, just lots of great music. Tackehead Tape Time is so awesome we burned it to mp3 and it’s been in steady rotation on my iPod for most of the year. The re-release of Icecross’ album is great, and Dead Comet is just as exciting as a piece of art as it is a record. Seattle Graffiti is a five record box set of a live Led Zep show from my hometown of Seattle… which I wanted enough that I actually broke down and ordered it from overseas, a rarity for me. As an added bonus it came with the entire thing on three CDs as well, making it easy to rip to my iPod. I also picked up a couple of cool Icelandic 7″ records this year, notably Þeyr’s Life Transmission and Lunaire, both of which had been on my want list for a while.
Top 5 Live Shows
1. The Kills – Neptune, Seattle
2. Hillstomp – Nectar, Seattle
3. Flaming Lips – Vodafone Hall, Reykjavik
4. HAM – KEX Hostel, Reykjavik
5. Sykur – Slippbarinn, Reykjavik
The Kills were unquestionably the top show of the year for me. Period. I’d wanted to see them live for a long time, and seeing them in an intimate old theater like the Neptune made it all the better. It was full but not packed, and they absolutely crushed it. The big surprise on this list for me is Sykur. We’d seen them before, maybe in 2010 or so, and I thought they were fine, so I wasn’t expecting anything special. But they were incredibly engaging and passionate in their set inside the packed bar of Slippbarinn and earned a lot of points with me. An honorable mention goes out to RVK Soundsystem’s great hip hop/reggae set at Harlem in Reykjavik, which definitely would have held down the #6 spot.
Top 5 Favorite Places to Buy Records
1. Easy Street Records, Seatte
2. Silver Platters, Seattle
3. Mississippi Records, Portland
4. Crossroads Records, Portland
5. Sit & Spin Records, Philadelphia
The Rest of the World
1. Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2. Råkk og Rålls, Oslo
3. Disk Union, Tokyo
4. Jet Set, Kyoto
5. Neptoon, Vancouver
I had to break this down into two lists this year, otherwise it just ends up being Lucky, Easy Street, and Silver Platters holding down spots every year and only leaving room for two others. I didn’t want to leave my personal “Big 3” off the list, but we went to a lot of cool places this year that were worthy of recognition. Hence two lists. We got to meet some cool people in record stores this year, and that’s a big part of the experience for sure. An honorable mention goes out to the newly opened Reykjavik Record Shop, which is a must-see if you’re in Reykjavik.
Lucky Records gets extra points for being a live venue during Iceland Airwaves AND having an open bar during their Tuesday night set this year, something which I took advantage of to the point that I even spilled on their floor (but thankfully not on any records). They also offer up free coffee all the time. Easy Street has an attached cafe, so not only can you get breakfast while in the store, they even had white russians on RSD Black Friday in honor of the vinyl version of the Big Lebowski Soundtrack. Honorable mention’s for Tokyo’s Big Love Records, which serves beer, and Tiger Records in Oslo which was serving cake on the evening we stopped by. Making your record store into a social space is both awesome and good for business.
Top 5 Music Books
1. Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich
2. Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That… by Joe Carducci
3. Get In the Van by Henry Rollins
4. Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry by Clinton Heylin
5. Dust & Grooves: Adventures In Record Collecting by Eilon Paz
I read a ton of music related books this year, so it was hard to narrow the list to five. These are sort of all over the board, with a few first-hand accounts from Carducci and Rollins, to books on collecting and collectors, to stuff about the record industry. What they all have in common is a passion for the topic that comes through in the writing (and pictures in the case of Dust & Grooves). Honorable mention for Mick Wall’s biography of Metallica which I just finished.
I hope you had a great year in 2014, both musically and personally. And no matter how good 2014 was for you, here’s to 2015 being even better.