Growing up and living in Brooklyn has its merits. Beyond the pizza and bagels, the accessibility to music – whether live, at record shops or simply through the people you meet – has been something I try to take full advantage of. This year’s been pretty exciting and I was lucky enough to catch a lot of shows too, but I digress. I’ve distilled this year’s essentials from quite a large pool. So, without further adieu, here are the 6 best New York City releases from 2014.
SIX: Hank Wood and The Hammerheads – Stay Home (Toxic State)
Heralded as the best punk band around, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads continue to reign supreme in NYC with their second full length Stay Home. Equally rock n’ roll jangle and rowdy house punk, Stay Home is adorned with anthemic organs, deeply rooted bass lines and writhing percussion thanks to a full kit player and a second percussionist. Stay Home fits best in the company of ripped denim, cheap booze, and sloppy dancing.
FIVE: Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)
There’s an organic element to Pharmakon, and more specifically Bestial Burden, that is alluring, even though it may be frightful. Taking the pillars of noise as a genre, Ms. Chardiet blends tortured and personal vocals, stabbing percussion and an eddy of static, feedback, fuzz and mush into a blissfully enveloping sound that flows from one track to another. Bestial Burden is a highly textured release that hides individual tracks and comes out as a coherent and well constructed album. While an exceptional release, it sets the stage for Pharmakon’s live performances which are some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory.
FOUR: Julianna Barwick - Rosabi (Dead Oceans)
Part Lynchian lullaby, part seductive church choir, Rosabi is an enchanting and ethereal EP that continues Ms. Barwick’s signature sound of beautifully distant and soft voices layered in waxing and waning waves. The addition of subtle synths and the sparse sounds of Dogfish Head Brewery further the mesmerizing atmosphere of Rosabi (although they don’t sound that specific or unfamiliar to Ms. Barwick’s previous sounds, so just leave it as a weird piece of marketing). Marketing oddities aside, Rosabi is wonderfully relaxing music.
THREE: Warthog – Prison (Iron Lung)
Feelin’ mean, Warthog’s Prison is snotty, tough, rough and painful in all the right ways. It’s hard to put into words what makes this release so good, as it often is when a band perfects a no frills style. Little surprises, like the slower tempos mixed into the more frenzied sections or the first solo on the title track, keep this one heads above many others. Meaty hardcore for those who work 9-5 and look to the pit for a release.
TWO: Gath Šmânê – Transmuted Marrow (Blutige Magie)
Brutal death metal without the customary awful production and a healthy dose of atmosphere makes Transmuted Marrow a release that really stands out. Catchy tremolo riffs offset the janky technical pinch harmonics and abrupt tempo changes. A present and dexterous bass plays off the welcomed sustained low end vocals and the dynamic drumming, creating a diverse and highly textured release. Transmuted Marrow is an awesome display of worlds that usually find a harsh divide, but something bands like Flourishing and forefathers Suffocation (Brooklyn and Long Island respectively), have successfully done in the past. Brutality, technicality, personality, and atmosphere collide to create this great 2 song demo.
ONE: Raspberry Bulbs – Privacy (Blackest Ever Black)
Few bands seem to get better as time goes on, and Raspberry Bulbs are one of those few. From a demo I didn’t care too much for, to one of my favorites last year (Deformed Worship) to my absolute favorite punk record this year, Raspberry Bulbs have created a flushed out record that’s unnerving and anxious, yet brash and devoid of fat. The interludes, shorter songs, and frankly the best material they’ve written, make this album an amazing listen the whole way through. So much of what’s catchy, or infectious, feels so odd. For instance, the unenthused chorus section of “How the Strings Are Pulled,” the twangy groove of “Finger Bones,” or the poppy bass line intro to “Big Grin” all come across surprising, yet fitting. Easily the best thing to come out of New York this year, Privacy is Raspberry Bulbs at their best.