DS Staff Picks – Bizarro Dustin’s Top 10 albums of 2014

I’m just going to come out and say it: my favorite album of 2014 was Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, hands down. It’s not even a competition. I also really enjoyed Christmas Island, Famous Graves, Report, 10 Years of Your Dumb Bullshit, Get Hurt, War Psalms, Metropole, Die On Stage, Rented World and PUP*. In roughly that order.

But you know what? There’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with all of those albums. Hell, some of them are probably even your favorite albums of the year. While they’re all worthy of being recognized as some of my favorite albums of the year, it’s boring on my part as a part of the press to tell you about music you’ve already heard, don’t you think?

In the spirit of trying to use my position here at Dying Scene to promote up-and-coming bands, I have devoted my top 10 to albums that may have flown under your radar. You still might recognize a couple of the names here (hell, some have made it as far as to get nods by the likes of Spin or Robert Christgau), but overall these are lesser known bands working their asses off to make it, or at least whatever the 2014 equivalent of “making it” is, and deserve to spend some time in the limelight.

That’s enough blabbering. You can check out my favorite records of 2014 below.

*Yeah, yeah. PUP’s self-titled was released in 2013… in Canada. Its worldwide release was April 2014, get over yourself.

10. Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine – Reasons to Leave

Full disclosure: I know the guys in Eli Whitney personally. I’ve gone to shows with them. I’ve had beers with them. I even went to college with bassist / vocalist Craig Shay. None of that changes the fact that Reasons to Leave is a really good ska/punk album. It takes everything that the band has done in the past to a whole new level. I put it at number 10 to let you, the reader, know that there is still a code of ethics in punk rock journalism, and that my personal relationship with the band has not affected my judgement in any way. We here at Dying Scene have integrity but I’m sure that won’t matter to some people. Bring on the angry tweets.

09. Neighborhood Brats – Total Dementia EP + Recovery LP

For my fifteenth birthday, my uncle bought me Complete Discography and Group Sex, and those two albums really solidified what hardcore is to me. Over the years, I’ve mostly moved away from hardcore, instead preferring more melodic, pop heavy bands, but hearing the raw intensity of the Total Dementia EP for the first time made me feel like I was in high school again. Recovery is a bit more subdued than the EP, probably due to the need to fill up more time (the unfortunate side effect that long players have on hardcore bands), but when it shreds, it shreds.

08. The Brokedowns – Life Is a Breeze

This album only just came out but goddamnit it is so fucking good it just makes me want to curse. It’s like Dillinger Four had a baby and raised it on nothing but Off With Their Heads and The Dopamines. Actually, I take back what I just said. Life Is a Breeze is not just good. It’s better than good.

07. Irish Handcuffs – …hits close to home

When I was originally brought on to the Dying Scene staff as an album reviewer in early 2012, one of the very first things I received to review was stubbs., the debut EP by Irish Handcuffs. I fell in love with it instantly, and I’ve been waiting for a full length follow up ever since. It feels like it’s been a lot longer than two years, but it was well worth the wait. Catchy punk rock in the vein of early 2000’s Fat Wreck, straight outta Regensburg, Germany.

06. The Holy Mess – Comfort in the Discord

Forgive me, Holy Mess, for I have sinned. I slept on Cande Ru Las Degas in 2012 because I was already feeling overwhelmed with new music and I just kind of figured I’d get around to it eventually. I never did.

But holy crap is Comfort in the Discord a good album. Explosive, no nonsense punk rock, just the way it should be. It’s strong from start to finish, and I’m glad that I waited for this album to be my introduction to The Holy Mess.

05. Awkward Age – We Could Be Anywhere

Somewhere out there exists a universe where Paul Westerberg was born in the early 1970s and grew up in Berkeley, CA and would overhear a guitar-and-drums duo practicing on his way home from work. One day, he was invited to jam with an acquaintance’s band- which happened to be the very same band that he would hear practice. They decide to call their band Samiam. Suddenly, the space-time continuum tears open, and sucks this newly formed band into our world. Upon learning about the separate existences of The Replacements and Samiam in this reality, the trio (now under new personal identities) decide to rename the band Awkward Age.

And that, kids, is how Awkward Age met each other.

Just kidding. Awkward Age is made up of former members of The Knockdown and New Bruises, and they’re really good. We Could Be Anywhere is their debut album.

04. Hospital Job – The Believer

It’s nearly impossible for me to write about Hospital Job without mentioning The Copyrights, so let’s just go with it. Luke McNeill, drummer and lyricist of The Copyrights, is the frontman of Hospital Job. His songwriting style isn’t much different in either band, both from a lyrical and instrumental standpoint, but with songwriting this strong it’s not a bad thing. I mean, have you ever listened to The Copyrights? They manage to put out album after album that sound the same but also manage to have their own unique feel to them. And in true McNeill form, The Believer is no different.

03. Tie: Cayetana – Nervous Like Me / Chumped – Teenage Retirement

Both of these bands seem destined for big things, and if they can keep up the momentum they’ve had going for them in the last two years, those big things might come sooner than later.

This has been said before and will likely be said again, but for a group of friends that started as mutual acquaintances who didn’t even know how to play instruments just three years ago, Cayetana has no business being as good as they are. The melodies are groovy and the lyrics are infectious. Truth be told, I’m jealous of their talent.

Chumped, meanwhile, took that mixtape you made for your high school crush and turned it into an album of original material. The influences on Teenage Retirement range between Jawbreaker, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Muffs, Superchunk, Weezer, The Queers, Letters to Cleo, and your old LiveJournal entries, but it also sounds fresh and exciting. That’s a hard feat to pull off, but Chumped does it with ease.

02. Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff / I’m So Tethered

Who is your favorite celebrity power couple? If you didn’t answer Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock (also acceptable: Jeff Rosenstock and Chris Farren, or Chreff) (Ixnay on that last one), then you probably didn’t listen to Soulmate Stuff this year. It might only be a mini-LP, but it’s still a fantastic display of both pop music and the friendship between these two punk icons. And to top it all off, the duo went ahead and recorded a quick follow up, I’m So Tethered, giving us the equivalent of a full length album when played back-to-back.

01. Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces

I could tell you about all of the other bands that the guys in Hard Girls used to/still play in, but it’s really just better if you listen to them as Hard Girls. A Thousand Surfaces is the aural equivalent of getting punched in the face (“The Quark”, “Screw”), being apologized to (“Without a Sound”, the first half of “Samizdat”), being punched in the face again (the second half of “Samizdat”), and then becoming drinking buddies with your assailant (pretty much the last third of the record). Is there any other way to make a best friend?

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