Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: Honorable Mentions

1. You Will Eventually Be Forgotten by Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)

I loved the way this album flowed like a storybook or a collection of newspaper clippings or scrapbooks – and maybe that was the point, I don’t know. What I do know is that the “emo revival” or whatever you wanna call it, rings true in the sound and shape of this record. Though Keith Latinen’s voice is somewhat of an aquired taste, at times it’s the sweetest thing you ever did hear. I didn’t find myself exactly dumbfounded or necessarily “struck” by listing to this record, but parts of it shines through very brightly to me and I was overall impressed and content with what I heard.

2. Kingfisher by Prawn

 When listening to this record, I got excited dreaming up the potentialies of what Prawn could be in the future. Still a young band and also within the vein of “emo revival”, Kingfisher seems extremely promising upon first listen. I’d keep an eye on Prawn in 2015. I think they have a wide open road ahead of them and I’m definitely looking forward to the next release they put out.

Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #1 – Flies In All Directions by Weatherbox

Artist: Weatherbox

Album: Flies In All Directions

Produced by: Brian Warren

Released: May 13, 2014

urlI think I could go on and on and on about this album forever. Before this year, I had no knowledge of Weatherbox, who Brian Warren even was but after seeing a few dribs and drabs via social media about the band / this record, I decided to give it a listen. I’m always game for new music, right?

And holy shit I was not expecting to completely fall completely in LOVE.

For me personally, this album was a godsend as I was going through a lot of existential crisis filled with fear, worry, and doubt and this record seemed to be the best tonic I could ever draft up to keep my mind at ease and feel okay. Every lyric became a mantra for me at some point.

Flies In All Directions jams to the beat of its own drum. No rhythm or tempo is the same for too long, lyrics are fresh and perfect, Brian Warren is crystal clear, yet wonderfully non-specific, giving way to mystery.

I fell in love with this band and album so much that I saw them live this summer at Asbury Lanes by myself, as I was unable to convince anyone knew of their absolute genius.

There’re parts of me that want to compare both Brian Warren and Max Bemis of Say Anything in some respects because of the way each of their musical minds work: Both self-produced the albums released this year, there are clever lyricisms abound throughout their work, there are time signature changes, rhythm changes, tempo changes (anomalies not typically seen within this “genre”) – as if both gentlemen are listening to their true human nature, letting the songs come, allowing the music to flow naturally, not conforming to what may be considered to be a pop song or a radio friendly song – and their music flourishes and is fun to listen to because of it! If I’m not mistaken, I believe Weatherbox and Say Anything did tour together at once point but I think I remember reading Brian Warren saying it wasn’t as successful as he had hoped, because as much as him and Bemis are the same, they are also drastically different: Bemis tends to be more biographical, Warren sticks to his metaphors and blurred/ambiguous meaning, during live shows Max utilizes his stage presence, Brian tends to stick to the mic and move around his center here and there, etc.

With that said, I think if you are a fan of Say Anything your interest will definitely be piqued while listening to this record. There are so many wonderful things going on, you need to listen more than once to catch them all. And if you’re not an SA fan, I still think this album holds up incredibly well as an independent entity. If you love and appreciate the craft of songwriting and want to chew on something different, take a listen.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #2 – PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by Pharoahe Monch

Artist: Pharoahe Monch

Album: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Produced by: Pharoahe Monch, Guy Routte, Lee Stone, Marco Polo, The Stepkids, B.A.M., The Lion Share, Boogie Blind, Jesse West, Quelle Chris

Released: April 14, 2014

Pharoahe_Monch_PTSDAside from this record coming in as #2 on my list, this is no doubt the best hip-hop album of the year.

First hearing of Pharoahe Monch off a name drop in Talib Kweli song a few years ago, I checked him out. W.A.R. was out at the time. I liked it, but it didn’t grab me as much as PTSD has this year.

This album is a beautiful diamond in the rough – Inspired by true events in Pharoahe’s own life, PTSD is a work of art that must be listened to in its entirety to be truly appreciated. We start off at “The Recollection Facility”, a place where traumatic experiences can be extracted and then we immediately get catapulted into “Time2”.

The PTSD narrative emphasizes a very real issue that exists within the black community: The sentiment that mental health or to seek help for mental health is more aligned with white access and privilege, not something that is advertised or seen as accessible to anyone else on the outside of that community. There are also many lyrical parallels that no doubt speak to post-9/11 war veterans and the overall pharmaceutical abuse which is still rampant in everyday America, regardless of race or class.

Another reason why this album trumps all others is because it stands out from its contemporaries. I can’t help but notice that subjects of current hip-hop songs and albums are about smoking weed, being promiscuous, going to clubs, self-toasting to the point of redundancy. Not to say, that hip-hop shouldn’t have any of that – I believe it in fact should and it has since its inception. But anything in excess gets tiring real quick. In PTSD I feel like I’m learning something, becoming slightly enlightened. On this record Pharoahe talks about suicide, losing his grip on reality, nightmares, how his own mental state affects his relationships, even talks about the importance of eating organic in “The Jungle”.

As a privileged white female who grew up in the suburbs a few miles outside an inner city, I am nearly blind to everything Pharoahe is talking about. But by listening to this record and others like it, I can step in his shoes for a hour or so and get outside my own defined sense of reality. Hip-hop like this is my window inside – and I hope by saying that, that doesn’t make me seem ignorant or insensitive, but hopefully compassionate and caring. In fact I think hip-hop works this way for many others. Just because Pharoahe Monch is a lyrical wordsmith who utilizes killer beats and speaks in vibrant metaphors, does not make what he’s talking about less real than anything else that occurs outside our own empirical reality. It in fact brings it more to the forefront that the 6 o’clock news ever could.

I’ve seen Pharoahe talk about the record on MSNBC with Melissa Harris Perry and on NYC hip-hop radio programs. All videos are available on YouTube and I suggest checking them out if you wish to learn more from the creator’s mouth about this incredible record.

Production is dope, Pharoahe Monch is one of the greatest MCs of our time…If you have any love for hip-hop and/or socio-political commentary of anything, please bump this record ASAP.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #3 – Forcefield by Tokyo Police Club

Artist: Tokyo Police Club

Album: Forcefield

Produced by: Doug Boehm and David Monks

Released: March 24, 2014

Forcefield-TokyoPoliceClubalbumThis isn’t Tokio Hotel, that weird German(?) screamo(-ish?) band. Get that shit out of your head. This is Tokyo Police Club: Your (new) favorite Canadian indie rock band. Fuck Arcade Fire.

This was the first good album I heard come out of 2014 and it nearly blew me out of the water. As soon as I played “Argentina” I was like, What the hell is this?!

I was first a fan of TPC in high school. I heard/saw “Tessellate” on MTV and really liked it. I liked a few other songs on Elephant Shell, but in recent years never really followed up with the rest of the band’s material.

I know reviews, expectations, and opinions of this record were low and many seemed unimpressed, even diappointed. I have to disagree; Though this album has more of a pop feel than TPC’s previous records it’s so nice and refreshing to listen to. Yes, “Hot Tonight” is clearly the single, but there are so many other wonderful tracks (see below). And to add to that fact, the album just flows so well and cohesively moves as a whole. I love the lyrics (though cheesy at times), the instrumention, the production, the panning, the rhythms, Dave Monks’ voice. I’m just all about this record. I love it. I get excited listening to it. I bought it on vinyl. (To those that don’t know me, I usually don’t do that unless I really like a record.)

Please do yourself a favor – Have a drink, sit down, and listen to this record. Fall inside like I did. It’s worth the time.

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Roe’s Best Albums of 2014: #4 – Die On Stage by Hostage Calm

Hello there, fellow RKB readers/enthusiasts! From the comfort of my hotel room in Jacksonville, FL,  I’m currently bumming on my dad’s laptop to bring you the rest of what I consider to be the greatest albums this year had to offer. I hope you’ve enjoyed the past 6 albums I’ve listed so far. Here’s #4:

Artist: Hostage Calm

Album: Die On Stage

Produced by: Will Yip

Released: September 16, 2014

Hostage_Calm_Die_On_Stage“Devastated” would be an understatment to describe how I felt when Hostage Calm announced their inpromptu breakup a few months ago. I believe the jury’s still out as to why they did, especially in the middle of a tour and all…I suppose I’m still not over it. <sadface></sadface>

That aside, Die On Stage is one of the best albums you will listen to this year. Fresh with recognizable licks and chord progressions clearly inspired by The Beatles and The Smiths, along with many others I’m sure. Will Yip is in the production seat (whose name you may recognize from Braid’s newest record I wrote about, No Coast). Chris “Cmar” Martin’s voice has considerably matured in this record (even finding his falsetto on “Fallen Angel”), harmonies are the tightest they’ve ever been, with gentle accompanying bells on almost every track (I’m a sucker for that sort of thing). The songwriting is also at another level entirely.

I was a huge fan of Please Remain Calm, later discovered HC’s self-titled (and Lens) and fell in love. I’ve seen HC a handful of times and always loved their live show, energetic and full of spirit; Two things which seem difficult to find at a show nowadays.

If this record doesn’t give you something (anything) to believe in, I’m not sure what will.

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