Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2014. Part Four: 25-11.

Part four is here, and we're finally closing in on the top ten. These are some of the most important records to me this year, and I hope you all enjoy the last two parts of this list! Please leave any comments below, and check out the list after the break.

25. Pharmakon - 'Bestial Burden'
Genre: Power Electronics/Industrial Noise
Country of Origin: USA
The story goes that Margaret Chardiet's second album was inspired by her recovery process after major surgery and seeing the photos of her internal organs from the operation. It certainly fits, as Bestial Burden is one of the most deeply terrifying and visceral albums of the year. Slightly less harsh noise oriented than last year's Abandon, the record instead works to be an intensely rhythmic affair, full of metal being beaten and ringing feedback underneath Chardiet's virulent screams. Bestial Burden isn't an easy listen, but it's one of the most tense and gut-wrenching albums of the year, and a solidification of the necessity of Pharmakon in a genre which is otherwise intensely male-dominated and improvised, instead making distinctly composed and horrifying works of art.
Top tracks: Body Betrays Itself; Intent or Instinct

24. Cashmere Cat - 'Wedding Bells'
Genre: Atmospheric Electronic
Country of Origin: Norway
Cashmere Cat has had a huge spike in fame lately, producing for artists such as Ariana Grande and Kanye West, and it's one of the most deserved rises to fame I've seen in a long time. His second EP is a wonderwork of swirling synths, disembodied voices, and laid back beats. It's hard to imagine an electronic artist in the modern day carving out a sound so distinctly their own after just two EPs, but Cashmere Cat is in a league entirely separate from anyone else, blasting the doors off with Wedding Bells and creating one of the most beautiful, intricate, and unique electronic records of the year.
Top tracks: With Me; Wedding Bells

23. Wolves in the Throne Room - 'Celestite'
Genre: Dark Synth Ambient
Country of Origin: USA
Wolves in the Throne Room are probably the most well-known Cascadian black metal band out there, and their name has become almost ubiquitous with the expert blend of blast beats, atmospheric guitars, and moody black metal to come out of the region in the last few years. Given all this, the fact that their latest album has followed the general trend for black metal musicians to release an ambient synth album sits somewhere between shocking and expected, but it's hardly relevant given the fantastic artistry that Celestite displays. Intended as a companion piece to 2011's good-not-great Celestial Lineage, the record stands far above anything the band has released since Two Hunters as a singular triumph of emotional power, full of swirling synths and the occasional gauzy guitar. Celestite is beautiful, moving, and surprisingly immediate ambient music from a band unmatched in their atmospheric ability, and proof that Wolves in the Throne Room still have a lot of magic left in them.
Top tracks: Sleeping Golden Storm; Celestite Mirror

22. Thou - 'Heathen'
Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Country of Origin: USA
Thou make some of the most monolithic doom metal out there, and Heathen seems to be the album that has finally sprung them towards some genuine fame outside of the gloomy underground. No small feat, considering how brutal and nearly unapproachable the record is, opening up with fourteen minutes of slow ferocity, but it's fully deserved--this is an album of monstrous proportions, Heathen expertly blurs the lines between depressed and furious, being at once deeply atmospheric and immensely heavy, throat-searing screams mixing with lumbering guitars perfectly to remind everyone why Thou deserve the throne at the forefront of North American doom.
Top tracks: Free Will; At the Foot of Mt. Driskill

21. Copeland - 'Ixora'
Genre: Sad Indie Folk
Country of Origin: USA
It's been six years since Copeland's breakup following their monumental last album, You Are My Sunshine. Thankfully, the band has only improved over their time apart, and their comeback record is as achingly beautiful and tragic as always. Aaron Marsh's simply gorgeous voice sits tenderly atop the soft guitars and piano that fill Copeland's fifth album with sad wonder. Ixora is one of those records that reaches into your deepest emotions and draws them out of you, charged more by subtle emotionalism than raw passion. By the end of the record, it's hard to pin down exactly why you're left breathless and in awe, but you can't wait to listen again. The laid-back beauty of Ixora is something genuinely stunning and impossible to put down, and no one should miss out on this wonderwork of an album.
Top tracks: Erase; Lavender

20. Jessica Lea Mayfield - 'Make My Head Sing...'
Genre: Indie Rock
Country of Origin: USA
If you're like me, you discovered Jessica Lea Mayfield way too late thanks to her amazing performance on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts, covered in glitter and bright pink all over. One listen to her third full-length immediately made me regret the amount of time it took me to discover Mayfield's music. Make My Head Sing... is an album of overblown guitars, minimalistic song structure, and Mayfield's ominous vocals placed front and center. Her country influences are hard to miss, but the real star of this album is the eerie atmosphere that coats all of Jessica Lea Mayfield's music. Make My Head Sing... plays as a hyper-distorted, detached take on folk rock, the loudest embodiment of ennui out there, and it's simply wonderful. 
Top tracks: Unknown Big Secret; Oblivious

19. 後藤まりこ - 'こわれた箱にりなっくす'
Mariko Goto - 'Kowareta Hako ni Rinakkusu'
Genre: Experimental J-Pop/Rock
Country of Origin: Japan
Mariko Goto has been through a lot. Between the scarred wrists and the tremendously abrasive avant garde jazz-based hardcore of her old bands Midori and Usagi, as well as her first two torturous solo albums, hearing a genuinely happy record from Goto is one of the most inspiring things possible. Sure, it may not be as intense or intimately scary as last year's m@u, but Mariko Goto's third solo record is an exciting mix of blazing guitars, loud singing, and huge choruses. The whole thing is explosive and joyous in a way that's almost unmatched by anything short of the Kyary Pamyu Pamyus of the world, and to hear such overwhelming glee from an album from someone so well known for her personal unwellness is undeniably the most powerful and exciting moment of the year for me. It sure as hell helps that the album is almost impossible to put down, too.
Top tracks: スナメリ; 触媒

18. ♡kitty♡ - 'Frostbite'
Genre: Indie Pop/Dancey Hip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
The Artist Formerly Known As Kitty Pryde has evolved an awful lot since last year's D.A.I.S.Y. rage, shifting from her ambient hip-hop of the last few years into a more and more atmospheric pop realm, culminating with her second EP of the year, Frostbite. Thumping beats and icy synths pepper the EP, perfectly complementing Kitty's vocals alternating between laid-back rapping and softly crooned choruses. All five songs are simultaneously gorgeous, emotive, exciting, and amazingly danceable. Kitty has finally crafted the kinds of songs that get stuck in your head for weeks straight but still manage to make your heart ache when you listen to them, and the moment the chorus of the opener jumps the octave it's impossible not to fall in love with Frostbite.
Top tracks: ❅ Last Minute ❅; ✴ 285 ✴

17. Foie Gras - 'Held'
Genre: Drone/Dark Folk
Country of Origin: USA
Last year's Innermost Shrine, Heavily Gilded was one of my favorite drone albums I'd ever heard, so hearing Foie Gras somehow step it up even more with Held (and her Bad Kisser album Bate Kush) this year is indescribably exciting. The music Foie makes is daunting to describe, drenched in reverb and full of droning guitars and haunting vocals, it sits on a perfect even ground between goth spookiness and sorrowful beauty. Held is at once unnerving and stirring, some of the most gorgeous ambient music to come out all year coupled with some of the eeriest pieces, and as a whole forms a distinct reminder of how intensely powerful drone music and lo-fi folk can be when done right. This is Foie Gras' best album yet, and she just keeps getting better.
Top tracks: Wants You in That Way; The Throat of the World

16. Every Time I Die - 'From Parts Unknown'
Genre: Metalcore
Country of Origin: USA
It's hard to believe that seven albums in, Every Time I Die are still pumping out explosive masterpieces of southern metalcore this good. From Parts Unknown bursts out the gate and doesn't let up, ripping through one groove after another, expanding on the grindcore-influenced intensity that Ex Lives introduced. As always, Keith Buckley's harsh vocals are impossible to top, and the band continues to have absolutely unmatched energy. As always, the record has a distinct tongue-in-cheek silliness that makes it almost impossible to dislike, but Every Time I Die take themselves just seriously enough to still make legitimately heavy, catchy, and biting music that many have tried to imitate, but no one has really succeeded in. From Parts Unknown is a record of giant riffs, thunderous screams, and some of the best songs from one of the best bands in their genre.
Top tracks: Exometrium; If There Is Room To Move, Things Move

15. Perfume Genius - 'Too Bright'
Genre: Chamber Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Perfume Genius has evolved a bit. His third album features a few of the same tragic piano ballads that he's known for, but it also works is bombastic indie pop tracks, throbbing electronics, and some genuinely frighteningly dark sequences. Too Bright features a predominantly minimal electronic vibe, with basslines and arpeggios ripped straight from an '80s sci-fi soundtrack. But with Mike Hadreas' fragile voice floating over the top there's a new, lonely darkness added onto an otherwise creepily empty mood. Although the slow, sad songs of Put Your Back N 2 It are gone, Too Bright shows that Hadreas is far from a one trick pony, and proves to be the most intense and chilling album from Perfume Genius yet.
Top tracks: Longpig; My Body

Genre: Experimental Metal
Country of Origin: Japan
It's been a long four years since DUM SPIRO SPERO came out, so I've been ready for DIR EN GREY's ninth studio album for quite awhile now. As it stands, ARCHE is an absolute beast--at sixteen songs and a good bit over an hour, this is their longest album since 2002, but every moment is justified. From the slow, aching softer pieces to the full-bore metal tracks, this record delivers in every way. The winding song structures and massive choruses perfectly highlight the top-shelf talent of all five band members, and Kyo's voice is at its best yet, jumping effortlessly from shrieks and growls to deep crooning and gorgeous falsetto. It's an almost impenetrably dense record, but as repeated listens reveal more and more memorable hooks and emotional climaxes, it's hard not to notice and fall in love with a new layer of complex power with every runthrough. ARCHE might not be the most immediate album DIR EN GREY have ever made, but it stands tall with the best of them and is just another reminder as to why the band are the absolute kings of Japanese experimental, emotive, and heavy music.
Top tracks: Un deux; 濤声

13. D'Angelo and the Vanguard - 'Black Messiah'
Genre: Experimental Funk/R&B/Neo-Soul
Country of Origin: USA
Almost exactly fifteen years since his landmark sophomore record Voodoo, D'Angelo is back. It's honestly hard to believe that his new album is actually out, especially with it being announced literally days before its release. But here it is, and it's tremendous. D'Angelo's trademark strange, minimalist funk style is still present, but it's warped into a dark, surreal version of itself. Black Messiah is made out of twisted melodies and dense vocal clusters over simple drums, clean guitar, and subtle strings. While D'Angelo's trademark falsetto is still as enticing as ever, he's using it to build a remarkably eerie and visual world rather than the sensuality he became known for, and it works so well. His first two albums were masterpieces in their own right, but this is probably his best yet--it feels vital, charged, relevant, and incredibly tense. Black Messiah surpasses absolutely all expectations, and for a comeback this huge, that's some of the highest praise possible.
Top tracks: The Charade; Another Life

12. The Hotelier - 'Home, Like Noplace is There'
Genre: Emo/Twinkle
Country of Origin: USA
The Hotelier's newest album is up there with Foxing's first album as the best thing to come out of the recent resurgence of emo music. Twinkling guitars, pained vocals, sensibilities jumping from whiny pop-punk to intense post-hardcore, and an intense sense of scope make up Home, Like Noplace is There, and it's hard to imagine a way it could be better. Exploring personal hardships, loss, gender, and maybe even hinting at the pain of dysphoria, The Hotelier have made a record far wiser than a sophomore effort by a sad punk band has any right to be. From the lonesome, melodic build-up of the first song through to the anguished, harsh power of 'Life in Drag,' every song on Home, Like Noplace is There absolutely shines with the kind of magic that made the originators of the genre so famous. The Hotelier absolutely destroy expectations with their latest record, and deliver with by far the most exciting surprise of the year.
Top tracks: Life in Drag; Among the Wildflowers

11. Full of Hell/Merzbow - 'Full of Hell & Merzbow'
Genre: Hardcore/Powerviolence/Harsh Noise
Country of Origin: USA/Japan
Full of Hell have been turning heads for quite a few years now with their unique mix of grind, hardcore, and harsh noise, so any new material from them is extremely exciting. The announcement that their third full-length would be a collaboration with legendary Japanese noise artist Merzbow was a whole different story, however. Full of Hell & Merzbow is one of the most distinctly punishing and savage records to come out all year, alternating between shrieking static and lightning fast powerviolence without ever missing a beat. Although Full of Hell's side of the contribution shows through a good deal more than Merzbow's on the main album, the second disc titled Sister Fawn turns the ratio on its head, providing a Merzbow album with tinges of Full of Hell's ferocity. This is one of the most singlemindedly destructive albums to come out all year, and it's hard to imagine how such a huge collaboration could have possibly gone better.
Top tracks: Fawn Heads and Unjoy; Mute


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