The Fire Note Top Albums of 2014: Writer Edition 2 657

The Fire Note Top Albums of 2014: Writer Edition 2 658

writer picks 2014
The Fire Note wouldn’t be possible without the talented writers that have signed on here to share their educated thoughts and true enjoyment of music with our readers.

Our year end Top 50 is coming early next week but clearly everyone has different tastes and ideas when naming the best album released in 2014.

So without any other delay I give you The Fire Note Writer Picks of 2014. Thanks again to all the contributors!

Kevin Poindexter

1. Guided by Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit
2. Ty Segall – Manipulator
3. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
4. Guided by Voices – Cool Planet
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
6. TV on the Radio – Seeds
7. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
8. Sweet Apple – The Golden Age of Glitter
9. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
10. Woods – With Light and With Love
11. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
12. Thurston Moore – The Best Day
13. Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics
14. Connections – Into Sixes
15. Death of Samantha – If Memory Serves Us Well
16. Ex Hex – Rips
17. Mogwai – Rave Tapes
18. Passenger Peru – Passenger Peru
19. Circus Devils – Escape
20. Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun
21. Doug Gillard – Parade On
22. Needles//Pins – Shamebirds
23. Cleaners From Venus – Return to Bohemia
24. Strand of Oaks – Heal
25. Blank Pages – Blank Pages

Honorable Mentions: Tweedy, Bobby Bare Jr., Straight Arrows, Cheatahs, Vertical Scratchers, Damon Albarn, Drive-By Truckers, Gruff Rhys, Len Price 3, Nones, Off, Owls, Ryan Adams, Shellac, The New Mendicants, Wand

Christopher Tahy

1. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
2. Ty Segall – Manipulator
3. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
4. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz
5. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
6. Wand – Ganglion Reef
7. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
8. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
9. Ex Hex – Rips
10. Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s – Slingshot to Heaven
11. Lonesome Shack – More Primitive
12. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
13. Antemasque – Antemasque
14. Arms of Tripoli – Dream In Tongues
15. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
16. Grouper – Ruins
17. The Shine Brothers – Hello Griefbirds!
18. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
19. Swans – To Be Kind
20. Circus Devils – Escape
21. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In the End
22. Curtis Harding – Soul Power
23. Buffalo Killers – Heavy Reverie
24. Lab Partners – Seven Seas
25. Jack White – Lazaretto

Matthew Heiner

1. Spoon – They Want My Soul
2. How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?
3. The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream
4. Black Pistol Fire – Hush or Howl
5. Gem Club – In Roses
6. Damien Jurado – Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Son
7. Real Estate – Atlas
8. Faces on Film – Elite Lines
9. Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
10. New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
11. Caribou – Our Love
12. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
13. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
14. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
15. Bleachers – Strange Desire
16. Kahoots – Take To The Fields
17. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
18. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
19. Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside
20. Ex Hex – Rips
21. Beck – Morning Phase
22. St Vincent – St. Vincent
23. Owen Pallett – In Conflict
24. Jack White – Lazaretto
25. OK Go – Hungry Ghosts

Simon Workman

1. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (box set)
2. Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit
3. Circus Devils – Escape
4. Grateful Dead – Spring 1990: The Other One (box set)
5. Pink Floyd – The Endless River
6. Guided By Voices – Cool Planet
7. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
8. Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust
9. Teenage Guitar – More Lies From The Gooseberry Bush
10. Philip Selway – Weatherhouse
11. Copeland – Ixora
12. Temples – Sun Structures
13. Speaking Suns – Vanishing Country
14. Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks vol. 11: November 17, 1972
15. Phish – Fuego
16. Antemasque – Antemasque
17. Cool Ghouls – A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye
18. Spoon – They Want My Soul
19. Nick Mitchell – Prayers From The Petri Dish
20. Chris Staples – American Soft
21. Tame Impala – Live Versions (RSD exclusive)
22. Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics
23. Eyelids – 854
24. The Donkeys – Ride the Black Wave
25. Robert Plant – Lullaby And . . . The Ceaseless Roar

Scot Lade

1. Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit
Whereas the final GbV record, Cool Planet, left me a little cold the penultimate one, released all the way back in February is a gem. Packed with memorable songs, great melodies and sequenced in a very satisfying way, Motivational Jumpsuit should have been the band’s swan song. Moreover, “Planet Score” is the best Pollard song of the reunion era and almost single-handedly gives the boys from Dayton the top spot. That the other songs are top-notch doesn’t hurt either.

2. Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos
Coming on the heels of two very strong outings (2011’s The Mistress and 2012’s Strange Land) it came as no surprise that Alex Schaaf and company released another solid record. What was surprising, however, was just how good Cosmos was. Sounding like a real band for the first time Yellow Ostrich swung for the fences with their head in the firmament. Rich, varied and full of queer left turns, this was one album I couldn’t stop listening to.

3. Transatlantic – Kaleidoscope
Prog supergroup consisting of Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard). Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and Pete Trewavas (Marillion) put it all together on their fourth album. This is no Asia or Velvet Revolver. No sir. This is the best progressive rock since the heyday of Yes, ELP, Genesis and Pink Floyd. Complex yet oddly approachable, even the epic tracks seem to fly by with an ease and grace. Not for everyone’s tastes to be sure but one fine record.

4. Together PANGEA – Badillac
There’s nothing groundbreaking going on here – just some really good songs played with the passion of a punk band, the ear of a pop band and the hooks of stadium-filling capital “r” rock band. The songs are pretty ridiculous but they stuck in my brain and I haven’t been able to get them out all year. This record sounds exactly like what a Burger Records act moving to Harvest Records should: loud but smart.

5. Spoon – They Want My Soul
Yet another quality LP from these guys. It gets a bit redundant having to place the latest Spoon record on a year-end list but here we go again. Although offering very little in the way of new ideas or a broader sonic pallete there’s really no need for that, is there?. Spoon does what they do so well that it would be a shame if they strayed to far from their comfort zone. Remember when The Ramones tried that? Neither do I.

6. St. Vincent – s/t
7. Thee Oh Sees – Drop
8. Warpaint – s/t
9. Quilt – Held In Splendor
10. Sleepy Sun – Maui Tears
11. Ty Segall – Manipulator
12. Owls – II
13. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
14. Temples – Sun Structures
15. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – IX
16. Liars – Mess
17. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags
18. Popstrangers – Fortuna
19. Knifeworld – The Unravelling
20. Swans – To Be Kind
21. Yes – Heaven & Earth
22. Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
23. Augustines – s/t
24. Half Japanese – Overjoyed
25. Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Daniel Taylor

1. Passenger Peru – S/T
2. Guided By Voices – Motivational Jumpsuit
3. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
4. Low Fat Getting High – S/T
5. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
6. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat – Party Jail
7. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader
8. Smug Brothers – On the Way to the Punchline
9. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
10. Grass Is Green – Vacation Vinny
11. Fat White Family – Champagne Holocaust
12. Tungs – Not For Grandma
13. People – 3xaWoman
14. Greys – If Anything
15. Kahoots – Take To The Fields
16. Slippertails – There’s A Disturbing Trend
17. Street Eaters – Blood::Muscles::Bones
18. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent
19. Ausmuteants – Order of Operation
20. Francisco the Man – Loose Ends
21. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags
22. Dope Body – Lifer
23. Unicycle Loves You – The Dead Age
24. Joseph Airport – Stronger and Better
25. Paws – Youth Culture Forever

Brian Q. Newcomb

1. The Choir – Shadow Weaver (Galaxy 21)
Centered around the spacey, ambient soundscapes of Derri Daugherty and Marc (Hammock) Byrd’s haunting guitar textures – part Cocteau Twins, part Pink Floyd – and Daugherty’s warm melodic vocals, Shadow Weaver is arguably their best since 1990’s Circle Slide. Working in near obscurity, The Choir have been producing strong alternative pop releases since the mid-80’s, harnessing the uniquely intimate lyrics of drummer Steve Hindalong, as they do here to great effect on “What You Think I Am,” “Get Gone” and “White Knuckles.” This has been my most played recording in recent months, and now it’s my selection for the Best of 2014.

2. The Strypes – Snapshot (Photo Finish/Island)
Once in a while, a band comes along whose fresh, energetic approach to classic rootsy rock & roll rekindles one’s love of the music. These youthful bluesy pop/rockers exhibit a love for early Stones, Beatles and Yardbirds, but play with the punk energy of the Replacements. It’s enough to restore one’s faith in the power of music.

3. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (Nonesuch)
On True Blue, the “Lonely Boy” band gets really lonely and the result is more subtle, but no less intense approach to blues as seen through the eyes of modern rockers Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. Ostensibly a quieter, more nuanced effort, Turn Blue is a break-up record that works even if you’re staying together for the long haul.

4. TV on the Radio – Seeds (Harvest)
TV on the Radio has built a long, rich history on creative experiments that mix a prog-rock sensibility with R&B emotionality and hip-hop technology. Seeds’ thrives on great pop hooks and accessible melodies, sure to connect across a wider spectrum of serious music listeners.

5. Gary Clark Jr. – Live (Warner Bros.)
A blues guitarist is only as good as his/her live sound. With Live, Clark proves that his sound matches all the hype that he is blues/rock guitar’s best hope for the future by delivering the goods. This guy sounds like the real deal.

6. The Both – The Both (SuperEgo)
This collaboration of Aimee Mann and Ted Leo is pure, power pop perfection. Great songs, punchy rhythms, smart lyrics and harmonies… it’s totally contagious.

7. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye (Reprise)
Outside of New Jersey, Petty’s Heartbreaker cohorts are arguably the best long-time rock ‘n roll band working today. Amped up by Petty’s gritty songs about the unraveling of the American dream, they’re back with all the piss & vinegar we’ve come to expect.

8. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)
On this third studio disc, these Philadelphia-based rockers stretch out in atmospheric bliss, a blend of Dylanesque Americana lyricism and soaring ambient jam band excursions. What’s not to love?

9. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)
Annie Clark brings plenty of smarts to her bubblegum electro/funk synth pop, and surprises us with a hip, gritty guitar soloing that demands serious consideration. That she pulls it all together with wit and charm, suggests we’ll be hearing a lot more from this Saint.

10. Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (Columbia)
I know, I know. All the cool kids think Bruce is so yesterday’s news, and High Hopes is supposedly mostly covers, album outtakes from 2012’s Wrecking Ball, and previously released material re-imagined. But you’d never know that from listening. The title track, written by Tim Scott McConnell, espouses a working class ethos of belief in the possibility of a full life, and Springsteen’s own “American Skin (41 shots)” may have been inspired by events in NYC in 2000, but could as easily have come out of Ferguson, MO. Of course, a lot of the energy here comes from guitarist Tom Morrello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave), who breathes new life into Bruce’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a song Rage often performed life.

11. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – Goliath (Splint)
One of my favorite albums of all time is a little known band, Chagall Guevara (MCA, 1991), featuring singer Steve Taylor. The arrival of this Perfect Foil disc, popping with the bold guitar sounds of Jimmy Abegg, the deep bass grooves of John Mark Painter, and the frantic rhythms of drummer Peter Furler driving Taylor to make a serious rock & roll album all these years later… well, it’s like Christmas.

12. U2 – Songs of Innocence (Island)
Never mind that it arrived for free in everyone’s iTunes account (although that was a problem for you, really?), Songs of Innocence finds the Irish quartet writing and performing at the top of their game. Surprisingly Danger Mouse’s production is crisp and direct, as the songs explore their earliest inspirations and experiences, as in “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” and Bono’s tribute to his mother, “Iris (Hold Me Close).” Of course, if you are all about Kanye West, you could easily delete, right?

13. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (Roswell/RCA)
Too be honest, I liked the HBO shows about the cities where they recorded the 8 tracks a lot more than I like the album. Although at times, Dave Grohl seemed surprisingly uninformed about music outside of his small piece of the pie in alternative, punk & rock, still it was great to see him giddy with curiosity as he interviewed luminaries like Buddy Guy, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris. While the music here is pretty much what you’d expect from Foo Fighters, it’s fun to hear Grohl site Muddy Waters and quote Guy’s line about “looking for a dime, and found a quarter,” in the song “Something for Nothing.” It would have been nice to see the music evolve beyond the FF formula, but it’s certainly cool to include artists like Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Gary Clark, Jr., and Joe Walsh in the band’s work.

14. Lucinda Williams – Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (Highway 20)
A goddess of Americana, Lucinda Williams surrounds herself with players that can support her raggedly honest songs with their bluesy, R&B and country roots. On this long double CD, she relies on the solid guitar talents of Tony Joe White, Greg Leisz and others, as well as the recently deceased former Stones-sideman Ian McLagan, who sat in playing the Wurlitzer organ. But the real draw here are these great, smart, emotionally potent songs, and that voice… of course, that voice.

15. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (Pax AM)
Ryan Adams has come a long, long way from Whiskeytown. With great solo records like Gold, Jacksonville City Nights, and his last mostly acoustic disc in 2011, Ashes & Fire, it’s obvious he’s a solid songwriter, and as he showed on Rock N Roll he can rock when he wants to. He plays all the guitars and sings with soulful energy, supported by a crack band that includes Heartbreaker keyboardist Benmont Tench. On “Gimme Something Good” and “My Wrecking Ball,” songs whose title suggest other songs by other artists, Adams carves out a space for his songs on their own terms.

16. Bill Mallonee – Winnowing (billmallonee.net)
In recent years, the former Vigilantes of Love leader, Bill Mallonee has packed up his prolific homegrown singer/songwriter enterprise and moved it from Athens, GA to New Mexico, where together with his wife Muriah Rose he continues to deliver literate, finely crafted songs. Playing most of the instruments here, guitars & harmonica, drums, the works, Mallonee’s voice has taken on a worn world weariness as he sings about “The New Dark Age,” and a “Room Full of Woe.” What sustains Mallonee and gives light and hope to these songs is the possibility of love. We all may face “Those Locust Years,” he sings, but in the “Dew Drop Inn,” “stories got told and drinks were poured, and for a moment it was heaven here.”

17. The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams (Washington Square/Razor & Tie)
With the addition of Steve Selvidge, Craig Finn’s songs of quiet desperation have gotten a lot louder, and that’s a very good thing. If the song’s narratives of longing and frustration don’t win you over, there’s a lot of great rock guitar on this one.

18. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (Warp)
Some times music writers use the word experimental to describe an artist whose out to stretch the envelope, break new ground. While the effort is always to be celebrated, the results do not always make for an enjoyable listening experience. Eclectic producer, Steven Ellison (AKA Flying Lotus) has managed to bridge the divides between acid jazz and hip-hop, cover lots of ground in between on this largely instrumental work. Collaborators include jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock, rappers Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, but mostly its Ellison’s keen ear that makes these brief strange juxtapositions in sound stand together as an artful whole. Not sure why, exactly, but he’s got me thinking about Frank Zappa.

19. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble/Xtra Mile)
As the title suggests, this album represents and describes the transition of Against Me!’s singer/songwriter as a transgender woman, now using the name Laura Jane Grace. As a band they take on this deeply personal struggle with the same bold angry crunchy punk rock that made “White People for Peace” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” so much fun. Grace & Co. continue to deliver all the hard edged energy we’ve come to expect, with lyrics that unearth the pain and perplexity of realizing your body’s wrongly gendered. Probably not safe for work, or around the children unless you’re ready for one of those awkward conversations.

20. The Afghan Whigs – Do To the Beast (Sub Pop)
And speaking of artists NSFW, it took 16 years but Greg Dulli has reunited with lead guitarist Rick McCollum and bassist John Curley to reform Afghan Whigs, one of the truly great alternative rock bands of the 90s. Dulli has kept busy with The Twilight Singers as have the others, but Do To the Beast while somewhat reflective of their aging/maturing realities, represents a remarkable return to form. The band rocks with intensity, never losing sight of Dulli’s inate interest in the song’s melody, often expressing his interest in R&B and soul music.

21. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (Matador)
This collection of Vancouver musicians has delivered accessible indie pop masterpieces across their 15 year history. Of course, Neko Case’s solo career has also taken off over the course of this band, but in this setting she’s more content to let A.C. Newman handle the lion’s share of songwriting with a few thrown in by Daniel Bejar. Brill Bruisers is an almost entirely uptempo affair, buoyant and celebrative, filled with synth keyboard fills and harmony choruses.

22. Spoon – They Want My Soul (Loma Vista)
Austin’s Spoon delivers soulful indie pop/rock that has few peers. They Want My Soul comes after a four year break, but returns to their sturdy reliable song hooks and energetic dance club delivery. This is something worth rewarding.

23. Tweedy – Sukierae (dBpm)
Jeff Tweedy’s first solo album after forming Wilco out of the ashes of Uncle Tupelo is a family affair, with his son Spencer on drums and much of the material written as love songs to his ailing wife. As such, songs like “Low Key” and “I’ll Sing It” are not only the closest he’s come to writing pop songs in a while, but they’re also some of his most personal and intimate reflections.

24. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots (Warner Bros./Parophone)
In the 90s, Albarn was the frontman for Britpop icons Blur, and in the 00s he was the creative energy behind the virtual hip-hop band Gorillaz. After all that, Everyday Robots is his solo debut, exuding a lot of the expected British brand of clever on a pretty serious recording dominated by ballads.

25. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End (Republic)
For this ninth studio album, Weezer returned to work with the producer of their first two albums, Ric Ocasek (formerly of The Cars). In a move that echoes their single “Back to the Shack,” Rivers Cuomo returns the band to the hard rocking, pop hook laden sound that made “Billy Holly” and other early songs perennial favorites. And it worked.

Sophie Gross

1. Alex G – DSU
The bedroom pop, dorm room recorded band from Philadelphia, Alex G released an album under the DIY label, Orchid Tapes in June 2014, DSU. The melodic pop album includes a range of songs, from the lo-fi experimental tracks such as “rejoyce” and “icehead” to the tracks that include piano, “boy” and “tripper.”

2. Foxes in Fiction – Ontario Gothic
Foxes in Fiction’s newest release, Ontario Gothic is one of my favorite albums of the year. Ontario Gothic is a lo-fi, pop album with a dreamy, beautiful feel. Warren Hildebrand who runs the label Orchid Tapes, released, recorded and wrote the album.

3. Spencer Radcliffe/R.L Kelly – Brown Horse
R.L Kelly and Spencer Radcliffe collaborated to release a split under Orchid Tapes in October. I was already such a fan of Rachael’s work. However, I wasn’t very familiar with Spencer Radcliffe, whose side was exceptional. His lyrics were fascinating and the Borat reference was a nice touch. I loved the instrumental track “teen porn” on Rachael’s half of the split. Overall, an amazing album!

4. Orchid Tapes – Boring Ecstasy
This year, Orchid Tapes released a fourteen track compilation. It includes several songs from artists who also released full length albums throughout the year. The compilation is a great introduction to many of the label’s artists, and a good place to start if you’re new to Orchid Tapes. Anything under Orchid never disappoints, every band is so different, and unique. The frontman of the label, Warren Hildebrand’s attention to detail really pays off and makes the listening experience so much more special.

5. Ricky Eat Acid – Three Love Songs
Ricky Eat Acid’s Three Love Songs had to be one of the most interesting albums of 2014 in my opinion. The Ambient pop album grabs your attention, and doesn’t let go until the last song “Starting over” is finished. It is one of the most beautiful albums I have listened to in a very long time.

6. Frankie Cosmos – Affirms Glinting
Frankie Cosmos, without a doubt has to be one of my favorite artists. I find myself listening to her all the time in the halls at school, and humming “feeling alive” on the walk home. I think that her music is very relatable, and I can always find a song to suit my mood.

7. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Angel Olsen released Burn Your Fire For No Witness at the beginning of 2014. The eleven track album leaves you completely satisfied. Angel Olsen has one of the most interesting voices. Her voice combined with her emotional, and thought provoking lyrics just add up to a great album.

8. QUARTERBOY – QUARTERBOY
QUARTERBACKS released their album, QUARTERBOY this year under double double whammy records. QUARTERBOY contains several songs from their previous album, SPORTSCENTER, as well as some new ones. The album includes twelve lo-fi, songs with a nostalgic feel.

9. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy
Greta Kline of Porches released a new album under her project Frankie Cosmos. The album includes rather sad lyrics with upbeat, catchy tunes. Kline tells stories of the stresses of art school, love, childhood, and the death of a pet in only 17 minutes.

10. Ghoul School – Casino Hearts
Casino Hearts’s album Ghoul School is a really pretty album, with a really cool idea behind it. The songs are all about teenage monsters. The original idea was supposed to be a zine, but without the help pf artists, fell through. It resulted in this twelve track album with song titles such as “Wolfboy” and “Meet Me By The Lockers” instead.

11. Tomorrow’s Tulips – When
The band under Burger Record’s; Tomorrow’s Tulips album When was definitely a favorite of mine this year. My favorite tracks off the album were “Glued to you” and “Baby.”

12. Cherry Glazer – Haxel Princess
Haxel Princess by Cherry Glazer was released early this year, The pop rock album is very upbeat and the lyrics are fun and catchy, It was one of my favorite albums over the summer, and one that my friends and I constantly blare with the windows down.

13. Whatever, Dad – 100% Take Me Home!+Grade Pending
This album was the first time I had listened to Whatever, Dad which is The lead singer of, Crying, Elaiza Santos’s project. The album has such pretty vocals, complete with the song “Noogie”-a cover of Weezer’s “Undone- The Sweater Song.”

14. Spencer Radcliffe – Keeper
Keeper, Spencer Radcliffe’s album came out in July of this year. I hadn’t listened to him much until my attention was grabbed by his Brown Horse split with R.L Kelly and I had to listen to more of his music. I really enjoyed this album as well as the others available on his bandcamp page.

15. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Anything by Mac Demarco is guaranteed to be fun. His newest release, Salad Days is no exception, the dream pop album always puts you in a good mood. Mac’s laid back lyrics from his gaped-tooth mouth along with his chill music are always a good listen. Mac definitely knows how to keep it real.

16. Ty Segall – Manipulator
It is no shock that Ty Segall’s newest album Manipulator was amazing. Anything that Ty Segall puts out is bound to excite, and his seventh album Manipulator was one of my favorites so far.

17. Mister Lies – Shadow
Another release under Orchid Tapes was a favorite of mine this past year(what a surprise) I seem to just love anything they put out-what can I say?! I found the band through Orchid’s website, and gave them a listen. The album is soft and pretty and the lyrics are raw and personal.

18. Radiator Hospital – Torch Song
The band from Philadelphia, Radiator Hospital released an album in September. The bedroom lo-fi pop album features several songs that are lyrically driven. My favorite track was “Cut your bangs.”

19. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
Joyce Manor is a band that I grew to really like after introduced to them a few years back by my older brother. Therefore, I was really excited for their newest release. Never Hungover Again was such an impressive album, but in my opinion nothing by them will ever top their self-titled.

20. Wax Witches – Centre of Your Universe
Wax Witches released their newest album Centre of Your Universe in September. The tracks are lo-fi pop-punk and experimental. The band’s lead singer Alex Wall was formerly part of The Bleeding Knees Club.

Fire Note Staff

Fire Note Staff

Online Music Magazine: Independent Music Reviews, Vinyl Spotlights, Music News, Videos, 7-inch record features + more!
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2 Comments

  1. You guys are doing a great job. This should keep me busy through the winter finding what I missed in 2014.

  2. Still a great job everybody, but I have to ask a question.

    Without using the word jazz or originality, what is it about the Flying Lotus album that deserves to make your list(s)?

    I only ask because 99% of the music that passes through here is rock. This album seems more in place at Pitchfork or gorilla v bear.

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Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 858

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Fire Note Staff

Fire Note Staff

Online Music Magazine: Independent Music Reviews, Vinyl Spotlights, Music News, Videos, 7-inch record features + more!
Fire Note Staff

Stars: There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light [Album Review] 0 424

Stars
There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light
Last Gang Records [2017]

ratings3_5






Who: Veteran indie pop band from Canada.

Sound: Indie pop with a heart and a head.

TFN Final Take: Stars is like a well-worn glove that is comfortable, reliable, but lacking in surprise or unpredictability. There is nothing wrong with that; they are still great at what they do. And what they do is construct a song, engage you, and give you space to reflect on what you’re hearing. My standout track is “Alone,” which has a chorus that stuck with me. The song takes its time to unfold and then slowly recedes into silence. “Real Thing” is another good one that throws an off-speed pitch for a chorus. Per usual, established fans will find a lot to like in the latest album and new fans will hopefully take advantage of Stars’ great catalog.

Stars Website
Stars Facebook
Last Gang Records

– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner

Fire Note Staff

Fire Note Staff

Online Music Magazine: Independent Music Reviews, Vinyl Spotlights, Music News, Videos, 7-inch record features + more!
Fire Note Staff

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