Biblical

Best of the Rest: Other Highlights from 2014

Even with our expanded Best-Of list courtesy of The Process, there were still a ton of great albums released last year that were worthy of recognition.  Since we here at Rust Is Just Right are big believers in spreading all good music, we’re going to put a spotlight on some other great records that you may have overlooked from the past year.

Atmosphere – Southsiders.  At this point in their career, you know what you’re going to get with Atmosphere, and for occasional fans that’s perfect.  Slug still comes up with great one-liners, and Ant provides an intriguing, grimy production to back him up.

Biblical – Monsoon Season.  This selection is proof that good things can happen when you show up to see the opening act.  We first caught them when they were touring with Death From Above 1979, and we instantly fell for their version of heavy metal that takes the sensibility of Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon and expands it out to include several rocking solos.  A prog version of Red Fang?  We’re there.

clipping. – CLPPNG.  These guys do a great job of pushing the boundaries of modern rap, though their experimentalism can get the best of them on occasion.  There are several instances on CLPPNG that the abrasiveness becomes oppressive, but then there are plenty of other times where everything coalesces and it just hits.  Throughout the record, MC Daveed Diggs showcased some of the best technique of the past year, displaying an impressive ear for rhythm and deploying some incisive rhymes, with “Story 2” serving as the most prominent example.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!.  This mixture of electronica, jazz, hip-hop, and R&B flows effortlessly from one track to the next and always keeps your attention.  Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on “Never Catch Me” is the highlight, but there is a lot of fun to be had throughout the album.

King Tuff – Black Moon Spell.  A unique mix of glam rock and lo-fi indie, the best moments of this album are some of the most fun rock’n’roll released last year.

Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun.  Mastodon continues to evolve and refine their sound, reining in some of their tendencies towards excess with more concise songs but still adventurous enough to seek out some crazy riffs and solos.  In this way, Once More serves as an efficient composite of their previous albums, but also features some of their catchiest riffs yet.

The Roots – …And then you shoot your cousin.  The Roots are so consistently excellent that they are practically the Spoon of hip-hop.  Their latest concept album was overlooked and underrated, and though it suffers from a diminished presence from Black Thought, the record still works even if it leans on more traditional R&B than rap.

Slow Bird – Chrysalis.  They show a good ear for slow builds and pretty melodies, and  one can hear the foundation for future success.

Tweedy – Sukierae.  Who would have thought that Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer would make a good team?  This side project has enough of the charm of his main gig in Wilco, while also offering enough of an alternative that makes it a worthwhile effort.

Walter Martin – We’re All Young Together.  This is the third solo album from a former member of The Walkmen released last year, but since the intended audience was for children there were much lower stakes involved.  However, this is one of those “kids albums” that is just as pleasant for adults, with its effortless easy-going charm.  If you play this for the kids, chances are they will grow up with good taste in music.

Also Worthy of Praise

Broken Bells – After the Disco; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Only Run; D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah; Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita; Eels – The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett; Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways; Parquet Courts – Content Nausea; Sun Kil Moon – Benji; Temples – Sun Structures; tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack.

All Albums That Were Considered

Here is a list of the albums that we listened to last year, in full.  Most of these were quite good and worthy of repeated listens, but they just could not crack the previous lists.  The good news is there were no absolute stinkers this year, though some were weaker efforts from bands that had excelled in the past.

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – IX; Band of Horses – Acoustic at the Ryman; The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation; Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics; Cold War Kids – Hold My Home; Coldplay – Ghost Stories; Crosses – Crosses; Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots; Dum Dum Girls – Too True; Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons; J Mascis – Tied To A Star; Jack White – Lazaretto; Karen O – Crush Songs; Kasabian – 48:13; Kevin Drew – Darlings; The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers; Philip Selway – Weatherhouse; Pixies – Indie Cindy; Thee Silver Mt. Zion – Fuck Off We Get Free We Pour Light On Everything; Thurston Moore – The Best Day; Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield; We Are Scientists – TV en Francais; Wye Oak – Shriek.

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Death From Above 1979, Live at the Crystal Ballroom

For a couple of hours last night, I felt both 14 and 40 simultaneously.  It’s the kind of feeling you can only get when you’re watching a favorite band from your younger and more vulnerable years thrash away at an otherwise-unbearable volume.  Sure, the body can take the abuse of the unruly masses for only a couple of songs these days, but it doesn’t compare to the euphoria of a fucking great performance.

Easily the high point of that lineup

Easily the high point of that lineup

I had been waiting ten years for this show, and I was not going to be content observing the proceedings from a safe spot in the middle of the crowd.  I was one of the few people to give these guys radio play back when You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine first came out, and since then I had desperately wanted to see DFA1979’s furious intensity translated into a live setting.  Instead, due to mostly just bad luck, I had to be content during that long wait to merely play their album hundreds of times or attempting to track down whatever live footage I could find (like their brilliant performance on Conan).  A couple of years later, Sebastien and Jesse broke up, and it seemed like any chance to see the duo live was lost to history.  Of course, we all know now that the band reunited a few years ago, but still I wasn’t any closer to seeing these guys.  There was the initial insistence on playing far-flung festivals that I had no intention of attending, but even when circumstances conspired to put us in the same city at the same time, it wasn’t enough–I was there the year that they surprised SXSW with their reunification, but due to my outdated phone I heard the confirmation hours after their tiny venue had already overfilled well past capacity, and had to be content to learn the details secondhand the next day.  So yeah, I was going to through caution and good sense out the window and get as close as possible, the terrors of the pit be damned.

As soon as the opening piano chords of “Turn It Out” were triggered, the crowd began to lose its (collective) mind as their anticipation reached a fever pitch.  When the drums and bass finally kicked in, all hell broke loose and any chance that I had of being in control of my own movements went out the window, at least for the rest of the song; I found myself tossed from the far left of the stage all the way to the central barrier dividing All-Ages from Boozers with no idea how I got there, though I was jumping up and down to the beat the whole time.  “Right On, Frankenstein” brought a similar pattern of events, but when a shoelace came undone, I decided that it was best to make a break off to the side and fix the issue for safety’s sake.  And as a result of the wisdom that can only come with age, I took the opportunity to camp out at the side for the rest of the show, getting all the benefit of being close to the stage with much less wear and tear on the body.

It was all kind of a blur at the beginning

It was all kind of a blur at the beginning

With the physical terror no longer a concern, I was able to focus more clearly on the music.  The band placed an emphasis on the new material, playing all or nearly-all of The Physical World, and the crowd displayed a remarkable amount of enthusiasm considering the album was only released two months ago.  Sebastien and Jesse played their parts brilliantly, as they were effortlessly able to recreate the sounds of the album, and showing that the years of touring experience have served them well.  When the band dipped into their early songs, the audience found an extra gear and responded in an even more frenzied manner–during the climax of “Little Girl” one fan was able to launch himself completely above the crowd, as if shot from a cannon, to the delight/terror of those around him.  It was also fun to see the duo take the opportunity to stretch certain sections out and play around with the structure of the old songs, breathing new life into decade-old material.

A safer angle

A safer angle

The Crystal Ballroom can be a fickle place to play for a lot of bands, with its wonky acoustics and expansive layout, but Death From Above 1979 was able to keep the feel of a punk club; all elements (bass, keyboards, drums, and vocals) came through with great clarity, and the band tried to keep all sections of the audience involved.  Sebastien was surprised to see a balcony way in the back, opining that those people decided to sit so far back “just to get a look down the shirts of the audience below”; he also expressed bemusement at the strict separation as required by the OLCC, a sentiment with which we share.  The stage show was modest, with their trademark logo being the sole decoration and a line of white strobe lights being the main effect, but this minimalism served them well when they expertly deployed a sudden shift to red lights during the chorus of “White Is Red.”  But the coolest effect was probably the cheapest one possible–during the final song of the encore, Sebastien emptied a bottle of water onto his drumset before launching into the coda of “The Physical World”, and the effect of seeing the water splash high into the air during that brilliant finale was mesmerizing.  Hundreds of cameraphones went up to capture that moment, but it felt better just to experience the moment on its own.  So, sorry I have no actual footage of this–you’ll just have to see it for yourself when Death From Above stops by your town.