KTOTT BEST OF 2014

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Reviews

Trawling through the records I have listened to this year, I realised that it had been a better year for music than I remember. I really struggled to whittle it down to ten. I could have definitely had a top 20 and them all be good albums. As it is, this is the top ten I am left with, which would, outside of the top 5, probably change if you asked me tomorrow. First world problems, right?

Anyway, as well as my ramblings, below there is also Read Hard’s (from Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks) best of, which includes a couple of EPs (sacrilege!) and also a couple of Norwegian bands, which are not church-burning black metal.

There is also a 2014 Spotify playlist of my favourite songs of the year, because I am a dirty sellout. Think of the 0.000002p that the artists will get by listening to the playlist!!

As this will be the final post of the year, in a punk rock attempt to be festive, I have posted a couple of ‘alternative’ Christmas songs, both of which have been recently recorded: one is Coventry-based Wasted Daze’s cover of “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time At All?”, and the other is our very own Read Hard’s “Moptop Christmas”.

The final thing to say is that there is now a printed zine of Keep Track of the Time: a 2014 collection. A sort of best-of of this year; my favourite things that have been up on this blog over the past year (interviews, reviews, etc) in printed form. If nothing else, it’s a bit of extra toilet roll for you. If you would like a copy, get in touch at: keeptrackofthetime@gmail.com

See you in 2015.

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My top ten of the year

1. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues (Total Treble)

For me, this was easily was the record of the year. I mean, yes, Transgender Dysphoria Blues was clearly great in terms of lyrics and what it stood for, with Laura Jane Grace’s emotions just dripping from the record. That would have already been an interesting record, but what made the album stand out were the great songs, and the hooks, melodies and pure passion within these. From the stirring centrepiece of the record “True Trans Soul Rebel” to the pure catharsis of anthemic closer “Black Me Out”, this was, and I try not to say this lightly, a true, modern-day punk rock classic.

2. Lawrence Arms- Metropole (Epitaph)

Like The Greatest Story Ever Told, this was a complete record, which was more than the sum of its parts and took a while to digest, but once digested, I would put it just behind the aforementioned 2003 album. Metropole retains the instantaneous catchiness of yesteryear Larry Arms, but simultaneously moves them onto newer, more intriguing ground, something which is reflected in the thematic content throughout: fondly remembering the past, but acknowledging the present. The fact that it produced one of the funniest music videos in years with “Seventeener (17th and 37th)” is just a bonus.

3. Martha- Courting Strong (Fortuna Pop!)

One of my favourite ever debut albums. You have to remind yourselves sometimes that all Martha had done before this was an ep. This is pure punk- pop goodness, that sounds like it could have been made in the era of The Undertones, yet without sounding pointlessly retro. Courting Strong would have been worth a place on this list simply for the perfection of the song “1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely”, but thankfully the rest of the album is great too. An new, interesting take on nostalgia from Durham’s darlings.

4. Joyce Manor- Never Hungover Again (Epitaph)

The surprise hit of the year for me. I had appreciated a few of Joyce Manor’s songs in the past (particularly “Constant Headache”), but Never Hungover Again took them to a whole new level entirely. They remained relatively lo-fi, but the production was much cleaner and more suited to their style. That, along with the tighter songwriting, led to such songs as the pulsating, blink-and-you’ll miss it “Catalina Fight Song”, the catchy-as-shit “Heart Tattoo” and the heartfelt, crushing closer “Heated Swimming Pool”. This was the sound of an emo band not forgetting what melodies are.

5. Banner Pilot- Souvenir (Fat Wreck)

Chances are if you know Banner Pilot by now, you will know exactly what they sound like: gruff, romantic, driven pop-punk that fits in well at things like Fest. They largely continued down that same avenue with Souvenir, but there slight adjustments: more direct songwriting, real slow-tempo moments and a more subtle approach to melodies. There was a kind-of evolution here that brought this album above their previous one. And here, I will do something incredibly pretentious and quote my own review from earlier in the year, to suggest why they are the best at this gruff-punk thing: “Thematically, we are on similar ground with Souvenir: Banner Pilot invite us into a world of back alleys, dive bars and fading dreams, where the bleak winters are soul-crushing. But, amid the bleakness, what Banner Pilot have always had, and which many of their contemporaries don’t, is hope; the sun parting through the clouds”.

6. Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else (Wichita)

This is probably the only release on this list that could also be on NME’s best of countdown; it is punk-y and grunge-y, but it appeals to the indie crowd as well. I heard “Psychic Trauma” first, which has one of my favourite key changes ever, and then “I’m Not Part of Me”, which has one of the best choruses of the year, and I just knew then that this record was not going to be bad. Here and Nowhere Else is an apt follow up to Attack on Memory that condenses down its scrappy, scream-y brand of indie-punk into (minus “Pattern Walks”) 3 minute pop nuggets. Delightful.

7. The Creeps- Eulogies (It’s Alive)

Putting Eulogies at 7th makes it look like it was just alright, but this positioning says a lot more about the high quality of releases this year than The Creeps’ fifth full length. They are not a band to rest on their laurels and there has been a not-insignificant evolution since their last LP Lakeside Cabin or even 2010’s ‘Follow You Home EP to their slowly-chugging, melodic punk rock sound. Their horror themes now tell tales of suicide and inner turmoil, while their riffs are now chunkier and meatier. Possibly the most consistent traditional pop-punk band going right now.

8. The Copyrights- Report (Red Scare)

I didn’t used to be a huge fan of The Copyrights, but 2011’s North Sentinel Island finally won me over. It is probably one of the best pop-punk records of the past five years. I feel that The Copyrights have progressively got better with each release, but that this latest one was a slight drop-off in quality. But that is not too much of a knock. It is still high quality songwriting and anthemic pop-punk throughout, with “This World is Such a Drag” and “The New Frontier” being stand-out tracks.

9. Cayetana- Nervous Like Me (Tiny Engines)

Female-fronted, harmony-led, indie-pop-punk is pretty prolific right now, from Lemuria to Swearin’ to UK-based Doe, but Cayetana are my discovery of the year. Nervous Like Me is a fantastic debut record, full of beautiful harmonies, catchy hooks and emotion in bundles. Cayetana are heartfelt and passionate, but manage to avoid many of the traps that come with those tags, letting the quality of songwriting speak for itself.

10. La Dispute- Rooms of the House (Big Scary Monsters)

Perhaps the odd-one-out in this list of pop-punk, indie and grunge, but screw it: when it’s good, it’s good. La Dispute’s third LP was the scream connoisseur’s choice. Avoiding many of the clichés of the genre, Rooms of the House was head and shoulders above anything the band had done before, with a running theme throughout, a spoken-word song and a good loud-soft dynamic. La Dispute do what the best horror films do well and take the ordinary and turn into something chilling in their Rooms of the House.

This year, I also enjoyed: Caves- Leaving; Chumped- Teenage Retirement; Johnny Foreigner- You Can Do Better; The Kimberly Steaks- To Live and Die in West Central Scotland

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Read Hard’s Top 10 of the year


1. Tacocat- NVM

To make a list like this isn’t always simple, there are usually lots of albums and EP’s released during a year. To pick a number one was quite easy, however. I’ve actually heard the album in its entirety once, but listened to sporadic songs every now and then, but that one listen made there be no doubt that this is record of the year. I saw the band in Brixton, London in November and they were great live too. “Crimson Wave” is probably song of the year! Tacocat are from Seattle, Washington and play a mixture of surf rock, garage and pop punk and deal with feminist issues like cat calling (in “Hey Girl”) in a humoristic way as well as singing a song about anarchy in the lovely “This is Anarchy”. Another great song is “Party Trap”, which won’t leave your head after you’ve heard it. Tacocat is a female fronted band, but one of the songs “Alien Girl” (with an intro very similar to Billy Bragg’s “A New England”) is sung by the dude in the band and that song is probably in the top three songs on the album: this just shows to me how great of a record this is and I can’t wait to listen to it more!

2. Frk. Fryd- Hjertebank

Frk. Fryd are from Stavanger, Norway, which is my hometown. They’re an all female band who play pop punk with some influences from Foo fighters and the Pixies. Before I heard the album, I read a terrible review in the papers and I got so pissed at the reviewer that I just wanted to check out the album more. The album is very well produced and one could say it’s too well produced to be a pop punk album. I find it interesting and to me it might be exactly how Pop punk should sound in 2014. All the songs are sung in Norwegian, most of them in thr eastern Norwegian dialect, but the last song called “Bittert mareritt”(bitter nightmare) is sung in the Stavanger dialect and is featuring the singer of the “Bergen-band” Hjerteslag, so it’s also in Bergen dialect. For lovers of Pop punk, in addition to the good production, on the first listen it might even be too “Pop”, but after a few listens there’s no way to remove the songs from your head. The songs “Skyene”(The clouds), “Blod og honning”(Blood and honey) and “Svikets barn”(The child of betrayal) are instant classics and catchy as fuck. The latter also has a very similar chorus to the song “Less Than Zero” by the obscure band Lonely Kings from Santa Cruz that I used to listen to when I was 14, so I don’t know if they took inspiration from that or if that’s a coincidence. I guess both songs also draw a resemblance to “A New England”, maybe the Kirsty Maccoll version more than Bragg’s, but an inspirational song, huh? The album was produced in by Yngve Andersen (from the band Blood Command) in a studio that is in my neighbourhood in Bergen. When I saw them live, I just couldn’t help jumping around and singing along, even if I had only heard the album once.

3. Mikey Erg/Warren Franklin and the Founding Fathers split EP

I got the pleasure of reviewing this Split EP for “Keep Track of the Time” and I feel like I gave it quite a positive review, which I think is well deserved. In fact, I think it’s gotten even better with time. I still think the lyrics “You never heard “My aim is true”/You could care less what Brian Wilson sang” are heartbreaking and that all the songs on this EP are some of the greatest songs of the year, even if none of them (except maybe the Warren Franklin song) are truly originals, as Mikey Erg also put out “Three Cheers for the Liberty Bell” on his Barrakuda McMurder split.

4. Hvitmalt gjerde-Ville venner

Another Norwegian album, this time from Bergen, Hvitmalt gjerde play Surf rock (with vocals) mixed with garage and 60’s beat music. I’ve already seen this band four times and I still can’t tell if they are better live or on record. This album sounds way better than their previous self-titled album, the production sounds marvellous and it blows my mind how good Norwegian records sound nowadays. The song “Et kyss til”(One more kiss) appeared in the big Norwegian movie “Beatles” where the band also made an appearance as the band Snowflakes. The song suited the 60’s climate of the film and was maybe the highlight of the entire movie. Every song on the album isn’t perfect, but the great ones like “Et kyss til”, “Duene”(The pigeons) and “I ended av byen”(The end of town) more than make up for that.

5. Masked intruder-M.I

When I had finished my list I was looking for something I had looked over and it appeared I had missed Masked Intruder’s new album, and though it’s not as good as their first one, it’s still good compared to most music that was released this year. My favourite songs on the album are “Locked Up and Lonely” and the two more doo-woppy tracks “Stars” and “Almost Like We’re Almost in Love”. “The Most Beautiful Girl” is also a grower. The most disappointing tracks are “I Fought the Law” and “Hey Girl” that are nothing compared to the Crickets and Tacocat songs of the same names, nor do they compare to the rest of the album.

6. Safety Razors- Worst Record of All Time

This is a great album from the band Nancy. And I think they are way better than Nancy. The best song on the album is “Sincerely, Bruisy” which has a sample from an internet intervention by a polite Welshman, that was nicknamed by me. The band sounds like Dillinger four with mixed with some more Emo bands and some of the melodies are almost Milencolin style. I think this is a very underrated album and worth checking out!

7. Barrakuda McMurder- ‘A Cigarette Meet Date’

After the Steinways broke up, Grath Madden has been in several bands and projects like House Boat and Science Police, but I think his random project Barrakuda McMurder is the best one, the “Slow crawl” 7’’ is one of my favourites! The new record is a mini version of “the Decline” in only four minutes. For those who purchase the record, there are also some bonus tracks. The middle part song sounds like it could be a new Screeching weasel song.

8. The Muffs- Whoop Dee Doo

I love the name of this album, it just sounds so happy! The Muffs made some of my favourite albums in the 90’s, like their self-titled and Blonder and Blonder. The band is still going and they seem like the band just can’t go wrong. Kim Shattuck still writes awesome songs and out of the old bands making new stuff, they are the best one this year!

9. Cloud nothings- Here and Nowhere Else

I knew nothing about this band before I saw a poster that they were playing near me. At the same time Dave also reviewed this album for the blog and I checked it out, agree that the album is not as good as the last one, but it has some really good songs like “Psychic trauma”. I ended up seeing them, their equipment seemed kind of fucked and I couldn’t hear the vocals, and they didn’t play that long, but it was still a pretty good show. I saw 4/10 bands on this list, that’s pretty impressive to me!

10. Me first and the Gimme Gimmes- Are We Men? We Are Divas

Another old band making a record in 2014 is MFAGG, who only play punk covers. This time they are singing songs by famous divas. Spike Slawson’s voice is great as always, almost too great for punk rock. His old band Swinging utters’ newest album (which is the second he doesn’t play on) also nearly made the list. I recently listened to all SU albums chronologically and the new one was great, even if Spike doesn’t sing on it. Another old punk band that didn’t make the list were the Adolescents, that made an album that kind of sounded like Turbonegro. Most of it was mediocre, but there were some pretty good songs on that album, too. Still, MFAGG gets the 10th spot; maybe it’s nostalgia! I’ve always loved the Gimmes, and this album is way weaker than their earlier output. The best song on the album is the Culture club cover “Karma Chameleon” that is mashed up with the Buzzcocks’ “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays”, and it sounds sweet. The rest of the album goes from OK to pretty good. The album title makes me love the album even more.

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BEST OF 2014 KTOTT SPOTIFY PLAYLIST:

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Wasted Daze- “Do they know it’s Christmas?”:

Wasted Daze- Do they know it’s Christmas?

Read Hard- “Moptop Christmas”:

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