I started off the New Year like I always do with at least a few tracks from Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and Photo Album. There is something about these albums that recalibrate me. They adjust my focus so I can set my sights on what I want to accomplish from the year ahead.
With all the rumors and speculation brewing about Kendrick Lamar’s next album, I got back into Good Kid M.A.A.D City. That album stands the test of time with ease. I failed miserably in late-2012 when it was released by putting it off. I ended up hearing his single “Poetic Justice” and was instantly hooked. His third album is said to promise great things since the kid, himself, seems madder than ever.
Title Fight’s third album, Hyperview, is one my most anticipated albums of 2015. I pre-ordered the download on iTunes to get the singles as they released. I also pre-ordered the exclusive vinyl on Kings Road Merch. When Pitchfork streamed the album in it’s entirety, I got up at five in the morning and listened to it three times before I was forced to get ready for class. Needless to say, I was extremely excited when I got word that the album leaked. I downloaded it as soon as possible. Even though the leak was a measly 128-kbps, I loved every second of it.
Every single year I put Every Time I Die on a list, they’re near the top or they flat out top it. 2014 is no different. Looking healthier than ever, the boys from Buffalo, New York released a real ripper and my favorite album of the year, From Parts Unknown. Kurt Ballou, a true metal God, from the band Converge produced the album. It starts with an explosion from “The Great Secret” and ends with arguably the band’s greatest ending to a record, “Idiot”. Songs like their second single “Decayin’ with the Boys” keeps my blood boiling while the piano-led, eerie pseudo-ballad, “Moor” and banger “Exometrium” stitch the album together perfectly. The boys toured the United Kingdom with A Day to Remember, multiple United States tours and Canada with Expire. One of the United States tours was the entire span of the Vans Warped Tour. I made a trip out to Vans Warped Tour just to see them. I probably would have skipped the 8-hour-combined trip and a hotel stay in Minneapolis, MN if it was not for their presence on the tour. So, I’m glad Kevin Lyman got them on the tour. Funny tidbit: the band has it in their contract that Keith and Jordan Buckley’s father barbecue for the entire Warped Tour staff at the Buffalo, New York stop! The barbecue along with their insane live show must be why they have been on the Vans Warped Tour six times already!
2. La Dispute – Rooms of the House
One of my biggest fails of the year was that I did not get to see La Dispute live. I even bought two tickets for their tour in Minneapolis but when the friend I was going with made a last minute cancellation and I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I just sucked it up and stayed home. I will not miss the band in 2015! Especially since they recently announced a tour with one of my other favorite bands, Title Fight. I wish the tour wasn’t in Chicago on a Sunday in April, but nonetheless, I will try and make it out to see some of the songs on Rooms of the House. The album is wonderful from start to finish. My only complaint with their previous album, Wildlife, was that at times it seemed like it was droning on just a little bit. This is not the case with Rooms of the House. The album feels complete like Wildlife and never felt like it slumped like Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair. Although, La Dispute had a wonderful year, I cannot help but worry for their future works since their guitarist, Kevin Whittemore, left the band after their tour supporting Rooms of the House.
3. Code Orange – I Am King
Also produced by Kurt Ballou, I Am King by Code Orange was easily my biggest surprise of 2014. A year ago, my friend Kyle Ewing recommended then named Code Orange Kids to me. I shamefully shrugged off the recommendation and proceeded to move on with my life. The band’s unique name stuck in my head and after I stumbled on their first release from 2012, Love is Love/Return to Dust, in July of this year, I was hooked. College is a real bitch sometimes. I know I am supposed to be happy and grateful that I even get the chance to attend college but it does cuts into my concert fund and time. Code Orange barreled through the midwest in late September on a co-headlining tour with Twitching Tongues just after I started classes and couldn’t make the 7 hour round trip to Kansas City and back. Code Orange had a truly insane year! They released one of the best albums and even cut the word “Kids” from their name. I will definitely make it a high priority to see them in 2015. Who knows, I may even come out of mosh-tirement for songs like “My World” and “Unclean Spirit”.
4. Phantogram – Voices
5. Tigers Jaw – Charmer
6. Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You
7. ’68 – In Humor and Sadness
8. Circa Survive – Descensus
9. RL Grime – VOID
10. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
11-20 Top Albums of 2014
11 Run The Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
12 Manchester Orchestra – HOPE
13 The Hotelier – Home, Like No Place Is There
14 FKA Twigs – LP1
15 Brian Altano – Misanthrope
16 Foster the People – Supermodel
17 Tycho – Awake
18 ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
19 Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
20 The Fighting Yawns – Montauk
Top Songs of 2014 (released in 2014)
1. “Fall in Love” by Phantogram
2. “Woman (In Mirror)” by La Dispute
3. “The Great Secret” by Every Time I Die
4. “Woman (Reading)” by La Dispute
5. “Idiot” by Every Time I Die
6. “My World” by Code Orange
7. “Howling at the Moon” by Phantogram
8. “Chlorine” by Title Fight
9. “Best Friend” by Foster the People
10. “Tell Me” by RL Grime
Band of the Year: Every Time I Die
*Editor’s Note – Josh Newton is no longer in the band. Stephen Micciche replaced him in 2011.
Tour of the Year: Every Time I Die, The Ghost Inside, Architects, Hundredth and Back Track in Minneapolis, MN at Mills City Nights on December 6th, 2014.
This is a live performance from the best tour of the year.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
Various Artists – Guardians of the Galaxy O/S – This soundtrack tied into an amazing storyline and crafted one of 2014’s best movie releases.
Childish Gambino – Kauai EP – Artsy EP that has me excited for Childish Gambino’s next album.
Aphex Twin – Syro – I didn’t get to spend near enough time with this album but from the couple spins I have given it, I think it’s a good album.
Submerged – Don’t Be A Gurn (In Huss We Trust) – Des Moines’ own, Submerged, released a really solid album that I will drunkenly mosh to for years to come.
Chon – Woohoo! EP – Chon opened for Animals as Leaders in Des Moines and I was blown away. These dudes have huge potential to become something extraordinary.
Foxing – The Albatross – Even though his album was originally released in 2013, it was re-issued in 2014. It would have made my list in 2013 if I had a chance to listen to it then. I don’t include re-issues in my list or I would have put it somewhere in the top 20.
The pay-what-you-like concept is something that consumer industries stray far away from. This isn’t a secret, but every once and a while staunch individuals come along and change everything. Their goal is to change the meta-game of the industry and become a driving force combating the vile side of the said industry. The artist and record label relationship. Artists get a significantly low amount of money for each record they sell. Radiohead is the staunch group of individuals I am talking about. They didn’t exactly do it before anyone else, but they are the first big-name band to do it and they did it on their own. The band is the future of the music industry, as far as Rolling Stone is concerned. Radiohead finished their contractual obligations with their ex-major label, EMI, with the release of Hail to the Thief in 2004. Afterwards, Thom Yorke, the lead singer for Radiohead, developed disgust with the record industry and how everything operates. In an interview for Rolling Stone, Yorke was quoted saying: “If I die tomorrow, I’ll be happy that we didn’t carry on working within this huge industry that I don’t feel any connection with.”
The band had their time working with a major record label, and they weren’t really into it. Radiohead released their album, In Rainbows as a digital release via their site in October 2007. The band would have posted it for free, but realized it would have cost them a fortune just to pay for the bandwidth of seeding the album to anxious fans. So, they did the next best thing and told the Internet that they can pay what they like for the album. This, of course, didn’t mean anything to most people since it was recorded that only two out of every five paid anything at all. After it was all said and done, the band didn’t release much data regarding the success of the pay-what-you-like scheme, but with what was released, it was figured that Radiohead netted an average of about $2.26 for each album downloaded. To the naked eye, this would most definitely be considered a failure since most downloaded albums sell for $9.99, but one thing must be pointed out: Radiohead sold these on their own, reportedly 1.2 million albums on their own. And that was just on the first day of availability. They didn’t have a record label gobbling up all the money for this manager or that managing fee; they had just themselves to worry about. So, the album netted the band more than they would have by releasing it via a major label.
Radiohead may have made a profit on the album, In Rainbows, but the fact that over half of the users didn’t pay anything at all was somewhat alarming to me. I remember when the news rang in that my favorite band of all time was releasing another album. I quickly hopped on my laptop and downloaded it paying only $5.00. At the time, I was seventeen and stole pretty much all the music I downloaded. I didn’t find it as a big deal and that is probably attributed with my biasness towards Radiohead. I felt and still do feel like they are better than everyone else and should be rewarded handsomely. If I did illegally download any of their material, I’d get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I would if I cheated on my girlfriend; a sense of dismay within myself. So, out of shear respect for the band, I paid for their album (and later bought a physical copy and a vinyl record). The album was on torrent sites nearly instantly, but I remember specifically going to these sites and happily seeing it having a lot less seeders and leechers than most torrents of this magnitude of a media bump. I think this is because mostly everyone was downloading it off their website because they knew they could do so for free. What a feat. Radiohead single handedly struck a chord not only with the music industry, but the torrenting and illegal downloading industry. And thanks to Napster, that is an industry.
Can bands advertise themselves and bare all the costs of doing so? In short, yes, and Radiohead has proven that. We are in the Internet age, making it possible for knowledge and information to be spread like wildfire. Radiohead admits that they wanted to use this as a marketing tool for their physical release of the album months later, but they were astonished at just how much the media picked up on it. Jonny Greenwood was cited saying in the Rolling Stone’s interview: “I really thought it would be a splash in a little pond, and I was surprised at how much the media picked up on it. Unlike a lot of Radiohead stuff, this idea really was boredom-driven. Just about avoiding the old.” The band did succeed in this when their physical album was released in January 2008. It debuted at number one in the US and the UK. Their first US and their fifth UK number one chart spot. Using their clout and past success, Radiohead has changed the industry. Inspiring bands such as Nine Inch Nails to attempt the same concept.
Where does the music industry go from here? Well, that was 2007-2008 and the Internet. The driving force behind this is a fast-moving beast. Radiohead announced their eighth album, The King Of Limbs, only one week before they released it via digital download and physical pre-order on their site. The band didn’t exercise the pay-what-you-like concept, though. Instead, they are attempting to change the industry once again with “the world’s first newspaper album”. What is this? Well, it is not entirely explained, at least not just yet. The newspaper album is up for pre-order on Radiohead’s and the details that are given explain it as an album that will include two 10” vinyl’s, many large sheets of artwork including 625 little pieces of artwork with a oxo-degradable plastic sheet to hold it all together, and a compact disc. Radiohead actually won a Grammy for their packaging of the physical release of In Rainbows. This is taking the packaging of an album to a whole new level and will most likely change the music industry’s and our views on just how an album should be packaged. Radiohead is a band that knows that downloading is the future, but maybe physical releases of an album can become a celebrated occasion that only the die-hard fans will stand by. I think that is something that Radiohead is pushing for with the release of the “newspaper” album. I believe that with In Rainbows, Radiohead showed that they think that digital downloads are stale and need a nudge in a different direction. The King of Limbs is no different. Radiohead obviously is attacking the preconceived notion of the physical release of an album with the “newspaper” album release. If you think about it, they are the pioneer of change for the music industry and maybe the future really does belong to Radiohead.