Brian Koscho
Brian Koscho

Brian Koscho: My Top Albums Of 2014

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This is the fifth in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors. Check out all of this year’s lists at this link.

The Men, Tomorrow’s Hits

I feel pretty confident in saying The Men are the best rock and roll band around right now and that this is my album of the year.

Tomorrow’s Hits is their best collection, and that’s saying a lot, because New Moon (2013) and Open Your Heart (2012) are both insanely good.

This album is solid from beginning to end and I cannot recommend it enough.

Everyone should listen to this record. I think our dads might even be down because “Another Night” sounds right up the Dad Rock alley.

Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness

This record is amazing. Olsen has a hypnotic way with her songs, both vocally and through her guitar playing. The songs on her second effort bounce between haunting and anthemic, and in the case of “Lights Out,” land perfectly in-between.

Tinariwen, Emmaar

Mali’s Tinariwen have been making their otherworldly desert blues for decades now, but Emmaar is the first album they have recorded outside their homeland.

As a result of Mali’s political instability, the group worked in the deserts of Joshua Tree, California. The result is another masterpiece of West African music that showcases one of the genre’s finest groups at their creative peak.

Goat, Commune

I first heard Goat on their impressive debut, World Music, a couple years back. It was a good album but Commune is an INCREDIBLE album. With the thunderous psychedelic krautrock pounding of “Hide From the Sun” and “Goatchild,” these mysterious Swedish experimental rockers hit their stride. This is a great experience from start to finish.

Daniel Bachman, Orange County Serenade

I’m a huge fan of what some call American Primitive music, a genre of mainly guitar music rooted in the sounds of people like John Fahey, Robbie Basho and countless bluesmen and guitar pickers before them.

There are several present-day musicians doing some incredible work in this genre (and showing up on this list) and Daniel Bachman is one of them. His newest, Orange County Serenade, continues his run of solid releases.

William Tyler, Lost Colony/Blue Ash Montgomery

Along with the aforementioned Daniel Bachman, William Tyler is another musician who is taking the concepts of American Primitive music and guitar instrumentals into new territory. On this year’s pair of fantastic releases, he focuses a bit more on the electric and full-band end of his work.

Connections, Into Sixes

Columbus, Ohio’s Connections are an unbelievably good band. Sometimes I actually find myself reasoning that I should listen to something else because I’m playing them too much, but it doesn’t work. Their third album in two years, Into Sixes features songs of the “immediately stuck in your head with a melody that you can’t stop humming” variety.

Herzog, Boys

Cleveland’s Herzog got a ton of listens from me in 2014. Boys is a power-pop/pure rock and roll masterpiece. Subject matter includes the transition from adolescence to the end of your twenties (“Saint Scrapyard,” “Teenage Metalhead”) to being a rock and roller (“It’s Hard Getting Old”). Even if Weezer hadn’t become terrible, they still wouldn’t have sounded this great.

Water Liars, Water Liars

I am a huge fan of Mississippi’s Water Liars, and they continue to put out some of the best records year after year. This, their third effort in as many years, continues in that direction. Justin Kinkel-Schuster’s songs roll off like short stories with haunting melodies, with distorted crescendos thrown in to expand the stories beyond the lyrics.

Schuster is matched perfectly with the pounding percussion of Andrew Bryant and GR Robinson’s heart-pulling bass lines. “Tolling Bells” (a tribute to the late musician Jason Molina) might be the song of the year in my book.

Shellac, Dude Incredible

Shellac has always been my favorite of Steve Albini’s projects, and when word of a new album from this trio hits, I always get excited. Dude Incredible does not disappoint. It’s heavy, loud, angry and easily has the best album artwork of the year.

This one gets back to the sound of my preferred releases from the band, specifically At Action Park and their early singles and splits.

Woods, With Light and With Love

This a band that has made appearances on my year-end lists, and With Light and With Love continues that trend. Woods is the musical vision of guitarist, singer and songwriter Jeremy Earl, who blends his unique voice into music that ranges from Crazy Horse-style jams to fuzzy pop songs.

The production on Light is the cleanest and most polished of their catalog, but that is not a detriment to its sound. Instead it is used as a catalyst to bring out some of Earl’s finest work.

Nathan Bowles, Nansemond

One of those names that kept popping up this year during my musical digging was Nathan Bowles, who released Nansemond on the fantastic Paradise of Bachelors label. Bowles is yet another modern voice in traditional and American Primitive music, mixing a variety of instruments, effects and sounds on this beautiful album.

I only wish I had listened to this one earlier in the year because I haven’t been able to stop listening to it in the last month.

Steve Gunn, Way Out Weather

Gunn may be known by some as a former guitarist in Kurt Vile’s band The Violators, but he has been putting out great albums since 2007. Pushing modern guitar into new and intriguing territory, Gunn continues a good run with this year’s Way Out Weather.

The album continues a focus on songwriting and lyrics (like last year’s fantastic Time Off) but with Gunn, the guitar still remains the main event.

Hiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers

Hiss Golden Messenger is North Carolina-based songwriter M.C. Taylor (formerly of the country-rock group Court & Spark). His newest effort is this year’s phenomenal Lateness of Dancers. The album, his fourth, is his debut for indie powerhouse Merge Records, and it’s a fine collection of songs.

One of Americana’s most promising talents, Taylor blends his unique voice into beautiful music, managing to create an album that would seem timeless in any era.

Courtney Barnett, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

This album by Melbourne-based Courtney Barnett is a bit of a stretch for this year-end list, since it contains two EPs (the first dating back to 2012) that were pieced together as one album in 2013. Since re-releasing The Double EP in early 2014, Barnett has received well-deserved attention internationally for her mix of folk and rock.

It’s on songs like the fantastic “Avant Gardener” (in which details an episode of a panic attack as a result of…well, gardening) where she really shines. I mean, how good is the line “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ’cause I play guitar/ I think she’s clever ’cause she stops people dying?”

Brian Koscho lives in Athens, Ohio, with his wife Sherri, their cat Maggie, and a brand new puppy named Bosco. Brian works at Stuart’s Opera House, with the Nelsonville Music Festival and has helped operate the Ohio music collective Aquabear Legion since 2004.

Aquabear Legion will release its first vinyl record in 2015 (a double LP of Ohio music featuring 24 bands) and he’s pretty excited about it. He plays bass, makes noise in Athens band Unmonumental and in his spare time, enjoys being constantly disappointed in the Cleveland Browns.