Andrew Lampela
Andrew Lampela

Andrew Lampela: My Top Albums Of 2014

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This is the 11th 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.

Another year, come and gone. Who’d a thunk it? Anyway, this was a pretty bitchin’ year for music, one of the more robust ones in recent memory, and a particularly great year for Ohio bands.

Anyway, here’s what I listened to the most this year.

1. Motel Beds, These Are The Days Gone By/Dumb Gold

I know full well there was a time that I didn’t listen to these two albums constantly, but I don’t remember what that was like. Ohio guitar-driven indie rock? Yes, please. These two albums (particularly Dumb Gold) got played WAY more than anything else this year. Only one other band even came close…

2. Connections, Into Sixes/Year One/5 Imaginary Boys

…and that would be Connections. These guys write monstrously catchy lo-fi power pop like it’s nothing. Much like Motel Beds, these albums got crushed this year. Ohio must have some crazy shit in the drinking water. You can’t go wrong with any of these.

3. Unwound, No Future/Bedhead, Whatfunlifewas

This was also the year that life in my twenties became nostalgia. If it means getting macked-out reissues of Unwound’s catalog, I’m cool with that. I’ve always loved Unwound, so it’s nice to see them get this kind of love.

Bedhead flew under my radar back then, and on the one hand, I’m bummed I missed them. On the other hand, I get to obsessively overplay their catalog with both nostalgia and virgin ears. Win win. The Numero label deserves some credit for branching out on these.

4. Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend

It was a great year for metal, as well. Top of the heap for me is the new Yob. Mike Scheidt has been cranking out great records for a long time, and easily manages to avoid the fact that doom metal, for the most part, has become a almost a comical self-parodying genre these days. Intelligent, musical, and crushingly entertaining, this is a damn fine album.

5. Water Liars, Water Liars 

I feel like a broken record when I talk about these guys. Songs that feel more like Americana short stories, richly detailed and instantly stuck in your mind. They haven’t put out a dud yet, and in fact, somehow keep getting better.

6. Wussy, Attica!

Chuck Cleaver has been a fave of my for a long time now, starting with his former band, The Ass Ponys. So it’s no shock that Wussy is on my list. I don’t feel bad playing favorites, however, because this is an awesome record. Chuck and Lisa Walker are fantastic songwriters, and there are more than a few doozies on Attica! to prove it.

7. Maailma, Speculum

I was pretty scared that I wasn’t going to have a new Lau Nau to include this year. Luckily, she dropped this, a collaboration with Matti Bye and Kristian Holmgren. Sparse, percussion-based folk, this is slightly different that her solo work, but no less hypnotically fulfilling. It’s a beautiful addition to her growing catalog.

8. WV White, West Virginia White

Keeping the Ohio theme going, WV White’s scuzzy blend of shoegaze and drone-rock really crept up on me, that description accurate but not quite up to doing justice to the catchiness of the songs. They were also a standout at this year’s Nelsonville Music Fest, and it’s going to be fun to see where they grow from here. Give this one some time to sink in–it’s worth it.

9. Jawbreaker, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

Another reissue from my formative years. Truth be told, I never stopped listening to this one, but the reissue totally lodged this back to the forefront of what little brain I have left. It has nothing really to do with nostalgia and everything to do with this still being badass.

10. Cymbals Eat Guitars, LOSE

I would have been hard-pressed to give any sort of prediction in regards to this album. Lenses Alien was such a sprawling, progged-out beast of a record that they could have gone any direction and it wouldn’t have caused me to bat an eye.

By stripping it all down into a stream-lined 45-minute album about loss and life and the messy business of dealing with both, even I was pleasantly surprised. I’m honestly already excited to see where they take this on, say, the next five records. Great album, great band.

11. Black Dove, No Future/No Fate 

This one is a little weird in that I’ve had the LP for years now. However, it may have been one of my greatest decisions ever to ask Dennis for a digital copy. One of my absolute favorite Ohio (and metal) albums of all time. Face-ripping D Beat awesomeness with riffs for days. In my opinion, a masterpiece.

12. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There

Not as immediate as Tramp, I was pretty underwhelmed by this the first several listens. I’m glad I stuck it out, though, because it finally clicked in a big way. Van Etten shows an enormous amount of growth with the songwriting and arrangements on Are We There. Deeply personal and sublimely affecting, this is the definition of an album that needs time to grow on you. Totally worth that time.

13. First Aid Kit, Stay Gold 

Initially, Stay Gold felt like more of the same from First Aid Kit. I mean, The Lion’s Roar was pretty great, so it’s not like that was a bad thing, right? After several spins, the tweaks in songwriting start to pop out of these songs. Sure, it is definitely a continuation of the previous album, and that would have still been enough to crack my top 20, but there is just enough growth here to keep this on the playlist well past my expectations. And seriously, those harmonies? Total sucker, right here.

14. Mirel Wagner, When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day

Sparse, droned-out murder ballads? Yes, please. On first listen, neither one of Wagner’s albums sound like much. Given enough time to creep in, though, and damned if I can’t stop listening to them. This is a much stronger listen than her debut, and if I might suggest that you just throw this on in the background a few times, these songs with seep into your brain. Another creeper I’m glad I gave time to grow.

15. Solstafir, Otta

I will be the first to admit, this was one of my most eagerly anticipated albums this year. I will also be the first one to admit that it was such a baffling listen the first couple tries that I had to shelf it for a few weeks to acclimate myself. Solstafir’s weird post-metal has always been a bit off-kilter, which is why I like them so much, but Otta is an entirely different beast. Very piano-centric with lyrics entirely in the Icelandic tongue, I’ve only just recently begun absorbing this album enough to keep it in rotation.

Given a few more weeks, I can see this vaulting a few positions into the top five, but right now it’s still a bit too weird. That’s a testament to Solstafir’s creative power, because this is going to get many, many more spins.

16. Eyehategod, Eyehategod 

This one is certainly for a niche crowd, but it came along at a perfect time for me. Gross music made by gross dudes intended to be listened to by other gross people. Nothing groundbreaking here, just ferocious, dirty, cathartic music by a group of metal lifers. A fitting eulogy for the late Joey LaCaze, who passed away before the completion of the album.

There were a ton of other albums that got a bunch of spins this year, both new and old. Some were albums that I didn’t get enough time with, some were old favorites that came back around. The list includes Brainbow, Ex Hex, Floor, Supernobody, Hookworms, Bridesmaid, Goat, Daniel Bachman, Angel Olsen, Gotobeds, both Uncle Acid albums, Caspian, Esben and the Witch, Sebadoh, Waxahatchie, Agalloch, The Oath, Nothing, Pallbearer, Shellac, Ty Segall, Wovenhand, Lykke Li and a host of old early 20th Century gospel and blues stuff (thanks, Fahey biography!).

Andrew Lampela has been pushing music on people at Haffa’s Records for a long, long, long time. You also might have seen him playing out in numerous local bands. He only looks mean.