i. NYC
Going to begin this by blanketing a segment of local New York punks into one. NYC is flourishing right now, moreso than at anytime in my show-going life, with a culture that extends beyond guitars and records to zines, comics, visual arts, small business, graffiti, and so on. So I begin my top ten with a very quick top ten, in no particular order: in the world of recorded music, many gems emerged from NYC2014 such as Ivy "s/t" 12" (1), Hank Wood and the Hammerheads "Stay Home" LP (2), Crazy Spirit "2014 demo" (3), Deformity "s/t" 7" (4), In School "Praxis of Hate" 7" (5), Nandas demo (6); on paper, Papertown Company released the massive and impressive 56 Flyers (7), a compilation of flyers made by Eugene Terry + Sam Ryser; in resin Mutopia Toys (8) have released an inspired line of mutant resin creatures; in punk proprietorships, Better Read Than Dead (9) may well be the best used book shop in NYC, in an alleyway full of shipping containers converted into punk-run storefronts alongside Dripper World, Street Fever, Rebel Rouser, and more (9.i, 9.ii, 9.iii); and for live music, Dawn of Humans (10) stand alone as uncontested champs, with many unforgettable 2014 gigs, particularly MoMA PS1's show space and Tompkins Square Park, locations that may never be the same. There were quite a few more entities from the NYC2014 landscape omitted here that were worthy of inclusion but a boy's gotta draw a line somewhere.

ii. Back from the grave
When we last flipped to January, The Best Show and The Chris Gethard Show had both bid adieu, each ceasing their long held schedules for an uncertain future. Like many, I questioned whether a life without these folks was a life worth living, but held certain that these were temporary regrouping sessions. Each program, done pro-bono by the parties involved and with a DIY/punk philosophy, could be held up as a pillar of what comedy can be at its best—absurd, introspective, groundbreaking, zany, original, dumb, and capable of building and growing a community of fans. And as we flip again into a new January, each has returned and seems here to stay with a plan for sustainability and fresh ideas to…sorry, I just saw a mouse with a cape.

iii. V-3 “Live at Bernies” LP
Speaking generally, I think that the next wave of archival preservation in the underground is to get all of the killer CD/CD-R-only releases onto vinyl; likewise, we need to work diligently to ensure that heroes like Jim Shepard do not disappear into the realm of obscurity. Issued posthumously by Old Age/No Age, with a brief and passionate note by Mike Rep, the original CD-R release of “Live ’97” was given away to friends of the label and band and did not see wide distribution. Avoiding the pitfalls of many live recordings, this disc captures V-3 crisply, in absolute peak form; the setlist is unimpeachable, with nine of the best songs ever written, and this performance delivers arguably definitive versions of some of the included songs. An aside: I did not realize until very recently when reading “My Hands Don’t Sleep,” Nudge’s moving essay about his relationship with Jim, that the name V-3 is an homage to U2…what a crazy world we live in!

iv. Destruction Unit “Inside of Me” cassette (Cactus Man)
This R. Rousseau project has proven startlingly malleable and completely indestructible, reappearing throughout the years with shifting casts and forms. More alive than ever, the current incarnation presents a full scale assault with prolific releases, tours, guitars, and so on. But this is a look back to the Unit that first appeared to take many of us by surprise, fulfilling a long ago dream by unleashing a full-length of four-track recordings from 2000. It is the raw synth punk masterpiece that I always knew was out there.

v. Spot “Sound of Two Eyes Opening” (Sinecure)
The unseen trove of Spot’s life as a photographer—documenting Southern California misfits around the boardwalk, roller-rink, and Church before getting in the van and hitting the road—was lore for years. Relayed to me in yarns spun by employees of the rodeo and Magnolia Cafe, it seemed too good to be true and ended up better still. Blunt, beautiful available-light shots that are visual gems reciting some great moments in history: Dukowski making flyers, Flag graffiti in the moment, Polliwog Park riots, roller-skating on The Strand, Darby, the genesis of modern skateboarding, and Billy Zoom the hippy. One long-lost photo after another goes straight to the canon.

vi. Tercer Mundo “Ser Nosotros Mismos” LP (Cintas Pepe)
“Ser Nosotros Mismos,” the debut 12-in. from Mexico’s Tercer Mundo is ferocious—a pinnacle of anti-authoritarian, DIY hardcore. Sleeved with silkscreened images that depict injustices committed too close to home, paired with a lyric booklet that transcribes rage at the dire aspects of their surroundings, the record—eight songs in maybe a dozen minutes, a hot, tight recording with maximum guitar—assaults this listener with a smack upside the head. The resultant daze induces repeated record flipping, lyric reading, and sleeve studying to take it all in. The sleeve is folded and glued off-line indicating that they assembled these by hand(?!), rereading of lyrics expose a layer of hope congealed in the anger, tunes reveal themselves to be tighter packed and more interesting than your typical 90 second shredder.

vii. We Are the Best
Set in 1982 Stockholm, "We Are the Best" tells of a brief window in the lives of a trio of teen girls who become entranced with the punk scene and its most important facet: that anyone can do it. Armed with a back line provided by a local youth club, they start a band in spite of the hi-fi (they ain’t been to music school), trendy (“Punk is dead, Joy Division is cool”), and sexist attitudes they face (“We’re not a girl band” they retort). This captures perfectly the feelings of camaraderie, betrayal, crushes, musical discovery—listening and re-listening to new bands (Ebba Gron & KSMB here). To top it off, “Hate the Sport” might be song of the year (2014, not quite 1982).

viii. Nots 'We Are Nots' LP (Goner)
There was a night this fall where I spent over an hour waiting in line, freezing, to catch Nots' first NYC show only to be turned away when it sold out (to add insult to injury, I was the very first person in line to be turned away and even worse, I had earlier encouraged the folks in front of me not to leave). This bummer did not prevent me from spending a fair amount of time listening to the band's 2014 recorded output: an LP and single on Goner as well as a killer WFMU live set. Catchy without a trace of pop, Nots are eminently punk—three chords and a cloud of synth—and bring to mind some of the greats a la Urinals, Kleenex, Lost Sounds. Nots' second NYC show (two nights later and nowhere near sold out—Brooklyn crowds will flock to the well-hyped closing of a venue they never frequented in the first place but they won't ride the train a few stops to catch a similar show) solidified in my mind the band as a presence with vocals chanted in unison and with a wall of attitude and ample supply of guitar shredding freak outs.

ix. Turned Out a Punk podcast
To contextualize my relationship with podcasts, you should know that I listen at 2X playback speed so as to cram the most listening into my day and have a routine wherein I seek out series new to me, binge listen to the back catalog then decide between the following categories: regular rotation, occasional rotation, not for me (and, yes, I do have a reference document on my computer called "Occasional Podcasts"). Ostensibly, Turned Out a Punk, hosted by Fucked Up frontman Damien Abraham, focuses on his guests' entrance into punk but Mr. Abraham is far too obsessive, far too interested to ever really let the origin stories play out—tangents tend to flourish and take over as record and HC war stories pile up and two hours have flown by with one question asked. Each episode seems to conclude with the host acknowledging defeat, asking the guest if they'd be up for a "round two" to go back and revisit the list of questions left on the table. With Steven McDonald going deep on the importance and impact of The Germs, Meredith Graves geeking out on pro-wrestling, Gerard Cosloy on his relationship with Deep Wound and history with Conflict fanzine, and Tony Erba's H-100s reminiscences (and a Scharpling episode just dropped!), I pray to the Desperate Bicycles that the promised follow-ups are fulfilled.

x. Ulsers "Remember Them" 7" reissue + "Forget Them" LP (Wallaby Beat)
There’s a scene in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” where, after discovering the more festive titular holiday and deciding to take it over, the inherently ghoulish Halloween Town locals take a stab at “Jingle Bells,” delivering a delightful version with instruments out of tune and out of time, dark where other versions are merely jolly. The Ulsers may well have been from Halloween Town with their ramshackle backline of cardboard box drums, harmonica, acoustic guitar, and saxophone. But the spirit of DIY, of free-form music, certainly possessed these savants from Adelaide and they had the wits to not only record themselves but keep those recordings safe for the Wallaby Beat label to reissue 34 years down the line. Daringly original and truly unlike anything I've heard, The Ulsers are original beyond comprehension.

xi. Bonus Flexi.
Any of the following may be substituted to the above without diluting the overall quality one bit: Estrogen Highs "Hear Me on the Number Station" LP (Trouble in Mind), Mordecai "Neil's Generator" LP (Richie Records), Counter Intuits "Right Side of History" tape (Loki), Watery Love "Decorative Feeding" LP (In the Red), Loki Label corporation, catching a performance by the Mantzoukas Brothers, "Beaver Trilogy" at Spectacle Theater, Protomartyr "Under the Color of Official Right" LP (Sub Pop), Low Life "Dogging" LP(RIP Society), NWI: Big Zit & Ooze 7"s (Not Normal), Mateusz Skutnik's Submachine 9, Brain F= "Empty Set" 12" (Sorry State/Grave Mistake), “Back From the Grave V. 9 & 10” (Crypt), trips to DiFara & Rockaway Beach, Frau demo (Tuff Enuff), Flesh World's eponymous 12" (La Vida Es Un Mus), Last Week Tonight, Una Bestia Incontrolable live, Velvet Underground “Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes” bootleg, that archival Loose Heart 7"(Danger), and motherfucking Mystic Inane!

Back to 2014 Main

To see lists from years past check the Termbo archives.