Hi-Five (Plus Five + Five + Five + Five): My Favorite New Albums of 2014

2014 was yet another stellar year for new music, but then again aren’t they all?  The good stuff has always been out there. It just takes some digging to find the records that might be worthy of your time.  This year I listened to over 225 new albums and EPs. These are the 25 titles that rose to the top (Artist /Title /Record Label):

1) Wussy – Attica! (Shake It Records)

2) Reigning Sound – Shattered (Merge Records)

3) Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

4) Sweet Apple – The Golden Age of Glitter (Teepee Records)

5) Ex Hex – Rips (Merge Records)

6) Withered Hand – New Gods (Slumberland Records)

7) Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top Mountain)

8) Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)

9) Pure X – Angel (Fat Possum Records)

10) Sonny Knight & The Lakers – I’m Still Here (Secret Stash)

11) Pink Mountaintops – Get Back (Jagjaguwar)

12) Ryley Walker – All Kinds of You (Tompkins Square)

13) The Fauntleroys – Below The Pink Pony EP (Plowboy)

14) Allah-Las – Worship the Sun (Innovative Leisure)

15) Paul Collins – Feel The Noise (Alive)

16) Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers (Merge Records)

17) Nude Beach – 77 (Don Giovanni)

18) Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records)

19) Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)

20) Twin Peaks – Wild Onion (Grand Jury Music)

21) Natural Child – Dancin’ With Wolves (Burger Records)

22) Warm Soda – Young Reckless Hearts (Castle Face)

23) Sylvie Simmons – Sylvie (Light In the Attic)

24) Beck – Morning Phase (Capitol)

25) Budos Band – Burnt Offering (Daptone Records)

Note/Public Service Announcement: The Greater Listening Area believes that one would be out of their mind to not take advantage of the available streaming services and the ability to listen to almost anything and everything one’s little ears might desire (unless it’s on the Drag City label or by Taylor Swift). It’s also our belief that one should pay into the stream with a premium subscription, and we should all be mindful of the importance of purchasing physical or digital recordings and other artist merchandise and getting out to live shows.  Better yet, we should purchase music at a show from the artist, through a label’s website or at your local independent record store.  Finally, when you hear something that deserves it, share it with your friends and readers from your various social media platforms. 

Happy New Year and here’s to uncovering the Top 25+ of 2015.


Bang The Drum


I recently uncovered a copy of the final installment of my little zine that surfaced sporadically from 1990-1994. We happen to be just a few weeks beyond the 20 year anniversary of when I served that final batch of The Stew.

This is the “epilogue” that put a coda on that endeavor:

Well, there you have it folks. The last trickle of The Stew is running down your chin. I hope that you garnered some enjoyment out of this erratic series. I hope that at the least you were intrigued by our rantings and musings. Hopefully we were able to coax you out to see a show or listen to a CD. Maybe you were appalled by our head-over-heels pursuit of the “Rock moment.” Maybe you had a good laugh. The important thing is that you felt something.

The Stew, however rare in its actual fruition, was a labor of love. Not the love of struggling for words or a love of late nights at copy shops, but a love of the music and subjects that were documented. Whether or not The Stew fell on deaf ears or was even understood did not always matter. At the very least, personal experiences were documented.

Ah yes, the head-over-heels pursuit of the rock moment, this is what powered these pages. THE MOMENT. That moment when a band kind of makes you grit your teeth and smile at the same time, and you think “this is IT. “It” is something that is felt and is nearly impossible to convey on the printed page no matter how hard this was attempted.

Punk rock. Indie Rock. The labels do not matter, but if you get it… “It” can change your life.  Maybe for you it was seeing The Clash, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Sebadoh or Bikini Kill. For me it was these moments and several in between that prompted a serious gut check. The Stew was about defining those moments and urging others to search out their own.  So keep taking a chance. You may see people and things differently or at least experience some great music.”

                                                                           Yours in concluding sappiness,                            

                                                                           M.R. Sumser

Looking back at the shortlist of life-altering rock shows that I rattled off there, it should be pointed out that while I did see The Clash in 1984, it was the short-lived Mick Jones-less band that recorded and toured behind the CUT THE CRAP album in 1984. The happening was still a pretty “Punk Rock” moment for four teens from Stark County as a mohawked Joe Strummer led the band through an opening rendition of London Calling and then promptly proceeded to send his guitar bouncing off  the floor to stage right. This was the first time my cohorts and I witnessed slam dancing (which began on the floor of Cleveland’s Public Hall even while the local reggae band First Light opened the evening). This era of The Clash is just a footnote to most, but it was the late Joe Strummer, and wouldn’t we be thrilled to see him now backed by anybody?  

I haven’t compared the excerpt above to my initial ramblings on this site, but I don’t think the passing of a couple of decades has done much to diminish my earnest approach to devouring music and pursuing those rock and roll moments.