Best local releases of 2014

Readers familiar with this column know I check in each year with a look back at some of the best local releases of the past 12 months.

I’m always faced with an embarrassment of riches, and this time out was no exception. In fact, there were so many great albums, EPs and singles that I not only cover the top album releases from local acts but also have segments on 7-inches, EPs and releases by Dayton expatriates.

This list only touches on some of the great selections from 2014, but it’s a good place to get a sense of the rich music this area has to offer.

Top 10 albums

1. Lab Partners, “Seven Seas”: This long awaited full-length from the local shoegaze band doesn’t disappoint. “Seven Seas” is filled with the enthralling twin-guitar work of Mike Smith and Mike Volk. The songs are buoyed by dreamy organ lines and propelled by the dynamic drumming of Jim Macpherson (The Breeders, Guided by Voices).

2. Buffalo Killers, “Heavy Reverie”: Zach and Andy Gabbard have been knocking out a steady stream of ’70s-influenced albums for nearly a decade now, drawing influences from acts as disparate as Mountain, Big Star, Blue Cheer and Neil Young.

3. Guided by Voices, “Motivational Jumpsuit”: Bob Pollard once again pulled the plug on this endurable indie darling in 2014, but thankfully he left us with plenty of great music before he did. The final album, “Cool Planet,” was good, but there is something special about the songs and the flow of “Motivational Jumpsuit.” It is one of the best albums made during the reunited band’s recent run.

4. Starving in the Belly of the Whale, “Missionaries and Imposters”: Ricky Terrell has been fine tuning his fragile folk sound over a handful of strong releases, but he outdid himself with this exceptional new concept album about modern religion. Much credit should be given to bandmates Lacey Terrell (vocals, percussion) and Scott Loy (cello, saw, vocals), who contribute some of the album’s most chilling moments.

5. Motel Beds, “These are the Days Gone By”: It’s a bit unfair to place this remastered greatest-hits collection on the list. However I’m including it since it’s the group’s only 2014 release and its first mass-distributed album thanks a recent deal with Misra Records. This vinyl full-length is a must-have for fans of original Dayton rock.

6. The Boxcar Suite, “Across the Vast & Deep”: Tim Pritchard is one of the city’s most underappreciated songwriters but that’s likely to change as this recently released album gains traction.

7. Abertooth Lincoln, “Osteoferocious”: Still one of the most extreme bands in town, this crew creates a modern brand of progressive rock fueled by punk fury and a provocateur’s need to challenge audiences. The results, depending on your tastes, are either horrifying or overwhelmingly satisfying.

8. Circus Devils, “Escape”: This project has long served as the musical playground for longtime Guided by Voices leader Robert Pollard and musical collaborator Todd Tobias. Where GBV songs cover a lot of stylistic ground they always come with certain expectations. Pollard and Tobias don’t have that concern with this anything-goes project. That can mean challenging listens at times, or mellower terrain like “Escape,” but Circus Devils always offer up some of Pollard’s most unexpectedly brilliant songs.

9. JT Woodruff, “Field Medicine”: The Hawthorne Heights frontman has released a few acoustic solo projects over the years. However, this batch of rootsy, Midwestern pop songs allowed him to stretch out more than ever.

10. Speaking Suns, “Vanishing Country”: The sky is the limit for this up-and-coming band.

Top 5 EPs

1. Buffalo Killers, “Fireball of Sulk”: Signing to Warner Music Group subsidiary Sun Pedal Recordings didn’t slow down this industrious crew led by the brothers Gabbard. This outstanding EP is the ’70s-style rock band’s second release of 2014 and it’s bursting with the grooves, hooks and riffs that have become the band’s calling card.

2. The Story Changes, “Never in Daydream”: After a decade together, this punk rock duo is operating at top form.

3. The 1984 Draft, “Bo Jackson Up the Middle”: After years of fronting acoustic acts and playing solo dates, leader Joe Anderl is rocking again.

4. Tony Herdman, “90 Miles to Nashville”: The local songwriter traveled to Nashville to record this EP with a collection of talented Daytonians.

5. Trey Stone & the Ringers, “Sing About Christmas”: It takes a special kind of holiday release to make a best of list. but this EP fits the bill. You get five original tunes such as the irreverent “I’m a Scrooge” and “3-Pack of Underwear” more emotional material such as “Christmas Alone with Me.”

7-inch singles

1. Kim Deal, “The Root” b/w “Range on Castle”: It’s been two years since Kim Deal (The Breeders, Pixies) launched her solo series of limited edition 7-inch singles. In that time she has self-released five two-song slabs of vinyl, including this blast of short but addicting indie rock. The follow-up, “Biker Gone” b/w “Beautiful Moon,” is solid, too, but I find myself returning to this one more often.

2. The New Old-Fashioned, “Ladies” b/w “Indie Movie Scene”

3. The Raging Nathans, Jukebox Records 7-inch series

4. The New Regrets, self-titled: The first official release from this newish punk group is a 7-inch EP featuring five no-frills punk nuggets.

5. Stark Folk Band, “Modern Times” b/w “Ode to a Legend”

Expats

1. Vertical Scratchers, “Daughter of Everything”: John Schmersal kept a low profile after Enon ended in 2011, but he came back strong in late 2013 and 2014 with albums from two different bands, Crooks on Tape and Vertical Scratchers. While Crooks on Tape’s “Fingerprint” seemed like next logical step after Enon, “Daughter of Everything” reflects Schmersal’s love of no-frills indie rock with short songs featuring hook-filled verses and sing-along choruses punctuated by unexpected dynamic shifts.

2. Swearing at Motorists, “While Laughing, the Joker Tells the Truth”: This is the first album in eight years by my former bandmate Dave Doughman. Despite our friendship and musical history, I can still objectively say this is a great album and one fans have been anxiously awaiting. It doesn’t disappoint with plenty of confessional songs, clever turns of phrase and Doughman’s impeccable melodic sensibilities, varying between stripped down solo numbers and dynamic rockers backed by drummer Martin Boeters.

3. David Poe, “God & the Girl”: This is the Los Angeles-based musician’s first proper LP since 2005’s “Love Is Red.” Thankfully not much has changed for the former member of local acts such as the Scam and Glee & Beak, which means ringing acoustic guitar accompaniment, evocative lyrics and cascading melodies delivered in Poe’s hushed vocal style.

4. Wil Cope, “Mañana” EP: It was Dayton’s loss and Austin, Texas’ gain when this modern troubadour left Ohio for Texas nearly a decade ago.

5. Brat Curse — self-titled: I’ve been a fan of Brian Baker’s work in previous acts Jet Kid Committee, Grizzzzy Bear and Astro Fang. Full disclosure: He is my bandmate in Smug Brothers, but even if he wasn’t I still couldn’t get enough of this album from this Columbus-based band of Dayton expats. Seductive pop goodness lurks below the surface of this no-nonsense trio, which specializes in a smoldering brand of indie rock.

6. Connections, “Into Sixes”: This rising Ohio band is another Columbus-based act with local ties. Three fifths of the band hail from Troy, and two of them were part of 1990s stalwarts 84 Nash.

7. Distant Thieves, “You Go First”: When Nick Tertel moved to Denver a couple of years ago I was afraid it was the last we’d heard of the talented singer and songwriter behind such beloved local groups as Ape the Ghost and Sleepybird. Those fears, luckily, were unfounded. Tertel collaborated via the Internet with his Cincinnati-based buddy Jon Williams, and the results are this delicious digital-only collection of roots-rock nuggets.

8. Giant Claw, “Dark Web”: Keith Rankin is a true musical iconoclast touring in support of releases like this intricate musical soundscape. “Dark Web” draws from elements of musique concrete, hip-hop, techno, new wave, dubstep and krautrock all funneled through Rankin’s perspective.

9. Michael Malarkey, “Feed the Flames” EP: This former Yellow Springs resident may best known now as the troublemaking Enzo on the CW hit series “The Vampire Diaries” but music has always been a part of his life. Forget he’s an actor and just enjoy the intimate collection of sparsely-adorned acoustic songs, which runs the gamut from finger-picked folk tunes and rootsy pop to “Everything’s Burned,” which recalls gypsy folk-punks Gogol Bordello.

10. The Future Laureates, “Here & After” (EP): This Chicago-based original rock outfit is led by former Dayton area residents Danny Surico and James Hyde.

Best not local

For the curious, my top nonlocal album of 2014 was, hands down, “Sunbathing Animal” by Parquet Courts. It got way more spins than anything else out of the following list. Others, in no particular order, include Spoon’s “They Want My Soul,” “Pop Does Not Mean Popular” by Hussalonia, Run the Jewels’ “Run the Jewels 2,” “Turn Blue” by The Black Keys,” Ty Segall’s “Manipulator,” “Mosaics Within Mosaics” by Circulatory System, Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days,” “The Take Off and Landing of Everything” by Elbow and Drive-By Truckers’ “English Oceans.”

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Contact this contributing writer at donaldthrasher8@aol.com.

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