It’s July 1st, which means we’re halfway through another year of music. Check out what the MEB staff has kept on repeat over the first part of 2014 and what we’re still anticipating for the rest of the year! You can click any of the art to hear its album, hyperlinked artists and albums link to full reviews for if you want to read in-depth coverage of those records, and staff photos link to staff pages for if you share similar tastes with a writer and want to see more of what they’re into. Let us know in the comments if you agree with our picks or if we missed anything!
Odds are, you haven’t listened to this album. I’m here to tell you about your mistake. Heavy Head plays like a full-length version of the split between Daybreaker and The American Scene, hitting all of the right spots along the way. The songwriting is masterful, as the space and creativity in the instrumental parts perfectly complement the fantastic lyricism and vocal performances. Impeccably constructed and full of integrity, this is simply the best record from the top half of 2014. Check it out. Seriously.
Most-Anticipated: Anberlin – Lowborn
Agalloch’s fifth album The Serpent & The Sphere is a captivating, intricate, hauntingly gorgeous cosmic landscape of folk black metal or whatever worthless label you want to slap on it. It leans more towards The Mantle than Marrow Of The Spirit in its character. It is not “brutal” or “heavy” by the stereotypical metal ideals, but, I would argue, is best characterized by “beautiful.” The Serpent & The Sphere transcends labels and limitations and is far and away my favorite album of 2014.
Most-Anticipated: The Hell – Groovehammer
Being As An Ocean showed so much promise on their debut because of their wide range of influences and songwriting styles, but the follow-up dives even deeper into the trench of hardcore meshings these guys began exploring a few years ago. The heart-on-sleeve lyricism focuses on thicker topics and the musicianship is tighter and more momentous — not to mention the new clean vocal dynamics. It’s a matter of time before the notes shake the world, but they will. And I’ll be waiting.
Most-Anticipated: Anberlin – Lowborn
Jarrod: Megosh – Body Works
A perfect piece of artwork – Body Works is an absolute gem of an EP that leaves me, as a listener and writer, stunned. The main takeaway from the record is that there is something uniquely special about Megosh – a band just getting started in their musical careers. Stumbling onto mastermind musicianship, lyrical perfection and vocal dominance (all in one) is both horrendously rare and wonderfully exciting – well, here it is, boxed up and tied up with a cute little ribbon on top. Enjoy.
Most-Anticipated: Alesana – TBA
Megan: Jack White – Lazaretto
Jack White is very talented and his solo albums have proven that he is able to creatively continue to impress me. Lazaretto is a fantastic album, full of songs that vary in content and style, so as not to be narrowly labeled. White is able to give each song a personality and the song experiences an entire life in just under four minutes. The song, and the album, has depth and meaning. Lazaretto is a collection of perfection, and it’s what we should be praising.
Most-Anticipated: Kimbra – The Golden Echo
Elbow is a master of finding universes in the most common, everyday moments, and this album is so effortlessly relatable that you’ll wonder if it wasn’t written about your own life – just far more eloquently than you could ever hope to express. Elbow has proven to be the best vox populi in alternative rock today, and Guy Garvey’s lyrics will lay your heart open to the core. These lyrics are filled with emotional sledgehammers, but it’s so gorgeously crafted you don’t even mind the heartbreak.
Most-Anticipated: Anberlin – Lowborn
The Hotelier did something special with this record. It is overwhelmingly powerful, unrelenting in its emotional barrage. Musically, it constantly shifts, never truly settling into any certain box, but instead covering a variety of sounds. This record is head and shoulders above anything else this year, and, unless Brand New and Kanye West release a collaboration, it will remain untouched at the top of my list.
Most-Anticipated: Driver Friendly – Unimagined Bridges
When I first started listening to this album, I didn’t get all the hype. It felt average to me, yet everyone was talking about it. But after five or six listens, it really started to grow on me, and I got it. This album reeks of pure emotion and heart. The Hotelier is not at all confined to any genre’s standards or song structures. They write what they want, and what they want is good. This album is crammed with honesty, sorrow, and optimism, and I’ll be surprised if any album beats it this year.
Most-Anticipated: The Color Morale – Hold On Pain Ends
Heather’s Pick: The Ready Set – The Bad & The Better
Without straying away from his original pop style, The Ready Set showcases a growth in The Bad & The Better that is not only refreshing, but gives the listener a look at what’s to come in future tracks. Of course, he’s got the really cutesy love songs like “Higher” and “Freakin Me Out” in there, but he mainly focuses on other themes like heartbreak, self-worth, and even being friend-zoned throughout the rest of the album.
Most-Anticipated: Banks – Goddess
Connor’s Pick: Closure In Moscow – Pink Lemonade
Even after listening to it upwards of 25 times before writing my review, I already feel as if I didn’t give Pink Lemonade nearly enough credit, even with my score of 8.0. The combined expressions of each style of music poured (no pun intended) into this record make it a prime example of a modern-day “classic rock” sound. This may not be anything like First Temple, but it’s clear to tell that this is the same band. The weirdness was expected and I know many, many fans were definitely not let down.
Most-Anticipated: Prawn – Kingfisher
Alexa’s Pick: La Dispute – Rooms Of The House
La Dispute is the kind of band that never ceases to amaze me. You’ll think that you have their sound all figured out and then they release a new record. Rooms Of The House completely caught me off guard, but I mean that in the most positive way possible. The album shows that vocals can express just as much, if not more, passion than the lyrics. This album is 100% raw emotion and every song continues to give me goosebumps.
Most-Anticipated: Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me
Eric’s Pick: Neck Deep – Wishful Thinking
With Neck Deep’s release of Wishful Thinking, they drastically moved up my list of favorite pop-punk bands. The album features everything I love about the pop-punk genre: catchy guitar licks, up-tempo drumming patterns and good emotion-felt vocals. There isn’t one track I can point to and say it loses my interest. Neck Deep is still a drastically underrated band in my opinion, and this album is worth a listen for anyone into the pop-punk scene.
Most-Anticipated: Emarosa – Versus
Eli’s Pick: The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
The Hotelier has created the most energetic punk record of the year. A rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, the sheer passion of the music is what makes this thing so special.
Most-Anticipated: Ty Segall – The Manipulator
Damn it, I was with Killer Be Killed the whole way. I even changed my opinion while writing this list a couple of times, but I’ve gotta give it to the piss heads in The Amity Affliction. They aren’t the most technically proficient or even the nicest people, but damn they can write a catchy song. Every track is the most perfect amount of hook and bait, and “Give It All”q might be their best song yet. True class.
Most-Anticipated: Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun
Craig’s Pick: Jeremy Loops – Trading Change
This may be one of the happiest albums I have heard so far this year. Besides the euphoria associated with each listen, Jeremy Loops is the musical equivalent of a master craftsman. Each song is a brilliant and unique indie-folk creation. Maybe I am a bit biased when I praise this album because he is a fellow South African but honestly this man is incredibly talented. I highly advise getting this album and playing it loud. Serious contender for album of the year.
Most-Anticipated: Rise Against – The Black Market
On Nabuma Rubberband Little Dragon slows down the tempo (when contrasted to their previous releases), but manages to find an interesting contrast between the melancholy lyrical content and danceable music. The album literally makes you want to dance whatever is bothering you away. For Nabuma, singer Yukimi Nagano is the focus, whereas the electronics complement the message. An album does not have to be extremely loud to be powerful.
Most-Anticipated: Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
Gene’s Pick: The Menzingers – Rented World
On paper it seems predestined that this would be my favorite album so far, but I honestly did not like Rented World the first couple of times that I listened to it. The best parts of the album are uncovered with multiple listens, and they reveal themselves as more of a visceral reaction than a tangible idea. Greg Barnett and Tom May leave discarded shells of beautifully told stories laying around for us to fill with our own complex lives.
Most-Anticipated: The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
Emma’s Pick: Of Mice & Men – Restoring Force
The highly-anticipated release of Of Mice & Men’s Restoring Force marks the beginning of a new era for the band. It breaks free from the generality of the metalcore scene and explores a new and refreshing side of rock and roll. The musical development of Of Mice & Men on this record is what sets them apart from the rest. “Would You Still Be There” has already made a strong presence on the radio, proving that Restoring Force has brought Of Mice & Men to a new level in 2014.
Most-Anticipated: Crown The Empire – The Resistance: The Rise Of The Runaways
Dexter Tortoriello of Houses does impeccably well in his venture into electronic production with his solo project Dawn Golden. The resulting product Still Life is a collection of sonic textures that bleed raw emotions as they add color to Tortoriello’s lyricism. The authenticity on display is inspiring, while the variation in intensities surfaces the best out of both the mellow and the heart-pounding. You know an album is something special if it gets you into a genre that you never fully understood before.
Most-Anticipated: Fink – Hard Believer