2014 is over, and we have lots of music to show for it. What follows is a list of the best (and worst) of the year, as voted by the Mind Equals Blown staff. Leave us your opinions at the bottom!
Lots of bands took pop punk in different directions in 2014, but no one did it with more energy and character than Somos. Temple Of Plenty was one of the most fun records of the year, combining thoughtful, interesting lyrics with some seriously catchy songwriting. Now that they’ve signed to No Sleep Records, it seems as though they’ve positioned themselves to take the genre by storm. – Eli Shively
Take a seat, vocalists of shitty metalcore bands. We need to talk. Now, I know this might be hard for you to hear, but it needs to be said. The world doesn’t need an R&B pop record from every single one of you. We really don’t. I know you probably think you’re talents aren’t fully on display in your band’s generic scream-sing-breakdown-breakdown-breakdown-sing formula. That might be true. But in the end, you’re not Justin Timberlake. Stop trying to be Justin Timberlake. Please.
This has been a public service announcement by Nick Niedzielski. Vote for me as Music President in 2015 and I vow to put an end to metalcore singers turned wannabe JTs. I also vow to end metalcore. You’re welcome.
– Nick Niedzielski
Pop-punk’s ethos has grown to encourage self-absorption and overdramatics, spawning countless albums that are one-dimensional in both sound and lyrical tone. You’re Gonna Miss it All is the opposite – a boisterous, cynical and genuine album that isn’t afraid of lines like “Bullshit, you fucking miss me/there I said it/now I’ll talk to you in a few months” and “Can we highlight the fact that/my mouth smells like coffee and garlic?” Modern Baseball has grown into a style deeply rooted in maudlin documentation, giving them a voice much stronger than the scene that bred them.
– Gene Buonaccorsi
When I heard that Thomas Erak was joining Chiodos for their next record, I already wrote it off as an album of excellence. The The Fall of Troy maestro was what could save this band, which had just welcomed back flagship vocalist Craig Owens after a spat or three. What we got was Devil, an all-filler-no-killer, “D.R.U.G.S.-induced” snoozer of a -core record. It had some nice surprises like “3 AM” and “Sunny Days & Hand Grenades”, but the beautiful mixture of prog-rock-meets-Bone Palace Ballet we were all hoping for fell to the wayside. Here’s to next time, fellas.
– Connor Feimster
Forever Came Calling
The first time I heard Forever Came Calling, I thought they were good. When I listened to their second full-length album, What Matters Most, I was blown away. From the heartfelt lyrics to a unique tone in each song, the band has grown into a pop-punk standard. What Matters Most demonstrates a more in-depth exploration of what is going on around us, while keeping true to the original punk sound. The band doesn’t shy away from awkward moments, and their lyrics are similar to honest, open sharing between friends. The cohesive collection of songs on What Matters Most is indicative of the growth and development of pop-punk, and the reason Forever Came Calling was voted Most Improved Artist of 2014. – Sharan Paul
After saying farewell to their beloved band in 2010, Copeland fans rejoiced in April when the band announced their fifth studio album, Ixora. The reunion came as Aaron Marsh and company had spent years circulating on their own, but six years removed from their last release, the band needed a little bit of work to capture the excitement that defined them in their glory days. Copeland’s return has brought us a great record, one that epitomizes the band’s ability to creative fulfillment, and one of the best of the year. – Adit Ahmed
Walk The Moon – “Shut Up And Dance”
Do you like colorful digitalized backgrounds, hilariously over-the-top facial expressions and cheesy ‘80s dance moves? Look no further, because Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance” music video is everything that you want to entertain you for 3+ minutes! Viewers follow front man Nicholas Petricca as he goes back and forth between in musical inner dialogue of whether or not he should go for the “discotech Juliet” in the “backless dress and some beat-up sneaks.” You’ll want to “Shut Up And Dance” too.
– Heather Allen
The Ghost Inside/Jason Butler (letlive.) – “Wide Eyed”
This year has seen some brilliant collaborations from all realms of music, but perhaps the collaboration that stood out the most came from the melodic hardcore camp. The announcement that Jason Butler, of letlive., would feature on new The Ghost Inside album was met with quite a bit of skepticism. Would Butler’s high-pitched vocals be able to complement Jonathan Vigil’s harsh unclean vocals, or it would it result in a trainwreck? The result of “Wide Eyed” was a resounding success, as a result of the guiding hand of Jeremy McKinnon and Andrew Wade on production work. The rapid delivery of Butler’s vocals starkly contrasted the chugging melody driven delivery of Vigil’s. “Wide Eyed” is the most exciting and daring vocal collaboration of 2014, and the hope is that Vigil might feature on future letlive. songs. – Craig Roxburgh
Silent Planet – lastsleep (1944-1946)
With lastsleep (19444-1946), Silent Planet has created a comprehensive metalcore opera that holds the listener enthralled. Set during World War II, the EP does not focus on the war, but tells individual stories of victims. The songwriting skills of Silent Planet are not found in the lyrics alone; two tracks from the EP are instrumental – not often seen in metalcore – and placed between songs to ease the listener to the next story. Similar to a symphony, this EP progresses in movements, making it less a collection of songs and more a singular performance. The instrumentals are soft, haunting, and eerily anticipatory, in that it sounds gentle, but you know something powerful is coming. Each person will take something different from the music, but no one will leave unaffected. – Sharan Paul
The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
We often find artists hit their stride with their second album, finding new ways to push themselves creatively to make something meaningful. With their second album, The Hotelier made a huge jump, as Home, Like Noplace Is There is a record unlike any other released in the scene this year. Few albums had the cohesion, intensity, and staying power that this album has. The Hotelier established themselves as one of the scene’s finest offerings, forever embedded in the hearts of those they have impacted. – Adit Ahmed
From Indian Lakes – Absent Sounds
While they’ve always flown under the radar, From Indian Lakes has worked to weave their way into the indie rock scene. With Absent Sounds, they have given themselves strong footing to do so. The California group’s latest effort is an honest and intimate affair, giving fans a more intensive look into the inner workings of From Indian Lakes. Only a few songs are as big as some of those on Able Bodies, but they are all intense and powerful, while drawing in a mix of influences ranging from emo to folk.
– Adit Ahmed
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
Despite being now seven records deep into their chaotic career, Every Time I Die spend hardly any time on From Parts Unknown without a sense of urgency. Their tried and true equation for hardcore has yet to falter, blasting through all but three tracks in under three minutes. The remaining tracks above that time demonstrate some of the most impressive progression for the group in their sixteen year history, such as the punk rock collaboration with The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon (“Old Light”), their catchy attempt of a more mainstream hardcore (“El Dorado”), and the haunting climax that stands out as one of the best in their extensive discography (“Moor”). With a name synonymous with universal acclaim and a roaring live show to boot, this year’s release is just another example of what we already expected from Every Time I Die. – Jackson Balling
Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter
I stated in my review of this album that I never thought that it would happen. Usually when bands lose a vital part of their collective, they crumble or are unable to keep that spark that enables the band to thrive. Losing bassist Paul Gray not only brought the band together, but ran a needed current into Slipknot’s newest album, .5: The Gray Chapter. The band is able to channel the visceral anger that is known with the band with tracks like “Custer” and “Sarcastrophe.” You also have experimentation found with tracks like “Killpop” or “The One That Kills The Least.” It actually sounds like ONE band where I can hear everyone’s pain and anger. It’s a very real and natural record. I didn’t want the same Slipknot, I wanted to hear where the men of Slipknot are now and what they are feeling. Gray wanted the band to further push their music boundaries and The Gray Chapter is not only an acknowledgment of that, but a tribute to Gray and fans alike for how far they’ve come. – Murjani Rawls
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Rap in 2014 has been a real conundrum. There were some pure hip-hop albums here and there, but the genre was mostly engulfed in the need to cross over. It frustrated me to an extent..until I heard RTJ2. The second album by El-P and Killer Mike is almost 40 minute shot across the bow that pure hip-hop is still alive and kicking. The opening track “Jeopardy” is just furious lyricism by Mike and El-P, while El-P’s production is grimy. It’s not an album that is accessible, but yet it’s an album that you can play in your car. There’s songs like “Close Your Eyes” and “Early,” which touch on social issues like relationships with police or accusations of a religious nature. With RTJ2, I felt like hip-hop got its guff back. This would resonate with me even more listening to the new J. Cole album. There’s talk of a third album song to which, for the genre’s sake, I hope happens sooner or later. – Murjani Rawls
Come on. You saw this coming. We all saw this coming. When word trickled out that Brand New had rented out a studio space (and originally did NOTHING with it), the internet exploded. Now we have official word that they’re putting their studio time to actual use, which means we could finally get our fifth Brand New record sometime in 2015. That’s all we want, that’s all we need, and you know it. Plus, the ever-talented Foxing just started using that same studio space alongside Brand New, so who knows what that could mean. Grab the popcorn and get ready. – Connor Feimster