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Viking's Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird
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Viking's Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird

The Best Music Of 2014

Viking's Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird

Viking's Choice: The Year In The Loud And The Weird
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Members of Unconscious Collective getting ready for ritualistic jazz-rock battle. i

Members of Unconscious Collective getting ready for ritualistic jazz-rock battle. Ginger Berry/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Ginger Berry/Courtesy of the artist
Members of Unconscious Collective getting ready for ritualistic jazz-rock battle.

Members of Unconscious Collective getting ready for ritualistic jazz-rock battle.

Ginger Berry/Courtesy of the artist

"I thought I'd kick you in the pants."

And so begins my fairly annual conversation with All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen about the year in metal and what I sometimes call "outer sound," a nebulous grouping of experimental music. You may may have seen — and perhaps been puzzled and/or delighted by — these types of music covered in my Viking's Choice column, and you can see more choice metal picks from 2014 right here.

In 2014, Scott Walker and Sunn O))) teamed up for a sublime record that could neither be called metal or whatever it is that Walker does, a Thai psych band discovered on YouTube made one of the most transcendent records of the year and three dudes in body paint channeled King Crimson by way of Black Flag. Oh, it also happened to be a helluva year for punk, as evidenced in my picks for NPR Music's favorite songs of 2014.

If you want more tips on drone cassettes, solo guitar LPs and rip-roaring metal albums, it's best to follow me on Twitter and Bandcamp or subscribe to my byline.

Viking's Choice 2014

Longhena
04Stay Without Me
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    Song
    Stay Without Me
    Album
    Longhena
    Artist
    Gridlink
    Label
    MRI
    Released
    2014

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Gridlink

  • Song: Stay Without Me
  • from Longhena

Longhena is grindcore at its most pristine, most masterful, most insane. Then again, Gridlink has always come up against the conventions of the speedy extreme metal genre while celebrating them, flying gorgeous (even hooky) melodies against million-mile-an-hour blast beats and Jon Chang's demonous shriek. Unfortunately, this third album is the cross-continental band's last. Chang has retired from music and Takafumi Matsubara suffered a brain infection that currently leaves him unable to play guitar. But what a hell of a way to go out — we'll be dissecting these 21 minutes of miniature grind compositions for years to come.

Longhena is available from Handshake Inc.

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Song
Longhena
Album
Longhena
Artist
Gridlink
Label
MRI
Released
2014

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Good Throb.
01Acid House
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Good Throb

  • Song: Acid House
  • from F--- Off

2014 was an exceptionally strong year for punk rock. Not that it ever went away, just that the quantity matched the quality across a wider spectrum of what once fell into a category reserved for fast, three-chord songs. With an album title to match, London's Good Throb was among the year's most pissed, bangin' on a herky-jerk dance floor to Gang of Four-style stark rhythms and shambling songs that just don't give a damn.

F--- Off is available from Bandcamp.

Cover for Ensemble
02Participant
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    Song
    Participant
    Album
    Ensemble
    Artist
    Death Blues
    Label
    Rhythmplex
    Released
    2014

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Death Blues

  • Song: Participant
  • from Ensemble

Jon Mueller spent three years with Death Blues, a multimedia project that asked, "How do we become more 'present'?" Mueller and his collaborators have pondered the finite to yield some beautiful visual art, essays and music. One of the most stirring albums of the year, Ensemble is the closing chapter to the Death Blues project. It's full of blown-out wonder soundtracked by film composer William Ryan Fritch's otherworldly arrangements that splash across the soul-awakening thwack of Mueller's thundering drums and hammered acoustic guitar.

Ensemble is available from Rhythmplex.

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Song
Ensemble
Album
Ensemble
Artist
Death Blues
Label
Rhythmplex
Released
2014

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Khun Narin.
01Lam Phu Thai # 1
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    Song
    Lam Phu Thai # 1
    Album
    Electric Phin Band
    Artist
    Khun Narin
    Label
    Innovative Leisure
    Released
    2014

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Khun Narin

  • Song: Lam Phu Thai # 1
  • from Electric Phin Band

Here's the story: Music nerds freak out when a video titled "MINDBLOWING PSYCHE- DELIA FROM THAILAND" hits YouTube, an L.A. producer tracks down the band, Facebooks them via translator at a Thai restaurant and convinces Khun Narin to record an album outside a Buddhist temple in the Phetchabun Province of Northern Thailand. Thankfully, Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band not only preserves the spirit of what fans saw in that video but also faithfully captures this pan-generational party band's internal logic, circling around Thai folk modes with a plugged-in phin (a kind of lute) and a homemade sound system.

Electric Phin Band is available from Innovative Leisure.

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Song
Electric Phin Band
Album
Electric Phin Band
Artist
Khun Narin
Label
Innovative Leisure
Released
2014

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Soused.

Scott Walker + Sunn O)))

  • Song: Brando
  • from Soused

Sure, the guitars that bwoooong on Soused belong to abstract drone-metal dudes in Sunn O))) — unmistakably so — but this is a Scott Walker joint. The '60s-crooner-turned-sublime-divining-rod's sense of space, humor and volume are all here, but something funny happens in those feedback-ridden stacks: Walker and Sunn O))) keep each other in check. The result is what oddly might be the most approachable album of either career, even as actual whips percussively break up bone-rattling drones. Soused is an entirely enveloping work, full of surprise, especially from two monoliths of heavy that still have more to discover.

Soused is available from 4AD.

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Song
Soused
Album
Soused
Artist
Scott Walker / Sunn 0)))
Label
4AD
Released
2014

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Nima.
03New City Grip
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Nima

  • Song: New City Grip
  • from See Feel Reel

If the sad bastard beatmaker Burial met up with Grimes, that might give you an idea of Nima's M.O. But even then, there's a bedroom dankness on the See Feel Reel cassette that hangs samples in negative space and drags mangled trip-hop beats across the floor, and, yet, still extends an invitation ... mysterious as it may be.

See Feel Reel is available from Bandcamp.

Nansemond.
04Chuckatuck
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Nathan Bowles

  • Song: Chuckatuck
  • from Nansemond

As a member of Black Twig Pickers and Pelt, Nathan Bowles comes from a tradition that celebrates and stretches American folk music. Nansemond refines the clawhammer banjo tunes first heard on his solo debut, not only digging deeper into the nuance of rhythmically calming repetition — not to mention a couple of fried guitar solos courtesy of Charalambides' Tom Carter — but also developing his singing voice, one that buzzes through the fog.

Nansemond is available from Paradise of Bachelors.

Unconscious Collective
07The Transformation of Matter
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Unconscious Collective

  • Song: The Transformation of Matter
  • from Pleistoscene Moon

If your favorite bands include King Crimson, Last Exit and weirdo-era Black Flag, stop whatever it is you're doing and click play on Pleistoscene Moon. From the doomy noir-jazz that opens the double record to the balls-out "Kotsoteka" to the funky Tony Williams-inspired backbeat of "Is the Spine the Dividing Line," Unconscious Collective's ritualistic jazz-rock wanders a lost highway full of sharp turns and unknown spirits.

Pleistoscene Moon is available from Tofu Carnage and Bandcamp.

Skull Fist.
03Chasing The Dream
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    Chasing The Dream
    Album
    Chasing the Dream
    Artist
    Skull Fist
    Label
    Noise Art
    Released
    1969

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Skull Fist

  • Song: Chasing The Dream
  • from Chasing the Dream

As metal gets more extreme, sometimes it's best to remember a simpler time: hot riffs, hotter shredding, a ripping voice that commands the horns to get the hell up and drums that sound like they were recorded in a booming arena for maximum effect. The members of Skull Fist have imbibed the masters of old — Riot, Tokyo Blade, Helloween — to not only nail that classic speed metal sound but also shotgun their own energy with some of the most memorable songs the genre has heard in years.

Chasing the Dream is available from Skull Fist's web site.

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Chasing the Dream
Album
Chasing the Dream
Artist
Skull Fist
Label
Noise Art

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