best of 2014 :: The Year in Tapes
Tapes are a funny game and along side vinyl a growing format of physical media. Most of my apartment is filled with cassettes so I was honored when GIMME TINNITUS said that I could do a “Best of 2014 Tapes,” but honestly this is a list of tapes that influenced me personally for one reason or another. Who am I to say they are they best? The assurance I can give you is that they are great releases that warrant a listen if not a purchase.
There were an uncountable number of amazing cassette releases in 2014 including HHBTM’s Joanna Gruesome / Trust Fund Split and Gay Cat Park’s “Synthetic Woman” on Crash Symbols (two tapes that I’ve listened to a whole lot)…but neither of those will appear on my lists. This list is going to focus on releases that were not released on LP. Mirror Universe has always tried to put out cassettes that stand on their own without a vinyl counterpart (with the exception of things that have had bonus material or were not released on our continent), and this post aims to highlight releases that fall under that category.
The past couple of years Mirror Universe has been known for releasing vaguely defined at pop and forays into the electronics music dimension…but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been jamming to hardcore, punk, and reggae that has been released on our beloved plastic format…and this is a place where I can tell you about those wonderful things.
This post is coming to you a little late as I hoped it would be ready the first week of January, but sometimes life and making tapes gets in the way (i.e. we had two new releases come out on the 27th by No Monster Club and Unlikely Friends).
I don’t really consider myself a music writer so I’m going to make my comments on each release brief. Hope you dig this very long, by no means complete, list of awesome tapes from 2014.
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Without further ado…my favorite cassettes of 2014 in alphabetical order:
Andreas Brenda – Hidden Rooms (Tranquility Tapes)
Tranquility Tapes has a constant output of solid synth and experimental releases. Brandal’s “Hidden Rooms” hits on everything I’m looking for from a ambient / soundtrack recording. It’s dark and beautiful and allows the listen to be infinitely engaged or completely disengage. Many try to do this, but few succeed.
Big Joanie – “Sistah Punk” (Tuff Enuff)
Big Joanie’s EP comes via the Riots Not Diets // Tuff Enuff Records collective in the UK. Tuff Enuff is probably one of my favorite finds of 2014. They have a constant output of excellent feminist / riot grrrl bands. Big Joanie bring us something new with her deep soulful vocals, and has me looking forward to a full length as 4 songs are not enough.
Bread Club – “Alive // Well” (Fourth Row)
Bread Club is a band who’s name I saw on Instagram, and I ended up looking them up. I found their full length “Alive//Well” and it’s one of the best emo records to come out in years. The opening track “Catfished (Much like Water)” gives us something that’s awkward (almost too much so) and honest but as soon as “Astraphobia” starts “Catfished” starts to make sense in the context of the whole. Fans of emo and pop punk should check in as you will find something you can’t put down. “Astraphobia” might even be a better place to start for a first time listener.
Brown Bread – “Mitote” (Bridgetown)
Brown Bread’s lush layers of electronics, beats, and minimalist folk act as an electronic vacuum where Rebecca Doerfer’s vocals thrive. A beautiful album that sometimes brings to mind early High Places which is something that I reminisce about fondly, but gives us a very personal look at Rebecca and her world.
Casio Love – “In Space” (Tram Trax)
“In Space” is four tracks of synth space dub from Sweden. Released by Tram Trax in a limited edition of 50 tapes each with a different space card on the cover. One of the best looking tapes I’ve received in a long time. I have to thank GRZGRZ from Memories of the Future for turning me on to this it’s become one of my favorite things over the past couple of months.
Common Interest Weren’t Enough To Keep Us Together (GODMODE)
This was a document of place and time for Nick Sylvester and his GODMODE label. It gave us our first taste of Shamir, Courship Ritual, and Yvette’s amazing album “Process.” The release was a lesson in diversity showing how one person can fuse together many different sounds into a cohesive thought.
The Ethical Debating Society – “Hen’s Teeth” (Tuff E Nuff)
The 3 song teaser EP from Ethical Debating Society gives us a look at their upcoming LP. I can’t wait for more of these crunchy guitars, dual vocals, and post punk tendencies. Hit play on “Future Imperfect” and you will know what I’m talking about.
Eyelet – “Eyelet” (Suspended Soul)
I was a hardcore kid that grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and still love a good screamo record (or hilariously as the kids call them today SKRAMZ). Baltimore’s Eyelet put out a great four song EP full of melodic chaos. They are not afraid to let pretty melodies creep into what is otherwise a brutal record. No candy coating here.
Guerilla Toss – “Smack the Brick” (NNA)
The last night I ever spent at Death By Audio was with Guerilla Toss opening for Thee Oh Sees. I got to meet Mr. NNA that night, and picked up a copy of this tape. It’s an onslaught of tribal post punk with synths and electronics. Everyone should listen…you might find something you like.
Haord’s Buncha (Haord)
Haord is a haven for the weirdo synth lovers, and is a label run by Tumbleweave & Drut PD (combined known to the world as Macula Dog)! I was a fan of Haord’s first release which was a split between the two founders, and their tracks are good starting places on this comp…other highlights for me are Austin’s SLUGBUG and the New York by way of Florida Cabo Boing. It’s rare to find a release like this that makes you question everything you know about pop music, melody, and electronic music. Many great minds all in one Buncha.
Hive Bent – “Daylatov” (New Day Rising)
Hive Bent’s “Daylatov” is the second EP from the coed Baltimore post-punks or depending on your ears hardcore band. A great EP but only give you a taste of what the band is really like live. Buy the tape, but even more go see them live.
Jerry Paper // Andy Boay – “Split” (Hausu Mountain)
Enter the deranged loungey minds of Jerry Paper and Andy Boay, and the best type of split release where the two artists complement each other without stepping on each others feet. Warped loundey electronic sounds for those who want to chill in the sun and drink lemonade while creeping out your neighbors. This is just a taste of Mr. Jerry Paper who released two of my favorite LPs this year on Patient Sounds and Orange Milk.
Legacy of Terror In Occupied Nations (L.O.T.I.O.N) – “Second
Audio Document” (Burn Books)
L.O.T.I.O.N brings a new sound to hardcore fusing industrial noise and drum machines to create a refreshing intense punk record. Members of Nomad, Dawn of Humans, Zatsuon, and fronted by Survival’s Alexander Heir. I like industrial influences in my dance music so it makes sense that I love it in punk too.
No Ditching – “Face Ache” (Tuff E Nuff)
No Ditching is the poppiest of the Tuff E Nuff releases to make my list, and my favorite of the three. These ladies are brutally honest, and not afraid to write about Gilmore Girls (we know you are all watching it, but how many of you are singing about it?). Snotty, sincere, and extremely catchy. This one has gotten more play than most tapes in my tape decks, and I can’t wait for more from No Ditching. Truly one of the best of 2014.
Roped Off – “Reaches the Final Number” (Patient Sounds)
Roped Off’s (Dave Doyen and Mike Haley) most recent output came outlate in the year on one of my long time favorite labels Patient Sounds. I’ve been doing mail order with Patient Sounds for over 5 years now, and they have only refined their craft. 44 minutes of experimental electronics that are hypnotic and engaging. Pick up this release and snag any of the wonderful LPs Patient Sounds put out in 2014 while you are at it(if they haven’t already sold out!).
Seekers International – “Reconsider the Curse of the Vampire” (Boom Arm Nation)
Another recommendation from GRZGRZ from Memories of the Future but this time SEEKERSINTERNATIONAL create a electro hacked dub version of Scientists classic 1981 dub album “Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires.” Something new from something old. Dub of a dub. Boomarm Nation deserves a lot more of my attention moving into 2015.
Scowler // Youth Funeral – “Split” (Skeletal Lightning // Broken World Media)
Two more members of screamo’s new guard. Scowler’s band members are now in a long distance relationship but their sexy snarling vocals will give those punks who don’t like hardcore something to think about. These new Youth Funeral tracks are constantly brutal and lean away from some of the melodic sounds that their first EP had, but it is no less brilliant. We can only expect great things from this band…even Brooklyn Vegan and Noisy are catching on.
Technicolor Teeth – “Can You Keep Me Out of Hell” (Accidental Guest)
My first introduction to Technicolor Teeth was at an Accidental Guest showcase earlier this year, and live they were a much darker murkier band. Extremely intense personalities playing on the floor of Death By Audio rather than the stage. Their album “Can You Keep Me Out of Hell” is hazy indie rock masterpiece. A fully realized album with clear vocals over the distorted fuzz of guitars. This is what I hope is a realistic look of what punk rock from Wisconsin actually is, but for some reason I feel that Technicolor Teeth are an outlier in that scene.
Terminus Cursus – “6666666” (Bridgetown)
Bridgetown’s Terminus Cursus brings you back to early Discord days of Embrace, Rites of Spring, and Dag Nasty. Patrick Mugan’s harsh vocals over melodic guitars. This apple falls far from the tree of Eyelet, Scowler, and Youth Funeral, with it’s post-rock and kraut tendencies but but any of you who dug those releases should definitely check in. Exciting that this release was part of the same batch as Brown Bread!