Top Vermont-made recordings of 2014
- Anders Parker, There's a Bluebird in My Heart
- Barbacoa, Italian Medallion
- Caroline Rose, I Will Not Be Afraid
- The DuPont Brothers, Heavy as Lead
- Invisible Homes, Song for My Double
- Pours, Pours
- The Precepts, This Is How It Must Be
- Swale, The Next Instead
- Waylon Speed, Kin
- The Write Brothers, Take Flight
(Disclaimers: Swale bassist Tyler Bolles is the younger brother of Seven Days music editor Dan Bolles. Waylon Speed drummer Justin Crowther is an occasional Seven Days contributor.)
In this article last year, we posited that 2013 would go down as one the finest years for recorded music in Vermont's history. We also suggested that the quantity and quality of that year's musical bounty was not an anomaly — it was a trend.
Green Mountain music in 2014 did little to dispute that assertion. Once again, the volume, virtue and variety were simply overwhelming. Looking forward to 2015 with expected releases from the likes of Villanelles, the Aztext, Francesca Blanchard, Death and Madaila, among others, Vermont-made music shows no signs of slowing down. To wit...
Pundits around the country have lately suggested that rock music is on the wane, but Vermonters have apparently not gotten the memo. Once again, rock releases of varying sonic stripes dominated the local landscape.
In the heavy-music scene, Doom Service gave us something to believe in. Gorgon divulged a loud, lascivious punk secret. Carraway made us pine for pop-punk makeout sessions and dashboard confessions. Black Rabbit blew shit up with dynamite and power chords. Central Vermont punksters Sorry Mom apologized, but not for rocking hard. Chalice shredded with metal malice.
And don't look now, but it seems that rumors of the demise of jam bands in Burlington were, ahem, fishy. The Bumping Jones proved peppy and playful on their debut. Binger beckoned us down the rabbit hole. Squimley and the Woolens fired off a pair of jamtastic 2014 records. And as they entered their fourth decade, the Phab Phour were still en fuego.
Local prog rock proved multigenerational. Elder statesmen Elephants of Scotland took a deep breath and executed. Meanwhile, new kids on the block Coquette teased listeners by melding elements of King Crimson with Zappa and Fugazi.
Proving he might be a genre unto himself, music-scene cornerstone Colin Clary scored with new releases from indie-pop tweety birds the Smittens and his bedroom-pop duo with Dana Kaplan, Let's Whisper. Never mind Clary's own strong solo record.
Speaking of indie rock, Montpelier's Anachronist were as enigmatic as ever on a full-length loaded with classic guitar jangle. Windsor's Carton introduced us to "neobrutalism." On the synthy end of the spectrum, electro-pop auteur NYIKO delivered a multisensory, multimedia stunner, while newcomer Guthrie Galileo shot for the stars on his debut.
Rounding out the year in local rock, Gang of Thieves summoned lightning and thunderfunk to deliver a timeless treatise on funk rock. Wave of the Future made like a tree and got outta here with 1.21 jiggawatts of electric dance punk. Middlebury's Crazyhearse were still crazy good after all these years.
Though rock remains king in Vermont, there may soon be a challenger to the throne: hip-hop. 2014 was a banner year for local rap releases, headlined by myriad projects from Aztext cofounder, battle rap champ and scene guru Learic. Though he's since moved to New York City, the future of Vermont hip-hop looks bright, as evidenced by solid releases from the likes of Boomslang, Agent Slacker and promising young newcomer Blunder. The Lynguistic Civilians partied hard with the Mangroves. Onetime Manifest Nexto Me MC Michael Morelli made a welcome return as Enemy Self. Scene chronicler Justin Boland — the founder of the website Vermont Hip Hop News and a Seven Days freelancer — prodded the boundaries of high-concept hip-hop with a new Algorhythms release. And the entire community rallied around a fallen hero on a comp for the late, great DJ A-Dog.
Vermont's singer-songwriters enjoyed a strong year, as well. Joe Adler proved he's many things to many scenes on his star-studded "solo" record. Jenke Arts founder Tommy Alexander said goodbye to Vermont with his sharpest record to date. Meanwhile, Chicago and NYC transplant Rachael Ries said hello to her new neighbors in Montpelier. Jake Brennan found love with Violette Ultraviolet. And Cam Will holed up for the winter to produce a stark masterpiece.
As always, folk and Americana figured prominently. On the twangier side, alt-country songwriter Lowell Thompson took advice from strangers, while honky-tonk hero Mark LeGrand burned it all down.
In bluegrass, Bob Amos set the bar. But releases from the Bondville Boys, the Modern Grass Quintet and Something With Strings were not too far behind. Though more old-time than bluegrass, the Burlington Bread Boys introduced us to — and reacquainted us with — kazoo-core on a pair of rambunctious outings.
Fiddler Katie Trautz was busy in 2014, delivering a humble gem with Brattleboro's Wooden Dinosaur and a sweet turn with her folk duo Mayfly. In a similar vein as the latter, a new record from PossumHaw was worth the wait.
It was a slow year for jazz, but educator and guitarist Steve Blair delivered a master class on jazz-rock fusion with his septet.
In R&B, Smooth Antics introduced a seductive new voice in neo-soul siren Stephanie Heaghney. Meanwhile, Nicole Nelson reminded us she's still "the voice" to be reckoned with in Vermont on a shiny new record with her roots-soul duo Dwight & Nicole.
Gone but not forgotten, Vermont expats were busy in 2014, too, highlighted by the deconstructed folk of Sam Amidon and the psychedelic ear candy of the Cush, to name but a couple.
Did we miss anything? Probably. And that's partly the point. More great music was made in Vermont in 2014 than anyone could possibly keep up with. That makes choosing a list of the "best" local records problematic. But choose we must.
So here are 10 local records that especially stood out, to our ears, in 2014. Call them the best if you like. But we prefer to think of them as simply fine representatives of yet another spectacular year in Vermont music.