The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2014

Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

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For example, if an album is trying to tell a story or describe a central theme, either blatantly in its lyrics or atmospherically through the music itself, a demo might just be the work of a band trying to feel their way into their sound. It doesn’t strike me as fair to judge the two on the same standard. Likewise, if a band releases a single, should that really be judged alongside an hour-long release? Granted, some bands’ singles actually are an hour long, but that’s another category entirely. “The ‘Dopesmoker’ Awards” will be handed out at another date.

No, not really. At least not this year.

If you didn’t see the full-albums Top 30 of 2014, please feel free to check it out and think of this and the year-end podcast as companion pieces, albeit both a little more casual. Let’s get to it:

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The Top 20 Short Releases of 2014

1. Sleep, The Clarity
2. Fatso Jetson/Herba Mate, Early Shapes
3. All Them Witches, Effervescent
4. Cortez/Borracho, Split 7″
5. Naam/White Hills/Black Rainbows/The Flying Eyes, 4-Way Split
6. Heavy Temple, Heavy Temple
7. Death Alley, Over Under/Dead Man’s Bones 7”
8. Geezer, Live! Full Tilt Boogie
9. The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues
10. Demon Head, Demo 2014
11. Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite
12. The Proselyte, Our Vessel’s in Need
13. Hull, Legend of the Swamp Goat
14. Lamp of the Universe/Krautzone, Split
15. The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, Through the Dark Matter
16. The Heavy Co., Uno Dose
17. Wren, Wren
18. He Whose Ox is Gored, Rumors 7”
19. Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo
20. Godhunter/Secrets of the Sky, Gh/0st:s
21. Lord, Alive in Golgotha

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A couple notes: The Sleep single was a given. I don’t think anything could’ve topped it one way or another, even if I hadn’t listened to it 100 times since its release in July as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. In any case, there was no debate about where to place it. You might notice on the other end the list goes to 21. I thought that being the element of chaos suited Lord well, and since I’m not entirely sure their Alive in Golgotha EP has been officially released, they warranted inclusion just in case.

One thing that struck me in putting this list together was the amount of splits included. You’ll notice Fatso Jetson and Herba Mate‘s Early Shapes right in behind Sleep. That one was an utter joy, as far as I’m concerned, and made me wish both of them would get on putting out full-lengths as soon as possible. Not far behind is Cortez and Borracho‘s split single, which had killer tracks from both bands, and the Naam/White Hills/Black Rainbows/The Flying Eyes split from Heavy Psych Sounds that, even with four bands involved, managed to keep a flowing atmosphere front to back, which was impressive enough in and of itself, never mind the individual contributions of those four acts, which were also top quality. The Krautzone/Lamp of the Universe split also provided a considerable psych blissout, and Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Secrets of the Sky earned extra points for its adventurous spirit and the payoff its risk-taking brought to bear.

Like their Lightning at the Door LP, All Them Witches‘ Effervescent 25-minute jam figured heavily in my 2014 listening habits, as did Heavy Temple‘s self-titled debut EP. Dutch garage/heavy punkers Death Alley earned spins with their debut 7″, a lack of pretense in melding proto-thrash and heavy rock impulses allowing them to quickly find a niche that one hopes they continue to develop. Their debut single, along with Demon Head‘s Demo 2014 (and, indeed, that band’s follow-up single) and the Lewis and the Strange Magics demo were an allay to concerns retro-minded rock might be stagnating.

Geezer featured on the Short Releases list last year as well. I wasn’t sure what to do with their Gage 12″, since it was released in 2013 as an EP and 2014 as an LP, but either way, their Live! Full Tilt Boogie tape effortlessly recalled classic blues rock performances and demonstrated the fluid chemistry at work in the New York trio, I hope it’s not the last live release they do. Along similar bluesy lines, The Heavy Co.‘s Uno Dose found the Hoosier three-piece dipping into heavy jams more than their last full-length, and if that’s the direction they’re headed, you won’t hear me argue. Hailing from Sweden and arriving as an offshoot of Asteroid, the single-song EP from The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues had more than a touch of heavy blues to it too, and made me look forward to that project’s development from here on out.

There’s little I’m going to complain about less than hearing Ed Mundell bust out Miles Davis-inspired solos, so yeah, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic‘s Through the Dark Matter EP gets a nod. Impressive guitar work ran a current through Boston duo Gold & Silver‘s debut EP, Azurite and Malachite, but the proggy feel was what ultimately sold me on the two extended instrumentals included there, whereas with fellow Beantowners The Proselyte, it was the catchy songwriting and variety they showed in just four tracks. The He Whose Ox is Gored 7″ was likewise modern and satisfyingly weighted, though obviously shorter, and last but not at all least, the progressive sludge of Wren‘s self-titled EP seemed to fly under a lot of people’s radar but was a markedly individual take on a well established form that portended of good things to come.

As with everything, I’m sure there’s something in this mix that I forgot. If you’ve got a call you want to make on something, please let loose in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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Duuude, Tapes! Geezer, Live! Full Tilt Boogie

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on November 4th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

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If you haven’t seen them, the fluid bluesy grooves emitted by New York trio Geezer are best consumed live. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Chris Turco have a marked, well-developed chemistry that comes across onstage, and while their latest, here-today-gone-immediately vinyl EP, Gage (review here), did well in capturing it, sometimes you just need to go to the source. To that end, the band present Live! Full Tilt Boogie (also stylized as LiVE! FULL Tilt Boogie), a limited cassette release of a live show recorded May 31 at their regular haunt, The Anchor in Kingston, NY, with five songs and a clear glimpse at their penchant for heavy rolling groove.

geezer-live-full-tilt-boogie-tapeLive! Full Tilt Boogie is mostly a digital release, but the band pressed up 25 tapes and tossed them in what they cleverly dubbed the “Full Tilt Baggie,” also including a download card, band sticker, STB Records button, Geezer patch and a sticker for Harrington‘s regular podcast, the Electric Beard of Doom. There are still a couple left through Geezer‘s Bandcamp, but as one might expect, the highlight of Live! Full Tilt Boogie is the boogie itself, i.e. the music, which thrives off the raw live sound and gives even newcomers to the band a vital representation of what they do, Harrington‘s throaty delivery topping the faster bounce of the opening title-track and the memorable starts and stops of “Pony,” taken from Geezer‘s 2013 Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues debut full-length, slide guitar winding around the steady bassline and cycles of drum fills.

“Long Dull Knife,” which closes out side one of the tape, is introduced as “a new one” and is a tale of wuh-muhn problems set to a nodding stoner riff and peppered with wah/whammy effects around a catchy chorus. Side two gets underway with driving push of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” which on the debut boasted a harmonica but here is given a more straightforward rock presentation as it makes its way toward a jam that emphasizes one of Geezer‘s great strength both live and recorded. Pacing is part of it, but the band’s songwriting eases the listener so smoothly into these quiet stretches, some brief, some long, some exploratory, some plotted, that one almost wakes up inside wondering how they got there. In the case of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” the chorus soon returns to deliver the blindside blow, but “Ancient Song,” which closes the set and thus the tape, is more stretched out, topping nine minutes of languid, unfolding jamming. geezer full tilt boogie jcardFrom where I sit, “Ancient Song” is Geezer‘s best work to date, honing not only what’s best about their style — the slow nod, bluesy riffing, blend of jam and hook, etc. — but also their perspective. These guys aren’t coming out of the gate trying to sound like kids. “Ancient Song” is grown up, with a sense of self-awareness that works well alongside its fuzz and liquefied rhythm.

Probably not a major release for the band, but a pleasant stopgap anyway that shows off their live chemistry and gives a look at some new material besides, Live! Full Tilt Boogie is both a merch-table curio and an example of the lack of pretense at the hear of what’s appealing about Geezer in the first place. They’ve worked quickly over the last couple years to develop this affinity for pushing heavy rock and blues into sharing a sonic space, and I think we’re just getting to the start of hearing what that sounds like as interpreted by the band. If Live! Full Tilt Boogie is your first experience with Geezer, you’ll still find they’re worth the look.

Geezer, Live! Full Tilt Boogie (2014)

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Geezer on Bandcamp

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