When I started to put together my favorite releases from Richmond bands this year, I quickly realized this was going to be a daunting task. There were so many great things to come out of RVA this year and it just floors me how much talent is in our own neighborhood.
So here are my Top 20 favorite releases from Richmond artists in 2014 – in no particular order.
Avers – Empty Light
There’s no way a bunch of members from different popular Richmond bands coming together to form a new supergroup would not make this list. Avers, which features members of The Head and the Heart, Hypercolor, Mason Brothers, Farm Vegas and the Trillions has been making psychedelic noise for only a short time and the group’s debut album “Empty Light” has thrown them into the national spotlight.
Lightfields – Junior
Lightfields has been delighting Richmond music lovers for the past four years, but with a lack of recorded material and changes to the lineup, we haven’t heard too much from the band. But “Junior,” the group’s debut full-length record, is well worth the wait. According to the band, the track “ushers in a new, melodically-led direction for the band, drawing influences from band favorites Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk and Guided by Voices.”
Sleepwalkers, which consists of former Duchess of York members, have been quickly making a name for themselves. And after listening to their self-titled masterpiece, it’s easy to understand why. This album is incredible from start to finish and one that wouldn’t let me put it down.
Noah-O – Monument Avenue
Richmond-based MC Noah-O delivers a dark gritty account on his upbringing in Richmond with “Monument Avenue,” which is full of anger, heartbreak, and inspiration that pulls you back into the underground of the River City. It’s as much a Richmond album as it is a Noah-O album. Numerous friends of fellow hip hop performers, including Taylor Whitelow, Nickelus F, and Radio B, all show up on the album to offer up their talents.
Heavy Midgets – Super King
Heavy Midgets’ latest full-length album, “Super King,” was inspired by the Asian buffet that used to be on Broad Street. It’s still there, but it’s called something else now. The plates still say Super King, though. Anyway, the album is kind of a like a loud sonic buffet featuring all the band’s different influences.
Hoax Hunters – Comfort & Safety
Hoax Hunters’ highly-anticipated “Comfort & Safety” is loud and full of explosive tracks dripping in feedback. The group has been compared to underground acts like Minutemen and Husker Dü and I loved every noise-filled minute of this record. My ears may be ringing, but it’s worth it.
Against Grace – Please Don’t Go
After spending years changing and defining their sound, pop-punkers-turned-synth-rockers Against Grace release their new EP “Please Don’t Go.” Standouts include the title track and the awesomely powerful “This is Your Story.” They called themselves the “love child of Neon Trees and Two Door Cinema Club” – influences that you can hear on this release.
Long Arms – Constant Comment
After years of waiting, fans of alt-country rock group Long Arms finally got a new album to listen to. “Constant Comment,” the follow-up to 2010′s “Long Arms to Hold You,” is nothing less than amazing. Put on your dancing shoes for this one.
Goldin – The Adventures of Polo Rogers 2
I’ve never seen an artist with as much ambition and dedication as local hip hop artist Goldin. Every time I turn around, he’s releasing another single, a new video, a collaboration or a new release. His latest “The Adventures of Polo Rogers 2” just came out this week, but I’ve heard many of the tracks as they were being released over the year and it’s nice to see them all come together on this collection. Give this one a listen because there’s some serious talent here.
Dead Fame – Vicious Design
Richmond’s new-wave post-punk group Dead Fame released a phenomenal sophomore album earlier this year. It continues the dark, ambient trend that they’re known for but they definitely take it into a new direction. My favorite track is “Joan Crawford,” which presents vintage Hollywood glamour and “Mommie Dearest” madness over synthesizers and electronic arrangements.
The Articles – Rough Draft
Take the blues rock of Vexine and strip down the music into its acoustic soul and you get The Articles. According to the group, The Articles is a semi-prequel to Vexine. The songs on “Rough Draft” are bare and emotional, but that doesn’t mean the power of them isn’t there. They’re just as strong and worth a listen.
White Laces – Trance
Richmond’s favorite fuzzy post noise rockers White Laces released its eagerly awaited second LP “Trance” (seriously, we were salivating by the time it came out), and it quickly began getting loads of accolades from all over the musicsphere. “Trance” just shows off how incredible White Laces is and how quickly they are going to make it big.
1UPYO – Bye Time
A virtual time-traveling rock band based in Richmond? Where do I sign up? When 1UPYO released its debut full-length album, “Bye Time” at the beginning of September, I had no clue what I was in for. The album fuses a variety of genres including disco, modern rock, hip-hop, jazz and EDM. It’s a weird and interesting concept for a band, but 1UPYO makes it work perfectly.
The Milkstains – Broken Bones
Psychedelic, garage rock band The Milkstains recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary as a band this past May and its new album “Broken Bones” is a nice celebration of what the group has been able to accomplish. With this release, they are more focused and polished without losing any of their rock flavor.
Everything Jellowstone Records Released This Year
Jellowstone Records was on a roll this year with releases from Pace Cadets, Butcher Brown, DJ Harrison and Trio of Justice all coming out through this brand new label. Jellowstone would have dominated this list, so I’m including all of them here because you can’t go wrong with any of these releases.
Black Girls – Claire Sinclaire
Richmond’s wildly explosive Black Girls (who are neither black nor girls, DISCUSS!) have been working hard over the last year to put together its new full-length album, “Claire Sinclaire,” and the result is just as energetic and creative as any live show.
Ross Wright – Athens
I haven’t listened to Ross Wright since falling in love with his 2011 release “Hallelujah, There’s A Place for Me.” Earlier this year, I was wondering what he had been up only to discover he had released a new album. “Athens” is a concept album based on Paul’s message to the people of Athens, Greece in Acts chapter 17 of the Bible. The album is a mishmash of pop and R&B styles but Wright makes it all work. I fell in love with “Athens” almost immediately.
Sundials – Kick
After discovering Sundials last year, I’m glad to see the boys are making a name for themselves. You can hear the power behind each of their track and my face melts just from listening. This has been on repeat for months.
I knew there was something to soulful piano man Adrian Duke when I saw him perform with Samson Trinh and the Upper East Side Band a few years back. On his latest self-titled album, I was blown away by Duke’s deep voice and limitless New Orleans-style sound.
The Reckless Island – Breathe In
“Breathe In,” the debut EP from reggae rock group The Reckless Island starts off with the phenomenal and extremely catchy track “Burn,” which has been burning in my ears since its release this summer. The rest of the songs on this 8-track EP are just as good and entertaining.