LIST COMPILED BY JOE FITZPATRICK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
It’s that time of year again. Time to look back and reflect on some of our favorite albums released over the past year. From hardcore to hip hop and indie rock to pop punk, these are a selection of albums that stuck out to us as the top 10 albums of 2014.
DEAR ADAMUS Dear Adamus EP
The debut EP from Virginia Beach natives DEAR ADAMUS has helped lead the way of the surge of new, talented indie bands coming out of the Hampton Roads music scene. Our favorite tracks include their first single, “Chapter 1: Blood, Diamonds, and Gold,” as well as the album’s opening track, “Rose Petals,” which begins with an atmospheric recording of a subway station by lead vocalist and guitarist Raytheon Dunn. His enigmatic vocals help set the tone for this short but sweet EP.
FRAGILE HANDS Between Here and Infinity
One of the most anticipated releases this year came as the debut EP from FRAGILE HANDS, a melodic hardcore band featuring members from both Richmond and Fredericksburg. Using the band as an outlet for his struggles with depression and his relationships with family members, as well as his ongoing struggle with his religious faith, vocalist Nick Matejko’s screams pull at the heartstrings of anyone has endured similar struggles. The top track is definitely “Cold,” but the light manages to shine through the darkness on every track.
THE JUDY CHOPS Minor Sunshine
Inspired by this bourbon spirit, as well as country music, jazz, swing, and good old rock ‘n’ roll, THE JUDY CHOPS of Staunton, Va. are living proof that you can never have enough good music or whiskey, but they can certainly satisfy those cravings. Earlier this year, the band released their third studio album Minor Sunshine, which starts in the minor key and moves throughout the album to become a major key. I don’t know any band that did that this year, along with the style and flair they show on a consistent basis.
RAINTREE For A Little While
One of the few emo bands of the Charlottesville music scene, RAINTREE have been flying under the radar since 2010, but recently, with the release of their latest album about friends and family members in singer/guitarist Blake Layman’s life, they have finally come into their own and have started to get the attention they deserve. Our personal favorites are the last two songs, “The Caretaker” and “The Catcher”. Each song is heartfelt and well written.
ROBERT MCFARLAND Nineties
Everyone loves nostalgia, and this album definitely has the style and energy of some of the best names in hip hop from the 1990’s era. Inspired primarily by NAS, his music hearkens back to when rap had a social consciousness. In addition to his melodic viral sensation “MC vs. Rapper”, the album flows almost effortlessly, ending perfectly on 1999 with a New Year’s Eve countdown. It is poetic and constructed seamlessly.
THE CONCUSSION THEORY The Concussion Theory
When CONDITIONS broke up in July earlier this year, the crown for the kings of the Richmond music scene went up for grabs, and THE CONCUSSION THEORY have been strong contenders since releasing their self-titled full-length on May 22, 2014. Borrowing influence from their former colleagues, as well as bands such as ENVY ON THE COAST, BRAND NEW, and CIRCA SURVIVE, this CD is a must have for your record collection.
THE WEAK DAYS A Week’s Daze
Another rising star in the Virginia emo scene, coming from Richmond, is the “twinkly” three-piece THE WEAK DAYS, which includes Dustin Reinink, who also plays in the pop punk duo WINNING THE LOSER’S BRACKET. This EP was easily one of the best records from beginning to end. There is not a single bad song.
TRUE WORTH Fleeting Lives
This is hands down one of the best hardcore bands to come out of Virginia, but they are not from Virginia Beach or Richmond. They are TRUE WORTH from Harrisonburg, a scene not necessarily known for their hardcore bands. Nevertheless, each song backs a serious punch with heavy riffage to get your blood pumping. Don’t sleep on this one.
SKYWARD’s sophomore album Drift can be summed up in one word: epic. The songs by this Harrisonburg indie rock band features huge vocal melodies and harmonics that could be the soundtrack to any battle scene or high-tension sports event. Their religious faith provides some background to the songs, but they are ambiguous enough to be appreciated by anyone. It’s a solid album overall, but “Drag” and “Sing It Back” are definitely our favorites.
WATERMEDOWN Perfect is Pointless
Finally, the last album you cannot afford to miss is the latest EP from Johnny Mays, who is originally from Northern Virginia and currently lives in Richmond, and is also known by his stage name, WATERMEDOWN. Featuring heartfelt and emotional songs perfectly crafted by Mays, the EP includes not only vocals but also spoken word that is overflowing with passion.