1. Skyharbor – Patience
The second album by Skyharbor is more of a collaborative effort as opposed to their guitar driven debut Blinding White Noise (2012). With Daniel Tompkins now in an official capacity as vocalist the songs on their new album Guiding Lights are more structured and cohesive, even when the average song lenght is almost 7 minutes. The album is an exhilarating ride from beginning to end and has dominated most of my free time.
2. Animals As Leaders – Physical Education
Probably one of the only bands I can think of that gets better with each successive album, even after an outstanding debut. What started as a solo project by guitar-virtuoso Tosin Abasi has now become a fully fledged band mixing elements of modern metal, jazz, electronic music and sometimes even a little funk.
3. ANTEMASQUE – Providence
The debut album by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala’s new lovechild surprised everyone with the simple approach to songwriting as opposed to the mostly electronic Bosnian Rainbows but for most people (including me) one of the standouts was the song that deviated from the formula the most and left a little taste of The Mars Volta behind.
4. Alaya – Inside
Alaya is a band I accidentally found while reviewing another band on the same label. Though aesthetically they sound like a modern metal band, their songs are straightforward and virtuosic but not overdone. I reviewed their debut LP a few months ago and Basick Records has announced they’ll release the follow up in 2015.
5. Piano – Disappearing Ink
Another of the many projects Daniel Tompkins has recorded vocals for in 2014. Piano gets a little darker on their second LP (and the second release to feature Tompkins on vocals), with a heavier post-hardcore-ish sound, compressed guitars and loud drums. Just like Skyharbor the band features members from the UK, Denmark and Japan which makes for an interesting mix of styles and sounds.
6. Kayo Dot – Offramp Cycle, Pattern 22
Toby Driver gives his band a sci-fi noir makeover on the follow up to 2013’s massive double album Hubardo. Coffins On Io has a similar approach to 2010’s Coyote, except this time the strings are replaced by synthetizers and the melodies are more straightforward, at least by Kayo Dot‘s standards. Similar to the changes The Mars Volta underwent during the period between the releases of The Bedlam In Goliath and Octahedron, the number of musicians on the basic lineup was significantly reduced, and the band jumped from full chaos into a more spacey and traditional sound.
7. The Contortionist – Language I: Intuition
The Contortionist‘s third LP Language means a new era for the band, with Last Chance To Reason‘s Michael Lessard on vocals after the departure of Christopher Tilley and Robby Baca on both bass and guitar, the band took a significantly quieter route during the writing process of Language. Most of the heavy metal passagges are replaced by jazzy interludes and the album features mostly clean vocals.
8. Pez – Todo Lo Que Ya Fue
The 14th studio release by Pez dials down on the distortion and volume in favour of atmospheric, folk/blues jams and drawn out instrumental passages. El Manto Eléctrico is the second album to feature the second incarnation of their trio line-up (same as 1996-2001) and adds another star to the succesful sonic experiments which have allowed the band to release all their albums independently since 1993.
9. The Algorithm – discovery
The Algorithm is the main artistic project by french musician Rémi Gallego, combining different styles of modern electronic music, a drop of progressive metal and the occasional 8-bit inspired trip, Octopus4 is a diverse and entertaining album from beginning to end and a step up from the debut Polymorphic Code (2012) in both production and songwriting.
10. Cynic – The Lion’s Roar
Kindly Bent To Free Us is Cynic‘s third full lenght album, released a surprising 21 years after their debut Focus, the album is the final step on a transformation from pioneers of the progressive metal scene to a jazz infused modern Led Zeppelin. Kindly Bent To Free Us mixes dreamy vocals, swift, groovy drumming and a combination of fretless bass and chapman stick riffs into a very cohesive and clean sound that brings back the strong jazz elements from their last two albums, and then takes them a step further.