FEATURE: The Best 7″s of 2014
by Chad Jewett
Joie De Vivre / Prawn
A standout collaboration between one of emo’s most innovative bands and one of its most appealingly consistent, Split had both the look and feel of the kind of classic-era 7”s that were the early bread and butter for bands like Braid and Christie Front Drive. Prawn presaged the rich sonics and careful songcraft of Kingfisher with “Fracture,” one of the year’s finer songs and a gorgeously rendered blend of Rilo Kiley and The Devil and God-era Brand New. For their part, Joie de Vivre offered three warmly precise takes on the kind of clean Midwestern sparkle that has long been their chief aesthetic, while expanding around the edges with the more ebullient, spirited “Tenstopet.”
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
On Between Bodies, Connecticut post-emo collective The World Is A Beautiful Place expanded beyond the pop-cinematic sweep of Whenever, If Ever by taking a stark left turn into astral post-rock and the confessional poetry of Chris Zizzamia. Yet the finest entry from that project might be “A Note From The Author February 1st to the Author January 1st”, a song that pairs a lovely, minimalist bed of shimmering slowcore to a brief but detail-rich narrative from Zizzamia, trading in the grander concerns of Between Bodies for a more terrestrial, lived-in short story. Side B of The Distance, “We Carry Knives”, unfolds as five minutes of hard, skittering free-form noise, a provocative statement of new borders for the band that remains nothing less than compelling.
Presented as a split release between two different bands but in fact a thinly-veiled presentation of two different “versions” of Self Defense Family, Split offered dueling iterations of Self Defense Family’s full aesthetic range. On “Gold Start Mother”, performing as “Meredith Hunter” (and led by singer Martha Fotiadis), the band comes up with a radiant take on Stax/Muscle Shoals soul-pop, as filtered through the arts-and-crafts nostalgia of Belle & Sebastian, all wide-screen melodies and burbling organ. “Russian History” (performed under the band’s normal moniker) is a spacious, moody passage of chilly post-punk, reminiscent of the steely, dread-soaked slow-burners of Nick Cave or Liars. The songs couldn’t be more different, and both are excellent.
Two Knights / The World Is A Beautiful Place / Kittyhawk / Rozwell Kid
Sundae Bloody Sundae
In a release that could more or less double as a Best-of-2014 short list, Skeletal Lightning offered us new songs from The World Is A Beautiful Place, emo-math duo Two Knights, indie-pop quartet Kittyhawk, and melodic punk newcomers Rozwell Kid. Rozwell Kid’s “The Weather” features the buzzing synths and muscular melodies that marked the sweeter passages of Pinkerton, whittled down to an economized powerhouse, while The World Is A Beautiful Place’s “Fat Heaven” experiments with a gorgeously glacial swath of gloom pop that figures as a great new look for the band. But the split belongs to Kittyhawk and Two Knights, the former offering understated melody and warmth on “Soft Serve” as the latter reshaped their curling post-hardcore algebra into an undeniable, honest-to-god pop song with a grand, moving outro on the brilliantly-titled “Benji’s Cool Times Summer Jamz”.
Annabel / Dowsing
In a year filled with excellent split releases (see: the rest of this list), the four song team-up of Annabel and Dowsing – two of the most consistent and thoughtful bands shaping contemporary emo and indie pop – excelled by finding both bands hungry. Dowsing added a bit of heft to the clean airiness of 2013’s I Don’t Even Care Anymore, especially on the sharp, nervy, Evan Weiss-featuring “World’s Finest Chocolate (How Ya Doin’ Today)”. Annabel simultaneously offered their closing statement on the suburban opus that was Youth In Youth with a fleet, garage-punk redux of “Our Days Were Numbered” (aptly condensed to “Forever”) and a jangling mix of Beach Boys poptimism and Get Up Kids rumination on “Always”. Together, the band’s submitted the finest 7” release of the year by striking careful balance between the best of their discographies and new ideas to come.