A tour through 2014’s best local albums

In an era where people are lambasted by offers to listen to albums or songs by “up-and-coming artists,” it takes a lot to stick out from the crowd. You have to cut through endless Facebook, YouTube and Twitter spam messages to capture an engaged ear. This might be why a lot of decent local albums go completely unnoticed.

However, some bands produce a body of work so great, that it’s hard to ignore. The same proved true for 2014 as we look back and highlight some of the best albums produced here on a local level. Do yourself a favor, and give them a listen.

AGO cover

AGO (Astronaut Gang)
Tuebor (mixtape)
Grand Rapids, Mich.

One of Michigan’s fastest rising hip-hop crews, this collective of MCs and producers from Grand Rapids (including The SEVENth, Waldo, Amos Rose, Joose and Savon) has pumped out a steady string of strong releases over the last year. This masterful mixtape caps off their combined prowess, capturing what it’s really like to make it here in West Michigan — and beyond — with unparalleled thought and flow. It’s easily one of the best documents of the rap scene right here, right now, so give it a listen, or, better yet, experience this otherworldly tour-de-force live. — Eric Mitts

Fine-Fine-Titans-Omega

Fine Fine Titans
Omega (EP)
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Fine Fine Titans and its latest EP is the type of post hardcore band that just wallops you in the jugular. Not only is this group one of the most impressive bands of its genre throughout the region, but Jennifer Bartlett could be the next big female rock voice. Her skill set shows through on Omega, screaming like a vulture on some tracks while slowing it down elsewhere. She’s a true talent and this is a truly great EP. — Jayson Bussa

La Dispute cover

La Dispute
Rooms of the House
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Better Living

There’s really no argument: La Dispute is the biggest band to rise up from the local post-hardcore scene. Over three full-length albums, the band has developed a dramatic sound entirely their own, and their latest turns the page on an entirely new chapter in their ever-evolving career that has taken them around the world. Frontman Jordan Dreyer’s shouted/spoken-word vocals define the distinct character inherent here, but it’s only one of many engaging elements hidden within this dense, dynamic disc that makes it, not just one of the best in West Michigan, but one of the best of the year — period. — Eric Mitts

The Soil and The Sun cover

The Soil & The Sun
Meridian
Audiotree
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Over three albums, The Soil & The Sun has risen into one of West Michigan’s most original bands. The large ensemble’s latest, Meridian, crossed new boundaries, exploring even greater emotional range and pushing at the edges of their already extensive sound. Filled with layers of lush harmonies on excellent offerings like “Samyaza” and “Are You?” the lengthy release earned its long run-time, flowing together effortlessly, while encouraging additional listens. Like all the best art, this one is all about the experience, so prepare yourself for a truly transformative musical journey.  — Eric Mitts

look left

Look Left Swing Right
Self titled (EP)
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Look Left Swing Right’s self-titled EP is blistering with blast beats and killer riffs, with the occasional acoustic darkness that you don’t typically see in the subgenre. Not only does the album open with a soothing guitar riff, there is an instrumental ballad in the middle that takes you off guard, in a “kiss to the neck by your crush” sort of way. But it doesn’t last long. Just as you’re getting lost in it, BAM! comes the next track, more like a surprise vampire bite to the neck and finishes strong the whole way. The album is available at their shows for $2 or on BandCamp for a donation (don’t be stingy, guys). — Jen Moshpit

 stepdad 

Stepdad
Strange Tonight (EP)
Grand Rapids, Mich.

This indie pop outfit built quite a bit of momentum in both the local and national scenes with its 2010 EP debut Ordinaire and 2012’s full-length release titled Wildlife Pop. So, while it would have been just gravy to be able to wrap our greasy little fingers around another LP in 2014, StepDad did drop some new material in the form of Strange Tonight, released on Quiet Scientific Records. It was another masterful release that puts StepDad among the synth-pop heavyweights of current day. With blazing synth work and palpitation-inducing bass drops, the group continues to mature while building on what has facilitated its meteoric rise. — Jayson Bussa

BLACKGATE

Blackgate
Self titled
Grand Rapids, Mich.

This is the debut album from GR’s own (and, I believe the only) power-thrash outfit that arrived on the scene with the force of an F4 tornado this year. Part of that is due to a couple veteran members and the other part due to a chemistry, talent and drive that truly feels like the seedlings to an epic vessel of metal. The songs make me want to pillage a village, with amazing guitar riffs and soaring vocals that sound really polished on the album. The mix is really tight, although sounds a bit hollower than I want from my power metal. Overall, you really should see them live, and buy the CD for Dio’s sake, it’s only $5 when you check out a show.

 

 

Also check out:

The Go Rounds (Kalamazoo, Mich.)Purple Mountain Travesty

Heavier Than Air Flying Machines (Grand Rapids, Mich.)Novikov

Glowfriends (Kalamazoo, Mich.)Gather Us Together

Heaters (Grand Rapids, Mich.)Solstice

Alexis (Grand Rapids, Mich.)Love or Temptation

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