Which roller derby team has the most badass skate-out anthem? (Noisey)

Since it was revived in 2001, roller derby has evolved into a streamlined, highly competitive sport played by athletes who blend speed, grace and brutality. But while kitschier elements—tutus, penalty wheels and fishnets—have mostly fallen by the wayside in favor of emphasizing athleticism over spectacle, many teams still use intro music to pump up the crowd ahead of games. For Noisey, I asked the top 40 ranked WFTDA teams what they’re skating out to this year to find out which team rolls out to the dopest anthem.

Read more at Noisey, and find a playlist of the tracks at Spotify.

For what it’s worth, my personal favorite remains Iron Maiden’s “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” used briefly by my local Star City Roller Girls in 2007 and 2008.

Murder ballads & story songs with Anna & Elizabeth (Noisey)

A woman walks into the woods, gives birth to a couple of children and subsequently kills them. They appear as ghosts and condemn her to hell. This isn’t a black metal epic or Clive Barker movie, but “The Greenwood Sidey,” a nearly four-hundred-year-old song passed down through generations from the highlands of Scotland to the dark hollows of Appalachia. In this case, it’s illustrated with a hand-woven scroll moved slowly through a specially built cabinet, known as a “crankie,” that displays scenes from the song to its audience. This is the work of Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, a pair of 27-year-old women who perform these old songs and who released their self-titled second album on Tuesday.

Both sing and play an array of traditional instruments, but in recording and performance, LaPrelle, who grew up in Rural Retreat, Virginia, takes the lead in belting out the old songs, while Roberts-Gevalt, who grew up in Vermont and makes her home in Baltimore, shoulders the load when it comes to playing fiddle and other stringed instruments. The duo plays a variety of rollicking instrumentals and traditional tunes, but in live performances, it’s the storytelling ballads that are the show-stoppers, especially if it’s one of the eight songs with an accompanying crankie to illustrate the tale. The two also host the monthly Floyd Radio Show, now in its fourth season, which has featured the Black Twig Pickers and members of Old Crow Medicine Show among its guests, and they regularly schedule time to speak to elementary students between tour stops.

I interviewed Anna and Elizabeth for Noisey about the story behind “The Greenwood Sidey,” how crankies engage their audience, and exactly why these old, twisted songs have endured for so long.

Read the interview and stream “Greenwood Sidey” at Noisey.

Fugazi’s politics are still frighteningly relevant today (Noisey)

On the 1988 self-titled EP by Washington, D.C.’s Fugazi, Ian MacKaye sang, “You can’t be what you were”—a line directed, perhaps, at fans expecting a new iteration of Minor Threat, Rites of Spring or Embrace. But it could also have applied to the Fugazi of 2002, looking back at a fifteen-year run as it geared up for its final U.S. and European tours. The band evolved musically and lyrically over six albums, three EPs and more than 1,000 live shows played around the world. During that run, Fugazi built its own culture around low ticket prices, offbeat venues and expectations that its audience members would treat one another with respect.

The band’s albums are packed with political songs that still resonate today, from “Suggestion,” a song about rape from the first EP with implications that play directly into the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, to “Five Corporations” from 1998’s End Hits, which addresses the ever-growing influence of multinational companies. The band’s final album, 2001’s The Argument, was released a month after the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the performances that followed in 2002 occurred during those bizarre, awkward months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.

MacKaye and Picciotto often devoted time between songs to discussing issues such as patriotism, gentrification and the increasing militarization of America’s police departments—topics that remain as crucial today as in 2002.

For more, read my story on Fugazi’s politics, then and now, at Noisey.

Favorite Music of 2014

Caveats:

1) I’m too old and poor to try and hear everything anymore. I’m sure I’d dig FKA twigs and maybe even enjoy Taylor Swift’s new record, but my attention has been focused elsewhere. I buy what I like, and sometimes fate brings me new music that I find I like too.

2) I didn’t even get to hear everything that I do like. I enjoyed Pallbearer’s debut but haven’t heard “Foundations of Burden” yet. There’s a lot more I heard once or twice in a stream, but haven’t revisited. The biggest name here would be Afghan Whigs, “Do To the Beast.” No doubt it would be on this list if I had a chance to dig in further but somehow I haven’t.

3) This is a snapshot of December 2014. Catch me on a different day and I’ll be talking about different records.

4) I consume most of my music in the car or, more often, while running. That means I favor up-tempo records with strong melodies and rhythms. I appreciate other music, too, but my running means I’ve got a bias that’s reflected here.

With that:

15. Primordial – “Where Greater Men Have Fallen”

Primordial’s newest album, and the third I’ve dug into, came out late in November so I haven’t had the chance to fully digest it. For me, Primordial occupies the spot Amon Amarth used to hold down: solid, competently-played metal with heroic overtones that makes me feel like slaying a dragon. Primordial plays with more soul than Amon Amarth and has a better hit-to-miss ratio, but it’s similar in that there’s not a whole lot of variation between albums. Doesn’t mean it’s not good stuff.

14. Aby Ngana Diop – “Liital”

African funk music, particularly of the “Nigeria ’70” variety, has taken an increasingly larger proportion of my listening the last couple of years. I got introduced to the Awesome Tapes From Africa label through a BBC audio documentary, and this was the first album I picked up. Aby Ngana Diop’s got a siren of a voice, matching and at times overwhelming the percussive accompaniment and backing singers.

13. Sun Worship – “Elder Giants”

Like African funk, black metal has taken a greater share my listening space in 2014 than in the past. Sun Worship’s “Elder Giants” attracted my attention because it was free, then held it because of its burning, trancey melodies and savage riffs.

12. Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”

For a couple of years in the earliest 2000s my favorite band was Ween. I caught it during the back half of its peak, before Gene and Dean started trying to write more serious pure pop songs. Mac DeMarco basically writes versions of the catchiest Ween songs from that period (think “Chocolate & Cheese” through “Quebec”), but because he doesn’t share billing with a co-collaborator he’s free to progress in ways that Gene and Dean were not. I’m eager to hear what he does over the next few years.

11. Röyksopp & Robyn – “Do It Again”

Robyn’s “Body Talk” remains my favorite pop record of the past few years. Every song sounds like a single, and it still holds up in 2014. On “Do It Again” she took a different tack, collaborating with Röyksopp to produce an EP that sounds like more of a proper “serious” electronic album while still including bangers like the title track.

10. Death – “Leprosy”

I hesitate to include reissues, but here we go anyway. “Leprosy” is my favorite Death album, mixing the savagery of its first record with just a hint of the progressiveness to come. I rank it this low only because the reissue improves on the original, but only marginally. The demos that come with the 2-CD version are OK; the live material on the 3-CD version is better but not essential.

9. Nightfell – “The Living Ever Mourn”

This Portland band feels almost generic in the way it incorporates so many standard elements of metal—but it plays them so well it elevates the album. Hardly a minute goes by without something awesome happening, and it’s hard to ask much more than that. For a brief, 2-week window this was my favorite album of the year.

8. Mastodon – “Once More Round the Sun”

Mastodon’s first four albums are unfuckwithable. Even “Crack the Skye,” which represented a noticeable softening in the band’s sound, remains essential in that it drove the Georgia sludgesters in new directions while crafting a cosmic enigma of a concept album. I didn’t dig “The Hunter” at all, but “Once More Round the Sun” feels like a return to form. It’s not quite on the level of those first four, but it’s a consistently fun listen that proved one of my albums of the summer.

7. Fugazi – “Roanoke, VA USA 4/13/96”

What a cheat. This was recorded 18 years ago and isn’t a 2014 album in any sense except that Dischord happened to release it this year. And yet. I’d heard some negative things about this show—that it was disappointing, didn’t live up to expectations, and so on—but in reality it serves as a tightly wound example of Fugazi at its best. I can feel these guitar lines like an electric shock, and even though it was disappointing to hear Guy Picciotto confuse Roanoke with the lost colony, Ian MacKaye makes up for it by revealing the band ate at Macado’s.

6. Inter Arma – “The Cavern”

I included Inter Arma’s “Sky Burial” in my Favorite Music of 2013 list, but that’s an album that really worked as a slow burn for me. It took me multiple listens, well into this year, before I really got it as a longer work of music with multiple movements. “The Cavern,” written early in the band’s career but not recorded and released until 2014, feels much more immediate. Maybe it’s the fact it’s presented as one long track, but it feels cohesive and epic in a much more obvious way than “Sky Burial.” That doesn’t mean it’s better, exactly, but I do feel it will do more to establish the Richmond band’s reputation. Call it the “Dopesmoker” effect.

5. Nux Vomica – “Nux Vomica”

This is an album I threw on for the first time during a run, and I feel like my ears traveled as far as my feet. Nux Vomica, now defunct, built numerous digressions and stylistic shifts into three tracks on its self-titled album, infusing crust, hardcore and death metal with soaring melodies. This is exactly what I want when I run: A rhythm section that keeps my legs moving while the melodic portions take my head into the stratosphere.

4. Blut Aus Nord – “Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry”

In some ways Blut Aus Nord could have held a higher position, but I chose to go by album rather than my experience with the band. This year I listened quite a bit to “777 – Cosmosophy,” an experimental take on industrial metal, and “The Work Which Transforms God,” which apparently jumpstarted the trend of mixing shoegaze with black metal. It’s the “Memoria Vestusta” series that defines Blut Aus Nord for me, though—soaring second-wave-inspired black metal that plumbs the reaches of the cosmos. I haven’t fully processed this album just yet, but find myself getting lost in the majesty and chaos. That’s good enough for now.

3. Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels II”

Run the Jewels appeared on last year’s list, but what a difference a year makes. I found the first RTJ album interesting, but it paled in comparison to Killer Mike’s “R.A.P. Music.” RTJ2 stands on its own merits, mixing crazy beats with some of the best vocal work that Killer Mike & El-P have done yet. The whole thing is engaging and grabbed my attention from the get-go. And it makes a killer running soundtrack.

2. Sturgill Simpson – “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

So, on a long drive west from Virginia to Iowa, I tweeted that I was listening to Chris LeDoux, a primary inspiration for Garth Brooks (in the best way possible) and one of my late ‘90s favorites. Michael Fortes responded by asking if I’d heard Sturgill Simpson’s new record. I hadn’t, but asked a record clerk in Kansas City about this album. She absolutely melted. At first I tagged Simpson as a Waylon Jennings clone playing revivalist outlaw country—there are far worse genres to revive than that one—with some Pink Floydy instrumental flourishes. Subsequent listens reveal something a bit deeper, as Simpson could have fit into that original outlaw movement and held his own quite nicely.

1. Ex Hex – “Rips”

Mary Timony has for years stood as one of my all-time favorites, a consistent chartreuse too often overlooked among the indie rock greats. Wild Flag, her collaboration with Carrie Brownstein, held promise but too many fans expected Sleater-Kinney 2.0 and compared her unfavorably to Corin Tucker. What a fallacy. Timony deserves to be judged on her own merits. With Ex Hex, she’s somehow taken her own, steady brand of progressive indie rock and grafted it onto a garage template for a style of music that represents a throwback and look at the future simultaneously, preserving her unique musical style while also moving it forward with a catchier, more immediate style. Perfection. My only hesitation in naming this my Album of the Year is that I see so much room for progression and further improvement.

Best album from 2013 discovered this year: Cult of Fire “मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान”

My early 2014 was littered with 2013 albums I didn’t discover until after writing this post last year. Agrimonia’s “Rites of Separation” was one of my favorite albums all year, and a sibling to Nux Vomica in style. Ultimately, however, I listened more to “मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान,” a killer mix of black metal, trancey eastern passages and instruments and catchy, memorable songs. It’s one of those records where I’d find the songs stuck in my head and had to think for a bit before I remembered the source.

Throwback, Best Album of 1994: Bjork – “Post”

I still remember the day I bought Bjork’s “Post.” It was one of the few albums I bought the day it came out—June 13, 1995—at a record store in the shopping center at the top of the University of Rhode Island, where I was visiting for orientation and would spend the next four years. I’d mixed Bjork’s earlier album, “Debut,” into my listening mix during my junior and senior years in high school, but “Post” took it to a whole new level. I wore this album out at URI, especially that freshman year. In the longview, I think 2001’s “Vespertine” is probably the superior album and Bjork’s master work, but “Post” brings back so many memories and still serves as my favorite album from her and from 1995.

Past:
Best of 2013: Subrosa “More Constant Than the Gods”

Best of 2012: Converge “All We Love We Leave Behind”

Some thoughts on Sturgill Simpson’s “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”

It’s surprising that outlaw country has yet to experience a full-fledged resurgence by a new wave of musicians.

Or then again, maybe not: As long as Willie Nelson is still alive and performing, do we really need a new generation of musicians to take up the torch?

One listen to Sturgill Simpson’s 2014 album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” provides the listener an answer in the affirmative.

Simpson’s likely to be the herald of a new wave of outlaw-style country musicians. It’s a great candidate for revival, given its solid, funky rhythms, its well-made tropes and the fact it makes for damn good bar music.

Simpson has a solid grasp of outlaw fundamentals: A great voice that all but channels the great Waylon Jennings; catchy melodies; aggressive yet restrained guitar solos.

But he also pushes the boundaries enough to make the music his own. Probably the most publicized twist has been his lyrical content, which balances spiritual questing, complete with mentions of Jesus, the devil, Buddha and of course love on “Turtles All the Way Down,” with explicit drug references: One lyric in the same tune name-drops “Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, DMT.” Another song is called “Long White Line” and works both as a road song and ode to cocaine. It’s not like the old outlaws didn’t mention their experiments with various mind-altering substances, but this certainly is kicking it up a notch.

Simpson’s band isn’t afraid to push the edges, either, and this really is where the album shines. The music goes spacey several times, most notably the ostensible album closer (actually the next to last track) “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which uses backwards tracking.

I came upon “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” almost by chance, when a friend asked me via Twitter if I’d heard it. Since that first listen, though, it and Mastodon’s “Once More Round the Sun” have gone a long way toward defining my summer.

Favorite Music of 2013

Caveats:

1) I’m too old and poor to try and hear everything anymore. I enjoyed Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010 but didn’t feel compelled to search out “Yeezus” this year. I buy what I like, and sometimes fate brings me new music that I find I like too.

2) I didn’t even get to hear everything that I do like. Melt Banana is one of my top 25 bands of all time, but I didn’t get around to hear “Fetch” except through an online stream, once. No doubt it would be on this list if I had a chance to dig in further.

3) This is a snapshot of December 2013. Catch me on a different day and I’ll be talking about how ASG is the new Jane’s Addiction but with more southern flair, or how Rotting Christ’s new album does for the orcs what Amon Amarth does for the heroes of “Lord of the Rings.”

So with that:

15. Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – “The Abstract & the Dragon”

This mixtape came out so late in the year that I haven’t had time to fully absorb it, but I’ve listened enough to knock Steve Martin & Edie Brickell’s duet LP “Love Will Come to You” off the list. This mixtape is a conscious return to the boom-bap styles of “Low End Theory,” which of course helped launch Busta Rhymes as a hop-hop star. I like all the tracks pretty well, and about half are fantastic, which is a pretty good percentage for the first few listens.

14. Action Bronson & Party Supplies – “Blue Chips 2”

The second “Blue Chips” mix from Action Bronson, this time pairing him with Party Supplies, plays just like a good mixtape should: It’s got fun samples and the rhymes feel appropriately loose and spontaneous. Action Bronson maintains his usual wit while continuing to develop his own style, i.e. he doesn’t sound like Ghostface any more.

13. Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels”

I guess this was intended as a quick toss-off collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P. Certainly it doesn’t run nearly as deep in terms of themes as Killer Mike’s awesome “R.A.P. Music” last year. That makes it all the more fun in some ways, as the two rappers blast through loud soundscapes, rhyming about verbal violence the whole way.

12. Inter Arma – “Sky Burial”

Inter Arma hails from Richmond, a city whose metal scene I’d stack against any in the U.S. Inter Arma continues to showcase the malleability of black metal, mixing it here to great effect with post-rock’s epic builds.

11. Lee Ranaldo & The Dust – “Last Night on Earth”

Sonic Youth has broken up, but it continues through the splinter projects of its various members. I’ve always thought Ranaldo was the most underrated member of the band, but while his SY contributions have been the most songwriterly of the group, his previous solo work has been mostly driven by guitar feedback. That changed here with an album devised in part as a tribute to the Grateful Dead. Strong songs, well played that advance Ranaldo’s career arc while throwing plenty of red meat to Sonic Youth fans as well.

10. Dillinger Escape Plan – “One of Us Is the Killer”

DEP is the spiritual and audio successor to Faith No More, and “One of Us Is the Killer” continues to make that clear. Vocalist Greg Puciato almost sounds a little *too much* like Mike Patton at times, but that’s appropriate for a band and a record that veers as much as this one does. There are plenty of breakneck mathcore songs, but they’re broken up by dips into other styles and genres so that it doesn’t get repetitive or boring.

9. Phosphorescent – “Muchacho”

Ambient alt-country in the vein of Emmylou Harris’s “Spyboy” period and collaborations with Daniel Lanois. In this case, however, Matthew Houck did pretty much everything himself — though he notably admitted Brian Eno as an influence.

8. Carcass – “Surgical Steel”

Fantastic return to form from the grindcore/death-metal legends. Even without Michael Amott (Arch Enemy) they essentially wrapped together their first four classic albums (minus “Swansong,” which isn’t so bad if you take it as a great death’n’roll record) with a heavy focus on “Heartwork.” Here’s to another 10 years.

7. Portal – “Vexovoid”

Crazy on-the-edge death metal that will sound bizarre and scary to folks who aren’t into death metal or even those who are if they skew to the traditional stuff. That’s a good bit of the reason why I like it: It’s different and kind of fun, and if you listen enough the patterns start to reveal themselves, and you start to look at music and life a little differently.

6. Kylesa – “Ultraviolet”

Kylesa, on the other hand, is following its fellow Georgia bands by evolving away from sludge into something else. The great thing about this Georgia sludge movement, though, is that that “something else” is different for Mastodon, Baroness & now Kylesa. When I first streamed “Ultraviolet” I got a little bored, but it quickly settled in under my skin and has become one of my favorite front-to-back listens this year.

5. Black Twig Pickers – “Rough Carpenters”

The Black Twig Pickers have lit up Southwest Virginia’s old-time scene with a series of albums, live performances and side projects over the last few years, to the point where they’ve landed a place on Thrill Jockey and left a national mark as well. “Rough Carpenters” ups the ante by adding second fiddler Sally Anne Morgan. It’s their strongest album to date and bodes well for the future.

4. Chance the Rapper – “Acid Rap”

Chance the Rapper seems to bypass trends and movements, and as a result this mixtape is a stylistic thing unto itself. In a lot of ways it reminds me of last year’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” from Kendrick Lamar, not so much in style as in the fact it so perfectly sketches out an individual and the city, lives and world around him. Witty, funny, sad and soulful, this was not just my favorite hip-hop debut this year, but my favorite hip-hop record overall.

3. William Onyeabor – “Who Is William Onyeabor?”

Rarely has the joy of discovery struck me more deeply than did finding the music of William Onyeabor this year. I’d heard his “Better Change Your Mind” on Nigeria 70, of course, but hearing an isolated track on a compilation doesn’t hit quite as hard as a full-album immersion. Onyeabor’s music ran far ahead of its time, to the point where it still sounds timeless and futuristic all at once. Compare him to Sun Ra or George Clinton or Thelonious Monk; similar to Chance the Rapper, Onyeabor’s music lives in a universe of its own.

2. Cough/Windhand – “Reflection of the Negative”

For a good chunk of the year, this was my favorite record. It set the stage for Windhand’s double LP “Soma,” which made a lot of other top-10 lists, but this was the superior effort for me. Windhand’s two songs here would sit among the stronger tunes on “Soma,” too, but in this context they’re paired with the 18-minute “Athame,” a beast of a dirge from Cough. Two great tastes that doom great together. I found myself returning to this well early and often.

1. SubRosa – “More Constant Than the Gods”

Only doom can displace doom, and as much as “Reflection of the Negative” stuck in my craw, it couldn’t help but be jarred loose by the soaring violins and dirgey riffs of SubRosa’s “More Constant Than the Gods” when it came out in September. SubRosa’s last album, “No Help for the Mighty Ones,” came as a revelation to me in 2011 and it’s remained a fixture in my playlists. “More Constant” tops it with better songwriting, a better array of stylistic diversity and tunes that got firmly lodged beneath the skin and on a loop in my head.

Best album from 2012 discovered this year: Royal Thunder “CVI”

Metal-influenced rock anchored by a powerhouse female singer who’s not afraid to belt out her songs. In some ways Royal Thunder feels like the modern-day version of Heart, but that’s saddling them with unfair expectations. I first heard Royal Thunder through the Requiem Metal Podcast’s “Best of 2012” episodes before sampling them through the free, 3-song acoustic “CVI:A.” By the time I got around to checking out the full album, the pump was primed and it hit me right.

Best concert: Dave Rawlings Machine in Asheville, Nov. 22 at the Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC

Dave Rawlings Machine, from left: John Paul Jones, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Paul Kowert & Willie Watson

Dave Rawlings Machine, from left: John Paul Jones, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Paul Kowert & Willie Watson

My wife & I went to this show in Asheville with the expectation of seeing Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch and some songs from “A Friend of a Friend,” Rawlings’ great 2009 album. We did get that — but we also got unexpected appearances from current & former members of the Punch Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show. We got a version of the Great American Songbook — the show opened with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and included “Dear Landlord > Candyman > Dear Landlord,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “The Weight,” “I Hear Them All > This Land Is Your Land” and more.

And we got to unexpectedly see a living legend, in unannounced guest John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. Jones played mandolin and wasn’t formally acknowledged until near the end of the second set. I can see why he wasn’t announced — I can’t imagine this show had it been full of Zep fans screaming for their favorite tunes, when the only Zep cover the Dave Rawlings Machine played was “Going to California.”

Instead, we were treated to a night of well-played songs, including a JPJ mandolin solo on Welch’s “Wayside/Back In Time” that I’ll remember for quite some time. There’s a fuller review of the tour-opening Knoxville show here, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a live album from this tour at some point.