Year-In-Review: Top 10 local albums of 2014

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

By any metric, 2014 was a stellar year for local music. Even narrowing this list to 10 proved a challenge, and any of these records could have easily nabbed the top spot depending on the day of the week and/or my mood. With that said, here are the local releases I found myself returning to with the most frequency these last 12 months.

10. Copywrite:Murderland: Choose Your Own Adventure

Copywrite's latest, a collaboration with producer Surock, is less notable for its concept (the track list is meant to be shuffled choose-your-own-adventure style) than the rapper's confessional style. The booming MC leaves blood on the tracks on songs like "Trouble," which spends less time dwelling on Copy's rocky past than a future he views as limitless.

9. Damn the Witch Siren:Superdelicious

If it weren't for the presence of singer/sparkplug Bobbi Kitten, who imbues empowering tunes like "Pearls and Lace" and "Thrill Me" with a deep-seated humanity, I'd file this one under The Machines Are Winning. Credit bandmate Z. Wolf with constructing an urgent electronic backdrop that hits like the Matrix sprung to life.

8. The Girls!:Let's Not Be Friends

It's been a heartbreaking year for the pop-loving collective, whose guitarist, Joey Blackheart, died unexpectedly in July. The songs on Let's Not Be Friends are a testament to the band's natural chemistry, singer Jessica Wabbit and Co. bounding through immediately hummable cuts borne of summer crushes and romantic loss.

7. Connections:Into Sixes

The fuzzy power-pop quintet's latest continues its winning streak, piling on hook-laden guitar gems like "Beat the Sky," a song that would double as the ideal house guest in that it leaves an immediate positive impression and refuses to linger, clocking in at just over three minutes - par for the course on an album where the average track runs comfortably under three minutes.

6. Blueprint:Respect the Architect

Everything from Blueprint's chosen moniker to the title of his latest hints at his deep respect for the foundations of hip-hop. It's fitting then he strips his music down to the studs here, delivering a fierce, soul-stoked effort that does the genre's roots proud.

5. Lo-Pan:Colossus

Colossus is every bit as huge as its title suggests, building on Jesse Bartz's muscular drums, heavy-yet-nimble guitar riffage, and singer Jeff Martin's rich, revelatory vocals, which hit a melodic peak on the stone-cut "Marathon Man." "This is just the beginning," he howls, and it's terrifying to think he might be right.

4. Ipps:Everything Is Real

Ipps, led by husband/wife team Emily and Bo Davis (formerly of Necropolis), covers its propulsive, scuzzy output in layers of guitar static that cling to the tunes like thick Georgia kudzu.

3. Old Hundred:Let in the Light

Lyrically, the art-folk band's latest rarely walks a straight line, piling on murky references to light and dark, angels, and mysterious voices calling out from the ether. Musically, however, the record moves with unfailing confidence and grace.

2. Saintseneca:Dark Arc

The folk-rock collective, led by frontman/lone constant Zac Little, applies its weightier sound (the guitars here are even plugged in on occasion) to a host of relentlessly gorgeous tunes that tackle equally outsized ideas like the recurring cycle of death and rebirth.

1. Unholy Two:Talk About Hardcore

Far from easy listening, the latest from the noise-rock crew is deeply unsettling, with the bandmates wielding their instruments like would-be torture implements. Its worldview is equally poisoned, with songs built around lyrics that appear to view humanity as yet another virus that needs snuffed out. This music's as searing as it is unshakeable.