Top 5 in 2014

top5It’s been quite a year for music in Berlin (isn’t every year though?), and on the last day of the year, we here at Berlin Beat wanted to share with you our very subjective highlights of 2014. Naturally, there’s some overlap in our likes and dislikes, but overall, each of us has our own distinct taste in music, ranging from psychedelic garage rock and atmospheric indie rock to lo-fi rock and straight-up punk, which means we probably wouldn’t be able to agree on a top anything if we tried. So instead, a few of us decided to offer a peek at our personal lists of top five everything: albums, interviews, venues, shows, and more, both in Berlin and beyond. Love it? Hate it? Notice something missing? Let us know your picks in the comments!

Top 5 Albums

1. Ty Segall – Manipulator
2. Ariel Pink – pom pom
3. Allah-Las – Worship The Sun
4. Foxygen -… And Star Power
5. Total Control – Typical System

“Crowned prince of the garage-pop monarchy Ty Segall really blew me out of the marbled water this year with the release of his seventh spawn since 2008, ‘Manipulator.’ While riddled with glistening gems, ‘Feel’ is the track that pulls one side of your mouth into a lopsided bass-scrunch, eyes closing into fuzzy throes of joy, launching your limp body into the kaleidoscopic realms of—wait, what does the sign say?—that’s right, Garage Paradise. Segall backs it all up with his famously spasmodic, sweaty, lightning-strike of a live show.”

Top 5 Berlin Festivals

1. Our/Berlin Music Week
2. Torstraßen Festival
3. Schokoladen Hoffest
4. Feel Festival
5. First We Take Berlin

“For the second year in a row, the lovely ladies behind Nordic By Nature pulled off another fantastic Our/Berlin Music Week, which is arguably the best part of Berlin Music Week. This year, there were three days of talented musicians, delicious food and drink, sunshine and smiles, and fun sponsored giveaways. It’s always a stress-free way to spend an afternoon, and a big plus is that all of the great music is in one spot, so no running around to different venues or trying to coordinate your schedule. I’m already looking forward to the third installation of this.”

Top 5 Berlin Gig Venues

1. Monarch
2. Heimathafen
3. Magnet
4. Badeschiff Escobar Sommerloft
5. Berghain

“Sometimes best means best, and sometimes best means best/worst. Monarch is sometimes the worst: super sweaty, awkward seating arrangements, occasionally questionable sound. But what it lacks, it compensates with an abundance of charm, cheap drinks, a great view of Kotti and—most importantly—the chance to see brilliant touring bands on a tiny, friendly stage. Howler and East India Youth were particularly brilliant there this year.”

Top 5 Berlin Releases

1. Friend Crush – Friend Crush (Tape)
2. Haunted House – Brave The Woods (LP)
3. mOck – Components (EP)
4. maybecyborgs – Panic Shirt (EP)
5. Brabrabra – Mango (Tape)

Top 5 Berlin Shows

1. Foxygen – Frannz Club – November 5
2. Girl Band – ACUD Macht Neu – September 6
3. Goat – Postbahnhof – September 23
4. Ty Segall – Astra – November 6
5. Allah-Lahs – C-Club – October 15

“I attended an absurd amount of gigs in 2014 and many great ones—it’s difficult to spread them out and begin the process of disentanglement. The one that’s probably going to stick with me after the others, however, was Foxygen at Frannz Club in Berlin. It’s a small, packed-in venue and the show blew out the walls. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from these guys, as they’d set themselves a pretty twisted and ambitious soundtrack to rebreathe this year with “…And Star Power,” but they surpassed my wildest dreams. Nine people crammed the stage, including three back-up dancers, and Sam France was nothing short of mesmerizing—a synthesis of Jagger, Iggy, Bowie, and Byrne all rolled up in one deliciously lanky, pink-haired piece of Californian chaos.”

1. Jonah Matranga – House Show – September 7
2. RVIVR, Friend Crush – Bei Ruth – October 27
3. Astronautalis, Black Cracker – SchwuZ – May 9
4. Sport, mOck, Gulfer – Cassiopeia – July 20
5. Geoff Farina, The Dropout Patrol – House Show – January 13

“In contrast to previous years, where I went to multiple shows a week, I really scaled back on concert attendance in 2014, which resulted in going to a lot of really quality shows of musicians I love and respect. For me, it was easy to rank Jonah Matranga’s house show as the best because of three criteria: First, it was an afternoon show on a warm late summer day, taking place in a flat where the windows were open and the breeze was flowing in. Second, the majority of the people at the concert were children under the age of 10, most of whom were not familiar with Matranga’s music but who danced and laughed and played and had fun. Third, I could not stop smiling, but I think that’s the case at most of Matranga’s shows. He is such a kind-hearted, warm, excited, genuine person, and though he’s been doing this for years, it still matters to him, and that’s evident.”

Top 5 Interviews

1. Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal
2. Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings – for being the first double-Berlin Beat interview
3. Eoin Loveless, Drenge – for telling the most probable fibs
4. George Mitchell, Eagulls – for talking zero bullshit
5. Humans of Feel Festival – for the joy of having to transcribe my own half-tipsy German

“There’s something really magic about Kevin Barnes. It could have been his huge fluffy coat, or how softly he speaks, or the complete contrast of his wildly confident on-stage character, but I think it’s that he’s full of secrets.”

Top 5 Shows That Made Me a Bit Teary-Eyed 

1. Neutral Milk Hotel – Postbahnhof – August 5
2. Brand New – Bi Nuu – April 24
3. How to Dress Well – Berliner Festspiele – June 29
4. King Krule – Heimathafen – April 9
5. Cloud Nothings – Badeschiff – August 18

“Just in case my soppy, gushing review didn’t stress this enough: Neutral Milk Hotel is ridiculously brilliant. The band’s short-lived reunion is winding down, now, so the Postbahnhof show was Berlin’s final chance to pay its dues. There was a weird but heady mix of sadness and celebration in the air, temporarily soothed by Mangum’s new beard and the exuberance of that horn section, and it made for an electric, poignant, EXCELLENT show. Everyone cried and hugged and isn’t that the best kind of show, really?”

Top 5 Tracks

1. Ariel Pink – Black Ballerina
2. Amen Dunes – Splits Are Parted
3. Panda Bear – Boys Latin
4. Low Life – Dogging
5. Ty Segall – Feel

“Ariel Pink takes the chocolate ripple sponge cake here for creating the ridiculous, infectious shimmy-down ‘Black Ballerina.’ As with all things Pink, there’s a sufficient dose of creepiness in this track, including a spoken scene in which a jovial old fellow takes his bewildered grandson to LA’s purported best strip club, and the kid gets berated for touching things he shouldn’t. ‘Black Ballerina’ features a bassline like an evil rubber duckie, leering in the bath when you’re four years old and grinding itself against the ceramic. It leaves you licking imaginary whipped cream from your lips, while Pink asks you politely to take off your underwear and sings to you about elevators. Delicious freakishness from the twisted lo-fi wizard.”

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