PHILTHY’s Top 10 Musical Moments of 2014… According to a Child of the ‘90s

I recently reached a milestone… I turned 30… That would seem to mean quite a few things.  I think it means I have to stop referring to myself as...

I recently reached a milestone… I turned 30… That would seem to mean quite a few things.  I think it means I have to stop referring to myself as “a kid.”  It probably means I should stop wearing driving gloves as an accessory… as I’m not Joey Ramone… But it also means that I’m slightly out of touch with what the kids are listening to… Not in the sense that I don’t recognize the names gracing the headlines of Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan… But that I simply don’t care… The new Ariel Pink record is really good?  Is it?  Is it better than If You’re Feeling Sinister?  Well, then why wouldn’t I just listen to If You’re Feeling Sinister?  Hence, many of my live highlights of recent years have not necessarily been those performances from the “next big thing in indie rock,” or someone reinventing the wheel, but often something that evokes a nostalgia for my past, as a kid who grew up in the ‘90s and by age 8 was wishing he was old enough to go to Lollapalooza and see bands like The Breeders and Red Hot Chili Peppers (You know, back when they were good?) and whose teen years were primarily concerned with post-punk and new wave, which went on to be revived in a pretty big way right around the turn of the century.  So here, for you, is a list of my ten, personal, favorite moments of 2014… Although if you’re not yet of legal drinking age, you may have to ask your big sister why all of this stuff is so cool…

10. Dum Dum Girls – “Zombie” @ Union Transfer (10/31)

Undoubtedly, 2014’s must amusing musical moment occurred at Making Time’s Halloween bash, amidst a Union Transfer shrouded in festively bloodied bed sheets… And that moment came courtesy of post-punk inspired noisy, dreamy shoegazers Dum Dum Girls, whose humor is apparently just as infectious as their melancholy.  The girls, who were decked out as the living dead, had just kicked out an hour of their morose, gothic new wave jams before they decided to close the set with their take on The Cranberries’ 1994 mega-hit, pop “protest song.”   And the most amusing thing about it was that it was actually pretty good… at least that’s what I’m told… I really couldn’t focus on much due to the laughing…

9. The Baseball Project – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” @ World Café Live (7/28)

Hearing arguably R.E.M.’s greatest song ever performed by one of the guys who wrote it in a “café,” in front of about 100, is something I never expected to experience, and something that did make me slightly weak in the knees… Okay, so it was in the middle of a set of songs about the amusements of baseball but, for its context, it couldn’t get much more profound…

8. … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “It Was There That I Saw You” @ Underground Arts (2/26)

I must admit that 12 years ago, when post-hardcore art rockers … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead released their third LP, which Pitchfork famously gave a perfect 10/10 and which was hailed as the second coming of Daydream Nation, we all assumed that they were destined to pack theatres for decades to come … sadly, that didn’t happen.  Critical praise and popular attendance alike dwindled as the band expanded their sound to include things like baroque pop and prog rock.  While I’m a firm believer that they do still kick ass, they never kicked ass quite like they did on Source Tags & Codes and the epically violent crescendo that kicks off the album’s opening track made me feel like I was angsty, 18-year-old-Izzy-at-the-Black-Cat again…

7. Pixies – “U-Mass”/“Head On” @ The Electric Factory (1/24)

At a point in my life when I had realized that being an academic was useless, but being suicidal was a bit gauche, hearing probably the most brilliant band of my lifetime churn out their ode to academia, coupled with possibly the greatest anthem ever of hope for the hopeless, penned by The Jesus & Mary Chain, made me realize that, although I might be living in a laughable inferno, my CD player and I have spent our lives in good company…

6. Perfect Pussy/Joanna Gruesome/Potty Mouth @ the Church (8/28)

This was, without a doubt, the most solid line-up to hit Philly in 2014… Arguably the best band in the world (Potty Mouth) churned out an upliftingly raucous set of lo-fi post-riot grrrl power pop, before feminist, queer-minded intellectuals (Joanna Gruesome) upped the volume and angst with an assault of punk-inspired noise pop, and then Perfect Pussy drove a nail into the coffin of the evening with about 15-minutes of an incomprehensible, ear-splitting hardcore anti-spectacle of Refused proportions… all in the course of about 90 minutes… oh, and it was in a church basement… If there was a barometer to measure how “punk” any given entity could be, this evening surely would have short-circuited it…

5. Johnny Marr – “Still Ill” @ Union Transfer (11/10)

30 years on and it’s become clear that “Still Ill,” the anti-state anthem of the unlovable and unemployable is the most “Smiths” Smiths song ever written. And while Steve, or the Mozzer (who also recently reintroduced this particular number into his repertoire), is often caricaturized for his presentation of leftism in opera-box-lined theaters doused in art deco and the voice of a high-rolling crooner, hearing Mr. Marr sing the number with the voice of a working-class lad and the musical competence of a romantically unlikely prodigy humbly insinuates that “radicalism” not only produces the best art, but that it’s often quite poignant.

4. The Sounds – “Hope You’re Happy Now” @ Union Transfer (4/8)

At a time when a generation of pissed-and-fabulous youthful subculturalists were infatuated with Blondie, Ramones, and The Smiths, new-wave revivalists The Sounds’ debut record was one of the few contemporary “sounds” that could satisfy said crowd.  And although I’m not necessarily a fan [and neither should you be] of their past several records of radio pop and “electronic” music, their first two albums of danceable punk perfection will remain in contention for the soundtrack of me moving out of my parents’ house in my biopic… And this tune from their self-titled record, twelve years later, still proved to be a beautiful outlet for this smash-the-state revolutionary who, at the end of the day, could really just use a good fucking dance party…

3. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – “Suburban Space Invader” @ Underground Arts (10/24)

Although the crowd for Denmark’s The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s latest area appearance wasn’t especially impressive – in size or sartorial display – I still maintain that the psychedelic-and-jazz-inspired indie pop outfit is the most critically underrated band of their generation.  I’ve often described their sound as veering between the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film and the Jackson 5 on acid.  This particular track veers closer to the latter… And while the audience would never allude to it, this track; which offers an especially impressive cultural analysis of “modern people”; makes you want to wiggle your ass and pump your fists in joyous jubilation. It would be the perfect kind of funk for loosening up Baudrillard, Foucault, and Barthes at a backyard barbecue.

2. Placebo – “Every You Every Me” @ The TLA (10/08)

I’d like to give a big Bronx cheer to Placebo at their first US show in more than half a decade for this one of two songs played off of their first three records… In a set dominated by songs that the beautiful gender benders who once bridged the gap between Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins dedicated to radio rock songs that they’d penned for straight people who live in the suburbs, this one gem of pop transgression is a reminder that when this lovely group of anti-lads first came together their sights were set on creating “punk pop for postponed suicides.”

1. Veruca Salt – “Shutterbug” @ The TLA (7/22)

As a child prodigy of fandom of ‘90s alt rock, who was never able to actually see the bands that I grew up on in their true form, who entered adulthood in and fell in love with the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection a decade ago, seeing Veruca Salt on their first legit tour in 17 years, including all original members, play their 1997 “hit” “Shutterbug,” [an analysis of PJ Harvey’s obsession with former lover and “last living rock king” Nick Cave] and hearing Louise Post utter, “It’s morning in Philly,” was something that felt as though my three decades on the planet had been leading up to.

Live EventsMusic

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.