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Spanspek Favorite Music of 2014: Local Albums

Good morning folks! This is it, our last blog of the year! I'm so happy cause it means I can go back to sleeping at a normal hour! But more than that, it means sharing our favorite local albums of 2014!

And let me tell you, it was rough going coming up with the list this year! We listened to some 50 albums over the course of a few weeks, and the process was mind numbing to say the least. That said, it was well worth the effort, as the local scene has a lot to offer! Here now for your reading and listening pleasure are our favorite local albums of 2014

10.
Ralee Drennon (Visalia / Fresno, CA)
The surprise album from Tyrannosaurus Zebra frontman Raleigh Drennon drew praise from Friendcore followers all over. The album keeps the punk feel TZ fans know and love but slows the pace, adding killer lead guitar and cleaner vocals which emphasize Drennons way with melody. If Drennon makes a habit of dropping secret albums on the reg, we won't complain.

9.
Planets Live In Houses (Enjoyment Records)
When it comes to instrumental music, no one's doing it better than this Fresno quartet. PLIH imbue every note, every shade with a tonnage of emotion. It's as if words are not enough to express the rage, exuberance and sadness that their self-titled debut conveys. And though the music is technically intense, the band never lets on, performing every tune with the ease of a well trained orchestra. This the most beautiful album you'll hear all year.

8.
Zee Will (Fresno / San Jose, CA)
Gifted rapper Zee Will and a bevy of producers (including Sahab, ZenZan and Pictochat) make #StrategyGuide one of the more enjoyably diverse albums of the year. The mixtape runs the gamut with bangers ("Zeematic"), jazz breakdowns ("Lonely Nights"), and guaranteed pop hits ("Watchin"). Throughout Zee Will remains cool and confident within every style, which is just as well. That cool demeanor will come in handy as he tackles the Main Stages sure to be in his future.

7.
Rogues (Fresno, CA)
The debut from Fresno quintet Rogues is a finely tuned machine, refined to white hot perfection. By contrast, the emotions laying beneath the fine surface are messy, full of heartbreak and rejection (see standout tune "Nothing Special"). It's an album with a duality is what I'm saying, from a band which hides its inner turmoil under a cool exterior. 

6.
I Kill Cameron (Hanford / Fresno, CA)
Never has there been an album that represents it's creator better than The Better Half, the first of two solo albums released this year by Phoebe Zayas Munoz, better known as ukulele enthusiast I Kill Cameron. At times manic, confrontational, love struck, and depressive, the album can be overwhelming. Still, The Better Half succeeds in large part because of Zayas Munoz's uncanny ability to pull memorable tunes out of thin air. One listen and guaranteed you'll have at least half the songs stuck in your head for days on end.

5.
Kooleidoscope (Sanger / Fresno, CA)
2014 was a breakout year for drummer turned rapper/producer Kooleidoscope. The lyricist has been performing all over the Valley, even closing out this years edition of the Fresno Urban Sound Experience. Her success can be traced to earlier this year with the release of her excellent debut mixtape. On Expressing My Whatever Kooleidoscope uses her words to take down the barriers in her life, from homophobia (in the defining "About That Life") to your average sucka MC's. Kool shines in particular when working with producer Kelly Portis. Here's hoping a full collaboration will be in the works soon.

4.
Natural Thrills (Fresno, CA / New York, NY)
An early summer release that feels more at home during a rainy day, Natural Thrills follow up to their self-titled debut was all elegance and mood. The somber air that surrounds the record is owed largely to guitarist Justin Rodriguez, who's move to New York required the band to work together from afar. Rodriguez's fluid technique adds poignancy to every song, the best example being slumbering album closer "Every Damn Time". A marvelous record through and through.

3.
BedeDonia (Fresno, CA)
Accompanied by perfect Sufjan Steven's like production from Edo Plasschaert, the angelic voice of BedeDonia soars to some pretty amazing heights, even while delving into some of the harder aspects of life. On "Walking Out the Door" BedeDonia struggles with getting out of bed, waiting "...to feel something deeper". In "Hey, Beautiful" she provides a pep talk to an unhappy soul, reassuring the person (possibly even herself) that they are not alone. A wonderful sentiment from one of the Valleys strongest singer/songwriters working today.

2.
Dirty Limbs (Fresno, CA)
Excellent surf punk from the newish Fresno supergroup. The album never loses it's break neck pace, buzzing along with reverb drenched, hardly discernible vocals, fuzzed out guitars, and Audrey Johnson's impeccable drumming. A fun listen throughout, the record inspires surfing while smoking cigs and wearing shades. Kind of weird, but cool as fuck. Just like the Limbs like it.

1.
Sahab (Fresno, CA)
And with that we reach our favorite album of the year! And really, who else could it be but Fresno's resident analog wunderkind Sahab. Having released three magnificent EP's within the span of two years, Sahab is currently operating at the peak of his abilities. Every song on Dead Rabbit is a headphone wonder, ripe for music nerd analysis while also having the ability to get hips moving on the dance floor. 

Lead single "Opium" is pop perfection. "Purple" is icy cool personified, up until the beat dropping finale, after which shit gets serious. The EP comes to a head on album closer "Marcelindeya", Sahab's victorious attempt at making a minimalist version of a "Bohemian Rhapsody" style epic. In it, a warm bubbly synth and drum intro builds steadily in volume until it's presence is all encompassing. It's like Zen for the club and it's awesome.

Sahab's most recent release (the 808s and Heartbreak echoing Kittysiclosis) continues his trend of trying out different moods with every release, content only when his complex sensibilities are satisfied. It's an admirable trait with results that are consistently great. We feel lucky to be witness to such a talent at this moment in time.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Possessed Tranquility (Fresno, CA)

Slow Season (Visalia, CA)

Santa Mira (Fresno, CA)

Lezayr (Fresno, CA)


***

And that's it! We're done! Thank you so much to everyone for reading this blog, supporting our festival, and for being such great people! We'll see you next year with more local music, more shows, and the 10th edition of the Spanspek Music and Arts Festival!!!!

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