2014 was the year Eureka California made the shift from “the band that could” to “the band that did.” With little fanfare and almost zero downtown club presence, the group quietly released a true kicker of an LP, toured the UK and steadily increased its stateside audience without jockeying for the ever-shifting hometown spotlight. The simple songs onCrunch never sound simplistic, and though the band’s early work owed a certain debt to ’90s-era power-pop, it has since been paid in full.
Steadfastly bratty local rock act Muuy Biien grew up in a big way with D.Y.I. (short for “Do Yourself In”), the imposing follow-up to 2012’s This Is What Your Mind Imagines. While that debut, with its frenetic, stop-start arrangements, invoked the sweat-soaked spirits of Darby Crash and D.C. hardcore, D.Y.I. scaled back the madness without losing any energy. With the “Cyclothymia” series, frontman Josh Evans and company continue to experiment with menacing drone. Elsewhere, the band finally, fully embraces the taut, Fall-meets-Joy Division gloom-punk it has been steering toward in its live gigs for some time, incorporating vicious low-end sneer and motorik precision into already-potent guitar hellscapes. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun for Flagpole to watch Muuy Biien develop over the last few years; it’s no shock that D.Y.I. emerged as our clear consensus favorite album of 2014.