The Nerdy Dozen: 12 Indispensable Albums of 2014

I probably reviewed fewer albums in 2014 than I have in, like, a decade. But that doesn’t mean I was at all short of quality music over the past 12 months. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a dozen of my favorite releases from calendar year 2014.

(Obviously, several of these are varying degrees of kid-friendly while others are totally not. Longtime readers can likely tell which is which, but please listen critically before sharing with impressionable ears.)

mc chrismc chris foreverrr
Release date: March 3, 2014
Available at: iTunes (1, 2), Google Play (1, 2), Amazon Music (1, 2), CD, LP
Sounds like: a double-dose of mc
Highlights include: “Rinkin’ Around,” “Help Wanted,” “Luigi”
May contain: ghosts, busters, bronies, skits and swears
The skinny: A concept album (loosely) based around the Ghostbusters, mc chris foreverrr tried to do a lot, and it succeeded far more than it failed. I’ve never been a big fan of mc’s trademark skits, and this one doubles up on those, but it also includes a heaping helping of new tunes (along with a handful of throwbacks) that manage to rep not only our fallen hero Egon, newbie Winston and attorney Louis Tully, but also includes unrelated greats like this unexpected Star Wars skating rink anthem.
–language warning–

Kirby KrackleGeekiest Hits: Vol. 1
Release date: March 25, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music
Sounds like: all things old are new again
Highlights include: “Marvelous Girls (2014 Version),” “Booty Do Math,” “Ring Capacity”
May contain: comics, booty, math, new versions of old favorites
The skinny: Geekiest Hits is a look back at 5 years of Kirby Krackle, and what a five years it’s been! Kyle and company used fan input to choose the tracklist, and they even gave a number of older KK tracks the new full-band treatment, which means it’s worth the investment even if you already own the back catalog.

The DoubleclicksDimetrodon
Release date: June 10, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, CD
Sounds like:
money well spent
Highlights include: “Unstoppable Force,” “Table Top (feat. Adam WarRock),” “Will They or Won’t They [Live in Seattle]”
May contain: intelligence, snark, lush instrumentation and glorious, geeky feminism
The skinny: In addition to renewing my faith in the service, the Doubleclicks’ 2014 Kickstarter netted fans fun weekly songs, bonus videos, this amazing album and even allowed sister Aubrey to quite her day job. If you somehow missed out on Dimetrodon, shame on you! It’s the best yet from the Webbers, who themselves represent the very best that contemporary geek culture has to offer.

virtShovel Knight Original Soundtrack
Release date: June 27, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp
Sounds like: the greatest 8-bit throwback of the year
Highlights include: “One Fateful Knight,” “The Decadent Dandy (King Knight Battle), “No Weapons Here (Village)”
May contain: action, adventure, shovels
The skinny: Whether or not you played Yacht Club Games‘ breakthrough debut title Shovel Knight, you owe it to yourself to check out Jake “virt” Kaufman’s solid chiptune soundtrack. It’s a name-your-own-price release, even!

ChokeulesStay Up
Release date: July 11, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, CD
Sounds like: Canadian hip-hop with smarts, heart and humor
Highlights include: “Sole People,” “40-Year-Old-Vegan”
May contain: straight-talk, rough-talk and maybe even a little dirty-talk
The skinny: Even taking into consideration his work with the sometimes sci-fi/horror-centered Swamp Thing, it’s beyond hard to lump Toronto’s Chokeules into the ever-widening sphere of nerdcore. Still, if you like intelligent rap with a gruff (but somehow still thoughtful) delivery, Stay Up is well worth your time. Who else could possibly manage a viral hit about his own dietary restrictions? No one but Blind Boy Choke!

OverClocked ReMixLegacy: Game Boy 25th Anniversary
Release date: July 31, 2014
Available at: OverClocked Remix
Sounds like: all your favorite portable gaming memories
Highlights include: “Super Chai Tea Latte (Super Mario Land – Chinese Style Stage BGM),” “Dreamboy (Smurfs’ Nightmare – The Mysterious Planet)”
May contain: classic melodies, brand new instrumentation, and the very height of VGM inspiration
The skinny: OCR represents an astounding number of talented composers, arrangers and musicians, and the community tends to truly excel when painting on a broad canvas. In 2014, ReMixers took on the sizable (and influential) musical library of Nintendo’s Game Boy line in a collection that celebrated both the system itself and famed creator Gunpei Yoko.

Uncle MonsterfaceRISE of the LAVA MAN
Release date: August 4, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music
Sounds like: the craziest kids’ album of all time – for adults
Highlights include: “Rise of the Lava Men,” “The Brainrocket Scientist,” “The Sports Robot,” “The Zombie”
May contain: trace elements of Jethro Tull, The Mothers of Invention, and lots and lots of puppets
The skinny: Originally funded via Kickstarter back in 2013, last year also saw the ultimate release of a new concept album/archeological dig from the masters of madness themselves, Uncle Monsterface. Boasting 15 tracks, each devoted to a legendary denizen of UMF’s own Dino-Skeleton Island, RISE of the LAVA MAN is an artistic triumph worthy of this eclectic NYC quartet.

WockenfussThe Great Heart Puncher
Release date: August 12, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, CD
Sounds like: rap ‘n’ wrasslin’
Highlights include: “A Blink of an Eye,” “The Destroyer”
May contain: moving instrumentals, classic wrestling clips, the Bionic Elbow
The skinny: Wockenfuss officially went solo in January of 2014 – leaving behind his former project Sticks Downey – and his first act under this new moniker ably celebrated his twin loves of two ancient and powerful art forms: the hip-hop instrumental and the professional wrestling promo. The end result was engaging, enlightening, ambient and perfectly entertaining.

BeefyGrown Up
Release date: August 19, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music
Sounds like: a boy becoming a man
Highlights include: “Grown Up,” “Hear Me Roar,” “Save Point”
May contain: pop culture posturing, nerdy evangelism, the challenges of adulthood
The skinny: Beefy hit the burgeoning nerdcore scene in the early aughts as one of the community’s standout second generation of artists, building on the works of innovators like MCs Frontalot, Lars and chris. While nerdcore itself has grown surprisingly little in the ensuing decade, Beefy displays mature chops and an enlightened understanding of his life and his own place in the world in his latest, Grown Up. Beef sure has, and damned if he hasn’t done so gracefully!

MC FrontalotQuestion Bedtime
Release date: August 26, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, CD
Sounds like: (mostly) kid-friendly bedtime stories for grownups
Highlights include: “Much Chubbier,” “Gold Locks,” “Wakjakaga”
May contain: guest stars galore, folk tales you only thought you knew, and cover art by the great Bill Sienkiewicz
The skinny: When I heard the venerable MC Frontalot was releasing an album of fairytales and folk stories, I was a little skeptical. However, rather than some throwaway kids’ album, Question Bedtime instead turned out to be another pitch-perfect piece of nerdcore artistry – smart and funny and ceaselessly weird. I really should’ve expected no less from Front.

Mikal kHillThe Snuggle is REAL
Release date: September 23, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp, cassette
Sounds like: chip-hop, soul, introspection, and straight-up victory
Highlights include: “challenge your audience (feat. MC Frontalot and More or Les),” “sinking ship (feat. Schaffer the Darklord),” “summertime sadness (feat. Adam WarRock and Chokeules)”
May contain: spaghetti westerns, ’70s funk, existential angst
The skinny: Full disclosure here: kHill is a good friend of mine from my adopted, secondary home city of Charlotte, NC. He’s also a great emcee and a one of the finest producers I’ve yet to encounter. While we’ve jokingly referred to Mikal as “The Walking Disaster,” “the nerdcore Elliot Smith” and even went so far as to dub his uniquely bleak lyrical output as “sadcore,” TSiR finds him stepping even further out of his comfort zone into, if not jubilation, as least passing positivity. Is it any wonder then that standout track “challenge your audience” – a song that touts not only the titular importance, but also the need to challenge oneself artistically – is easily my song of the year for 2014?
–language warning–

YTCrackerIntroducing Neals
Release date: November 5, 2014
Available at: Bandcamp
Sounds like: the nerd rap answer to Daft Punk’s Discovery
Highlights include: “imprisoned by the syndicate,” “welcome to san secuestro,” “clean slate,” “fortune or freedom”
May contain: dystopian cities, authoritarian governments, the (angry) voice of the people, and sparkling storytelling of the technological resistance
The skinny: Introducing Neals holds the dubious honor of being not only one of the best geeky underground albums of the year, but also being one of 2014’s greatest artistic tragedies. This cyberpunk hiphopera was supposed to be accompanied by an hour-long musical anime – a la Interstella 5555 – which, sadly, failed to achieve its crowdfunding threshold. Of course, if anyone can find a way to make it happen in spite of this, it’s the one and only YTCracker.

So these are my picks, but what are yours? Obviously I omitted things like major label releases – I’m looking at you Mastodon – but last year saw some amazing output on all fronts. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

Z. is a proud father of two, Managing Editor of the GeekDad blog, a multiple Parsec award-winning podcaster, and a lover of nerd music and culture. At this moment, he is likely thinking about clothes or playing video games. Possibly both.