BEST OF 2014 Slowdive, Seun Kuti, Strand of Oaks, Ex Hex (clockwise from top left).

IT'S THE TIME of year for looking back and reflecting on the previous 12 months—the music, the moments, the shows, the songs that made 2014 memorable. We asked Portland Mercury music writers to tell us about their most incredible music-related experience of 2014. What follows is a kind of scrapbook for the year, the keepsake memories that we'll be holding onto for years to come. Be sure to check back next week for Mercury music writers' top five albums of the year.

By far the musical highlight of my year was the farewell show for all-ages space Laughing Horse Books on September 26. Like virtually every venue, it caught a lot of flak—the most common complaints were the awkward bookstore/punk-space dichotomy (somewhat valid) and the fact that some people/bands felt uncomfortable in a "safe space"/heavily politicized environment (somewhat ironic). To me, Laughing Horse was always the most inclusive, least bureaucratic, and best-sounding venue in town, even well after I reached legal drinking age. I went to some of my first shows there, saw some of my favorite bands there, and met some of my best friends there. It was a very sad and very beautiful evening. MORGAN TROPER

DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist did the near impossible when they stopped by the Roseland on October 7: They transformed the huge Portland venue into an early-'80s-era New York club, when hiphop was just gaining a foothold in the popular consciousness. Using a batch of records chosen from seminal DJ Afrika Bambaataa's collection, the two producers and turntablists revealed the building blocks of early rap music with a two-hour-plus mix of funk, Latin grooves, world beat, early techno, and jazz breaks. The capacity crowd at the Roseland ate it up heartily, losing themselves in a frenzy of dance moves and involuntary exhortations. It was a glorious thing to be in the midst of that scrum and letting the long tail of hiphop history slap me right in the solar plexus. ROBERT HAM

I had some amazing luck with shows at Mississippi Studios in October. Which, come to think of it, had nothing to do with providence and everything to do with kick-ass booking. Merchandise, the Florida former punkers and heirs to Morrissey, played at the beginning of the month in what was a jaw-dropping performance of eye candy, musical chops, and many, many boozy concoctions sucked down by main man Carson Cox. Sadly, not many Portlanders were there to see the spectacle, and the few who were, well, they were slumped around in a very puzzling state of nonplussed coolness. That was not the case at the Sinkane show a few weeks later. Portland was pumped about musician Ahmed Gallab and his stellar band of funksters. I saw dyed-in-the-wool non-dancers shaking their stuff at that heartwarming show. Everyone left feeling better about their place in the world. You know what? I think it was last year in October that I saw Haim at Mississippi Studios—the best show I saw last year! Moral: Save your clams for October shows at that perfect little venue. COURTNEY FERGUSON

My favorite musical moment of the year didn't receive any press, took place outside in Woodlawn Park, and featured a basketball tournament as the main event. DJ Dizz deftly spun classic cuts, but what made the day special transcended the temporal tunes echoing throughout the park. The event was called the Summer Kickback, a family-friendly gathering created by Mac Smiff and shared through social media. The now infamous overbearing police presence at the Blue Monk just a few months earlier had a surprising consequence. If the mission was to fracture and divide the Portland hiphop community, the mission failed miserably. Instead, it strengthened the existing bonds, fully evident on that August afternoon. Ever since, I will occasionally watch the music video filmed that day to cheer me up when things seem bleak. The aptly titled "Summer Time" finds Jon Belz rapping over Trox production with assists from Tope and Felicia Taylor. RYAN FEIGH

I remember, early this spring, the Mean Jeans and Together Pangea turning Angelo's into gleeful, beer-soaked, pogo-punk bliss. And I remember, in the summer, dissolving with the War on Drugs in the Barn at Pickathon, mesmerized by the drummer's kinetic, long-arching, and exact dynamic control. I remember scouring Tennessee radio online and finally finding that new Sam Quinn track, then playing it over and over and over. And I remember, perhaps most ecstatically of all, dancing, vibrating, imbibing Seun Kuti on July 22 at the Star Theater. It wasn't simply the man himself—charismatic, wise, lithe, strikingly gorgeous. Nor was it the sound—precise, immaculate, wild, urgent and energizing. Or the ideas—political, present and revolutionary. It was the collective energy, coursing and multiplying. Kuti's Egypt 80, a band (two dancer/singers and myriad players, some of whom have been with the group since Seun's father Fela was alive) that became more than the sum of its parts. It was exponential—and fucking marvelous. ANDREW R TONRY

During July's PDX Pop Now! fest, Portland doom quartet Usnea assembled inside AudioCinema to unleash some hellish noise, when no more than three minutes into their punishing set did their ferocity blow the electrical fuses in the building. Was it coincidental? Maybe. Did they play so loudly that through sheer tyranny of volume they managed to achieve metal immortality and rattle the cogs and gizmos of an old warehouse and bring it to its knees? That sounds way better. Whatever the reason, it's my estimation that any band laying claim to such a feat—if even obviously unintentional—is automatically worthy of ceaseless admiration. And definitely some earplugs. RYAN J. PRADO

On August 23, Mississippi Studios put on a festival in Vancouver, Washington, called AKA Fest. The idea was that a dozen Portland bands would change their name for the night, cross the state line, set up in the nautically themed lounge at the Red Lion (AKA the "Burgundy Wildcat"), and anyone brave enough to follow would be in for a rare bill. Cleverness ensued: Typhoon went under the name Thai Food, Genders went as Sexes, Magic Mouth as Modest Mouth. But one band didn't change their name—a '70s-stadium-rock-influenced group of five white guys called Black Pussy. At the end of the night, "Modest Mouth" (the alter ego of Magic Mouth) graced the stage. After the biggest, danciest, sweatiest first song, singer Chanticleer Trü took a moment to thank his creative community and to emphasize the importance of holding the people in your community accountable. Then he passionately and articulately called out Black Pussy for their misogynist and racist name and asked them, as members of the community, to change it. Half the crowd stood in stunned silence while the rest cheered wildly; the dance party continued in full force, the festival transformed by that moment. JOSHUA JAMES AMBERSON

In October, during what's henceforth known as She Shreds Week, the local magazine dedicated to women guitarists presented two of the finest shows I saw all year. On Monday, October 13, the New Brunswick punk-rock trio Screaming Females blew the roof off Holocene. Frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a lightning rod, utterly unrivaled in terms of the ability and passion she brings to the stage. Thursday, October 16, saw Mary Timony's power-trio Ex Hex headline Mississippi Studios. Timony and bassist Betsy Wright appeared to be having the time of their lives on stage, which seemed fitting, as records don't get much more fun than Ex Hex's debut album, Rips. Last but not least, amid the legitimate rumblings of a Sleater-Kinney reunion, the inaugural Lose Yr Mind festival [on October 17 and 18] provided the perfect cap to the week. Wooden Indian Burial Ground delivered an all-hands-on-deck encore, complete with dueling drummers Papi Fimbres and Bim Ditson. It made for an insanely over-the-top ending to what was already an extraordinary week for music in Portland. CHIPP TERWILLIGER

Choosing one favorite musical moment is a hell of a thing. So instead of picking one record or one song, I'm going to go with a particular experience. This spring I booked a West Coast tour for a heavy-rock band from Spain's Basque Country called Berri Txarrak. I'd written a piece on them a couple of years ago and stayed in touch with their manager. After a rather innocuous exchange on Facebook, I found myself booking shows and playing the role of publicist. It's a lot of goddamn work! But it was fun, challenging, and satisfying, and they were all super appreciative. Their Portland performance was killer, and the next day I showed them around, hit some record shops, drank local beer, and ate some Lardo sandwiches. Sure, I'd do it again! MARK LORE

For whatever reason—a futile attempt at regaining lost youth, perhaps, or the need for music as a comforting old sweater in emotionally turbulent times—2014 was the year I went all-in for "old people music." That is, live music where the featured act could be considered a "reunion" band, generally performing songs from their respective "back catalogs": X, the Dream Syndicate, the Lemonheads, Rain Parade, Tears for Fears, and Psychedelic Furs. Throw relative whippersnappers like Built to Spill and Low and Constantines into that mix, too. But the shining jewel in the graybeard crown was Slowdive. Playing songs that were two decades' worth of familiar, but sounding less like a reunion than a fully vital new formation, Slowdive's November 5 performance at the Crystal Ballroom is my live music takeaway for 2014. I think it's safe to say that I wasn't prepared for the magnitude of it all—and people walking out of the venue afterward in stunned silence seemed to agree. I am not, in most cases, what one might call a crier, even rarer so when faced with instances of happiness or beauty. But I cried at Slowdive. In retrospect, it wasn't for the nostalgia or the water under the bridge or the haze of lost years briefly recovered. No, I think it was because I knew the exact moment (coaxed on by a mixed wall of sound and light) couldn't last, and that there's no drug known to man that can recreate it. JEREMY PETERSEN

Róisín Murphy just keeps getting better with age. You might remember her as one half of the electronic duo Moloko, who rose to notoriety in the '90s. Since then, she's gone on to release several highly acclaimed solo albums. Her latest release, Mi Senti, is a collection of six Italian songs, five covers of classic pop hits from Italian singers and songwriters and one original. It's a dreamy and elegant production that sounds like it could have been made 40 years ago. Her smoky voice takes us to another time and place, almost like stepping into an old Italian movie. CHRISTINA BROUSSARD

I had gone alone to Mississippi Studios, for Denver's album release show [July 19]. In an attempt to not look as lonesome as I felt—and as compensation for mistakes, both recent and ongoing, I was drinking a lot of whiskey. Toward the end of the band's set, I had forgotten all my earthly concerns. I was hooting and hollering like a lunatic and high-fiving anyone standing within arm's reach. When the band came out for an encore and covered one of my favorite Dylan songs, "Isis," I just about lost what was left of my mind. Lewi Longmire took over lead vocals and sang like he himself was the poor soul who'd come to the high place of darkness and light. I drunkenly sang along with every word and danced like a man who has lost all control of his limbs and his good sense. Also, earlier in the set, a woman had jumped on stage, surprising everyone, including the band, and danced wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and not much else. It was a very cathartic night, for one and all. SANTI ELIJAH HOLLEY

I'm turning 39 next year, and I am grappling with it, friends. Which may be why my favorite musical trend of the past year is a surge of unexpectedly great albums by bands that were massively important to me at some point in my past. Late in high school, the Muffs and Weezer taught me that angst sounds better when it's delivered via pop melodies. This year, the former didn't miss a beat on their first album in a decade, and the latter made their best record in 18 years. In the late '90s, Old 97's were arguably the best band I found while exploring alt-country. This year, their rollicking Most Messed Up sounds like a lost recording from back then. And in 1999, I discovered one of my favorite bands ever: the New Pornographers. In August, they released Brill Bruisers, an incredible return to power-pop form after a couple of downer albums. Turns out, getting older doesn't sound so bad. BEN SALMON

Once again, the past year has spoiled us with riches. There was the nonstop onslaught of festivals during the warmer months—Sasquatch!, PDX Pop Now!, Pickathon, the retooled MusicfestNW, and the newly inaugurated Project Pabst—which offered no end of highlights. (A few quickies: Courtney Barnett at Pickathon, twice; a reunited Constantines for Project Pabst; hearing everyone buzz about Diarrhea Planet after they blew people's minds apart at Pickathon.) But for me, 2014's tandem highlights were falling intensely and irreversibly in love with two very different songs: Alvvays' almost desperately ecstatic "Archie, Marry Me" and Strand of Oaks' heart-piercing "Shut In," a gallows-dark cry for help masquerading as a stadium anthem. It's easier than ever to get buried under the never-ending avalanche of new music, and even some truly great songs never make it past two or three repeat listens for me. Alvvays and Strand of Oaks beat the odds and ended up with play counts in the hundreds. Oh, and Strand of Oaks' triumphant set at the Doug Fir on August 28 might have been the best hour-and-change I spent all year. NED LANNAMANN