Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A look back at 2014

As we close out 2014 lets take a look back at some of the best and worst albums of the year and make predictions about what is in store for '15. While it was a dry summer with limited releases it wasn't until autumn hit where shit hit the fan and we had great release after great release. Its easy to think that this year was weak overall especially compared to last year, but we did get some classic albums that we all will be listening to for a long time. While Rap suffered the worst, we did see the huge rise of Future R&B, and when Top 40 had a rough year we did see the takeover of PC Music. Its hard to complain when we got albums from Flying Lotus, AFX and Thom Yorke...

This list is in no particular order, I loved these albums equally.

RatKing – So It Goes
Other than run the Jewels 2 this was one of the strongest rap releases this year. With killer features from King Krule and Wavy Spice, this trio from the New York borough of Harlem debuted with a modern take on gritty east coast boom bap rap. Its hard not to be hooked after hearing the single Canal, with a killer sample, it sounds so New York you can almost smell the rotting trash on the sidewalk.
Clark – Self Titled
You have to feel bad sometimes for Clark. One of the biggest slept on artists from Warp, Clark makes music that’s incredible experimental yet unbelievably cinematic. While a lot of albums disappointed this year, Clark delivered one of the best albums since his magnum opus “Body Riddle”. Winter Linn sounds like a more mature version of his hit single Ted and Silvered Iris harkens back to Clarks work on the album “Turning Dragon” Even the track There’s a Distance In You feels like the best elements of “Totems Flare” but expanded even further. This album has been the perfect companion during brutal Chicago snow storms.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
It always takes me a while to fully unpack a new Flying Lotus Records. I still am discovering new sounds on “Cosmogramma” and even “Until the Quiet Comes”. “You’re Dead!” is a culmination of everything Steven Ellison has done to this point. It feels like a final exam and Flylo wants us to all know he has full mastery of his craft. I was nervous I was going to be disappointed with this one, news that Kendrick and Snoop were on it, I like many had flashbacks to the mistake SBTRKT and Rustie made with their albums this year. You’re Dead! meets all my expectations and more. It’s exciting to see Jazz Fusion get exposure like this and having Tundercat all over this record helps with making a dense genre like this somewhat accessible. PREDICTIONS FOR NEXT ALBUM: It won’t be a Flying Lotus record it will be a Flying Lotus and Thundercat Release and they will both have equal roles.
Thom Yorke – Tomorrows Modern Boxes 
I’m not sure why this release got so much hate. If we leave out the distribution method and make the album stand on its own its pretty solid. Focused, brief, and catchy, TMB blows his last album “The Eraser” out of the water. Anyone who follows Radiohead or Thom’s careers shouldn't be surprised on what they hear during the albums 38 minute run-time. No, this is not groundbreaking but we also cant expect revolutionary work from an artist's every release, and if your biggest complaint is that it doesn't reinvent the wheel then you need to check your privilege.
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell
There is a lot to hate about this album; a synth-pop group, they are from Florida, and worst of all they are on Skrillex’s OWSLA imprint. If you are able to look past all of that (especially Florida) you will walk away smitten from this groups debut. Like Tomorrows Modern Boxes, its not revolutionary but just a solid listen start to finish. For best results listen to this one at 3am when the party is over when the world is spinning and you are lying on the ground, let front woman Nicole Miglis take all your worries away.
Arca – Xen 
Wow! This is what I call a debut! From production credits on Yeezus to helming the production of the new Bjork album, Venezuelan producer, Alejandro Ghersi has everything going for him right now. One of my favorite releases of this year, I had flashbacks to when I first heard Los Angeles, or the Richard D. James album. A strong visual aesthetic is married to his work because of his relationship with childhood friend Jesse Kanda. It could be said that together they are this generations Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham. Completely different from his earlier EP’s Stretch 1 & 2, Arca uses his signature vocal manipulation maybe twice during the entire album. It was a risky move but proved to be successful, Arca will be one of the most in demand producers by this time next year, guaranteed.
FKA Twigs – LP1 
Move over XX, Young Turks has a new cash cow and her name is FKA Twigs. Destined to become a household name FKA Twigs had a pretty remarkable album. With production credits from Arca, Twigs’ sound is sexy, sensual, heartbreaking and atmospheric, and while the album art can be a turnoff to some, LP1 is the best PBR&B record this year. Now that she is dating Twilight star Robert Pattison, it will be interesting to see if she molds her sound into something a bit more commercial.

Death Grips – Niggas On the Moon
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time! 
If you can listen to this one without smiling once, something might be wrong with you. This release was cute, funky and spunky in all the right places.
Real Estate – Atlas
Jangle-Pop hasn't died yet thanks to New Jersey based band Real Estate. This one made the list because of its incredible hooks and the fact that they recorded it here in Chicago. Atlas makes you feel like lying on the beach while you watch clouds pass you by. It's the album you put on when guests are over and your trying to set a pleasant mood. It was a great follow-up to their last album Days but you get the feeling that there is no where else to go from here. *Special Award* The safest and most harmless release in 2014*
Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love  
Can singer Meredith Graves be insufferable, Yes. Could this band be an industry plant? Also yes. Is the name stupid, Yes Yes Yes. Even with all of the politics and negativity surrounding this noise punk band, Perfect Pussy was the shot in the arm this summer needed. In your face and ready explode at any minute Perfect Pussy had an absolutely dense debut this year. Between this release and the new Death From Above 1979 album, punk and noise had a pretty strong commercial year.
PC Music – Various
PC Music is one of the most bizarre things to happen to electronic music in a long time. What exactly is it though, Bubblegum Bass, American K-Pop or something deeper?  Coming out of seemingly nowhere PC Music releases took the underground by storm this year. It’s hard to explain to others what the appeal of this is; it’s so glossy and shinny that you can feel your brain melting. Listening to some of label head A.G. Cooks mixes you get an idea about where this bizarre scene came from. It sounds like a continuation of the sounds that the Lucky Me crew has been doing for a while. Elements of Juke, Trap and Eruotrance can all be found with each single. A killer visual aesthetic is married with the entire label and should become even more outrageous now that they have backing from XL Records. Never has there been an imprint that was more divisive out of the gate than PC Music, especially with their lead single “HEY QT”. It’s best to see this whole scene as high brow performance art.

Honorable Mentions:
Kelis – Food
Shamir – North Town
A$ap Ferg – Ferg Forever
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Alvvays – Self Titled
Mr. Twin Sister – Self Titled
Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Caribou – Our Love
Aphex Twin – Syro
Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear
Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Quirke – Acid Beth
OBJEKT – Flatland
Savages – Words To the Blind
Royksopp & Robin – Do It Again
Tennis – Ritual In Repeat
Parquet Courts – Content Nausea
Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers
Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
Liars – Mess
Mr. Oizo – The Church
Lykke Li – I Never Learn

Things that I'm sure were great, I just didn't listen to them enough to know for sure: 
The entire sacred bones label
St. Vincent
Angel Olsen
Sharon Van Etton
Dirty Beaches
Les Sins
Xiu Xiu

What did I hate this year:
First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
Grimes – Go
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Rustie – Green Lantern
SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land
Swans – To Be Kind
Sisyphus – Self Titled
U2 - Songs of Innocence
Coldplay – Ghost Stories
Ariel Pink – Pom Pom
Julian Casablancas and the Voidz – Tyranny
Mac Demarco – Salad Days
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Lana Del Rey/Black Keys – Ultraviolence/ Turn Blue

Predictions for 2015: 
Cassettes will hit critical mass next year, thanks a lot Ariel Pink….
The return of Hardstyle, much to the dismay of every scene
Jamie XX will finally drop an album
James Blakes album will be great but sound slightly dated, especially if people get tired of the Future R&B scene
Disclosure drops a new album and it the shittiest thing since gorgon city’s debut
Rap will have a huge year with releases from Frank Ocean, Chance the Rapper and Kanye
Kanyes next album will be number 1 on every list next year
The St. Louis music scene gets adrenalin shot because of frustrated youth.
Detroit Ghettotech makes a comeback. *Fingers Crossed*
Being done with Christmas music Sufjan Stevens makes a 4 part album containing original Easter songs
Robert Pattison drops an experimental Drone album and it’s critically acclaimed
Iggy Azalea’s follow up record bombs harder than Robin Thickes’ Paula
Hudson Mohawke drops a new album and it pales in comparison to Lunice's forthcoming album
Burial gets production credits on the next Taylor Swift album.