Hey all! It’s time for my top 15 favorite releases of 2014. You can listen to some key tracks from these entries and more here on Spotify. Let me know what I missed, too!
Natural Snow Buildings
The Night Country
Beautiful and haunting as always. Official digital release of this coming soon on my label!
Broke With Expensive Taste
This album is so solid and cool. The tracks are quite varied in their composition, from those with a dance clubby modern vibe to those that recall a kind of 808 States 90s feel to er, the rude jukebox-ey “Nude Beach A-Go-Go”. Considering the current “feud” going on, which should be a non-event as Iggy Azalea is downright terrible and uninteresting, I don’t know how the hell someone could listen to both of their albums and decide that Iggy was the better rapper. HOW? The mind boggles.
Full Cold Moon
This is technically a compilation but all of my restrictions for what should be included in my top 2014 list has gone out the window as I began compiling this. This is a compilation of Cold Cave singles, many of which are far better than anything album-based he’s released. “People Are Poison” and “Don’t Blow Up the Moon” in particular make me incredibly hopeful for a future album from him. He has grown so much as an artist, well beyond the honestly cheesy Cherish the Light Years.
Time Machines II
I am still in the process of slowly peeling away at Coil and Coil-related musical matters, Though Jhonn and Peter are both gone, there is so much to pick away at, it will be a long time until there is nothing left to hear that is “new” to me. All the better that there is a “new” release proper with Time Machines II. It’s the droney, pulsing sort of thing you’d expect it to be if you’ve heard Time Machines.
A U R O R A
I listened to this while I was reading Blake Butler’s 300,000,000, which seemed noisy and crisp and weirdly fitting. This music makes me uncomfortable. This is good.
Ah, the Horrors. They have never quite lived up to the ridiculous standards I’ve been mentally holding them to since Primary Colours, which is so incredibly perfect and fully realized. The Horrors still are the modern champions of meshing their influences together well to create something new instead of being part of the hopelessly derivative ‘post-punk revival’ pack (oh, they are so much more than that). This album is better than 90% of what’s out there right now but it is, for them, a bit average. These are beautiful songs, don’t get me wrong, but I know the boys are capable of more.
Yeah, my standards are so out of whack these days that I’ll even put a DJ mix on the list. What are you going to do about it? Cut Copy’s growth and transformation as time has gone on has really surprised and pleased me. In Ghost Colours (2008) was so forgettable and unpleasant to me, and then last year’s Free Your Mind happened to become one of the best new albums I’ve heard! What happened? Like all artists who end up being really kick-ass, I think it is, again, a matter of synthesizing diverse interests into something new instead of just copying them. A celebretory DJ mix like Oceans Apart is its own rendition of this, introducing me to a ton of great new dance tracks, primarily experimental and/or instrumental in nature. Very sunny, a little sinister.
Psychic 9-5 Club
Speaking of unreasonable expectations again, HTRK is another band I unfairly subject to routine “But this isn’t Marry Me Tonight!” criticism. To evaluate this properly, I have to kind of pretend my fave doesn’t exist. This is a really pretty, shimmery album that stands up fine on its own after all and I like to think that “The Body You Deserve” could be about being trans – at least it is to me.
Liars are a really cool band I tend to forget about for awhile somehow and then a track comes up on shuffle or I happen to encounter a reference to them and I listen again. I like their paranoid post-punk feel a lot.
Finally, some more vaporwave that is not a lazy sample / slow-down job but an artfully crafted example of using such techniques as instruments in their own right and putting together something cohesive
It’s an Aphex Twin album.
That’s all I have to say.
Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 2
I was reluctant to listen to this for a long time since there was so much hype about it, but it really is quite good. It goes hard until it’s over, nice to hear Zack de la Rocha for maybe the first time since anything Rage Against the Machine-related I would’ve enjoyed, too.
Death From Above 1979
The Physical World
I knew in my heart it would not be as perfect as their first and only release about ten years before this but it was not the staggering disappointment I expected either. I think I would enjoy it more if the production was not quite so slick but still, they have got it together.
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I’ll admit, I listened to this purely because it kept coming up on Rate Your Music lists / charts. I was very wary of it but it really is shoegaze of the vintage-tinted, dreamy variety. Nothing else to say, I’ll eat up anything like that without reservation.
Ending this with an EP to cement my total lack of care for the type of material I’ve included in this list (compilation, DJ mix, EP – don’t care). Le1f is yet another one on this list that has improved so much over time it just makes me smile to think about and hear. This EP was a frequent bus-riding soundtrack of mine. Even the music video for “Wut” is something I found myself watching more than a few times, seeming kind of iconic in its queerness and pop culture vibes. Can’t wait for a proper album from him.