So here’s a quick list of my ten favorite music recordings from this year.
10) Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2
The sophomore release by El-P and Killer Mike enjoys a sense of lyrical clarity as it weaves in and out of darker and noisier rhythms. Songs like Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Blockbuster Night Part 1, Love Again, amongst others, feature El-P, Killer Mike and some high-profile guest appearances by Zack De La Rocha, Gangsta Boo and Travis Barker.
Lyrical delivery in this album is very well-poised. Paired with smart production, this is a smart hip-hop album. One of the best from 2014.
9) Jerome and The Psychics - Money is Violence
A late addition, but a surprise favorite. With roots in Rio de Janeiro as well as Bloomington, Ind., Money is Violence expands the band’s soul music influences. Combining lo-fi garage rock with 60s soul influences, Money is Violence makes extensive use of brass instruments and seems to take some notable influences, perhaps from the likes of Sly & The Family Stone as well as the Isley Brothers. This is a very soulful and groovy album.
8) Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World
A decade after the release of You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, Death From Above 1979 finally follows up with The Physical World. It partially pays homage to their first album, especially in songs like Crystal Ball, Trainwreck 1979 and Right On, Frankenstein!On the other hand, White is Red seems to deviate away from DFA 1979’s original sound. The bass melody is still noisy, but enjoyably melodic and serves as an experimental deviation from the rest of the album. The Physical World obviously recognizes the older repertoire of Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler, but that shouldn’t be disappointing. If anyone was expecting something so drastically different, they probably wouldn’t be listening to DFA 1979. On the other hand, I’m quite glad they’ve re-united after hiatus.
7) Cult of Youth - Final Days
New York-based folk-punk outfit Cult of Youth squeezed in a surprise punk favorite this year. Experimental folk influences are substantial, but more subtle and very enjoyable hardcore and post-hardcore punk influences pop up throughout the album. Perhaps Ian MacKaye was there in spirit, because influences of his vocals are quite apparent in Final Days. Songs like Dragon Rouge and Empty Faction reinforce that. God’s Garden almost sounds like John Darnielle’s Mountain Goats, but with an aggressive punk attitude. Down the Moon is the best song from Final Days. Instrumentation begins as any other folk song, but the post-hardcore vocals are irresistible, especially with the line, “The moon is rising!” as soft and hearty brass instruments add harmony.
6) Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait
Another fine release from the hip-hop community. Vince Staples seems to take some very interesting influences from the lyrical delivery of Ishmael Butler (Digable Planets, Shabazz Palaces) with songs such as Fire, Hands Up. Staples also takes some interesting influences from the likes of Chance the Rapper, with songs such as 65 Hunnid, Screen Door, Limos and Feelin’ the Love.
Feelin’ the Love is a very memorable EP closer. The rhythm in particular seems to exist as two separate entities that are arranged with such particular sense. It sounds complicated but it works very succinctly.
Production is noisy and original which adds good texture. Hip-hop with texture is always appreciated.
5) Lantlôs - Melting Sun
The German metal scene made the list this year with Lantlôs’ Melting Sun. Very nostalgic influences of the noisier days of Pelican, Isis and Red Sparowes are apparent in Melting Sun. Interestingly, Lantlôs isn’t an instrumental band and they employ talented vocals that help harmonize noisy stoner and doom metal influences. Their tone is also quite atmospheric with a prominent ambiance.
Melting Sun is also one of the best album covers I’ve seen in some time now. Very bright, vibrant colors very accurately reflect the nature of the album.
4) Busman’s Holiday - A Long Goodbye
Notable influences from The Unicorns and Grizzly Bear earn Bloomington brothers Lewis and Addison Rogers a spot on the list. Additionally, as Busman’s Holiday expand their career with Indianapolis-based Joyful Noise Records, they’ve toured quite a bit with other notable Joyful Noise artists. Best of all, they played this year at WARMFest in Indy in Broadripple Park with bands such as Of Montreal, Sebadoh, Half-Japanese and others. Coming from Indiana, Busman’s Holiday is quite relevant in the alternative music scene, being signed to one of the most relevant independent labels, Joyful Noise.
3) Flying Lotus - You’re Dead!
Owning the vinyl of You're Dead! is especially fun to view the bizarre and graphic album art in detail. Of course, Never Catch Me is one of the most memorable songs from the album. Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus complement each other quite well, and it makes sense why these two would be so well-received by critics and fans. Turkey Dog Coma seems to return to Steven Ellison’s roots with a quirky but catchy melody and rhythm. Turtles is another fun song that emphasizes Ellison’s rhythms. Some brighter and fluffier elements can be heard, but this song is decidedly about the rhythm and it showcases how far along Ellison has come with his production.
2) Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons
Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow was enjoyable, but 36 Seasons blew it out of the water. Ghostface Killah brought lyrical clarity with his distinctive production, which was very reminiscent of Fishscale. The guest appearance of AZ on songs such as Here I Go Again, Double Cross and Blood in the Streets complements the production with a succinctness that makes for an excellent hip-hop album.
1) The Antlers - Familiars
Atmospheric piano and sentimental horns paired with Peter Silberman’s airy and somber vocals create a heartwarming album. Songs such as Hotel, Parade and Refuge are undoubtedly sad, but it’s such a great album for anyone who is feeling sad. Familiars warms the heart and soul and can make a seemingly woeful situation seem a lot more bearable.
All told, 2014 was quite successful and 2015 will undoubtedly be even better.