Memories make music, and these ten albums helped structure the static in 2014. Haunting the ears, every step of the way.
10. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Experience Mark Kozelek’s mid life crisis, a narration of past love and loss, and blue crab cakes. He’s looking back, to death in the family, to death on the news, with sprinkles of sex and pop culture in between. The vividness takes you to the time and place his head is currently in. But Introspection, what is he really like inside?
Between each breather, a modern day folk story has been told. Too much info? Never enough.
Choice Track: Ben’s My Friend
9. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Parquet Courts, not to be confused with Parkay Quarts, believe that someone has to be the attitude, and it turns out it’s them. Sunbathing Animal is their take on New York rock, and it pulls influences from the pavement without becoming a limp doppelganger of the noise rock greats.
Another series of raw ranting, riffs that drone, moving at a pace which suits the dry wit, the social concerns and the underlying melancholy.
Exhausts you, exhausts me. Just how it should be.
Choice Track: Instant Disassembly
8. Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea
In a world of too much information, it’s no wonder so many are feeling sick. Even this top ten is just an added addition to the content nausea Parkay Quarts, not to be confused with Parquet Courts, are experiencing. They contribute too with an overlord of covers, and experimental don’t give a fuck numbers, but at least they’re hitting the heart of the problem as they sing.
Give us covers, give us experimentation with synths, sax and Velvety spoken word. Let the anxiety and sadness leak out of the noise. Let us be sick on this content, not that content.
Choice Track: Pretty Machines
7. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Death is ever present, it’s all around us, it pulls us down, it brings us fear. How many nights does the thought bring restless nights? So much misery, and so, Flying Lotus has brought some light to the subject.
With ‘You’re Dead!’ death feels alive thanks to the bizarre journey of funk, electro, jazz, whatever, that proceeds. Lotus’s friends jump in to offer thoughts and stories.The record is death heated up, but in the distance, the inevitable end lingers, with wind and ambient beats hiding in the background of each piece.
The music is better together as each track merges into the next, a dream like state, a slow fall to the end. Death is a good place to be.
Choice Track: Never Catch Me ft. Kendrick Lamar
6. Swans – To Be Kind
Flying Lotus brings life to death, Swans brings death to life. To Be Kind is a celebration of the things that make up life, in the only way Swans know how. Soundscapes to sink into, with track times exceeding those of a typical pop hit. The 34 minute ‘Bring The Sun/Toussaint Louverture’ is a norm for the band, not an oddity. Exploring the depths of the sound is rewarding, sometimes relaxing, sometimes maddening. It’s like being in a church of noise.
As the track ‘Some Things We Do’ says: We feel, we eat, we fuck, we review, we smile, we buy, we destroy, we kill, we fight, we steal, we keel, we make top ten lists including Swans.
Choice Track: Oxygen , or Kirsten Supine, former only one on the Tube
5. Thurston Moore – The Best Day
Sometimes getting exactly what you expect isn’t a bad thing. Surprise can lead to disappointment, confusion and quite often anxious despair. Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s new solo release could have been a Sonic Youth album of the latter days, mixing mature hooks with expansive assortments of feedback fueled noise. Steve Shelly is back on the drums, and it almost feels like the band is back together. James Sedwards and Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine successfully fill the gaps, and it’s a band that gives exactly what people want, and the talent is there to go even further.
For now this is some of the best Sonic Youth not Sonic Youth in a long time. Sing along, and lose your head to a toy grenade. The Best Day is the warm noisy blanket in the list. A man back on track, he can go explore next time round.
Choice Track: Speak To The Wild
4. Mica Levi – Under The Skin OST
Walking home on a dark winter night. The streets are largely empty, and passing cars are the only source of light. With the soundtrack playing while walking, it feels like a trip into the darkness, rather than a journey that will ever lead home. Anyone passing is seen as a danger, so the pace quickens.
But at the same time, a warmth is felt, the main theme which crawls in and out for the duration of the soundtrack is alluring, and it takes time to realise that it’s what’s pulling you into the darkness. And that realisation is when you’re already trapped. It’s only when you see the light of your own room that you know you’ve made it to the end.
It’s horror music which is actually horrifying, yet offers an intense comfort to the soul thanks to the natural beauty the ambiance allows. It mutilates the soul, but it’s okay. It’s just the soundtrack to a movie. It’s just true escapism.
Is just one way to enjoy the alien isolation the Under The Skin OST grants.
Choice Track: Andrew Void
3. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Slow burners are quickly brushed aside in modern society, especially when it comes to music. It’s so easy to find something new to listen to if an album isn’t bringing in the instant hooks. Streaming and downloading are all the rage, and each person you meet has a collection which dwarfs your own.Time to appreciate is absent, there is no time. Onto the next one.
More Than Any Other Day is that album that needs time to take hold and change you. It initially appears cold and distant, but getting into the bands mindset brings forth an intense and anxiety fueled masterpiece. It’s has a sound reminiscent to Talking Heads, sharp patches of noise akin to 80’s era Sonic Youth, but it sounds so uniquely enticing.
Living society as expected doesn’t leave much time for dreams and desires, and by the time you know it, that’s it. We’ve all had moments were we feel fueled to try harder, more than any other day, but it only leads to a complete meltdown, and back to whence we came. The topics and themes here deal with this desperate need to try harder, but habits, paranoia, and depression are stronger. It feels so sincere, and for those holed up inside because the world out there is just too much, this is the one for you.
Fragility of the mind isn’t a bad thing.
Choice Track: Around Again
2. EMA – The Future’s Void
Now more than ever you can connect with others. You can Tweet, you can Skype, you can Facebook, you can do all manner of things to communicate, revealing ever facet about yourself because that’s what online profiles ask you to do. So why do I feel so hopelessly lost? Why is happiness at an all time low? Because, the future’s void. A robot consuming the data posted online would probably make for a better version than the individual it studies.
The album covers technology of the present and future, and the effects on privacy and identity. It’s bruised pop, a mix of noise, synths, and anthems. When browsing a social network, a variety of post types are seen within seconds. Funny memes, news posts, opinions, personal information. The wide mix of sounds feels in tune with the overload of different information we see, but the music isn’t aimless. That’s the difference, and making use of technology to express technology is the clearest way to deliver the message.
The Future’s Void isn’t a Grimes thing, it isn’t a throwback thing. It’s an EMA thing and the vision is clear. Technology isn’t going anywhere, so take control and make it your own.
There is even an option to go even further into the void, see the creation, the process, the thoughts. Enter here, only here.
Choice Track: When She Comes
1. Royksopp and Robyn – Do It Again
Too long to be an EP, too short to be a fully fledged album, Do It Again sits in the middle as a ‘mini-album’. But when you consider the latest and last Royksopp album ‘The Inevitable End’, maybe things are sometimes best kept short. No filler, all killer.
Five tracks seems like nothing, but they stretch out to incorporate Robyn’s hooks and Royksopp’s instrumental pulse. Each track offers a different tone when singled out, there is no room for familiarity here, yet together they work as the perfect thirty six minute night out. If only a real night out could encapsulate the same amount of joy for the full duration.
Upbeat, head thumping, sombre; all the aspects of a perfect club outing are here. It picks up quickly, moving into a fully fledged nightclub beat with ‘Sayit’, bursting into pop with ‘Do It Again’, and then offering the glimpses of the early morning light as everyone comes down with ‘Inside The Idle Hour Club’. It works because the electronic soundscapes aren’t just there for Roybn’s pop sensibilities. They work in tandem, allowing the music to breathe, allowing it to be something else.
And the mini album aspect makes it infinitely re-playable. Every day it’s time to do it again no matter the mood, nor the time. And how many albums can you say that about?
Choice Track: Sayit
2014 music, a noisy breakdown. Sometimes bashing its head against the floor, other times dancing alone in its room. In 2015, music is ready to do it again.
Honourable Mentions: Aphex Twin – Syro, Beck – Morning Phase, Eagulls – Eagulls, Goat – Commune, Julian Casablancas + The Voids – Tyranny, Lee Ranaldo And The Dust – Acoustic Dust, Mac Demarco – Salad Days, Savages & Bo Ningen – Words To The Blind, The Juan Maclean – In A Dream,The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader