2014 Music Rewind

There were so many inter­est­ing album releas­es in 2014 I felt I could bare­ly keep up. In fact, I was still adding titles to my Best of 2014 con­tenders list late into Decem­ber. Here are some of my favorites, in alpha­bet­i­cal order:

The Bug — Angels & Devils
Kevin Mar­tin returns to his The Bug alias for a full length LP and sev­er­al EPs worth of mutant bass music in 2014. More than any oth­er elec­tron­ic music pro­duc­er, Kevin under­stands the equal impor­tance of mass/weight and tex­ture. Both aspects are deployed extreme­ly effec­tive­ly whether the track is an atmos­pher­ic snarling dub-wise bass mantra or a neck-snap­ping mutant-dance­hall-cum-grime firestarter.

D’Angelo — Black Messiah
Black Mes­si­ah arrived late in Decem­ber, rushed to mar­ket part­ly in response to protests in Fer­gu­son, MO and New York City. “Rushed” may seem an incon­gru­ous label for an album that took 14 years to deliv­er but that is the nar­ra­tive that is being sold. This album deliv­ers an unmis­tak­ably D’Angelo per­spec­tive while show­ing devel­op­ment and advance­ment since the release of Voodoo in 2000. For me, this music deliv­ers in a way that the new Prince record nev­er quite does. By turns funky or slip­pery or both.

Jon­wayne — Rap Album One
Best white rap­per album cov­er? Jon­wayne is equal­ly at home on the but­tons or on the mic. The beats are root­ed in boom bap tra­di­tion­al drum pat­terns but throws enough curves to make them iden­ti­fi­able as part of the Los Ange­les abstract beat “scene.” Mean­while, the rhymes and deliv­ery are self-con­fi­dent and clever. The puns and almost-non-sequitors com­bined with dead­pan vocal qual­i­ty put Jon­wayne in line to be heir to MF Doom’s abstract mum­ble-rap crown.

Les Sins — Michael
Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundick is a hell of a dance music pro­duc­er. This album swings to its own pen­du­lum. Rhyth­mi­cal­ly com­plex with­out los­ing the plot or los­ing its dance­abil­i­ty. Uncon­ven­tion­al­ly funky.

Lit­tle Drag­on — Nabu­ma Rubberband
Top qual­i­ty intel­li­gent pop music. Sexy and slick but nev­er overproduced.

LV & Joshua Ide­hen — Islands
Album num­ber two from “one MC and two white men” sees LV con­tin­ue to refine their loose-limbed hard-dri­ving com­plex beats. Their pro­duc­tions always have a live feel to me, no mat­ter how pre­cise­ly they may be aimed at the dance floor.

Mil­lie and Andrea — Drop the Vowels
After releas­ing a series of twelve-inch sin­gles in 2008/2009 that occu­pied the mar­gins of dub­step and grime, Miles Whit­tak­er and Andy Stott team up again for a full length LP. This time they bor­row more heav­i­ly from the sound world and pro­duc­tion tech­niques of drum & bass/jungle music. But as in Miles’ drum & bass exper­i­ments with Demdike Stare’s Test Press­ing series, the famil­iar tropes are upend­ed and reconfigured.

Run the Jew­els — Run the Jew­els 2
El-P and Killer Mike are a dream team of ornery, dif­fi­cult, cyn­i­cal, mid­dle-aged ass­hole rap­pers. El-P keeps expand­ing his beat styles into new son­ic areas while man­ag­ing to hit hard­er than ever. Keep it up, guys.

Andy Stott — Faith in Strangers
Over­driv­en to blur­ry obliv­ion, Andy Stott’s sounds still some­how main­tain punch and imme­di­a­cy. Root­ed son­i­cal­ly in tech­no but much more var­ied rhyth­mi­cal­ly, this album bal­ances dance music sen­si­bil­i­ties with post-punk atmosphere.

Christi­na Vant­zou — No.2
Vantzou’s music is as patient and love­ly as her slow motion videos. It is at times cin­e­mat­ic and at oth­er times inti­mate, using small ensem­bles of orches­tral instruments.

(you can watch all the videos here).

Wen — Signals
Often asso­ci­at­ed with the nu-Grime move­ment of UK pro­duc­ers, Wen demon­strates his mas­tery of that icy sound world but sep­a­rates him­self by virtue of being able to write songs rather than just beats or tracks. The music remains stark and eco­nom­i­cal in means but the struc­ture of Wen’s tracks car­ry a lis­ten­er for­ward and inward.

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