Best Records of 2014 So Far...
So like clockwork as June comes to a close everywhere will be pushing their best of the year (so far) lists on you. And we're no different!
Our list isn't as long and exhaustive as some, because let's face it, nobody can be bothered to trawl through lists in the hundreds. So without further ado, here's what's been tickling our fancy so far in 2014.
(In no particular order)
Debut album from one of Montreal’s most talked-about indie-rock bands. New studio recordings supplant the band’s 2012 Bandcamp release, one of Weird Canada’s “Albums we wished were released physically”, praised by HeroHill, Said The Gramophone; “Top 15 Emerging Bands” on ArtInfo.Ought has been burning with a strong and steady flame since flickering to life in Montreal just before the inspired months of the Quebec student general strike in 2012.
The hit of this year's SXSW. Protomartyr's economical rock elicits comparisons to possible antecedents like Pere Ubu, Wire or The Fall as well as local contemporaries like Frustration or Tyvek (whose frontman Kevin Boyer played bass in an early iteration of Protomartyr). Where 2012's 'No Passion All Technique' favoured comparatively straight forward punk structures, 'Under Color', their second full length, and Hardly Art debut, takes a more exploratory approach. 'Tarpeian Rock' places punk vitriol against a minimalist backing and 'Scum, Rise!' casts shadows with guitars that alternately chime and clang.
With Light and With Love showcases a more sophisticated brand of contemporary drug music that owes more to Magical Mystery Tour than motorik. If you've ever thought of Woods as a pop group comprised of weirdos, or a weirdo band that happens to excel at playing pop songs almost in spite of itself, 'With Light and With Love' provides a corrective in the form of songs that show these two elements as natural, inextricable bedfellows
A monument to the redemptive powers of rock 'n' roll - full of rage, romance and dark humour - an uncompromising, astonishingly visceral debut album. This is the soundtrack to the dark corners of nightclubs and those dimly lit alleyways off the main drag. The smell of smoke and liquor pervades everything.
The fourth full-length LP from Ian Svenonius' bi-coastal outlaw noise ensemble, Chain and the Gang. On this record, in addition to Svenonius, Chain is staffed by Katie Alice Greer, Brett Lyman, Chris Sutton, and Fiona Campbell. The record was mixed by Brendan Canty in Washington, D.C.
The long overdue first collaborative work by Greg Haines and Peter Broderick. Spacey dub created with a lot of synths, tape delays and reel-to-reel machines.
Released as a double-disc (one-LP/one-CD set), this new edition will feature not only the album in its original European tracklisting but also a revelatory set of covers, rehearsals and B-sides that reveal the earliest iterations of The Clientele. And there’s the previously unreleased “Sarah’s Prelude,” too, the lovely, lonely and abandoned opener of an album that stuns, even without the strings.
The hyper-chromatic music of Matt Cutler marks him out as a true impressionist; as Lone, he drizzles brightly coloured melody through his tracks with all the reflexive skill of a master painter daubing inks and pigment across paper. On Cutler's fifth Lone album, Reality Testing, released on R&S, he sends notes and chords rippling delicately into space before allowing them to disperse, each oozing beautifully away into the background fabric of the music
'Sunbathing Animal' applies the same layered thoughts of previous and sprawling noise to more cerebral, inward-looking themes. While heightened in its heaviness and mania, the album also represents a huge leap forward in terms of songwriting and vision. Still rooted firmly in the unshackled exploration and bombastic playing of their earlier work, everything here is amplified in its lucidity and intent. The songs wander through threads of blurry brilliance, exhaustion and fury at the hilt of every note.
CLPPNG attempts to stretch the band's experimental sounds to fit a wider emotional range - 'Midcity' had anger and aggression figured out, but how can clipping.'s harsh electronics fit into a club track, or a slow jam, or a song to strip to? Relying heavily on musique-concrete techniques, the trio built many of the tracks out of field recordings and acoustic sounds.
With surreal nightmares, glistening pop tempered by sinister undertones and even unsettling experimentalism, The Fresh and Onlys' fifth album, 'House of Spirits' is the San Francisco quartet's most focused and most experimental yet. The material gestated during vocalist Tim Cohen's isolated stay on an Arizonan horse ranch where he documented dreams in a bedside notebook. The resultant songs are by turns pristine, feverish, and bizarre, as The Fresh and Onlys returned to recast the textures, leaps of logic and evocative character of Cohen's dreams into songs.
Like Vashti Bunyan before her, Linda Perhacs is a long-lost folk musician unearthed by the next generation to make one more album in her twilight years. A New Ager and dental hygienist from California, her 1970 album 'Parallelograms' is eerily unique and a deserved cult classic. 44 Years later, 'The Soul of all Natural Things' was recorded in California with two local musicians and songwriters, and featuring collaborations with Julia Holter and Ramona Gonzales (Nite Jewel). The old magic is audible on 'Freely', with its simple, circling acoustic guitar and her ghostly tones at their most beguiling, and 'Prisms of Glass', on which overlapping voices build to make something strange and beautiful.
This new album features the music of Calypso in its many forms - from its birthplace, the island of Trinidad, as well as other Caribbean islands (Jamaica and The Bahamas) and its subsequent onwards journey (Britain, Panama and the United States), recorded during the years 1955-69. Calypso is one of the most exciting and enduring forms of musical expression to emerge from the beginning of the 20th century - swinging, persuasive rhythm, brilliantly expressive melodies and lyrics of great humour and wisdom.
Over the course of each full-length the band has tirelessly reinvented themselves, opting to stay true to their own sensibilities and create the music that they wanted to make. With the third album, and their first as a quartet, their previous creations have given way to a new found serenity, a calm which finds the band in its most potent, refined, and elemental form yet.
Previously a member of trio Emeralds, Mark delivers a new concept album of personal reflection which only builds on his solo efforts so far. Playing with a wide variety of instruments and styles on 'Along the Way', McGuire presents his unique vision of modern psychedelia. Using electric and acoustic guitars, a Talkbox, drum machines, a mandolin and lots in between, McGuire conducts a sonic exploration of the inner self. "This story is an odyssey through the vast, unknown regions of the mind," he explains in the liner notes," The endless unfolding of psychological landscapes, leading to perpetual discoveries and expansions, in a genuinely emergent and infinite world of worlds."
Nothing New, a limited edition vinyl album of unreleased recordings. During the 2008 I'm New Here sessions at New York’s Looking Glass studios, Scott-Heron recorded stripped-down new versions of some of his greatest songs. Accompanying himself on piano and with no overdubs, this is Nothing New, a unique musical insight into one of the most profound recording artists of our time.
Shifting from soaring, symphonic pop ('Clear Skies Ever Closer') to melancholic lock-in blues ('Drinking for Two') via an almost uncompromisingly hopeful rhythmic shuffle ('The World Could Turn (In A Heartbeat)'), 'Herd Runners' is a sublime collection, a reminder of Aldred's singular skill as a composer; a skill that can twist bitter loss into teary optimism (and back) in less time than it takes to toss a coin. Lyrically, the album paints Edward Hopper-esque observations of the lives of others. Where previous records would have focused on the gloomy edges of the picture, 'Herd Runners' takes something of a longer view.
Against a backdrop of creative resurgence in 'indie' rap, Young Fathers make the sort of uncompromisingly leftfield, forward thinking hip-hop that has nothing to do with artiness and everything to do with brilliance, all with grain silo production and genuine pop hooks. Early adopters have included David Byrne, Diplo, Ghostpoet and Alt J.
Lead single 'Avant Gardener' is a vivid display of her magic. A hook-laden fug of country roots and discordant psychedelia with a dream-like narrative. Alongside that, the gorgeous and woozy piano-strewn opener 'Out of the Woodwork' showcases a darker side of her writing, 'Anonymous Club 'portrays Courtney at her most romantic and melancholic, while 'History Eraser' is an infectious Dylan-esque cavalcade that was recently nominated for the APRA Song Of The Year in Australia.