a-void.ca’s best albums of 2014

Click here to listen to the Soundcloud playlist, featuring tracks from each album

WHERE IS T-SWIFT?

Ok, I admit it, I didn’t listen to it. Nor did I get through albums by Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Keyshia Cole, Calvin Harris, et al and sundry. I also didn’t hear all of Ariel Pink, Foxygen, Swans, TV on the Radio, Leonard Cohen, Julian Casablancas and too many others to count. Don’t even talk to me about jazz or country. (I wouldn’t have much of interest to say.) So WTF *did* I listen to? I’m not even sure how to describe it. Dave-core? Morris-dance? …maybe it’s better if I don’t.

This is the odd post-poptimist desert I feel like I’ve been sent to, via my escape pod hurtling from the full time music-crit grind. The barriers have all fallen – like a lot of right-thinking people, I’m perfectly happy to flip flop from Nicki Minaj to Neil Young to Young Thug in the space of an hour, but what happens when you don’t have time to devote to what might properly be called truly Catholic tastes? Does my embracing of a specialty – electronic music, not even really including the hip-hop that used to be part of my professional bag – mean I’ve re-embraced some of the biases I spent the early 2000s working to shed, like an earnest young Chinese party bureaucrat devouring Marx and Mao, and then giving it up in favour of Day Trading For Dummies?

It’s not a question of openness, I’ve realized, but a question of how you apportion your listening time. For better or for worse, I shoved the stuff that seemed like a long shot into a hard drive folder marked ‘Later’ and threw on another platter of grime, and this is the list that came out.. There was certainly no kind of shortage of amazing electronics to digest; the volume of almost-worthy discs attests to that. (Sorry Tre Mission, SBTRKT, DMX Krew, Shi Wisdom, Mark McGuire, Run The Jewels, Pop Ambient 2015, I could go on.) The LPs that did make the cut seemed not quite dancefloor friendly, except in an abstract sense. Bits and pieces of LV and Joshua Idehen, Caribou, Distal et al slipped into my mixes with scant friction. But the inventiveness I loved often didn’t fit in the space between floor-filling singles, not that I mind. Still, this is a list borne of someone who experienced dance music in 2014 mostly in a bedroom or between headphones. Simon Reynolds’ inveighing against IDM-like anti-dancefloorism aside, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The startling truth is that being kind of lazy, in terms of challenging your sense of what you like, can still be an astonishingly rich listening experience. There was enough originality and delight in my year in albums to make the absence of all that pop and hip-hop I missed feel about as painful as the knowledge that I didn’t eat nearly enough artisanal cheese in the last twelve months – not quite the sting of regret as much as the vague acknowledgement that I may have missed something good, possibly, but it’s not keeping me up at night.

If I had one thing I would ask of dance music in 2015, it would be for the most hypnotic, challenging, arresting, electrifying albums to be a little more melodic. I love the discs I chose, but as a whole I felt like my diet was a smidge on the grey side. Producers like Mumdance and Logos, Peverelist, Objekt and others put out single after single of holy-shit-guys-listen-to-this-ism, but when I put them all in a mix, I ended up taking a bunch out and replacing them with some chooons to break up the monotony. And the grab-bag of albums felt roughly the same, though I didn’t curate this list in a similar way. You can’t turn down a slamming, mesmerizing beat like the ones all over the Next Life comp or the Clap! Clap! record, melody or no. Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.

Mix: Sweat / Sweatpants

When Nelly came out with two albums, sold separately, on the same day in 2004, it was such a colossal act of hubris that it almost defies description. It doesn’t help that, as I recall, neither one was very good or very well received.

Untitled-1

But Sweat and Suit are a testament to an ego big enough to more or less destroy a successful rapper’s career in one catastrophically grandiose gesture. And that’s why I’ve concocted my own version, the music world’s first answer-double-album: Sweat/Sweatpants.

sweat-sweatpants

One for bro-ing down in the club; one for sipping wine with a doo-rag on. Download one or both, or neither, but either way, enjoy.

deemo---sweat

Click here to download Sweat from mediafire.com

1. DJ Nori – Happy Sunday (Maurice Fulton Mix) – We Don’t Know EP
2. Komon and Appleblim – Silencio (Prins Thomas Remiks) – Silencio (Prins Thomas Remiks)
3. Mike Mind – Second Circle – Aether
4. Gui Boratto – Gate 7 – The K2 Chapter
5. Fort Romeau – And Now – Stay / True
6. Darkside – The Only Shrine I’ve Seen – Psychic
7. Joe – Slope – Slope
8. Gardland – Syndrome Syndrome – Syndrome Syndrome
9. Egyptrixx – Water (Reduced) – Water (Reduced)
10. Audion – Motormouth – Motormouth
11. Randomer – No Hook – Ruffa
12. Factory Floor – Two Different Ways – Factory Floor
13. Trevino – Gone – 3 And 1
14. Peverelist and Kowton – Beneath Radar – Livity Sound
15. Ctrls – Modular Framework – Shifting States EP
16. Tessela – Gateway – Nancy’s Pantry
17. Blawan – Shader – 30 Years of R&S Records
18. Gerry Read – Rubber Hands – U Got No God Damn Groove
19. Trade – Half Nelson – SHEWORKS005
20. Jam City – Worst Illusion – Club Constructions Vol. 6
21. Distal – Drone Circle – The Shadow Egg

deemo---sweatpants

Click here to download Sweatpants at mediafire.com

1. Prins Thomas – Sur Svie – Prins Thomas 2 Bonus Tracks
2. Cut Hands – Inchantment – Madwoman
3. Peverelist – Aztec Chant – Livity Sound
4. Adam Marshall – Memphis (feat. Maaskant) – Memphis
5. Policy – Wiseblood – Postscript
6. EMMA – Dream Phone Vip (Vip) – Blue Gardens
7. Acoustic High-End Research – Beer and Air – Gerd Janson presents Musik for Autobahns
8. Nguzunguzu – Break In – Skycell
9. Jam City – The Raven – Club Constructions Vol. 6
10. Morgan Zarate – This – Taker EP
11. Ital Tek – Violet – Control
12. Purity Ring – Amenamy (Jon Hopkins Remix) – Amenamy (Jon Hopkins Remix)
13. The Ethiopians – Empty Belly – Studio One Rub A Dub
14. Ride – Moonlight Medicine (Portishead remix)
15. Primal Scream – Higher Than The Orb Mix – Higher Than The Sun CDS