Collage of album covers from 2014’s best albums of 2014


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?

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.

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

  1. LV and Joshua Idehen – Islands
    • “I was fairly unprepared for Islands. It hit me squarely between the eyes – these haunting but totally propulsive and danceable beats with this sharp-eyed raconteur who sounded nothing like the MCs I had heard before…”
  2. Caribou – Our Love
    • “It would take a strong constitution to resist the hands-in-the-air filter-sweeps of Our Love’s Julia Brightly or the sneakily infectious flute loop anchoring Mars…” Click here to read more
  3. Distal – Retrograde Space Opera
    • “The basic jist is that we’re plunked into an apocalyptic future where the uber-rich have fled our dying planet…”
  4. Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba
    • “Clap! Clap!’s talent as an arranger and producer is unmistakeable…”
  5. Bitchin’ Bajas – Bitchin’ Bajas
    • “This is the album I wanted Bitchitronics to be…”
  6. Graze – Soft Gamma Repeater
    • “No other four on the floor(ish) LP this year has come within expectorating distance of this…”
  7. Various – Next Life
    • “It’s easily the equal of the two Planet Mu footwork comps…”
  8. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
    • “Many of us have been waiting for Todd Terje’s magnificent, kitschy, richly detailed, party-starting masterwork…”
  9. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love
    • “This is full on hardcore, as my still-bruised eardrums can attest…”
  10. Pye Corner Audio – Black Mill Tapes Vol. 3 and 4
    • “If you had to be fleeing a villainous cyborg or removing a mind-control device from your crainium, you’d want this to be the soundtrack…”
  11. Karl Hector and the Malcouns – Unstraight Ahead
    • “Mulatu-style breathy sax melodies and Afrobeat-en keys, filtered through a kind of Daptone-like fondness for dusty breaks…”
  12. Jakob Skott – Amor Fati
    • “, for an instrumental record that fits firmly in the Kraut school in terms of repetition and harmonic simplicity, it’s still really active…”
  13. Various – Kompakt Total 14
    • “Kompakt has always escaped the boring-minimal-techno trap by embracing pop elements…”
  14. Teebs – E S T A R A
    • “Teebs’ music relies to some extent on the tension between the beatific sounds in the treble and mids, versus the ruffneck business in the bass…”
  15. Hercules and Love Affair – The Feast of the Broken Heart
    • ““The Light” is thick and intense, with Krystle Warren giving a smouldering performance…”
  16. Gil Scott Heron – Nothing New
    • “If these rerecordings of old tunes, taken from the “I’m New Here” sessions, don’t send you into fits of weeping you must not be made of flesh and blood…”
  17. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
  18. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
    • “Against anyone’s expectations, Odd Future remain the most interesting acts in hip-hop…”
  19. Future – Honest
    • “Future fits into Mike Will Made It’s production snugly like a rim into a tire…”
  20. Tony Allen – Film of Life
    • “No afrobeat pretenders to the throne can touch Tony Allen, and not just because he did it first…”
  21. Teenanger – EPLP
    • “This is the closest they’ve come to perfectly snotty year zero punk rock…”
  22. Ekoplekz – Unfidelity
    • “Unfidelity is an uneasy listen, even if you’re merely focusing on the early-industrial-meets-sci-fi-soundtrack textures…”
  23. Goat – Commune
    • “A strange album by any measure, even for Swedes…”
  24. Various – I Care Because You Don’t
    • “Curated by Clouds from Glasgow, which appears to be in the midst of a serious electronic renaissance…”
  25. Aphex Twin – Syro
    • “Mr. Twin has reinvented himself admirably…”
  26. Ty Segall – Manipulator
    • “The little bastard churns out between two and three records a year and there’s hardly a dud in the bunch…”
  27. Vermont – Vermont
    • “Crisp synths and silky 70s fusion textures reverberate through Vermont’s extra mellow debut…”
  28. Roman Fluegel – Happiness Is Happening
    • “Good fun from a stalwart figure who deserves more attention than he sometimes gets…”
  29. Each Other – Being Elastic
    • “Unique blend of sunny ’60s harmonies and jittery Feelies-like energy…”
  30. Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
    • “The title track will have you convinced, however briefly, that an all-percussion diet is perfectly healthy and appealing…”





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