2014 has certainly been a great year for music, with some strong albums blending a number of eclectic forms as well as making it to the top of the surface. This year also saw some relatively smaller beginnings of radical change in how music was consumed.
This was also the year when I began considering making music more than a mere hobby. Around the beginning of this year, I moved on from being a lonely guitarist churning riffs in my bedroom to joining a band and playing at a couple of performances, hence going through the largely educative phases of rehearsal and nuances of taking music live – both in terms of the skills required in doing it as well as the sheer act of practicing an art in a collective fashion. I also got to contribute some music to video game prototypes as well as take a major step towards my own composition. I learned and progressed a great deal in terms of music production. This year I put out my debut EP.
But then, 2014 was also a very busy year, which means I listened to far less new music as compared to the previous year while I spent more time picking up familiar music and looking for clues as a musician.
Here are some of the best from around the world.
Most Intricate Song
Cold Dead – Flying Lotus
“Cold Dead started from an iPhone voice memo. I sang the ideas and Thundercat helped me bring it to life. All those operatic voices in this are me singing through some toys.”
What is little over a minute long will seem like an eternity of carefully crafted music which meanders through several explosions of intelligent melodies and chord changes. This glorious conflagration of jazz and electronica will send your calculations flying out the window.
Best Tracks of 2014
5. Hi Five – Angel Olsen
4.End of the World – Frame/Frame
3.Guess Again! – Thom Yorke
2.Never Catch Me – Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar
1.Oxygen – Swans
Best Albums of 2014
Space EP – Ruder and the Shockwaves
दण्डनीय अपराध – Hoirong
Lost in the Dream – The War on Drugs
Seeds – TV on the Radio
The Best Ten
10.So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club
Unlike A Different Kind of Fix, this follow up relies more on sampling and re harmonization of little pieces of music. It is a studio-driven album that still keeps up the ‘good-feels’ in the midst of its odd-time frenzy and Indian melodies.
Check — Overdone, Carry Me, Feel
9.LP1 – FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs was a pleasant surprise when it came to things that could be achieved by bedroom production of downtempo and glitch music. LP1 is an album that offers a sheer variety of sounds over its entirety lasting for an hour.
Check — Lights On, Hours, Closer
8.Atlas – Real Estate
One could almost take a walk in the little town that Real Estate seems to play at. This little quintet makes use of the vast terrestrial expanse to its advantage. Atlas is the missing post-punk record of 2014 with perfectly normal instrumentation to make you feel home with its aural imperfections.
Check — Past Lives, April’s Song, The Bend, Primitive
7.July – Marissa Nadler
This album is what one would call sweet music. The dreamy string-sections with vocals drenched in reverb function very well, adding a Twin Peaks-esque damp vibe to the entire album best experienced over long train journeys into the night. A much needed coolant to fight the tropical Indian summers.
Check — Firecrackers, Desire, Anyone Else
6.Burn Your Fire For No Witness – Angel Olsen
This is another album where I fell in love with the guitar. Whether it is the lush arpeggios, roaring tremolo or just good old rock’n’roll, Angel Olsen has offered here a sumptuous pack of music with but a tinge of familiarity in its melodies.
Check — Hi Five, Lights Out, Enemy
5.Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – Thom Yorke
This Thom Yorke solo record is more of an experiment with music business than the music itself. That said, it is an interesting departure from his older works with more improvisation and vocal manipulations.
Check — Brain in a bottle, Guess Again!, Interference, There’s No Ice(In My Drink)
4.You’re Dead – Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus, with his giant strides in production of live music is changing the way both Jazz and Electronica work. You’re Dead is a mix of all that’s great about Flying Lotus – the hip hop, chaotic instrumentation and clever improvisations.
Check — Tesla, Cold Dead, Never Catch Me, Turkey Dog Coma
3.St.Vincent – St.Vincent
Being a St.Vincent fan, this album was largely anticipated, and it did surpass my expectations with what I could almost call surreal music. Not compromising on the eccentric guitar riffs, Annie Clarke also adds a bit of nonchalant funk and childlike innocence, as seen in If I can’t show it/You can’t see it/What’s the point of doing anything.
Check — Rattlesnake, Birth in Reverse, Digital Witness, Regret
2.Warpaint – Warpaint
Peppered with so many little pieces of good guitar work, Warpaint’s eponymous album is a gem from start to end. Add to it the soothing vocal harmonies with melodies and little ad-libs rising out of the music every now and then.
Check — Keep It Healthy, Feeling Alright, Drive
1.To Be Kind – Swans
Swans is the elephant in the room. Swans is that nasty sight of a head blown up by a shotgun that you can’t pull your eyes away from. With its sheer brutal noise and primal sounds, Swans have outdone their previous outing, the colossal 2-hour long The Seer. But that’s not it. Once you settle down with the hypnotism, you start seeing little nuances, which is when the genius behind this album dawns on you. Hands down best album this year.
Check — Screen Shot, A Little God in my Hands, Oxygen
Discoveries in 2014
2014 was a great year full of discoveries for me. I’d come across a variety of interesting bands and artists ranging from the haunting atmosphere of Cocteau Twins, the foreboding grandeur of Opeth, intelligent jazz maneuvers from Miles Davis to bustling activity in the music of Snarky Puppy.
However, the best would have to be:
Rival Dealers EP was among my favourites the previous year. Over the next few months, I traversed over his earlier works, from the more cutting and hook-driven Untrue to his long departures in Kindred EP. Almost everything about Burial’s music is refreshing – the intuitive rhythm arrangement, the lo-fi production and the liberal usage of vocals as an instrument.
Soap & Skin
The experimental piano based music from Austrian singer-songwriter Anja Plaschg was another eccentric discovery done over the last days of college, hence deeply entwined with the mixed feelings of apathy and melancholy over lost time. Despite its folk base, the sophisticated piano and Anja’s accidental slippages in accent create a warmth at its core that is beyond description.
Stay tuned for a list of Movies.