What do the people who made, wrote, wrote about, or released music this year listen to? Our 2014 3 From Me post features music discovered and loved by a collection of bands, musicians, writers, and labels over the last 12 months. Below are 51 albums or tracks spanning Spanish post-punk, psychedelic tropicalia, wonky bass, and something that “sounds like it’s happening at 4 a.m., when the last bar on Saturn lets out.”
Jen Cloher / Milk! Records
Australian Music Prize nominee Jen Cloher co-runs Melbourne-based Milk! Records out of the home she shares with uber-talented Courtney Barnett. Cloher’s three picks are all from her hometown. Watch out for an album from Barnett in the first few months of 2015.
“Melbourne-based, post-punk band Total Control released one of the albums of the year, Australian or otherwise. In a recent discussion of the Typical System’s merits with two of my keenest music-loving friends, one told me that the album was so sinister it made him break out in a cold sweat every time he listened to it. Regardless of this distressing side effect he couldn’t stop going back for repeated listens. Our other friend told the story of how her housemate drove right up the arse of another car the first time she heard ‘Systematic Fuck.’ Powerful stuff. For me, it’s the repetitive trance of ‘Black Spring’ or the catchy, new wave ‘Flesh War’ that mark this album as something special.”
“Early in 2014 five bands from the Milk! Records family went into a studio over a weekend to record our first-ever compilation. The whole process was fast, fun and satisfying, culminating with the launch of the 10” vinyl at the Northcote Social Club—the iconic, Melbourne, live venue where Courtney could be found working behind the bar just the year before. Milk! Records is an artist-run label and A Pair of Pears (with Shadows) is a great example of the excellent songwriters and musicians in our community.”
“This is the fourth album from Melbourne’s Laura Jean and her second through iconic label Chapter Music, who have been releasing some of the finest Australian music over the past 20 years. Laura recorded her self-titled album with John Parish, one of PJ Harvey’s longest-standing collaborators and co-producer of the Mercury-winning masterpiece ‘Let England Shake.’ Laura Jean is a singular voice in the Australian music scene, one of our sharpest lyricists and deepest thinkers. If you loved Sun Kil Moon’s Benji in 2014, make sure to give this album a spin. It’s not an easy listen, but certainly a rewarding one. Stand out track: ‘First Love Song.’”
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
The cosmic, eccentric, and soulful hip-hop duo of Cat and Stas just announced the release of their new album, EarthEE, out February 24th on Sub Pop.
“Gab’s flow is so sick and ungodly, then she wanna go and sing and serve us that ’90s so, so, def vibe? Perfect breakup song,” says Stas. “Pure, sweet, seductive vibes with a sensitive strength, Gifted Gab is straight fire. This makes me head nod INSTANTLY. Harmonies on FLEEK,” adds Cat.
“Georgia gives us audio drugs, an entranced dance whenever we bump this jam,” explains Stas. “This track provides us with slick, free-form funk. With the depth of a thousand oceans, we swim in her lessons,” says Cat.
“This track has the beautiful, chocolatey, silky smoothness that you can only find in an Iman Omari song,” claims Stas. “Tasty, flowing intimacy captured. Cupcake with your current/future love with this as the soundtrack,” advises Cat.
DJ Shadow just dropped the new single from Northern Californian bass producer Bleep Bloop on his Liquid Amber imprint. 10 Watt Lazers follows the Feel The Cosmos EP released by Saturate Records earlier in the year.
“It was hard for me to choose which G Jones track I would pick, but I ended up with this one because I love everything about it. I am really into music that morphs as it goes along and this beat doesn’t stagnate at any point. It’s G Jones taking you to space on the arp. Shout-outs to Saturate Records.”
“Doshy has been one of my primary influences. This tune honestly made me realize that I like electro-style beats, and then it drops into the half-time grime segment. So wonky, so good—snares in weird places, watery drop sounds, acidy synths—this track has it all.”
“First Thelem tune I heard and I love it. ArtikalMusic is offering really nice sounds. This one has such a dope mix of depth and darkness, but also bounce and danceability. Proper tune.”
Music critic, musicology graduate student, and occasional saxophonist Will Robin wrote about a lot of music on Bandcamp this year, including French psych-pop band Moodoid, minimalist Tristan Perich, and adventurous UK band Adult Jazz. Here are three of his biggest faves:
“Two albums remained mainstays for much of 2014, at first demanding intense, digestive listening, and then inviting further exploration. My Brightest Diamond’s latest, This Is My Hand, unveils a stripped-down and amped-up version of Shara Worden’s long-standing project, heavy on rhythmic verb. Little lyrical repetitions–drawn from a poetry game played by Welsh bards–and an austere, rhythmic grid swirl around in ‘Lover Killer.’ (Worden had much to say in our Bandcamp interview.)”
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Sheet Music
“Gabriel Kahane’s The Ambassador offers a panoramic and microcosmic overview of Los Angeles, the music meticulously crafted and the poetry eloquent and often devastating. The album navigates the history of American racial violence, the closing soliloquy of Blade Runner, Hollywood’s imbalance of modernist architecture and apocalyptic devastation. On the opening track, Kahane narrates his attempt to come to terms with the city’s multitudes with, ‘I try to calculate the anguish/And the anger and all the aspirations/Of the millions who have lived here/And will live in desperation.’”
Compact Disc (CD)
“And then there’s occasionally a late release that feels particularly special for some unidentifiable reason. This year it’s The Tender Fruit’s The Darkness Comes, an alternately misty and gleaming record that’s perfectly crafted for late November. On ‘Bring It In,’ intricate instrumentals are woven around Christy Smith’s plaintive vocals, followed by repetitive coos echoing Julia Holter (or perhaps Steve Reich). The album includes contributions from many of North Carolina’s finest musicians, who weave a web of sound around Smith’s sharp songwriting.”
This year, silky Australian soul man followed up the 2013 release of Franklins Room with the well-received Groove Curse EP, which featured a guest appearance from Gwen Bunn. Bring on the full-length LP!
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP
“‘Hum,’ from Gist Is by Adult Jazz, is an amazing soundscape. This haunting intro is very long and very good. Love this song; the drums have an awesome swing and vocals are just great.”
“Super-sweet harmonies and tight, live drums. I play this song loudly with the windows down in the car.”
In 2014, this Brooklyn-based writer and music journalist, who has covered heavy metal for Rolling Stone, Noisey, and Pitchfork, scribed a couple of great Bandcamp guides to the darkest, noisiest, most disturbing corners of the metal world.
“This is one of the most compelling albums I’ve heard all year, and I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago. Not A Cost refer to themselves as ‘anti-colonial, anarchist, genre-bending crust from un-ceded Lekwungen territories on occupied Turtle Island,’ and their rage-fueled offering of vitriolic crust-punk, tempered with raw, primitive black metal and snarling lyrics that rail against the crooked system is exactly what I want to hear right now.”
“What initially caught my eye about Sadhak was the way their press materials described them, name-dropping Warning and Burzum. I didn’t understand how those two sounds could possible work together—until I pressed play on the Norwegian project’s first demo. Helmed by sole member Andreas Hagen (also of High Priest of Saturn), Sadhuk perfectly blends fuzzy, minimalist black metal with Candlemass-styled epic doom and mournful, yearning vocals that just might make Warning’s Pat Walker crack a faint smile.”
Jeremy Sroka / Hi54LOFI
A blog, a 24-hour radio station, and a mix tape haven, Hi54LOFI is home to Sroka’s deep obsession with great new music.
“2014 was a very good year to be a Shakey Graves fan (ok, fair point, every year has been good). Not only were we treated to his most adventurous record yet, but all the way back in February, he made FOUR unreleased albums available to download for a limited time only in celebration of ‘Shakey Graves Day’ (yes, that’s a thing, as it rightly should be). Those unreleased albums have since become unreleased again—unless you snagged them at the time. In that case, they snugly sit forever in your Bandcamp app. But luckily, And The War Came is so damn good that anyone who missed out on the earlier treats can just keep the new one on repeat until ‘Shakey Graves Day’ returns in 2015. So mark your calendars. And don’t forget to remind the kids to leave some cookies and whiskey out on the kitchen table. In Shakey We Trust.”
Compact Disc (CD)
“William Ryan Fritch—or Willy Ry Fry if, like me, you sometimes let an individual’s Twitter handle overtake the name their mother gave them—has put out a lot of excellent music this year. Like, A LOT a lot. Everything I’ve heard from him so far has been spell-bindingly gorgeous, but possibly none more than this track. I think the moment that really planted this tune on the top of my brain was having it randomly come on my headphones during an especially picturesque moment of staring out an airplane window as we floated through a field of some of the most impressive cloud formations I’d ever seen. And the icing on the cake was checking my phone at the end of that perfectly soundtracked 7 minutes and 24 seconds to see that the song responsible for this otherworldly experience was fittingly called ‘Weightless.’ If you can’t find an airplane window to try this track out on, it also works well with staring out bus windows. Or staring up at the ceiling. Or just staring, in general.”
“I’ve never been much good at using words to describe how a band sounds or why I like them. I’ve always found it more useful to just say, ‘hey this is really great.’ But if you were to hold a gun to my head and ask me to summarize The Golden Dregs’ sound and why they were one of my favorite discoveries of 2014, I’d probably start off by saying, ‘if you busted a piece off The Strokes’ first album, and then took a generous teaspoon of The Velvet Underground, threw that all in a blender with a secondhand cassette tape and two overflowing ashtrays…’ and around there I would realize that I was veering off into a totally rubbish analogy. So I’d probably start to panic and bail on the whole thing, resorting instead to an explanation that just uses the genre tags the Dregs put on their Bandcamp page. ‘They’re the best anti-garage blues band in Falmouth!’ I’d shout. ‘Now please put the gun away.’”
Chancha Via Circuito
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP, Vinyl Box Set
In 2014 Argentinian producer Pedro Canale, aka Chancha Via Circuito, returned from a three-year hiatus with his third album. Amansara blends traditional folkloric music with futuristic sounds and features outstanding collabs with vocalist Mariam Garcia.
Compact Disc (CD)
“I discovered Blocktreat through a friend of mine, who said, ‘Just listen to this album.’ I fell in love with this music immediately. It’s very special, emotional, and dreamy.”
“Helado Negro is one of my favorite artists. He released music in 2014, but this song, ‘Arboles,’ from his 2013 Invisible Life record, is so charming and catchy that it can stay all the day with me. I love the melody and Roberto’s voice.”
“I chose ‘Huella’ because it’s deep and has this magical type of chant—the baguala—that’s typical of the Andes and brings a lot of images and landscapes inside. One of the Tremor’s pearls, without a doubt.
Music junkie and host of Stylin’ on the mighty 3RRR-FM in Melbroune, Australia, Mr. Styles also runs the Heard and Felt label. With several insanely good Stylin’ compilations to date, Heard and Felt will be releasing artist-driven albums in 2015, too.
“The coveted ‘bassline of the year’ award goes to this modern funk jam from the Sweden-based keytarist/talkboxer/breaker/etc. For more 2014 boogie funk on Bandcamp, check out Dogg Master, Throwback Zack, Tryezz, XL Middleton, Buscrates and Fingazz.”
“Taking the loudest jazz music (big band) and mixing it with the loudest club music (grime) may seem obvious in hindsight but Swindle did it first and best. This whole EP is killer. For more jazz-dipped electronics made available on Bandcamp this year, check Dorian Concept, Trian Kayhatu, Mark de Clive-Lowe, 22a, I’lls, Chris McClenney and Evan Marien.”
“Sometimes I like my jazz quiet, and this album was the perfect tonic. Kizzie’s vocals shine on this track, one for the Esperanza Spalding fans. There was so much other great jazz on Bandcamp in 2014, including Brandee Younger, Daniel Crawford, Azar Lawrence and Matthew Halsall.”
It’s got to feel good when your debut album, which took five years to make, is described by Sasha Frere-Jones as “Pop music that is built to last.” Music For Touching by Cookies was crafted by Ben Sterling, co-founder of the now-disbanded, electro-rock group Mobius Band.