Fatima Al Qadiri – Asiatisch
Al Qadiri calls her album “a virtual road trip through imagined China” and that’s a pretty perfect description. In the way that all new destinations are, Asiatisch is strikingly beautiful, intriguingly peculiar and overflowing with odd twists on the familiar.
Aphex Twin – Syro
Yeah, I bitched and moaned about Syro‘s flaws when it came out – and if I’m honest I still wish it was more of a leap into the unknown – but even when Richard D. James is staying firmly within in his comfort zone, he’s miles ahead of all peers and pretenders.
Carla Bozulich – Boy
A snarly, murky and beautifully crafted noise-rock masterpiece from one of U.S. underground’s most unique artists. One to explore and get happily lost in.
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Unashamedly nostalgic and sunny collections of lo-fi jangle-pop songs normally have me hammering the skip button, but DeMarco’s songwriting and wit elevated Salad Days well above the ordinary.
Fear Of Men – Loom
A welcome and endlessly rewarding helping of stripped-down and straightforward pop-rock, Loom is a splendid debut containing plenty of hints that greater things are to come.
Fennesz – Bécs
I can’t describe the beauty of Christian Fennesz’s lengthy ambient creations with words so I’m not even going to try. Just listen.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Five albums and several EPs into his career, FlyLo has lost none of his ability to innovate and to surprise with free-form jazz-fusion/electronica compositions. After 2012’s slow-moving, texture-focused Until The Quiet Comes, You’re Dead! was a punchy return to immediacy, percussion and constant forward momentum.
Ben Frost – A U R O R A
Perhaps not quite as visceral or unsettling as the drone demigod’s most recent releases, which almost literally blow the listener away, A U R O R A nonetheless presents the best aspects of Frost’s uncompromising and brutal soundscapes in arguably the most balanced, listenable fashion since 2003’s Steel Wound.
Goat – Commune
An album with a backwards-looking rock aesthetic that in the hands of most bands would make me want to slam my head in a car door for half an hour. Instead, Commune imbued me with an almost physical need to see Goat live. (And yes, Raj, you were right about Goat. Have a biscuit and shut up.)
Gobby – Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee
In a review giving Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee a rare five out of five, Tiny Mix Tapes described the album as “sub-granular rubble made up of consolidated swaths of formerly familiar songs and life experiences, alongside the industrial rails of frequently missed downbeats and propulsive bursts […] a barely-listenable, haphazard refraction of musical ontology.” Basically, it’s a glorious fucked-up mess and you should dive right in.
Grouper – Ruins
Having released five excellent albums in the last four years, Liz Harris is laying waste to the notion that great art, above all other elements, requires time to develop. Minimal, bleak and evocative as always, Ruins sees Harris dispense with the reverb and other assorted effects that have characterised recent Grouper releases. The result is as lovely as anything else she has made.
The Notwist – Close To The Glass
After a decade in which electronica-tinged indie-rock has been done to death and then some, it was a very pleasant surprise to hear an album that made the genre sound fresh and vital again.
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
The A.V. Club’s album of 2014 and deservedly so, Burn Your Fire is an arresting disc of down-in-the-mouth singer-songwriter alt-rock that achieves so much more than that description suggests it should.
Real Estate – Atlas
“Holy smokes, Batman! Another jangly U.S. indie-rock album?! Where’s all the abstract hippie whale-song shit?”
“Go fuck yourself, Robin.”
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Gone Girl: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture
In a soundtrack of characteristic nuance and depth, Reznor and Ross capture the hellish see-sawing between domestic pseudo-bliss and very real claustrophobic terror that pervades both Gillian Flynn’s novel and David Fincher’s film. What’s more, they present a version of the story we can enjoy without going anywhere near the deeply problematic all-women-are-crazy-and-lie-about-rape stuff.
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
I make no secret of the fact that I wanted to hate St. Vincent. I read the fawning reviews before I heard the album and they made me want to vomit. Up to this point, Annie Clark’s music – Strange Mercy in particular – had always struck me as overproduced and monotonous hipster shit with the lyrical grace of a How To Assemble Your New Shed manual and, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I wanted St. Vincent to carry on that trend. Instead, it was a massive leap forward for Clark and I really liked it, which was both nice and kind of frustrating.
Swans – To Be Kind
It seems paradoxical that in an era in which music has become increasingly seen as ‘content’ and its makers have been advised to make their ‘content’ shorter, simpler and, if possible, stupider, four genuinely amazing triple-albums have been released to universal acclaim. First Joanna Newsom released Have One On Me, then Swans put out The Seer, and then The Knife gave us Shaking The Habitual. Now we have To Be Kind, which over the course of its 121 minutes sees Swans once again rise to the absolute pinnacle of long-form noise-rock.
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
Brendan Husebo sold It’s Album Time to me as “defining the new sound of Norwegian dance music” and, I have to admit, it didn’t seem like a particularly big achievement. I didn’t even realise there was such a thing as Norwegian dance music – it’s so expensive to go out in Oslo that getting shitfaced and dancing around in a club with your mates every Friday night struck me as a niche hobby that could only be available to Norway’s 1%, who were unlikely to develop a subculture of any real scope or value. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. What I do know is that Brendan was right to recommend It’s Album Time – it’s tremendous.
tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
After the unexpected global success of 2011’s w h o k i l l, Merrill Garbus had a considerable problem. The question of how to follow an album that was so wildly experimental but also so incredibly popular nearly broke her. As the confessional opening track on Nikki Nack tells us, her solution in the end was to leave the w h o k i l l aesthetic behind and Find A New Way. She chose a very good new way.
Warpaint – Warpaint
It’s always great when a zeitgeisty band produces a long-awaited second album that surpasses their much-vaunted debut. Everything about Warpaint suggests that its makers will be around for years to come.