My favourite records of 2014 (so far)
Halfway through the year, which albums are doing it?
Jungle – Jungle
It’s always worth giving the side eyes to an act that is purposefully mysterious yet unbelievably polished. Jungle, who we now know to be Tom McFarland and Joshua Lloyd-Watson, two friends with a nose for nostalgia, appear to have a musical knowledge beyond their years. This record doesn’t exactly thrown up new sounds, but it manages to make the familiar feel futuristic, the cheesy seem cool, and contains tunes that you feel like you’ve been listening to for years; ‘Time’, ‘Busy Earning’, ‘The Heat’. And it’s not all happy clappy stuff. Jungle aren’t yearning to fill the gaps Basement Jaxx or Groove Armada left. There’s a downtempo sensibility here too. This is a nuanced, intriguing, and rather brilliant album. XL sure can pick ‘em.
James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical
This is an album I’ve been living with for a while, yet keep returning to, due to the depth of detail contained in each track. These tunes are living, breathing organisms that appear to morph with your mood. The songs pull you in and envelop you. This aint no background music. ‘Red Dust’ and ‘Cavalier’ and ‘Outside, Digging’ require concentration and a handing over of yourself to their fidelity.
Future - Honest
There are few rappers who can really make something likeable out of autotune, but Future is definitely one. The creases of Pluto are ironed out here to create a much more entact album, with very little that feels superfluous. Future has managed to carve out a sound and a sentiment that is uniquely him. There’s nothing overly conventional here, nor nothing overly experimental. But there’s a musicality across much of the album that indicates a wide palate of influences; ‘Look Ahead’, ‘I Won’, and ‘Blood, Sweat, Tears’ centre themselves in melody, a purpose that makes Honest rise above many releases this year.
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
I have an interested/not interested relationship with Albarn’s post-Blur music. Gorillaz will probably be lauded in years to come as highly influential, but The Good The Bad And The Queen was really not up to much. Enter this sad, thoughtful album, which enters your bloodstream by seeping through your skin unnoticed. I honestly didn’t think Albarn that could evoke Sun Kil Moon and Radiohead, but here you have it. Tracks such as ‘You & Me’ and ‘The History of a Cheating Heart’ are musical benzos, and the whole thing is a strange, slow, and honest piece of work.
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Olsen’s most whole album so far opens as if it’s from another era with ‘Unfucktheworld’. And maybe Olsen’s wisdom is old. Somehow, her brilliant honesty manages to have a light touch. Somehow, the lo fi scuzziness also sounds spritely. And somehow this love affair with old fashioned fidelity sounds new. There are great moments of knowingness here too, like on the winks and shrugs in ‘Hi-Five’. Elsewhere, such as on ‘Dance Slow Decades’, Olsen demands you strain your ears and mind to catch what she’s getting at.
YG – My Krazy Life
In a post-Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City everyone is jumping on board, and while it’s unfair to compare any West Coast record that relies on the narrative of a-day-in-the-life to Lamar’s masterpiece, it’s impossible not to see what YG’s reference points are. Lamar even pops up on ‘Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)’. While My Krazy Life lacks a certain brand of musical maturity, it still shines.
EMA – The Future’s Void
Erika M. Anderson’s ‘California’ is one of the best tracks of the past ten years, but Past Life Martyred Saints was patchy. However, The Future’s Void is utterly different, a thesis on the present concerned with warnings about the future. EMA has managed to make a record about the superficiality and general boringness about life online and the repercussions that vacuousness has for identity and the self. Even if the music was terrible, you’d have to give her kudos for that. But this is a woozy, challenging and interesting piece of art that should be digested in whole, without taking WhatsApp breaks.
And the best…
Clipping – CLPPNG
One of the most musically adventurous and intriguing albums released in recent memory, CLPPNG comes out of nowhere and snaps your neck. There are nods to Aphex Twin and Death Grips (and even John Cage), but really, this is all Clipping’s own. Bizarre, unsettling, head-twisting, adventurous, exhilarating, there are moments and sounds on this that make your jaw drop. It’s hard to pick a highlight as this is an utterly complete piece of work, but ‘Dominoes’ is something else.
And the album that was released this year that I can’t believe was only released this year because I feel like I’ve been by its side forever…
The Gloaming – The Gloaming