Ms Heap straddles the line between cutesy indie-pop and all out Björk free-form. Sparks is a dense look into the alternative dance culture that has stuttered in fits and starts since Frou Frou pushed the game forward in 2002. The diversity of influence is wrapped up perfectly in a highly presentable package. In fact, it's an absolute delight.
Best song:The Listening Chair
I Forget Where We Were (2014)
Instead of elaborating on his anthemic song qualities, pleasing the stadium crowds, Ben Howard turns further inwards. No easy hits, no short songs, but earnest and gloomy pieces of indie folk. Compact melodies and percussive guitar playing show similarities to earlier work, now blending together perfectly. A craftsman has mastered his skills.
Best song:End Of The Affair
Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels 2 (2014)
RTJ2 is ultimately more urgent than the super-duo's debut, and that's completely fitting. Flitting through subjects like women, weed, and the police, RTJ run them fast in the first half, leaving the end of the album in a fog of unimportance. Hardcore hip-hop needs more albums like this, but they also need to finish without prematurely ejaculating.
Best song:Blockbuster Night Part 1
The Midnight Life (2014)
So few artists have the courage to make this record. A dazzling blend of California colour, early 90s soul food production and smooth R&B, punctuated with all manner of conversational topics, the album shines brightly in a dimly lit industry. Syrupy smooth, even when Mack 10 drops by for some guitar based edge. It won't sell. It will draw you in.
Best song:Puffin The Dragon
The Best Day (2014)
Thurston opens his newest solo album with a track that would've been great on Sonic Youth's Murray St., but the rest sounds like a sprawling monstrosity of noise rock and, oddly enough, Led Zeppelin homages. Moore's guitar playing is pleasing and interesting about 75% of the time, but I have to point out there's more than just guitar going on here.
Best song:Speak To The Wild
Ultimate Bitch Mixtape (2014)
That this houses what will be one of the best tracks of the year is indicative of the quality that The BasedGod somehow manages to conjure despite his relentless work ethic. Breathless and insightful, mournful and delighted, savage and tender, his every contradiction is pursued with a fervour few can muster on their LPs, let alone a mixtape.
Best song:No Black Person is Ugly
Negative Qualities (2014)
The punk rock answer to the latte drinking, Black Keys listening, Murakami reading hipster: a smart and intense half hour of unrelenting rage. The unscrupulous lyriscism full of world and self loathing being their strong suit. Once you can hear through the noise of scouring guitars and drums you’ll discover the qualities of this nearly flawless record.
The Person & The People
What A Drag (2014)
In the 90s, everyone made What A Drag. You couldn't spit in Seattle without hitting this record. 20 years on, the sound is a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere populated with sonic effects and guitar filters. Good, honest Alternative Rock and Roll, with genuine lyrics and an inward gazing eye that actually delivers the odd kernel of knowledge.
Best song:Don't Fear The Richard
Primus & The Chocolate Factory With The Fungi Ensemble (2014)
Ultimately, this could be viewed as a really long joke, but Primus pull off a very enthralling envision of Willy Wonka's world. Putting the mega-creeps on, Primus jaunt through all of these as if Mr. Krinkle is Willy Wonka, pushing kids into the river of chocolate. You're getting a bunch of reworks, yeah, but you're getting a new flavor of each.
Best song:Pure Imagination
Walking on a Flashlight Beam (2014)
The urgency housed within Duda's creative mind is constantly simmering, boiling over on occasion with a darkness that truly does breed fear. The album's centrepiece, Pygmalion's Ladder, is an expression of the ingenuity that lurks beneath the surface. It furtively pokes its head out, through a distorted riff or a whispered vocal. It's intoxicating.
Best song:Pygmalion's Ladder
After The Flowers EP (2014)
L'Orange's stream-of-consciousness epitaph to his 2014 album, The Orchid Days, is a conceptual caveat of wonders. Reinforcing the most inventive hip hop album of this year, After The Flowers continues the brilliance of L'Orange's intelligent mind, and his features echo his fingerprint on the music. This free EP is more stunning than most.
Best song:Broken Clocks
Rise of the Empress (2014)
From the beginning, this album slays. The title track opens with the most ominous noises laid to wax in 2014, before a huge expanse of power chords and orchestral singing assaults your ears. I liken it to riding on a motorcycle at speed with no helmet. It's an all out experience, with your other 4 senses consumed by what your ears are experiencing.
Best song:Darkness Encroaching