It takes some getting used to: the late Mars Volta's core members making straightforward, muscular rock music. It's executed with such conviction and energy, however, that you don't even miss the weird time signatures and endless jams. It's the sound of expert musicians letting loose. This change of pace is exactly what the prog rock veterans needed.
Best song:Ride Like The Devil's Son
Déjà Vu (2014)
Of all the artists who have fused Kraftwerk with Tiësto, this is the most fun. In fact, they may be alone in that category. Simple boom bap is piled upon by distorted vocals and insistent 8-bit synth noises that clatter around the speakers. It's like jumping into a musical ballpit. There's much colour and enough influence to pique discerning ears.
Best song:Price Tag
Pitch Black Prism (2014)
As purveyor of spaced electronics for the Anticon label, Alias delivers his 2014 mellow pill. A closet full of sparse synth and focused, pinpoint percussion, the record embodies its title. Forcibly shunted into darkness, it's like riding Space Mountain: you catch glimpses of light but enjoy the sensory deprivation of the dark. Let it wash over you.
Best song:Crimson Across
Jungle have found a unique, soulful sound, but hang on to it too tightly, resulting in a pretty yet pretty boring record. There's an emptiness beneath the continuous shared vocals that can cet kind of frustrating. It's a funky dancefloor filler, but that's about it. They already have quite the live reputation, but their debut can't live up to the hype.
Best song:Busy Earnin'
Walk Me Home (2014)
There's already enough bands clamouring for the cutesy, dream filled music that Secret Cities make. It's like a walk around an antique shop. Everything looks pretty but nothing is actually functional. The best moments are when they explore more diverse instruments, and the best track actually sounds like Beirut. It's not seen often enough.
Best song:It's Always Winter
Await Barbarians (2014)
Head Hot Chip Honcho Taylor delivers a piece of disarming quality, delving into his psyche and extracting his unformed thoughts and presenting them over lovely minimalist fare. Similar to Mike Skinner's Everything Is Borrowed, it's a piece that takes environmental cues that spawn existential musings, forcing your system into deep ponderance.
Best song:Closer To The Elderly
A Sunny Day In Glasgow
Sea When Absent (2014)
They've done it. Sea When Absent creates an encompassing, swallowing album of Loveless-esque status, beckoning in the light dazey feel of the many songs and structures. A Sunny Day In Glasgow showcase their unique twist on the most derived genre - shoegaze - and manipulate an album of remarkable intensities. Future classic right here, no doubt.
Best song:In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry In The Tradition Of Passing)
Nightmares On Wax
N.O.W. Is The Time (2014)
This is not really a best of, more of a storyline of NOW history. It's an excellent listen, a sultry groove through their party side (Dreadoverboard, 195lbs) that's tempered by a morning after comedown (Calling, Be There). There's few career retrospectives that boast such a fluent nature, yet NOW can be played front to back endlessly.
Best song:Be, I Do
Light Divide (2014)
Drone experimentalist Jon Porras delves into analog and digital equipment to exude a jarringly cerebral, but dream-like symphony in Light Divide, his latest effort. Songs transcend into blurry blips and wondrous synths while dipping into the next track seamlessly. Porras exposes an underlying beat to dreams and forgets reality. Get. This. Record.
These Days... (2014)
Ab shows the personality that makes TDE. His skill can be breathtaking, and These Days benefits from a label that is currently on the top rung. Gritty hooks, strident street production and all-star features. This feels like a major label number; aggressive gutter knowledge and poignant world truths. It won't touch Kendrick but it's the next best.
Best song:Tree Of Life
My Love Is A Bulldozer (2014)
Well this record certainly leaves a trail of destruction similar to a bulldozer. It is characterised by completely discordant sounds, the traditional manic percussion and a sense of theatre that evades some electronic technicians. This is their hardest edge yet, and it's thrilling at high volume in good quality headphones. Chilling, even.
Best song:1000 Years
deadmau5’s sixth LP is a marked effort to make an album, rather than a set. This means more interludes between dance anthems that we must respect as not-just-interludes. They amount to Boards of Canada tributes and lone piano chords, but remain pleasant. It’s in the propulsive and blissful dance, some of his finest to date, where deadmau5 soars.