Favorite Albums of 2014
I took the hit-it-and-quit-it approach when writing this year's list. I am too mentally drained from my finals to do much real thinking or writing. I'm getting overwhelmed by thinking about the sheer volume of things on the internet and in the world, feeling quasi-legit OCD over sentence structure, and just need the satisfaction of tackling this last bit of responsibility before I take a big ole break from life, existence, etc. Everything's in alphabetical order because other ways of organizing things stressed me out. The main genres I listened to this year were: things that sound like space, things that sound like the future/the internet, things that sound like ritual sacrifices and/or the occult and/or smoking weed, fucked up weird shit, and pop. Also rap and some country.
THE GOOD SHIT
Agalloch, The Serpent and the Sphere
More transcendentalist blackened folk-metal (folkened black metal??) from dem Portland boyz. It seems they're slightly abstaining from their pagan-darkness-type sounds/themes to something that is more anchored the infinitesimal insignificance of human society (that includes you). Stargazing pagans performing ancient rituals in the ageless woods, or viking-witch warriors becoming one with the celestial skies. There's also a splashful of neo-folk acoustic songs and some actually pretty rock n' roll bits, which is interesting.
Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire For No Witness
God fucking damn this shit rules. Angel Olsen's (she so pretty!!) latest album is miles ahead of her last one, IMO. I'm listening to this trying to figure out how to describe it but I have a headache and I just woke up and don't want to do anything but lie in bed and stare blankly out the window and listen to this album. I think words like “intimate” “simple” “lonely” “existential” “vulnerable” and “occasionally upbeat” seem like accurate descriptors. Songs about being lonely, being in love, and being lonely even though you are in love.
The first proper album by my boi Arca. I had no idea how high-profile this guy was until I learned he produced a lot of FKA Twigs stuff and even some stuff off Yeezus. Dude seems so in-his-own-lane that I'm surprised mainstream folk can appreciate him. His first two EPs and “mixtape” from last year are usually always on rotation during my various ~studies~. This release falls into the categories of “things that sound like the future” and “things that sound like space”.
Arch Enemy, War Eternal
Melodic death metal
I would argue that War Eternal wins the distinction of being the catchiest album of the year (Amamanaguchi won dat shit last year). It's slightly embarassing to be as into Arch Enemy as I am. In some ways, it is sort of relic of my earlier metal à la All That Remains days. I was always really into the fact that their vocalist is a blonde rock n' roll babe (although on this release she's apparently now the band's manager and they have a new similarly babe-like singer). Anyway, this band/album is melodic death metal incarnate and I will imagine heroically fighting orcs, demons and what have you until the day I die (or until Arch Enemy breaks up or releases a shitty album).
Behemoth, The Satanist
Black metal/banned in Poland/mortality
Behemoth is kinda a goofy band, but also kinda not? They're albums have generally always been enjoyable, but in a fun way, not so much an artistic one. A YouTube search of their music videos is more than an entertaining time killer (I seem to remember there being a music video where the band just ripped pages out of a Bible atop hellish snowy peaks while windmilling their flowing black metal hair – I can't find it now, though). However, recently lead vocalist Nergal was diagnosed with leukemia, and it seems to be having a weirdly positive effect on his music. Way more artistically legitimate, IMO.
Burial Hex, The Hierophant
I learned about Burial Hex fairly recently, only a few weeks ago, I think. But it doesn't really sound like anything I've ever heard before, which is always a good thing. It's something like a combination ambient electronic darkwave slash Scott Walker or Nick Cave type vocals. I don't know man, shit's dark in a kinda gothic novel way but not at all? Def my favorite album art this year, though.
C L E A N E R S, REAL RAGA SHIT, Vol. 1
What to make of Real Raga Shit? C L E A N E R S are hella enigmatic. I can literally find nothing about them, identities obscured, swallowed up by the bowels of the internet. But that just makes the music all that more alluring. This is sorta post-postmodern music pastiche where I can sometimes recognize a sample but it's been reworked past the point of identification. A lot of “oh shit where do I know this from?” sounds culled from commercials and movies and shit, I think.
Cymbals Eat Guitars, LOSE
If I had chosen to organize this list by best-to-worst numerical ranking, then this album would def be in the top five. I don't know how many times I spun this on full rotation. One of those albums-that-exactly-describe-how-you-feel-at-this-point-in-your-life. Legit, most if not all of these lyrics could stand on their own as poetry, and knowing what they are is important because it is sometimes hard to understand what Joe D'Agostino is saying. Lotta explicit and implicit allusions to New Jersey, obscure to the point that its takes 10+ minutes to figure out what/where the band is even referencing. The heir apparent for the title of New Jersey: THE ALBUM. Me and Joe are kindred spirits, I feel. One day I shall meet him and it will be overwhelmingly underwhelming.
Death Grips, The Powers That Be (niggas on the moon / Jenny Death)
Admittedly, I had been getting bored of Death Grips before they dropped the first half of The Powers That B. Not to say that Government Plates, etc. is bad, or even that I didn't like it. It just seemed like more of the same in a way I was content with, if not necessarily impressed by. But this album manages to take the trademark Death Grips sound and chop/screw/fuck it up to the point that it becomes some sort of conceptual feeling, like a space filled with the physical/spiritual essence of Death Grips breaking apart and reforming like particles or amorphously floating about like gas or plasma or some shit. They probs won't drop the second half until next year if at all, but I am looking forward to it.
Fatima al-Qadiri, Asiatisch
I recently stumbled upon Fatima al-Qadiri's “world” music blog a month or two ago while I was exploring the recommended links on the Awesome Tapes from Africa website (which I can't find anymore! Good thing I bookmarked all the goods ones!! >:)). I've been spending a lot of time on “world” music websites, and it's reminding me why I got into international relations in the first place. Ah, how the years have flown. Anyway, I'm always keeping up with what al-Qadiri is doing if only because she is a very very interesting woman.