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Thread: Idioteque Stalker's Top 20 of 2014

  1. #26
    Cinematographer Idioteque Stalker's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting Idioteque Stalker (view post)
    (Because I always ask for so many CDs at Christmas, I've gotten in the habit of quickly describing each album on my wish list so my family can more easily pick which one they want to get me. "Sun Kil Moon - Benji. Singer/songwriter. Notorious butthole of a guy releases weirdly compassionate album. Nearly every song is about death." I'm crossing my fingers.)
    I got it. :lol:

  2. #27
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    7.
    Ariel Pink - Pom Pom



    There's obviously something different about Ariel Pink, right? Whatever the case may be, it undoubtedly has a lot to do with why he's such a fascinating artist and "celebrity," and despite the eccentricities (musical and otherwise) he continues to exhibit a natural talent for pop songwriting. As such, any Ariel Pink album lives and dies by the strengths of the songs. Pom Pom's bloated track list may draw suspicion considering Pink's tendency to fill out albums with a gristly (to put it lightly) cut now and again, so its one of 2014's minor miracles that Pom Pom is as consistently brilliant as it is.

    While all of Pink's more unique tendencies (vocal caricatures, lo-fi experimentation, uncouth humor, fragmented song structures) are certainly in full force, he's never provided so many solid tracks. "White Freckles" and "Not Enough Violence" are quirky jams that only Ariel Pink could make, while "Lipstick" and "Put Your Number In My Phone" are two of his finest pop songs. In fact, the entire first half of the record is pretty much flawless. The second half is a bit more odd, but it doesn't stop "Sexual Athletics," "Black Ballerina," "Picture Me Gone," and "Dayzed Inn Daydreams" from standing among his best songs. Eyebrow-raisers like "Nude Beach A Go-Go," "Jell-O," and the first half of "Dinosaur Carebears" simply come with the territory--and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. Pom Pom is not only the best Ariel Pink album, I expect it always will be.

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  3. #28
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    6.
    Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piņata



    How often is a rap album in the conversation for straight-up prettiest of the year? "Deeper," "Thuggin'," that impeccable five-song run from "Robes" to "Shame"--with Piņata, Madlib has crafted the most luxurious retro-Motown production since The Pretty Toney Album, with at least two heaping (and welcome) dollops of J Dilla's fractured, emotive vocals. The guest spots are on point, with great usage of Danny Brown and Raekwon, a surprising verse from BJ The Chicago Kid, and a stellar showing from the OF crew-members Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt (I'll be damned if Domo isn't the current dark horse of guest verses).

    And then there's Freddie Gibbs. Historically I have to admit I'm not much of a fan, but once the production of Piņata drew me in I realized just how in-command he is. It's his album, sure, but Gibbs is so focused and in-the-pocket with his rhymes that he makes everyone else seem sloppy by comparison (most apparent on the closing title track, in which Freddie is sorely missed). His constant strings of eighth-note syllables on songs like "Harold's" and "Deeper" add their own kind polyrhythms to spacious beats which could've easily suffered from the interpretations of lesser MCs.

    It would've been a damn shame for the strength of Madvillainy to overshadow what has been a long, varied, and consistently impressive career for Madlib. But while that now-classic album's comic-book-fever-dream aesthetic may ultimately prove too impressive to overcome, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib have evened the playing field with Piņata, which was easily my hip-hop album of the year and looks suited to only get better with age.

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  4. #29
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    D, I may need a little more time with the Red House Painters, but that Sun Kil Moon track you posted is phenomenal. I think I can safely say at this point that SKM is one of my favorite new discoveries in 2014, along with Big Star, Mobb Deep, and Three 6 Mafia.

  5. #30
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    5.
    How to Dress Well - What Is This Heart?



    While listening to gigantic releases like Piņata, Benji, and even You're Dead! I can't help but question myself: "Can How to Dress Well really make a better album than this?" Here's a regular-seeming white dude with a stubbly beard who probably-too-often sings and writes music/lyrics beyond his means, and whose album cover is pretty much the male version of the first world problems meme. "I'm going to see How to Dress Well tonight," a friend says. "Let me know if he can actually sing," I reply. Even though I'm a fan, I wasn't interested. I just can't help but be skeptical. I don't know how the general community sees him, but to me Tom Krell is an underdog.

    In 2014, however, How to Dress Well did what he's been trying to do for five-plus years: make an R&B record. Until now he's done lo-fi R&B, outsider R&B, experimental R&B, whatever you want to call it, but it's all been more-or-less shrouded in reverb and mystery. What Is This Heart, on the other hand, is at many points unabashedly poppy, nakedly emotional, and (wait for it) well-damn-sung. Krell has often cited 90s R&B stalwarts like 112, Boyz II Men, and Ready for the World as primary influences, but the connection has never come through as strong as it does here--and the hi-fi emotions of those acts work so well in this context that one wonders 1) how people could sing with such emotion about things as uncomplicated as sex and drugs and 2) why no one has really used this genre to sing about the complexities of love, acceptance, and platonic relationships.

    I love 90s R&B as much as the next guy who wasn't really too music-conscious during the 90s, but during the fifty-five minutes of What Is This Heart? I can't help but think that so much of the decade's wealth of beautiful, sensitive R&B was semi-wasted emotional potential. When Krell sings "I want you to have my baby," he doesn't mean it as a come-on, but rather as a heartfelt sentiment that has carefully considered all the difficult ramifications that come with it. Here's an album where, without blinking, Beethoven's Emperor Concerto is sampled, the word "boo" is used, and my best friend can dance with his one-year-old daughter to a song titled "Precious Love" without a hint of irony. Krell may get a lot of credit for birthing a "new genre" with past releases, but with What Is This Heart? he has finally crafted something not only unique but also relatable, something that I sang to in the car more than anything else this year, and something that can stand the test of time.

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  6. #31
    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    Do you like Milosh?


  7. #32
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    4.
    Jenny Hval & Susanna - Meshes of Voice



    Meshes of Voice isn't some album you can just put on. It takes preparation, focus, and maybe even a little debriefing. It's the type of dead serious, capital-a Ambitious album that certain listeners crave so voraciously but are satisfied with so rarely. It's gorgeous at times and punishing at others--thoroughly mysterious while primarily consisting of instruments so familiar as voice, piano, and guitar. It tells a story but of course doesn't really make any sense. It's the kind of album you play for your stoner friends to freak them out (but then they kinda get into it).

    Although they are both separately successful Norwegian artists, I wasn't really familiar with either Jenny Hval or Susanna Wallumrod before now. On Meshes of Voice, their first collaboration, Susanna plays the crooning deity to Jenny's bleating mortal, and the dichotomy works wonders. On the brooding "Thirst That Resembles Me," their flat-out disparate vocal styles provide so many different tonalities that a mere few vocal tracks sound like an entire ensemble. Many times Susanna's austere voice will introduce a melody before Jenny rips it to shreds, like on the heavenly "O Sun O Medusa"/"A Mirror In My Mouth" one-two punch.

    But not all connections are so tidy: most melodic and lyrical themes pop up several times throughout the course of this album, leading me to ask questions like "What is Jenny's relation to the black lake?" or "What is the meaning of Susanna taking this melody?" It's an album one feels compelled to listen to again and again in order to discover its secrets. I may prefer a few 2014 albums to this one, but I'm most thankful for Meshes of Voice. It's such a go-for-broke, obviously slaved-over, wild piece of art that I can imagine it single-handedly waking some jaded music lover from their "dogmatic slumbers"--its other-ness calls attention to the things we take for granted and then makes them suspect.

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  8. #33
    Cinematographer Idioteque Stalker's Avatar
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    Quote Quoting D_Davis (view post)
    Do you like Milosh?
    Whoa. That guy's voice sounds almost exactly like Owen Pallett's.

    This type of smooth vocal electronica doesn't really do it for me these days. I like Baths pretty well though.

  9. #34
    Not a praying man Melville's Avatar
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    Nice thread. I'll be listening through most of these. What were the top 3?
    I am impatient of all misery in others that is not mad. Thou should'st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad? How can'st thou endure without being mad? Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can'st not go mad?

    lists and reviews

  10. #35
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    Quote Quoting Melville (view post)
    What were the top 3?
    Got busy, but I plan on finishing. Maybe this weekend.

  11. #36
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    3.
    Dean Blunt - Black Metal




    Here's my biggest surprise of 2014. I'm a brand new fan, but Dean Blunt is such an enigmatic persona that I could already spend hours pontificating on his relation to identity, appropriation, and the uselessness of the high/low culture dichotomy--just to end up right where I started, no doubt. I'll spare you the philosophizing, as the true strength of Black Metal isn't its conceptual slight-of-hand but rather its songs. The titles are rabbit holes themselves, but Black Metal is astounding for nothing else than gathering songs like "50 Cent," "Punk," and "Lush" under the same banner and making them work toward the album's enveloping mood.

    As weird as it sounds, Black Metal exudes a certain tonal quality that is somehow comforting in its unapproachability, like that one person you sometimes can't help but gravitate toward simply because you know they'll never ask how your day's going. Take, for instance, "Molly & Aquafina"--a sparse love ballad that just happens to be about Blunt's nine millimeter handgun--or closer "Grade," which wouldn't feel at all out of place on a Knife record. Graciously upbeat (yet tantalizingly brief) moments are littered throughout: "Lush" is the most striking opener of the year, "100" harkens back to the Pixies' effortless lilt, and the devil-may-care bravado of "Hush" implores repeated listens.

    It's centerpieces "Forever" and "X" (together totaling almost twenty-two minutes) that really shine: the cumulative effects of the drum machines, horns, synthesizers, and pianos create a futuristic dirge that is both belligerent and melancholy, like Salinger's Zooey screaming at his mother to let him bathe in peace. "You're fucking with a holy man," Blunt says. I'm not sure exactly what he means, but hell if I'm about to ask questions.

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