Three years ago today, my mother died suddenly.
There was no warning, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t get to say goodbye. My sister and I are still picking up the pieces.
Here she is, teaching me videogames and the art of biting one’s tongue in concentration.
I wanted Tears Are In Your Eyes, by Yo La Tengo, played at her funeral. She loved this band. I wrote a lengthy ode to my mom, but couldn’t read it myself, crying too hard. Turned out, the pastor was too choked up to read it clearly either. And then this song came on, washing over us like a tidal wave.
This is one of the most deeply felt songs in my life. There’s a titanic gravity attached to this song now, but it was always one to gut me with this one specific line. A line that my mom said thousands of times to her kids, in varying words, throughout our lives. I’m going to share it below.
Although you don’t believe me you are strong,
Darkness always turns into the dawn.
This is a list of seriously amazing music. The best albums released in 2014, no shit. You probably haven’t heard of some of these artists. That’s okay. That’s awesome, in fact. Most of it’s off the beaten path, and it’d be a shame if that’s the only reason you never heard it. My biggest pleasure with this blog is hearing from friends who discovered something that’s become absolutely essential in their lives. I treasure that feeling and only hope to spread it. Enrich your life. Be adventurous, try out some of the music streaming on this page! It’s free right now and you’re definitely not doing anything better!
I know this is late in the sense that most people publish their lists before the year is done, but I couldn’t care less about being first in judging an entire year’s worth of beautiful music. I’d always rather be finished than first.
Every piece of music on this list deserves attention. You’ll probably love some and hate others, because that’s how taste works.
See the Best of 2014 Honorable Mention list for the greatest albums that didn’t quite make the final cut!
[Note: excepting the ABSOLUTE FAVORITES section, these albums are listed in the order I heard them.]
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
– Ira Glass
I’ve been fond of this brilliant clip for well over a decade, yet I never quite put my finger on what 20th century sci-fi short story it reminds me of.
I’m thinking Bradbury, I’m thinking Clarke? Dick? I have no idea. I merely recall a short story in middle school English class that lodged its way deep into my mind. The story of kids in a future (on a different planet?) where they could not go outside because of some extreme weather phenomena, and finally had a momentary opportunity to do so. It could have been poisonous air, like this video. It could have been solar radiation. I could be entirely wrong.
Does this ring a bell to anyone? Does the video conjure memories, or the name of a story?
I know I could probably stumble through google trial and error and figure it out, but I prefer learning things directly from people. I like finding out what happened because someone told me. I like having a connection reveal the information I seek, at least some of the time.
It can get lonely, having all you need to know at your fingertips all the time.
I read today that Vertigo Music would have the first vinyl issue of Ágætis Byrjun since its original pressing 15 years ago, and was reminded that I hadn’t paid this group much attention in recent years. Their impact may have dulled a bit with the passage of time and a billion miles traveled in my music journey, but there’s still nothing quite like Sigur Rós.
If you can help with my search, or if you’re just reading this, thank you. I write for you.
This sounds like towering columns of shattering light, the kind of futuristic timbres that I associate with crystalline sky cathedrals in some imagined Final Fantasy game.
Arca‘s constructions remind me of the fierce creativity that bursts from the most surprising Aphex Twin singles. I don’t mean to put him on the same level; this music simply conjures that same joyful sense of surprise that only a handful of artists seem capable of. Surprise isn’t everything, but it makes a huge impression here. You haven’t heard anything quite like this before.
The music video for the title track cements that nascent Aphex Twin connection in my mind. If you’re a fan of I Care Because You Do or the Rubber Johnny video, you’re going to love this. You also know exactly what I mean about cementing the connection.
Here’s a favorite track of mine, halfway between the relaxed and spastic-laser-beam ends of the album:
The album itself is buttoned together by a sweeping sense of narrative and pacing, with slow dreams buffering the sharp edged experiments and deep bass explorations. It’s far more than an intriguing experiment; it’s lived in, thoughtful electronic storytelling.
You’ll probably find this cutting through your mind, if you’re a fan of the alien architecture of Oneohtrix Point Never, the neon contrast footwork of DJ Rashad, the depth charge techno of Andy Stott, the weird end of Warp‘s catalog, or even Kanye West – Arca helped craft his ear shattering album Yeezus.
This was the first album I discovered well into 2015 that I might have included on my best of the year list. You can buy Xen via links on Arca’s Soundcloud page, or listen free on spotify right now.
I just needed to share this right now.
I forgot for the longest time. I had somehow missed the opportunity to share this infamous and absolutely captivating music video on Optimistic Underground for a long, long time. It’s based on one of the final songs on Aphex Twin‘s spastic genius monument, Drukqs, and it’s one of the most unforgettable videos you’ll ever see.
There’s not much to say about this, other than make sure to pick your jaw up after it’s over, and try not to be upset if it takes you outside your comfort zone!
This album made a spot on my Best of 2014: Honorable Mention list, for a lot of great reasons. Here it is, streaming free in its entirety.
It breaks traditionally stone-faced drone music into wondrous, almost funny eruptions of surprise and joy. Its 83 minute running time seems monolithic and impenetrable until you actually hit play and topple inward. The first track bursts with a mischievous philosophical rant, peaking with the line,
“Grab yourself by the anus and turn yourself inside out. Reveal your inner workings! Put that which is most basic out into the light, and put the decorative outer wrappings where they belong.”
The final track ends in a fever dream of early industrial rock vocals and manicured feedback swirls. A whole lot of really fun, weird music happens in between. Fans of Fennesz, black metal, drone rock, David Lynch, and fucked up dreams: listen now.
Black To Comm is the artist name of German musician Marc Richter. He doesn’t have a lot of pictures online, so I just thought I’d share the album art in high resolution.