By Luis Taganas
As 2014 draws to a close, one can look back on the year as an eventful one for music. Mainstream music continues to dominate the ears of listeners, but less popular music is often overlooked by average music fans. To remedy this, here are 10 great albums of 2014 that you might not have heard. CAUTION: Most of these albums contain explicit lyrics and mature content. Discretion is advised. Photos courtesy of record labels’ websites.
1) “Run The Jewels 2” – Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels is a rap duo consisting of southern rapper Killer Mike and New York native El-P. Their latest project is a sequel to their 2013 self-titled album released on Fool’s Gold Records, and with it comes cartoonishly violent, unapologetic and all around crazy tracks, backed by EL-P’s grimy, in-your-face beats. The two MCs do a great job of keeping the energy high and the atmosphere insane, making this a highlight for 2014 hip hop.
2) “Pom Pom” – Ariel Pink
Flamboyant, silly and catchy, “Pom Pom” brings a retro charm by emulating ’70s and ’80s pop music. From these inspirations, Ariel Pink crafts a varied listening experience. The absurd lyrics, kooky synth melodies and all around fun and infectious tracks make this a hidden gem in terms of 2014 music. The lo-fi production style and vocal mixing create an album filled with eccentricity and personality.
3) “Chimes” – Hudson Mohawke
More widely known for his work in the EDM Trap duo, TNGHT, UK based producer/DJ Hudson Mohawke dropped his first solo project since 2011. For a meager four track EP, HudMo brings the familiar forward-thinking bass music he is known for in full force. The punchy dynamics and thundering melodies make for a short but sweet experience. The EP’s titular track proves to be the hardest speaker-rattling banger of the year with its modulated horns, and eclectic basslines.
4) “LP1” – FKA twigs
Singer/songwriter/producer FKA twigs’s studio debut proves to be a black sheep among vocal pop albums in 2014. Her unorthodox production style paired with her very wide vocal range, makes “LP1” an experience in 2014 pop music. The album’s tracks are filled with little sounds popping off in the background while the slow and crashing melodies dominate the scene. FKA twigs brings lyrics based on heartbreak, sex, and the emotional baggage that comes with them and delivers them with huge emotion and gravitas.
5) “You’re Dead!” – Flying Lotus
Underground producer Flying Lotus, known for his forward thinking fusion of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music, brings in the year with an album filled with titillating soundscapes and soulful instrumentation. His trademark fusion is dominated by hardcore jazz influences in “You’re Dead!” Wild percussion, funky basslines, and the sweet synth sounds that his music is known for is back with features from the likes of Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar.
6) “Salad Days”- Mac DeMarco
Singer/songwriter Mac DeMarco brings in the goofy and fun-loving personality into a new album full of the vintage instrumentation he is known for. Catchy hooks, retro guitars and his soft spoken voice make for an album comparable to Bob Dylan in style. Charming in its simplicity, the humble tracks create an easy listening experience, even if one is not well versed in the folk music style that DeMarco specializes in.
7) “Shadows” – Mister Lies
Mister Lies is the trip-hop vocal EDM project of singer/producer Nick Zanca. Featuring a huge cast of collaborators on instrumentation, vocals and production, Zanca brings forth an album filled with depth in its production. Soft keyboard riffs, strings, glitchy sounds, and white noise create a dismal but vast atmosphere. Zanca and his collaborators croon over these instrumentals with a tenderness and sincerity that can evoke feelings of sadness and loneliness in anyone.
8) “Benji” – Sun Kil Moon
Sun Kil Moon is the folk music project of singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek and with this album, he brings an emotionally crushing album with themes of mortality, loneliness, and depression. Kozelek writes in a very blatant and straightforward style, not trying to be poetic, which gives a genuine feel to his songs. A man in his late 40s, he writes his lyrics from his experiences from childhood all the way up to the present. “Benji” features fairly simplistic but beautifully orchestrated acoustic instrumentals that subtly compliments his songwriting.
9) “CLPPNG” – Clipping
Clipping is an experimental noise-hop trio consisting of MC Daveed Diggs, and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. Making their studio debut with Sub Pop Records, Clipping presents their abrasive sound with a more commercial appeal, while still retaining that experimental feel. Daveed Diggs brings fiery flows, deep storytelling and gritty, gangsta rap oriented lyrics that make him one of the most capable MCs in hip-hop as of now. For the adventurous hip-hop fan, this album is one that they should not miss out on.
10) “Tyranny” – Julian Casablancas + The Voidz
Known mainly as the lead singer for The Strokes, Julian Casablancas and his new side project titled The Voidz hit 2014 with one of the most compelling rock albums of the year. “Tyranny” is an album filled with influences from synth-punk, noise rock, and many other genres, in a fusion that is fun, heavy, and catchy. Casablancas lends his familiar voice and songwriting to his new album, yet keeps a new style that is unique to The Voidz. Though it may seem dense in sound and content, the album keeps a poppy sentiment which makes it more accessible to casual listeners.