Top 10 on Heavy Rotation 2014
Music really changed me this year. My walking companion has come to recognize that when the headphones go on it’s that time. 3 times a day we do our routine route out the door on 100th Ave to Glisan and NE toward 102nd, N on 102nd to Fred Meyer, NE Pacific takes us to 99th where NE Irving brings us back upon NE 100th. Except for the mid-day walk we don’t re-enter the building through the main entrance opting for the courtyard entrance opposite where the trash bin for Layla’s pooh bag exists to mark the completion of our outing. Of course I listen to music all the time, not just on dog walks. Somehow my listening has taken on some discipline. It’s become ritual.
This isn’t a best of list. All of the albums listed were what you would call, on heavy rotation. I listened to them over and over and over again. Over time they enriched my experience of being out of doors.
1. **Inc., no world** 4AD
No World (Bonus Track Version) - Inc.
This selection was squeezed in at the last minute but it comes first because so much of what I listened to this year was in conclusion to some of the ideas that arise in “no world”. The work here is tremendous effort of low-fi indie soul. “no world,’ is a standout debut from 2012.
Inc is a duo of brothers based in Los Angeles. The album contains some of the warmest chill-out music I’ve heard in ages. I hear heavy influences of Prince, Sheila E, Off the Wall era Michael Jackson and dare I say, Sade. If you are from Los Angeles imagine a marijuana tinged Power 106. Stand out tracks are “The Place” and “5 Days.”
2. **Future Islands, Singles** 4AD
Singles - Future Islands
The guy has a great voice. In line with the resurgence of the eighties sound. Minimal instrumentation and never quite the sugar pop of MGMT. Future Islands in more in line with The Cure, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cult, Psychedelic Firs and little bit of Neil Diamond and or Van Morrison for good earnest measure. The lead singer isn’t much of a stage presence whose talents are best served in the recording studio.
3. **Lo-Fang, Blue Film** 4AD
Blue Film - Lo-Fang
A couple of promising singles preceded this full length and it was exciting to hear each single roll out. The full length was total payoff. It’s the cover of Olivia Newton John’s Your’e the One That I Want that really stands out here. The entire album is dreamy, folksy with ambient production. If the Olivia Newton John reference didn’t tip you off- let me just say that the vocals are outstanding. I hear a little bit of Bon Iver, but with a cleaner synthesized palette. Every time I played this album my companion would ask, who is this? It’s Lo-Fang.
4. **SOHN, Tremors** 4AD
Tremors - SOHN
Intense. Dark. Lovely. Honest. 4AD Records scores another R&B influenced gem with SOHN’s Tremors. You’ll start to notice a theme here; we are seeing a resurgence of the trip-hop element found in Lamb, Tricky and Portishead but again eighties new wave influenced. If you like Boards of Canada but find the lack of vocals a bit cold then you might warm up to SOHN’s circular samples.
5. **Underworld- Dubnobasswithmyheadman** UMe
Dubnobasswithmyheadman (20th Anniversary Remaster) - Underworld
20th anniversay re-issue of 1994 absolutely breathtaking Dubnobasswithmyheadman. It’s a reminder that dance music and in this respect, rave culture had at one time offered many of us a political outlet for what was trace music. 20 years later Dubnobasswithmyheadman sounds relevant and new and full of ideas. It survives and lives once again here with additional re-mixes all of which you will enjoy as much as the originals. Peace out to this and feel your self move in the new directions that this album charted. This sits right next to Donna Summer in terms of revolutionary dance music. Bust your moves and feel the love. This is the sound post-modernism.
6. **Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News** Epic
Good News for People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse
I missed the boat on this popular indie favorite. But this year I never wanted to throw a dance party as badly as I have when listening to Modest Mouse on the headphones. I won’t say much except that Madonna is usually who get’s me on the dance floor.
7. **Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black**
Young, Gifted and Black - Aretha Franklin
It’s all about the pacing and the song sequence here. I’ve been a long time fan of Aretha Franklin. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You and Spirit in the Dark were what I considered Franklin’s best work. But Young, Gifted and Black takes the cake. From beginning to end this album will make you move and sing out, it will make you want to boogie and will make you cry. What can I say Aretha can be fierce and she is here in all her fierceness. Word!
8. **Claude VonStroke, Urban Animal**
Urban Animal - Claude VonStrok
I often worry about San Francisco’s cultural landscape. My worries are put to rest when the folks over at Dirty Bird records are keeping it fresh and keeping it funky with their deep bass and tongue and cheek sampling. Head Bird, Claude VonStroke gives us his 3rd official effort and he has given us a turn. The strongest tracks on his previous efforts, Bird Brain and Beware of the Bird were always less danceable ambient compositions. Here he pursues the ambient beats in a way that can only be described as progressive. These tracks should take you somewhere much like a good trance track should. There is more here for you if you can accept that VonStroke is more in line with This Mortal Coil than he is himself.
9. **Chvches, The Bones of What You Believe**
The Bones of What You Believe - CHVRCHES
This pop album is pure bliss. Totally listenable and you would benefit from taking them on all by yourself without the two silly references I am about to list: The Sundays and The Cranberries. Of course Chvches sound nothing like the Sundays or The Cranberries but once you give it a listen you won’t argue with me either.
Just listen. Start with “The Mother We Share.” It’s some of the best Cocteau Twin’s influenced dream-pop I’ve hear all year.
10. **Gayngs, Relayted** Jagjaguwar
Relayted - Gayngs
This is new and uncharted territory for many pop musicians but somehow these guys land on their fee with their odd experiments. There is a lot going on here and whatever genre(s) they seem to be balancing are not nearly as interesting as the fact that these songs are wholly original.