Monday, January 19, 2015

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2014. Part Two: 75-51.

PART TWO IS HERE! I've been lagging so much but I promise the second half of the list will come faster. Anyway, I don't want to waste any time so here's 75-51 of my favorite albums of 2014, right after the break!

75. iamamiwhoami - 'BLUE'
Genre: Futurepop/Synth-Dreampop
Country of Origin: Sweden
iamamiwhoami has always made some of the most abstract and interesting music in the 'futurepop' genre, working less in concrete beats and more in swirling synths and reverbed vocals. Jonna Lee's alien soprano voice pushed to the back of the understated electronic instrumentation to build eerie, ethereal, and beautiful semi-ambient pop tunes. On her third album, BLUE, this all still holds true, but it feels somehow more grounded. The beats hit hard instead of flitting in and out of existence, and every once in awhile the synths burst into a solid backing while the vocals take a melodic foreground. All in all though, this is still a distinctly iamamiwhoami record--bubbling electronics and spooky vocals coming together for a stirring piece of atmosphere--and that's always something the world needs more of.
Top tracks: fountain; chasing kites
Preview.

74. Kashiwa Daisuke - '9 Songs'
Genre: Abstract Indie Pop/Upbeat Post-Rock
Country of Origin: Japan
Kashiwa Daisuke put one of the most expansive, intense, glitchy, and stirring post-rock records with Program Music I back in 2007, and since then he's been switching things up until finally going full pop with his latest release. The core of Daisuke's music hasn't changed, however--9 Songs is still a giant mish-mash of glitched-out beats and sweeping instrumentals, but this time the beats are just a little more driving, and there's Naoko Sasaki's soft voice over the top to lend the album a much needed element of humanity. The moments when 9 Songs devolves into a mess of electronic noise are still as exciting as always, but the real wonder is that Kashiwa Daisuke managed to turn his normally confusing and experimental style into a joyous and bright-eyed pop record, and that's a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
Top tracks: Lilac; Fluorescent Lamp
Preview.

73. Sam Smith - 'In the Lonely Hour'
Genre: Soul/Pop Singer-Songwriter
Country of Origin: England
Sam Smith's voice has become ubiquitous over the last year or so, between the massive Disclosure hit 'Latch' and the success of this year's 'Stay With Me' and 'I'm Not the Only One,' and boy does he deserve it. Aside from the gorgeous soulful voice, Smith's debut album backs some impressive songwriting that bounces from indie pop to forlorn folk music to straight-up gospel and hints of the blues. Sure, it's all a little watered down for pop radio, but In the Lonely Hour still packs a huge punch, full to the brim with stunning singing and aching melodies that are hard to match in the mainstream world.
Top tracks: Money On My Mind; I've Told You Now
Preview.

72. ††† - '†††'
Genre: Witch House/Darkwave
Country of Origin: USA
†††'s first full-length might be just their first two EPs remastered and five new tracks, but that honestly doesn't make it any less incredible. ††† is most relevant as the collaboration between Deftones singer Chino Moreno, Far guitarist Sean Lopez, and producer Chuck Doom, but even if none of those names mean anything to you, this is one of the most immediate and accessible albums to come out of the witch/dark electronic scene. Sure, it's not really 'pure' witch house, whatever that means, but ††† is a record of dark atmosphere, eerie beats, and Chino's inimitable voice moaning and soaring around the instrumentals, and it's almost impossible to compare it to anything else. †††'s debut is at once unnerving and relaxing, a perfect middle ground between laid-back beats and disconcerting mood, and one of the most successful collaborations of the year.
Top tracks: †his is a †rick; Op†ion
Listen.

71. GaIn - 'Truth or Dare'
Genre: K-Pop
Country of Origin: South Korea
GaIn is one of those rare pop artists who starts out in an absolutely immense group and somehow still manages to build a unique and even bigger solo career. 2012's Talk About S was a stunning EP that jumped between the experimental and the absolutely joyous, fully setting her apart from her parent group, Brown Eyed Girls. She's really taken it to a new level this year, though. GaIn's third mini-album is a much darker take on her usual understated experimental pop style, and it just works so well. GaIn has been celebrated by years for her feminism and rebellion in the mainstream Korean music scene, but it's never been as biting or as clear as in the lead single and accompanying video for Truth or Dare, unflinchingly discussing sexual assault and bursting with hatred for the rapist. The rest of the EP follows suit, being appropriately eerie, sorrowful, and above all, furious. Truth or Dare is one of the most intense and vicious records to come out of the Korean pop scene, and it's not one to be missed.
Top tracks: Fxxk U; Black & White
Preview.

70. K.Flay - 'Life as a Dog'
Genre: Indie Pop/Hip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
K.Flay's debut album strikes such a delicate balance between rap and downtempo indie pop that it's almost hard to tell which one it fits more into. Her impressive verses and laid-back beats meet up perfectly with choruses built from simple keys and guitars, and K.Flay's smoky singing is just as strong as her rapping. Life as a Dog is eleven solid songs of sleepy instrumentals and memorable hooks, minimal but still lovable and clever as hell. It's cute, sad, funny, and aggressive (sometimes all at the same time), and it's near-impossible to listen through without getting at least four songs stuck in your head at once.
Top tracks: Bad Things; Make Me Fade
Preview.

69. Fireworks - 'Oh, Common Life'
Genre: Pop-Punk
Country of Origin: USA
The third album from Fireworks is definitively the best they've ever sounded. Oh, Common Life is the kind of effortlessly life-affirming pop-punk that reminds people like me who moved on from the genre long ago why we loved it so much once. Instantly catchy melodies, giant guitar riffs, and unparalleled energy basically prove that Fireworks are one of the best pop-punk bands out there. Oh, Common Life has that slight twinge of melancholy that makes the best albums of the genre really stick, but it never takes over the album--the expertly crafted pop mastery makes every moment of this record exciting and instantly accessible.
Top tracks: Flies on Tape; One More Creature Dizzy With Love
Preview.

68. BROODS - 'Evergreen'
Genre: Dreampop/Indie Pop
Country of Origin: New Zealand
BROODS debuted this year with one of those records so delicate and powerful that it's hard to believe it's their first. Lush ambient synths and downtempo beats from Caleb Nott form the perfect world for sister Georgia Nott's stunning voice to thrive. Evergreen is a surprisingly warm album for how sparse it is, letting its beautiful songs bloom surrounded by some of the most enveloping instrumentals out there. It's one of those close-your-eyes-and-feel albums, the kind of record that you can fall into and let it surround you with its ethereal mood and emotive vocals, and it's not one to be forgotten any time soon.
Top tracks: Killing You; Medicine
Preview.

67. Parasitic Ejaculation - 'Echoes of Depravity'
Genre: Slam/Brutal Death Metal
Country of Origin: USA
Parasitic Ejaculation's second full-length is just ridiculous. The slams are huge, the riffs tight and mechanical, the drums unbelievably complex, and the vocals absolutely terrifying. Simply put, this is what slam is supposed to sound like, expertly alternating between mathematical and brutally catchy, with some of the most guttural vocals around. Echoes of Depravity is such an improvement over the band's already phenomenal past output that it's hard to believe Rationing the Sacred Human Remains came out only a year ago. Every moment is perfectly crafted, technical, and unbelievably heavy, and no album in the genre from this decade has compared.
Top tracks: Embodiment of Evil; Ritualistic Disembowelment
Listen.

66. Ariana Grande - 'My Everything'
Genre: Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Ariana Grande is such a powerhouse singer. Every time she launches into that prechorus on 'Problem' it impresses me more, and that's just the start of her sophomore full-length. Surrounded by talent as noteworthy as The Weeknd, A$AP Ferg, and Cashmere Cat, Ariana Grande has fully broken out of her '90s-R&B throwback and into an exciting and varied pop career. The songs of My Everything span everything from eurodance bangers ('Break Free') to more soft-toned mood pieces ('One Last Time') and an explosive duet pairing Grande's newfound sexuality with The Weeknd's trademark hedonism ('Love Me Harder'). Despite the wide variety of styles on display throughout the record, it all fits together well, and Ariana Grande deftly masters every genre with her ridiculous voice and keen ear for melody. My Everything is the kind of forward-thinking pop that we need more of every year, and a phenomenal launching point to Ariana Grande's promising career.
Top tracks: Love Me Harder; One Last Time
Preview.

65. Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks - 'Enter the Slasher House'
Genre: Psychedelic Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Avey Tare's third real album apart from Animal Collective (and his first with the Slasher Flicks backing band) is notably more aggressive than the music of his parent group. The trademark swirling organic and synthetic instrumentals and watery vocals are still there, but they're on top of some of the most fast-paced and intense drumming and atmosphere Avey's ever created. Enter the Slasher House is still an album which fits snugly within the Animal Collective format, but it's a refreshingly accessible and energetic piece of music, full of joy and with a healthy dash of groove, and is the freshest and most playful that a member of the group has sounded in years.
Top tracks: Little Fang; A Sender
Preview.

64. Cult Leader - 'Nothing for Us Here'
Genre: Sludge/Metalcore
Country of Origin: USA
Although I'd really rather not mention them in light of semi-recent events, it's impossible to talk about Cult Leader without mentioning that they're all of the instrumentalists from Gaza (plus a new bassist), with their old bassist switching to vocals. If you know Gaza, then you know what to expect from Cult Leader's debut EP--crushing, monstrous hardcore-tinged sludge metal, monolithic guitar riffs and Anthony Lucero's terrifying howl. Nothing For Us Here blows any other bands making even mildly similar music out of the water and reminds everyone why these boys are the kings of metallic sludge, but with a bigger hardcore bent than ever, it somehow manages to be even more punishing. This is a chugging, mathy, and unbelievably punishing album, and one of the most ferociously unforgiving listens to come out in a long time.
Top tracks: Flightless Birds; Skin Crawler
Preview.

63. Silk Rhodes - 'Silk Rhodes'
Genre: Neo-Soul/Modern Funk
Country of Origin: USA
Silk Rhodes plays like a deconstruction of D'Angelo's deconstruction of funk and soul music. That might be hard to wrap your mind around, but the second the album starts it makes sense. Silk Rhodes' debut album is a rapid-fire series of short, exceptionally sparse tracks, based on simple guitar and keyboard leads, basic beats, and silky smooth falsetto. It's chilled-out funk music in its most minimal form, distilled to digestible one-to-two-minute bursts (for the most part) and filtered through a wonderfully fresh and unique lens. Producer Michael Collins and singer Sasha Desree have made a completely new style all their own, and Silk Rhodes is the kind of brief yet exciting debut album that leaves you wanting more the second it ends--we can only hope more will be delivered soon.
Top tracks: Pains; The System
Preview.

62. Kayo Dot - 'Coffins on Io'
Genre: Experimental Psychedelic Rock
Country of Origin: USA
Last year's Hubardo was an absolute monster, letting Kayo Dot's hardcore tendencies finally come to the surface again in one of the most abstract and heavy avant-garde metal albums to come out since their debut with Choirs of the Eye and the days spent before that as maudlin of the Well. Given all that, it's a little strange to see the band's complete shift in direction after the success of Hubardo, but here we are: Coffins on Io is a bizarre, semi-ambient work of noodly progressive rock, and it works so well. Nearly abandoning Kayo Dot's metal influence, the album instead sticks to wandering bass grooves, atmospheric guitars, smooth saxophone, and lofty singing. This is the rare album that really manages to feel like a trip through space, the whole thing floating suspended in ambient bliss, lacking direction but instead meandering to wherever it wants to take its listener. It's a fantastic piece of mood music unlike anything else released this year, and yet another incredible album from Toby Driver and co.
Top tracks: Spirit Photography; Library Subterranean
Listen.

61. Zola Jesus - 'Taiga'
Genre: Dark Futurepop
Country of Origin: USA
Zola Jesus' origins in the witch house world somehow only serve to make her latest dark pop sensibilities even more impressive. And while last year's record of reimaginings of older songs was wonderful, it's been over three years since her last real full-length, so Taiga's dense emotional power has been long-needed. The record's clattering beats, unnerving synths, and dark atmosphere are some of the best Zola Jesus has ever conjured up, and her tremendously powerful voice soars like never before. In fact, as a whole, Taiga has a tremendous sense of life to it that was never quite there before, taking Zola Jesus to heights that she couldn't have reached back on Conatus. In place of the old sorrow she presented to us is a newfound ferocity and strength, and it allows this record to thrive unlike anything else she's produced.
Top tracks: Taiga; Hunger
Preview.

60. Mystery Skulls - 'Forever'
Genre: Electronic/Indie Pop
Country of Origin: USA
It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Luis Dubuc was the man behind The Secret Handshake, given how thoroughly his awkward autotuned synthpop has changed into an assured, hefty, and hot force to be reckoned with on his debut full-length as Mystery Skulls. On Forever, Dubuc sets his smooth falsetto atop thick basslines and weighty beats, and not a single song goes by without a catchy chorus and an exciting synth line. Mystery Skulls is roaring out the gates with one of the most enjoyable, sensual, and consistently memorable pop albums to come out of the underground in a long time with some of the slickest production around, and that's exactly what it tries to accomplish.
Top tracks: Paralyzed; Forever
Preview.

59. Gil Scott-Heron - 'Nothing New'
Genre: Soul/Piano Singer-Songwriter
Country of Origin: USA
Gil Scott-Heron's death still gets to me sometimes. Nothing New feels like the perfect way to mourn him though--recorded in the same sessions as 2010's incredible I'm New Here, it's a collection of stripped down, piano and voice renditions of some of Scott-Heron's most important songs. The album is sorrowful, minimal, and deeply impactful, serving as a simple reminder of why Gil Scott-Heron is one of the most important songwriters of both the '70s and modern times. Nothing New is full of such palpable emotionalism that it's an almost difficult listen, despite its simplicity, and each piano chord and note of Scott-Heron's raw voice resonates far too deeply to ignore. This is an album of some of the most intensely personal renditions of some of the most important songs by an unbelievably important man, and it's one of the most special albums to come out all year.
Top tracks: Alien (Hold Onto Your Dreams); The Other Side
Preview.

58. Lido - 'I Love You'
Genre: Electronic
Country of Origin: Norway
Lido (also famous as Trippy Turtle) has put out an absolute banger for his latest EP. The title track explodes with bass, giant synths, and a memorable vocal hook, and it just continues from there. In fact, all four tracks on I Love You are the kind of exciting and catchy electronic music that you can really only use words like 'huge' to describe--the beats are hefty and the vocal samples are some of the most impactful out there, and when Lido decides to finally work up to one of his trademark blasts of heavy synths, it's honestly jaw-dropping. I Love You is dance music that absolutely breathes with life and intensity, and it never gets old.
Top tracks: I Love You; Lost
Listen.

57. Grouper - 'Ruins'
Genre: Lo-Fi/Ambient Folk
Country of Origin: USA
Grouper has been alternating between ambient drone and lo-fi acoustic folk for years now, so to hear her making an album almost entirely of soft piano-and-voice songs is almost surprising. It works so well though: Ruins is a skeletal album, deceptively simple but with far more depth than should be expected. The beautiful reverb-soaked piano dances around Liz Harris' soft voice, creating a record that you can just sink into so easily. Ruins is calming and soothing, beautiful and haunting, and yet another phenomenal album to add to Grouper's already stunning catalog.
Top tracks: Call Across Rooms; Lighthouse
Preview.

56. Ty Dolla $ign - 'Beach House'
Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap
Country of Origin: USA
Ty Dolla $ign's official debut EP is a bit of a beast honestly. Full of the kind of hedonism that made The Weeknd so famous, it's a record of big rap hooks and gorgeous string-filled production. The songs are surprisingly multifaceted, especially opener 'Work,' and the whole thing feels cohesive and strong. Beach House might be a bit lacking in lyrical substance, but it makes up for it with impressively varied songwriting, deep instrumentation, and choruses that stay stuck in your head for weeks.
Top tracks: Work; Never Be the Same
Preview.

55. How to Dress Well - '"What Is This Heart?"'
Genre: Ambient Indie R&B
Country of Origin: USA
Love Remains is still one of my favorite lo-fi records ever, so it's hard not to be a little disappointed seeing How to Dress Well moving out of the distorted home recording world since then. That said though, maybe it's for the best--"What Is This Heart?" is a giant, beautiful work of hazy R&B, with simple atmospheric instrumentals placing Tom Krell's fragile voice front and center. The sweeping soundscapes throughout all of Krell's third album are just as beautiful as always, and the record's emotional core feels more vulnerable and relatable than ever. I may miss the blown-out production of 2010, but "What Is This Heart?" is the way How to Dress Well has always needed to sound: lonesome, emotive, and vital.
Top tracks: Repeat Pleasure; A Power
Preview.

54. Death Grips - 'the powers that b disc 1'
Genre: Avant-Garde Rap
Country of Origin: USA
The first half of Death Grips' two-part farewell(?) album features Bj√∂rk on all eight tracks--her voice chopped into minuscule samples and turned into beats. I'm not even sure if that's the weirdest part of it, with the stream of consciousness lyrics, constantly shifting tempo, and ridiculously busy instrumentation. Honestly, disc one of the powers that b is probably the most baffling album Death Grips have put out yet, forgoing the anger of Ex-Military, the catchiness of The Money Store, the darkness of No Love Deep Web, and the stark minimalism of Government Plates in favor of a wall of ever-changing sound topped by MC Ride's furious rapping (if it can even be called that anymore), this is one of the most bizarre bands of the decade so far putting out their most overwhelming and exhausting music yet, and that's a huge compliment.
Top tracks: Up My Sleeves; Say Hey Kid
Listen.

  
53. Old Man Gloom - 'The Ape of God'
Genre: Sludge/Post-Metal
Country of Origin: USA
With members of Isis, Converge, and Cave In, Old Man Gloom are a big deal just by virtue of existing. But when their sixth album leaked to widespread praise, the announcement that the newest Old Man Gloom album is not one, but two separate albums--and the leak was neither of them--was one of the most ridiculous and exciting surprises they could have sprung on us. So here it is: two separate albums, both titled The Ape of God. The first is eight tracks of punishing sludge, heavy guitar riffs and brutality, while the second is four longer post-metal songs, full of slow drums, giant guitars, and howled vocals. It's fairly inarguable that the second album is slightly better than the first, but both are simply phenomenal. The unforgiving heaviness, thick production, and absolutely spot-on sludge make The Ape of God one of the most destructive forces to come out all year, and an absolute masterpiece of oppressive atmosphere.
Top tracks: Predators; A Hideous Nightare Lies Upon the World
Preview.

52. Kimbra - 'The Golden Echo'
Genre: Indie Pop
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Kimbra is so fucking cool. I feel like I could make that the entire review for her sophomore album, and it's all that would need to be said. But really, The Golden Echo is huge, far huger than her debut Vows and much more cohesive and intent than the prerelease singles suggested. It's one of those albums with the kind of front-and-center emotional power that can only exist in the pop world, but with some of the most mature and intricate songwriting around (not to mention Kimbra's unmatched jazzy crooning). Opener 'Teen Heat' might just be the song that takes the crown of Best Kimbra Song away from tracks like 'Settle Down' and 'Plain Gold Ring,' and yet somehow the album still manages to not feel topheavy, consistently following each hit with another. The Golden Echo is Kimbra finally coming into her own style, and somehow topping her already incredible debut in the process, and that's saying an awful lot.
Top tracks: Teen Heat; Carolina
Preview.

51. Cloud Nothings - 'Here and Nowhere Else'
Genre: Noise Rock
Country of Origin: USA
The third album by Cloud Nothings is such a step up from all their past output it's ridiculous. Here and Nowhere Else presents an overblown, broken punk band trying to find meaning in the aftermath of a breakup. Sure, it's a tired concept, but no one has done it this well. 'I'm Not Part of Me' might just be the most cathartic song ever written, and the whole album preceding it sets the stage for it perfectly. Gigantic distorted guitars and perfectly heartbroken lyrics mix with the spittingly powerful vocals and unbelievably energetic drumming to launch Here and Nowhere Else into the stratosphere as one of those records that every sad kid stuck on their third love will never stop quoting, and for good reason. With this album, Cloud Nothings have solidified their place as the band that every punk group in the next ten years will be trying to be, but no one can do it quite like this.
Top tracks: I'm Not Part of Me; Now Hear In
Preview.


PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR | PART FIVE

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