A cursory glance at don’t watch me dancing would perhaps have you under the impression that I haven’t really been listening to new music this year – a fair assumption given that I’ve written on the blog a grand total of I think 12 times in 2014. However, the end of the year seems a good time to round up what I was into, assorted fairly arbitrarily into the failsafe genres of hip hop, pop and “misc”.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Piñata is one of the stand-out hip hop records of the year, and while Gibbs’ bars themselves were suitably gritty and exquisite, I would argue that the real genius here was Madlib’s beautiful, smooth as honey production with some absolutely phenomenal beats. Mark Ronson proved his brassy production style remains happily relevant via a song with Bruno Mars but also that delightful Mystikal collab. Everyone was talking about Raury, and while some of his freestyling left me unconvinced he has undeniably got worthy talent, particularly for such a young artist. Another exciting prospect came in the form of Bishop Nehru with his DOOM collab – NehruvianDOOM was pretty special. A special mention to Loyle Carner seems necessary too – I wrote about him after being really impressed with his EP earlier this year. Kendrick teased us with a controversially upbeat, gloriously euphoric new track and also particularly killed it with Flying Lotus – whose album, You’re Dead! was also superb. Grime does not strictly fall under the hip hop genre, but for the sake of ease I will just briefly note that the scene was back and better than ever this summer – a favourite had to be Skepta’s US version of That’s Not Me with Wiki. And speaking of Wiki, another one of the best records of the year had to be Ratking’s excellent So It Goes. Too good.
This was such a great year for pop music, in spite of the Justin Timberlake shaped hole in all of our hearts. I’ll be the first to admit that upon initially hearing Shake It Off I was dubious – particularly that cringe spoken bit (“you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat”), but I too have been sucked into that wondrous sugary sweet T Swiz pop vortex (and feel the need to apologise to anyone who has witnessed my mad enthused kitchen dancing to said song). Just such a ridiculously fun little number about enjoying being a single lady (in this vein from this year see also: Katy Perry, Roar). Also Blank Space had a gorgeous video – like, in general, that Taylor Swift reinvention ting has been incredible. On the subject of videos, Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda aesthetic remains ingrained in all of our minds, but the song itself was actually mad catchy in its own right: so brash and unapologetic. Beyoncé remained the sort of superstar you want to be your best friend (see video above). I really liked that Cashmere Cat produced Ariana Grande song. Say what you will, Fancy was a bit of an earworm – and in 2013 there was a Sean Paul song with Iggy Azalea, which no one spoke about for some reason?! Finally, Danny Devito being in this video bewildered but delighted me and Zayn became the handsomest member of 1D (discuss?).
There are also a bunch of other artists who I find a bit harder to categorise, so to make this briefer these are all now “misc”. Glass Animals had to be one of my favourite bands this year, with an entrancing live show and perfectly strange R&B-infused sounds on fantastic debut album Zaba – also as some shameless self-promo, I interviewed them back in August. Caribou remained excellent, Shamir was making some odd, soulful sounds that were mad fun, Metronomy’s Love Letters didn’t dazzle me as much as The English Riviera but it had some excellent songs – I’m Aquarius was a particularly succinct, beautiful exploration of break-ups. SBTRKT overall didn’t live up to expectations with his second record, but I loved the song with Raury and particularly the African tinge on the track with Ezra Koenig, there were also some gorgeous steel drums on fantastic new songs from Jamie xx.
Popcaan’s debut gave some spectacularly good vibes with his dancehall sounds, La Roux’s second album was really underrated given the crazy catchy tropical-tinged dance-pop it showcased and there were similarly breezy, brilliant summery sounds on Jungle’s much-acclaimed debut. My old, long-lasting band crush on Bombay Bicycle Club remained, and So Long, See You Tomorrow was lovely – Feel, specifically, was a fantastic song with brushes of Bollywood (and listening to it now as I sit amidst the lush, heavy traffic sounds of Mumbai seems so perfect). Kindness had some masterful, wonderful “alt-pop”, and his track with the wonderful Kelela (below) was just glorious. But if you know me at all, you know that 2014 was the year I fell madly in love with FKA twigs, with her eerie shattered glass sounds – pretty, jarring, sparkling, seductive and special, twigs won 2014 for me with LP1.
I have claimed on numerous occasions that this blog is dead, but 2014 has been a fantastic year for music and writing this all up makes me realise that, in spite of few actual posts this year, the blog is very much alive. There’s some ridiculously good music in the Irish scene right now and I want to write about it all and there’s lots of other stuff I want to cover too, so let’s hope my enthusiasm doesn’t wane: luckily my flatmate was gifted with a Daniel O’Donnell calendar, and I like to think that his kind eyes smiling down on us will keep me motivated to write in the year ahead. Happy new year!