Best of 2014: The Best Albums of 2014


25. SD: Truly Blessed (iHipHop Distribution) It takes guts to step out on your own. It takes real guts to walk away from a successful situation to go solo. Sadiki "SD" Thirston has a lot of things (talent, vision, originality), but more than anything, he's got guts. Stepping away from GBE and the Chicago Read more

Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014


Only a few days late this year, but behold, my Favorite Songs of 2014! Hopefully, everyone had a safe new year and is looking forward to what should be a brilliant year of music in 2015. Thank you for your continued support and readership. It means a lot. 65. Angel Read more

Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014 (Honorable Mention)


It's that time of the year again! It's time for me to spend altogether too much time comparing apples and oranges, trying to figure out which tasty sonic nuggets spoke to me the most clearly this year. I've been making this list for the last six years — the Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Future Brown, "Talkin Bandz" (f/ Shawnna, DJ Victoriouz)


Future Brown "Talkin Bandz" (f/ Shawnna, DJ Victoriouz) Future Brown (out 02.24 on Warp) Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri, and J-Cush don't give a fuck about your year end list. "Talkin Bandz" is the kind of banger sure to throw a wrench in any self-respecting blogger's "Best Of" list. It's a potent concoction made of a Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Tink, "Tell The Children"


Tink "Tell The Children" Digital Single In these disheartening times, we need powerful, impactful voices like Tink's. RIP to Michael Brown Jr. and the many other innocents who have been tragically taken far too soon. May they find justice and peace in the next Read more

Hot Jam of the Day: Slim Thug, “All I Know” (f/ Propain)

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Slim Thug
“All I Know” (f/ Propain)
Hogg Life: The Beginning (out 02.03 on Hogg Life)

Slim Thug’s laidback baritone always takes me straight back to college, riding slowly through the potholes of Uptown New Orleans with the windows down and cigarette smoke lingering on my fingers. And though we’re nearly a decade removed from Houston’s short reign as hip-hop’s epicenter, those voices made an indelible, positive imprint on my brain that hasn’t dulled over time. Though his national star has faded, the rapper born Stayve Jerome Thomas has been dutifully cranking out LPs of varying quality since his still excellent, breakthrough debut, Already Platinum (2005).  Thugga has always excelled over lush, full instrumentation, and the slinky acoustic guitars, lazy brass, and nasty percussion of “All I Know” form just the kind of canvas he tends to knock out of the park. If the rest of his fifth album bangs this hard, my drives through LA are about to feel a lot more like the Crescent City.

Hot Jam of the Day: Dan Bodan, “A Soft Opening” (E+E Remix)

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Dan Bodan
“A Soft Opening” (E+E Remix)
SOFTY SOFT Vol. 2 (out now on DFA)

The minds behind two of my favorite albums of 2014 team up on this unraveling, shimmering reimagination of Bodan’s original slow jam. E+E (né Elijah Paul Crampton) is one of modern music’s most mercurial, talented young producers, and his playful insolence is on full display here. He tears the original into a wordless, undulating musical tributary that only reveals Bodan’s heavily pitched vocals right at the end in a surprising, yet welcome new environment. Neither eclectic artist is content to settle on cliché or the expected, making them a perfect match. Hopefully, this collab is the first of many.

Hot Jam of the Day: Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, “Love After Love”

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Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
“Love After Love”
A Year with 13 Moons (out 02.10 on Mexican Summer)

A standout track on one of the finest albums of the young year, “Love After Love” is an overwhelming rumination on how the heart heals in the wake of loss. We open encircled in dense, unrelenting, sometimes brutal noise, but the haze slowly drifts and gives way to gauzy, beautiful synths. As in real life, the static doesn’t stay silent forever, battling with the melody until the bitter end. However, the longer the track moves, the further the ratio shifts, and by the end, we are left reveling in a gorgeous, clearer picture. It’s a powerful metaphor that speaks very clearly to me, regardless of whether it’s what Ledesma had in mind while making it. That interpretive quality is one of the components of his music that has made him such a beloved artist to me (and so many others). Magic.

Hot Jam of the Day: Helena Hauff, “c45p”

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Helena Hauff
“c45p”
A Tape (out 02.24 on Handmade Birds)

The lead single off the Hamburg-based producer’s debut is a taut, monolithic affair with colorful keys swirling around an icy rhythmic backbone. A perfectly balanced track, the busy keyboards add the right amount of warmth and variation to the relentless, chilling backbeat, injecting a dose of humanity into the track’s mechanical heart.

Images & Words: Tobias Jesso Jr., “How Could You Babe”

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Tobias Jesso Jr.
“How Could You Babe”
Goon (out March 17 on True Panther)

Another new single, another timeless piano ballad from the rising Canadian crooner. While neither the subject matter nor the execution are particularly novel, this is the kind of weepy, anthemic piano ballad that speaks to the starry eyes and broken hearts in all of us. We’re not all going through brutal break-ups like the one Jesso sings about here, but we all have, and “How Could You Babe” is so good that it kind of makes you happy that you did, just so you can relate to a song with emotions this strong.

Hot Jam of the Day: Liturgy, “Quetzalcoatl”

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Liturgy
“Quetzalcoatl”
The Ark Work (out 3/24 on Thrill Jockey)

No strangers to describing their music in embarrassing fashion, the Brooklyn kinda sorta black metallers detail their new album as a combination of “cross-fertilizing hardstyle beats, occult-oriented rap, and the glitched re-sampling of IDM.” Luckily, their third album’s lead single sounds nothing like any of those cringeworthy, imagined genres and really nothing like anything else coming out today. Hypnotic and swirling, “Quetzalcoatl” opens with vocalist/leader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix abandoning his wild shrieks for a monotonic drone, which is draped over tremolo picked guitar, Salem-esque drum pads, and MIDI strings. The tune really picks up at the 1:45 mark, when the drum machine is replaced by the razor technicality of expert skinsman Greg Fox. The song builds to an overwhelming crescendo that will either leave you reaching for the playback button or never listening to it again. They’ve always been a Marmite band, but it feels like The Ark Work is set to be their most divisive record yet.

Images & Words: Novelist x Mumdance, “1 Sec”

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Novelist x Mumdance
“1 Sec”
1 Sec EP (out now on XL)

Coming off a monster 2014, Kojo “Novelist” Kankam celebrated his 18th birthday by releasing his debut EP for XL, along with some cinematic visuals for the project’s devastating title track. 1 Sec sees the Lewisham MC rekindling his fruitful partnership with fellow Londoner, Mumdance, who provides him with a characteristically challenging arrangement to annihilate. Novelist gleefully accepts and weaves rapid-fire couplets that move like Frogger, maneuvering through the treacherous terrain with the greatest of ease.

Hot Jam of the Day: Ciara, “I Bet”

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Ciara
“I Bet”
Digital Single

Probably my favorite new song of this very young year, Ciara eviscerates her unfaithful ex, Future, with grace, poise, and just the right amount of vitriol. It’s the rare kiss off song that is empowering and vulnerable, making you cheer for her and feel for her at the the same time. The “Sittin’ Up in My Room,” 90′s R&B vibe is strong here, framing the Atlantan’s heartfelt vocals with a wash of acoustic guitars and busy hi-hats. It’s a powerful, audacious statement that reminds us what a force of nature the 29 year old is.

Best of 2014: The Best Albums of 2014

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25. SD: Truly Blessed (iHipHop Distribution)
It takes guts to step out on your own. It takes real guts to walk away from a successful situation to go solo. Sadiki “SD” Thirston has a lot of things (talent, vision, originality), but more than anything, he’s got guts. Stepping away from GBE and the Chicago drill scene that he came up in, Thirston’s debut is filled with wonky, druggy melodies and anthemic, extroverted choruses that are well-balanced by drill’s insular roots.

24. 18+: Trust (Houndstooth)
Coming off like the XX’s delinquent older cousins, the LA duo’s proper debut saw them going deeper down the rabbit hole they started exploring with their early mixtapes. The boy/girl vocals hold a palpable tension and sensuality that is often lacking in such acts, and the sparse arrangements and sneaky hooks form the perfect seabed for their breathy pillow talk.

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Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014

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Only a few days late this year, but behold, my Favorite Songs of 2014! Hopefully, everyone had a safe new year and is looking forward to what should be a brilliant year of music in 2015. Thank you for your continued support and readership. It means a lot.

65. Angel Olsen: “Windows” from Burn Your Fire for No Witness
The final song from the St. Louis-raised folkie’s glorious second LP doesn’t employ many words, but it says a helluva a lot. Olsen’s desperate plea to a loved one who is seemingly uninterested in helping themselves is especially moving, as you can hear the weariness in her voice. It’s something that anybody who has been in her position can relate to. Here’s hoping that there was still enough strength in that voice to get through to whoever it was meant for.

64. Shamir: “On The Regular” (digital single)
One of the most playful songs of the year, the 20 year-old Las Vegan introduces himself to the haters and swats them away like Dikembe in one fell swoop. Armed with just some MIDI keys and a cowbell, Shamir Bailey’s enthusiasm is overwhelming, sing-rapping through a frenetic, explosive three minutes that’s perhaps the best indication of why there’s so much hype around him and why it’s so warranted.

63. Doss: “The Way I Feel” from Doss
Ephemera was a powerful weapon in 2014, but few captured wielded it as deftly as this anonymous American producer. This dreamy, romantic single straddles the line between mid-90′s, E’d-out rave and jilted teen’s LiveJournal, bubbling with both an intense desire for human interaction and crippling insecurity. So, you know, it’s basically the sound of high school.

62. Lauryn Hill: “Black Rage” (sketch) (digital single)
A song like this reminds us how much we miss the former Fugee’s powerful, distinct voice. As she is her wont, Hill speaks the truth here, laying out some harsh realities over the once-innocent melody from “My Favorite Things.” Hopefully, this “sketch” will result in some more fully realized paintings in the coming year. Lord knows we need them.

61. Throwing Shade: Sweet Tooth (f/ Emily Bee) from 19 Jewels
The kind of song that you can just melt into, the London producer’s ode to the human face is just as delicious as its title would suggest. Bee’s playful, flitting vocal is the perfect fit for Nabihah Iqbal’s ocean of synth molasses, and its wonky drum pattern gives it the tension it needs to keep the kettle boiling over. The whole thing hangs on a tightrope, constantly threatening to tip over but catching its balance at just the right time.

60. Jacques Greene: “No Excuse” from Phantom Vibrate
When I caught the talented Canadian live earlier this year, it became increasingly clear that with every project, he is moving further and further away from the constraints of the club world that he came from. While his music has always straddled that line (#sensitivehouse), the Marques Houston-sampling “No Excuse” seems more crafted for personal use than professional use, and that is by no means a bad thing. He’s always been a phenomenal DJ and producer, but it’s a joy to watch him grow as a songwriter, and I’d love to see what he’d do with a full-length album.

59. Tommy Kruise: “Hers” from Fête Foreign
From one Montreal native to another, Tommy Kruise’s “Hers” is a ghostly, evocative cut that is almost too pristine to add vocals to. Built around a timid keyboard line and his go-to trap hi-hats, Kruise laces a double helping of emotionality with two disembodied voices, floating menacingly above the fray. Also, make sure to check out its touching music video below, which is one of my favorites of the year.

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