Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 in Music: Short Form Releases, Singles Looking Ahead

18) School Of Language - More Fears (Memphis Industries)
Intriguing collection of additional sketches and ideas not included on the excellent Old Fears album. Keep Your Water is especially brilliant.

17) Bright Spark Destroyer - Permanent State/Crayon (Self Released)
Two teaser tracks for Bright Spark Destroyer's upcoming album Our Future Shipwreck, to be released in February 2015. Lush, detailed production, powerful songwriting. Crayon, especially, is rather beautiful.

16) Flag Of Japan - Flag Of Japan EP (Self Released)
Dropped for Christmas Day, this is a very late inclusion! Former members of Look, Stranger! collaborate with vocalists Beth Mburu-Bowie (How About Beth), Rhosyn and Jana Tyrrell to produce some soulful, absorbing electronic pop.  


15) Jam City - Unhappy (Night Slugs)
Presaging a new album of the same name to come in the New Year, this is something of a shift in musical direction away from the style of Classical Curves in favour of warped groove.

14) Julia Holter - Don't Make Me Over (Domino)
Suspenseful, atmospheric, sad modern cabaret reading of classic Burt Bacharach song from the consistently digressive Julia Holter. Who knows where she will go next?

13) Bruce Springsteen - American Beauty (Columbia)
Even The Boss has to join in with the Record Store Day charade now. Here are four more tracks originally left on the cutting room floor. The title track is a little overwrought and painful, but Mary Mary is an enjoyable pop song. The key track here is Hey Blue Eyes, which pulls off a classic Springsteen trick - passing itself off as an innocuous love song before the lyrics reveal it as a timely excoriation of US use of torture.

12) Sun Kil Moon - The Possum (Caldo Verde)
In which Mark Kozelek abandons editing entirely on a sprawling, unwieldy song. Not hard to see why this didn't find a home on an album, although it is a typically engrossing and candid narrative.  It's almost as if the actual music doesn't matter so much anymore.

11) Mogwai - Music Industry 1, Fitness Industry 0 (Rock Action)
A neat companion piece to Rave Tapes with three new tracks and three remixes. I've been neglecting Mogwai for too long now!

10) James Blake - 200 Press (1-800 Dinosaur)
Another opportunity for James Blake to demonstrate his more spontaneous, less commercial side. The focus shifts away from Blake's faltering vocals on to sound and atmosphere.

09) Julianna Barwick - Rosabi EP (Dead Oceans)
More overwhelming choral layering from Julianna Barwick. I can't hear enough of this - she gets me every time.

08) Beaker - Beaker (Off)
Improvised music tends to dismiss the possibilities of the short form release, but this is a powerful and imaginative piece of dark improvised electronica from Alec Harper and Tyler Gilmore, bridging continents and approaches.

07) Polar Bear and Jin Jin - Cuckoo (Leaf)
The apotheosis of Polar Bear's embrace of electronic music, Cuckoo is strange, wonderful and exciting.

06) Natalie Prass - Bird Of Prey/Why Don't You Believe In Me? (Spacebomb)
Two wonderfully expansive, soulful singles from Natalie Prass' upcoming album with Spacebomb due in January

05) Sleater-Kinney - Bury Our Friends (Sub Pop)
So good to have them back! This is a barnstorming single with a huge chorus, suggesting the new album might be tailor made for bigger venues, in the best possible way. This is music with urgency and passion. No need for sleep this time around.

04) Hiss Golden Messenger - Brother, Do You Know The Road? (Merge)
MC Taylor's majestic 'orphan song' which wasn't included on either Haw or Lateness Of Dancers. A slow, stately, spiritual and serious work.

03) Shackleton - Freezing, Opening, Thawing (Woe To The Septic Heart)
Simmering, urgent, insistent EP from the ever brilliant Sam Shackleton. 

02) Herbert - Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8 (Accidental)
Matthew Herbert returned to his Herbert moniker, spreading an entire album's worth of material across three separate EPs. Typically mechanistic, minimalist but thoughtful electronic music with a more physical impetus than the likes of the One Pig project.

01) Holly Herndon - Chorus/Home (RVNG International)
Two utterly brilliant singles investigating our relationship with techology and its implications for privacy. Home addresses the issue of NSA surveillance. Both songs come with videos that are much more than mere window dressing - these are the two most immersive and thrilling music based audio-visual experiences of the year.

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