Five highlights from last year, from rap to indie rock.
I was skeptical heading into 2014 and looking upon my anticipated releases for the year. However, the year has proven to be one of the most memorable in the past decade. Here are a few of the very best for your consideration.
Alvvays, Alvvays – This group has produced a rare record that many artists never achieve in their lifetime, let alone on their debut. Their self-titled album blends elements of pop, shoegaze and indie rock that incorporates concerns that all 20-somethings have encountered in their young lives: hooking up, commitment, fear of commitment, and anxieties of just about everything else. “Archie, Marry Me,” already feels like an instant classic within the list of timeless love songs/anti-love songs of the 21st century.
Old and Weird, What I Saw – Hailing from Halifax, Allison Higgins, Danika Vandersteen and Hannah Guinan need no introduction. Old and Weird uses What I Saw as a near-perfect statement to who they are as a band. As tracks like “Click Track/Orcas on Parade” demonstrate, the band seamlessly fuses raw garage sounds with humour while maintaining an authentic and fresh live presence. After a year that found women dominating the music world with brilliant and masterful releases, Old and Weird feels like a band that will soon define the East Coast music scene.
D’Angelo, Black Messiah – On the cusp of the New Year, D’Angelo released one of the best and arguably most important records of 2014 with Black Messiah. Released following protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Black Messiah explores elements of funk, R&B and rock, while its title confronts American social issues and racial politics. The strength and urgency felt within “1000 Deaths” contrasts beautifully with the sexy grooves of “Sugah Daddy,” solidifying D’Angelo’s status as one of the most dynamic artists of today.
Run the Jewels, RTJ2 – Rapper El-P and Killer Mike struck critical gold with their debut Run the Jewels mixtape in 2013, so when a follow-up was announced, anticipation ran high. Meeting its hype, Run the Jewels 2, is one of the hardest and slickest hip-hop records of the year. “Close Your Eyes” and “All Due Respect” demonstrate the fiery chemistry between the record’s two maestros with layered verses which strike like lightning and hit like a freight train.
St. Vincent, St. Vincent – Already a critical darling from previous releases, St. Vincent’s self-titled 2014 release pushed singer Annie Clarke into the mainstream limelight and set the stage for her charismatic introduction. Much like the allure of David Bowie or Freddie Mercury, Clarke’s presence is simply magnetic. Tracks like “Birth in Reverse” and “Digital Witness” provide the perfect compliment for global domination. St. Vincent has easily become the best rock star of 2014.