From FKA Twigs to Fatima Al Qadiri we take a walk back through through twenty of the best tracks of 2014.
1. FKA Twigs, Two Week
Gloucestershire lass, Tahliah Barnett (better known by her beautifully brittle moniker FKA Twigs) has had a bumper year in 2014. Having been signed to Young Turks late last year – rubbing shoulders with the likes of the XX, SBTRKT and Sampha – she’s since gone on to release her debut album LP1 to critical acclaim, and was nominated for a Mercury Prize and directed and starred in a creative video concept for Google Glass. All hail Twigs.
2. Caribou, Can’t Do Without You
Released four years ago, Swim quickly came to define the pinnacle of electronic music for 2010. Canadian producer and DJ, Caribou, certainly didn’t disappoint with his eagerly anticipated follow up Our Love which was released in October earlier this year. A lush blend of percussion heavy drums and synth pads, Dan also roped in one of the world’s foremost string composers, Owen Pallett, and fellow Canadian songstress Jessy Lanza on his latest work.
3. Beyonce, Flawless
Dropping an entire visual album of 17 videos with the caption ‘Surprise!’ in December 2013 might possibly have been the biggest understatement of the year. Casually wheeling out Queen Onika at her On The Run Tour in Paris continued the theme of unexpected bombshells. Bey and Nicki trotted about on stage addressing that elevator incident, Drake’s advances on Instgram whilst basking in their own flawlessness.
4. Todd Terje, Delorean Dynamite
When he released Delorean Dynamite in February, Scandinavian producer Todd Terje served the internet a sizeable dollop of retro disco-funk to mark the release of his aptly named first full length album It’s Album Time. With the video featuring a real 1981 Delorean DMC-12 the track is a lovable slice of nostalgic grandeur.
5. Azealia Banks, Chasing Time
So, it finally happened. Though it may have been two years late – picking fights with Universal Music, T.I., Eminem, Iggy Azealia and even vegans (with their lemon armpits and paper shoes) does require a considerable amount of time and energy after all – the internet’s favourite troll proved that the wait for a follow up to 212 was well worth it.
6. Vic Mensa, Down On My Luck
Mixing circles with the cream of Chicago’s burgeoning rap scene (which has recently given rise to Chance the Rapper and Tink amongst others) Vic Mensa has had it pretty good over the last 12 months. Fresh from a US tour with Disclosure, he was singled out on XXL’s 2014 Freshman List, embarked on a far-ranging European tour with Danny Brown and released one of the summer’s best house/pop/hip-hop fusions in the form of Down On My Luck.
7. Flying Lotus, Never Catch Me
Steven Ellison comes from quite the musical pedigree, his aunt is astral jazz pioneer Alice Coltrane, which probably goes some way to explaining his exceptional talent for blending upbeat electronica with jazz, hip-hop and rap. With collabs from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and Herbie Hancock, You’re Dead marked an ambitious experiment in redefining modern jazz, one that his auntie would no doubt have been proud of.
8. Aphex Twin, minipops 67
Blimps hovering above Oval Space in London, insignias graffitied on New York pavements, a press release that read like it had been written by Google Translate and an album cover that more resembled an old receipt than conventional artwork. Those were the marks that signalled the end of a 13 year wait for Aphex Twin’s Drukqs follow up album. Bizarre, completely incomprehensible but equally as enjoyable Aphex Twin was back.
9. Banks, Brain
As if January wasn’t cold enough already, sultry R&B babe Banks and synth wizkid Shlohmo had their own crack at giving listeners the shivers when they released co-produced Brain at the start of the year. For those particularly keen to let the singer know what they thought of the track, she decided to share her phone number on Facebook so that all and sundry could get in touch for a quick chat.
10. Bok Bok feat Kelela, Melba’s Call
2014 was a great year for R&B revival. A whole hosts of artists, musicians, DJs and producers reimagined old 90s influences with warped electronic slurs, percussion heavy beats and sultry basslines. Dreamteam Bok Bok and Kelela helped lead the charge with their trademark brand of minimalist rhythm and blues.
11. Lana Del Rey, West Coast
Lana has been a busy girl. Building on her Tropico and Great Gatsby cinematic pedigree she covered Once Upon A Dream for Disney’s reworked Maleficient at the start of the year and, more recently, sang the lead track to Tim Burton’s forthcoming dark biopic Big Eyes. As well as releasing Ultraviolence, the follow up to her much celebrated 2012 Born To Die, she managed to find the time to perform at Kimye’s Versailles wedding and has just announced her Endless Summer tour with Courtney Love.
12. Mozart’s Sister, Good Thing, Bad Thing
If an artist counts Claire Boucher as one of their biggest fans you know you’re on to something good. With two solid EPs under her belt, Canadian synth-pop prodigy Caila Thompson-Hannant, released her first full length album Being in August earlier this year. For those wondering what to do with themselves until Grimes’ new album appears, Mozart’s Sister is a sure bet.
13. Tizrah, No Romance
Having originally been introduced to the world by friend and collaborator Micachu during her 2012 Boiler Room set, Tizrah released her debut EP I’m Not Dancing on Greco Roman in the summer of 2013. Her latest work, No Romance, which came out at the start of the year doesn’t disappoint. Frank, honest and deeply melodic it’s a woozy R&B record for the modern generation.
14. Shura, Touch
Jungle may be Shepherd’s Bush’s most well known musicians of late, but local resident Shura has certainly started to give them a run for their money when it comes to exciting new talent from the borough. Releasing Touch, a post break-up anthem, in February, the West London based artist has since shared a steady stream of top notch tracks picking up spot on the BBC’s Sound Of 2015 longlist along the way.
15. Mapei, Don’t Wait
Including a track from 2013 might be cheating somewhat, but with Jacqueline Cummings’ album having been released in September earlier this year, Mapei just had to make the cut. Having recently toured with Lykke Li and John Legend, and had her Don’t Wait lauded as “the best pop track going” it’s not been a bad year for the Swedish-American singer.
16. Jungle, Time
Mysterious duo J and T, the Latymer educated West London boys have enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last year. The were shortlisted for a Mercury Prize and the BBC’s Sound Of 2014, released their debut eponymous album to critical acclaim earlier this summer and played packed stages at Glastonbury and the iTunes Festival amongst others.
17. Willow Smith, Easy Easy
The former Wonderland cover star has come a long, long way since she whipped her hair back and forth at the tender age of nine. Leaving the paint pots and heart shaped braids aside, Willow now spends her days contemplating time travel, quantum physics, prana energy and Descartes. Delicate, emotionally rich and soulful, her cover of King Krule’s Easy Easy, (previewed on her Soundcloud just three months ago) shows just how much she’s matured as a singer in the last year.
18. Tink, Treat Me Like Somebody
“This young lady is about to change culture” said Timberland of Tinks when he heard her strikingly heartfelt vocals. Having already collaborated with Future Brown, Kelela and How To Dress Well amongst others, she’s also enlisted the help of Jay Z and André 3000 on her forthcoming album.
19. Fatima Al Qadiri, Shanghai Freeway
Surreal, futuristic, multi-culturalism doesn’t even begin to describe avant garde art-grime of Kuwaiti born producer Fatima Al Qadri. Her latest album Asiatisch, released on Hyperdub, explores cultural disconnects between the east and west discussing mythology, history and urbanisation. A solid follow up to the artist’s Desert Strike and Genre Specific Xperience EPs.
20. Future Islands, Seasons
Having been writing, releasing music and gigging since 2006, the synthpop trio released burst onto the scene in March earlier this year after appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman. Since joining the 4AD family they’ve release a cracking follow up to their 2011 On The Water called Singles.
Words: Thomas Curry.