Friday, January 9, 2015

Sebastian's best of 2014

You know, there are people like Doctors Without Borders helping Ebola victims in Western Africa, people like Malala who risks her life fighting for girls' right to education in Afghanistan, women giving birth and such like. But none of them really understand how hard it is to come up with a best of the year list for your music blog.

I mean, you literally have to spend days listening to your favourite music of the past year, trying to figure out what the hell you have been listening to? Is this a possible inclusion? Is this top track from the top 60, perhaps something for the top 20? Is this song number 5 or 6? And then doing this when you feel like maybe watch a movie instead, or maybe do some facebooking. Not to mention coming up with some sort of intro at the top of the page that has to conclude the whole year.

What I'm trying to say is that I think it's hard to really understand what hardship us artist souls, who every now and then post a track we like when/if we feel like it, and maybe say something moderately funny or insightful about it, go through each year. Not that I want to make Malala feel bad or anything, but it's something to think about.

So, what happened in 2014? Well, even less italo-inspired nu disco, deep house growing bigger and more mainstream and the early adopters of the recent deep house trend moving over to retro sounding techno. Then you had more American back to the roots with acid house and trap/bass. In accordance with going through the rest of the electronic genres originating in the late 80's and early 90's, I also think we saw a return of EDM's nerdy distant cousin IDM with a more cerebral and conceptual take on music rather than the more instincts and urges-fuelled bass and garage or the more spiritiual side of the soulful deep house. I'm thinking of the return of  Aphex Twin but also a whole host of other producers starting doing more ellaborate and introvert music.  So house music is going in different directions: more high-brow, more classic soulful and afro beat or more ghetto, all the while middle of the road deep house seems to be becoming the new EDM. Where will it end?

As usual, is this an Objective List of the Ojectively Best songs of the last calendar year? No, it's not. I probably forgot a bunch of songs (I always do), and are they really the ones I've liked the most over the year or my favourite songs from 2014 of january 2015? Well, I try to aim at the former, but I can't guarantee that I succeed.

#1. Caribou - Can't Do Without You (Tale Of Us & Mano Le Tough Remix) [City Slang]
The top of the list really illustrates the hardship I was talking about in the intro. It became clear pretty early that Caribou, who probably made the second best album of the year, would top the list? But what song, and what remix? The original of "Our Love" was and still is a big favourite (including the video), Carl Craig's remix of "Your Love Will Set You Free" has been on many lists and is great too, even though I'm somehow not convinced that the vocals match the song very well. One that do that better is Tale Of Us and Mano Le Tough's remix of "Can't Do Without You". Plus it has that je ne sai quoi - especially after that beautiful build-up after the breakdown - that would make the eyes fill up. You know, if I wasn't so electronic I shit bits.

#2. Copy Paste Soul - The Fall [2 Swords]
More techno as number two, even if Copy Paste Soul has been pumping out high quality house and garage the last couple of years."The Fall" is a classic Detroit techno track that could have been made by someone like Derrick May, Claude Young or Stacey Pullen in the early 90's or so. Or why not Carl Craig who lost out on the number 1 spot?

#3. Leon Vynehall - It's Just (House of Dupree) [3024]
An example of this more cerebreal and conceptual current is Leon Vynehall, who in my mind made the album of the year with "Music for the Uninvited". The Aphex Twin (looks a bit like him, doesn't he?) or Philip Glass of house music made an extended EP or mini-album exploring the rhythm of house music, but in a more conceptual way. At the same time it's an homage to sitting and playing old cassette tapes, with its cut and paste and very analogue soundscape. Sounds boring and undanceable? Not at all, it's always extremely groovy, but perhaps you want to dress in all black and put on a beret before you start dancing. "It's Just (House of Dupree)" gets to carry the torch for the whole album.

#4. GRADES - Crocodile Tears (Cause & Affect Remix) [Warner]

A bit more catchy is Cause & Affect's remix of GRADES' "Crocodile Tears", making the sweet 2 step pop song into a trap and electro infused piece of futuristic soul with a bit more ghetto edge. This is how crappy mainstream R'n'b *could* sound.

#5. Misun - Eli Eli (Colour Vision 'Mid-Century Modern' Edit) [Unreleased/free download]
Next up is probably the most lo-fi track of the bunch. Colour Vision is someone I promise you'll hear more about (including you Corey). A great debut called "Sur Chic", a host of great tropical house remixes, including an awesome version of Ten Wall's "Walking with Elephants" made up for a very productive year. The favourite was a rather delicate rework of Misun's great original. Has a great Motown or Dusty Springfield feel to it, doesn't it?

#6. Groove Armada - Love Lights The Underground [OM Recordings]
More veterans showing the n00bs how it's done. Groove Armada have been around since the cover of Select magazine either had a picture of Blur or Oasis on them. Or "the next Oasis" of course. "Love lights the Underground" is an awesome EP and the I just love the way those warm piano sounds break out of that trance-inducing techno loop. By the way, go Blur obviously!

#7. EV4NS - Know Ya [Tracy Recordings]
Young French producer EV4NS made one of the best house releases this year out on Spanish label Tracy recordings. Pretty funny, syncopated rhythm, but just a great, soulful deephouse stomper!

#8. Chet Faker - 1998 [Future Classic]
Chet Faker's "1998" is a great piece of techno pop à la someone like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. I have no idea if something in particular happened in 1998, and since I don't listen to lyrics, listening to the song doesn't shed any light on the matter. But it's a song that still manages to resonate somehow.

#9. Beesmunt Soundsystem - How I Wish [Just Jack]
There's such a lot of great house music coming out of the Netherlands right now. Beesmunt Soundsystem's "How I Wish" is such a great house track with its pumping rhythm, hammering piano and catchy vocals.

#10. Cucumbers - Say My Name [Pura]
It's been somewhat of a shaky year in Swedish-Russian relations last year. Was it a submarine or wasn't it? We still have the warm relations with our brothers and sisters across the Baltic Sea though. We had a great trip to St. Petersburg in the early summer, we're still the same big fans of Russian music, and one of my most frequently played tracks was Cucumbers' "Say My Name" with its sample from Whitney Houston's "Love Will Save the Day". Ochin harasho!

(second half of the Soundcloud track)

#11. Cyril Hahn ft. Rochell Jordan - Slow [Virgin EMI]

#12. Isaac Tichauer - Changes [French Express]

#13. Ante Perry - No Entrance With Shorts [Be An Ape]

#14. Wilfred Giroux - Stronger [Polkadot] 

#15. Odesza ft. Shy Girls - All We Need [Counter]

#16. Dorsia - Ghana [LOFT]

#17. Josh Butler & Bontan ft. Josh Barry - We Found A Place [MTA]

#18. No Artificial Coulours ft. Alex Mills - Reach For Me (Deetron Remix) [PMR]

#19. Julio Bashmore ft, J'Danna - Simple Love [Broadwalk]

#20. Low Steppa - So Real (Low Steppa Club Mix) [Simma Black]

(first half of the track)