Albums Of The Month
1. TORO Y MOI – WHAT FOR?
It’s not easy to pin down Toro y Moi and Chaz Bundick. Since he first started releasing music in 2009, one never quite knows what he’s going to do next. From super-chilled bedroom pop to slick R&B-influenced jams, his albums have covered a lot of ground. Everything he does is relaxed and smoothed-out at its core, though — that’s the one thing to count on. On 2015′s What For?, Bundick takes another unexpected left turn. Casting aside the late-night R&B of 2013′s Anything in Return in favor of a guitar-heavy ’70s approach, Bundick casts a wide net that includes bits and pieces of power pop, album rock, AM-ready soft rock, some fiery post-acid rock guitar riffing, and even a little disco. He proves to be a master of every stylistic avenue pursued here, turning in the catchiest songs he’s written yet in the process. From the sparkling “Buffalo,” which sounds like the best Seals & Crofts song never written, to the absolutely lovely “Run Baby Run,” every song on the album sounds like it was borrowed from a K-Tel collection. Except perhaps “Yeah Right,” which lasts for six slow grooving minutes and is the perfect AOR-style album closer, hair-raising guitar solo and all. What For? has Bundick taking a much more extroverted stance, with songs like the incredibly hooky “Empty Nesters” and shimmery disco confection “Spell It Out” showing more confidence and loose-limbed energy than he often does. Even the songs that have roots in the kind of chillwave he used to do, like the dream-inducing “Lilly,” have his vocals higher in the mix and a less murky, more nuanced sound. Bundick must have known he was taking a risk of alienating his fans who looked to him for synth-filled music to soundtrack chilled nights and lazy mornings. Hopefully, they will be won over by the smooth grace with which he delivers his take on ’70s pop and rock. No doubt anyone with a predilection for laid-back, good-time guitar rock will find lots of stuff to love here; so will people who like their pop unassuming and hooky as hell. There’s no telling what the next Toro y Moi album might sound like; all that is certain is What For? is the best one so far, with Bundick really coming into his own as a songwriter, vocalist, and producer.
2. LAPALUX – LUSTMORE
Stuart Howard had the kind of alias, as well as a winking debut album title, Nostalchic, that could have had him mistaken for a lounge music revivalist indebted to Esquivel and Les Baxter. With Lustmore, the producer ratchets up the deception potential with kitschy artwork like that of ’90s lounge revivalists Combustible Edison or Love Jones. There are no traces of lounge revival revivalism, however, within the grooves and atmospheres of Howard’s second album for Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. Lustmore does make for slightly easier listening compared to Howard’s previous output. Its melodies are relatively starry, and its contours are softer, crafted with the intent to make the listener feel as if she or he is lodged in a state between sleep and consciousness. Despite that, little of the album could be termed elusive. Some of the tracks, like the hard-knocking “Why Did You Lie” and jittery “Push ‘N Spun,” feature Howard’s most resonant beats, while the synthesizers in “Bud” and “Don’t Mean a Thing” joust with finesse. Additionally, some of the vocal performances — two from Andreya Triana, one each from Szjerdene and Howard — entail clear-minded, plainly stated thoughts regarding interpersonal strife rather than half-sensical mumblings. Howard provides a lot to absorb, and one can enjoy all of it whether half-asleep or wide awake.
3. ANNABEL (LEE) – BY THE SEA AND OTHER SOLITARY PLACES
The power of peace. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s renowned poem of untimely death, Annabel (lee) muses on the refrain “in a kingdom by the sea…” as she whispers from beneath the currents, “I shall never leave you”. The duo project, from Annabel (lee) and Richard E, invokes the haunting classicism of Claude Debussy and Erik Satie, intermingled with the quiet folklore of Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell, tipped with the jazz stylings of Miles Davis and Billie Holiday. Annabel and Richard met despite being divided by the Atlantic Ocean. She was a New York-based vocalist, singing jazz and cabaret standards by numbers. He was a London-based Yorkshire-man and a highly respected dance music arranger/producer. This is a timeless, almost otherworldly record. Is it more appropriate for jazz, classical, folk, or some mysterious type of cabaret? The answer lies perhaps somewhere in their midst. From the layers of the symphonic to the intimacies of the acoustic, Annabel (lee) suffuses all with ethereal magic.
4. DELIA GONZALEZ – IN REMEMBRANCE
5. BILL FAY – WHO IS THE SENDER?
6. GEORGE FITZGERALD – FADING LOVE
7. YOUNG FATHERS – WHITE MEN ARE BLACK MEN TOO
8. EARL SWEATSHIRT – I DON’T LIKE SHIT, I DON’T GO OUTSIDE
9. BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE – MUSIQUE DE FILM IMAGINE
10. BLUR – THE MAGIC WHIP
FULL LIST OF OUR TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2014 CLICK HERE. ALSO CHECK OUT UNDER AOTY2014 FOR OUR TOP 20 REISSUES, COMPILATION AND STAFF LISTS.
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