End of Year List, Experimental Avant Garde, Music

LJR Music’s Best of 2014 – The Geek List

The Geek List consists of mostly experimental music. You know, “headphones” music.

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LP1 garnered high critical acclaim and takes the #1 rank on the ADM’s Poll of Polls. It placed #2 at Pitchfork, #4 on the NPR’s Reader’s Poll, and #21 at Spin. It also make both editor’s choice lists for NPR Music and Allmusic.com.

LP1FKA Twigs –  LP1

  • Genre – Alternative R&B
  • From – Gloucestershire, England
  • Fav Tracks – Two Weeks, Video Girl
  • Recommended Tracks – Two Weeks, Pendulum, Video Girl, Numbers, Closer, Give Up

Tahliah Debrett Barnett performs under the moniker FKA Twigs. Barnett used her childhood nickname, Twigs, until another artist named Twigs complained. This prompted the name change to FKA Twigs. Barnett started her performance career as a dancer and appeared in music videos. This bit of history makes the track, “Video Girl” come into focus.

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This jazz peppered gem made the #10 spot on the ADM’s Poll of Polls, #17 at Pitchfork, #21 on the NPR Reader’s Poll, and the Allmusic.com Editor’s Best of 2014.

You're Dead!Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

  • Genre – Experimental Electronic, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Jazz
  • From – California
  • Fav Tracks – Tesla, Never Catch Me, Coronus The Terminator
  • Recommended Tracks – Tesla, Never Catch Me, Coronus The Terminator, Turkey Dog Coma, Turtles, Ready err Not, Eyes Above

Steven Ellison is an experimental electronic music producer that brings together electronic, R&B, jazz and rap. You’re Dead also collects some exciting collaborators including jazz great, Herbie Hancock and rapper, Kendrick Lamar.

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This experimental Rock album from Neneh Cherry (yes, it’s the Neneh Cherry who sang “Buffalo Stance” in the late 80’s) wasn’t featured on many end-of-year lists even though it received strong ratings when it was released.

 Blank ProjectNeneh Cherry – Blank Project

  • Genre – Experimental Rock
  • From – Sweden, New York City, London
  • Fav Tracks – Blank Project, Weightless, Everything
  • Recommended Tracks – Across The Water, Blank Project, Naked, Spit Three Times, Weightless, Cynical, 422, Out of the Black, Dossier, Everything

This album is fantastic. When I discovered that some familiar folks were involved in Blank Project‘s creation (Four TetRocketnumbernineRobyn), my quick appreciation of this album made even more sense.  I’m fairly predictable with which types of music speak to me, so you won’t be surprise to find syncopated rhythms and a strong bass line coursing through this album. If you only have time to listen to one album this week, please make it this one.

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Our Love made #5 on ADM’s Poll of Polls#10 at Pitchfork, and #22 on the NPR’s Reader’s Poll.

Our LoveCaribou – Our Love

  • Genre – Alternative Electronic
  • From – Canada
  • Fav Tracks – Can’t Do Without You, Our Love, Back Home, All I Ever Need, Second Chance
  • Recommended Tracks – Can’t Do Without You, Silver, All I Ever Need, Our Love, Dive, Second Chance, Julia Brightly, Mars, Back Home, Your Love Will Set You Free

Dan Snaith is the mastermind mathematics Ph.D. behind Caribou. It’s been four years since his  excellent album, Swim. This time around Snaith uses repetitive vocal phrases to create the perception of an all-instrumental piece. Snaith has skill in bringing the quirky and eccentric together into catchy hooks. For instance, “Second Chance” swerves in and out of dissonance while retaining its listenability.

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Too Bright made #14 rank on ADM’s Poll of Polls#11 at Pitchfork, and #25 on the NPR’s Reader’s Poll. It also make both editor’s choice lists for NPR Music and Allmusic.com.

Too BrightPerfume Genius – Too Bright

  • Genre – Alternative Singer-songwriter
  • From – Seattle, WA
  • Fav Tracks – Queen, Grid
  • Recommended Tracks – Queen, Fool, No Good, My Body, Don’t Let Them In, Grid, Longpig, Too Bright, All Along

Mike Hadreas is already known for his biting lyrics, but this time they get treated to production, bass and synth by Portishead’s Adrian Utley. On the track, Grid, Hadreas takes a screaming lady (or perhaps a bobcat, fisher, fox or other) and remarkably creates a great song.

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My next selection is an aching and beautiful album by The Antlers. This album was under the radar, but I did find it on the NPR Reader’s Poll at #33.

familiarsThe Antlers – Familiars

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Chamber Pop
  • From – Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Palace, Hotel, Intruders, Parade
  • Recommended Tracks – Palace, Hotel, Intruders, Parade, Doppelgänger, Director, Revisited, Surrender, Refuge

The Antlers is the working name of Peter Silberman (guitar vocals), Michael Lerner (drums) and Darby Cicci (trumpet and others). The music on Familiars has an oceanic quality. It’s expansive and encompassing and makes the listener feel very small. It pounds rhythmically and has an ebb and flow like tidal waters.  See them perform live in Seattle in the public radio studio KEXP.

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Aphex Twin’s Syro is another experimental album that collected critical acclaim. It took the #7 spot on the ADM’s Poll of Polls, #4 at Pitchfork, #18 on the NPR Reader’s Poll, and #23 at Spin. It also make both editor’s choice lists for NPR Music and Allmusic.com.

syroAphex Twin – Syro

  • Genre – Experimental Techno
  • From – England
  • Fav Tracks – minipops, 4 bit 9d, 180db
  • Recommended Tracks – minipops, 4 bit 9d, 180db, aisatsana

Richard D. James is heralded as a founding father of experimental techno. He was applauded for Syro in which he offers his most accessible music yet. Don’t let the unconventional track names scare you away from this great electronic album.

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Total Strife Forever can be found on the ADM’s Poll of Polls at spot #23.

Total Strife ForeverEast India Youth – Total Strife Forever

  • Genre – Electronic
  • From – London, England
  • Fav Track – Hinterland
  • Recommended Tracks – Glitter Recession, Dripping Down, Hinterland, Heaven How Long, Looking for Someone

Relative newcomer, East India Youth (a.k.a. William Doyle), gives us an electronic musical experience akin to a tasting menu. There’s a wide breadth of electronic music styles here, but Doyle brings them together splendidly like an executive chef. On Total Strife Forever, you will find tasty portions of technoshoegazedream pop, and experimental instrumentals.

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Black Messiah  was just released in December and has quickly stolen the show. It has earned an impressive rating already with a 9.1 from ADM and a 95 on Metacritic.

Black MessiahD’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

  • Genre – Alternative R&B, Neo-soul, Funk
  • From – Virginia
  • Fav Track – The Charade, Really Love, 1000 Deaths, Till It’s Done (Tutu), Sugah Daddy
  • Recommended Tracks – Ain’t That Easy, 1000 Deaths, The Charade, Sugah Daddy, Really Love, Back to the Future (Part I), Till It’s Done (Tutu), Prayer, Betray My Heart, The Door, Back to the Future (Part II), Another Life

It’s old yet still fresh. It’s classic and simultaneously ground-breaking. It’s heavy and instantly catchy. This long-awaited (14 years) third album from Michael Archer is being called all of the above. Don’t miss this one if you enjoy R&B, Soul and Funk.

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This one was found way under the radar, but it’s a wonderful album. Please don’t miss this personal favorite.

comet come to meMeshell Ndegeocello – Comet, Come to Me

  • Genre – Alt R&B
  • From – Virginia; Washington D.C.; New York City
  • Fav Tracks – Good Day Bad, Forget My name, Comet, Come To Me, Conviction, Tom
  • Recommended Tracks – Good Day Bad, Forget My name, Comet, Come To Me, Conviction, Tom, Continuous Performance, Shopping For Jazz, Foile A Deux, Modern Time

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This experimental techno album from Clark wasn’t featured on many end-of-year lists even though it received strong ratings when it was released.

ClarkClark – Clark

  • Genre – Experimental Techno
  • From – England
  • Fav Tracks – Winter Linn, Unfuria, Banjo, Silvered Iris
  • Recommended Tracks – Winter Linn, Unfuria, Strength Through Fragility, Banjo, Snowbird, The Grit In The Pearl, Beacon

Clark offers techno for thinkers and eccentrics. This music is odd, yet surprisingly catchy. It’s magical how such seemingly unrelated and unconventional sounds can be brought together to make a sum greater than its parts. Am I odd to think that this album would make a great soundtrack for a film on whales? Please approach with an open-mind.

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The Moon Rang Like a Bell was recognized by Spin at #46.

The Moon Rang Like a BellHundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell

  • Genre – Indie Electronic Art Pop
  • From – Florida
  • Fav Tracks – Murmurs, Cavity, [Animal], Xtalk
  • Recommended Tracks – Murmurs, Cavity, Out Alee, Innocent, Down From The Rafters, [Animal], Xtalk
  • Singles – Cavity, Xtalk

The Indie Electronic Art Pop genre isn’t going to be producing any radio hits anytime soon, but Nicole Miglis’ voice with these ethereal mixtures of electronic and acoustic sounds grabbed my attention on the first listen. Some tracks have more ambient and experimental leanings while others have at least one foot firmly planted in Pop territory making for a nicely balanced album.

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Wonder Where We LandSBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

  • Genre – Alternative Dance
  • From – London
  • Fav Tracks – NEW DORP NEW YORK, The Light
  • Recommended Tracks –  NEW DORP NEW YORK, The Light, Temporary View, Problem (Solved), Gon Stay, Higher

Collaboration is the successful method to his madness for masked producer Aaron Jerome (this album features Jessie Ware, Ezra Koenig, Sampha and A$AP Ferg).

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How to Dress Well captured the hearts of the Pitchfork crew and made their list at #29.

whatisthisheart

How To Dress Well –  “What Is This Heart?”

  • Genre – Indie Electronic, Alt R&B
  • From – Colorado
  • Fav Tracks – Face Again, Repeat Pleasure, Words I Don’t Remember, Childhood Faith in Love
  • Recommended Tracks – Face Again, Repeat Pleasure, Words I Don’t Remember, Childhood Faith in Love, 2 Years On, What You Wanted, See You Fall, Pour Cyril, Precious Love, A Power, Very Best Friend

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reality testingLone – Reality Testing

  • Genre – Ambient House
  • From – Nottingham, England
  • Fav Tracks – Begin To Begin, Jaded, Vengeance Video
  • Recommended Tracks – Begin To Begin, Jaded, Vengeance Video, Aurora Northern Quarter, Airglow Fires, Coincidences, Cutched Under

 

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Punish HoneyVessel – Punish, Honey

  • Genre – Electronic, Experimental Techno, House
  • From – Bristol, England
  • Fav Tracks – Red Sex
  • Recommended Tracks – Red Sex, Euoi, Anima, Black Leaves, Kin to Coal, Punish Honey, DPM

Vessel is the electronic subgenre blending work of Sebastian Gainsborough. This set includes physical, industrial sounds weaved with nervously energized electronic sounds.  The artist used homemade instruments to record most of the album. The album cover artwork is also striking.

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Cymbals Eat Guitars’ third album came in at #37 at Spin.

LOSECymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

  • Genre – Experimental Rock
  • From – Staten Island, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Warning, Jackson, Chambers
  • Recommended Tracks – Warning, Jackson, Chambers, Laramie, XR, Child Bride, Lifenet, 2 Hip Soul

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Sea When Absent was recognized at #44 by Pitchfork.

sea went absentA Sunny Day In Glasgow – Sea When Absent

  • Genre – Shoegaze, Dream Pop
  • From – Philadelphia, PA
  • Fav Tracks – In Love With Useless, Byebye Big Ocean, The Body It Bends, Oh I’m A Wrecker
  • Recommended Tracks – In Love With Useless, Byebye Big Ocean, The Body It Bends, Oh I’m A Wrecker, Crushin’, MTLOV, The Things They Do To Me, Never Nothing, Golden Waves

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illum-sphere-ghosts-of-then-and-now-300x300Illum Sphere – The Ghosts of Then & Now 

  • Genre – Electronic, Experimental Ambient, Left-Field House
  • From – England
  • Fav Track – Near The End, Embryonic, Sleeprunner, Liquesce
  • Recommended Tracks – Liquesce, At Night, Sleeprunner, The Road, Ra_Light, Ghosts of Then & Now, Love Theme From Foreverness, Near The End, Embryonic

This is the first full album from Manchester-based producer, Ryan Hunn.

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Early RiserTaylor Mcferrin – Early Riser 

  • Genre – Experimental Electronic, Alt R&B
  • From – Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Tracks – Degrees of Light, The Antidote, Already There, Invisible/Visible
  • Recommended Tracks – Degrees of Light, The Antidote, Already There, Invisible/Visible, Postpartum, Florasia, 4:00 AM, Stepps, Decisions, Blind Aesthetics, Place In My Heart, PLS DNT LSTN

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LiarsLiars – Mess

  • Genre – Experimental RockPost-Rock, Art Rock
  • From – Brooklyn, NY
  • Fav Track – Mess On A Mission
  • Recommended Tracks – Mask Maker, Vox Tuned D.E.D., I’m No Gold, Can’t Hear Well, Mess On A Mission

Liars artfully combines driving punk-style rock with electronic music. In the words of Allmusic reviewer, Heather Phares, “it’s equally terrifying and hilarious.”

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