Written by Simon Geraghty.
As the year draws to a close it is time for us to share the Dot Dash Albums of 2014 (and here is last year’s list if you’re interested). We give you a flavour of the songs and albums spinning virtually at Dot Dash that sound tracked our working year. The list includes our top five, another 10 albums that rocked 2014, and some late discoveries released in 2013.
Future Islands: Singles
Future Islands burst onto the global stage with an amazing performance on the David Letterman show. The honesty and intensity of their performance propelled a YouTube clip of that show to more than 3 million views to date. The performance left the host momentarily speechless, as were many on Twitter and Facebook.
The resulting attention has taken them from performing show’s upstairs in Whelan’s to two sold out nights in Dublin’s Vicar St in November this year. Singer Samuel T is certainly the secret sauce in their live arsenal, he doesn’t hold back. He strikes me as a man who has lived a full life and is happy to share his pain with us all, an amazing mix of Rick Astely, Henry Rollins and the singer from the Fine Young Cannibals (Roland Gift!).
The band’s sonic palette mixes plaintive, sometimes gutteral moans paired with bitter sweet synth pop melodies. Future Islands are something of a kindred spirit to The National in that they play reflective pop songs for those of us who’ve possibly loved, lost, had children, run into cul-de-sacs and begun to experience some of life’s regrets.
‘Singles’ is released on the 4AD imprint, with 10 songs in 42 minutes. ‘Seasons‘ shows the band in their full pomp and the track to start with, but also check out the subtle charms of ‘Like the Moon‘ and ‘Back in the Tall Grass‘. 2011’s Album ‘On the Water’ is also well worth a listen, as is ‘Tin Man‘ from 2010’s ‘In Evening Air’.
Ariel Pink: pom pom
LA outsider artist Ariel Rosenberg seems to have spent most of 2014 creating a social media sh!t storm every time he’s been interviewed. Reportedly turning down the offer to work with Madonna, claiming she’s been on a downward slide since her debut album. This in turn got Grimes’ hackles up, and whom he subsequently called “stupid and retarded”. He’s been dubbed the most hated man in Indie Rock.
In a world where every quote is a potential napalm bomb I think he personally chooses not to play the (social) media game letting his music do most of the talking. Then again he could also be a marketing genius with Oscar Wilde ‘s infamous quote pinned to his workstation: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about!”
So if we duly oblige, stripping away storms in teacups, Ariel Pink’s lo-fi playful Frank Zappa-esque approach to song writing is very refreshing. With songs wrapped in the cast-offs of Americana: carnivals, fun fairs, b-movie sleaze and the grotesque. The epithets ‘D’IY’ and ‘postmodernism’ also get flung his direction. The Guardian liken his approach to music making to ”someone building a DeLorean out of Hoover parts and stuff lying around the kitchen.”
If you enjoy ‘pom pom’ then his 2010 Album, ‘Before Today’ and 2012′s ‘Mature Themes’, especially ‘Kinski Assassin (Who Shagged Me)’ are both great places to explore more.
Released on 4AD in November this year 17 songs spanning 67 minutes. If David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive was made into an album rather than a movie this record might possibly be the result. Start with ‘Not Enough Violence’, ‘White Freckles’, or ‘Dinosaur Carebears’.
Foxygen: ‘… And Star Power’
We fell deeply in love with Foxygen’s 2013 release, ‘We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic’, which was a great slab of Bluesy rock, think ‘Exile on Main Street’ era Rolling Stones. (Check out the titular track, as well as ‘Shuggie’, ‘No Destruction’ & ‘San Francisco’).
2014’s follow up is an epic rambling double album, more akin to ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’. ‘… And Star Power’ sees Foxygen expand their reference points to include ‘Revolver’ era Beatles, ‘Transformer’ era Lou Reed, the Stones (of course), Suicide, The Stooges, a dash of Ramones, a sprinkle of Supertramp, Dr Dog and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
They are a 60’s garage band at heart, hence the appeal of releasing a double album. Disc 2 (does that term still have meaning in the Spotify era?) feels more like an extended jam. It throws together harmonies, wig outs, lots of reverb and hammond organs, and covers their wide range of reference points. Disc 1 contains much more single friendly material.
Caribou: Our Love
We first came across Caribou at Forbidden Fruit back in 2011 and soon realised we already owned an album by his previous incarnation Manitoba. Later we found out his song featured in an ad by O2 Ireland a few years back and that his alter ego Daphni produces much harder edged dance music. The multi-talented Canadian born composer and musician Dan Snaith has performed under all of these guises.
The album ‘Our Love’ mixes funky dancefloor friendly numbers (particularly when the title track gets going at 1:31), indie dance, late night after hours grooves, and a smattering of a psychedelic wash. James Blake’s ‘Wilhelm Scream’ also comes to mind in places.
This album finds Snaith in more reflective form than 2010′s ‘Swim’, and he cites the birth of his daughter for the intimate and introspective nature of this album. ‘Our Love’ features contributions from fellow Canadians Jessy Lanza (with vocals) and Owen Pallet (of Arcade Fire fame, adds viola, violin and composition).
Klaus Johann Grobe: Im Sinne Der Zeidt
Klaus Johann Grobe is comprised of Swiss accomplices Sevi Landolt (organ/synths/vocals) and Daniel Bachmann (drums/vocals) and their sound draws on Krautrock, organic Brazilian grooves (think Os Mutantes) and a hint of synth pop. This is possibly the debut album Air might have made if they were German rather than French speakers!
Describing themselves as Neo Kraut Romantics. The Kraut element being a nod to Krautrock rather than any World War I time-warp. Krautrock best known proponents were early Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, Amon Duul (1 & 2), more recently bands like Stereolab, Beak and TwinKranes have taken a fresh look at the format.
KJB sing in German and the duo’s rider states “It’s important to be able to add some reverb to Klaus Johann Grobes voices. The more and trashier the better.”
Other honourable mentions for 2014:
- Flying Lotus: ‘You’re Dead’. FlyLo’s jazz funk greats nearly made it into our list above. It brings to mind Guru’s solo material (of Gangstarr fame), OutKast at their most psychedelic, and Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’. The stand out track are ‘Never Catch Me‘, and ‘The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep‘. This is a real grower and I might well regret demoting it, as is Shabazz Palaces: ‘Lese Majesty’.
- Sleaford Mods: ‘Divide & Exit’. There’s more Sleaford than Mods at play here. Reminiscent of The Fall or snarling poetry of John Cooper Clarke, with nods to Ghostpoet, Death Grips, Gil Scott Heron, Scroobius Pip and The Streets. Listen to the brutal but spot on ‘Tied Up in Nottz’.
- The Memories: ‘America Summer’ EP. Not to be confused with the Irish show-band of the same name, Oregon’s prolific band have released three recordings in 2014 and produce ramshackle lo-fi garage rock. Have a ‘Creamsicle‘.
- Goat: ‘Commune’ Sweden’s finest throw down a mix of Afro Beat, funk, mysticism and experimental pop. If Aleister Crowley was ever in a band it would be this one. See: ‘Hide from the Sun‘.
- King Khan and the Shrines: ‘What Is?!’ good old fashioned garage rock. ‘(How Can I Keep You) Outta Harms Way‘
- The People’s Temple: ‘Musical Garden’ more good old fashioned garage rock. ‘Crimson Rose‘
- Chain & the Gang: ‘Minimum Rock & Roll’. The sadly missed, by me anyway, The MakeUp’s legendary Ian Svenonius has a new project and album, ‘Mum’s the Word‘.
- Beck: ‘Morning Phase’ sees the original hipster troubador return to his laid back best. ‘Morning‘!
- Gruff Rhys: ‘American Interior‘. Here the former Super Furry Animal’s member has produced an album, a movie and a book about his relative’s search for a lost tribe of Welsh speaking First People’s in 1792!
2014 saw the demise of Death Grips with valedictory ‘No Love Deep Web’, no doubt they’ll resurface in another guise. Closer to home we await a new album from Dublin’s finest TwinKranes in 2015! So that’s the Dot Dash albums of 2014, what were yours?
Epilogue: Albums we missed in 2013 that have been on heavy rotation in 2014:
- Liminanas: ‘Costa Blanca ‘, they also put a collection of singles and rarities this year ‘I’ve got Trouble In Mind’. Hailing from Perpingnan, France, they play vintage pop, ye-ye and sunny psychedelia. Listen to the lovely ‘My Black Sabbath‘ and ‘Liverpool‘.
- Follakzoid: ‘II’ These lot are a psych pop band hailing from Santiago Chile. They play free form jams, with an occasional nod to Krautrock, the meandering ‘Rivers‘ and ‘Trees‘ both sum up their sound well.
- Black Hearted Brother: ‘Stars Are Our Home’ is a gorgeous reverb filled album of poppy shoe gaze. ‘UFO‘
Here’s a playlist of the above and more over on our tumblr page!