While people were griping on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, and every other social-media platform about how the new U2 “infected” their iTunes account, I slapped some earbuds into the bottom of my phone and spent time with the albums I liked.
Burn Your Fire for No Witness
From alone-and-empty acoustic balladry, to pilsner-spilling C & W, to tube-busting primal-scream therapy, Angel Olsen uses a wide swath of sounds on her latest emotional roller coaster. The sonically fragile highlight “Enemy” is a strengthening sermon for the brokenhearted, with Olsen pushing past her pain as she realizes, “I am lighter on my feet when I’ve left some things behind.”
Coming off the Walkmen’s hiatus announcement in 2013, vocalist Hamilton Leithauser swung through the gates with a smashing solo debut blending indie with a few more mature flavours. “The Silent Orchestra” is a joyous symphonic ska piece, while the early-U2-leaning torch song “The Smallest Splinter” has the singer flexing his spectacularly sandy, sad man’s croon.
Based on an emergency surgery that stripped sound artist Pharmakon (aka Margaret Chardiet) of an internal organ, Bestial Burden examines the frightening incongruity between body and mind with bilious beats and shrieks. Scalpel-sharp white noise, phlegm-filled jags of retching, and grinding postindustrial terrorscapes all coagulate to make for one of the harshest, but best, listens of 2014.
More vicious than last year’s Bushcraft, Bloodmines has Baptists bringing the D-beat damage with crusty attacks like “Wanting” and the self-explanatory “Harm Induction”. Beastlike vocalist Andrew Drury’s sociopolitical lyricism likewise sharpened, with the album attacking corrupt child-care systems, big business, and more.
Native North America, Vol. 1
The first chapter in this series celebrating aboriginal artists showcases Lloyd Cheechoo’s sleepy-eyed “James Bay”, Willie Dunn’s society-critiquing strummer “I Pity the Country”, and many more breathtaking vintage cuts from indigenous songwriters across the country. Kevin Howes’s years of scouring used-record bins and CBC basements for these folk, country, and rock rarities have paid off well.
In a maximalist flip from 2012’s I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, Cold Specks placed her bluesy vibrato alongside a masterful mélange of sizzling French Quarter brass, gut-rumbling indie sludge, and the harrowing hush of Swans vocalist Michael Gira. Neuroplasticity is a sensational sophomore effort.
Facing the rejection of their proposed score for The Last Exorcism Part II, Timber Timbre members Simon Trottier and Olivier Fairfield opted to flesh out the horror-psych sounds as Last Ex. Incanting warped-vinyl funk and haunted-mansion synth minimalism, songs like “Girl Seizure” reimagine Can for the grindhouse crowd.
Schoolboy Q made an impressive bid for 2014’s hip-hop crown with Oxymoron’s hazy and hedonistic masterpiece, “Man of the Year”. Helping him clinch the title were the rest of the album’s pilled-up party anthems and gritty gangsta tales, songs featuring guest stars like Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and 2 Chainz.
Cult of Youth
Hopefully, the title of the Brooklyn gang’s third full-length is a red herring, because its mesmerizing acousti-goth stylings, ancient-days percussion jams, and ink-black postpunk decadence made for the band’s broadest and finest effort yet.
I wouldn’t doubt that Adam Bainbridge’s second lightly funked-up, pillow-soft collection of new-era R & B has had bed-locked couples popping bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from dusk to dawn since it landed earlier this fall.