Staff Picks CDs: The Best of 2014 – Part 1

Here are some of the favourite CDs from last year from our music loving staff, with an accompanying playlist for you to have a listen for yourself…

John’s Picks:
Cover imageVapor City archives.
2014 began with the enthralling urban sound of Vapor City, based on a recurring dream of an unknown metropolis, and ended with the equally atmospheric and sublime ‘Vapor City Archives’.

Cover imageSpiritoso.
This trip through their back catalogue featuring live recordings with a full orchestra transform the band’s already cinematic sound into epic and majestic masterpieces.

Cover ImageSiberia.
Anyone who needs their faith restored in contemporary indie rock needs to listen to Polvo’s tight yet ramshackle grooves, classic twin fuzzed out guitars and earnest vocals.

Cover imageMorning phase.
His first release in six years finds him returning to the contemplative and lush Beck, with a deep, reflective and beautifully produced record that presents an artist excelling at their craft.

Cover imageAtlas.
More beautiful melodies and tight, complex arrangements, driven by their distinctive sun-drenched tremolo guitar sound make a lovely addition to their discography.

Cover imagePop ambient 2014.
The 14th Pop Ambient compilation is a standout release of ambient electronic compositions that offer a subtly hypnotic and enveloping listening experience.

Cover imageHouse masters.
This lovingly curated and edited double CD compilation from Charles Webster’s personal archives makes for a beautiful late night ride into the heart of the deep house dance sub-genre.

Cover imageCheatahs.
The breathy melodic vocal lines buried under swathes of rich textured guitars recall the heyday of early ‘90’s shoegaze and college rock in a sound like the missing link between ‘My Bloody Valentine’ and ‘Dinosaur Junior’.

Cover imageHot dreams.
Imagine the soundtrack to a spaghetti western directed by David Lynch to get some idea of this original surreal take on southern gothic via ‘50’s Americana in a cobweb-clogged anthology of past styles and vintage genres.

Cover imageSunbathing animal.
The sound is derived from the spiky, angular post punk of bands like ‘Wire’ and ‘The Fall’ channelled through ‘Pavement’, but theirs is a post-modern version as they use the past to write their own version of the present.

Cover imageEntropicalia / The Soundcarriers.
Influences abound within the Soundcarriers hallucinatory dreamworld, including the Hammond organ sound of the swinging ‘60’s, the jazz flute of ‘50’s tropicalia and the rhythmic drive of ‘The Velvet Underground’ as they plot the retro future space jazz folk revival.

Cover imageCursing the sea.
Think ‘60’s girl group meets ‘70’s buzzsaw power pop – like Phil Spector producing ‘The Cramps’ covering ‘The Jesus & Mary Chain’ – and you get some idea of this noisy pop delight from five Dublin girls.

Cover imagePsychic 9-5 Club.
This is elegant and gently hypnotic late night music, slow, textured, dubbed out and distinctly downbeat and should appeal to fans of the deep and moody songs of the ‘XX’.

Cover imageMoodymann.
Detroit native and key house music figure, Moodymann, delivers his skewed and deeply funky take on soul music, singing lead vocals for the first time with a delightfully sleazy croon and incorporating live instrumentation.

Cover imageThe green house.
Robert Scott of the Bats plays guitars, bass, keyboards and sings vocals, aided by the gorgeous harmonies of Tiny Ruins’ Holly Fullbrook, on these lovely, gentle songs that offer a cool balm for our hectic times.

Cover imageA sound like no other.
Wellington based DJ/producer, Milky Joe, curated and mixed a collection of tracks by under the radar Wellington artists exploring electronic, ambient and indie and for those interested in fresh local music this is essential listening.

Cover imageEtoile naiant.
The reclusive UK producer’s first release for Warp Records is a standout experimental electronic record, like a collection of abstract expressionist art pieces that each go nowhere – but that is just the point.

Cover imageReality testing.
Lone is a young UK electronic producer, influenced by several genres, who very confidently wraps them all up in a warm package that sounds like music you have always known.

Cover imageReachy prints.
The Warp Records mainstays make a most welcome return with a sparkling collection of intricate compositions, friendly melodies, and fascinating sounds that shimmer over oscillating beats within a cool dark atmosphere.

Cover imageYou’re dead!
With 19 tracks spanning 42 minutes merging into each other, the disc is like an intense and engrossing suite, touching base with most black musical genres along the way and, as one style succeeds another, the listener is gradually pulled into a visionary alternative sound world.

Cover imageSyro.
His first album for 13 years is, arguably, Richard James best yet with sixty-five minutes of highly melodic, superbly arranged, precisely mixed, and texturally varied electronic music that sounds like it could have come from no other artist.

Cover imageNaga.
This recording of the 12 original pieces Victoria University’s gamelan ensemble composed for their recent Indonesian tour is an entrancing work and one can only marvel at such hypnotic and astoundingly beautiful music.

Cover imageTemporary : selections from Dunedin’s pop underground 2011-2014.
A CD that would serve well even if it were the only new indie music listened to this year, as this collection of tracks by 13 young Dunedin bands encompasses a wide variety of indie styles with hardly a dud offering, and presents a dazzling reflection of the region’s rich musical heritage through sparkling new glass.

Cover imageOur love.
An excellent collection of beautifully produced electronic alt pop featuring producer, Dan Snaith’s, debut as a vocalist on a gently off-kilter collection of songs around the theme of love.

Cover imageHuman voice.
An ironic title for electronic producer Dntel’s first album to not feature vocals finds him expertly exploring the realm of gentle and understated instrumental electronica.

Cover imageBurn your fire for no witness.
The former Bonnie Prince Billy backing singer finds her form on her outstanding second record, creating an intimate and haunting masterpiece that features on most 2014 ‘Best of’ lists.

Cover imageClark.
UK electronic artist Clark continues his ongoing album to album re-creation with his eponymously titled 7th release, his most cohesive and compelling record yet, that firmly cements his place at the very top level of contemporary electronic artistry.

BestOf2014CDs47Wilderness of mirrors.
Brisbane based ambient electronic producer Lawrence English has finally achieved international recognition with his excellent 2014 album of dark, mysterious and majestic decayed and textured drones.

Cover imageReincarnation. Part 2.
The second instalment of remixes by DJ Koze is as cool, entertaining and funky as the first, featuring a wide stylistic array of reinterpretations that never fail to cast the original version in a new light.

Cover imageExpanded : live at The Barbican.
UK post-punkers turned neo-classicists perform their stunning 2013 release, ‘Field of Reeds’, live with a 35-piece orchestra and choir ensemble and somehow manage to add a further layer of mystery and beauty to that already sublime work.