2014: Year in music

Three old-school critics with an eye on the new school share their Top 10 lists

Sun Club

Sun Club

A mixtape life

The Internet has, of course, in many ways changed how we listen to music, one of the bigger of those changes being the decline of the album format in favor of various short-attention-span presentations—Spotify, YouTube, digital downloads, etc. For me, though, this new style has always been my style; mixed tapes and CDs have forever been my jam. Over the course of my music-loving life, I’ve filled my shelves with a succession of vinyl, cassettes and CDs, yet even with those relative long forms at my disposal, I would most often choose meticulously curated mixes to pop into my Walkman, car stereo or lo-fi home system over listening to albums all the way through. So, having a machine that, in a few keystrokes, puts me in contact with obscure tracks from Spanish grrrl-rockers, noisy indie gems from Australia, a perfect noise-pop band from Baltimore, as well as the best rap album of the year, is glorious. It’s the culmination of a life of compiling songs, and these are my top 10 selections (a mix of tracks and albums) for 2014.

1. Dad Claps at the Mom Prom – Sun Club

2. “O’Clock” – ScotDrakula

3. Have You Ever Done Something Evil? – Hallelujah the Hills

4. Let Them Eat Cake – French Reform

5. “History Eraser” – Courtney Barnett

6. “Stay with Me” – Sam Smith

7. RTJ2 – Run the Jewels

8. “Interference Fits” – Perfect Pussy

9. Barn & Demo (two 7-inch singles) – Deers

10. “Slow Motion” – PHOX

-Jason Cassidy

Run the Jewels

Kickin’ the Year of the Booty in the ass

This year has been dubbed the “Year of the Booty” thanks in part to mainstream artists like Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj. Mainstream rap, aka “hip-pop,” continues to fool the globe into thinking hip-hop music is only about clubbing and fucking, choosing as its latest ambassadors a slew of so-called “booty artists”—e.g., 2Chainz, Rick Ross, Bobby Shmurda—who continue bouncing the same big booty. Luckily, the Internet also provides a platform for underground/indie/DIY emcees to plug directly into the veins of true-school fans, and below are 10 of my favorite albums and mixtapes from the year that brought Cosby down.

1. Black Hystori Project – CyHi the Prynce

2. A Thousand Cuts – Locksmith

3. Nobody’s Smiling – Common

4. RTJ2 – Run the Jewels

5. Beauty and the Beast – Rapsody

6. Russian Roulette – Reverie & Louden

7. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

8. A Better Tomorrow – Wu-Tang Clan

9. PTSD – Pharoah Monche

10. Souled Out – Jhené Aiko

-Mazi Noble

<i>Typical System</i>

Forged in fire

There’s a lot of metal on my list this year (I actually made a Top 30, which includes another half-dozen metal releases). Even the names GOAT and Plague Vendor sound kind of metal, though they’re far from it. While I’ve listened to metal for decades, I’ve slowly gone deeper into the ninth circle of hell—frankly, I haven’t been this excited about music in years as I ran far away from the bland indie and garage rock hoards. Bands like Nightfell, Biblical and Helms Alee quietly put out some incredible records. Elsewhere Total Control and The Skull Defekts got arty and weird. And Sturgill Simpson and my beloved Old 97’s cranked out stomping country music the way it should be done. Here’s to the thrill of exploration. Godspeed.

1. Typical System – Total Control

2. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

Sturgill Simpson

3. Digital Resistance – Slough Feg

4. The Living Ever Mourn – Nightfell

5. Free to Eat – Plague Vendor

6. Monsoon Season – Biblical

7. Commune – GOAT

8. Most Messed Up – Old 97’s

9. Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown – The Skull Defekts

10. Sleepwalking Sailors – Helms Alee

-Mark Lore