Year in Review | Top Songs of 2014
#1 – 15
15) Mark Barrott "Formentera Headspace Blues, Pt. 1 & 2" — Sketches from an Island — International Feel
An entrepreneur, a dance-music rebel and a man with a keen ear for the tropical side of chill out, Mark Barrott and his International Feel label had a defining year. Between the re-spark of legendary Ibiza DJ Jose Padilla's career and Barrott's own LP (not to mention singles like "Balanzat," his release with Gerd Jansen as Talamanca System), this summer was a decidedly a Balearic one. It was fueled by Barrott and songs like this one, sprawling with latin-esque polyrhythms, dreamy synths, tropical guitars, a lot of psychedelia and an ambient outro that leaves you beachside on the White Isle at sunrise. Who doesn't want to find themselves there?
14) Yasiin Gaye "I Want You 'Til the Summertime" — The Departure Side 1 — Soul Mates
At least 99% of the time, we thank the heavens the mash-up craze has subsided—then a release like this has to come along. Immaculately conceived by producer and DJ Amerigo Gazaway, the man behind other successful projects like Fela Soul and The Big Payback, Yasiin Gaye sees a seamless melding of the music of Mos Def and Marvin Gaye. It was hard to pick a favorite from the collection, but this combination of Mos' feisty flow with the shining, drippy soul of Gaye's "I Want You," "Mercy Mercy Me" and "What's Going On" single-handedly delivered a boom-bap masterpiece (out of a few masterpieces, granted) and rekindled our opinion of what a good mash-up can truly be.
13) Jon Hopkins "Immunity" (Asleep version feat. King Creosote) — Asleep Versions — Domino
A feature in your Year In Review survey of the 2014 ambient boom, we called this collection from Jon Hopkins, "floating dreamscapes full of weightless piano, hymnal vocals and breathy atmospherics. This is particularly true on "Immunity," which enlists the help of King Creosote to conjure music fit for a spiritual awakening in the Scottish highlands." Listening to it again as we write this, we're right back there surrounded by the damp, the endless grass and a more endless sea.
12) FKA Twigs "Two Weeks" — LP1 — Young Turks
As much a visual artist as she is a stunning vocalist, FKA Twigs captured the R&B scene with her brooding, poignant and potent lamentations about love, fame and her past as dancer in music videos. For all the high points on LP1, it was "Two Weeks" that continues to send shivers thanks to its quivering bass drum, half-time march and the swelling crescendos FKA Twigs rides as she glides through some of the most sexually-charged lyrics this side of D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)."
11) Flying Lotus "Coronus, the Terminator" — You're Dead — Warp
A deeply conceptual record, You're Dead exists more perfectly as a whole. Some tracks sail by or into the next on the sly with blurred lines of beginning and end. But with each listen, it's "Coronus, the Terminator" that stands apart with distinction, a psychedelic folk trip that instantly struck as as what Flying Lotus might sound like were he to shack up in the studio with Parliament-Funkadelic for a spell.
10) Jose Padilla "Solito" — International Feel
For a man who's made his living defining the sound of the sunset groove, with its easy-going nature and no worries attitude, Ibiza legend Jose Padilla has instilled a feeling in "Solito" that is mildly hazy. It's not haunting or dissonant, it's just a splash of moodiness that lends weight instead of letting things float away into the unabashed brightness that characterizes so much white-washed downtempo. It's tropical bliss nonetheless, just with a little rain cloud blowing through to remind you why the weather's so nice here—in a low-slung, balearic house sorta way, anyway.
9) Caribou "Can't Do Without You" — Our Love — Merge
One spin through Caribou's latest LP and it's obvious the man is feeling good. It's bouyant record held up with a succession of high points like title track "Our Love" and this one, a lively session chock full of looping vocals, electrified sub-bass, shimmering keys, skipping drums and Dan Snaith's unmistakable falsetto. It's this album's "Sun," a song that builds and builds—especially across the extended mix—in joyous revery, declaring its love from the rafters.
8) Owiny Sigoma Band "Nyidounge Drums" — Brownswood
A track that could have a home nowhere else than on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood label, "Nyidounge Drums" is an African barn burner with a sonar pulse, expert percussion from Luo drummer Charles Owoko and the dirtiest bassline to hit wax since the broken beat scene went the way of the dinosaurs. Owiny Sigoma Band's track instantly takes us back to those Bugz in the Attic days, full of wild tracks that existed somewhere in between Africa, the islands and the streets of London. This heater originally dropped last year, but resurfaced first thing in 2014 with a new remix from Champion. And yet, the original just can't be touched (besides, we weren't going to let a technicality bar this one from inclusion).
7) Moderat "Bad Kingdom" (DJ Koze remix) — Monkeytown
Moderat's "Bad Kingdom" scores a first for Dialogue Incorporated. Landing in our top 3 tracks of 2013, it's the first song to make the cut two years running—and in the top 10 no less thanks to this deep turn from Pampa's DJ Koze. Booming with a padded beat that's coupled with the original's heavy rimshots, Koze's remix rings out wicked fuzz from the bassline and warps Apparat's vocals just so. It was rinsed by everyone from Ten Walls to Robag Wruhme, and that includes a feature from us in our latest podcast.
6) Moodymann "Sloppy Cosmic" — Moodymann — Mahogani Music
Described as "Dizzy Gillespie to Theo's Miles Davis" in Andy Beta's Pitchfork review of the prolific Motor City producer's latest, Moodymann has always embodied a specific strand of house music, combining its deep dance grooves with the roots, grit and glow of funk and soul. He's a direct descendent of a long history of black music in Detroit, one that includes p-funk godfather George Clinton. The legend features heavily on this extended update of Funkadelic's "Cosmic Slop," at turns slinging raspy spoken words and breaking into more melodic song as the squeal of guitars, the pop of the bass and a chorus line swirl around him. It's the record's closer, but it's far from an afterthought.
5) Friendly Fires & the Asphodells "Before Your Eyes" — Telophase
The dream collabo we never saw coming, the combination of Ed McFarlane's croon and the cosmic rocking of Andrew Weatherall and Timothy J. Fairplay was one of this year's most unexpected highlights. Built on a bed of distorted guitar, "Before Your Eyes" is a testament to what the Friendly Fires sound can be like with the backing of tried and true studio masters, Weatherall and Fairplay working together as the Asphodells. Drums shimmy, hands clap and all manner of atmospherics throb while the tremolo of surf guitar slowly rises in the mix to send us off with with a glistening solo finale.
4) Atom TM "Ich Bin Meine Maschine" — Raster-Noton
Uwe Schmidt is one of those prolific producers, recording under more than a dozen pseudonyms and rarely overlapping in the musical statement each makes. As Atom TM, he's penned the ideal melodic techno statement with "Ich Bin Meine Maschine." Ratcheting up in intensity with each new movement of the track's cyclical composition, melodic hums, whirring static, digital blips and eventually a punishing laser-bass break in over the delicate swing of its Herbert-like drumming. It's got all the signifiers that make techno great—it's formulaic and built up around a rigid framework, but somehow within that rigid structure something altogether more emotional comes to life.
3) Sailor & I "Turn Around" (Âme remix) — Life and Death
Unsurprisingly for those who keep up with our musical proclivities, but the Innervisions family had another big year in our eyes. The first hallmark is this epic slow-burner, a delicate turn from Âme's Kristian and Frank who put Swedish vocalist Sailor & I at the center one of the year's biggest house cuts. Brimming with hypnotic synth lines and the all-encompassing warm melodies this duo tends to churn out, their remix of "Turn Around" takes its time before growing into its understated peak, delivering a quiet intensity and a soulfulness that continually make Âme one of house music's finest talents.
2) David August "Epikur" — Innervisions
A talent beyond his years, the 23-year-old German native was the debut subject of our Persona series, focusing on in-depth looks at our favorite artists. In it, we described David August's biggest track to date, "Epikur" as, "one of those songs that gets inside you, an emotional meditation that billows with fluid melody and has just the right amount of intensity to lift you up without ever overplaying its hand." It reads like a description for many of the finest moments coming from Dixon and Âme's artist stable, but this is the first time a song from the Innervision catalog has stuck with us quite the way "Epikur" has. The mood this song creates is precisely why we call ourselves fans of deep house.
1) Jamie xx "All Under One Roof Raving" — Young Turks
And while our love of deep house dominates these days, the power of a distinctly London sound is one we cannot deny. Somehow Jamie xx has managed to tie up just about all the elements that contribute to that allure and deliver it, bow and all, with "All Under One Roof Raving." Encompassing 2step, house, breaks and even the spirit of drum & bass, all stitched together with vocal samples that proclaim the UK's singular expression of bass and dance music, it looms large as a tribute to a rich music history and Jamie xx's own ability to express himself like no other producer. Mixing wildly varied influences with his caribbean instrument of choice, the ever-present steel drum, this undeniable talent does just what he sets out to, he brings the sum total of all that's good in British electronic music together under one banner and creates his own chapter in hardcore music. As the track says, 'we're doing what we like' asking at another point, 'if hardcore will never die, say Aye?' By no stretch can we claim to be hardcore fanatics, but from our days in college rolling spliffs to More Rockers to our early DJ gigs bringing together LTJ Bukem, 4Hero and Zed Bias, to this past October when we dropped this cut to a full house in an opening slot for SBTRKT, we can definitely stand by the sentiment that, through it all, we've kept it UK.