Summer has officially arrived. In the past week, some of the biggest artists in the world released new music: Beyonce, then Drake, Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Blake… and relative newcomer Kaytranada. Kaytranada is a name you should get to know fast. A frequent Major Lazer collaborator and astonishingly well-established producer, 99.9% is Kaytranada’s debut LP. A jazzy, electronic tour de force, Kaytranada and his onslaught of special guests combine for a trippy album that is perfect for summer patios and the sun-soaked hip-hop playlists of bars and clubs.
Ready for some more name dropping? Kaytranada’s first album features Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, The Internet’s Syd, Little Dragon, BADBADNOTGOOD, AlunaGeorge, Goldlink, Karriem Riggins, River Tiber, Phonte, Shay Lia, and Graig David. That’s right. This thing is stacked. And yet Kaytranada himself stays at the absolute forefront, blending his instrumental tracks with guest features in a way that really draws attention to the production. And Kaytranada’s production is fire: a varied mix of club, hip-hop, and electronic production with elements of jazz and soul and the occasional world sample.
…And funk. This album is incredibly funky and so so fresh. Check out “Lite Spots” coming in at track 13 for a little taste of Kaytranada’s musical sensibilities when it comes to sampling and production. This shit is almost better than Jamie xx (but what is that sample??). Kaytranada arrives on the scene sounding like he was made to make beats for people; as though he should be producing albums for rappers like Anderson .Paak, Vic Mensa, and Goldlink, all of which he’s brought in here. “Glowed Up” is .Paak’s best feature to date, and he’s done a lot of them, from Snakehips to Domo Genesis.
Vic Mensa’s feature on “Drive Me Crazy” is similarly some of his best work to date, as he only has a handful of singles out, the most notable being “U Mad (feat. Kanye West) and “Down On My Luck.” Goldlink and AlunaGeorge similarly shine on “Together,” and River Tiber and Karriem Riggins sound phenomenal on “Bus Ride,” probably the album’s jazziest and most experimental instrumental track. “Weight Off (feat. BADBADNOTGOOD)” is another fantastic jazzy interlude (and a rare but pleasant appearance of real instruments on an electronic album).
99.9% is a goldmine. This is just a taste of what Kaytranada’s got to offer here, from tracks like “One Too Many (feat. Phonte),” “You’re The One (feat. Syd),” Leave Me Alone (feat. Shay Lia),” and “Bullets” (feat. Little Dragon).” The features on this album showcase some of the best emerging and established artists in the hip-hop and electronic music communities. Kaytranada’s debut is a force to be reckoned with, and you should soon expect to hear these songs in hipster bars and clothing stores. This week’s barrage of new music has provided a perfect start to the summer, and Kaytranada is poised to rise up like the sun.
20. St. Vincent: St. Vincent
Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album as St. Vincent blended her unique post-punk sensibilities with her sharp-witted lyricism and edgy guitar playing. Eccentric, dynamic, and calculatedly cool, St. Vincent is a truly modern rock record.
The highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut SBTRKT showed off a different side of Aaron Jerome’s production, highlighting the names it featured rather than the SBTRKT enigma itself. Wonder Where We Land attempts to redefine the role of the producer in 2014.
Read the full review here.
TV on the Radio’s first album in three years following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 found the band back on their feet and still creating some of the most anthemic art-rock around, even after all these years. A band that will define the 2000’s for millennials.
Read more about TV on the Radio here.
Voices embodied a kind of dualism, exploring big themes of life and death, and pushing further into the separate territories of electronic and rock music, seamlessly combined here. A record for music lovers of all kinds.
Ryan Hemsworth has undeniably changed the face of electronic music in the last few years, and on Alone for the First Time, he challenges its conventions further, blending swaddling, pillowy production with guest vocalists from his Secret Songs label.
Read the feature here.
A jazzy, electronic tour de force, You’re Dead! is a psychedelic trip into the mind of Steven Ellison, and its collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat are just the tip of the iceberg.
Chet Faker’s hotly anticipated debut lived up to the high expectations from 2012’s Thinking in Textures EP. A spanning, double-sided album, Built on Glass features Faker’s easily recognizable croon and clever lyricism atop gorgeous electronic production.
Hands were clearly a common theme of album covers in 2014.
Spoon’s unique brand of indie rock lived on on They Want My Soul, which soundtracked the end of the summer for the discerning listener. One of the best albums of the year by one of the best bands of the last decade.
12. Glass Animals: Zaba
Glass Animals’ textured, tropical debut was one of the best breakout surprises of 2014, and one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year. A brilliantly poppy, catchy debut, Zaba combined jungle sounds and drum loops to create a multi-layered, captivating electronic production.
11. Tycho: Awake
The follow-up to 2011’s Dive, Awake features more of Scott Hansen’s stunning electronic instrumentation as Tycho. Awake is an album to get lost in; for planes and trains and long car rides. Its combination of electronic production with live instrumentation is what makes it a truly modern record, for listeners of all genres.
Sharon Van Etten’s beautifully honest self-portrait on Are We There made for easily the best singer/songwriter record of 2014, showing off a lighter, more playful side of Etten, but whose sense of lyricism still carries the weight of the world. And it featured one of the best album covers of the year.
9. Alt-J: This Is All Yours
The hugely anticipated follow-up to 2012’s An Awesome Wave, This Is All Yours took listeners further into the parallel universe in which Alt-J exist, through Nara, its mythical and musical utopia. This Is All Yours is an album to do what you want with, and lose yourself in in the process.
Read the full review here.
The self-titled debut from the mysterious London soul collective Jungle redefined the genre in 2014, with timeless tracks like “Time” and “Busy Earnin'” giving listeners just a taste of the funk that permeates Jungle. Dancy, groovy, and so so fresh, Jungle is what’s good in 2014.
7. The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream
The War on Drugs’ third album chronicled Adam Granduciel’s battle with depression, exploring themes of death and loneliness. A true work of genius, Lost in the Dream channels the greats of 80s-era classic rock in its swirling, authentic production. A record stuck in the past and yet somehow so modern and relevant.
Little’s Dragon’s first album since 2011’s Ritual Union, Nabuma Rubberband, was a complex, conceptual record that further cemented the Swedish band’s unique sound and style as one of the most consistently brilliant crossover electronic acts in the world.
5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
Darkly funny, politically timely, and underminingly brilliant, Run the Jewels 2 dropped a proverbial bomb on 2014’s otherwise lacking year of hip-hop. Killer Mike and El-P are “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” and have their sights firmly set on taking over the world.
Read the full review here.
4. Mac DeMarco: Salad Days
Mac DeMarco’s follow-up to 2011’s 2 inspired a whole generation of youngsters to grow their hair out, quit their jobs, and chase their dreams. Well, not really, but listening to Salad Days sure feels like you’re doing everything just right.
3. Todd Terje: It’s Album Time
The Norwegian disco king Todd Terje released his debut album It’s Album Time this year to widespread critical acclaim. A jumpy, playful record that’s almost entirely instrumental, the album’s centrepiece, a cover of “Johnny and Mary” by Robert Palmer featuring Bryan Ferry cements It’s Album Time as an instant classic.
2. FKA twigs: LP1
If you didn’t like FKA twigs’ debut, then you didn’t spend enough time with it. Cerebral, evocative, and boundary-pushing, LP1 represents an innovative approach to songwriting in 2014 and should be sticking around for years to come. A perfectly crafted pop record, FKA twigs’ debut shows us why we don’t need to listen to Nicki Minaj in 2014.
Dan Snaith’s fourth album as Caribou, and the follow-up to 2010’s Swim, Our Love, explored pop music’s most universal theme in its inviting 42 minutes of euphoric dance music. “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” are album highlights, but Snaith entreats you to enter his world on Our Love, and it’s hard to come back.
Read the full review here.