The best of 2014: Dummy staff picks

22.12.14

Our callout for these asked for them to be everyone's 10 favourite 'things', and thankfully our writers interpreted that how they saw fit – albums, tracks, mixtapes, record labels, and events.

Aurora Mitchell

01. Rae Sremmurd No TypeFrom the moment the opening chords see in the instantly recognisable Mike WiLL Made It audio watermark, Rae Sremmurd made their breakthrough. An anthem for the romantically ambigious living in the moment, “I ain’t got no type” wasn’t only one of the catchiest lines this year but a statement.   

02. Millie & Andrea 'Drop The Vowels': Gritty, glitchy techno that’s been perfect for many of my underground commutes and dark, foggy nights throughout the year.

03. Yamaneko 'Pixel Wave Embrace': I previously talked about why I love Yamaneko’s debut record for Album of the Week, this realm of beautiful J-RPG melodies and snapshots of grime had me wanting to play Final Fantasy all day in a dark room.  

04. Bing & Ruth 'Tomorrow Was The Golden Age': Incredibly moving and resonant ambient on RVNG, one of the most goosepimple inducing and beautiful releases – delicately layered piano strokes and patterns pulling on your heart.

05. Tiga Bugatti (Life Sim remix): This remix stomps all over the original with its heavy handed trance stabs, instantly been hitting rewind and replay since it got played in Jacques Greene’s FACT mix earlier this year.

06. Shinichi Atobe 'Butterfly Effect': 13 years after his incredible track The Red Line came out on Basic Channel’s Chain Reaction sub label and became an incredibly sought after find, Atobe followed up with his only release with his debut record – an introspective record layered so thickly every listen uncovers new discoveries.  

07. Barnt His NameThe moment that heavy, thuddering beat kicks in on a-side Chappell after the lowly hissing hi-hats suggest something lighter is one of the greatest and most unexpected moments in a track for me this year.

08. Truancy Volume 102: Deadboy: Out of all the mixes that I’ve listened to this year, it’s Truants’ one with Deadboy that’s always been the go-to whenever there’s a blank moment. Starting with a trippy description of the experience of DMT to Chief Keef’s Fool Ya to Life Sim – Caladhort (Warlord Edit), it’s 100 emoji from start to finish.

09. Traumprinz All The ThingsEmotionally affecting yet really danceable seemed to be a theme running through a lot of electronic music this year and this Traumprinz track exacts a balance between the two. That “Don’t cry, even when the road is hard” sample hits unexpectedly.

10. Prince of Denmark 'Live at Planet Uterus': Another Traumprinz release. Utterly engrossing, euphoric techno that's consistent from the off. 

Jack Enright

01. Sounds From The Other City: SFTOC is Salford’s annual springtime knees-up – a short-but-sweet dose of insightfully-curated art, film and music that sees cultural happenings stowed in dingy basements, under soggy bridges, and crammed into grotty pub rooms all over the city. The one-dayer to end all one-dayers.

02. Young Fathers @ Electrowerkz: You know that bit in the Bible where Moses comes down from Mount Sinai, carrying the Word of God? This was like that. Only with better bass lines and added danceability. 

03. The 1-800 Dinosaur Radio 1 Residency: We often take for granted just sheer amount of free-rein airtime the BBC regularly gives to cutting-edge musicians. This residency wasn’t just a musical joy from start to finish, but also a timely reminder of how decent the BBC can be – you don’t always get that from state-funded media. 

04. Jamie xx @ Glastonbury Festival: No words necessary. If you were there, you know. 

05. Rustie and Danny Brown – Attak: To be fair, I didn’t see this one coming at all – there’s a very hefty 3,500 miles separating Detroit and Glasgow, but as soon as you heard this track it sounded like the most obvious matchup in the world. Here's to hoping these guys make this a regular deal.

06. Hudson Mohawke quietly becoming King of Music: Fresh off the back of that Yeezus credit in 2013, we got that Apple ad, that Four Tet cover and most recently the captaincy of that almighty behemoth of a project, The Rap Monument. Whatever way you look at it, Hudmo is making moves for the throne…and to be honest, yeah…

07. …fuck it, I’m going to go ahead and just put forward everything that the LuckyMe family has a hand in this year. Pure gold. Shitting all over London’s presumption of cultural dominance, one release at a time.

08. MONEY at The Eagle Inn, Salford: Probably the best tenner I’ve ever spent. I wasn’t really sure that the pin-drop intensity of ‘The Shadow of Heaven’ would translate into a live experience, but here I was proved gloriously, wonderfully wrong. That it happened in a tiny pub backroom with a crowd of MONEY’s mates for company made it even more special.

09. Moderat @ The Albert Hall: The princes of Berlin techno, all grown up. Bigger sound, bigger visuals, more tears. 

10. And finally… A shoutout to The Mercury judges for finally getting their shit together long enough to award the prize to the best-best album, as opposed to the least-worst. 

Jake Hulyer

Jake has chosen not to rank these, so we've made them all #1.

01. Taylor McFerrin ‘Early Riser’ [Brainfeeder] Astounding from start to finish, this record’s delicate soulfulness, informed by a hip hop swagger, bleeds seamlessly from one track to the next. Every entry felt like it was the product of the same incredibly fruitful jam session.

01. FKA Twigs ‘LP1’ [Young Turks] The jagged R&B of FKA Twigs’ debut is so sexually charged that the authorities saw it necessary to distort the word “thighs” from its public broadcast. I’d say that’s something to be celebrated, not to mention the fact that her debut album lived up to the not-insubstantial hype promised on the EPs which preceded it.

01. Lone ‘Reality Testing’ [R&S] Continuing his bent for drawing on a nostalgia that never feels derivative, this was another album from Matt Cutler that tugged on my heart strings in the best way possible.

01. Panoram ‘Everyone Is A Door’ [Firecracker] Conjuring up images of lonely space stations and dreamy vistas, a meandering synth-led journey that I kept making again and again.  

01. Fatima ‘Yellow Memories’ [Eglo] With a diversity that’s a bit difficult to absorb at first, once I got to grips with the the contrasting productions on this album it’s the absorbing little details that kept me coming back.

01. Call Super ‘Suzi Ecto’ [Houndstooth] The meticulous construction of this album is almost at odds with the effortless depth and idiosyncratic structure which it’s produced. The sound of the entire album is what marks it out for me.

01. Mo Kolours ‘Mo Kolours’ [One-Handed Music] Joining the dots between dub, jazz, soul and hip hop, this is a full length which never feels rushed or jumbled over the space of around 30 minutes. This album was the tip of the iceberg for the wealth of exciting beats I’ve been consuming by him and the rest of his 22a affiliates.

01. Falty DL ‘In the Wild’ [Ninja Tune] The sprawling, stop-start sequencing of Drew Lustman’s fourth album felt very carefully plotted out. Being led through its different interludes and breakdowns felt infinitely more satisfying than the more accessible ‘Hardcourage’ of last year. 

01. LV & Joshua Idehen ‘Islands’ [Keysound] LV wisely made no attempt to maintain the relentless momentum of lead single Imminent. Nonetheless, this album’s UK basslines and grime-indebted productions, going toe to toe with the personal, introspective spoken word of Josh Idehen, soundtracked many nightbus journeys and late night reflections.

01. Anthony Naples ‘Zipacón’ [Trilogy Tapes] Perro is a simple four-to-the-floor banger that’s elevated by the fantastic attention to detail exercised by Naples on its constituent parts. Other cuts on the EP are less straight up in their dancefloor appeal but I found them no less brilliant.

Parker Bruce

01. Little Jinder Ful och tråkig tjej: My friend introduced me to this song earlier this year by Swedish singer Josephine Jinder and it's pink and blue (Hannah Diamond reference always intended) video. I have no idea what she's saying but Jinder went and released some of the best pop singles this year (see Vita Bergens Klockor with Rebecca & Fiona). Her album is not what you'd expect at all filled with breathy, frosty, entwining tunes. Definitely worth seeking out for the winter ahead.

02. TOPS 'Picture You Staring': One of the albums I spent the most time with this year. So likable it makes you want to skip down the street like a gleeful buffoon. The warmth of it all draws the listener in immediately showing true mastery of TOPS' little musical corner of the world.

03. Lana Del Rey 'Ultraviolence': An album I know I will listen to for years to come. So unabashed, so totally completely transfixing. It haunted my summer.

04. FKA twigs 'LP1': Here's another album I'll deign to call a lifer. I'll never forget hearing Two Weeks for the first time in my room on a June morning. "LP1" got inside me, gutting me with every listen, enveloping and hatching itself within my body. I still don't think it has left. I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

05. Ramona Lisa 'Arcadia': Anything Chairlift's Caroline Polachek does, I adore. And her solo album, "Arcadia," released this past spring further validated that adoration. An immensely thoughtful, sighing, and deliberate record, "Arcadia", is at once surreal (Lady's Got Gills is about a mermaid) yet grounded in the present. None of it is heavy-handed with Polachek seamlessly intertwining all her interests with a spacious deftness. Immaculate.

06. Mr Twin Sister Sensitive: I'm so, so glad Twin Sister returned as Mr Twin Sister this year. Sensitive is delicate, patient, enthralling, and voluminous. And that "wah-wah" sighing guitar gets me every damn time. The album is the closest they've come to duplicating their imitable live sound on record.

07. MANICURE RECORDS: Yes, like many others I spent much of the year enamored with all things PC Music and Sophie but Edmonton's MANICURE RECORDS got me giddy in a different way. Headed up by GHIBLI and with a roster including ponibbi, lilangelboi, JASMINE, FIJI, Guy Akimoto, DJ CASHINOUT, and KLSLWSK, a key element of the label is remixing all types of mainstream pop songs (Ariana Grande, Rita Ora, Jennifer Lopez but also singers like Diana Vickers, Alli Simpson,  and Victoria Duffield. In MANICURE RECORDS lingo, songs get #MANICURED, not just remixed and the stakes are raised by a million. Keep leaving us breathless and always, always manicured. 

08. Mozart's Sister 'Being': I've seen Caila Thompson-Hannant live I want to say five times in the past two years here in New York and Brooklyn as well as in Montreal. Every time I've been astounded. Her official debut album, "Being," is a kinetic wonder with endlessly charismatic songs (Good Thing Bad Thing, Lone Wolf, Salty Tear, Chained Together), volleying backdrops, and dynamism throughout. When she does these songs live, it's even better (the way she builds Lone Wolf up again when you think it's going to end for example). One of my favorite musical memories of this year was seeing her open for TRUST in a church basement during Pop Montréal where she outdid him on a pageantry cover of his own song, Bulbform. In early November she posted on Facebook, "I feel a real sense of freedom these days. Making VERY poppy pop that I will (hopefully) share at my up-coming shows. <3 <3" Sounds like the best is yet to come from Mozart's Sister.

09. Yumi Zouma: Brooklyn label Cascine had a very successful year but releasing New Zealand band Yumi Zouma's first EP perhaps stands as their crowning 2014 achievement. Operating in the same vein as TOPS and Mr Twin Sister, Yumi Zouma's self-titled EP is a dusty, snappy, and swishy compact gem that never rises above a whisper but doesn't need to in order to hold our attention.

Selim Bulut

01. SOPHIE live at JACK, January 2014: I went to this show in January at Powerlunches, a tiny basement in Dalston and one of my favourite venues in London full stop. Simon Whybray, the promoter at JACK, had filled the room with way too much smoke, and combined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, dizzyingly bright lights, and a sound system that packs a serious punch, it was pretty easy to lose your sense of place. SOPHIE had just returned from a pop music writing retreat in Stockholm or something, and everything he played sounded ridiculously, stupidly, awe-inspiringly good. Later I'd learn the names of most of these songs – Hey QT, Crazy In The Park, a remix of GFOTY's Friday NightLemonade, etc. – and then a (very boring) discourse would start to surround them. But I just had a lot of fun. I've seen SOPHIE four times since this year, and every time I had a blast.

02. Everything on PC Music: Look, yeah, I know that this is a cop-out, but it's better than listing 10 different PC Music tracks. Any year that can bring you the lunacy of Keri Baby to the genuine feels of In My Dreams to the funnier-than-comedy-music, funkier-than-house-music of 'Western Beats' to the glitch trap of Don't Wanna / Let's Do It via weird bits by Lil Data and Spinee is a year that offered more than most in British music. And guess what? Dummy has never once described PC Music as divisive.

03. Kindness 'Otherness': My favourite album of the year, it's as much music as it is a celebration of the process of making music. If you think it's not having fun, then go see Kindness live and you realise that it's just a record about collaboration and open-endedness.

04. Jam City UnhappyI think that this song is super radical. There's so much to take in on its website.

05. Dean Blunt 'Black Metal': Dean Blunt needs to stop being a bitch and hiding inside his cosy beloved middle class post-modern abrasive prankster bubble. Between this and the Jam City song, fingers crossed for a revival in actually good indie music.

06. TOPS 'Picture You Staring': A weird obsession with chronically uncool '80s pop band Prefab Sprout earlier this year led me to a newfound appreciation for clean songwriting, where instruments deftly interact with one another rather than create a blast of noise and a wall of sound. A lot of Arbutus Records releases satisfied this urge – Sean Nicholas Savage's being among them – but it was Picture You Staring that had the most hits.

07. Alauda Cyan Water: Alauda is a musician who's released three songs that I've listened to an awful lot.

08. Joakim 'Tropics of Love': Every year you think Joakim is going to release something that crosses over in a bigger way and every year it fails. I think it's his predeliction towards weirder musical styles but this is probably Joakim's best record yet.

09. Rustie 'Green Language': Green Language isn't really an album that belongs in my top 10, but it's an album I've had a weird relationship with this year. It doesn't really click, but at the same time I can't find a single thing wrong with it.

10. 

Steph Kretowicz

Albums and EPs

01. Dan Bodan 'Soft'
02. Arca 'Xen'    
03. Dean Blunt 'Black Metal'
04. 18+ 'Trust'
05. FKA Twigs 'LP1'
06. Palmistry 'Ascensión'
07. M.E.S.H. 'Imperial Sewers'
08. VESSEL ’Punish, Honey’
09. Felicita 'Frenemies'
10. Planningtorock ‘All Love’s Legal’

Songs

01. SOPHIE Hard
02. Palmistry DROPDrip
03. Copeland Smitten
04. Holly Herndon Home
05. Bladee Unreal
06. Ravioli Me Away Catcall
07. SOPHIE Lemonade
08. GFOTY Don't Wanna / Let's Do It 
09. Dan Bodan Catching Fire
10. Kate Tempest Happy End