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I’m not known to do this on an annual basis, but, what the heck. Here are the most influential albums on Nerd Show in 2014:
Hail Mary Mallon – Bestiary
The “other” dynamic hip-hop supergroup/duo to release an album this year (that we cared about). Bestiary takes Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic’s trip even further and feels very polished, heavy, a bit more genuine, and it feels more NYC than SFO. Some of the tunes even feel like they’re about 10 years old or so, from the Blockhead era. Dope.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
What more can be said? Top to bottom this is an album that makes you want to both smoke a cigarette and put it on again immediately. El is in an incredible groove with his production, and the pacing of these two emcees is almost without approach. HMM is the only album I can even compare to this, and that’s praise of both.
Clark – Clark
A late album in the year, this is a bit of a return to earlier days for Clark, but without the very harsh working of his modulars. This one can be on repeat for days and really only gets better.
Aphex Twin – Syro
Full disclosure – I am not an RDJ fan, in the same way that many of those awaiting his 2014 return are, but I _respect_ his work. This album reminded me in many ways of the Boards of Canada release of last year, in that it was a new album, but time changes artists. I did, however, hear fewer cries of this “not being the same” from Aphex as I did from BoC. This is a very good album, and the artist really has found some bit of maturity with time, though the vigor remains strong.
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
I slept on this release for much of the year, only having received the remixes, but dug deeper when I watched the incredible KEXP performances available on their YouTube channel. Jon is a fantastic producer and his live performances are more genuine than many electronic artists. His Asleep Versions slow down the pacing and tempo dramatically, a nice contrast to the elegance of the album’s pacing, which is subtly on the brink of Tech House and IDM.
Com Truise – Wave 1
Truise’ work has always been a bit too harsh for me, akin to early Clark, so few tracks were approachable. Wave 1 represents a conscious shift by the artist to be a _bit_ more approachable, and it worked. The long EP is filled with terrific tracks with his trademark futuristic style and retro vibe. Those kicks.
Machinedrum – Vapor City releases
The idea that Machinedrum has a fully-fleshed city in his head, and this is the soundtrack to the tour, is amazing. There were at least two albums of work released during 2014, and much to the amusement of the artist, Pitchfork called it too much. Please, can we ever have too much Machinedrum? Maybe. This is an artist of broad vision, but one who has a very strong sound identity. This pervades most of the Vapor City tracks and the tour is long, but never boring.
Nils Frahm – Spaces
I honestly didn’t know what to make of this one when it came across the desk. Clearly a brilliant work, but many of the tracks were long, or the logical tracks were a medley, and how do I present piano music on the show? Well, the brilliance of repeated listening, and the awesome live performances easily accessed on YouTube on channels like KEXP, attest to the performance chops and enthusiastic nature of how Nils performs. Yes, Spaces is just a bunch of various work, mostly from live performances, but it’s been a gateway for myself and others to find awe in his work.
Roman Flügel – Happiness Is Happening
This one is odd. It’s pretty much a tech house album, but as with all things and genres in time, the boundaries get stretched. From track-to-track Roman switches up the idea of House on us. There are tracks on here, like Parade, that sound like they were Kraftwerk cast-offs, but on the following track we find a deep tech house beauty, soothing, while driving. An amusing album, which amazes on repeated listens, not unlike Clark’s self-titled.
Heal – Kyote
Topping my obscure list is this gem from the local Damn Son! label. Soothing, atmospheric, Healing even. This album feel like a long, relaxing dream journey through various lands, but I suspect it’s got a lot to do with its title’s original language, Japanese, which spoken samples of which are on several tracks. I can relate, having spent a bit of time in Japan.