The 2014 Nully Awards: The Inevitable and Overly-Specific Year-End Wrapup

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the slightly irrelevant.

 

The Good:

Best Album I Released All Year
Null Device – Aphelion
Finally deciding to play to our native strengths – soulful synthpop with lots of strings – it’s probably the best thing we’ve done, ever. I say that every time we release an album, of course.

Everything this Guy Does is Just Gold, I Swear
Adam Fielding – Pieces
I’m always at a bit of a loss to describe Adam’s work. It’s cinematic and expansive, yet isn’t “soundtrack music.” It exists in this sort of hazy borderland between pop-rock, dance music and ambient electronics.  So great, you guys.

Mmmm, Fuzzzzzyyyy
Beauty Queen Autopsy – Good Giving Game EP
It’s mostly remixes, yeah, okay. But the two non-remixed tracks – the title track, and a cover of Placebo’s “Pure Morning” hearken back to early 90’s fuzzed-out shoegazer.

Took ‘Em Long Enough
Broods – Evergreen
After a stellar debut EP, their full-length finally dropped in 2014. While it’s clear that the best tracks were on the EP, the rest of the album was no slouch.

Something About Scandinavia, Part One
Gusgus – Mexico
While it doesn’t entirely scale the heights of “Polydistortion”, it feels a lot more like a Gusgus album than a lot of their recent works. Multiple vocalists, liquid techno basslines, and tech-house percussion meld with pop songwriting in a remarkably engaging manner.

Something About Scandinavia, Part Two
iamamiwhoami – Blue
I’d liked their previous work although found it tended to be a little bit too angular and artsy to be accessible. “Blue”, despite being a water-themed concept album, is full of soaring electro-pop, icy synths, and vocals that come off as a slightly less grating version of Karin Dreijer Anderssen.

Wait, Move On
Iris – Radiant
Yaaaaaay a new Iris album! I’m not sure there’s much more I have to say about that.

You’ve Got To Show Me Love
Kiesza – Hideaway
The full album, “Sound of a Woman” was pretty decent, but the leadoff single was a barnstormer of spiky bass and 909’s, topped with Kiesza’s soulful diva wail. It sounded for all the world like 90’s house music had come screaming back. (her crooning cover of Haddaway’s “What is Love” cemented the idea that she was a child of 90’s eurodance).

Incredibly Successful New Directions
Kyla La Grange – Cut Your Teeth
Her first album was a good, but uneven, slice of southern-gothic alternative rock. On Cut Your Teeth, she drops nearly all of that artifice, teams up with minimal electronic producer Jakwob, and produces an album of spine-tingling ambient pop songs. Her vocals hark back to classic 60’s vocalists like Ronnie Spector, underlayed by throbbing bass and click-n-cut percussion.

Is It Alt Country? Pop? Folk? I DON’T KNOW I JUST LIKE IT SHUT UP
Little Red Wolf – Junk Sparrow
A remarkably self-assured outing from local jacks-of-all-trades LRW. Jangly guitars, rock-solid rhythms, and ohhh ever so many very pretty vocal harmonies. Despite having three separate vocalists taking lead, the whole album feels like a single, whole unit.

Almost a Compilation
RAC -Strangers
Producer RAC enists vocalists from pretty much everyone he’s ever remixed – Kele from Bloc Party, Tegan and Sara, Tokyo Police Club, etc – to craft an album of compelling dance rock. The single for “Let Go” is catchy as hell.

Tell Me Of The Phat Beats of Your Homeworld, Usul
Stoneburner – Songs In The Key Of Arrakis
I like Dune. I like dance music. I admit I was wary when I saw that Steven Archer was mixing the two, because concept albums have a way of ruining both the source and the album. But Holy Shai Hulud (May his passing cleanse the world) is this a good album. Dark and tribal stuff.

Learning from David Byrne
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Okay, not gunna lie, it’s a weird album. Ambitious and strange, in the way old Talking Heads always was – inscrutable but somehow you can’t stop listening. It’s all sharp edges and angular melodies over rubbery basslines, punctuated by Annie Clark’s eager alto.

Everything Old Is New Again
Underworld – dubnobasswithmyheadman 20th Anniversary Remaster, deluxe and super-deluxe editions
The seminal dance album of the 90’s, rematsered and reissued. The remaster, done by the anoraks at Abbey Road, is impeccable – clear, detailed and with nearly tangible bass. The deluxe version features a number of b-sides and demos, including the classic “Rez.” The expensive and expansive 5-disc super-deluxe version features even more archival material including numerous demos. Not all of that is exactly essential, but there are a few gems there, and it’s definitely enlightening for Underworld fans.

Grandeur in Frankness
White Sea – In Cold Blood
Morgan Kibby’s solo debut is full of epic tracks like the opener “They Don’t Know”, and more intimate moments like the soft “Small December.” As she weaves from giant stacks of bellowing vocal overdubs to Prince-ish 80’s funk, she chronicles a breakup in occasionally graphic personal detail.

[
Honorable Mentions:

Kimbra – The Golden Echo
Midas Bison – Glazer EP
Reso – Pulse Code EP
SOHN – Tremors
Starcadian – Saturdaze
Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
Tycho – Awake
Vogel – Hologram
Jessie Ware – Tough Love

]

The Bad:

The Twee, It Burns
Imogen Heap – Sparks
I am entirely impressed by all the fabulous methodology Ms. Heap came up with for this album. Fancy responsive performance gloves that translate movement into sound? Cool. Crowdsourcing samples? Neat. Unfortunately the music is fairly bland. A few decent spots, but mostly it feels like I’m listening to someone paint – the process is much more interesting in concept than execution.

Axe to Grind
Lily Allen – Sheezus
Her rage got kind of tiresome. I get it, she got abused by the industry, and that was terrible, because she’s talented, but a by-the-numbers pop album with somewhat artless, merely-indignant lyrics just didn’t seem like the best possible response, especially considering her previous two albums showed she was capable of much more trenchant commentary. Her tone-deaf press appearances didn’t help.

Musical Gear Misogyny
sE’s Nekkid Ad Campaign
I blogged about this, because it pissed me off. Nothing says “testosterone-scented industry” like a trade ad featuring b00bs and ass. But oh hey it’s all okay you crazy feminazis because she was just a computer rendering, you guys. Facepalm. It was a warning shot for gamergate.  It was also not the only sinner of the audio industry, just the most visible.

The Ugly:

The whole Pomplamoose thing

I felt bad for these guys.  Not because their tour lost money.  Oh heavens no.  Mostly because their mere existence proved that trying to be a professional musician is a no-win situation; as far as the public is concerned these days you’re either a sellout, an idiot, or you’re somehow supposed to revel in poverty.  There is literally noting they could’ve said that would’nt have been met with scorn and derision.

Holy shit I actually kind of agreed with Amanda Palmer on the whole Pomplamoose thing.
Well, until her argument got all “me me me” at the end there. But up to that point.  That never happens.  I feel kind of dirty.

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