Season’s greetings! As we wrap up this year at Bearded Gentlemen Music, we’d like to let you know that there were no massive end-of-the-year Christmas parties or any in-person roundtables. However, we managed to put our heads together and come up with a year-end list with each of our collective input. It’s pretty magical, considering that this isn’t a site running out of an office and planning major events. We’re a loose collective of writers and music lovers that are united in our love for music and led by a dynamic duo in Utah. Outside of this, we’re people that work and go to school all over the world. We’re in your schools, your offices, your local record stores, various coffee shops, your local dining establishments, and your fitness centers. Well, we’re likely not in yours, but you get the point.
With that, we’re pleased to provide end of the year coverage because it’s fun. Not everyone’s going to agree with what’s written on this site and that’s fine. I’m happy to have written for some of my favorite albums for this very publication, including those by Busdriver, Perfume Genius, Mick Jenkins, Run The Jewels, and Flying Lotus. There were some lowlights as well. Worse than any album could have been, this year was also a grim reminder of the weaker points of humanity.
Going into 2015, I would like to wish Jon and Isaac even greater successes in running this site, which has been a great outlet to myself and many others to express their unfiltered opinions about something we’re passionate about. As we continue our end of the year coverage, it’s only fitting for this year-end edition to discuss albums the staff didn’t get around to covering. The narrowing down process has been tough, as I’m still listening to 2014 albums and I also tried (and failed) to include one every month. This year has been a renaissance for rap music and the laugh has largely been on major labels. It’s also been a fine year for dance music, metal, and country. As for rock music, I’ll talk more about that when I write about this year for my site. Below are 12 albums you should certainly listen to before compiling your own end of the year list. Each blurb will contain another release that’s similar in nature listed below. Consider these stocking stuffers and have a happy holiday!
2014 Albums You May Have Missed:
Calling Sicko Mobb a rap duo is akin to calling My Bloody Valentine a rock band: technically true, but it understates what they mean to their sub genre. The sub-genre in question is the bop, which became a talking point early in 2014 (Super Saiyan Vol. 1 dropped December 30 last year). Bop and the festivities that come with it, came out of the same blocks of Chicago, immediately becoming a counterpoint to drill music and its critics that tie the nihilistic nature of the genre to Chicago’s murder rate. What is essentially hip-hop’s answer to dream hop found an audience this year, along the dance that bop takes its name from. Sicko Mobb was chief among the top scene, boasting dynamic tunes such as “Fiesta” and “Trophies”. Super Saiyan Vol. 1 wasn’t so much music you would hear at a house party as much as it was itself a house party.
Rap-rock was a failed experiment. Rage Against The Machine remains legendary and Red Hot Chili Peppers have had rewarding moments, but it was a movement that nu-metal killed by and large. The issue was with the rapper and/or the band’s approach to the music. Rage Against The Machine was the lone band that truly pulled this combo off in a hard rock setting because of Zack de la Rocha’s mix of fury, spoken word, and various flows. We strive to forget what we did to deserve Jacoby Shaddix or how we let Fred Durst be a thing for multiple years. Enter MadFro, a little known New Orleans funk-rock outfit that consists of a revolving cast of characters around rapper Slangston Hughes and guitarist Orlando da Silva. The duo is a stellar vocalist/guitarist combo where that doesn’t even exist. MadFro aren’t retrograde as much as they are an improvement on the formula of their antecedent — Red Hot Chili Peppers. Vocalist Hughes is a rapper by trade and much better at it than Anthony Kiedis. On I.F.W.I., Hughes displays his range, as he is alternately thoughtful and tongue in cheek. Orlando da Silva’s grooves and raucous solos complement Hughes’ raps more than any beats slapped together with ProTools ever could.
See Also: 100s – IVRY
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We’ve seen it before: a fusion of a genre that could be lazily labled with a world music tag bringing in new instruments to re-contextualize familiar genres. This time it’s a thavil (a type of Indian drum) that works as a backdrop for Colorado multi-instrumentalist Sheela Bringi’s take on jazz, blues, and brass. It’s like NPR staff took a notepad and started playing MadLibs. Of course the rub is that Bringi’s style and songwriting is compelling enough to warrant more work as a session musician if that’s what she chooses. Incantations didn’t make a huge impact this year, but it is one of the rewards this year had for people who followed the right places closely enough at the right time.
Sea Also: Takuya Kuroda – Rising Son
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Bristol producer Nick Edwards has bared his abstract, precise techno in the past. Chief among them is his jarring 2012 Plekzationz. Four towers of tracks that are informed by dub that takes 63 minutes to scale. His 2014 album as Ekoplekz, Unfidelity, isn’t as uncompromising, but it’s still not the most approachable album to be found in avant-garde techno. The intense quiet of Unfidelity imagines what Basic Channel would have been if they were inspired by Main. By the time the squelching bass arrives Unfidelity’s third track, “Robert Rental,” it stands as the album’s most exciting moment.
See Also: Perc – The Power and the Glory
L’Orange isn’t the only hip-hop producer putting out cinematic projects. However, the North Carolina producer deals in noir. The Orchid Days is the Dilla disciple’s best film to date. On The Orchid Days, a strong cast supports L’Orange as Billy Woods, Homeboy Sandman, Blu, and Jeremiah Jae lend their talents to the show. Strong showings by some of independent rap’s best and brightest invite curiosity of what L’Orange’s new label mate Open Mike Eagle would sound like rapping over some of these beats.
See Also: Apollo Brown – Thirty-Eight
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Ghanian-American rapper Blitz The Ambassador is part of a breed of workmanlike rappers that cares deeply about hip-hop and his craft. Music is always more exciting when there are those types of people underground making music that truly deserves recognition from more than a few token publications. The great thing about hip-hop is that the beat part of the equation allows for the grand experiments that allow the genre to thrive. Afropolitan Dreams is a toss salad of, among others, R&B, jazz, boom bap and Afrobeat. Blitz himself proves to be a capable emcee with a strong capacity for storytelling.
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While RiFF RAFF was garnering more headlines for his outrageous appearance and having the rhymes to match, it was viral star BeatKing who was Houston’s crown jewel this year. Where RiFF RAFF maintained a “is he trolling or not trolling?” facade, BeatKing is ratchet with a straight face. The apex of his 2014 run was the sequel to last year’s Gangsta Stripper Music that surfaced this summer. Both this and his Gangsta Boo collaboration Underground Cassette Tape Music were among the most fun releases this year and BeatKing’s studio debauchery and charisma is one that could only be matched by Bender Bending Rodriguez himself. However, after his crossover appearance on The Simpsons, it’s unlikely we’ll see the latter again so let’s hope for the Houston dyanamo to break out in 2015.
Chicago rapper Kit teamed up with local electronic duo Supreme Cuts for what has been dubbed the first post-Yeezus album. The comparison’s fitting, but the uses of God in both contexts mean much different things. Listening to Lownt God Rising doesn’t entirely flesh out what’s so godly about Kit, rather than present a rapper with great potential doing his own thing in a city that’s full of originals. What is godly about Lownt God Rising, however, is the percussion on some tracks that range from marching band cadences being played out on digitized drums to clapping. The production on this album surely belonged on its spiritual uncle, but it works perfectly fine here.
See Also: Supreme Cuts – Divine Ecstasy
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New York rapper Uncommon Nasa’s New York Telephone made a mark on 2014 that is reminiscent to the ones left last year by Armand Hammer and Ka. It’s a dexterous underground hip-hop masterwork like the former, only from the perspective of a sage-like middle age New Yorker like the latter. What’s more is that New York Telephone is chock full of smart beat choices and Uncommon Nasa is a verbal battering ram. Rock radio hasn’t rocked as hard as New York Telephone since 1999 and hip-hop hasn’t rocked as hard since M.O.P. and Kool G Rap collaborated on a Rawkus Records compilation. While this isn’t the best rap project of the year, it’s certainly one of its most refreshing.
See Also: Armand Hammer – Furtive Movements
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Quite a few albums dropped this year that invoked images of discomfort as it pertains to the body. Against Me!, Pharmakon, and Perfume Genius all come to mind. Most of these albums work their way into postmodern analysis and Unflesh, the second album by British art rock Gazelle Twin, is no exception. That Gazelle Twin’s politics are in line with The Knife’s massive art project, Shaking The Habitual, is not incidental. She admits as much in interviews and a similar commentary is baked into the grotesque visual motif at the album’s center. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this is the album we wanted Bestial Burden to be.
See Also: White Suns – Totem
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Last year Harlem rapper and A$AP Rocky associate A$AP Ferg released an album better than his group’s figurehead. Trap Lord delivered off the wall hooks and instant catchphrases. While the mixtape Ferg has followed up with isn’t as transcendent, it’s one of this year’s strongest tapes. He sneaks a brick past the pearly gates on “Fergsomnia” before Twista comes onto the track with guns blazing. However, the highlight is the Ja Rule impression (“WHAT WOULD I BE WITHOUT MY BAY BAY”) on “JA Rule.”
See Also: King Louie – Tony
D’Angelo indicated last week that his new album, his first since the neo-soul defining Voodoo dropped in 2000, was on its way. Red Bull gave away 1,000 copies of the single “Sugah Daddy” this past weekend before releasing the album Monday (Sunday if you’re an American who isn’t in an Eastern Time Zone). To give it a full review a mere couple days since its release would be crass, considering it took nearly 15 years for this to arrive. At the moment, Black Messiah is the biggest event album we’ve had since at least Beyoncé. The only critical thing I will make note of is that Black Messiah is a call to arms, the There’s A Protest Goin’ On, with nods to Sly Stone, Funkadelic, and Prince included, that 2014 sorely needed. Suffice to say the wait was worth it.