This group maintains as one of the biggest surprises in my entire life. Drawn to their undoubtedly unusual name, I went in with absolutely no expectations and left astounded. Sexy Sushi are a French electroclash outfit, similar in the same vein to Crystal Castles, only more French, more demented and certifiably more fun. Whilst the chiptune influences are absent here, warm analogue synths replace it and a storm of bouncy beats emanate from their incredibly energetic output. Sexy Ghetto is among the most energetic, yet most abrasive of their recorded material. Like being punched in the head by a kangaroo on speed, the beat is deadly powerful and all throughout, distorted profanity is bellowed and screamed at you. I refer to it as energy music. Ultimately a divisive listen, Cheval from this album Marre Marre Marre is a far friendlier listen, but in terms of pure unadulterated anarchy and aggression, Sexy Sushi kick many to the curb with a massive smile on their face.
Brooklyn’s Tidal Arms weave together a tapestry of modern indie rock sensibilities, sludge in a contemplative mood and grounded psych that mesmerises and smashes you hard in the face in equal measure. The amount of force conjured up from the depths strikes like whales overturning boats at sea, somewhat spectacular to bear witness to. Their sophomore and self-titled studio effort is a surprisingly versatile array of intelligent, shape-shifting scenes filled with joyous melodies and a ferocity some bands take for granted. Jelloshotgun is my personal favourite example, demonstrating their mellower side with a gorgeous tapping harmony over disjointed time signatures, descending into bombastic blasts of fuzz-saturated noise. It nicely illustrates this album cover too: a wonderous phenomena that you just can’t shake the air of foreboding from. Too good to ignore.
Indie is in a funny old state of affairs at the moment. The whole conversation about it having a complete identity crisis and the umpteenth band or artist I’ve never heard of, but is suddenly the best thing since wiping your ass with toilet paper according to Pitchfork, is a pre-meditated rant for perhaps another occasion, but I think we can all agree that the word simply means nothing any more. It is as such that I can call the wonderful organic, resonant electronica landscapes of Baltic Fleet indie if I wanted to. Hard to believe that this is all the brainchild of one individual from Liverpool, it sounds like a band scoring cinematic, black and white montages, but making it captivating and emotive in a humanistic manner. It sounds cold like you wouldn’t believe, and there are some moods that are truly chilling, Headless Heroes of The Acropolis being one such example that could make your hairs not so much stand on end, but stay petrified in place. It almost defies believe that Baltic Fleet sounds so alive, even when so much is programmed. Paul Baltic is an incredibly talented man and deserves far more recognition than he’s given credit for. Icy tundras have never looked so inviting.
2014 was very much a year that if you aimed to play as heavy as possible, you were in a doom band. Whilst there were a fair few celebrated doom albums of the last year, I’m unaware of any group that are doing anything that unique or reinventing the formula. Enter Dark Castle. Arguably not doom in the strictest sense, there is an air of dread and oblivion that is inescapable in their playing ability. But whilst their music can leave you sinking within a pool of the blackest matter known to man, their music can take on a form of the phantasmagorical, a mystical persuasion if you will. They pride themselves on their introduction of Hungarian and Japanese guitar scales and frankly, there is a significant difference because of it. The cultural injection makes what would be a cruel pummelling of fuzz-drenched chords into an entrancing movement, much like the album title Spirited Migration would suggest. Flight Beyond is the best example of this, and between the pair of them (yes, two of them, with a FEMALE vocalist), they make Dark Castle an inspirational and tantalising piece of architecture worth exploring.
So a year happened again. In that year, the world got a decidedly more grim place to be, and trying to be cheery about it got harder. In certain ways, my own life has become, let’s just say entangled for now. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that needs ironing out. Eh. Luckily, music is always an entity that makes life infinitely more enjoyable and in terms of what I encountered over those 12 months, it was an absolute cracker at times. My rules are that I don’t have year restrictions on when songs came out, otherwise this list would be damn boring, as from an overseer perspective, I can’t really count too many bands or albums from this year I enjoyed that much really. There are some, but not enough to fill a 20 song list. And on that note, I would go into honourable mentions, but there are really far too many to count or write words for. If you would like to listen to these songs however without my commentary, you may do so by clicking here: Top 20 Songs of 2014 (does require Spotify, I think.)
Right, best get on with it then.