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5) Cheatahs – Cheatahs

cheatahsI got the chance to interview Cheatahs for NARC. back in October. Speaking to guitarist James Wignall, it felt like he was a bit pissed that his band had been accused of practically stealing from every genre going. The band has been given a tough ride in the press and I think that critics have been a bit harsh. When you listen to Cheatahs’ debut once through, the impression of other artists like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive is pretty clear, but after consecutive listens, individual tracks begin to surface and feel more original. The debut gives an often dazzling, dreamy and distorted whirl through the shoegazing 90s with passion and commendable homage, rather than being as predictable as the band have been accused of.

There’s euphoria and sense of breakthrough about the album as it leads with fast, energetic tracks like The Swan (from their previous EP) and Geographic. My favourite track though, has to be Mission Creep, which tingles, shines and growls all at once with a dark yet uplifting chorus. Fall does something similar, with a transient, floating guitar melody that echoes the Cocteau Twins’ finest hours. Whatever you think it sounds like Cheatahs holds its own as a confident and promising debut.

4) Deafheaven – Sunbather

deafheavenAt seven tracks long and each one spanning an average of 10 minute, Deafheaven’s second effort Sunbather is what pop melody seekers like myself call “a challenge.” Don’t be fooled, this is not the light hearted album that the skin pink coloured artwork (or name) suggests. It’s a task, but it’s one that’s rewarded on many levels if you stick about.

The LP combines all that’s good about post-rock, shoegaze and euphoria and dips it in a healthy dollop of glorified Blackness. The result is scarily thrilling and euphoric, whether it’s the crushing speed and energy of opener Dream House, the savage drilling noise that gives way to melancholic strums of an acoustic guitar in Please Remember or the evolving beauty instrumental guitar track Irresistible, which layers ear-tingling melody atop ear-tingling melody. It’s an album that deserves a look in, whatever your thoughts on screaming hardcore vocals, as the dramatic clashing of drums and massive guitars slot in perfectly. Deafheaven unleash the Devil, rip out its beating heart and serenade it with a lullaby. Death has never felt so alive.

3) Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

todd terjeFor a while it seemed like dance music had gone all serious. But in the middle of 2014 Norwegian DJ Todd Terje (homage to 90s house producer Todd Terry) reminded everyone that it doesn’t have to be that way. Although he’s been remixing and re-editing since the mid-2000s,It’s Album Time is Terje’s first proper album of original material. It became the soundtrack to my summer and makes this end of year list for various reasons, not only because it has track names like Inspector Norse and Presben Goes To Acapulco, but also because of its general genius.

It manages to maintain an un-serious, comedic tone that gives it a sort of charm. I mean, what the fuck is Robert Palmers’ 80s hit Johnny and Mary (featuring Bryan Ferry on vocals) doing plonked in the middle of the chaotic, cartoonish madness?

There are also flashes of Easy Listening music, sat alongside South American styled rhythms in Alfonso Muskedunder (what a name). Electronic music cut from the cloth of Georgio Moroder and kitsch 70s TV soundtracks, what’s not to love?

2) Caribou – Our Love

caribouMy first introduction to Caribou was his 2010 DJ-influenced album Swim. It quickly became one of my favourite albums of that year and forced me to seek out his previous material (The Milk of Human Kindness, Andorra) as well as his other, more progressive work under the moniker Daphni.

Our Love is very much in the same vein of Dan Snaith’s eclectic pop outlook on Swim, although it dives into further R’n’B influences to create a unique vision of dance music in 2014. On his fourth LP under the name Caribou, Snaith sounds like an artist hitting their stride and cranking up the levels a notch or two. The guy who has a PHD in Maths knows exactly how to extend his production capabilities to wherever he deems suitable. As a result he has created a lush and at times brilliant representation of modern dance music, with everything falling into place on tracks like Dive, Can’t Do Without You and Silver. Snaith’s voice is sounding just as clear and high-pitched as on Swim, perfectly accompanying the music’s lower bass frequencies and crescendos of synth noise.

1) Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

Mac_DeMarco_Salad_DaysOver the course of his two previous full-length LPs, Rock n Roll Nightclub and 2, Mac DeMarco has given us a taste of slacker Indie Rock and Roll that requires minimal listening to scratch its way into your head for days. After extensive touring of both albums, the 23-year-old Canadian is apparently getting a bit sick of being the goofy guy on stage that farts as audiences scream and applaud. His state of mind has changed and you can tell.

Salad Days might have the same type of niggling melodies of previous album 2 but it’s definitely not the same Mac – this is introspective Mac. Songs like Blue Boy and Passing Out Pieces show a deeper, more personal side to the character we’ve all come to know and love as “that silly hipster kid.”  Using what sounds like a synthesiser being played underwater, Chamber Of Reflection (a song about locking yourself away in the studio) is a wonderful example of how he can inject a dose of pure weirdness and haunting truth into a simple pop ballad.

Much of the album refers to his girlfriend’s status as an illegal alien in the US and his attempt to deal with the fact that she may have to leave. In other tracks (Salad Days, Passing Out Pieces) he’s dealing with how life changes and how it’s panned out so far for him and his friends. The sound of Mac DeMarco catching a well-deserved breather after a couple of years touring and reflecting on his life is somehow a relatable one and over the course of the album you feel like you’ve been a passenger on the ride. But if you think this might be a sign of career fatigue, don’t worry he’s just gearing up for more.

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