Year in Review: Music

Beiruti band Soap Kills To be fair, 2014 was the anti-music year. The biggest personal trend being putting down the music and picking up books, which might explain the three day delay on this post. If 2013 was inhaling album after album (Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick, Earl Sweatshirt, Blood Orange, Autre ne Veut, Sky Ferraira, Lorde, James Blake, Daft Punk, Rhye to name a few), 2014 was seeing my iTunes "last added" tab stop at January 14. The remaining of the year was a fragmented landscape of music sourced from Xiami at work and replaying a "best of" mix from 2013. The lack of music this year was the result of an actual lack of good new music, and the final act in the erasure of music ownership.  Streaming made listening more difficult because everyday begins from the vast sea of "where do I start now" that usually ends with something you've been listening since you were sixteen (Goodbye Mr. Lawrence). Since Xiami doesn't have sophisticated playlists by mood, time of day or song, more time will probably have to be invested in curating music this year... and going old school and finding music blogs that do so.

This year was notable for stumbling onto two blogs: The State, found after visiting Dubai's art district, is a zine on the Arab/UAE diaspora and post-colonialist condition that happens to put out mixtapes, and 20jazzfunkgreats, a music zine based in Brighton found after searching for the Akira soundtrack. Both of these sites are interesting not just for the music, but condition wherein the discovery of music is considered. That is, it used to be that we found music through a narrative (current conditions of our present life, friends, stuff we read, people we admire). The Internet has made discovering new music and trends a breeze, but we're losing the surrounding elements that shape the musical experience. I appreciate these music zines, especially 20jazzfunkgreats for their foray of emotional weight in the binary landscape. They could be introducing anything, not just music. Oh, the gorgeous design helps too, of course.

Nevertheless, for the sake of keeping a record, here are the songs that were on repeat this year. Most of them, per usual, are not from this year.

"Aranis," Soap Kills I don't know how I found Soap Kills, probably in my continuing phase of interest in the Middle East and random searches for a Beiruti band. As far as Beiruti bands go, this indie electro-pop duo seem to have it all - a minimal sound combined with the sensuous Arab song, hip young faces - the only thing is they are from the late nineties, and who knows how their lives have folded with history.

"Kaneda," geinoh yamashirogumi It's true. I didn't see Akira until this year, and while that's embarrassing for the professed anime geek who loves Cowboy Bebop, I can't think of a better year to have seen Akira, a movie that would have been too weird for my fifteen-year-old self to grasp. Dystopian futures are all the same sexy in 2014, along with the lush cityscapes and a soundtrack that shot me to pause the movie several times to look up the soundtrack. Turns out the composer, the appropriately named geinoh yamashirogumi is a Japanese musical collective consisting of hundreds of people from all walks of life: journalists, doctors, engineers, students, businessmen, etc. The idea is already fantastic enough, but this soundtrack, an eclectic jungle of gamelan, chorus, and drum, is horrifically wondrous.

"Crow," 18+ 20jazzfunkgreats had the best description for this song. 18+ is a dope band. 18+ is two people, half LA, half New York, a potent mix for the hip American.

"18+’s Crow is a nightmare.  Not like those almost comforting sketches of horror; linear and formulaic with a beginning a bloody middle and a cathartic end.  A nightmare in the maddening repetition of that crow sample.  Like Game of Thrones web art .  An avian layering: one atop another, compressing into a insane chant."

"The Rip Tide," Beirut I was never into Beirut, and then this year I got into Beirut too late, and also for all the reasons that you probably shouldn't get into Beirut, which is a fascination with Beirut the city, and a superficial penchant for old Europe without really knowing either (old or new Europe). It's hard not to get into operatic songs like "The Rip Tide" and "Postcards from Italy" though, and in the end you are thankful for an imagination that carried Steve Condon from Santa Fe to the womb of Eastern Europe.