Favourite Records of 2014

Olcay Bayir – Neva/Harmony

Let me begin with a record you might not know, as that is surely the point of these posts. Olcay’s debut album is an exquisite sonic journey through Anatolia. Sonically vibrant, this atmospheric record transports you. I have met Olcay on the London music scene and have always found her voice captivating. Beautiful Kurdish songs and a record that reflects a diverse mix of Mediterranean culture. Highly recommended.

Buy album: World Music Network Amazon iTunes

Mark Guiliana – My Life Starts Here
One year I will learn how to spell Mark’s surname. Mark is not only one of the greatest drummers in the world, he also has a distinct musical personality and great sense for combining the electronic and the acoustic. My Life Starts Now is a masterpiece. It combines sonic texture, virtuosity, restraint and melodicism as few others can. Think Little Dragon if they emphaised improvisation. Not that it’s a fusion record, anything but. But check it out. Great record!

Buy album direct from Mark Amazon iTunes

Keith Jarrett Charlie Haden – Last Dance
last dance

Very warmly recorded and sounding very un-ECM-like this is the sound of two masters at play. Two great musicians. All the more poignant that it was released the year Haden fared forth, this was recorded at Jarrett’s home studio, possibly as early as 2007 but only released this year. It’s delightful.

Buy album! Amazon iTunes

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Brilliant record. It has that sense of mystery that pervaded the early 1970s jazz-rock experiments such as Bitches Brew and early Mahavishnu while incorporating the sound palette of contemporary and futuristic black music. It is a contemporary (or even futuristic) version of the types of spiritual/experimental albums his great aunt Alice Coltrane used to make in the 1970s. It’s our Illuminations. Very short tracks, nothing really builds at length, and I regretted that at first but I got into the right way of listening to it – it’s more cinematic than anything. Brilliant!

Buy album! Amazon iTunes

Mark Guiliana – Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations (feat. Tim Lefebvre, Jeff Babko & Troy Zeigler)
One of three albums on this list featuring Mark! This was one of several on the list I didn’t immediately warm to. Yes, there’s no denying the brilliance of the interplay of the musicians, the stunning tonal and rhythmic interplay of the four musicians but what disappointed me initially were they were such short outtakes – it felt like nothing got going. But over the year, whenever I have my iPod on shuffle play and I have to check the name of piece of musical brilliance, it’s usually this album. I gradually realised that it was my expectations that were flawed rather than this record. And I have learned to love it, as I have learned to listen to it. Great record! And it has Tim Lefebvre on it so you have to buy it!

Buy album direct from Mark Amazon iTunes

Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
Another record that defied my expectations. Little Dragon are probably one of my favourite bands and I loved the layers of synthesizer hooks under the slightly vulnerable sounding vocals on their first three records. This is not like that at all. The hooks are still there, but not always the layers – it’s more stripped down. It sounds more like a Yukimi Nagano solo album to me than a Little Dragon record. And she doesn’t sound vulnerable in the least: her powerful voice dominates the record. The synths are reined in a little and many of the hooks are moved down a few octaves. Not a bad thing you might think, I’m all about that bass, but the sub-bass on several tracks is so low that it distorts on pretty much every headphone or speaker. Only One would be my favourite track ever but for some odd reason finishes prematurely just as the rhythm kicks in, huge disappointment – guess I have to hear it live. Still a worthwhile record! Cat Rider sounds like how I imagined Kate Bush would sound if she was a few decades younger, it’s that good!

Buy album! Amazon iTunes

Dave Holland – Prism
Brilliant album from the 68 year old Mr Holland – raucous, driven and loud! You can hear the musical authenticity in everything Holland plays, no-one Miles Davis picked him up in Ronnie Scotts in the 60s. This is a wonderful band. It is reminiscent of the best moments of the Mahavishnu Orchestra at times – Kevin Eubanks is that unrestrained and the twisting riffs and meters are enhanced by the virtuosity on display. It’s up there with the best of jazz-rock records and is a record that you should ow if your tastes run in remotely that direction.

Buy album! Amazon iTunes

Matt Stevens – Lucid
I love Matt’s music and for me, Relic and Lucid have taken his solo albums to another level. This melodic and wide ranging but stamped with Matt’s musical signature. It has a solid band sound, despite varying line-ups and lots of textures – it reminded me of King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Hawkwind, Nels Cline, Oliver Postgate/Vernon Elliot all things Matt might hope it would remind you of but the charm is in the way tracks like ‘The Other Side’ have you singing along to the guitar melodies.

Buy album from Cherry Red! Amazon iTunes

Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here
Maybe the greatest live band around at the moment – huge, brilliant, joyous, this is a fabulous record. Family Dinner had it’s superb moments but We Like It Here is goodness through and through. Recorded and filmed live with a studio audience over 4 nights in the Netherlands, it captures a wonderfully relaxed and precise road-honed band. The DVD of the event is essential too!

Buy album from Bandcamp! iTunes

Mehlania – Taming the Dragon
Mellower than I expected, it has a blunted West Coast vibe at times, it does however manage to be cinematic and take the listener on a journey with it. It’s a duo album by Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana. Guiliana’s drumming is the aural equivalent of a great single origin coffee and Mehldau ranges widely. I find Mehldau’s improvising style a little meandering at times but that’s part of his charm there’s no denying his brilliance here though. There’s also a fabulous use of space and tension and grooves that sound that they could go on for days. Gorgeous.


Buy the album from Nonesuch Amazon iTunes

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