Monday, 1 December 2014

Gift Guide 2014 - Records

In this year's series of gift guides, I've tried to give a bit more variation of kinds of presents and also multi-tasking items. Up this time are ten records I recommend from this year. The links may be one particular format or another but, in most cases, it's the record itself and not the format that I'm suggesting.


There are three soundtracks on the list. The first is Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Interstellar. The movies was enjoyable, well-made and beautiful to look at (if a little too well-rounded in the plot department) but the real star of the show was the soundtrack. Atmospheric, epic and emotional - exactly what you would expect of Zimmer. This record would be a good idea for Zimmer fans, Nolan fans, fans of the movie or anyone interested in soundtracks. Another fantastic score is Dev Hynes' work for Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola and based on a book by James Franco. I have yet to actually see the movie but the score is perfection. Dreamy teenage melancholy and restlessness. Again suitable for people of multiple fandoms or someone who wants some seriously chill listening. The final soundtrack is the Awesome Mix Vol I from Guardians of the Galaxy which is jam-packed with eighties and seventies gold. Very much an awesome mix - one of those collections of songs that has you saying, "Aw, damn, I forgot how much I love this song!"

The next record is a bit of a cheat as it was actually released at the end of 2013 but I've been vibing on it so much, I had to include it. It's the second appearance of Dev Hynes on this list, this time as part of his musical project, Blood Orange, and the album Cupid Deluxe. This is one of those albums so jammed with perfect, danceable songs that you could easily listen to on a loop. I can't actually count the amount of times someone has walked in on me dancing like a lunatic to this album - the utter shame. But it's that good. A little R&B + a lotta electronica = goodness.

Funnily enough, Iceland's really hot right now, isn't it? The beer, the scenery, the aesthetic...and the music. Asgeir (Trausti) is one of those exceptionally young, exceptionally gifted humans that makes you feel bad about yourself but you forgive him with releases like his deluxe edition of In The Silence. The folksy, electronic, singer-songwriter blend in both English and his native tongue produces a record with great emotional swells, atmospheric noise and catchy pop songs all wonderfully placed together.

Keaton Henson's Romantic Works with Ren Ford is an entirely instrumental departure for the artist, but a genius one. It seems he can make anything and everything work. This album is lovely, makes creative use of sounds and drags me into the author's own pining for a time and romanticism long lost to us.

Four of the records are from female creators that I worship and whose releases I was blown away by this year. The first is the uber-limited physical cassette E.P. by Irish Feminist garage rock band, Sissy (who are fantastic live, by the by) not only are the songs witty, funny and pointed but they're damn catchy too. I actually have number one of a hundred run of the cassettes which can be purchased online and come with a download code. Cannot recommend more for anyone with a person in their life who likes Irish music, feminism and abortion-related, Enya-sampling songs. Similar in a lot of ways is S' Cool Choices but with a little more in the way of numbers of tracks. It's poignant at times, exuberant at others, music unafraid of voicing an opinion and exceptionally beautiful. I can't remember how I stumbled across it during the summer but it's an album I obsessed over and listened to on a loop for probably a solid week - which isn't something I do much anymore. A good choice for someone looking for new music as most are unlikely to have heard of this little gem. Plus, it's a cool choice (geddit?)

The Lykke Li and Sharon Van Etten records are two that profoundly affected me this year. They put a lot of my thoughts and feelings into words and music in a rather cathartic way. Both are similar in lots of ways - emotional, full of loss and love and questions. Li and Van Etten's voices and words will shatter your heart in the best possible way and both albums are true works of art. These are for the romantics in your life, the people that are a wee bit maudlin but okay with that. Also, those covers.

So, those are my picks - what do y'all think? Any 2014 favourites of your own in there?

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