15 Great Albums You Didn't Hear in 2014 - Rolling Stone
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15 Great Albums You Didn’t Hear in 2014

A power-pop supergroup, a Nigerian rap star, a prog Hall of Famer, gamelan rock, noise-dance and more you may have missed

15 Great Albums You Didn't Hear in 2014

These albums may not have burned through your playlists in 2014, but at least one Rolling Stone editor or contributor thinks it should've. 

Cliff Martinez

Cliff Martinez, ‘The Knick: Original Television Soundtrack’

In the context of The Knick, director Steven Soderbergh's blood-drenched, cocaine-fueled hospital period piece, mood-master Cliff Martinez's flickering, whooshing electronic score makes the visuals all the more unsettling. As a standalone work, the soundtrack has a similar effect on everyday life. Over the past three decades, the composer has perfected mesmerizing atmospheres on the scores to Drive, Spring Breakers and Only God Forgives. The Knick ventures into uncharted realms: With a track list that could nauseate the most hard-nosed homicide detective ("Abscess," "Placental Repair," "New Standard Hernia Procedure"), the record's undulating synths, sparse acoustic guitar and wraithlike cristal baschet create an ominous, urgent, hypnotic feeling like shivers up your spine. By Kory Grow


OOIOO, ‘Gamel’

Boredoms drummer Yoshimi P-We's chiming, screeching, banging, monkey-chanting seventh solo album both assaults and assuages listeners with a sneakily challenging blend of Indonesian gamelan and Japanese noise-pop. This 21st-century Remain in Light's vibe is psychedelic, its mode neo-primitive, and its overall effect stroboscopically ecstatic. Augmented by a pair of Javanese gamelan musicians on tuned metallophonic percussion, Yoshimi and her all-woman ensemble make thrilling music that embellishes a minimalist template with funky bass, blorting guitars, wordless sing-along chants, heady synths and powerful drumming. The resulting hour-long suite is a listener-friendly Frankenstein's monster of invigorating post-exotica. By Richard Gehr

Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley, ‘Electric Ursa’

A Kentucky singer with Sandy Denny timbre and a clarity of tone like Miles Davis' horn circa Kind of Blue. This captivating mini-album, with elegant guitar from folklorist Nathan Salsburg, is kinda folk, sorta slowcore and vaguely country, projecting a huge, resplendently pained serenity. By Will Hermes

Ben Watt

Ben Watt, ‘Hendra’

Ben Watt has been making intimate, sophisticated pop music for three decades, most prominently with his wife Tracy Thorne in Everything But the Girl. Though he's primarily been a dance music DJ since EBTG ended in 2000, his first solo album since 1983 is all about subtle guitar elegance and detailed lyrical explorations. Watt collaborated with guitarist Bernard Butler of Suede and even got an unlikely hand from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour to create richly detailed songs that deal with muted revelation and shaky unburdenings. In "Young Man's Game" a 49-year-old comes to terms with feeling to old to go clubbing, and in "The Levels" a man converses with a wife who's no longer with him. The music can evoke anything from Stereolab to country to mellow Seventies rock and the lyrics can touch on subjects from gun control to Romantic poetry, always with a subtlety that matches the music's slanted beauty. By Jon Dolan


Wizkid, ‘Ayo’

After releasing his breakthrough Superstar LP in 2011, Nigerian rapper Wizkid prepped its follow-up with three years of irresistible features and unstoppable club bangers. Arriving in September, Ayo placed the biggest of the latter alongside new tracks that grab slang from Jamaica and salute women with a "bum bum bigger than Bombay." Throughout, the 24-year-old uses deft, nimble flows to glide over complex beats and he writes hooks that will keep you humming for weeks. As British-Ghanaian rapper Fuse ODG says in the title of his debut LP, another excellent 2014 release, T.I.N.A: This is new Africa.

Youth Code

Youth Code, ‘A Place to Stand’ EP

What happens when a former hardcore singer meets a heavy metal roadie? They form an industrial band, of course —but one with a punk-rock heart. Black Flag-inspired bass lines slither through mechanized Wax Trax! clatter; a pissed, pogoing riot grrrl spits boiling blood on chilly synths. Youth Code's 2013 debut full-length was a promising, if primitive, introduction; A Place to Stand, the coed duo's eight-track follow-up (four original songs, four remixes of older ones) sees the L.A. band beginning to harness its potential, reeling out both its most hardcore-infused tantrum (the floor-punching "To Burn Your World") and its most melodic cut yet (the glitchy, Crystal Castles-esque "For I Am Cursed"). "A Litany (A Place to Stand)," meanwhile, is Youth Code's manifesto, a spoken-word diatribe against discrimination, animal cruelty, hate and apathy set to a piston-pumping noisescape. The crash of collapsing new buildings rarely sounds so constructive. By Brandon Geist

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