From L.A. and S.F.’s garage rock scenes to Compton’s blossoming rap artists, California artists represented well in 2014. Here are 25 of our favorites from the year, in alphabetical order.
On Worship the Sun, L.A.’s Allah-Las get some dirt on their boots by scuzzing up their sunny surf-garage sound with some rattling guitar solos, stonery grooves (“Buffalo Nickel”) and head-spinning psych-rock tunes (“501-405”).
Cherry Glazerr had the debut record of the year for Burger Records, moving unstoppably on the strength of its garage riffs and singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy’s teenage caterwaul.
The other day I found out that some people are outraged by the casting in a Hollywood film -- in this case Ridley Scott's latest effort, Exodus: Days of Future Past (or whatever its full title is). They're apparently so upset that they're boycotting it, which is something I do with all but one or two Hollywood films every year although I refer to it simply as not paying to see it.
The problem that the boycotters have, it seems, is that Exodus is almost completely historically inaccurate (It's safe to guess that most of the Egyptian and Jewish characters are most portrayed by Anglo-Saxons and presumably speak Modern (if pretentious) English with a modern British accent, or approximation of one. Without having watched a trailer I'd guess that there aren't a lot of apparently Middle Eastern Africans portraying Middle Eastern Africans and the actual actors of African descent are used entirely for background color and supporting roles).
Apparently these scandalized and offended won't-be viewers have never seen a Hollywood film before... or assumed that they'd somehow completely change their raison d'etre. Even at Hollywood's artistic peak in the 1930s, racial sensitivity and historical accuracy were not exactly hallmarks of Hollywood films -- making loads of money was, and that's what they did and they did it well. At one point Hollywood made loads of money with elaborately choreographed, brilliantly scored, escapist musicals. Nowadays Hollywood makes loads of money with loud CGI superhero cartoons. Sometimes -- rarely -- art slips through the cracks. Much more often big, dumb-looking movies like Exodus get released that look rather like the big, dumb movies that Hollywood was mostly pumped out for the last 90 years.
With influences ranging from rap to '90s Eurodance to Jacques Brel, genre-bending artist Stromae is a rising global star. Born Paul Van Haver to a Flemish mother and a Rwandan architect father who was killed in the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, Stromae grew up in Brussels with his four siblings. After struggling throughout his school career, he began rapping under the stage name Opsmaestro in 2000 before reversing the syllables in the word "maestro" and changing his moniker to Stromae. In 2009, he was working as a trainee at a Belgian radio station when he gave his single "Alors on danse" to the music manager who played the track on air. A year later, Stromae burst onto the international scene with his debut album, Cheese. His 2013 release, Racine Carree, has gone platinum eight times in Belgium and has stayed strong at the #1 spot in album charts across Europe. With beats that get feet tapping, lyrics that tackle topics like AIDS and absent fathers, and a modern global aesthetic, Stromae is not the typical pop star. This fall, he collaborated with Lorde, Haim, Q-Tip and Pusha-T on a track for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part I soundtrack.
1) DJ Qbert - Extraterrestria + GalaXXXian (Galactic Butt Hair Records)
Although only released digitally in 2014 following a successful Kickstarter campaign (vinyl to arrive at Amoeba in 2015), this instrumental album (Extraresstria) and its rap/emcee counterpart album (GalaXXXian) rate as my top pick(s) for the best hip-hop released in 2014. Apparently I'm not alone in thinking so; Extraterrestia is up for a possible Grammy award. The stated goal of DJ Qbert's new album, which the artist considers as a Wave Twisters Part II, is to present the sound of skratch music in the future as he sees it, or - as he said upon the release of the new project - "the time capsule response and interstellar transmission to any galactic civilization, alien or far-future human." The "Jimi Hendrix of the turntables" ably accomplishes both solo as producer/DJ as well as with such album collaborators as Kool Keith, Del the Funky Homosapien, Mr Lif, Dana Leong, and Chad Hugo, who (along with Tipsy) co-produce the album's best track - the soothing, dreamy, ethereal "Ascender (Agartha)."