Monday 22 December 2014

Remy's Favourite International Tracks of 2014

Aside from the great Irish music featured on the blog I've been very lucky to have some really brilliant tunes sent to me over the year from around the world, with the bulk of it coming from the United States and France but also from some more exotic locations. In some ways it really does broaden your musical horizons to hear unsigned or up and coming artists from other countries, because we are only really ever exposed to acts who have 'made it' from abroad. And although the internet is rapidly changing that, as little as 5-6 years ago you wouldn't have had access to the number of platforms that are available today such as SoundCloud, Spotify, Deezer etc., (not to mention Apps on smartphones) you just had Youtube maybe and a few dedicated websites. I'd like to thank all of the bands, not just the ones featured here, for getting in touch and sharing their music, and hey England, send me something too, I won't bite! Without further ado, and in no particular order (not even alphabetical this time, life is too short!)......

1) Stereo Off - 'Bullet Time'

From: New York City, U.S.A.
Why? It was a tough call between 'Bullet Time' and 'Photographs' which is a great track too, but the above song edges it on two counts, the video homage to 70's / 80's New York film (one scene was shot in the same location as Serpico) is an entertaining trip to the underground, and also the half-way point where the funky guitar breaks down to a dancier disco sound. For more info check out this interview I did with Niall from Stereo Off back in August.

2) CHRISTINE - 'No Way'

From: Normandy, France
Why? CHRISTINE has a plethora of amazing tracks including remixes on his SoundCloud page and when I reviewed the 'Gonna Fear Now' video recently I couldn't help but include two more songs including 'No Way' above. This was one of the discoveries of the year for me, the track is slick, cool, ambient and gritty and sails along so nicely, there's nothing but enjoyment here.

3) Memory In Plant - 'This Love'

From: Tel Aviv, Israel
Why? Frank Zappa, psychedelic heaven from Memory In Plant. As a massive fan of 60's mind-trippers The Electric Prunes, Strawberry Alarm Clock and The 13th Floor Elevators to name a few, this track and their E.P. An Epic Triumph, was right up my street. 'This Love' was the stand out for me and it also incorporated contemporary weirdness and accessible avant-garde musicianship, a real doozy.

4) French Girls - 'Fifty Miles'

From: Northern California, U.S.A.
Why? Whoah, what happened here? French Girls E.P. Tablemanners has been getting serious airplay in my household the last two months. Like Memory In Plant above, these guys nailed a new take on another of my favourite old school types of rock, 60's garage á la The Monks Black Monk Time. Explosive energy, savagery at the drum-kit, rapid bass, nailed-on guitar and pained older than his years vocals from front man Charlie Foltz make this band an extremely tight unit. The fact that these guys are relatively young is quite frightening, considering they're making music that is incomprehensible to a lot of their peers.

5) Jack Jeffery - 'Approaching the Starlight'

From: Virginia, U.S.A.
Why? Well, I mentioned in my review of Jeffery's mind-blowing album, Enlightened Horizon, last month that it was laden with Alan Parsons Project and Pink Floyd nods, and as a massive sci-fi fan it felt like the soundtrack to every film I'd ever seen based in outer-space, from 2001 to Sunshine. 'Approaching the Starlight' is like a scene from Godfrey Reggio's epic documentary Koyaanisqatsi, it takes you far, far out of your brain on an extremely pleasant journey. If you like instrumental and experimental music that is different but accessible, here you are.

6) Alf Moon - 'Hiver'

From: Paris, France
Why? Along with Alf Moon's other track 'Automne' I was really reminded of good dance music from the late 90's but it also attaches itself to a long tradition of creative French electronic acts such as St.Germain and Air in parts but also contemporary artists such as Denmark's Trentemoller and Germany's Kalkbrenner. 'Hiver' is pointedly cool and melodic and although we only have two tracks at the moment to work from, I know I'll enjoy any future releases from this particular Parisian.

7) The Northern Lights - '1984'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? Pure unadulterated 80's electro-pop bliss is what '1984' is. Described by another reviewer "Like something playing in the background of an old VHS cassette you found in your attic from the 80's." and I couldn't put it better myself, the track is a nostalgia overload, some might say it's simple, but it captures a certain mood perfectly and has quite a euphoric feel to it as well, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, much like the rest of their music.

8) You Bred Raptors? - 'Hazmat'

From: New York City, U.S.A.
Why? I could do this in one line by just saying watch the above video. It's hair-raising stuff, an incredible live performance busking in New York's underground, the You Bred Raptors? trio swing from strings to thudding bass-lines to rapid-fire percussion and how the hell is the guitarist playing lead guitar and bass at the same time? Unique musicianship aside there's also a great song to be found in 'Hazmat' and I really love the melodic riff at 3:20, the calm respite before the soaring lead-guitar and strings take off into the ether! Wow.

9) Night Club - 'Need You Tonight'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? 10% because Kick is one of my favourite 80's albums, 90% because I think this cover version by Night Club is way better than the original! Night Club have some great tracks across their two E.P.'s and I could have gone for an original but I listened to this a lot over the last few months, it's instant gratification, and Mark Brooks adds some pounding synths to compliment Emily Kavanaugh's vocals making an already naughty song that little bit naughtier. To hear more and find out more here's our interview from September.

10) King Fantastic - 'Spooky Spooks & The Trouble With Capitalism'

From: Los Angeles, U.S.A.
Why? I said this list was in no order and it is, but I deliberately finished with King Fantastic, ending on a high note, KF have been my favourite rap and hip-hop artists for the last 4 years now and 2014 saw one of my most anticipated album releases, The Great Man Theory, the follow up to 2010's Finger Snaps and Gun Claps. King Fantastic are also the most mentioned act in emails I receive with regard to people being introduced to new music through the blog. The track is a critique of fakery and delusions, and yes, that is supposed to be Lil' Wayne at the start of the video getting his ass handed to him by Killer Reese, how we'd love to see the real Lil' Wayne have that done to him! Reese's rhyming as always flows effortlessly and the milisecond pauses before DJ Troublemaker throws out his golden xylophone-esque 'dring' are a delightful anticipation. Sadly one of the two homeless actors in the video, Scotsman Robbie, passed away shortly after the shooting of it, and while it makes no difference and probably means nothing, this entire list is dedicated to him and all homeless people this winter.