As the countdown to the end of 2014 quickly approaches we take a personal look back on familiar names, features and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. Circuit Sweet will be featuring the featured artists of the site with their personal top 5 releases of the year.
In our end of year special we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have made their end of year lists, their favorite events/gigs and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Top 5 releases of the year
Swans – To Be Kind
Over the last few years there has been a growing implied sentiment that the ‘Album’ is dead. I don’t know who makes this shit up, because to me, music has always been about the album, and the excitement that can only come from hitting the record shop on release day to pick up a copy of that newly released piece of art. When we write music, we too write it as a whole collection, and always want the listener to view it that way.
So for Swans, To Be Kind marks their 13th studio record, and if the album is indeed dead, then Swans just don’t care. This is an album in the truest sense, it is a complete event, something worthy of spectacle. It is the true antithesis to albums loosely thrown together around a sparkling polished 3 minute pop hit, vying for radio airtime. Whilst not as bluntly punishing as their most early, more industrial material, this is an album that remains no easier to listen to, and with some songs surpassing the 30 minute mark, its as much about perseverance as it is about reward. But give To Be Kind the attention and respect it deserves, it is hard to find a more worthy collection of songs released this year. Carrying on from where 2012’s The Seer left off (another personal album of the year), To Be Kind brings many of the same theatrics, but also explores a stark, almost southern-blues grit that underpins much of the album. Once more, a number of guest appearances throughout the album bring unexpected moments of light to even the darkest shades of the sonic canvas that Michael Gira and co have once more so expertly executed.
Some might feel that two hours is simply too long for an album, but if anything, in this age of instant gratification, the bloody mindedness to go ahead and produce such a monstrous entity once more (the Seer also clocked in around the 2 hr mark) should be applauded. Having had the pleasure to witness Swans in the flesh, in all their pulverising glory, there is an indescribable aura about Gira that demands attention. Long may he and his colleagues continue to inspire.
Grouper – Ruins
Ruins is an album that soundtracked many of my late night and early morning walks this year, it has an almost claustrophobic intimacy to it that is both comforting and bleak at the same time. It also has a really strong sense of atmosphere and mood which develops from the minimalist arrangements and background noises throughout. Its a great album to get lost in and will certainly be one I will return to years down the line.
HTRK – Psychic 9-5
Psychic 9-5 club is a downbeat and cool album by Aussy’s HTRK (pronounced hate-rock). I love how minimal everything is, as it allows the ambience itself to become an instrument. It’s a record for anyone who likes dark grooves with an electronic touch.
Aphex Twin – Syro
I was pretty young when Aphex Twin was last releasing music, but he was unwittingly a pretty profound part of my life back then, partially in thanks to my older brother who would attempt to corrupt my innocent mind by making me watch the Windowlicker video. I think Drukqs and the Richard D. James album will always be special albums to me because they remind me of when I found music fascinating and a bit scary. Syro is a concise record that still doesn’t fail to make me grin when I listen to it. It’s not exactly groundbreaking by today’s standards, but so many artists (ourselves included) owe a hell of a lot to Richard D. James.
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
This is an album I got into a few months after it came out but was instantly drawn in. The driving rhythms underneath sound songwriting make it stand out to me and I have found the album grows and matures with every listen.
The best show you have played this year
For the opening night of our album tour we played at Birthdays in London. It was really exciting to be playing our first headline show in a year, and lovely to see a lot of familiar faces. It was also great to be finally playing a set that consists largely of material from the new record, so in some ways it felt like a fresh start for us.
The best gig you have attended
Slint at Green Man festival! They will always be a huge influence on this band, so to have the chance to see them live was amazing. I’m generally a bit cynical of this wave of bands reforming, but bands like Slint and My Bloody Valentine have managed to pull it off it in a way that doesn’t tarnish their earlier years.
Highlights of your year
Releasing ‘New Topographics’ for sure – now that it’s been four years since we release ‘Hollow Realm’, it was incredibly satisfying to release an album that is representative of our current tastes as a band. The day before we played Tramlines festival we picked up the vinyl copies, and it was a pretty triumphant little moment for us when we finally got to hold the physical copies in our hands.
Artist/Band to watch for 2015
GFOTY (Girlfriend Of The Year)
She’s a part of PC Music, which is a label/ collective/ thing that is partially responsible for a bizarre movement of kind of pop/ electronica that is kind of reminiscent of Japanese kawaii culture.
Upon first listen, GFOTY’s music is obnoxious and jarring. However, once you give it a few listens, it’s luminous, camp and has a somewhat surreal edge to it. It’s an antithesis to the ‘dark’ producers that have swamped electronic music in the last year or so. Even so, I can’t work out if the music is a stroke of genius or utter shite, which is a conundrum shared by many. This only feels like the tip of the iceberg and it could certainly gain a lot of attention in 2015.
Plans for the New Year
In January we’re going on a UK tour with Pianos Become The Teeth, which will be a lot of fun. The excitement of touring has never worn off for us, and it’s always a nice little break from ‘real life’.
As for the rest of the year, we’re planning a few exciting projects, as well as a few tours. The process of creating and releasing this record has been reinvigorating for us as a band, so we’re really excited to keep trying new things and challenging ourselves.
Good luck with the January UK tour, the line up is great! Wishing the band a successful 2015 and a huge thanks for being part of our end of year special.