The Big Issue : Edition 474
MUSIC 40 THE BIG ISSUE 26 DEC 2014 – 8 JAN 2015 THE FOURTH AND final album released under the name Actress, by electronic producer Darren Cunningham, Ghettoville is billed as the project’s “bleached-out and black-tinted conclusion”. That ominous description doesn’t quite prepare us, however, for the murky depths of Cunningham’s unsettling masterpiece. Ghettoville doubles as the wasteland that awaits if our society continues down a no-return path of environmental self-destruction and crippling wealth disparity. It’s all crackling glitches, blotched melodies and smoggy ambience derailing mechanical rhythms with a human unreliability. Despite the amorphousness of certain tracks, Cunningham excavates recognisable genres here and there, like the snappy hip-hop beat of ‘Corner’, the R’n’B smoulder of ‘Rap’ and the almost hopeful vocal sample pleading Don’t stop the music on ‘Don’t’. In a year that saw Aphex Twin release his first studio album in 13 years and Australians like Ben Frost and Lawrence English turn abrasive noise into immersive ecosystems, Ghettoville stands alongside them in ambition, but feels like a more up-to-the-minute portrait of 2014. Evoking the decay we’re already seeing in cities like Detroit, it candidly reflects our ailing times. GHETTOVILLE ACTR ESS BLACK MOON SPELL KING TUFF Black Sabbath-worthy riffs and huge choruses: Kyle Thomas does stoner rock right as King Tuff, and he’s more accessible than ever here. This is a headphones-filling salute to pure rocking out. LP1 FKA TWIGS English singer-producer FK A Twigs achieves such intimacy on her debut album that it’s as if she’s whispering from the next pillow. That suits her sensual brand of post-Sade R’n’B perfectly. One key lyric goes: When I trust you, we can do it with the lights off. ARE WE THERE SHARON VAN ETTEN Whereas FK A Twigs details bodily passion, Sharon Van Etten uses exacting metaphors of bruising, breaking and a lover’s backhand to revisit her own abusive relationship. Her folk- based fourth album is a career high, mirroring her resilience with triumphant orchestration. RIVER MIRRORS INFINITY BROKE Rivalling even The Drones in unbridled intensity, Infinity Broke is a ferocious Australian rock band that doesn’t lose its soul or sensitivity in the attack. Fronted by former Bluebottle Kiss leader Jamie Hutchings, the Sydney quartet seize upon a clamorous glory on this debut. PRESENT TENSE WILD BEASTS Future Islands got more attention this year for throwback synth-pop and androgynous vocals, but Wild Beasts made the better DOUG WALLEN > Music Editor 2014 STANDOUT Top 10 Albums of 2014 album in that vein. The English quartet’s fourth LP, Present Tense, strips things right back to an eerily open palette of nocturnal R’n’B and poetic minimalism. LAURA JEAN LAURA JEAN Laura Jean Englert is a fearless songwriter, weaving warts-and-all autobiography into broader themes. This folk-driven album is a stark trip through her life, with her trusty kelpie right alongside. Produced by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish, it really deser ves to be her breakthrough. PIÑATA FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB The year’s best hip-hop record plays like an instant classic, and not just because Madlib’s production leans so heavily on vintage funk and soul. Rapper Freddie Gibbs matches that plush warmth with mouthy, street-smart tales of don’t-try-this-at-home misadventure. THE WORRY SEEKAE After two albums of nuanced instrumental electronica, Sydney trio Seekae introduced vocals on their third LP. It adds a stunning new dimension to their mercurial arrangements, which now blur more genre lines than ever. For all their twitchy dancefloor prowess, ballads like ‘Monster’ hit the hardest. TYPICAL SYSTEM TOTAL CONTROL A guns-blazing album unafraid to detour into moody synth-pop and catchy New Wave, Total Control’s second LP sparked a lot of argument about whether it was okay for a punk band to sound like Icehouse. Answer: definitely. COMING UP IN 2015 January has become a crowded playing field, with more bands releasing albums at the start of each year. Case in point: literary indie-folk troupe The Decemberists return with their first LP in four years, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, while all-female punk trio Sleater-Kinney come back from an even longer hiatus with No Cities to Love. Scottish pop veterans Belle & Sebastian sound dance- friendly on Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, while super-producer Mark Ronson recruits everyone from Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon for Uptown Special. Alt-country hero Justin Townes Earle introduces the sister – or rather, brother – set to 2014’s Single Mothers with Absent Fathers, while Melbourne quartet Twerps bring their jangly guitar-pop to a wider audience with Range Anxiety, their first album to be released internationally. The once controversial Marilyn Manson also returns with The Pale Emperor. And that’s just January. February brings the buzzed-about debut Depersonalisation by Brisbane dreamers Nite Fields as well as the long-awaited second album from acidic American folkie Father John Misty in I Love You, Honeybear. Melbourne’s post-punk trio Love of Diagrams return with their first LP since 2009 with Blast, which will seem aptly titled to anyone who’s ever caught their live show. Also on the local front, 2015 will finally see the debut album by Australian singer- songwriter Courtney Barnett, as well as new platters from critics’ darlings (and rightly so) The Drones and Dick Diver.