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Patrick Masterson writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2014: Patrick Masterson

CHIRP Radio Best of 2014

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2014. Our next list is from DJ and Music Director Patrick Masterson.

This one's for Chicago. Get familiar.

#1Welcome to Fazoland by Lil Herb (self-released)
Lil Herb Welcome to FazolandBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

People complaining about the state of Chicago hip-hop had a lot to chew on in 2014 - witness the full-on feminist stomp of Katie Got Bandz, Lil Bibby's wise-beyond-his-years baritone, the neo-Common hustle of Mick Jenkins, and the otherworldly weirdness of Chief Keef's still-embryonic post-Interscope existence. We had a few of these artists on CHIRP this year but my biggest mistake as a Music Director was not commissioning a clean edit of Lil Herb's "Welcome to Fazoland." Though it shares the same cynical spirit as drill, to call it that is, frankly, insulting - the production features softer soul samples alongside the more expected for-whom-the-bells-toll and booming bass. Some of Herb's rapping on here is blinding for a debut and his verbal dexterity, coupled with big-time beats, leaves it as one of the most thrilling debuts from any city, let alone any genre. Sorry I let you down.

#2Burn Your Fire for No Witness by Angel Olsen (Jagjaguwar)
Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No WitnessBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This is cheating a little bit since Angel left Ukrainian Village for the scenic granola crunch of Asheville at some point late last summer, but let's call her our own for one more record before we give a Neko Case kiss-off into the national spotlight/abyss of wider fame. Though I have no regrets about not being in the same psychological space as this record for years now, Olsen's clarity of vision and attention to lyrical detail ("Unfucktheworld" opens the album with, "I quit my dreaming the minute that I found you / I started dancing just to be around you") made it impossible not to sympathize with. And as far as closers go, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one this year than "Windows." Months later, the chills remain.

#3Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2 by Traxman (Planet Mu)
Traxman Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

HEY YOU, BLOW YOUR WHISTLE. The jittery all-treble insanity of footwork is by now a common occurrence for regular CHIRP listeners and one of the reasons we've been able to make it fit into our sound is this guy right here, Cornelius Ferguson. Lodged between the cratedigging funk n' soul of Numero Group and the late DJ Rashad's future-forward footwork, Traxman is a vital missing link both for DJs and listeners alike. The second "Da Mind" LP (following 2012's brilliant first volume) indulged diverse influences like never before: "Computer Getto" samples Kraftwerk; "Let It Roll Geto" samples The Eurythmics; guitars on "The Edge of Panic" make it sound like a metal song... but that's what he uses to lure you into the more alien sounds of "Bubbles" or "Under Cover Jack." Put simply, the man is a modern psychedelic master. NOW LET ME COUNT IT OFF: 1, 2, 3, 4...

#4Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost by Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP (Cuneiform)
Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy GhostBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Though we have a long history of supporting the distinguished Chicago jazz outlier Rob Mazurek here at CHIRP, his work with Black Cube SP - a five-person ensemble featuring some familiar São Paulo friends of his - was something to behold on "Return the Tides." Despite its mid-November release, I was sold after just one listen and I've played it as much as any other jazz record this year aside from that John Coletrane live set from Temple. Mazurek's cornet playing and the wild ebbs and flows of these songs are such that describing it in terms of genre seems less appropriate than describing it in terms of temperature. It scorches. Essential listening.

#5From All Purity by Indian (Relapse)
Indian From All PurityBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

It's been such a long year, you may not remember that this album actually came out in late January. As a pretty steady Indian supporter, I found "From All Purity" an enjoyable doom record on par with most anything else from their four-album discography and, Pallbearer aside, this was far and away the metal album I listened to most in 2014. "This is the opposite of easy listening," conclude the notes on the album's Bandcamp page - as though one listen of "The Impetus Bleeds" would have suggested otherwise. Keep doing the devil's work, guys.

#6Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997 by Various Artists (Strut)
Various Artists Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Another record released in late January, "Hardcore Traxx" was a double-disc profile of West Side label Dance Mania. You probably didn't hear too many of these tracks on CHIRP this year - the kind of house Dance Mania propagated was filthy enough to keep it off the airwaves. That doesn't mean it's not worth seeking out, however: Like similar compilations released before it ("Kill Yourself Dancing," "Only 4 U"), "Hardcore Traxx" provides a glimpse into the evolution of house music in the late 80s, only this is a good ground zero for how it splintered into what would ultimately become juke. If you liked it, you may be pleased to hear Strut has more on the way in January with the compilation, "Dance Mania: Ghetto Madness." No guesses how clean it'll be.

#7Hierarchy by Lightfoils (Saint Marie)
Lightfoils HierarchyBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

One of my most anticipated releases of the year. The band's 2012 debut EP managed to unearth a lot of long-dormant feelings for that period early in college when I couldn't shut up about shoegaze and "Hierarchy" follows through with a "swirling miasma" of "blissed-out" guitars, "crashing percussion," and Jane Zabeth's "dream-like" vocals. Of course these descriptions are cliché; as with the music, verbiage surrounding this style of rock is self-limiting. Even still, Lightfoils manages to breathe much-needed life into the style and it's no stretch to suggest this is an elite act for the form. Totally immersive.

#8Singles 2007-2013 by Cave (Drag City)
Cave Singles 2007-2013BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

It's hard for me to believe Cave has existed as long as I've lived here but this collection of remixes, rarities, outtakes, and other loose ends shows just how much variety the oft-heralded krautrock band has had in it over its existence - there just aren't enough hours in the day to go hunting down the "Raw Vibes Vol. II" cassette, for instance, so it's nice to have "Bobby's Hash" readily available alongside other songs I probably never would have made time to hear. Neatly done and with a lot to offer, it's pretty obvious they've changed as a band a lot more than I have as a person. Help yourself to the psychoanalysis there.

#9New Wave 2 by Ibn Inglor (self-released)
Ibn Inglor New Wave 2BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

If you hate Kanye West for making "808s & Heartbreak" and allowing Drake and everything after him to happen (pretty reductive of you, by the way, though not necessarily untrue), "New Wave 2" is a nice counterweight and glimpse into what hip-hop sounds like as influenced by "Yeezus." Mhone Glor's abrasive, post-apocalyptic production is impressively polished and certainly the most engrossing aspect of the mixtape; hook that up with Inglor's agitated, multitracked vocals and you've got one of the darkest-sounding listens of the year. I'll take it.

#10Kickin It Wit TW by Chris Crack (self-released)
Chris Crack Kickin It Wit TWBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Chris Crack (aka Trill Withers) reminds me a lot of Atlanta's STS for some reason that I can't quite place - he exists just beyond the orbit of Chicago's hip-hop star power (Chance the Rapper or Vic Mensa or even Mick Jenkins at this point) but he mines a lot of similar territory, like Tree's soul-trap but less wizened and more unhinged as a result. He calls himself a young Jimi Hendrix on "1400 Smoke Sumn" and there's certainly a psych-ish aspect to his demeanor, too. "Kickin It Wit TW" isn't jaw-dropping but it grabbed me late in the year and I haven't been able to shake it. Maybe you'll agree.


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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2014

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