Last issue, the Venue music team picked out their top releases of 2013 – and what’s clear from the final list is that we were royally spoiled last year. From the retro-inspired Cali-rock of Peace’s In Love, to the desperate lunge for divinity that was Kanye’s Yeezus, 2013 truly held something for everyone. It’s time now, however, to turn our attention to the next 12 months, and the upcoming albums that may challenge for the crown at the end of 2014.
When SBTRKT’s debut album fell onto our collective eardrums back in 2011, the self-titled record was so perfectly formed – unbelievably polished, refined and prepped for superstardom – that it’s entirely understandable that the secretive producer would take his time over a follow-up. SBTRKT was remarkable for capturing exactly the musical zeitgeist of that year – a year that was weary of bastardised dubstep-fodder being rammed down their throats. SBTRKT took the post-dubstep sound championed by Mount Kimbie and James Blake and added his own unique pop-inflection – the result being a record that managed to juxtapose introspection with a facet of danceability. While his long term partner Sampha (and arguably the junior partner in the creative relationship) has pushed on with impressive string of solo EPs and big-name collaborations, SBTRKT has kept remarkably quiet since that debut. Recent months, though, have seen the producer provide a series of teasers, including ‘Runway’, featuring Jessie Ware, sparking expectation that 2014 could finally provide that long-awaited second album.
An artist operating in much the same musical vein as SBTRKT is Claire Boucher, who recently sent the internet into ecstasy by spilling the beans on her upcoming fourth album. Releasing music from behind her Grimes moniker, Boucher’s reputation has only improved since her debut in 2010, culminating in the release of Visions in 2012. Garnering both widespread critical acclaim and remarkable levels of commercial success, Visions successfully walked that tightrope between mainstream success and left-field credibility. Fashioning her music from an eclectic variety of influences and styles, Grimes’ output is notoriously difficult to describe. Defining it herself as “ADD music,” it draws heavily from the world of electronic producers like Aphex Twin, but with the addition of pop sensibilities drawn from Bjork and Enya. Having recently revealed via Tumblr that work on her fourth studio album is underway, Boucher is undoubtedly one of the artists to watch out for in 2014.
A record coming from a slightly less well-known act is the debut album from Young Fathers, due for release on 3 February. This group garnered a huge amount of critical acclaim last year with the release of two scintillatingly good mixtapes – the aptly named Tape 1 and Tape 2. While these cuts were melting-pots positively spilling over with an eclectic mix of influences and styles – Death Grips percussion, De La Soul vocal harmonies, skull-bruising bass lines – they were also were infuriatingly brief, clocking in at barely 20 minutes apiece. Their debut long-player, Dead, will give us an opportunity to for a more in-depth look at Young Fathers, and show us just what the group are capable of.
The list outlined here consists of just a handful of records, and barely scratches the surface of the albums we can expect from 2014. Outkast, having just announced appearances at over 40 festivals around the world, are rumoured to have an album in the works to coincide with their 20th anniversary.
Elsewhere, Chance The Rapper and Kendrick Lamar look set to dominate this year’s hip-hop scene – although Kanye won’t be relinquishing the spotlight without a fight. Alt-J’s long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s An Awesome Wave is also on the horizon – although having just lost bassist Gwil Sainsbury, might it be asking to much for them to better their debut? Only one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be an interesting year.