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wolfgang hört | Die besten Alben der letzten Dekade: 2014

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Das Jahrzehnt neigt sich dem Ende zu, wir blicken zurück auf eine Vielzahl von großartigen Platten. Heute werfen wir einen Blick auf 2014, quer durch alle Genres, von Mitski über Run the Jewels bis zu D’Angelo.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah (RCA, 2014)

Auch ohne Plug-Ins kann Musik regelrecht elektrisieren: Das nach 14 langen Jahren erschienene dritte Album Black Messiah wurde – zwischen Alkohol- und Drogenproblemen sowie einem Autounfall – von D’Angelo und diversen Künstler*innen analog auf Vintage-Equipment produziert und zu einer regelrechten Neo-R&B / Hip Hop / Funk / Jazz / Soul / Rock-Explosion. Sie kam unerwartet ein Jahr früher als geplant, nachdem nationale Unruhen um nicht verfolgte Polizeibeamte und Antirassismus-Proteste den Zündstoff boten – der Titel des Albums zeigt sich hiermit doppelt erstaunlich. „Black Messiah is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader“, so D’Angelo, pünktlich und zeitgerecht.

Auch hier gab der mehrfache Grammy-Gewinner Russell Elevator, wie bereits in D‘Angelos Voodoo (Virgin, 2000), wortwörtlich den Ton an. „Analogue just sounds better. […] My gear will never be obsolete, and I don’t need to get a plug-in of it. I have the originals!“, beteuert Elevado in diversen Interviews. Nicht zuletzt aufgrund dieses musikalischen Einsatzes fühlt sich Black Messiah herzhaft ausgefeilt an, künstlerisch mitgestaltet von Persönlichkeiten wie Kendra Foster, Questlove, Q-Tip, Roy Hargrove und einigen mehr.

Besagte sowie weitere musikalische Fragmente harmonieren und variieren durchgehend überlegt und überschlagend, erinnern sie energetisch an große Künstler wie jene von Sly & the Family Stone, Ohio Players, Funkadelic / Parliament & Hazel, Hendrix, Prince oder Gaye. Mit Worten wie „I wanna give you something to feed your mind“ eröffnet D’Angelo die 56-minütige Fahrt der wundersam musikalisch-lyrischen Grottenbahn. Dabei behandelt er nur allzu aktuelle Themen wie Gesellschaftspolitik, systemischen Rassismus („The Charade“), Krieg („1000 Deaths“), Religion („Prayer“), Liebe und Sex, welche sich metaphorisch und stets kritisch – nebst fließender Soulstimme, spacigen Gitarren-Sounds, cleanen Drums, elastischen Basssaiten, aber auch dynamischer sowie schwebender Klavier-, Trompeten- und Violinenklängen – sowohl musikalisch als auch emotional sehr gelungen, zeigen lassen können. Einsteigen bitte!

– Ajlisha

FKA twigs – LP1 (Young Turks, 2014)

After making waves with two EPs worth of mysterious, eclectic material, FKA Twigs’ first full-length album (aptly titled LP1) solidifies her as one of the most important and cutting-edge artists to rise from the English electronic and alternative scene. Twigsunique, genre-bending style of futuristic, ethereal, yet very physical Alternative R&B provides for an immersive, intoxicating listening experience. Her past as a dancer is apparent, as many of the songs on LP1 have irresistibly sensual, dance-able grooves. It’s simultaneously incandescent with passion and sensuality and disembodied, otherworldly. Most importantly, its darker, colder, more distant moments (on cuts like ,,Prefaceand ,,Video Girl) and its radiant, blissful, erotic whisper-crooners (such as ,,Pendulum“, and the album’s lead single ,,Two Weeks), and everything in between that is found on LP1 feels sonically consistent – all of the many facets of its personality feel integrated, natural, they flow seamlessly.

The amount of care and detail FKA Twigs and her co-producers (including, among others, her longtime collaborator Arca, along with other prominent names such as Devonté Hynes and Sampha) put into the rich, dense beats and instrumentation is also one of the album’s most remarkable traits. The off-kilter beats, various layers of odd samples and glitches all organically come together without appearing cluttered or clumsy, but rather providing the listener with a lot of material to really sink their teeth into, discovering a new layer or sample with each listen. Twigs’ hushed, whispery vocals are enchanting throughout the entire record, whether she’s beaming with confidence and seductiveness on ,,Two Weeks(with the iconic statement “Give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her”), or sensual and tender on ,,Hours(an intoxicating, winding ode to a kiss), or vulnerable and insecure on moments like ,,Numbers. Her intensity and passion is palpable, while still coming off very light and ethereal. This record is one that’s very easy to simply sink into and let yourself be carried by the waves of intense emotional expression and celestial atmosphere, affirming Twigs’ position as one of the most interesting, multifaceted and unique artists working in Art Pop and R&B today.

– Kata

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal, 2014)

Betrachtet man den Werdegang von Run the Jewels, so stellen sie eine große Ausnahme dar. Der musikalische Output der beiden Protagonisten fing nicht mit der Gründung des ungewöhnlichsten HipHop-Duos der 10er-Jahre an, sondern mit zwei durchaus spannenden Solokarrieren: El-P, der seit mehr als 20 Jahren in der New Yorker Underground-Szene mitmischt, hat mit Alben wie I‘ll Sleep when you‘re Dead (Definitive Jux, 2007) bereits seinen innovativen, einzigartigen Sound zur Schau gestellt. Killer Mike ist nach seiner Zusammenarbeit mit Größen wie Outkast oder Jay-Z auch kein Newcomer, war bisher aber vor allem in der Szene des US-amerikanischen Südens aktiv.

2011 kam es dann zu einer Annäherung der beiden Künstler, die 2012 auf den beiden Alben Cancer 4 Cure (Fat Possum, 2012) und R.A.P. Music (Williams Street, 2012) zu hören war. Der Durchbruch blieb noch aus, aber El-Ps Produktion auf R.A.P. Music sowie Killer Mikes Features auf Cancer 4 Cure waren ein Zeichen des kommenden Sturms. Nach den ersten Lebenszeichen war es dann wenig überraschend, dass bereits 2013 die „offizielle“ Kollaboration Run the Jewels (Fool‘s Gold, 2013) erschien und erneut die bombastische Energie des Duos zur Schau stellte. RTJ 1 war das Manifest, aber Run the Jewels 2 die Revolution.

RTJ 2 ist die Kulmination zweier Solokarrieren und mit Sicherheit eines der interessantesten Hip Hop-Alben der letzten 20 (!) Jahre. Zwischen dystopischen Beats und schonungslosen Reimen findet sich ein Album, das vor Kreativität und purer Energie geradezu explodiert. El-P läuft zur Höchstform auf und liefert nicht nur einige seiner besten Kompositionen wie „Close your Eyes and Count to Fuck, sondern bildet auch den subtilen, gelassenen Gegenpol zu Killer Mikes zügelloser Leidenschaft. Somit hat die Frage ,,What‘s poppin‘?“ seit spätestens 2014 nur noch eine zulässige Antwort.

– Tim

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Caldo Verde, 2014)

Vulnerability isn’t really something Mark Kozelek has shied away from in his long discography. Ever since his Red House Painters days of the ‘90s, the most landmark moments and biggest hits in the Ohio native’s career have been his most painfully honest, confessional tracks (such as ,,Katy Song, from the first self-titled Red House Painters LP, or ,,Carry me, Ohiofrom Ghosts of the Great Highway (Jetset Records, 2003)). However, in Kozelek’s own words:  „Things get heavier as you get older. At 47, I can’t write from the perspective of a 25-year-old anymore.” – and this reality of change intrinsic to aging and mortality is one of Benji’s central themes. With songs more akin to short stories detailing episodes and observations from his life, Benji is Kozelek’s most straightforwardly open and confessional album up to that point. And despite what we might know about his widely documented “difficult” personality, on this project he is an extremely warm, funny, intelligent, observant and charming narrator.

The album’s narrative kicks off on ,,Carissa with Kozelek going back to Ohio for his second cousin’s funeral. This death in an extremely improbable accident started by an aerosol can catching fire (which almost seems to Kozelek to work as some kind of generational curse, as explained on ,,Truck Driver) and subsequent return to his home state and his family seem to prompt the ruminations on death, family, and the passage of time that make up the heart of this album. Kozelek doesn’t merely vulture off the human tragedy of the people he talks about for easy emotional fodder – the amount of love, care and respect he puts into telling their stories is what really makes Benji so emotionally engaging. His genuine fear of losing his aging parents packs a powerful gut-punch. Even his social commentary (on ,,Pray for Newtown“) doesn’t come off as preachy or holier-than-thou precisely because they come from a place of genuine care and concern for the people affected by the mass shootings he talks about. However, despite the dark themes it delves into, Benji is far from gloomy and depressing – rather, it’s Kozelek’s most life-affirming, warm and candidly human album.

– Kata

Swans – To Be Kind (Young God, 2014)

When it comes to consolidated projects such as Swans, it might be easy for a segment of the hipster crowd to entirely dismiss them as overrated or plain pretentious. However, if there is one thing that is impossible to do with To Be Kind is to dismiss it. It’s a record that reclaims the listener’s attention; that –to be put in Alexis Marshall’s words– can’t be consumed as “dishwasher music” that you put on while doing other more important things.

This is an album particularly conscious of its own pace and therefore allowing the songs “breathe” before allowing them to reach their climax. It is also one that one never truly seems to finish listening due to how much is going on: the manic voices, the repetitive percussions, the droning bass, the accompanying riffs, all combine to create songs with so much character that, although they rely on repetition, still manage to keep their audience engaged throughout the duration of them – which on average surpasses the seven-minute mark.

It is also a study on human nature, like much of the band’s work, that retrieves some of the most basic and fleeting aspects of it (for example, “Screen Shot” and the absolute anthem that “She Loves Us” is) while managing to portray them in all their twisted glory. Michael Gira’s vocals then act as the conjure of a trance master responsible for directing the listener into a meditative state through vocalised vibrations that enrich the experience, because that’s exactly what this is: a two-hour journey of perfectly-timed valleys and crescendos to which one cannot resist, so the only solution is to given in.

On a more practical and mundane note, perhaps one of the most impressive things about To Be Kind is that it restates Swans’ capacity to reinvent themselves, as shown in their ability to produce an Experimental Rock album that is engaging and refreshing, as well as complex without becoming entirely inaccessible.

– Reg

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