Didn’t catch much music in 2014? Here’s what you might have missed

AT EIGHT in the morning on New Year’s Day, Kanye West released his first single since 2013. Following the least marketable album of his career, “Only One” features Paul McCartney, one of the most marketable musicians in history, on backing vocals; with that the year in music began.

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In the first two weeks of 2015, we’ve seen announcements of new albums from Bjork, James Blake, Sufjan Stevens, and possibly Frank Ocean (we can all dream), as well as new releases from Panda Bear, Sleater-Kinney and D’Angelo. But before the rising tide of new music swallows 2014 up, below you can find a list, in no particular order, of its highlights:

Tune-Yards – “Water Fountain”
Merrill Garbus’ first album as Tune-Yards, or tUnE-yArDs, in parts, sounds like it was recorded on a Nokia brick cellphone. Though those days of wonderfully sloppy harmonising and single ukuleles are gone, the energy remains in “Water Fountain,” a world music track with an unpredictable personality of its own.

Elbow – “Charge”
It’s been six years since Elbow released “One Day Like This” and secured enough royalty money from inspiring sports montages for the rest of their lives. Their latest album has the same bombast as the last two and presents both an older band and an older Guy Garvey, the modern world depressing and thrilling him equally. ‘Glory be, these f***ers are ignoring me / I’m from another century…’

FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
“’I’ve never heard anything like this before, it’s not in a genre.’ And then my picture came out six months later, now she’s an R&B singer.” Taliah Barnett said after the launch of her debut album LP1 in the Spring. Make no mistake; attempting to pin down FKA twigs to a singular definition is doing her music a massive disservice. Until the rest of the world catches up, we have “Two Weeks,” a new alt-pop(?) leader of the pack.

St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
A frontrunner for the best track on Annie Clark’s self-titled. An album that assesses her own status as a cultural icon in the music world (helped along the way by David Byrne on their album Love This Giant) and our place in modernised society – “Digital Witness, what’s the point of even sleeping?” – “Prince Johnny” is a haunting, evocative masterpiece of a song, condensing the atmosphere and instrumentation of St. Vincent’s previous four releases into four minutes.

For Everest – “Wax Houses”
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t fully understand the current emo revival taking place across the Atlantic. We never had it over here; at least not the first wave in the ‘90s, a musically quieter and introspective period than the heyday of FOB and MCR, five or so years later. We were busy. With Parklife. But For Everest, the New York indie standouts whose first official release was called “Last of the Dogstronauts” give you some idea of what you missed the first time around, offering some of the catchiest songs in the genre. The perfect soundtrack for refreshing the page on American Football reunion tickets. (Bandcamp)

Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”
Steven Ellison wears many hats. In 2012 he revealed his rapping alter ego Captain Murphy, working with Snoop Dogg and Earl Sweatshirt on an expansive mixtape, has scored programmes for Adult Swim, is writing a film and releasing a debut Captain Murphy record in 2015, runs his own record label, and came out with his fourth proper album as Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!, equally macabre and uplifting as its title suggests, in October. The busyness of his professional life mirrors the busyness of “Never Catch Me” the skittering drums, sampling, and life jazz instruments fighting for space with Kendrick Lamar’s increasingly reliable flow.

Drake – “How Bout Now”
Drake is the saddest boy in all of Canada. “How Bout Now” adds another to the stack of singles about his past failed relationships, and shares their impeccable production, this time by Boi-1da and Jordan James. The track is part of an album that isn’t even due out until the spring, but was released early after this track and two others were leaked. With this song, Views From the 6 is shaping up to eclipse Nothing Was The Same and, like that album, compete with hip-hop’s other, more elusive grandmaster.

Run The Jewels – “Close Your Eyes And Count To F*** (feat. Zack de la Rocha)”
Killer Mike and El-P have always been ready to take over. It’s only been a matter of time. Many great albums came out last year but RTJ2 is the overall victor, rap’s best collaborators in this day and age standing on a mound of their competitors and the authority figures they rip into mercilessly over the album’s blistering 39 minutes. Built around a sample from, of all people, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, “Close Your Eyes” outlines the RTJ manifesto in the most unapologetically in-your-face way possible.

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For a (mostly) complete playlist of these tracks, plus a few more that weren’t included to keep this piece reasonably below 1000 words, visit http://spoti.fi/1J30kSm