“BETTER late than never” is one of the many proverbs this article could begin with, but whatever the excuse, this Top 5 has come at a perfect time to reflect on some more outstanding musical releases from 2014. So please pardon the tardiness, get your headphones on and enjoy the talent described below! Thank you to guest writer Ottie Gotley for the George Ezra and Fat Freddy’s Drop submissions.
1. Jamie T – ‘Mary Lee’
I had originally allocated one of the highly-coveted places to a different song from Jamie T’s incredible album Carry On The Grudge, but in the interests of content diversity (and more than a little fear over the response of a belligerent Senior Editor who had already posted it), I took the easy decision of instead choosing another world class release from the album.
‘Mary Lee’ is a slow and powerful ballad from everyone’s favourite Wimbledon poet. Like every other song on this immense comeback album, powerful lyrics drive the easy listening beat to produce deep, reflective and sometimes sombre pieces of artistry. Perfect listening for every mood, and almost every occasion. Finally, to completely contradict what I wrote no more than two sentences previously, it was actually exceptionally difficult to choose between any of the songs on the album, such is the quality of Jamie T’s work despite after his five year hiatus.
2. Too Many T’s – ‘Butter Rug’
Witty, British, devoted to capturing the soul of the golden era of hip-hop? Too Many T’s tick too many boxes and they do it in a truly talented fashion. The long-expected release of the Running Wild EP earlier in 2014 brought with it the intelligent writing, big hip-hop beats and true ‘golden age’-esque flow that fans of the two boys from London have become accustomed to. The stand-out single for me was ‘Butter Rug’.
The sounds are loud, positive and upbeat and it’s become a bit of a feel-good anthem since its release last October. It’s a fantastic collaborative piece, featuring other UK hip-hop artists Abdominal MC, Jester Jacobs, Kathika Rabbit, Lazy Habits and Parallax. Finally, the song very cleverly describes everything about the golden-era vibes that they strive for whilst simultaneously exemplifying the formula – crucially the rapid fire flows and positive vibes core to Too Many T’s mission. Spectacular song from a very dynamic duo.
3. Krafty Kuts – ‘Golden Era of Hip-Hop: Volume 2’
Krafty Kuts, the undisputed king of breaks, multi-award winning DJ and producer of a diverse range of genres including bass, breakbeat, funk, hip-hop and electro hails from Brighton and has had a phenomenal year in 2014. Big releases and international tours have garnered further recognition for his talent and dexterity this year. As well as playing gigs all over the place, from Dubai to Australia to his hometown on the south coast, I was lucky enough to see a brilliant trademark electronic performance in Bristol alongside frequent collaborator A-Skillz.
Whilst not your typical track release, it would be unthinkable for me to not put down what could well be my most played piece of music over the last 12 months. ‘Volume 2: A Golden Era Of Hip Hop’ is the second in a series of podcasts examining the artist’s hip-hop influences from that time period. Just under an hour’s worth of audio gold, this sensational mix boasts a plethora of samples from songs of the time, superbly wrought over beats that challenge the originals and mix them together in a way that leaves Krafty Kuts unquestionably deserving of his title as the undisputed king of breaks. To name but a few of the big names behind the magic: Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Jurassic 5, Run DMC, Wu Tang Clan (as a group and individual hits), Jay-Z, Mos Def, Biggie, Fat Joe, Nas, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Doggy Dogg and so many more.
After the immense Volume 1, fans could not have hoped in a million years for a sequel capable of equalling or even exceeding the bar set by its predecessor but they might have just found one. Generously offered as a free download from SoundCloud or iTunes, this is a must-have for any music fan.
4. Fat Freddy’s Drop – ‘Slings and Arrows’
Indisputably one of my favourite bands of all time, Fat Freddy’s Drop have done it again with the release of single ‘Slings and Arrows’ earlier in 2014. The musical masterminds from New Zealand had a lot to live up to after their breathtaking album Blackbird, released midway through 2013, somehow did justice to their first studio album, Based On A True Story. The band label themselves “hi-tech soul”, but in my opinion, they are a perfect combination of reggae, jazz, soul and dub. Although ‘Slings and Arrows’ begins with a riff that is not particularly typical of their older music, judging by the likes of other favourites including ‘Wandering Eye’, ‘Roady’, ‘Bones’ and ‘Blackbird’ (if you have not listened to any of these, I strongly urge you to do so), it soon gets going into their trademark infectious rhythm, experimental use of reggae studio techniques and unparalleled lyrics. The song begins with the lines: “There’s a war in you, there’s a war in me. Caught up in the throes of love, Gonna be some casualties.” Pure lyrical brilliance. Undeniably one of the top tracks of 2014.
5. George Ezra – ‘Listen to the Man’
This talented artist, who started out in Bristol, has smashed his way into the charts this year, and quite rightly too. His release of ‘Budapest’ sent him straight into the UK Top 10 with its upbeat rhythm, soulful, folk-like sentiments, and a voice that is far beyond his years. However the song that truly stood out in his acclaimed debut studio album Wanted on Voyage, and not just for its catchy feel-good vibes and stunning lyrics, was ‘Listen to the Man’. The music video sees Sir Ian McKellen dancing and lip-syncing together with Ezra (if having the likes of Gandalf and Magneto singing alongside you isn’t parallel to having ‘made it’, I’m not sure what else is). Its simplicity is undeniably entertaining, and quite frankly, the perfect complement to the song itself.