Off the Record: Resolutions, reflections and music retribution

By: Sam Fatula | A&E Editor

In many ways, the state of 2014’s music scene can be observed as a build-up to something better; the mixtape before the full length release if you will. The only thing fans received from Kanye was another series of brash rants and a Kardashian wedding. Kendrick Lamar debuted a solid single, but an album never surfaced in December. As much as people wanted more from specific artists, this year guarantees that the wait will be worth it.

The music scene in 2015 draws similar parallels to identifying what is to be expected from last year, and raises questions of what albums were favorable, what were disappointing and what was simply missed from last year’s charts. Overall, last year was another successful year for audiophiles and casual fans alike. And whether you had your nights invested in the platinum phenom 1989 or 2014, your playlist was sure to have a handful of choice tracks from various genres.

2014: The Re-evolution of Hip-Hop
Throughout my listening experience this past year, I seemed to readily jump back and forth between two clear opposite genres; aggressive hip-hop and casual rock. One moment I was focused on the lyrical prowess of wordsmiths like Killer Mike in conjunction with outlandish samples used by collaborator El-p on Run the Jewels 2. This was oddly followed by transitioning to a psychedelic trance by the ambient guitar effects used by The War on Drugs’ latest album Lost in the Dream. Despite the large number of differences in style between both releases, they both provide strong cases for album of the year in their respective genres.

Run the Jewels 2 established itself as providing hip-hop with a different avenue for further creativity. While Killer Mike and El-p are capable of producing lyricism that rivals the likes of any other MC, the production is fairly alien to the genre that was beginning to return to its roots of a simple snare and kick drum. Innovators like this that also maintain a style that listeners can identify with will continue to influence not only their fellow artists, but the aspiring music scene in general.

While The War on Drugs does not abide by this philosophy, it certainly doesn’t diminish just how good Lost in the Dream is. In a genre where albums typically provide one or two singles per album, this release was extremely consistent with tracks flowing nicely into the next for a great return to Americana rock music.

There is no doubt that these two albums made themselves solid candidates for my personal favorites of the year, with some additional honorable mentions of course. From the pop scene, Ariel Pink’s Pom Pom and Perfume Genius’ Too Bright embodied the perfect amount of catchy tracks and highly emotional ballads to give a fully satisfied experience for listeners. Both releases deserve to be in most top ten lists.

What to Expect for 2015
What was an enjoyable year for hip-hop in 2014 should only get better this year. There are already guarantees of heavy hitters Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West to release full length albums before June. With Lamar already receiving positive reviews from his single “i” and West recently releasing a track with Paul McCartney, both artists have an early hand in album of the year discussions. Younger emcees are also prepared to have material out this year, including Brooklyn’s next big voice Joey Bada$$ and Chicago’s Chance the Rapper, who have both gained a large reputation for their respective mixtapes.

If there is any hope for a follow-up release from 2012’s Channel Orange, this is the year for Frank Ocean. The R&B artist affiliated with Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future has been silent ever since finishing up worldwide tours for his highly successful debut, and many fans are craving another album. Ocean has not indicated any news of an upcoming release, but it would not surprise me if a full-length dropped unexpectedly that further documents the interesting life of the crooner.

I haven’t mentioned much metal/hardcore, but hopefully Deafheaven are able to release a follow-up from the incredible 2013 release, Sunbather. Although they are defined by many as being black metal, the band’s use of melodic instrumentals differentiate them from stereotypical fast guitar riff counterparts. Their style has made the genre much easier to get into for people that are hesitant to give metal a chance.