We live in a time when quality music sometimes only has a shelf life of a few days, which means that for something like an album (or even an EP) to really stick, it has to be something truly special. As we've often noted, declaring anything to be a definitive "best" is an impossible and highly subjective task, but the releases we've chosen here were generally the ones that we not only enjoyed hearing, but also made time to listen to again and again.
On Session Victim's second full-length effort, the Hamburg duo not only proved capable of proficiently crafting an electronic album, but also exhibited an uncommon knack for making a long-form statement. Said to have been half produced at the pair's home base in Germany and half at a hardware-filled San Francisco studio, See You When You Get There emerged as a well-balanced, and at times, deceivingly nuanced record. The LP is anchored in the traditions of disco-leaning house, yet it doesn't seem entirely tied to any particular stylistic concept. Included amongst the 11-track effort are a handful of effortlessly soulful dancefloor numbers—"Hey Stranger," "Never Forget," and "Stick Together" among them—but even when Session Victim turns its aims away from the DJ booth, the record's crisp and gorgeously detailed productions (whose plethora of samples arrive with just enough dirt to keep things interesting) provide for one of 2014's most confidently enjoyable listening experiences. Glenn Jackson
In many ways, 2014 was a year where L.I.E.S. settled into something of a routine. That's not to say that the music suffered; it's simply that the label has essentially become a known quantity, with talk of its "raw" sounds, unrelenting release schedule, and brutally honest founder (Ron Morelli) all becoming standard-issue talking points. In short, the imprint has been run through the hype cycle, and now that it's emerged on the other side, there's a tendency for some of its records to be overlooked, or written off as "just another L.I.E.S. record." That's unfortunate, because it means that efforts like Mirrors and Couplation, the sophomore LP from rising producer Gunnar Haslam, don't always get the attention they deserve. Following quality 12"s for the likes of Delsin, Argot, and Mister Saturday Night, Mirrors and Couplation finds Haslam serving up expansive synth journeys, passages of distorted noise, respites of pastoral melody, and the occasional slice of driving machine techno. It's a diverse listen, yet Haslam's ominous, reverb-laden aesthetic expertly ties it all together. L.I.E.S. may be known for its singles and EPs, but this is a very fine album. Shawn Reynaldo