A WEastFellow’s Musical Journey Through The Past Year.
Did not want to miss a hattrick! Continuing my feature from the past two years, here is a roundup of all the music that stood out in the year 2014. May not be the Gregorian New Year of Jan 1 but hey, today (March 21 2015) is Ugadi (Telugu New Year), so that’s good enough of a day to post for me! Haha.
2014 was very different from the other two years. There were fewer Ubiktune releases, fewer Game Music Bundles and seemed like most of the artists I usually follow were now busy in bigger, longer projects. So I found myself exploring more and more of Bandcamp and Soundcloud. As always, all these may not be music released in 2014, but these are the ones that this WEastFellow experienced in that year.
Most Influential – Calum Boen
By Most Influential, I mean the artist that influenced my music choices the most this year. If the universe were me, then pop music of the year 2014 was defined by this person’s taste. Came across him few years ago, via surasshu and others who would tweet about his music. Soon started following his two feeds, it’s like two personalities, one is the experimental pop music artist and the other is the videogame composer. He shares a lot of tracks on his @boenyeah feed. Many of them Japanese, most of them things that blend in with my tastes. After listening to his tracks multiple times, and then few other current artists, noticed that there seems to be a common style (not labeled yet) that is emerging. The style where the remixes or tracks contain very familiar sounds like winding toys, this “hey” cheer, spring squeaks, kids cheering/mumbling and what not, all of them usually bringing forward a cheerful and playful feel. I would definitely recommend checking out and following his two twitter feeds, and his discography. The latest album he did was for the Lovely Planet game (which BTW, was developed by a studio in India). So you could say Calum Boen could very well be a WEastFellow too, haha. Out of all the artists that I found out because of Calum Boen, I think tofubeats stood out the most. Especially this one track from them.
Trend (Fad?) of the Year – vaporwave
Much like many others, I totally got into, then grew out of vaporwave in the span of a year. Now vaporwave is not vaporware, unlike The Phantom or The Last Guardian, it is something that is out there, not something that no one knows if it exists. Just listening to more than one vaporwave track will immediately explain anyone what it is all about. It is old TV commercials, it is low-fi synthy tracks, it is abstract album arts and it is videos that look like they’re recorded off VHS. All remixed to give this dreamscape like feel. Most of the ones I found were Japan influenced, and all of them were pretty fun to listen to. Many times the vocals are super slowed down in an attempt to create a surreal feel. You can read many pages out there on the origins and meanings of vaporwave, but much like anything else, it is what you see it to be for you. It was good while it lasted, I think I might have overdosed on it a bit, nostalgia is gives such a good high so easily that it is basically like cheating. The album I liked the most of all was this video over here, and I would say the favorite track was the first vaporware track I listened to.
Awesomest Album Art – El Huervo
I was listening to my old collection from the first nubuwo (now, The Ongaku) bundle and one day I noticed the tracks from El Huervo in the Instrumental Pack. I started liking them a lot and then went to their bandcamp profile, and was surprised to see their art style! El Huervo, Niklas Åkerblad, from Sweden has a knack for both music and art. Their style and colors are really good, the album title and album art go hand in hand too.
Most Completely Cool Album – Samurai Champloo OST
In 2014 I finally started watching a lot of stuff from my long Anime backlog. One of those shows I got to was Samurai Champloo. The title suits the show in every way. The story with a mix of cultures, Samurais and Hip-Hop, supported extremely well with an equally good soundtrack. This blend, champuru if you will, of West+East really went well with this WEastFellow. The story elements and everything were very memorable, and then came the soundtrack. Even after I finished watching the show, I kept listening to it for the longest time. Giving me a nice rhythm to whatever I was working on or doing at that point of time, also setting the mood right with flashbacks to the moments of the show when a certain track played. The range of emotions in the album varies from really mellow to very upbeat, with a little bit of playfulness in between. Tsutchie, fat jon and Nujabes and others did a really good collab with this soundtrack. Worth Checking out, totally.
Mixiest Mixtape – Drive Slow, Homie
After listening to a lot of Samurai Champloo OST, I went on to look for more stuff by the artists, I found many tacks by nujabes (and about his early demise ) and then thanks to YouTube’s algorithms also found out about Ta-Ku. Ta-Ku did a set of 25 songs, one song every night in memory of nujabes, a very honorable way of paying respects. Soon I started listening to more of Ta-Ku and the tracks that stuck to me the most were his “Drive Slow, Homie” mixtapes. I cannot count how many times I have listened to Part II and III of these mixtapes. I’m very close to having the whole order of tracks imprinted in my mind like the mixtapes I used to listen to back in the days. The mixtape contains few remixes which are of the similar Squeaky-Spring Hey style as boenyeah and others. It’s like next to vaporwave, that style was the most common one that I came across as I browsed through the internet, scraping for bits for my ears last year.
Blast From the Past – Amiga Days
Last year, elmobo, The Artist Formerly Known as Moby, released an album with remastered tracks (and original .mod files!) from his Amiga days. Amiga Style music, created “back in the day” with a style current to then. Which in thought does feel different when you consider that many people look at current chiptunes as a “throwback”. Slowly people are moving away from the notion that chiptunes are “8bit music” or basically meant to be something for people who remember playing Mario. People make sounds using chips that are older than them now, some make excellent tunes with no baseline references to older stuff. It’s a really interesting thought to ponder upon, so referring to albums like these is a really good way to compare, contrast and come to your own conclusions of the evolution of chiptunes. There are many artists on bandcamp now, who are uploading their back-catalog of old game OSTs and creating fresh new music. It’s nice to see original artists are also finally finding new motivation thanks to the rise in popularity and commercial viability of the kind of music they know and love to make.
In addition to elmobo’s album, recently there was a nice article at NestHQ showcasing some of the old Keygen tracks. If you were in the Eastern Hemisphere in the 90s-00s and were using computers, you most probably have a good idea what I am talking about. NestHQ got help from my favorite internet label person C-Jeff (Dmitry Zhemkov) of Ubiktune in tracking down some of the tracks and covering some first hand history of keygen and demoscene hay-days. Check out the complete article & setlist at NestHQ!
THE Song – Man On The Earth
I found this one from Calum Boen’s twitter feed. Difficult to explain why or how it stuck with me so much, it’s all like all variables had the right coefficients with this one. I heard this track right before I was leaving for my Japan trip #ReePan (a 2week backpacking trip, something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was kid), and it pumped me up for the upcoming trip. I was planning on visiting countryside hilly areas and roaming around in the morning mist and the setting of the track looked exactly like what I had in mind. I then went on to actually go to places like the one in the track and had the track playing in my head as I roamed. Now after the trip, whenever I listen to the track, it is instant teleportation. The track by itself is pretty playful and innocent. So innocent that it is a bit cheesy if you look at it with a different mindset, but hey, I’m not looking at it like that Hmm, watching the video right now… it sure fills me up with cheer, the feeling that I was actually able to do that thing that I always wanted to do and I actually did it and it was not a dream.
Artists I’ve talked about in the previous years kept being productive this year too. coda continued his RSS feed with the same dedication as always, Aivi & Surasshu are working on Steven Universe full time (and got engaged!!). Yoann Turpin had some really good albums and WMD kept making more moody and nice stuff. Overall 2014 had been a very varied year, with lots of fishing around for different types of tracks. Looking forward to another music filled year! You can keep tracking what I share at my This Is My Jam, Last.fm and bandcamp profiles. Maybe, from the next year, I can just make a mixtape as an end of year roundup. Sounds like it could be fun! There are so many more tracks I’d have loved to mention.