Best Music of 2014 Staff Picks – Dakota Arsenault

Name: Dakota Arsenault

City: Toronto, The 6, T. Dot etc.

Title: Senior Concert Writer and Photographer, Film and Theatre Reviewer, Occasional Sport’s Writer. Sometimes I guest on the Capsule Podcast when I have relevant things to ramble on about.

How long have you been with Live in Limbo? My one-year anniversary was on November 16th!

Three favourite albums of 2014 (best to worst):

  • You’re Dead!, Flying Lotus- This year was a real coming out party for the jazzy hip-hop producer. He came out with the year’s most original album and having standout killer tracks with Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. FlyLo pushes what people are comfortable calling both jazz and hip-hop music to places no one knew existed. Not many artists would be capable of making a concept record about dying and making the listener feel euphoric, but he does.
  • St. Vincent, St. Vincent- St. V’s Annie Clark went from oddball to full crazy lunatic for her latest album and boy was it worth it. Experimenting with avant garde styling’s and harsh guitar riffs, Clark hit the sweet spot for everything. The record is even kinda funky and danceable. While she is the current indie queen she will be a chart topper by the time her next album comes out, I guarantee it.
  • Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts- While these Brooklyn noise punks may not have made the most overplayed album on my iPod, they have crafted a fantastic record. They continued their low-fi jangly punk rock and indifference lyrics like their first album, but upped the production to where even the feedback sounds refined. Their music is great headphone music to walk around in your own world with. They also released a second album this year under the name Parkay Quarts which is just 45 mins of them messing around with their friends and it’s still fantastic.

Three favourite songs of 2014:

  • “Never Catch Me”- Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar: I am the first to admit that I think Kendrick can do no wrong, but partnering his unique voice up with one of the most off the wall producers was a recipe for unmitigated success. Kendrick raps faster than I have ever heard and spouts philosophy about life and death. Can I get a whole album of the two of them now?
  • “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck”- Run the Jewels featuring Zach de la Rocha: Who thought 14 years after the last Rage album that Zach would still be on top of the game? I didn’t, but with a killer sample of de la Rocha repeating “Run the Jewels fast” followed up his patented angry rasp made me feel like a teenager again discovering Battle of Los Angeles all over again.
  • “Mr. Tembo”- Damon Albarn: The Gorillaz and Blur frontman finally released a proper solo album. With the breezy Caribbean beat and gospel choir it is impossible not to smile and bob your head around. With an adorable little coda in the middle of the song featuring bird sounds and a British explorer. Never has a ditty about an elephant been fantastic.

Which artist or band won 2014?

Flying Lotus. Did you expect anything else? I named You’re Dead! as album of the year, Never Catch Me as song of the year and his stop in Toronto as the concert of the year, so who else could I have picked? FlyLo broke out huge this year. While he isn’t quite mainstream yet, he’s probably the favourite artist of your hip-hop head friend. Anytime his name is attached to any kind of project brings a sense of excitement because at this moment he’s king of the world. Look for him to be a festival headliner in the next year or so!

Your favourite new/breakout artist of the year:

Mac Demarco is certainly not a new comer but with the release of Salad Days he finally (somewhat) broke into the mainstream. Demarco had been a super weird indie guy for the past few years and had even been long-listed for the Polaris Prize for his album 2. His easy breezy acoustic jazzy rock music is hard to describe to people but he is the perfect lazy summers day soundtrack. Will he ever be super popular? Probably not, but it makes knowing about him all the better.

How many shows did you go to this year? Probably around 80 shows. I go to about 4 shows a month and then I did several festivals, the biggest being Bonnaroo, where I saw over 20 acts in four days! 

Three best concerts of 2014:

  • Flying Lotus and Thundercat, Danforth Music Hall on October 21st. From the opening set of Thundercat bringing a super funky jazz section where each band member was insanely talented to his amazing fur Sgt. Pepper’s jacket you couldn’t have asked for more in an opening act. Fly Lo brought his futuristic 3D cube to project visuals on, killed us all and proceeded to take us on an acid trip through space and time. For the last few songs Thundercat joined him on stage wearing a bear pelt and they dueled for our souls.
  • FOALS/Cage the Elephant/J Roddy Walston and the Business, Kool Haus on May 13th. I knew what to expect by being a fan of J Roddy Walston but the crowd did not. Within the first 30 seconds of the first song everyone was head banging and going nuts. I had never seen a crowd get so into an opening band so fast. What followed was a mind blowing set from Cage which finished with lead singer Matt Shultz singing Shake Me Down standing on crowd member’s hands while shirtless. FOALS headlined to a slightly smaller crowd, but the people who stayed saw mind-blowing set of sexy guitar riffs.
  • Omar Souleyman, That Tent at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, June 12th. It is hard to pick my favourite set from my second trip to Roo, but this has to be at or near the top. Not only was Souleyman’s set one of the most fun of the 20+ acts I saw, it was wholly unexpected. I had listened to some of his tunes beforehand and my interested in his Syrian dance music piqued my interest. The crowd all danced and cheered along even if his stage presence was severally lacking. It was a wonderful cap to a great first day. Go ahead and expand your horizons the next time he is in town.

Favourite festival of 2014:

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. I went two years ago with some friends but I got the chance to go back with my girlfriend and it was nothing short of magical. I got to see Elton John, Kanye West, Jack White, Cut Copy, Vampire Weekend, Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Disclosure, Sam Smith, Chromeo, Capital Cities, Jake Bugg, MS MR, Omar Souleyman and many more! You spend four days camping and living the festival and since they don’t have noise bylaws, the party goes all night long. I can’t recommend it enough. If I had to pick a local fest, I would go with NXNE as it’s a week of insanity and club hopping.

Favourite venue this year:

Adelaide Hall only recently got reimagined in its current form a little over a year ago, but it has to be one of the best up and coming spots. While I have only seen 3 shows there with the biggest name being BADBADNOTGOOD, they bring you unparalleled intimacy. The main floor is space is small but can pack a good crowd. If you don’t like to be within inches of the stage there is a balcony that does a 360 around the stage only one floor up so you’re still close to the action. My runner up venue would probably be The Garrison as they book great up and coming acts and have a great small atmosphere.

What was the biggest music news story you remember from 2014? Meow The Jewels. Last year El-P and Killer Mike dropped one of the best hip-hop albums ever for free and spent the first half of this year touring it like crazy. They found time to record a follow up and decided to once again release it for free and proved they weren’t a one-album wonder. It all started out as a joke. El-P said he would remix the new album with cat noises if people were interested. A fan decided to test them and created a Kickstarter fund to make it a reality. The funny thing about the Internet is they fucking love cats. Even though it hasn’t been released yet it is a huge news story.

Is there anything else you want to say about music this year? This year I started my journey of being a photojournalist. For the past two years I have been writing about live concerts, album, film and theatre reviews and the odd sports article but I got myself a Canon Rebel t3i. Starting on May 6th I shot my very first concert, Justin Nozuka. I guess it was meant to be that the first show I shot also happened to be for a friend of mine, as Justin and I went to high school together. Don’t bother going to look up the pictures as I think they are quite terrible and have gotten a lot better since then, but it was still an important moment in music of this year for me.

What artist should/will we all be paying attention to for 2015? There has been a recent mini collective scene of bands that hail from Toronto and Montreal that include Grimes, Majical Cloudz, Austra, Doldrums, DIANA, Army Girls, Braids and Blue Hawaii among other bands. But the one you should be paying attention to is Moon King. After the breakup of local pysch pop rock band Spiral Beach Daniel Woodhead and Maddie Wilde created another pysch pop rock band with even grander ambitions. Their last albums were Obsession I and II and they have a new one coming out in the spring. While their recorded work in the past has been fine, they truly shine in a live setting where they are explosive and one of the most talented acts I have ever seen. They are currently opening for Alvvays but should be local indie darlings this time next year.

About author

Music Editor at Live in Limbo and Host of Contra Zoom podcast. Dakota is a graduate of Humber College's Acting for Film and Television. He now specializes in knowing all random trivia. He writes about music, sports and film. Dakota's life goal is visit all baseball stadiums, he's at 7.