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As 2014 comes to a close, our blog contributors have been reminiscing about all the amazing music released this year. So before the ball drops, we're going to wrap up 2014 with a few lists of our favorite albums, tracks, and artists. Check out this first installment of The Best Albums of 2014, curated by our friend Jin Moon:



Liars - Mess (March 2014 - Mute)

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I’ve been following Liars ever since they released They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top in 2001, and the art punk group never disappoints. They manage to keep it edgy and experimental on every release, and this year’s Mess on Mute Records is no exception. Plus, I can’t get the song “Mess On A Mission” out of my head. I just want to put it on blast and dance around maniacally screaming, “Facts are fact and fiction’s fiction, a mess on a mission!”


Big Freedia - Just Be Free (June 2014 - Queen Diva)

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Pop culture has been all about the twerk, and that’s partly thanks to the bombastic force that is the queen diva Big Freedia and his bounce music revolution. Also having watched his reality TV show on Fuse - Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, I got a really good sense of the work ethic, creativity and passion that he puts into his music from the ground up -- all of which really exudes from the in-your-face tracks.  “Explode” was a great mantra for 2014 -- “I’ve been working all day, I’ve been working all night, now play that beat, I’mma be alright… release your wiggle!” Yes, just be free, y’all.

 

Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty (July 2014 - Sub Pop) 

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Hazily blending psychedelic experimental beats with stream of consciousness rapping, Shabazz Palaces transcends and transports me to the chillest, coolest universe that I never want to leave. And though sometimes the surface vibe is nonchalant, the lyrics are full of social commentary that sneak up on you. On their song, “Motion Sickness,” Ishmael Butler raps, “Crime related, activated, trap located, strap to spray it, if you face the case, you faded, player you’d have never made it.”


Karen O - Crush Songs (September 2014 - Cult)

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There’s really nothing I don’t like about Karen O’s voice. And while I love her wild, spastic self on Yeah Yeah Yeahs records, I also continue to fall in love with her softer side. On her solo album, Crush Songs, there’s a vulnerability that is simply mesmerizing, and she delivers it in such a hauntingly romantic way like a Wong Kar-Wai film. In the song, “Rapt,” she sings, “Off went the switch, love is soft, love’s a fucking bitch, do I really need another habit like you.”


Adore Delano - Till Death Do Us Party (June 2014 - Sidecar/Producer Entertainment Group)

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As a huge RuPaul’s Drag Race fan (full disclosure: I book the RPDR Battle of the Seasons tours so I’m a little biased), I can’t help but take a little guilty pop pleasure in some of the show’s campy drag queen songs. But Season 6’s Adore Delano (real name Danny Noriega; also an American Idol semi-finalist) has broken into the mainstream with the album Till Death Do Us Party. Full of catchy gems, it’s the best selling Drag Race alumni album to date!


About the author: Jin Moon has been affectionately writing about music and the arts since 2002 on her blog, Jinners.com. She also currently runs her own agency, On the Moon Arts. Tweet salutations to @jinners

Music from this week that channels your feelings and speakers from 0-100 like the famous words from your boy, Drake.


“Boomerang” (Prod. by 16YROLD x TRIAD$) - Flash Giodani 

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Flash Giodani is a rapper and singer from Baltimore. His Facebook page is currently unavailable but according to his SoundCloud, he’s in a few music projects and Pigeons once described him as “Bone Thugs N Harmony, Yung Lean and an anime fanatic walk into a bar.” This new lovesick track produced by net boys 16YROLD and TRIAD$ is a trap anthem with Giodani’s reminiscent wails like a sensitive Outkast song.


“Who Do You Love” ft. Robyn (Jam City Remix) - Kindness

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On January 8th, Mom and Pop/Female Energy will put out an EP that includes this digital Jam City remix of Kindness’ “Who Do You Love.” Giving the pop track industrial textures, the British producer’s signature washes place listeners into an emergency room as echoes of Robyn’s voice is bringing life back from the underground.


“Feeling Myself” ft. Beyonce - Nicki Minaj

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If you haven’t already started the countdown for The Pinkprint, there are less than five days left. As the newest single titled “Feeling Myself” off Nicki Minaj’s full length debut of the year, she pairs with Beyonce seducing you with self pride and Meek Mill’s luring production that brings complete pleasure to this collab and further anticipation to the album.


“Touchin, Lovin” - 90’s Nick

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Brooklyn by way of Chicago transplant 90’s Nick returns to Soundcloud with a new dance edit to a R&B song from Nicki Minaj and Trey Songz. Supplementing the track with artificial bleeps and bloops while giving Nicki Minaj a qt chipmunk pitch, Nick’s “UHHHHH OH *Trina Voice* edit” proves you can still turn up in a parka below freezing weather.


About the author: Briana Cheng has a lot of feelings that she sometimes writes about but mostly she takes twitter screenshots of online dating apps, follow her @banacrisp.

Whether you're a born and raised local or a lost Bay Area transplant looking to find the best tunes in the city, we've picked out this week's best live shows in our home town of San Francisco for you to check out.


Haerts + Mikky Ekko @ Rickshaw Stop (Tuesday) 

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The probability that you've been hearing Mikky Ekko's "Smile" in recent months is high. Maybe you are still listening to Rihanna's 2013 mega hit "Stay" which features and was co-written by...now were on the same page. The southern songwriter has been releasing music for a few years now and has been building steam this year leading to his debut release in January. The album Time has seem some rumored collaborators from Clams Casino to Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio). We all know Stevie Nicks is immortal but in the event she declares an heir to the throne I would place Brookyln's Haerts as the front runner. Their 80's tinged female fronted indie pop can find contemporaries in Haim or Say Lou Lou. Their full length is out now but, as to not overload, try these tracks first: "Wings" and "Hemiplegia."


A Winged Victory For The Sullen + Hildur Gudnadottir @ The Independent (Tuesday)

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I think your concert going deserves a nice change of pace. Something perfectly suited for the dark yet relaxing Bay Area winter. Hildur Guðnadóttir is a classically trained Icelandic cellist. A Winged Victory For The Sullen are a duo who create grand ambient pieces. Collectively having spent time as touring musicians and film composers, Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran will be supporting their October release Atomos. Their dramatic symphonic sound is simply late night listening at its best.


Happy Diving + Cocktails + bAd bAd + Michael & the Strange Land @ Leo's (Wednesday)

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X-Mas comes early to Oakland's latest venue, which if you haven't explored yet, is enough reason to join the festivities. A holy union of Bay Area music makers and supporters are throwing the party; Father/Daughter Records, BFF.fm, and The Bay Bridged. So if you are a fan of those crews go out and celebrate by self-inflicting some first degree rock neck. Very capable of assisting you will be two Father/Daughter acts who both shared a loud garage fueled 2014 with the welcome of each of their respective records. Come early for two new San Francisco troupes to mix in frantic acoustic guitar (bAd bAd) and dark surf elements (Michael & the Strange Land). If we're lucky maybe Cocktails and bAd bAd will perform their holiday songs featured on the Bay Bridged compilation.


Moving Units @ Rickshaw Stop (Thursday)

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The year was 2004. Facebook launched, George W. Bush returned to the White House, and we were only on our first Saw movie. Most importantly, Moving Units gave us their first record Dangerous Dreams. Hopefully you're listening to the leather clad LA post punks as their fourth release dropped last year. There will be no need to study up as Dangerous Dreams in all its glory will be played in its entirety. Prepare to dance to the two pronged guitar and bass attack of "Going For Adds" and "Between Us & Them." Then jump like a madman to the frenzied drumming of "Brick & Mortar" and "Birds of Prey."


The Tambo Rays + Foxtails Brigade + Ash Reiter @ The Chapel (Friday)



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Remember that note about The Bay Bridged compilation you read two minutes ago? Here's a second reminder since two out of three of these acts are also featured. The Tambo Rays are back! If you've been paying attention to the eruption of WATERS this year you'll have noticed that mastermind Van Pierszalowski recruited the Team Tambo Rays as his touring band. Having just returned having played with Smallpools to Weezer to Tegan & Sara we have been overdue for their odes to pet chickens ("Take That") and Cosmic Surfing soundtracks ("Rest Your Mind in the Sky"). And if social media band stalking is true we should be able to look forward to previewing some new tunes. 


About Mike: Habitual Bay Area show-hopper and new music junkie. Currently Artist Relations at DeliRadio and occasional DJ at KALX. Follow the music based ramblings on Twitter.

Usually a dweller of late nights in clubs and music venues, we hardly see the DJ outside of his native habitat. This is why we here at SOL REPUBLIC seek to see the DJ in a new light, morning light to be exact, in our continuing "Breakfast with DJs" series. 

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This time, we spoke with Intro Beats, a.k.a. Addi Ingvason of Reykjavik, Iceland. Addi asked me to meet him at his favorite record store, Lucky Records, for morning coffee. He then drove us to The Coocoos Nest, a beautiful cafe with a distinct surf vibe to it. Owned by a California expat, it was located near the Reykjavik Marina.


What was on the menu?

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Addi and I both ordered the soup of the day, cream of asparagus and a roast beef sandwich. Everything was made fresh, including the crusty bread.


What piqued your interest in deejaying? How did you get started?

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The first time I got my hands on 2 turntables and a mixer was at my neighborhood
s youth center, I was 13. I had friends that were older and into deejaying and making mix tapes. Soon, I became a part of the Icelandic turntablist scene and entered a lot of competitions. There were a few in Iceland, but I also got the chance to compete in Stockholm and even in the Vestax Extravaganza World Final in London. When turntables lost its lustre to digital, I got more into making beats, eventually joining a hip hop group, Forgotten Lores. In 2012, I started making house music and my love for deejaying came back and today, deejaying is what (mostly) pays my bills.

 

How is the Reykjavik (hometown) audience different than other audiences (in the US, in Europe)?

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I just had this conversation with fellow Icelandic house DJ/Producer, Housekell. In countries where the club scene is big, the audience is more open to hearing the DJ play unfamiliar material. But in Iceland, people expect the DJ to play their favorite radio friendly hit song. A lot of times people treat DJs like a jukebox, which is super annoying. Luckily, this isn’t everywhere and it’s getting better. The scene is growing and there are many good DJ nights to chose from every weekend.

 

What are your essential tools?

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When I started my essentials were 2 Technics SL-1200 and a mixer. Today I sometimes use Serato Scratch, but aim to always control a set with real turntables and digital coded vinyl.

 

Your music has a different 90s vibe. Tell me about some of your influences.

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My influences run the gamut from old skool hardcore to early 90
s electronic music to classic hip hop. Im equally influenced by Goldie, as I am by Roni Size, Madlib and J-Dilla. Since I came into my own making beats with Forgotten Lores, I often prefer artists that also started out making hip hop beats. Lately, Ive been really interested in warm deep chords of un-synced rhythms.

 

What type of music do you currently have on deck?

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These days, I’ve been digging for classic house tunes at my favorite Reykjavik record store, Lucky Records. Recently, my deejay sets have contained more deep house tunes.


Intro Beats keeps busy playing around Reykjavik and releasing mixes. To keep up with his comings and goings, connect with him on Facebook or Soundcloud.


About the author: Based in SF, Mai deeply obsesses about music, fashion, art and social justice. Chances are high she's photographed someone you know for her seven year old street style site, fashioni.st. More info than necessary can be found about her, here: about.me/mai

Every year the city of Miami hosts an intense week of parties that invites people from all over the world for the last art festival of the year. Between all the South Beach pool parties and various installations on the streets in Wynwood, SOL REPUBLIC teamed with a gallery for a show during Art Basel called Paradise Lost. The event was a group exhibition showcasing 12 artists including this “Pussy Had Me Dead” piece from Naturel.

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Paradise Lost was held at CanvasFab, a gallery with framed art inside and live art being made outside on walls and vehicles. One of the featured live artists was Bisco Smith, who also designed a special edition of SOL Republic headphones pictured below. This was his second time at Art Basel and as he’s halfway through painting the front wall of the gallery, he sat down with me to talk about his music and art journey to becoming a full time artist.

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Tell me about the design here?

Bisco: They’re very textured. I try to be in the moment really, that’s my whole thing with the art. I get the canvas ready, I dip in with the brush, I put the beats on and once a thought happens I just start writing and go. In my background, I’ve made a lot of records and recorded a lot of music in my life. When I’m writing music, I just write, I don’t think. My whole process is don’t think and work. Let the minute happen, reflect on it and build it for music. For this art, it’s like there’s no editing. I try not to think if that makes sense.


Are these all words?

Bisco: Yes, they’re really all lyrics. If I was to turn them into a song, I’d transcribe them and chop it up into syllables to make them fit in rhythm perfectly. They’re the beginning of what could be songs.


Can you tell me what this says?

Bisco: I could but I don’t like to. A lot of people ask me. I can tell you the energy behind them is always...if I’m doing a wall, it’s different because it’s in a public sphere. If I’m giving a piece or selling a piece to someone, I want them to take home a certain energy. So when that’s hanging on their wall, it’s translating an energy more than anything. Words have power, words are the first vibration, I could go deep with the concept of it but there’s normally a positive, motivational undertone. The more you live with it, the more you can discover from it.

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What do you mostly write about?

Bisco: Motion, direction, and movement are often themes in my art. I believe in manifesting things in life. I write a lot about the future I’m trying to obtain. To live creatively, live as open as possible and pass on a good energy to the world. I think in order to make things move and affect things without throwing stones and lighting fires, I feel like as an artist it’s our job to transmit an energy. If I can do that, make a living, raise a family, eat food, continue to grow and be open, that’s it for me.


What came first, the music or the art and what is first still?

B: I look at my whole life as an upside down tornado, the cycles continue until they reach a pinnacle level. The brief history is I got into graffiti really young. I got arrested for graffiti-ing when I was really young. I started DJing as a different outlet. DJing brought me into music but then I moved to New York, and that got me back to graffiti. The more I painted graffiti, the more we were rapping and freestyling, which got me into music again. Now it’s just a cycle that keeps getting tighter and tighter together and I have these lyrical structures coming out into the art. I haven’t brought it back to music yet but I have a vision to. Right now, art is the forefront for me.

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In the beginning, what were you writing?

Bisco: My name “Bisc”. I really wrote hard with that. I got into graffiti when it was 1993/1994. I’m getting old with this because I’m at 20 years right now. I had to stop for a long time because I felt like I wasn’t saying enough. You know, how many times do I write my name and make it look dope but not really have a message? These are not direct messages but there’s more energy behind them. What I love about graffiti and freestyle art is when I’m painting, I don’t sketch ahead of time. I don’t go to the wall with a plan ahead of time. I just go. Maybe I’ll pick out a color scheme beforehand but at the end of the day, I segue into “wow that was really amazing or wow that's not cool." It’s really about the experience to me. As I progressed in this, the question became “how do I capture the rawness and the realness of the experience instead of an overly thought out process." I think we all have tendencies to over think things. My whole thing is to capture my feelings, my energy and trust it.


How has music inspired you?

Bisco: When I moved to LA, I started listening to a lot of beats. The older I got and the more I made music, the less I wanted to hear people talk. LA is a very beat driven place, it’s more spacial and there’s a beat culture here. I was absorbing that and it became the fuel for my art. The more beats that are in my head, the more my own brain is making thoughts and processing things. At this point, when I’m painting walls I’m just in beat land. If I have lyrics, I just skip the song because I can’t hear it. It influences me too much.

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What is “Refined Grime?"

Bisco: In all honesty, I should probably update my bio. The idea is,  I’ve been making a living predominantly through hip hop for the last decade doing record covers. Hip hop has fed me beautifully, the positive and cultural side of hip hop. I believe people come to me because I have this element where I can portray or give the aesthetic of rawness and the street side of things from 20 years of being on the streets writing graffiti and refining it, making it feel professional.


How long did it take for you to get here, making art 24/7?

Bisco: Two years ago, I said to myself "I want to do my own work." I’ve always been making record art and music so I had day jobs because making music money is hard. But two years ago, I was like “man I’ve always had a lot of energy and I love this but art has always been so good to me, so why can’t I focus on that and see where it’ll take me?” And the past year has been mind-blowing. It’s a struggle but it’s a beautiful ride. This whole thing could also stop tomorrow. I’m just a believer of doing the thing you want to do.


Do you have any tips for upcoming artists?

Bisco: Yeah, don’t be scared. I try to function with no fear. I believe there is love and there’s fear. You must practice living without fear. Like I said, I write a lot and I write a lot of shit to just get it out of my head, to swallow that fear. This world is so complex and it has so much to offer all of us. As cliche as it sounds, chase your dreams!


About the author: Briana Cheng has a lot of feelings that she sometimes writes about but mostly she takes twitter screenshots of online dating apps, follow her @banacrisp.

The High Five is a series where we talk music with the musicians and tastemakers that we dig and ask them to share what they dig with you. This week, Savior of Sound duo AfroWhitey are hitting us with some musical knowledge and serving up their current top five favorite tracks. Check it out:


1. 'Tell Me' - RL Grime x What So Not 

Flat out this song goes hard, and at the moment this is one of our favorite recent tunes to get hype to.


2. 'Feels Good' - Smookie Illson 

We mainly play our own music at our shows but we drop our homies Smookie Illson just about every set, always a huge reaction every time.


3. 'Wait Up' - Styalz Fuego & Stuck Note 

This song is super dope, it has a chill trap vibe with a splash of 80s mixed with dance. Always love finding chill music, it puts you in a good mood. This is one of our favorite styles to write lyrics to.


4. '0 to 100' - Drake (Grandtheft Bootleg)

One of the hardest tracks out there, it's got that smooth flow but heavy drums & synths that puts your game face on.


5. 'Sail' - Machine Gun Kelly 

This one is on repeat, has the perfect blend of hip hop & electronic we like to jam to.


Make sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter for future updates and new releases!


About the artist: Florida-based duo AfroWhitey, consisting of MC/vocalist DeeRobes and DJ/producer Dustin Hulton, are bringing about the freshest blend of bass blistering beats and smooth & sassy vocal anticsWith their first single “Ridin” hitting the Top 10 Beatport Dubstep charts, people are taking notice and craving more, including support from Martin Solveig, Skream, Tim Healey, and Borgore to name a few. With soulful smooth and sassy hip hop hooks and speaker slicing beats, they represent a new sound crossing all musical boundaries.