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XLR8R's Best of 2014: Labels

After devoting most our our attention to artists, releases, and tracks over the past few weeks, today's edition of our ongoing Best of 2014 series is all about record labels. Interestingly enough, it wasn't that long ago that many people were predicting that the internet's ability to connect artists directly with their fans would eliminate (or at least lessen) the need to enlist labels in the process. However, with each passing year, it almost seems like the opposite has been true; while the internet has certainly made lots of music more accessible than ever before, the web's unending tide has also worked to make that music feel increasingly disposable. With so many options out there, strong curatorial outposts are essential for those looking to cut through the noise, and that's where the labels come in. A good record label can serve as an aesthetic beacon, and when it's done well, running an imprint is something of an art in itself, and worth appreciating. In that spirit, we recently began to assemble a list of our 10 favorite labels of the year; however, limiting ourself to such a small number ultimately proved impossible, so we've also included five additional labels in a special "honorable mention" category. Read more » 

XLR8R's Best of 2014: New Artists

Believe it or not, our Best of 2014 series still has a few chapters left, and today's installment looks back at the year's best new artists. Granted, XLR8R is a publication that's largely dedicated to uncovering up-and-coming acts on a daily basis; our Downloads section is almost entirely populated by track giveaways from emerging producers, and our recurring Bubblin' Up series regularly shines a spotlight on rising artists throughout the year. That being said, it's also fair to say that not every new face that appears on our site is going to make a lasting impact. Some beatmakers offer us a quality MP3 and are never heard from again, while other producers create a lot of buzz with a hot debut 12" or EP, only to disappear into the ether. On the other hand, some acts do manage to stick around and gradually carve their own little niche in the electronic spectrum, and those are the figures we're focusing on today. We've selected 10 artists that continually popped up on our radar in 2014, and while there's no question we enjoyed what they did this year, their appearance on the list is also based on our prediction that we'll be hearing a lot more from them in the years to come. Read more » 

XLR8R's Best of 2014: Releases (15 - 1)

Yesterday, we continued our mammoth Best of 2014 series by kicking off our annual rundown of our favorite releases from the year gone by. Putting this list together was no easy task, especially when one considers that today's frenetic music marketplace often makes it hard to find the time to even listen to a full release, let alone properly appreciate one. 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. (For the sake of clarity, we should again note that we're considering a "release" to be anything with more than one original song on it.) In the end, we settled on 30 selections, the first half of which were unveiled yesterday. Read on to see which records grabbed a place in the top 15, and of course, which release was crowned with the year's top honors. Read more » 

XLR8R's Best of 2014: Releases (30 - 16)

Although it's hard to deny that electronic music is still a genre where single tracks are dominant, that doesn't mean there's no room for long-form releases. In 2014, it felt like more artists were willing to try their hand at making substantial (i.e. longer) artistic statements, and while these efforts weren't always successful, it was interesting to see the electronic pendulum swing away from the notion that every tune has to be specifically engineered for the dancefloor. (Then again, plenty of producers turned in full-lengths where every track was made for the club; clearly, there is no single model being followed.) Admittedly, the sheer volume of new music that surfaced on a daily basis often made it difficult to really dig in to albums, or even EPs, but a handful of releases did manage to stick out, prompting repeat listen after repeat listen. As such, today's installment of our ongoing Best of 2014 series focuses on our favorite releases of the year. (For the sake of clarity, we consider a "release" to be anything with more than one original song on it.) Much like our breakdown of 2014's best tracks (which can be revisited here and here), many of our selections are rooted in house and techno, but this list is undeniably more varied; properly taking in a release requires an extended listening experience, and that framework leaves a lot more room for variation. Today's post unveils the first half of our favorite releases of 2014; the second half will arrive tomorrow. Read more » 

XLR8R's Best of 2014: Gear

Here at XLR8R, we often find that our readers have as much passion for the music they love as they do for learning about the tools and techniques behind it, which is why we aim to provide a steady stream of insight for budding and experienced producers alike with our In the Studio, Artist Tips, and other gear-focused series. That's also why we've elected to close out the second week of our Best of 2014 coverage with a list of the top new pieces of gear to arrive this year. Whether these bits are valued for their innovative approach, jaw-dropping feature sets, impeccable sound, or are just hitting a unique sweet spot somewhere in between, these are the five pieces of production equipment that, for us, stood out above the rest in 2014. Read more » 


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