Best Albums of 2014
as selected by 19 Polish critics

Merkabah <BR>“Moloch”


Hailing from Warsaw, Merkabah unquestionably stands at the forefront of complex and heavy instrumental music in Poland. Aptly titled “Moloch”, their third album is an accurate instantiation of their signature sound.

With merciless pounding of the drums, massive bass and offbeat saxophone parts, it comprises an overwhelming, soul-draining sonic assault that’s equally exhausting as satisfying. (Artur Szarecki)

♪♫ Listen: “Reed Idol

Merkabah on Bandcamp, YouTube, Facebook.

Skalpel <BR>“Transit”


Skalpel is a duo of producers Igor Pudło and Marcin Cichy, better known as “the first Poles in Ninja Tune.” It’s a fact that their debut album released by this prestigious label was very succesful, but not only because of the Ninja Tune’s brand.

Their unique delicacy and ingenuity in combining legendary Polish jazz with electronic music and cut’n’paste method was the main reason for their international fame. On “Transit”, they develop this approach into more original compositions. (Kaśka Paluch)

♪♫ Listen: “Sea

Skalpel on www, Bandcamp, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter.

Michał Biela <BR>“Michał Biela”

Michał Biela
“Michał Biela”

Michał Biela is a founding member of Kristen, one of the most prominent alternative rock bands in Poland at the turn of the 21st century. In 2014, he released a solo record comprised mostly of acoustic songs, full of warm sounds and gentle arrangements.

Biela sings and plays a baritone guitar, but on most tracks he is also accompanied by three female musicians – Małgorzata Penkalla, Magda Gajdzica, and Karolina Rec – who contribute vocals as well as play guitars, keyboards, violin, and cello. (Artur Szarecki)

♪♫ Listen: “Waxwings

Michał Biela on Bandcamp, Facebook.

Paweł Szamburski <BR>“Ceratitis capitata”

Paweł Szamburski
“Ceratitis capitata”

When is the best time to record debut solo album? According to Paweł Szamburski, a self-taught clarinetist and important figure of Warsaw music scene, it’s when you have a 15-year experience in your instrument – because you know when not to play.

For his first solo album Szamburski chose religious themes from Catholicism, Judaism, Baha’i faith, Sufi Islam and Orthodox Christianity – and improvised over them. On “Ceratitis capitata” there’s only clarinet and space of the church the album was recorded in, nothing more.

Szamburski treats religious traditions with respect, bringing what’s best from each of them, while not forgetting his own artistic personality. (Michał Wieczorek)

♪♫ Listen: “Judaic

Paweł Szamburski on Bandcamp, Soundcloud.

Ed Wood <BR>“Post-Mortem Lovers”

Ed Wood
“Post-Mortem Lovers”

Kuba Ziołek is one of the most productive musicians of Polish underground, with his solo project Stara Rzeka and bands Kapital or Innercity Ensemble gradually earning international acclaim.

Ed Wood, a duo with a drummer Tomek Popowski (also of Innercity Ensemble), is one of his first and longest running bands. Initially inspired by Refused, now blending noise-rock, black metal, surf and playful melodies, they perform utterly explosive rock music. (Piotr Lewandowski)

♪♫ Listen: “Post-Mortem Lovers

Ed Wood on Bandcamp, Facebook.

Artur Rojek <BR>“Składam się z ciągłych powtórzeń”

Artur Rojek
“Składam się z ciągłych powtórzeń”

Ex-frontman of the influential rock group Myslovitz and founder of Off Festival, Poland’s biggest indie event, Artur Rojek has finally released the first album under his own name. “It was the last moment to do something new in my life,” the 42-year-old singer-songwriter explained.

From melancholic sound of the opener “Lato 76” that would fit in between Bon Iver’s hymns to the drama of the single “Beksa”, Rojek mixes his well known acoustic indie with electronics. But it’s “Lekkość” that stands out here as one of the best songs Rojek has ever written. (Robert Sankowski)

♪♫ Listen: “Beksa

Artur Rojek on www, www, Facebook.

Baaba <BR>“EasterChristmas”


Baaba was founded in 2000 by guitarist and producer Bartosz Weber. Apart from him, the group currently includes Piotr Zabrodzki (bass), Tomasz Duda (sax, flute, sampler) and Jan Młynarski (drums) – great musicians also known from groups like Mitch and Mitch, Pink Freud, LXMP, Nervy, and Warszawskie Combo Taneczne.

Since its beginnings Baaba’s been presenting uninhibited approach to musical material – unforgeable jumping around different styles: cartoons, Thelonious Monk themes, Chuck Mangione melodies, melodrama films, afro beat music or electronic experiments.

Babba is also a leading performer associated with acclaimed Polish label Lado ABC, which in 2014 celebrated its 10th anniversary. (Bartek Woynicz)

♪♫ Listen: “Ręce Zmęczone i Pot Na Czole

Baaba on www, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Jerz Igor <BR>“Mała płyta”

Jerz Igor
“Mała płyta”

Jerzy Rogiewicz and Igor Nikiforow have participated in more than a dozen bands associated with the Warsaw music scene. When it turned out that the first of them is going to become a father, they both came up with the idea of creating an album with songs for children.

“Mała płyta” (Little Record) is full of cradles, calming and interesting, with smooth and catchy tunes and some remarkable texts that are instantly memorable. We get cool songs inspired by American folk, Polish radioplays from the 80s, as well as more electronic tracks with percussion sounds and synthesizers.

With its concise narration and charming arrangements, this collection of colorful stories resembles a fairy tale book for children. Although a spontaneous project, it sounds like a small orchestra. “Mała płyta” shouldn’t be interesting only for the youngest audience, but also their parents – especially those who crowdfunded this album. (Jakub Knera)

♪♫ Listen: “Królewicz

Jerz Igor on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Sutari <BR>“Wiano”


Female trio Sutari recycle traditional folk songs from Poland and Lithuania with proper respect and competence. But they employ historic instruments next to a wide range of kitchen and garage hardware and various “everyday objects” – hence they call themselves a folk kitchen avant-garde group.

“Sutari means to harmonize, to agree. The word comes from the Lithuanian language, and it’s related to Sutartines – traditional women’s songs for multiple voices typical of this country,” the group told us a few months ago.

“This idea of women singing together in perfect harmony inspired us to try it ourselves – with all the baggage of our modern nature.” (Mariusz Herma)

♪♫ Listen: “Kupalnocka

Sutari on www, Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube.

Pablopavo i ludziki <BR>“Polor”

Pablopavo i ludziki

I’m not sure if Pablopavo would appeal to international audience – after all he is one of the best Polish lyricist of his generation and probably the best storyteller in the country. But on the other hand, I guess you don’t have to know what “Koty” is about to feel the spring vibe of the song.

I think every lady out there gets the charming crooning in “Dancingowa piosenka miłosna” right – yes, this is a love song. Bad news though: Pablopavo sings it for his wife. So, I’m sure there’s certain truth in every sound on this album, in singer’s voice, that every sensitive heart would understand. (Jarek Szubrycht)

♪♫ Listen: “Dancingowa Piosenka Miłosna

Pablopavo on Facebook, Twitter – and beehype.

Pablopavo <BR>“Tylko”


The strongest value of Pablopavo’s (Paweł Sołtys) music may be difficult to catch not only for the people who live outside Poland, but also for those who live outside Warsaw. It is based on high-quality poetry with local spirit, inspired by literature of the late Polish writer, Marek Nowakowski.

Pablopavo started as a vocal force of Polish reggae/ragga scene, but navigated towards more folk-based solo songs. “Tylko” is his most raw album to date, a bit in the vein of some Johnny Cash recordings. (Bartek Chaciński)

♪♫ Listen: “Sobota

Pablopavo on Facebook, Twitter.

Kapital <BR>“No New Age”

“No New Age”

This record evokes the sounds of an imaginary distopian metropolia, combining drones and noises with a hint of new age. The idea proved challenging, but also rewarding.

On a side note, it’s worth pointing out that Kuba Ziołek (also known as Stara Rzeka) and Rafał Iwański (also known as X-NAVI:ET) came up with idea of the project after seeing a Richard Pinhas concert – and later they had an opportunity to play with Pinhas at Unsound Festival. (Andżelika Kaczorowska)

♪♫ Listen: “New Kind of Shit

Kapital on Bandcamp.

Król <BR>“Nielot”


Błażej Król, 30 year-old-singer, songwriter and guitar player from Gorzów Wielkopolski, used to be a member of alt-rock band Kawałek Kulki, but gained more attention playing in the duo UL/KR. Their first CD was Polish album of 2012 as voted by journalists of “Gazeta Wyborcza”, Poland’s leading newspaper.

Król’s debut album under his own name, “Nielot” (Flightless), still has some treats of UL/KR’s music with alternative rock meeting electronica, some romantic, nostalgic atmosphere and smooth, but very original vocal lines. Yet it marks a nice beginning of Król’s solo career. (Bartek Chaciński)

♪♫ Listen: “Szczenię

Król on Bandcamp, Facebook,

Hubert Zemler <BR>“Gostak & Doshes”

Hubert Zemler
“Gostak & Doshes”

Hubert Zemler’s second solo album is quite similar to Paweł Szamburski’s effort. Contemplative, mostly improvised and majestatic, it was also recorded in a church (but in a different one). This is where similarities end. Zemler is a drummer and a percussionist, so rhythm plays crucial role on “Gostak and Doshes”. In one track, “Dji”, Zemler tries to recreate African polyrhythmics.

Sometimes music becomes more abstract like in title track and “Franciszek”. But the highlights are variations on composition of Suaves Figures – electronic music duo of Piotr Kurek and Sylvia Monnier. Accompanied by Miłosz Pękała on vibraphone, Zemler shows that percussion can produce haunting melodies. (Michał Wieczorek)

♪♫ Listen: “Variations On A Theme By Suaves Figures – Figure 7

Hubert Zemler on Bandcamp, Soundcloud.

Die Flöte<BR>“Pizza”

Die Flöte

Slacker rock hasn’t died along with the 90’s, the golden age of great slacker bands: Pavement, Built to Spill and Weezer. The sorrows of entering adulthood will haunt humanity forever and, until a vent for these emotions comes with music of such clever slobs as Mac DeMarco or Die Flöte, it won’t become a trite subject.

Light and brilliant songwriting of “Pizza”, the debut album from Cracow sextet Die Flöte, has its roots in masterful work of The Sea and Cake. And even Morrissey wouldn’t be ashamed of some of the lines from the album. (Marta Słomka)

♪♫ Listen: “Fly”

Die Flöte on www, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

Jacaszek & Kwartludium <BR>“Catalogue des Arbres”

Jacaszek & Kwartludium
“Catalogue des Arbres”

Acclaimed producer from Gdańsk, Jacaszek started in 2004 with electronic interpretations of Polish fairy tales. What made him famous though was “Treny”, an album combining strings with electronics. Since then he’s been moving away from simple melodies and structures. His 2009 album “Pentral” was based on sounds collected in the interiors of gothic churches and exploring their acoustics.

“Catalgue des Arbres,” his sixth album, was developed in collaboration with contemporary music ensemble Kwartludium. It shows Jacaszek at his best as a producer. Using rustle of trees, he converts it into musical drones and melds them with piano, clarinet, vibraphone and violin. His colorful and multi-layered compositions merge sounds of nature with instruments into a very moving narration. (Jakub Knera)

♪♫ Listen: “Catalogue des Arbres” (album stream)

Jacaszek on www, Soundcloud, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook.

Lotto <BR>“Ask the Dust”

“Ask the Dust”

New Warsaw trio Lotto is actually comprised of three musicians already well-known in the Polish music scene: Mike Majkowski (bass), Łukasz Rychlicki (guitar) and Paweł Szpura (drums).

Surprising as it may be, their debut album under this monicker combines improvised music and noise rock with country influences – and has brought the band increasing popularity.

“Ask The Dust” might not be the best thing that Lotto’s members have done so far, but it’s still a really good album. (Andżelika Kaczorowska)

♪♫ Listen: “Comet

Lotto on Bandcamp.

Der Father <BR>“Wake Up”

Der Father
“Wake Up”

Der Father started as a duo of Joanna Halszka-Sokołowska (voice, guitar) and Daniel Pigoński (synths, electronics), but quickly expanded into a trio with one of Poland’s most agile drummers, Jerzy Rogiewicz.

The songs which form their debut album “Wake Up” were initially composed and performed as a theatre music. This gives them dark, Lynch-esque feel, surreal voltes and transgressive openess.

At the same time they carry some of the best melodies written in 2014 in Poland. The addition of second guitarist, Bartek Tyciński, has transformed their live performances into cathartic, euphoric experiences. (Piotr Lewandowski)

♪♫ Listen: “Broken Love

Der Father on Facebook, Soundcloud – and beehype.

Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra <BR>“Nature Moves”

Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra
“Nature Moves”

Wacław Zimpel is arguably the brightest star among the young generation of Polish jazz musicians.

For his new project, a large ensemble called To Tu Orchestra, he wrote compositions inspired by minimalism of La Monte Young, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich, as well as repetitive music from around the world.

“Nature Moves” contains restrained but passionate jazz that seamlessly crosses boundaries between formal complexity and free, organic flow. (Artur Szarecki)

♪♫ Listen: live excerpt

Wacław Zimpel on www, Soundcloud, Facebook.

Pustki <BR>“Safari”


Started as a garage band in the outskirts of Warsaw, Pustki (Empty Places) are a fine example of how rock bands can be described in evolutionary terms. Ever-changing, their recordings mutated towards pop music with good, straightforward lyrics with a hint of stunning and subtle naivety.

What changed the game on “Safari” is a completely revamped, brilliant production by one of the Poland’s best new music engineers, Bartosz Dziedzic. (Bartek Chaciński)

♪♫ Listen: “Się wydawało

Pustki on www, YouTube, Facebook.

Hatti Vatti <BR>“Worship Nothing”

Hatti Vatti
“Worship Nothing”

In a true Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fashion, Piotr Kaliński seems to have two divergent musical personalities. He creates smooth electronic music as Hatti Vatti, and plays guitar in an old-school punk-rock band, Gówno (Shit).

It’s under the former alias that Kaliński released “Worship Nothing”, a well-received album of quality downtempo music, with artful beats, lush arrangements, and dark, hallucinatory atmosphere. (Artur Szarecki)

♪♫ Listen: “Tokyo

Hatti Vatti on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Zamilska <BR>“Untune”


This dark, industrial longplay from Zamilska, a newcomer to the Polish club scene, boldly borrows from virtuosos of techno such as Shackleton, Lucy or Actress, and is a textbook example of an album at times of crisis.

Powerful bass and cavalcades of 4/4 beats blend with fear, paranoia and recluse, not only summarizing trends in contemporary dance music, but also expressing the voice of our generation that is faced with a progressive loss of social ties and a risk of another Cold War.

“Untune” is also an important female contribution to electronic music industry dominated by men. (Marta Słomka)

♪♫ Listen: “Duel 35

Zamilska on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook.

Gaba Kulka <BR>“The Escapist”

Gaba Kulka
“The Escapist”

The release of Gaba Kulka’s new album, “The Escapist”, coincided with the stage comeback of Kate Bush in London – and Gaba obviously had to witness it personally. But I dare to say it could be the other way around.

Gaba’s limitless vocal range and her imagination as a composer and performer often put her on a par with her songwriting heroes. But having grown up in a home full of classical music, she makes the best use of her diverse education, mixing not only music styles, but also Polish and English lyrics. (Mariusz Herma)

♪♫ Listen: “Wielkie wrażenie

Gaba Kulka on www, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

The Phantom <BR>“LP1”

The Phantom

Bartosz Kruczyński is Warsaw based producer and DJ. His debut as The Phantom is a perfect excample how tender and intimate can be broadly defined house music.

“LP1” is not only an excellent album with great songs, but also an attempt to create their own narrative with huge references to the past (Detroit techno, new-age music, film soundtracks).

Melancholic, smooth and even enigmatic – these are right adjectives to describe Phantom’s unique sound. Check also his side project called Ptaki. (Jacek Marczuk)

♪♫ Listen: “Bless Their Little Hearts

The Phantom on Soundcloud, Facebook.

Ten Typ Mes <BR>“Trzeba było zostać dresiarzem”

Ten Typ Mes
“Trzeba było zostać dresiarzem”

“Should have become a scally” is how the title Ten Typ Mes’ most recent album could be translated. With his irony, craggy personality, limitless imagination and ostentatious indifference to what other people think, the rapper has probably recorded one of the best Polish rap albums ever.

After over ten years on the scene, Mes find inspiration in everything from California-born G-funk and dirty south to the legacy of polish jazz, and clearly stands out from what’s happening both in global and local hip-hop. (Marcin Flint)

♪♫ Listen: “Będę na działce gość Głośny

Ten Typ Mes on Facebook.

Kristen <BR>“The Secret Map”

“The Secret Map”

Polish critics like to call this album a mature one. That said, “mature” does not entail “boring”. “The Secret Map” is probably just the best record in Kristen’s fifteen year long history.

Mixing songwriting with improvisation, it’s particularly recommended if you’re tired of electronic music and you long for the golden years of independent rock. (Andżelika Kaczorowska)

♪♫ Listen: “The Secret Map

Kristen on Bandcamp, YouTube, Facebook.

Innercity Ensemble <BR>“II”

Innercity Ensemble

Innercity Ensemble is an improvising collective based in Toruń. Seven members of the band have diverse backgrounds – jazz, rock, industrial and electronic music – and have previously performed with such noted bands as Ed Wood, Stara Rzeka, Hati, Sing Sing Penelope, and many more.

Together they create hypnotic, free flowing music that constantly fluctuates between light and darkness, as perfectly exemplified on their new double album, “II”. (Artur Szarecki)

♪♫ Listen: “Black 2

Innercity Ensemble on Bandcamp, Facebook.

Julia Marcell <BR>“Sentiments”

Julia Marcell

“What we feel and what’s expected of us, what we should do, and what we wanna do – I find this tension to be constantly fascinating, and a fuel for many of my creative efforts. It also became an important topic on my new album,” Julia Marcell told us a few months ago.

One of Poland’s most gifted (and acclaimed) singer-songwriters of the young generation, Marcell continues to develop her sound from acoustic folk of her debut album and its follow-up’s (indie) pop to a wide-ranging set of sounds on her third full-length. “Sentiments” covers anything you can hear between garage and stadium, and Marcell’s finally recorded her first song entirely in Polish

“The record has a lot of weird characters, ones you’d normally see in a graphic novel,” Marcell explains, “and each song is like a letter to one of them.” (Mariusz Herma)

♪♫ Listen: “Manners

Julia Marcell on www, YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud.

The Kurws <BR>“Wszystko co stałe rozpływa się w powietrzu”

The Kurws
“Wszystko co stałe rozpływa się w powietrzu”

“A band is not just a band, it’s about meeting other people and that’s the most important thing when you’re in a band. You travel around, you meet people and you take part in their lives,” said Oskar Carls from trio The Kurws in an inteview.

This Wrocław-based band merges no-wave, punk and free-jazz in an unique amalgam of raw sound, angular rhythms and tight, semi-improvised songs, as can be experienced on their second album “Wszystko co stałe rozpływa się w powietrzu”, meaning “All That Is Solid Melts into Air”.

They are one of the most hard-working and intensively touring bands in Poland which made them one of the best live acts in the country. Although it’s instrumental music, it conveys the zeitgeist of our turbulent times exceptionally well. (Piotr Lewandowski)

♪♫ Listen: “Weltgeist

The Kurws on www, Soundcloud, Facebook, Vimeo.

We Will Fail <BR>“Verstörung”

We Will Fail

An example of an artist who appeared on the Polish music scene and immediately became one of the most critically acclaimed acts. We Will Fail is a solo project of Aleksandra Grünholz – who happens to be also a graphic designer – mixing electronics with field recordings and tape samples.

The two parts of “Verstörung” – named after a novel by Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard – could have been even better had they been released as one record. However, being a debut release, the album shows that Aleksandra Grünholz knows how to speak the language of modern electronic music inspired by techno. (Andżelika Kaczorowska)

♪♫ Listen: “V.12”

We Will Fail on www, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter.