TOP TEN ALBUMS
- Nabuma Rubberband – Little Dragon
The Swedish quartet finally live up to their potential on this soulful succinct offering. About Time.
- Everything Will Be Alright In The End – Weezer
It’s no masterpiece. It’s not their finest, but it’s a huge leap back towards what made them great. Even if they quit now, at least they’ve buried some of their past misdemeanours under these 11 tight loser-rock nuggets. The atonement is complete.
- Get Hurt – Gaslight Anthem
How do you follow a masterpiece? There is no correct answer, but Brian Fallon and co. have made a fairly good show of it, wading into new, slightly darker, sonic territories without ever losing sight of the band’s windswept romantic heart.
- Hang On? – [Spunge]
6 years after their last release ska-punk legends [Spunge] announced this collection, prompting many responses of who cares, from those, including myself, whose patience had pretty much run out. But, against all odds this could be their best work to date. 10 short sharp nostalgia trips into what made them so great, perfectly accentuate their uniqueness, without ever overstaying their welcome.
- Words To The Blind – Savages and Bo Ningen
A 35 minute live recording of a Dadaist poem was never going to be an easy listen, but it could well be this year’s most fascinating. It pulses and ebbs through delicate scapes and clattering crescendos, which ensure that those who venture in, are duly rewarded.
- Crush Songs – Karen O
This series of bedroom recordings perfectly harnesses one of the greatest living female vocalists talents as a singer, but also as a poet. These gentle laments are sumptuous gems of raw expression, best enjoyed with whiskey at 4AM.
- The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett – Eels
In perfect contrast to last year’s offering, Eels returned with a heart-wrenching, introspective masterpiece. Everett’s voice never sounded more desolate, and the arrangements have never been so touching. Bleak but essentially beautiful.
- Sunbathing Animal – Parquet Courts
If you’ve ever wondered what disillusionment sounded like, here is your answer. Droning, sleazy, slacker indie abounds on this superb portrait of the pressures of fame and trying to stay “true”. A curiously charming curveball.
- III – Badbadnotgood
Masterpiece isn’t a word to be used lightly, and so with reverence I offer the term to these next two albums. They are the undisputed kings of their genres. BBNG’s endlessly expansive jazz/hiphop/funk amalgam is just the dreamiest, most mind blowing and yet most likely to get you moving, album this year. A trio in perfect synchronicity glide through nine sumptuous jams with slithering sax, tumbling bass, delicate pianos and tasty jazz beats. It doesn’t really get much better than this when it comes to modern jazz.
- Never Hungover Again – Joyce Manor
Melodic punk’s bare bones have never been so hopelessly exposed, offering the listener a glimpse, albeit a brief one, into the dark, stormy and generally miserable mind of Joyce Manor’s lead vocalist. On repeated listens you can almost hear sobs between lines, such raw emotion has rarely ever been captured so candidly. And the album never drags. 10 track crammed into 19 minutes of melancholy punk about the miseries of suburban living. Once it’s over the only real reaction is to start it again. It’s irresistible. This album is crammed with emotion, never overstays it’s welcome, is full of neat quirks, and for that reason, is 2014’s champion.
Biggest Letdown Award – Turn Blue – The Black Keys
After the success of El Camino, the keys were set to conquer, their amazing two men, no frills rock and roll was a marvel. But where did it go? Turn Blue is smothered in drab studio sheen which leaves the band barely recognizable. Occasionally a glimpse of former glories is caught in a guitar solo, but in general this album is an overbaked, meritless collection which only serves to teach that production isn’t everything.
Most Absurdly Pretentious Award – Enclosure – John Frusciante
Frusciante has clearly passed the creative peak of PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone and is now freewheeling towards the lake of self indulgence. Mismatching drum ‘n’ bass beats, short vocal snaps and desolate, often painful synths abound on this baffling mixing pot of ideas. The end product, unsurprisingly, is rather unpalatable.
Ultimate Failure Award – Fading West – Switchfoot
I don’t even know where to begin. I could rant for days about how utterly pointless and joyless this album is. Trading in all their charm, charisma and musical identity, the San Diego veterans have created this over-produced selection of bland pop nonsense. Barely a catchy chorus about, musical flourishes and band chemistry are absent and the drums sound like they are being played by a 4 year old and then reprogrammed in post. Another hero falls.
Best Up And Comers – Doctopus
These Aussie psych odd-bods create gloriously understated tunes, with the expressed intention that they are for chilling to. Check out their 2014 album Wobbegong. Plug in, press play, fade away…
Pleasant Surprise Award – Music For Insomniacs – Matt Berry
Most Prolific Artist – Parquet Courts/Flaming Lips
Best Fan Treatment – R.E.M.
Best Ska Album – Hang On? – [Spunge]