Monday, 15 December 2014

Long Players of a long year. The best records of 2014

A purely personal take on the best recorded music of the last year. Not trying to be clever, trendy, outré or affected; just what I consider to be bloody good records from what's been a pretty bloody good year.

10: The Narrator - The People The Poet. 
Not totally sure this was officially released in 2014, but certainly one of my most listened to albums of the last 12 months. A truly co-created effort, taking stories from their fans and building a stunning, narrative, deeply touching and emotional anthology. 

Veering between Springsteenesque blue collar coal dust imbued grit to polished stadium-friendly bangers with beautiful and clever harmonies from the angelic Greta Isaac throughout lending the perfect counterpoint and complement to Leon Stanford's gruff, Joe Cocker like growls and deep brown soulful seductions.

Wearing a bright, unashamed cloak of multi-influences from Counting Crows, through to Coldplay and The Allman Brothers. Beautiful stories. Beautifully told.

9: Rooms Of The House - La Dispute

A wonderful, illuminating and fascinating mash up of spoken word, US post hardcore, melodic jazzy reveries infused with a punky 'couldn't give a fuck' seam. Delicious, thought-provoking, melodic, off beam and truly original. A modernist masterpiece.

8: Groovehammer - THE HELL



7: Fair Youth - Maybeshewill 
As post rock goes (if it's actually a thing at all) it doesn't come any better than this. An emotionally charged tour de force of harmony, melody, texture and depth. Genuinely spine tingling at times and like a gorgeous warm hug at others. A record to get lost in. And to lose your shit to. A sublime, well-honed and hench semi-classical, moduar torso but with menacing rock gonads. A heady and intoxicating mix. Stunning.

6: Glory - Axes
A spectacular instrumental collection of futuristic, mathtacular, technically stunning, choppy, polyrhythmic ups and downs, swings and roundabouts, riffs and rants, light and shade, melody and dissonance, power and seduction. If you do nothing else next year, catch this space-aged, grinning, other-worldly quartet live. Seriously a breathtaking and life-changing experience. Glory is about as close as the mesmerising live side of the band gets on record. Amazing.

5: Old Bones - Yearbook
Ok, by today's crazy rules, not technically an album, but fuck that. It's a wonderful collection of off-kilter, off-beam and off its tits alt rock. Clever, heartfelt, beautifully and thoughtfully crafted and packed full of originality and quirkiness. Displaying a songwriting maturity that belies the bands' callow yoof. A truly superb debut effort that sets the bar ridiculously high for the subsequent bombs they're hopefully loading in their bomb bay as we speak. Delicious. 

4: Lower Than Atlantis - Lower Than Atlantis
A somewhat controversial album. But a bloody triumphant one. Selling out? Softening up? Wimping out? Nah. Just a superb collection of killer pop songs with a rock and punk skirt on. A clever shift and an opening of hearts and minds. The band claim that they just let the music they like come out, regardless of expectation or genre. Well, what did come out is a true work of poptastic genius. Hum them. Sing them. Shake your arse to them. Whatever. It's nigh impossible to get them out of your head. So good.

3: There Is Only You - The Xcerts
An absolutely astonishing 4th album from the edgy alt power pop trio. Every song has a hook like Mike Tyson. But delivered with power, passion, integrity and hearts the size of cabbages. Murray Macleod's voice has never sounded better. Or more honest. There are heart-melting moments of tenderness and frailty married with massive riffs, stadium-friendly choruses and woo hoos. At least 5 of the songs are instant hit single material (if hit singles are still a thing!) If there's any justice in the world, this masterpiece should now catapult these loveable slackerpopsters to serious heights. Brulliant. Bluddy brulliant.

2: The Weird And Wonderful - Marmozets
Mashing up mathcore with grungy northern pop replete with astringent, thrilling, eviscerating riffs, spikes and hooks and rhythmic fuckery, this isn't just one of my favourite albums of the year, but has carved its antisocial yet beguiling way into my all time list. So unbelievably confident and competent for a band so young. Every tune reeks of scuzzy and punishing life on the road. It stinks of sweat. Shit. Passion. Brio. Beer. Jager. And love.
So much love. Colossal sing-a-longs juxtaposed with H-bomb destructive violence and almost a simmering malevolence. You wouldn't wan't to pick a fight with this record. It'll tear your fucking face off. But might kiss it better afterwards. Wonderfully weird. And weirdly fucking wonderful.

1: Lost Forever // Lost Together - Architects
In what has been a brilliant year for quality (if not quantity) it's just so hard to pick one album as the stand out. But, for me, even though I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool metal head and I abhor so much me-too metalcore, Lost Forever // Lost Together is quite simply a classic. Aside from the laudable and searingly acidic political and edgy subject matter of much of the content, the musicality, the braveness, the technicality and the middle finger in the air attitude set this astonishingly powerful and moving album apart from the chasing pack.

Aggression, pathos, anger, bewilderment, frustration and fuck you are all delivered almost concurrently; but it stays single-mindedly sharp. Clean. Pointed. Thought-provoking. And seriously fucking heavy. The drops, the sub bass, the bleuurghs (although maybe slightly overdone), the towering guitar work and crushing drumming all support Sam Carter's amazing talent for being able to scream like a Euro Fighter in a broom cupboard, but maintain melody, nuance and versatility. A huge, unapologetic explosion of a record that puts Architects in a place of there own. Genuinely stunning. In every sense of the word.

And that's about that for the year. There were other great albums that nearly made the cut. Others that showed moments of enormous potential and promise for the future. Some that fell on stony ground. Some that ticked boxes but didn't quite break hearts. Some that were total shit. But all recorded with belief and a love for music. Overall a pretty decent year for recorded music. With these ten being at the very top of the tree.

Here's to more next year.

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