Top 20 Albums of 2014: #10-1

It’s the last day of the year, so a fitting moment to reveal the last of my favourite records of 2014. Agree or disagree with my Top 10? Well, let me know! Just click on the post title and leave a comment.

#1. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

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Perfume Genius is the stage name of Seattle based Mike Hadreas and Too Bright is the third album since his first release in 2010. There has been a real natural progression in his music since then and his latest is another step up on so many levels. Lyrically, its pretty hard hitting, the arraignments are smart and clever and its simply a wonderfully produced album. The first single to be released from the new album, “Queen” was unlike all his previous releases. It’s a dark and menacing pop record with a huge distorted baseline, synthetic harpsichord melodies and angry shrieking backing choirs. There are several tracks on this record that I just love, take the track, “Fool” a finger snapping grooving pop gem and then there’s the much much darker, “My Body” which wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film. “Grid” too, with its industrial sounds, shrilling vocals and chanting children is potentially the stuff of nightmares. If all of this is painting a pretty frightening and bleak picture, have no fear, the end product, despite being dark and noisy is pretty beautiful and truly captivating. Hadreas hasn’t quite packed away his piano for this record and tracks reminiscent of previous albums can still be found on this record. Take the title track, another beautiful and dreamy stripped back number and the album as a whole is a great balance of these contrasting songs. A modern day classic? I think so.

#2. Ásgeir – In The Silence

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The easiest way for me to describe Ásgeir is basically that he is the Icelandic equivalent of Bon Iver. I’m kinda annoyed with myself for comparing the two as no doubt everyone else has already done so, but vocally and even musically, they seem to be very similar. This is Ásgeir’s first album in English and has already firmly established himself as a huge star in his home country. In The Silence is a sunning laid back, chilled acoustic record with sweeping sythns, gentle percussion and some of the sweetest melodies you’re likely to hear. Its just the perfect album to unwind to.

#3 Future Islands – Singles

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From the opening lead single, “Seasons (Waiting on You)” you just know this is going to be another belter of an album from Future islands. The opening track is anthemic and melodic, with wonderful angelic synths and modulating bass lines. Vocals from lead singer Samuel Herring are, as always, passionate and emotive and the theme continues through pretty much the entire album. Every song on this record is excellent from the production, to the arrangement and melodies. This is new wave music done at its very best.

#4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

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Funky, fun, clever that’s probably the easiest way to describe Todd Terje’s debut nu-disco album. This is the Norwegian’s first, however, he has been churning out singles and remixes for the likes of Hot Chip, Roxy Music and Bombay Bicycle Club for the past 10 years or so. On this record we have a great collection of Italo disco, Giorgio Moroder influenced and piano house tracks. It pays great homage to a genre that was, in my opinion, not given the credit it deserved. Tracks like, “Delorean Dynamite” and “Oh Joy” are a perfect example. P.S. I dare anyone not to loose complete control to the quirky track “Svensk Sås” a deranged calypso number that just hits you out of the blue.

#5. Trust – Joyland

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Trust, is Canadian synthpop artist Robert Alfons. I ain’t talking about the French heavy metal band on this occasion. Trust started off as a duet with Maya Postepski of the band Austra and released their debut album TRST in 2012, which, I was a huge fan of. Two years later Maya left the band leaving Robert Alfons to continue as a solo project. This, the second record, seems to have a more polished sound to it and Alfons took the project up a notch. First and foremost this is a synthpop record, however, it’s a very dark and eerie one. Alfons’ vocals are twisted and creepy and his range is pretty extraordinary often breaking into ridiculously high falsettos. Influences of eurodance (yup believe it), techno, 90s rave and trance with some outstanding melodies and the aforementioned wacky vocals meant this was one of my most played and loved records of the year. Perhaps not everyone’s cup of team, but for me a record that I really grew to love.

#6. Young Fathers – Dead

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Its feels great to have a Scottish band in my top 10 list for 2014 and it’s not because I’m biased, it’s because there guys are making some of the coolest hip-hop music on the planet right now. Tracks have a lo-fi production feel, with odd drum patterns, distorted weird samples and synthesizers, however they often come across soulful. Lyrically its nice to hear a hip-hop group that don’t rap solely about drugs and sex and there isn’t much profanity on this record (again refreshing to hear). As mentioned these guys definitely have that soulful and gospel vibe and create nice vocal harmonies on top of that very electronic music backdrop. Young Fathers are truly unique and have done well to create their own sound that completely distinguishes themselves in the hip-hop world.

#7. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire

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If you like the opening track, “New Dark Ages” on the latest Godflesh offering then its safe to say this album is for you. After a hiatus of 13 years this English industrial metal band are back with a walloper. Possibly this is their heaviest album to date and it features some massive guitar riffs that are truly addictive. Tracks like “Shut me Down” are exactly what industrial metal is all about. That mechanical drum beat, raw power and heavy guitar sound is currently music to my ears. A truly wonderful comeback that was well worth the wait.

#8. FKA Twigs – LP1

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Q1. Who was the most hyped artist of 2014?  A. FKA Twigs.
Q2. Was it merited?  A. Yes, absolutely.
As a refreshing change, the hype did live up to the claim that Gloucestershire born, Tahliah Barnett, aka FKA Twigs would be this years shining star. Her album LP1 came off the back of some pretty stunning, but musically challenging EPs. I wasn’t too into these, however, I found LP1 much more accessible and really enjoyable. FKA makes alternative, heavily electronic R&B with some tracks reminiscent of 90s trip-hop. However you want to label her, she made some of the most original music of the year and for this reason you should definitely check her out.

#9. Woman’s Hour – Conversations

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It took these guys three long years to get from releasing their initial single to delivering their first studio album. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about their existence, until reading about them again in a national newspaper. Woman’s Hour are a 4 piece band from Kendal in the Lake District. They make beautiful chilled out pop music backed up with the sweetest vocals from singer Fiona Burgess. I think it would be fair of me to say that they sound a tad like a modern day Sade and many tracks ooze that 80s soul vibe. Younger readers may compare them to bands like London Grammar or The XX. There are 11 blissfully produced and elegantly constructed songs on this debut release which make this one heck of a smooth album.

#10. EMA – The Future’s Void

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There’s something about Erika M Anderson aka EMA. Whether it’s her ability to make fantastic 90s garage rock tracks like, “So Blonde” or the screechy electronic opener, “Satellites” or perhaps the blissful piano tinged “3Jane”. It’s hard to put EMA into one box, she sits in-between different genres. The girl is talented and ultra cool and clearly has her own ideas about what a music album should comprise of these days. As the album title suggests, there seems to be a sci-fi, futuristic feel about her new album, which is very forward thinking both musically and lyrically.

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Top 20 Albums of 2014: #20-11

So here is the bottom half of my Top Albums of 2014. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices and thanks again for reading. Stay tuned for the Top 10 coming very soon…….

#11. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End

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As the title of Röyksopp’s latest album suggests, could the end be nigh for Norway’s finest electro-pop duo? Well, from what I’ve been hearing it could well be their last album, but it does not necessarily mean they will be hanging up their synthesisers for good. Thank goodness for that! Rather, the duo were quoted saying that they were, “not going to stop making music, but the album format as such….is the last thing from us”. Take from that what you will. Their latest offering has a dark feel to it. Tracks such as the wonderful “Monument” featuring Swedish pop princess Robyn is an electro-pop gem and has an almost Jean Michel Jarre feel to it. I’ve always admired that Röyksopp seem to find such amazing vocalists to feature on their tracks. Previous albums have included the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, Lykke Li and Kings of Convenience singer Erlend Øye. On this album we find the talented Jamie McDermott of art-pop collective The Irrepressibles and up-and-coming Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør. An altogether mini electronic dance music masterpiece and a fine way to sign things off from these nice chaps.

#12. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

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Run The Jewels are American rapper Killer Mike and rapper / producer El-P. Both have been on the hip-hop scene for some time but only came together as a duo last year, releasing their well received and imaginatively named “Run The Jewels 1” debut album. A year on from their first album and they sound better than ever. Their sound is very electronic (perhaps one of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much) and has some with some wonderful hooks, riffs, massive bass lines and nice, old-school hip-hops sounds. At only 39 minutes long, this is one dark and fierce flowing record. P.S there is an

#13. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

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I’ll admit it, I don’t know a heck of a lot about metal music, but, in the past 2 years I have been listening to a good fair bit of it. Pallbearer are fairly accessible if you’ve never really listened to much metal. They are an American ‘Doom Metal’ band from Arkansas, now into their second album. Doom metal, is a slower and heavier form of metal and Pallbearer do it with sheer perfection. Despite there only being 6 tracks on this album, it lasts a surprisingly long 55 minutes (including 12 minute closing track, “Vanished”). It fair to say this fits into the “progressive” style of music with tracks building, gaining momentum and power and creating a great sense of atmosphere with some amazing 90s style metal guitar riffs. This. Album. Truly. Rocks. HARD!

#14. La Roux – Trouble In Paradise

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Being a massive synth-pop fan, I was really wishing and hoping that this much anticipated new La Roux album would, well, be half decent. I was amazed and delighted to hear that it wasn’t just decent, but bloody good and far superior to the self titled debut album. It’s been a long wait for the second album, 5 years to be exact. In that time, the duo have become a solo act, and Elly Jackson shows no sign of weakness with this top-notch effort. Influences of 70s disco, with catchy 80s style hooks and choruses, I found myself listening to this playful and upbeat album on many an occasion.

#15. Liars – Mess

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Amazingly, this is Liars 7th studio album. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, this dance-punk, electronic outfit seem to be working their assess off since forming in the early 2000s. This is an album of pure electronic sounds. Totally artificial and synthetic, with massive squidgy synth, pulsing beats and cold, almost Gary Numan-esque vocals. The album starts with so much energy and perhaps peaks early with one of the stand-out tracks, “I’m No Good” with its big organs sounds, bleeps and hard hitting kick drum. The album does not quite repeat this high energy pattern as it signs off with a few down beat tracks, each of which are exquisite however. Probably the best pure electronic album of the year.

#16. Metronomy – Love Letters

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Metronomy are back with this, their 4th album. Love Letters is a nicely constructed and arranged indie, synth-pop record which seems to nab influences from several different genres (think disco, 70s electro and baroque pop), which I think will appeal to many people. Arguably this is Britain’s coolest and most forward thinking pop group and I have been impressed with all their records to date.

#17. Charli XCX – Sucker

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I was pretty surprised to see that Charli XCX put out another album so soon after releasing her excellent, “True Romance” record just last year (2013). I also wasn’t expecting anything anywhere near as good, but, I will admit it, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a really nice pop album with uplifting rock rifts, massive electronic sounds and loud shout-y vocals which seems to be inspired by all the best bits of the 80s / 90s and beyond. This pop heroine certainly has some darn fine producers working for her, of particular note a super-Swede, Patrik Berger who has worked with artists like Robyn, Icona Piop and Lana Del Rey. Arguably the Swedes make the best pop music in the world so I have to hand it to them yet again. This is a great pop record which is full of cool attitude!

#18. The Coathangers – Suck My Shirt

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Ok, so at number 19 we had what I think is the coolest name in music and at #18, we have The Coathangers. From the name you probably won’t be surprised to learn that this all girl punk band from Atlanta formed as a bit of a joke. Now into their 4th album, its fair to say their music has matured massively over the years, however, they haven’t quite lost that fun, punky, garage edge. Obviously with an album title like “Suck My Shirt” you can’t expect something totally serious and, all in all this is a fun record. The album is playful, upbeat and furiously fierce and just seems a little bit more polished that predecessors. A great choice of album for anyone wanting to rock out.

#19. Planningtorock – All Love’s Legal

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Firstly, I’d just like to say that I think Planningtorock is the coolest name for a music artist. Planningtorock is English born Janine Rostron who now calls herself ‘Jam’ Rostron, as you do. Based in Germany, I have been following her music for some time and I absolutely loved her 2011 album, “W”. Although I feel her latest album isn’t quite as good its still pretty darn fine. Fans of The Knife should like her style. Her warped, distorted vocals sound very masculine as she mutters lyrics like “lets talk about gender baby” (which may I add is a tune) over plucking guitar chords, fat bassline and stabbing synth sounds. Planningtorock truly is a unique artists, especially in the world of electronic music as her lyrics seem to take centre stage focusing on love and gender politics.

#20. Jungle – Jungle

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a funk album would be one of my favourite albums of 2014. However, Jungle are just that, an ultra slick and groovy funk duo from London formed by members Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. They broke onto the scene in 2013 with some pretty outstanding video’s for tracks like “Bust Earnin’” and “Platoon” which kinda went viral. These are both well worth checking out if you have’t seen them. I wasn’t really sure what to expect after hearing these songs, but its fair to say all the lead singles are the real stand-out tracks. This album oozes sunshine with its shimmering synths, lovely falsetto vocals and almost tropical beats. It will definitely be going with me on my next holiday, that’s for sure.

The 2014 Nearlies

It is with great pleasure I bring to you the 2014 nearly list. The albums which I definitely enjoyed, but just failed to squeak into my top 20 album list for 2014…..

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And so, to begin, some controversy perhaps? St Vincent‘s self titled and fourth album is quite a peach, however, I find myself favouring 2011’s “Strange Mercy”. If you have no idea what Art Pop is all about, well, give these guys a spin, you won’t be disappointed. Think about it as top quality pop music for middle aged people. I hope that doesn’t sound too patronising.

In 2014 I also found myslef listening to some rather fine hip-hop. A feat I had never really thought would be possible a few years back. Certainly artists like Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar helped widen my appeal for a genre I had virtually no interest in. Two noticeable albums came in the form of “Honest” by Atlanta rapper Future. Its aurally beautiful and synth heavy, however as with many rap artists I find some of the lyrics a tad abrasive. Nonetheless, I played this album countless times this year. The other hip-hop album would be from a certain Schoolboy Q, member of West Coast hip-hop collective Black Hippy alongside rappers Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar. His 2014 album Oxymoron has a really nice old school hip-hop feel, not to mention the fact the guy is a fantastic rapper and lyricist.

die antDie Antwoord unhappy after being ‘dissed’ by MusicfromNoise

Electronic albums which have not quite made my top 20 this year include Hercules & Love Affair’s new album “The Feast Of The Broken Heart,” which has a great nu-disco, Chicago house, party vibe about it, “Otherness” by Kindness and Die Antwoord‘s “Donker Mag”, which is more of the same rap-rave shenanigans from the crazy South African duo.

sebSébastien looking rather angry he didn’t make the Top 20

Two rather pleasantly chilled albums that I enjoyed this year came from wacky French pioneer Sébastien Tellier with his album L’Aeventura and “Shelter” by French, once black metal-ers now shoe-gaze chillsters Alcest. If that makes any sense at all? Thought not.

So that was it, my nearly list and first proper post. Do you agree with the above. Did you enjoy an of these albums. If so let me know and we’ll have a little chat.

Ciao4now,

R.