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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.