After the first 3 months of the year I took time to pick what I would consider to be my favourite records of the year to date. I ranked the top 10 HERE and gave a brief verdict. Well 3 months on and there has been a lot of great stuff out there and with the festival season in full swing, many acts have got new material out there to coincide with appearances. So how have my top 10 from March fared?
Don’t forget this is my list of the 25 albums I’ve enjoyed the most not necessarily the best critically acclaimed albums. At the end I will also look briefly at some of the better re-issues out there and also declare, in my view, the WORST album of 2014.
25, Jungle – Jungle
One of those bands whose hype has already set them up for a big fall, however their eponymous debut is certainly worth a listen. The London collective create a summer of chilled tunes that will entrance festival audiences. Another band that get heavy BBC 6 Music rotation. Stand out track Busy Earnin’ competes with others to make this a worthy addition my favourites of the year so far.
24, Himalayan – Band of Skulls
Last April I was lucky enough to see Band of Skulls at the rather wonderful Pie & Vinyl as part of their Record Store Day activity. Naturally their acoustic work there is not going to appear here. but this is still a great collection of rock anthems which it would appear their touring with the likes of Muse and Queens of the Stoneage has helped shape the sound. A headline slot on the Festival Republic stage at Reading this summer is much deserved on the strength of this.
23, Sunbathing Animal – Parquet Courts
Last year Light Up Gold was one of my favourite albums, even now I still listen to it on a regular basis. So a follow up from the New York based act is always going to be welcome. Whilst it, to me, doesn’t hit the same heights it is clear Parquet Courts are going to keep making great music. This one will grow but unlike its predecessor it will need further listens. And lets face it, anyone who can write a song from the perspective of their cat deserves to do well.
22, Inside Llewyn Davis, the soundtrack – Various
Number 10 in March, this slips down simply as other stuff has come along. However the cat theme from the Parquet Courts above is maintained as a cat (maybe sunbathing) features prominently in the film. Its out on DVD now so give it a watch.
21, Caustic Love – Paolo Nutini
It seems unfeasible that I would even listen to Paolo Nutini, but thanks to a lull in the BBC’s excellent Glastonbury live coverage I was given the choice of listening to him or an empty stage. I chose him (after suggestion from someone that I should) and tuned in to hear him sing a beautiful track Better Man, ‘She makes me smile, She thinks the way I think, The girl makes me wanna be better’ he began and immediately resonated with me and where I am in my life right now. With those lyrics in my head, I had to listen to more and he hasn’t disappointed. Perhaps harshly I judged him against all the standard X-Fctor style dross that we are lumbered with and clearly he is better than that. The rest of the album is quite superbly sung and I cannot wait for the autumnal nights to close in as this will fit perfectly there.
20, Burn Your Fire For No Witness – Angel Olsen
Was number 7 in March but, again, there has been a rash of great stuff out since. Still well worth investing time in.
19, Sheezus – Lily Allen
We had to wait a while for the return of Lily Rose Cooper, marriage, babies and general malaise with the industry has meant she has taken time out. But she has returned and as per usual she mixes memorable tunes with positively Caustic Lyrics ensuring that as well as entertaining she is also certainly not frightened to mix it. In this one she goes after Internet Bloggers (URL Badman – Hence why I think she is amazing, just in case she actually reads this!), fellow pop stars and the exploitation of women. I think it is also fair to say that if you get intimate with her you better be good because she won’t hesitate to telly the world one way or another (Not Fair from before and L8 CMMR here), her return with Hard Out Here certainly reminded everyone why she really is marmite. Thankfully I love Marmite and whilst Sheezus isn’t her finest work, its good enough and great to have her back.
18, Wanted On Voyage – George Ezra
A year ago George Ezra was playing the Atrium just after local hero Sean McGowan had finished at lunchtime during Southseafest. It is fair to say he will not be playing that early there again! His debut album follow a meteoric rise from those levels to huge Glastonbury crowds. It is a joyous collection of songs that sound far more mature than his 21 years would indicate. In a very competitive market place where man and guitar sees the likes of Jake Bugg, Frank Turner and the king, Billy Bragg, this album will see George Ezra be able to hold his head high in their company. Cassie Oh, Budapest and the superb Leaving It Up to You are all worth a listen. This album also adds to the fact that grabbing a ticket to Southseafest 2014 is a really good idea too!
17, Days of Abandon – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The third collection from Kip Berman who after the last outing has decided to front alone with a collection of musicians. This is a collection of gentle pop songs with an 1980s soul at heart (a lot of stuff this years seems to be heading back to that decade for influence), certainly one for sunny summer afternoon. Most of the songs exhibit a euphoria that lifts the spirits. From the lovely Kelly through, Beautiful You and all the way to The Asp in my Chest i would give this one a go (and ignore the cover!)
16, Odludek – Jimi Goodwin
Slipping from 9 but the fall is lessened by Jimi’s superb live performances. He was quite brilliant at the Wedgewood Rooms in April where hearing these tracks (along with a few Doves classics) gave the album a life that hearing the vinyl didn’t until then.
15, After the Disco – Broken Bells
A big drop from 5, simply as there has been stuff i have enjoyed more and I also revisited the last Shins album and that was more enjoyable too.
14, American Interior – Gruff Rhys
The former Super Furry Animals front man returned this year with a collection of songs loosely based on the story of John Evans who in the late 18th century went to america and mapped the Missouri River whilst looking for a collection of Welsh speaking Native Americans. As a result the album can use American staples such as Bluegrass and even nod towards Western film soundtrack soundscapes. Title track American Interiors is, to me, the standout track but, to be fair, there are so many great songs that picking one seems harsh.
13, Luminous – The Horrors
The Horrors are an unusual band, to look at them you would be a mile of guessing what they will sound like. So instead of a modern Goth remake of the Sisters of Mercy, what you get here is early Simple Minds (the one before they tried to be U2). So Now You Know could have easily been written by Jim Kerr but it is not, the baggy period of the late ’80s and onto Industrial pop of Sleepwalk this is a band who have certainly captured the spirit of a decade in one album. Where they go next is anyones guess but till then this really will keep fans happy and bring new ones to the table.
12, High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen
Down from 8 and finally the Boss has his feet up for a bit after an epic 18 month trip of the world stadiums.
11, Turn Blue – Black Keys
Just outside the top 10 are the band who have, probably, picked up where the White Stripes left a vacancy. There are a number of 2 man acts starting to appear but over the last few albums Brothers, El Camino and now here that the Black Keys have excelled. Opening with the almost Floyd like Weight of Love the album gets off to a cracking pace. Lead out single Fever really keep this up, a glorious mix of late 80’s pop with more than a hint of U2 about it.The rest of the album does not disappoint. Written in the wake of Dan Auerbach’s divorce this is further evidence that break up albums really can produce greatness. (see last years Recovery by Frank Turner for more evidence)
10, Singles – Future Islands
Slipped from number 6 but still very, very good indeed.
9, 48:13 – Kasabian
I HATED Velociraptor, yet I am almost unique in this. I loved the original album and west ryder and wasn’t that keen on Empire, so it seems that an Odd numbered Kasabian album is one for me. On first hearing of eel-eh i wasn’t sure I would like it. But I gave it a chance and then the album. After a couple of listens, I got it! It was classic Kasabian, lad rock, FHM, Loaded etc. Sounding very big indeed it certainly is a marked improvement on their last outing. It is clear Tom and Serge still love making music together and further evidence of this came at their headline set at Glastonbury where the new tracks fitted into the setlist seamlessly (something the Velociraptor tracks never did). Whilst bumblebeee isn’t that great I have to say treat more than makes up for it. Certainly one that will improve the more I listen to it.
8, Going Back Home – Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey
Down from 4 butr still brilliant. And with the Who about to commence their farewell tour a reminder of what a great singer Roger Daltrey is. Wilko still is with us too so all in all a celebration.
7, Indie Cindy – Pixies
Firstly a daft title for an album but that aside one of the most influential and important bands of the past 20 years returned with a collection of great tunes and their first new material since 1991. Sadly Kim left the band and as a result this album is a much more male driven sound but the old Pixies can still be heard and enjoyed. Magdalena 318 is classic Frank Black, Greens And Blues absolutely superb and whilst not to everyones taste Bagboy is a thoroughly enjoyable track. Whilst its title is sill, the title track does remind us that they are back ‘Well, look-see what the wind washed back’ and let us all hope the wind stays blowing this way because its a better place for the pixies being part of it. Not their finest work but the Pixies at not their finest is considerably better than most bands at theirs!
6, Love Letters – Metronomy
A drop from 2 to 6 says more about my favourite 5 than this record which is still pretty brilliant indeed. I cannot wait to enjoy them at Reading next month.
5, Lazaretto – Jack White
Whilst the Black Keys may be filling the void left by the demise of the White Stripes, Jack White is still making records and brilliant records at that. Blunderbuss was a great album and in Lazaretto he has peaked that. Opening with the superb Three Women he swiftly moves a pace and sticks to what he is great at. Its full of superb riffs, distinct vocal style and the ability to sound authentic and original yet strangely familiar. Blues music is never far from him. And, just like the Black Keys this is another album written by a man going through (in his case a very public) bitter divorce. His concerns of being Alone in My Home, whilst regrets win Would You Fight for My Love are tempered by his boasting in Three Women. But the greatness of the album doesn’t end there. In addition to the quality of the music, White is a craftsman of exquisite taste. The vinyl for Lazaretto is a work of a genius, side one plays inside out, side 2 has alternate intro tracks depending on where the needle sits. There are hidden tracks in the label and even an Angel hologram. If more people took the time and effort into creating their music and the product then music would be in safe hands indeed.
4, Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn
Fully reviewed here, this record gets better with each listen. Melancholy at its very best.
3, Futurology – Manic Street Preachers
Last years Rewind The Film featured very high in my top 50 of 2013. Its number 2 placing a tribute to the clever way they managed to create something new and original. Well 12 months later they are back with a companion piece which gives us more of what we have come to love over the years of Wales’ finest. From the moment Walk Me To The Bridge kicks in, we are back. This is a collection of superb pop music with a real nod toward European music, not just in the bonkers Europa Geht Durch Mich but throughout. Still lyrically angry at times (Lets Go To War) but with a less angry edge to their sound. Added to that the Manics live experience has now been given even more great music to listen to. I just hope they can stay angry for much longer and that they can bring out something of this, and Rewind The Film’s, quality on an annual basis as we really will be in for a treat.
2, Rave Tapes – Mogwai
The only record to move up from March. The more I listen, the better this gets.
1, The Take Off and Landing Of Everything – Elbow
Still number one. Still love every single minute and now having seen a number of the tracks performed live its likely to stay there for the rest of 2014, or will it.
So there you go, my favourite 25 albums of the year to date. What will the rest of the year hold for us? Well it is safe to say that the top 10 will be challenged and even the number 1 slot. The new Foo Fighters album is coming and there is a lot of promise there alone. Added to which we have the return of Alt-J ∆ to look forwards to and possibly, though maybe not till 2015 NEW RADIOHEAD!
A quick nod to some superb re-issues this year too:
Led Zeppelin 1,2 &3 – just great to be able to introduce Led Zeppelin to a new audience, with the remaining albums to follow these three still stand up. Their vinyl releases are a thing of beauty even replicating the originals, and lots of new content to enjoy too.
Oasis, Definitely Maybe – Their first and still finest record re-issued 20 years after its debut. a reminder on why we loved it hearing it first time, it still, mostly, is brilliant. The others will follow but none will hit its peak.
Johnny Cash – Out Amongst The Stars – Technically not a re-issue but a collection of previously lost Cash music. A man not really fully appreciated until his sad passing. A great album well worth a listen.
Paul Weller – More Modern Classics – Second Compilation from the Modfather of his solo output, which reminds us why he is still loved and forever evolving.
WORST RECORD OF 2014
No brainer, the new Coldplay album sucks, it is truly insipid and where the break up theme of great music (Frank Turner, BLack Keys, Jack White) has meant some great stuff this dirge is the exception that proves the rule. Awful in every way shape or form. Do yourselves a favour and do not buy this terrible record. Oh and for a slightly less balanced view enjoy THIS!