Here we go then, the end of year and time for my favourite 50 Records of 2014. I managed to place my favourite albums from January to March and April to June earlier. Those Records and their chart position at the end of June will feature.
But what was my favourite record of the year? We shall get there soon, but before that what was the worst record of 2014.
This will not be a shock, this was a record that even huge fans of the band admit was a shocker. An album so utterly terrible that ‘Q’ magazine didn’t even bother reviewing it as they couldn’t fawn all over the band once it was released if they did. Ladies and Gentlemen, the very worst record of 2014 was……….
Coldplay – Ghost Stories.
Enough of the rubbish, time I feel for my favourite 50 Records of the year, lets not forget these are my favourites not necessarily the best – though to be honest any one of the top 5 could have been number 1 – and other opinions are available. Why not tell me of other records I have missed if you see some.
50(-) – Aphex Twin – Syro
This year I discovered a real love for Cornwall, one main reason for this but this also meant I have began to look at the culture and sounds from the most westerly of counties. With Crowns (a band I loved long ago) splitting up and the Port Isaac Fishermen not really being my thing, I (belatedly I know) discovered that Aphex Twin Richard D James is from that very county I decided to give his new work (and first since 2001) a go. It really is nothing like any other record in the remaining top 50, this is a remarkable set of sounds that have come together to produce something that, I am told, rivals his very best work. I feel that I need to listen to more just with a glass of Korev and a Saffron Bun in my hands!
49(-) – Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
The fourth and, to me, weakest of their catalogue. Though many others would disagree with me. They are a band who appear to struggle with an identity, each of their albums suggests a different direction and this one there are signs of Psychedelia, dance, indie pop all over the place. One area it does translate well is when it is played live which is the area that BBC excel. Will they settle on a sound for number 5? Time will tell.
48(-) – Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Controversially this wasn’t released under any label but by Yorke himself by the file sharing sites Bit-Torrent. All be it with a payment required. What this album does for certain is set us all up for the next Radiohead album, the release of which will no doubt place this work back into some sort of obscurity.
47(-) – St Vincent – St Vincent
This one appears on pretty much everyones best of list and I must admit I hadn’t given it a go until I saw this, well that was my mistake. It is a wonderfully crafted record and one that also adds further evidence that women in music can be so much more than looks and attitude alone. Don’t make the same mistake as I did. Listen to this and appreciate every minute.
46(19) – Lily Allen – Sheezus
Big drop for Ms Allen and largely because this hasn’t been given much time to be listened to recently. Not as complete as her 2 previous albums it is still great to have her back, the music scene is certainly greater for her presence.
45(-) – Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde
Any yearly countdown feels incomplete without Frank Turner, whilst with his usual work we have only been given the third compilation (which is brilliant), it was back to his punk roots and the rather great Mongol Horde which came screaming and shouting at us in the summer. Backed by a rather excellent live performance (especially at a very hot and sweaty Reading), it was great to hear the man again – now back to the day job please Frank.
44(-) – Simple Minds – Big Music
With such an 80s revival going on, it was great to hear one of the bigger bands of the era coming back with their best materials since their heyday. Jim Kerr’s voice is unchanging from that time. Well worth a go if only for nostalgia reasons.
43(-) – U2 – Song of Innocence
The single most derided record of the year, and certainly the most talked about. For people who actually bothered to listen to it, this was a far from poor record. Not amongst their very best but certainly nowhere near their worst (pop). It achieved one thing, everyone got talking about U2 and Bono again so I guess they achieved their goal.
42(-) – Baxter Dury – It’s A Pleasure
For someone who will never be able to live down his fathers legacy, it is still refreshing to hear Baxter Dury create his own unique sound and hiding the gritty nature of his lyrics within infectious pop works here almost as well as it did on his previous work Happy Soup.
41(-) – Johnny Cash – Out Amongst The Stars
Technically not a new album as such, but a collection of lost recordings from the great man which was released this year. Further proof that Johnny Cash wasn’t really appreciated until he was sadly coming to the end of his life. Well worth a listen to fans old and new.
40(24) – Band of Skulls -Himalayan
The latest from south coast rockers was a more complete effort than their previous materials. The influences from the lies of Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters is clear for all to see, one for fans of those bands I would say.
39(-) – Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business
Another year of controversy for the former Smiths front man. 2014 is another year that for many reasons the former Smiths front man has been in the headlines. This was a wonderfully, bleak collection that ranks amongst his best solo work. Sadly his dispute with his label means that many people never really got the chance to listen to the great man.
38(20) – Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
One of the first albums I heard this year and still hanging in there, it is an eclectic mix but offers real warmth and well worth a listen.
37(15) – Broken Bells – After The Disco
A large drop, mostly down to the fact I have not returned to this in the past few months. But a decent collection all the same. I certainly want more Shins from frontman James next time round though.
36(18) – George Ezra – Wanted on Voyage
From Southseafest to Glastonbury, this certainly was a great year for Mr Ezra and his debut solo album certainly deserves a listen or 2.
35(23) – Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Whilst not as brilliant as Light Up Gold and, perhaps, trumped by Mazes this still is a great album. Plenty of Strokes influence on it and evidence that this is a band who deserve to go places.
34(22) – Various – Inside Llewyn Davis
The sound track to one of the best films of the year this album probably deserves to be higher up the charts but there just has been so many great records that this is where it sits at the end of 2014.
33(17) – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon
Pure and simple pop, played and sung well. Further proof that the 1980s really were this years decade of influence.
32(-) – Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
If I was ranking the TV Series then this would be very high in the top 10, sadly the album wasn’t as good as the show. It felt less like a Foo Fighters album and more a sound track. Having said that, it is still the Foo Fighters and the 8 songs here will, no doubt, sound amazing when played live.
31(16) – Jimmi Goodwin – Odludek
The former Doves front man gave us all a reminder of just how good his band were, with the other 2 members working on their Black Rivers project then I guess it’ll be a while before all three get together, till then this collection including the brilliant Oh Whisky will have to keep us going.
30(11) – Black Keys – Turn Blue
Not as good as El Camino but not to worry, this appears to be the record that finally takes the Balck Keys all the way to the top table of the Festival Circuit. A co-headline spot with the Prodigy at the Isle of Wight means huge crowds will soon be singing along to Fever and others from their latest collection.
29(-) – Vena Portae – Vena Portae
Last year, Emily Barker’s brilliant Dear River kept me enchanted. This year (whilst announcing a break from the Red Clay Halo) she brought out a wonderful collection of songs along with Englishman Don Coyote and Swede Ruben Engzell. A wondeful collection of folk that would grace a cold winters night or a warm summers day.
28(-) – Temples – Sun Structures
The good folk at Rough Trade said this was their album of 2014, Noel Gallagher no less is a huge fan, this album went all the way back to the summer of love for its influence and it is very evident from start to finish that they have caught that late ’60s vibe brilliantly. Not a cheesy pastiche but a wonderful tribute so an era so loved by so many.
27(21) – Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
Thanks to one very special lady I gave this a go and thanks to that same special lady this still is being listened to by me and very much enjoyed. Better Man is the highlight for me and I guess she knows why that is the case, thank you Lisa.
26(14) – Gruff Rhys – American Interior
The former Super Furry Animal’s book, film, musical collection really showcases his multiple talents. Weird in places, mainstream in others. Give it a go.
25(-) – Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Some people just don’t know when to stop making great music. Having turned 80 this year, you’d forgive Cohen for giving it a rest but nope. His gravel is getting stronger and that just enhances what are already superbly written works. You just wonder how good he will sound at 90!
24(13) – The Horrors – Luminous
The most obvious of the ’80s inspired works to grace my top 50 this year, a band who try their very best to deceive with their look again delivered a great record especially So Now You Know – which sounds like Simple Minds at the top of their game.
23(25) – Jungle – Jungle
A rare move up the chart from the summer, Jungle’s debut really offers something new and different, Urban Electronic Soul. Busy Earnin’ again is one of the sounds of the summer and this lot also give a blistering live set.
22(12) – Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes
Whilst not his finest collection of music (that probably will be found in his recently re-issued remastered box set) this still shows that even when not fully on his game, Springsteen still blows most away. The addition of Tom Morello to the band certainly keeps his work nice and fresh sounding.
21(-) – Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart
Their last album made everyone think they were a slightly edgy Mumford and Sons, this one made us realise they were a whole lot more. Superb from start to finish – the title song alone tells you this is going to be great fun. Certainly no difficult second album here. The third has, now, to let us see their true identity.
20(-) – Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – Lullaby and The Ceaseless Roar
Whilst many people talk of a Led Zep reunion, their former lead singer simply carries on doing what he wants and this year he continued to produce the kind of music that will keep him going for a while longer without the help of his mates. A delightful collection featuring Blues, Folk and even a dash of rap.
19(10) – Future Islands – Singles
Opening with one of the songs of 2014 Seasons, the rest of the album certainly keeps this very high in my own personal favourites of the year.
18(-) – Augustines – Augustines
Following up from the wonderful Rise Ye Sunken Ships and dropping the ‘We Are’ from their name has not meant that Augustines have lost out, some rather great stuff such as Nothing To Lose But Your Head given the New York Indie Rockers another great album. Again coupled with a brilliant live set from them.
17(7) – Pixies – Indie Cindy
A long time coming and great fun all round. Hoping that more new work from Black Francis and co is not far away.
16(-) – Beck – Morning Phase
Last year it was Nick Cave, this year it is Beck who I have come a little late to the appreciation party. Based on his wonderful slice of Americana that was Morning Phase the man behind Loser should warrant more of my time. This is a superb Sunday morning record and almost as good as Everyday Robots in the champions league of melancholy.
15(8) – Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home
Many though that this was the great mans last effort but if proving a brilliant record was not enough, Wilko announced in November that he was in the clear and let us hope he stays that way and keeps producing brilliant stuff for a lot longer.
14(-) – Mazes – Wooden Aquarium
Low-fi done at its very best. Superb from start to finish and very reminiscent of the excellent Parquet Courts – though the sharing of producer would certainly explain that connection. Well worth a listen and they were utterly brilliant at the ever excellent Pie & Vinyl stage at Southseafest this summer.
13(6) – Metronomy – Love Letters
The reason this has dropped is more to do with the utterly brilliant stuff that came in the second half of the year. This is still a joyous collection of songs brilliantly performed and ideal for a hot summer’s evening. They absolutely smashed Reading this year too.
12(-) – Merchandise – After The End
A superb slice of modern pop, Merchandise follow up the superb Children of Desire with something even better. Starting of with a stunning instrumental that could feature in many a Hollywood movie, it just gets better as it carries on. Another band who have used the ’80s as a great influence for their sound this year, none more so than on the wonderful Green Lady.
11(-) – Sleaford Mods – Divide & Exit
A band I should give full credit to Dave Cronen for pointing me in their direction, how do I begin to explain them? Well if you can imagine an angry sounding The Streets mixed with a little Scroobious Pip vs Dan Le Sac with some pretty scabrous lyrics then you can begin to imagine. The gritty alternative to fellow Nottingham based singer Jake Bugg’s work. Give it a listen, Dave knows what he is talking about!
10(5) – Jack White – Lazaretto
Jack White’s meltdown record and one of the finest pieces of vinyl as art produced in many a year, not a brilliant as his last solo work but still quite superb all round.
9(-) – Johnny Marr – Playland
Reviewed in full here, this was the second full solo album from the Smiths legendary guitarist and a real step up from last years the Messenger. A brilliant collection of work and, like so many in the top 10, backed up by a brilliant raucous live set – especially his wonderful gig at the Wedgwood Rooms in August.
8(-) – Twin Atlantic – Great Divide
Following on from 2011’s brilliant Free, Twin Atlantic did even better with Great Divide, keeping up that fine tradition of delightful Scottish indie rock bands. Supported by brilliant live performances where the new tracks such as the wonderful anthem Heart & Soul blended in so well with their previous work. Let’s hope its not 3 years till the next one!
7(4) – Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Still a glorious slice of melancholy from the Blur front man, whilst hopes of further stuff from his main band might remain dashed, it is great to hear the man sing such an intimate collection. And for next year? Rumours of another The Good, The Bad & The Queen has got me very excited.
6(-) – Alt-J – This Is All Yours
How do you possibly follow up one of the best records of the past 5 years whilst losing 1 of your band in the process? The answer is obviously make another brilliant record. Whilst not as immediate as An Awesome Wave, this is another brilliant collection very reminiscent of a modern Pink Floyd I would say.
5(3) – Manic Street Preachers – Futurology
With the anniversary of the Holy Bible here to complement this collection, 2014 has been kind to the best thing to come out of Wales (ever). Simply brilliant stuff all round
4(2) – Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Wonderful, chilled and just plain brilliant. It certainly has got me as a fan and listening to their back catalogue. On my must see live list now
3(1) – Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
I honestly did not think this would be beaten by the end of the year, and it is a completely brilliant record. More rounded than previous effort Build a Rocket Boys, Take Off almost matched 2008’s Seldom Seen Kid. With a Guy Garvey solo to follow the future still looks bright for Bury’s finest.
2(-) – Royal Blood – Royal Blood
This years must listen to band did not disappoint on their explosive debut. Released just 48 hours after they played to 25,000 in a crowded NME Tent at Reading the 10 tracks here set the bar high for quality rock music. Their live set is every bit as good and sell-out tours and supporting the Foo Fighters next year indicate they are just going to get bigger and bigger.
1 (-) – The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream
This is a remarkable collection of ’80s inspired classics. From the very beginning of the simply stunning Under the Pressure, through the equally brilliant Red Eyes all the way through, this is music of the highest quality and really does set you thinking were the ’80s that terrible really if they can inspire works of this quality? A triumph.
So there you go, my Favourites of the year committed to print. Please comment if I have missed your favourites out of the list.