Welcome to the second part of the run down of our poll of albums that have been released in the past twelve months, as we reach the pinnacle of our list, we discover albums that span across genres and locations eliciting consensus amongst our writers. If you missed part one click here, if you have been paying attention forge ahead dear reader!
11 Caribou – Our Love (City Slang)
“Sitting before Our Love are the twin former flames of Swim, Dan Snaith’s previous album as Caribou released in 2010, and Daphni, the more dancefloor friendly project he has been working on since then. Some have criticised Our Love for not being enough like the former, and too much like the latter. They say it is disjointed; as if this suggests unfaithfulness.
These souls have not yet fully surrendered to Our Love. Once embraced, a tumultuous journey is on offer; one that is organic, considered, and unrelentingly honest. Not the most tumultuous of themes, right? But that’s love for you. It’s a slow burn, filled with alluring quirks like the flutes on ‘Mars’, and flitting semblances of what used to be, see ‘All I Ever Need’ for Swim-like proof, that remind you that nothing has really changed all that much at all.
Our Love shows Dan Snaith in as fine form as he’s ever been in; strong, committed, and still on an adventure.”(Michael Mcdonald)
12 Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals (The Quietus Phonographic Corporation)
“Grumbling Fur are the combined talents of aural conjurers Daniel O’Sullivan and Alexander Tucker, with ‘Preternaturals’ they have crafted one of the most delightfully transcendental ornate, affecting pop albums to be released in 2014. The follow up to 2013’s ‘Glynnaestra’ ‘Preternaturals’ houses nine glowing awe inspiring musical trinkets embellished by a freedom, experimentation and laced with twin vocals that are the sound of redemptive chants, emotive croons and haunted by the ghosts of pioneering records of the past, yet retaining a indefinable originality rooted in their experience, their lives, their craft.
Bubbling, bleeping, enlightening heads and coursing through veins, their sound could be plotted somewhere on a map between the delicious electronic psych suites of Animal Collective‘s ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ and the beguiling hauntings of Talk Talk and melodies of Tears for Fears. But these comparisons are crude because Grumbling Fur are original mavericks of their art, distilling a sound that is resolutely their own, surfing lines of electronica, jazz, folk, space rock and psych.Grumbling Fur are that rare thing in the current musical climate, a duo who peek beyond the horizon, who craft a sound that whilst it might rustle with warm reminiscences for artists of the past, is still uniquely rooted as it is in the present and future sound. It sounds quite like nothing else you’ll hear this year. Preternaturals is utterly transformative.” (Bill Cummings) Read More
“Four albums in and just starting to hit their stride, Wild Beasts’ Present Tense is full of everything that made them so exciting in the first place. At times sounding like a pop version of Scott Walker’s Tilt, Present Tense bridges the gap between lo-tempo synth pop and indie perfectly. There is an added bonus luscious production and exquisite song writing.
Stand out track Daughters has a menacing undercurrent to it, that’s juxtaposed perfectly with delicious synths and guitars, and a repetitive beat that manages to slowly increase the tension with each repetition. The emotional delivery and urgency to New Life makes for a beguiling and life affirming listen. Wild Beasts appear to have grown up and are tackling more interesting subject matters, whilst keeping the indie synth pop as slick as before. More of this lads if you please!”(Nick Roseblade)
14 Moonface – City Wrecker
“It is questionable whether City Wrecker is an EP or an album but Spencer Krug’s latest release contains more downright genius in its final track, the astonishing ‘Daughter Of A Dove’, than most musicians can muster across an entire catalogue. Using only a grand piano and (very) occasional slithers of synth washes he plays each note as if its his very last, clawing until his fingers bleed as his voice soars to the point of self-immolation.” (Jordan Dowling)
15 Liars – Mess
“The second album into Liars exploration of all things electronic, following 2012s tour de force WIXIW and not since their debut have Liars sounded so damn catchy. The familiar yet uncomfortable feeling of imminent terror still spreads through it all, but now ripples beneath four-to-the-floor dance floor fillers as foretold in the WIXIW highlight Brats. This new, bold, brash Liars has been divisive, with some criticising it for its relative normalness but as has been abundantly clear since They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, Liars do not care what you think. Consistently one of the most exciting and consistent bands of the last ten years, this a more than worthy addition to their back catalogue.” (Steven Morgan)
“The album opens with the impressive double-whammy of ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’ and ‘Last January’; the two tracks that have been doing the rounds ahead of the album’s release for a few weeks now. And then, as the anthemic, bass-driven ‘I Could Give You All that You Don’t Want’ kicks in, it all becomes clear: this is an album that doesn’t let up, and holds it’s own to the final notes of the heartbreaking album closer ‘Sometimes I Wished I Could Fall Asleep’.
It may well be the most Twilight Sad any of their records have sounded, without ever feeling that it’s going over old ground. Hopefully this will be the record that catapults them into the big time. And if it isn’t, that’s the fault of the listening public and not the band!” Read More
17 Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Montreal’s Ought’s debut album is as unpredictable as it is enjoyable. Channelling the Spirit of Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Frank Black, injected with a DIY ethos. ‘More Than Any Other Day’ skitters one way then skews another before finally resting exhausted somewhere completely different.
Standout track Forgiveness is a master class in how feedback can be used to create lurid soundscapes, while never becoming overpowering. The whole album follows this idea. Noise is used like an instrument, but at no time does this detract from the listening experience. The juxtaposition between dissonant noise and jangly melodies creates one of the most original and enjoyable albums of the year.”(Nick Roseblade)
18 Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
“Brevity made a welcome comeback in 2014. Alongside Tony Molina’s brilliant Dissed & Dismissed – 12 songs in under 12 minutes – Joyce Manor’s endearing crack at the mainstream carries not an ounce of fat, 10 songs in little over 20 minutes, and not a single dull moment amongst them. From the swooning romance of “Falling in Love Again” to the high-octane thrills of “Victoria” and “Heart Tattoo”, Never Hungover Again is perfect pop-punk that more than makes up for yet another disappointing Weezer album.” (Tim Russell)
19 Young Fathers – Dead (Big Dada)
Earlier this year Young Fathers released possibly the most interesting, beguiling and transfixing album of 2014. Whilst hailing from Edinburgh, two of their members have Liberia and Nigeria lineage. It’s this mixture of cultures that makes the album so insanely listenable! This isn’t you’re average hip-hop album, and we are all thankful for it.
The African roots pepper the album with hand claps, foot stamps, but they are juxtaposed with contemporary bass music conventions (woozy bass, swoony synths and wonky beats). At times it sounds like Dave Okumu is producing OutKast, whilst they are being backed by the Drummers of Burundi.At 35 minutes it feels like a punk album, very DIY and hands on! It is aggressively modern, innovative and exciting, whilst distancing itself from sentimentality, sounding slightly dystopian but remaining uplifting. As the tracks are short, they get to the crux of the matter quickly. If it’s possible for a hip-hop album to be stripped down, DEAD is that album. Lyrically the album gives us social commentary, catchy hooks and ultimately hopefulness.”(Nick Roseblade) Read More
“Withered Hand’s (aka Dan Willson) Good News album of five years ago now really struck a chord with me. It wasn’t just his aching falsetto or the ragged backdrop that was laced with self doubt, home, questioning of his place in the universe, or his way with a gorgeous tune; it was the lyrical complexity that bustled within each tortured couplet, the lyrical duality, an ability to underscore each line with a knowing melancholia and wistfulness. To poignantly get to the heart of it all (see the likes of ‘Cornflake’, ‘No Cigarettes’ and ‘Love In The Time of Ecstasy’) above a lo-fi acoustic/banjo led setting, that whilst it was appreciative of folk, country and alternative tradition didn’t slavishly sound in awe to it. . Whilst his tone was compared with the raw bittersweet melancholia of Neil Young, his clever darkly inter-textual wordplay was with the likes of Daniel Johnston.
Now he’s back with a new band, bolder, more hi-fi pop sound, the songs are still just as strong, if not more so, but now they are framed in a more guitar pop setting. New Gods is a brave album; he’s still tackling the big themes of mortality, love, loss, hope and the battle between heart, mind and desire but writing them in even bigger more anthemic letters. So previous single ‘Heart Heart’ (originally out on Fence Collective singles club) gets a huge rework its personal/cultural commentary offers itself on repeated listens, whilst its trembling quiet/ loud bombast is almost redolent of REM’s ‘It’s the End of the World As I Know it (and I Feel Fine)’. While lead track ‘Black Tambourine’ West Coast chiming arpeggios that spiral across the sunlight, possess the indie pop glory of fellow Scots Teenage Fanclub and The Byrds it’s autobiographical lyrical content deals with emotion (“you light me up with your smile”) and with trying to break free from musical boxes and scenes (“some people stand in a line just stand in a line”). Next single ‘Horseshoe’ has hints of Evan Dando about its constant juxtapositions; Dan as lightweight in the fight, pretending that love could ward off the spectre of death draws closer to home. For epic closer ‘Not Alone’, Dan returns to the theme of spirituality as he wistfully sings about family in the midst of a self affirmation despite the relentless creep of mortality; that someone is always there with you, its gloriously grand gospel like chorus is laced with swaying horns, touching organs and uplifting crescendos. Elsewhere friendship and travelogue are the theme on ‘King of Hollywood’ while the title track scales things back a bit with a gorgeously confessional paean. In short New Gods should rightfully see Withered Hand aka Dan Willson and his collaborators gain wider attention in 2014.”(Bill Cummings) Read More
“You press play on a Spoon album, you know what to expect. For some, this could be levelled as a criticism, but the svelte, addictive songwriting and expert production whose effortlessness belies how damn clever it is combined with Britt Daniel’s incredible voice have never barely put a foot wrong over a long and illustrious career. Since Kill The Moonlight pushed the minimalism to its limit with the phantom drum line Small Stakes creates in your head without even existing, Spoon have been slowly reintroducing the pieces, honing their craft to perfection across the subsequent albums. After the relatively muted reaction to Transference and Britt taking some time out to form Divine Fits with Dan Boeckner it was hard to tell what the future held for them, but this punchy return is the perfect reminder that we all need a bit of Spoon in our lives.” (Steven Morgan)
22 Future Islands – Singles(4AD)
“Given the furore over Baltimore trio Future Islands, driven chiefly by the viral video of their recent performance on David Letterman’s Late Show, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were a band preparing to release their debút album, riding on the familiar wave of internet hype until they are consigned to the musty cave where Black Kids and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah remain trapped. Listen to Singles though and you’re made immediately aware that this is a band who have spent time honing their craft and perfecting their sound, and their fourth album is a glorious collection of soaring, uninhabited synth-pop gems for which Singles is the perfect title.Throughout Singles there are few moments where your attention is allowed to wander before Herring jumps at you with a sweaty bear hug or throws a playful fist in your direction, but this lack of pacing and refusal to adhere to a structure is the main thing that prevents Singles from being any more than a very good “collection” of assorted hooks and ideas. The triumvirate of ‘Sun In The Morning’, the TV On The Radio circa Dear Science aping marriage of slap-bass and thick walls of synths of ‘Doves’ and ‘Back In The Tall Grass’, which sounds a little TOO much like Mortiis fronting New York ‘sissy-pop’ duo The Ballet, are all memorable, catchy tracks in their own right, but their ordering does more to take away from their charm than to add to it.
Yet this might just be why so many are falling for Future Islands. They are an instant thrill; their sounds grab you in a headlock and kiss you whilst rubbing a knuckle into your temple. Where many bands of a similar ilk spend so much time on schematics and layering Future Islands put it all out up front. So whilst Singles might not be an album you feel the need to dig into and spend time trying to get under the skin of, it will always be waiting for you with open arms and a toothy grin.”(Jordan Dowling) Read More
23 Scott Walker & Sunn0))) – Soused(4AD)
“Scott’s potentially terrifying collaboration with drone-metal titans Sunn0))) turns out to be surprisingly accessible, by both acts’ impenetrable standards at least. Scott sounds totally rejuvenated, his vocals pushed high in the mix, while Sunn0)))’s bowel-shaking chords provide a suitably apocalyptic backdrop to the singer’s typically surreal lyrics, which take in Marlon Brando, the Stasi, and “a Riverdancer’s nuts”. It’s actually almost fun.”(Tim Russell) Read More
“At 14 tracks and an hour in length, there was always going to be some amount of filler on this debut by BANKS. That should in itself preclude an album from being on any end of year list, but when the tracks elsewhere are this good it’s hard not to come away enthused. The dividing line on Goddess is centred on the production talent and the strength of their beats. Totally Extinct Enormous Dinosaurs succeed in underpinning Banks’ Aaliyah-esque R&B vocals with backing as staid and lumpen as their moniker, while everywhere else we’re treated to minimal synth lines, skittering around a line that hints at Warp or Hyperdub.
While it’s an infuriating irritant to think of what could have been had these latter beats been allowed to steal the show, it’s clear this is an ambitious and soulful album of worthy tracks of any end of year list. In an age where every track can be removed from a playlist in an instant those duff tracks should no longer weigh so heavily on an album such as this.” (Michael Mcdonald)