fka twigs

2014 Albums of the Year: Part One - 10 through 6

Following on from my list of the of 2014 best songs, which starts with Part One here, here is the first of two parts covering the best albums of the year. It has to be said, 2014 felt like a better year for songs than for albums - lots of interesting emerging artists released EPs, but there were less breakthrough albums that really lived up to the hype. In comparison to an individual track or an EP, creating a compelling album is incredibly hard. In my view, these were the best.

You can check out the concluding part, which includes my album of the year, here.

 

10. Liminal - The Acid

Liminal - The Acid

The debut album from Adam Freeland's new band was something of a surprise... Down-tempo, soulful and full of angst. There are hints of inspiration - take the vulnerable mumbling of Thom Yorke, the sub-bass from Burial - but the whole thing feels distinct. An organic, distinctly human snapshot that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Amazon [affiliate links]: CD LP MP3 / Spotify

 

9. I Never Learn - Lykke Li

I Never Learn - Lykke Li

Lykke Li's boldest album yet, I Never Learn turned up on your doorstep with tears in its eyes and hair that has been dragged through a hedge backwards. Such intensely personal music would be difficult to listen to if it wasn't for such compelling song-writing. Even when it is belting out power ballads, as on Never Gonna Love Again, I Never Learn was always uniquely Lykke Li's.

Amazon [affiliate links]: CD LP MP3 / Spotify

 

8. You’re Dead! - Flying Lotus

You're Dead! - Flying Lotus

It almost always feels too easy for Flying Lotus these days, his experiments boldly carving out new approaches to sound like they were always the most obvious thing in the world. You're Dead! is FlyLo's most overtly jazz influenced album yet, and it is impossible to shake the sense that if some of the experimental jazz pioneers of the 50s and 60s were warped to today, this might be exactly what they would sound like... And that's a massive achievement.

Amazon [affiliate links]: CD LP MP3 / Spotify

 

7. LP1 - FKA Twigs

LP1 - FKA Twigs

2014 was FKA Twig's year more than any other musicians. The most impressive thing about LP1 is that prior to 2014 very few had even heard of her - by now she is undoubtedly one of the most revered stars in R&B. LP1 has moments of confused, electrified brilliance, but I can't help but feel like the best is yet to come.

Amazon [affiliate links]: CD LP MP3 / Spotify

 

6. Reality Testing - Lone

Reality Testing - Lone

Full of moments of experimental brilliance, Lone made one of the most interesting albums of beats I've heard in years. Reality Testing combined every genre Lone could get his hands on, but rather than the candy cane explosion of someone like Rustie this felt like a pleasant trip through the mind of a friend with an enormous record collection.

Amazon [affiliate links]: CD LP MP3 / Spotify

2014 Songs of the Year: Part Six - 10 through 1

Just got here? Get up to speed with parts one, two, three, four and five.

Now that the full list is out check out the Spotify playlist, which includes every one of the full top 60 (plus the near misses) where they are available on Spotify. Click here or play via the embedded player below:

10. Ben's My Friend - Sun Kil Moon

Sun Kil Moon’s Benji was full of personal moments but none felt like they captured the maudlin sense of growing up and growing old in the same way as album closer Ben’s My Friend, complete with that lovely sax work. The way this song sets out the passing of time against Mark Kozelek’s friendship with Postal Service and Death Cab frontman Ben Gibbard is both touching and frighteningly real… Anyone over-30 will likely be familiar with the work that goes into maintaining friendships and the complexity that gradually seeps into life as you age. What once seemed simple and obvious gradually becomes harder.

 

9. I Can Be Your Light - Hugh

I’ve championed Hugh and band-member Joshua Idehen’s other project Benin City for some time, but I Can Be Your Light from Hugh’s I Can’t Figure You Out EP marked their best moment yet. There’s only so much you can say about this song - it’s not complicated, it’s just beautiful. The openness and the generosity… No track this year came closer to bringing me closer to tears.

 

8. Bassically - Tei Shi

If there is one artist I’m excited for more than anyone else in 2015 it’s Tei Shi, who seems destined to pick up the hype train where FKA Twigs has got off. After a cover version of Beyoncé’s No Angel, Tei Shi ended up releasing Bassically - a track so fully realised it is incredible she doesn’t even have an album yet. Dark, brooding and incredibly sexy.

 

7. Brain - Banks

Banks’ momentum seemed to peter-out mid-way through 2014 but her album packs a whole slew of great tracks and Brain remains one of the most thrilling moments of pop music we heard this year, like something evil emerging from the blackness...

 

6. Putty Tart - Mouse On Mars & Junior Boys

Snuck onto Mouse On Mars’ celebratory collaborations project 21 Again was this glorious slice of electronic R&B, and it pretty much picks up where Junior Boys’ Banana Ripple left off. So much energy, so much sun, so much warmth. Love love love.

 

5. Two Weeks - FKA Twigs

Two Weeks felt like the realisation of all that FKA Twigs ambition… Taking the passion and creativity of those earlier tracks and applying it to the Twigs’ first real widescreen production… The music and video are both sexy as hell, and Twigs breathless delivery verges on sinister, particularly on that killer line: “I can fuck you better than her” she declared.

 

4. I See You - The Horrors

What a way to tease your forthcoming album… The first track taken from Luminous sounded like Simple Minds channeling Donna Summer, and I See You feels like a trip aboard the epic Saturn V once it kicks in. Sadly Luminous had showed it’s hand before it even came out - nothing else it contained came close… But you would struggle to find a more epic seven-and-a-half-minutes this year.

 

3. An Ocean Between Waves - The War On Drugs

Dad rock goes epic. The War On Drugs’ Lost In A Dream managed to take the template from Slave Ambient and make it feel more real and grounded, but the epic Krautrock sense of movement was all over it’s best track, An Ocean Between Waves. Adam Granduciel’s struggle to establish connection is almost tangible here in those closing lines: “I’m at the darkened hillside / And there’s a haze right between the trees / And I can barely see you / You’re like an ocean in between the waves”.

A touching moment that evolves into something even more epic as the song finally hits its stride in the closing minutes - you sense Granduciel maybe managed to mount one of those waves, and is surfing his way to a complete view of the ocean beneath him.

 

2. Words I Don't Remember - How To Dress Well

One of the most emotionally honest moments on How To Dress Well’s What Is This Heart. Words I Don’t Remember sounds like a lover struggling to piece back together the way they feel - hands slipping through the sensations and feelings… “Who knows if I love you baby, but you’re the one thing on my mind”. Much as with An Ocean Between Waves, Words I Don’t Remember launches out of that emotional insecurity into an epic instrumental closing third, and it’s a staggering moment.

 

1. Can't Do Without You - Caribou

On which Dan Snaith distills that very feeling of needing someone so bad it hurts… The obsession and neediness that turns love into something darker. Can’t Do Without You is both the most joyous, loved-up and celebratory thing I heard this year and the most desperately cloying. And if I take one thing from this song it is the human connection: we all feel this, for to love that hard is what it means to be human. And Snaith made it into the most addictively beautiful and optimistic sounding piece of sound created this year. Turn it up and forget about everything but the love you feel.

Video: FKA x Inc

This new collaborative single from Young Turks' FKA Twigs and 4AD's Inc. has just dropped in video form. Expect smokey melodies and sultry vocals. The video is another artfully shot black and white affair directed by Nick Walker and FKA Twigs herself.

The single is out on Young Turks now, or a limited 7" comes in April featuring an eight-colour zine.