flying lotus

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 Three - 40 through 31

Just got here? Get up to speed with Part One and Part Two.Click the Prev post button at the bottom of this post to get to Part One once it is out. Click the Prev post button at the bottom of this post to get to Part Four.

40. Girls - Slow Magic

 

39. Blue Veins - LSBV

 

38. All We Need - ODESZA feat. Shy Girls

 

37. Swim - Fickle Friends

 

36. Strange Feeling - Panama

 

35. Flame - Ronya

 

34. Never Catch Me - Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar

 

33. Break Free - Ariana Grande feat. Zedd

 

32. Fame - The Acid

 

31. Heaven, How Long - East India Youth


2012 Album of the Year, Part One: The Long-List

So it's that time of year again - Christmas is done and the excess food has started to fester. Gifts have been exchanged and everyone is now thinking about going back to work. Happy happy joy joy. 

To see you through this dark week I'll be posting my picks for 2012's best album, but before we get to the top ten I wanted to call out some of the albums that were very close to making this list but were pushed out.

I've also put together a Spotify playlist that includes tracks from every album on the long-list and the top ten (provided they are available on Spotify in the UK) and a good deal of other tracks that weren't necessarily from great albums but were notable all the same. You can check that out and subscribe to it here.

And without further ado, the 2012 long-list - note the top ten are not on this list and that this list is not in any order. Links on the title / artist go to the BlackPlastic.co.uk review (where one exists), Amazon links are to Amazon.co.uk and are affiliate links:

Come back tomorrow for the first half of the top ten: 10-6!

The Obligatory Best of 2010 List - Part Two

Following on from Part One, here they are... Our favourite nine albums of 2010:

 

9. Crooks & Lovers - Mount Kimbie

This year saw dub step evolve. Having previously felt like an excuse for people who should know better to listen to garage some of the genre's pioneers began to, well, actually pioneer. And the innovation really came from combining the music with other genres. Mount Kimbie's debut is a perfect example - tempered with a bit of intelligent soul you suddenly had a classic on your hands, particularly on the standout 'Before I Move Off'.


8. Total Life Forever - Foals

It shouldn't really have worked... Following their acclaimed status prior to the release of their debut album (and subsequent fall from grace when it disappointed some), Foals returned with a more melodic, accessible and populist album. And it was also the best thing they have produced yet.

Criticism has been levelled at Total Life Forever on the basis that it contains too many songs to appeal to summer festival goers. Which basically means it has too many songs people will actually like. Go figure.

By stripping back the math-rock and building some actual songs Foals made an album containing several of this year's best songs. And it isn't just the sings that shine - the production work from Luke Smith is sublime - a gorgeous, melancholic, sun-bleached feeling runs through the record from the dip-in-the-pool-refreshment of 'Blue Blood' through to the desperate 'What Remains'. With not just one but two completely killer tracks ('Spanish Sahara' and '2 Trees') Total Life Forever is already shaping up to be one of 2010's most overlooked albums in the end of year roundups.

  

7. InnerSpeaker - Tame Imapala

Whatever you think of Tame Impala - little more than plunderers of the past or innovators kick starting a new genre - it's difficult not to get caught up in it all. Sure, the production is epic - thick basslines, rhythms punched out of solid steel and guitars that encircle the listener in proggy bliss - but it is the songs that will keep you coming back, particularly the apathetic bluesy closer 'I Don't Mind'... It's the stoner equivalent of La Roux's 'Bulletproof' and the weird rave bit halfway through never fails to surprise. Genius.


6. Black City - Matthew Dear

Potentially Dear's magnum-opus, Black City builds on everything that has come before and turns it into something original. Darker than ever, it straddles a variety of emotions, at turns alienated, sexually depraved and wounded and needy. 'You Put A Smell On Me' is like Nine Inch Nail's 'Closer' re-made for 2010 - pure, unadulterated filth of the sort that will have you singing things you really shouldn't in public.


5. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

BlackPlastic still isn't sure if The Suburbs is as good as either of the last two Arcade Fire albums but the fact that the question even lingers means this is an album that deserves a place on the list. A cleaner and sparser record, but potentially all the more weighty for it. On first listen it seemed to lack stand out moments but repeated listens just demonstrate that this is simply because every track is a highlight.  

 

4. Klavierwerke - James Blake

Not an album but still one of this year's most significant releases, James Blake seems to be making it his personal mission to upset hardcore dub step fans by tearing up the rule book, taking the genre's best ideas and running off to make something entirely new with them. 'I Only Know (What I Know Now)' is the sound of a man learning from his past mistakes. It is also this year's most emotive five minutes.


3. Vampires With Dreaming Kids / Color Your Life - Twin Sister

Not an album but really a double pack EP, this nonetheless was the sound of one of 2010's most promising bands. With the stripped back aesthetic of the XX, the rawness of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and what sounds like sterling taste in 1980s pop music at their best the influences combine to make something marvellous, as on the slow burning 'The Other Side of Your Face'. Twin Sister will be ones to watch in 2011.


2. This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem

If albums were judged on artwork alone This Is Happening would have owned this year. With its minimal type combined with that picture of James Murphy flying through the air in his suit it really felt like a statement of intent.

Whatever. This Is Happening is regardless one of the best things to come out of any stereo this year. With greater focus than Sound of Silver LCD's latest release felt more like a proper album. And with the monstrous bass of 'Dance Yrself Clean', the middle-aged-guy-having-an-epiphany gut-wrencher that is 'All I Want' and the subtly epic 'Home' it also had the tunes. It may not have another 'Someone Great' but it's the sound of one of our times' best bands all grown up.

 

1. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus

It says a lot when a record has increasing amounts of praise heaped on it the longer it has been out. He may not have won a Grammy but he has made 2010's best album - a record that fuses genres like they don't even matter. The J Dilla comparisons are perhaps inevitable but Cosmogramma is no mere re-tread - it demonstrates that Flying Lots is one of the most innovative producers of our time.

 

So what are your thoughts? What did we miss?