lykke li

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 Five - 20 through 11

Just got here? Get up to speed with parts one, two, three and four. Click the Prev post button at the bottom of this post to get to Part Six once it is out.

20. Forgive - Pr0files

All I need to say is that you probably haven’t even heard of Pr0files, and yet here they created one of the year’s greatest pop records. Take one part Drive-inspired 80s noir and combine with power-pop vocal hooks dealing with broken hearts. Sure, the formula may be obvious, but being this great whilst executing it is spectacular.

19. Chandelier - Sia

Sure, the video has since become a meme that has overshadowed the actual song, and the album never quite managed to hit the same peaks. Yet one thing is clear: Chandelier proved Sia can deliver outstanding pop. Nothing else I heard this year felt so inherently ingrained in 2014 - it will age, sure, but if in years to come you ever want to remember what 2014 felt like then you can’t get much closer than Maddie Ziegler weird teeth brushing dance-routine paired with Sia’s brand of hyper-emotion.

18. Cigarettes & Loneliness - Chet Faker

Build On Glass was one of my favourite, durable listens of the year. Cigarettes & Loneliness is the most grown-up and self-reflective moment on that record, a song that curls itself up inside your foggy mind like the brutally crystal clear realisations of your failure that only truly hit with that unique combination of a hangover and personal shame at 9:15am on a Thursday morning. There really isn’t enough eight-minute beardy folk R&B in the world, and Nicholas James Murphy’s repeated refrain of "Breathe, this is love without love without love without love without love without love” reminds us that we aren’t alone in our imperfection.

17. No Angel - Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s self-titled album dropped out of the blue close enough to Christmas last year that a balanced view was difficult… When the past two years have been dominated by alternative R&B and young up and comers, Beyoncé showed she still knows how to blow them all away… Yet it’s best moment was defined by her willingness to hand over the reigns to the increasingly eccentric production efforts of Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. The result is No Angel - both breathless and effortless.

16. If You Went Away - Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson’s Boy Who Cried Thunder has a handful of wonderful moments but none is as instantly heart-stopping as the dramatic If You Went Away. This is the kind of track that manages to be so in love that it is almost creepily intense, but the production is so sincere it is impossible not to empathise with Wilson’s pain.

15. Goshen ’97 - Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks’ Heal starts with a rambunctious bar band rock song of the like it never returns to… Perhaps because it nails the delivery to such a degree there is just no point. Where the rest of Heal uses electronics and increasingly complex production techniques, Goshen ’97 plays it straight, making it’s tail of growing up and growing old all the more poignant.

14. Ivory - Movement

Ivory is the moment where Movement went from being a diversion to one of 2014’s most exciting bands. In comparison to their earlier work Ivory felt darker and sexier, JUST THAT GUITAR.

13. Violence - Andy Stott

It seems like every time we hear from Andy Stott he gets more interesting. Violence was no different - incredibly dense and dark, it recalled Tricky at his most paranoid and is almost guaranteed to stop you in your tracks on your first listen. Play it LOUD.

12. Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone - Lykke Li

Lykke Li’s third album was packed full of emotion, but Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone represents her at her most exposed. It’s hard to listen and not want to do something to reassure, but that is the magic - Li manages to expose so much human emotion.

11. Is This How You Feel? - The Preatures

Technically Is This How You Feel? is a cheat - it came out in 2013… But I only discovered it this year, and it actually remains unreleased in Europe despite significant success in Australia. Is This How You Feel? is timeless, the kind of record that could have been released at any point in the past 35-years, and if you wished Haim would rock just a little bit harder then this is for you. And the video manages to be incredible without even really doing much - it turns out it is impossible to take your eyes off of Isabella Manfredi.