2014: a shit year for global politics, national politics, religious politics, environmental politics, gender politics and – of course as with any year that includes a major football tournament – a shockingly shit year for English sport.
Good year for music though! Here’s the proof, our ten favourite albums of 2014! ICYMI, here’s part i.
10. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – ATOMOS (Erased Tapes)
Originally a piece written to accompany a contemporary dance routine, ATOMOS as a standalone piece of work is gloriously cinematic and extremely moving. Along with their label mate Nil Frahm, O’Halloran and Wiltze prove that they are amongst the best neo-classical composers out there.
9. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (Jagjaguwar)
Heart wrenching honesty, full bloodied catharsis, and some of the most moving songs of the year, Sharon Van Etten built upon her wonderfully wrought breakthrough Tramp with another album of deeply personal musical therapy.
8. Caribou – Our Love (City Slang)
Dan Snaith’s psychedelically inclined electro has always been a sensual delight, no more so than on his latest release. Our Love may have less hooks than 2010’s Swim, but it’s a more progressive, more experimental and – most importantly – a much more soulful experience
7. Real Estate – Atlas (Domino Records)
The shimmering guitars, the wistful melodies and nostalgic lyricism, Real Estate further refined their brand of melancholic college-rock on Atlas. Musically Real Estate have stuck to the road they know, but the songwriting improves with each album and, indeed, each listen. Atlas is transportive listen which makes you wish you were young again.
6. Ought – More Than Any Other Day (Constellation Records)
Once or twice a year a band emerge proving that punk music is still alive and well, this year that band was Ought. More Than Any Other Day, with its brilliantly prosaic lyrics and seamless transitions from jerky guitar rhythms into droning string sections, was not only a thrilling, dizzying listen but one that instilled a genuine joy for life – no matter how banal!
5. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days (Captured Tracks)
He might not seem like the kind of guy who takes anything particularly seriously, but Salad Days is proof that Mac has worked his bloody socks off in releasing an album that is catchy as hell and, at just over 30mins, totally moreish. Whilst Mac is usually more than willing to act the goof, the man has an undeniably unique gift when it comes to writing pop songs.
4. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (Rough Trade Records)
Eloquent, electrifyingly brilliant, Parquet Courts are verging on untouchable at the moment. Stunning live shows, clever songwriting and with plenty of ballsy attitude, Sunbathing Animal builds upon the frantic avant-punk of their last record (a standout release last year). It’s impossible to tell whether they’ll get better and better with each release or whether they’ll disappear up their own arses in a perversely aloof cloud of smoke. And that’s pretty damn exciting.
3. St. Vincent – St Vincent (Universal)
An artist is every sense. Aesthetically, musically and performance, Annie Clark hit her career peak in 2014 with her most direct album to date and raising her profile from indie music darling to bonafide superstar. In an age of analogue purism, St Vincent’s songs are unashamedly digital but could not be faulted for her heart, charm and trademark virtuosity.
2. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream (Secretly Canadian)
There are lots of things that shouldn’t work on this album: the soaking wet 80s drums, Knopfler guitar solos, and Adam Granduciel’s nasal Bob Dylan impression, but Lost In The Dream is simply one of best guitar albums recorded in the last decade. Full of pleasing peaks and ambient troughs, Granduciel’s account of his breakdown and rebirth is one of most pleasing narratives committed to music in 2014.
1. Swans – To Be Kind (Mute Records)
Bludgeoning their way back from their late 90s hiatus, Swans have come back stronger and more frightening. Michael Gira is at the very top of his game at the moment, and that particular game is scaring the shit out of listeners. To Be Kind, like 2012’s The Seer, is uncompromisingly long, gruelling even, yet it’s a brutal masterpiece and shows the true potential of music being something to fear as well as admire.