Song of the Week: December (or My Top 10 Albums of 2014)
It’s always nice to start with a cliche so here goes: I can’t believe how fast 2014 flew by. There, that’s out of the way. As for the music, I didn’t think 2014 was a landmark year but despite the slightly-below-par crop, there were still many standouts. In compiling this list, I had to discard a few albums of merit: Damon Albarn, Flying Lotus, War of Drugs, Sun Kil Moon etc. I’d especially like to mention Alt-J’s This is All Yours and Warpaint’s self-titled effort, which were both unlucky to miss the cut.
10. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but, here, Van Etten has created a sorrowful, melancholy, beautiful collection of songs. The first track ‘Afraid Of Nothing’ is a classic. Her voice highlights a vulnerability that’s so elusive, so hard to capture.
9. FKA twigs – LP1
FKA twigs exploded onto the scene this year. Her debut is remarkably self-assured, an interesting juxtaposition for the dark, volatile vocals and lyrics that lie within. Instead of releasing a generic R&B record, Tahliah Debrett Barnett bedizens her music with pulsing electronic beats that provides an alternative edge. ‘Two Weeks’ is one of the songs of the year, no doubt.
8. Jamie T – Carry On the Grudge
Jamie T, where have you been? It’s been five years since sophomore album Kings and Queens earned you comparisons to England’s rich line of troubadours, from the old guard, Morrissey and Billy Bragg, to the new: Alex Turner, Mike Skinner etc. It turns out, Jamie Treays absconded to America for a while and took a hiatus. Fair enough. Carry on the Grudge sounds more mature and refined, to mostly positive effect.
7. Beck – Morning Phase
It feels like such a long time since this album was released that I forgot it was released in 2014. I find that each subsequent listen increases my liking for Morning Phase, which is certainly not Beck’s best album but certainly not his worst either.
6. Chet Faker – Built on Glass
Definitely an artist on the rise, Chet Faker’s been burning up the airwaves here in Australia (see Triple J’s Hottest 100 as proof). Built on Glass sounds confident and accomplished, the perfect album for dinner parties, barbecues, driving…in fact there’s hardly a bad time to play it.
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who Todd Terje was until this album came out. Thanks to the critical reception and blog exposure, I gave it a listen. What I found was an album packed with funky electro that the Scandinavians seem to excel at. Delorean Dynamite and Inspector Norse, in particular, are gems.
4. Angus & Julia Stone – Angus & Julia Stone
Just a bunch of great melodic pop songs that never grow old; this Australian sibling duo show off an array of rich harmonies on their third album, produced by Rick Rubin. The production helps immensely, providing a deeper sound than previous albums, while retaining their authentic folk roots.
3. Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love
In recent times, singer/songwriters have proliferated England’s music scene. Each year a few of differing quality pullulate their way to the surface, where fame and fortune awaits. Paolo Nutini is among the best of the bunch. His voice is soulful, his sound confident and fun, reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival or The Faces.
2. Caribou – Our Love
Now we’re getting down to the business end. Enter Caribou’s marvelous Our Love, an album that’s refreshingly simple and human and austere, traits often neglected by the electronic genre. The songs mainly feature Dan Snaith laying out vocal loops over dark, warped synths that pulsate with punctilious energy.
1. Real Estate – Atlas
We have a winner. My favorite album of 2014: Real Estate’s Atlas. Concise, sharp, beautiful, dreamy, infectious; these five New Jersey musicians have excelled in creating ten luscious, reverb-drenched songs. The key to all this is their clean guitar sound, the soft vocals and the way these intwine and amalgamate into harmonic bliss. In contrast to their sun-baked sound, the lyrics deal with suburban melancholy, with returning home, feeling your age, with desolation and darkness. It makes for an intriguing listen.