SCM music’s top 30 albums of 2014
2014 was an interesting year for music. Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX grabbed everyone’s attention with ‘Fancy’, acts like Aphex Twin and The Libertines sprung back into action and Metallica became the first Metal band to headline Glastonbury. But what of the albums? 2014 wasn’t quite a blockbuster year for albums as 2013, but was by no means bad. Many end of year lists have already been released; the NME picked St. Vincent, Drowned in Sound picked The Twilight Sad, and for some unknown reason Rolling Stone picked urm… U2’s Songs of Innocence. Awkward. But anyway, without further ado, here are SCM’s Music Section’s own favourite albums of the year. See which albums the section deemed best of the year, and click on the album artwork to hear a sample of what it sounded like. Enjoy.
A combined effort by connoisseurs of Art and Alt Rock, Frozen By Sight literally took the listener on a journey as Paul Smith’s travel lyrics worked excellently with Peter Brewis’ orchestral music. Why buy a plane ticket when you can just put on your big headphones and listen to this?
29. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Put aside the internet squabbles and just listen to Sun Kil Moon’s Benji and you’ll see why it’s caused the stir it has. Many rank Mark Kozelek’s latest release as one of the finest of the year, and it’s not hard to see why. Benji is a nostalgic, slow paced wonder.
28. The Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy
After 2012’s Oceania it seemed the Pumpkins had lost their spark. Never fear though, Billy Corgan somehow managed to pull one out of the bag, and lo and behold we have Monuments to an Elegy. One of the band’s shortest albums, Monuments… somehow managed to recapture the bands experimental nature that almost vanished.
Jack White returned triumphantly this year. Not with The Dead Weather nor The Raconteurs, but with another solo LP. Lazaretto took off where Blunderbuss left off, but expanded and grew, delving into new areas of Punk Rock Blues. White never once dropped the ball. In fact he never even fumbled.
26. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave
The Scottish’s bands downbeat fourth album plodded slowly through the musical quagmire, leaving a wave of awe in it’s wake. Their distinct accents and light guitar made for an extremely laid back listen, and Nobody Wants To Be Here… requires a listener’s full attention.
25. FKA Twigs – LP1
FKA Twigs’ debut LP twitched and bleeped it’s way into the world. Like an even more stripped back Postishead (who knew), songs like ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Video Girl’ gave a whole knew meaning to the term ‘Female Solo Artist’.
24. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Perfume Genius’ third LP felt relaxed yet powerful. His piano based songs slipped into the soundtrack of a listener’s life, yet songs like ‘Queen’ had a life of their own
Merchandise’s debut on label 4AD wasn’t a total departure from their past work, but the sprawling songs of Totale Nite were amiss on this more radio-friendly release. Still, Merchandise produced a charming and exciting album.
22. Caribou – Our Love
Straight-up fantastic electronic music is Caribou’s forte, and Our Love was not a let down. It felt like an album for all occasions, with songs to dance to and songs to put on in the background at a dinner party.
21. Sterling Roswell – The Call of the Cosmos
Remember those space videos you used to watch at school? Try and recall the music that was on them. Now you have The Call of the Cosmos. The album lived up to it’s name while at the same time creating an feel of wonder and amazement.
20. Kelis – Food
If you’d had played Food to someone who had just listened to ‘Milkshake’ all those years ago, they’d be convinced it was a different artist. This album justified Kelis’ transition from Pop Star to Indie Icon while at the same time creating some funky tunes.
19. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Folk songstress Angel Olsen’s latest release was both touching and fierce. With songs like ‘Unfucktheworld’ she exhibited how angsty she could be, and ‘White Fire’, a 7 minute epic, showing a more sensitive side.
18. The Horrors – Luminous
With The Horrors move away from Skying towards Luminous, their music became more obscure as the band explored wider fields of psychedelic sound. However songs ‘I See You’ and ‘So Now You Know’ secured a more radio-friendly area.
17. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
American experimenters Sylvan Esso produced a fun debut album filled with vocal and instrumental loops while Amelia Meath’s voice danced over the top. Their Indie Pop contains enough musical layers to create fascinating depth.
16. Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
The Radiohead frontman’s latest solo outing built on the foundations created with Atoms for Peace and The Eraser. The depth of the music and Yorke’s love of all things layered lead his sonic experimentation down some interesting paths, but lacking none of his appeal.
15. Warpaint – Warpaint
All-female Indie band Warpaint’s second LP built on the foundations created on their debut, leading to some stunning music. ‘Love is to Die’ and ‘Disco/Very’ were just two examples of how the band changed their sound without alienating the listener.
14. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
Nothing screamed funk and disco more than Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time. With ‘Inspector Norse’ already under his belt, Terje could only do good with his debut, and It’s Album Time did everything but disappoint.
13. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
If you’re looking for the perfect Pop album, look no further. Sky Ferreira’s catchy and occasionally risque debut was packed full of actually enjoyable popular music. Forget Katy Perry, this is what you’ll want to listen to.
12. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Run the Jewels went to deeper, darker places with their second (free!) album, and the effect was astounding. With killer features from the likes of Zach De La Rocha, some incredible production from El-P and superb verses from Run The Jewels themselves, RTJ2 rightfully earned it’s place on many end of year lists.
11. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Merely a year after the release of Tally All the Things That You Broke, Sunbathing Animal didn’t drastically change the group’s sound , but brought more enjoyable Garage Rock to the table. Parquet Courts solidified their place in the Alt-Rock world.
10. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
Abandoning her shrill voice and going solo, Elly Jackson took the La Roux moniker back to the 80’s with her second LP. Trouble in Paradise had as much soul and groove as the best of disco records, as well as exhibiting a thankful departure from the sound that made her famous. This loveable album is without a doubt one of the most danceable records of the year, and well worth any Pop fan’s time.
9. Metronomy – Love Letters
Metronomy took a step back from the limelight with their fourth LP. What Love Letters lacked in grandeur though it made up for in personality. Joseph Mount opened his heart to the world with songs like ‘I’m Aquarius’ and ‘Never Wanted’. The album touched a nerve The English Riviera and Nights Out didn’t manage to reach. And of course, there was also the title track to lighten things up.
8. Aphex Twin – Syro
Having not released an album since 2001, British Electronic pioneer Richard D James’ new album was the The Next Day of 2014. The album was James’ most standard electronic release, but still far from disappointed. The catchy beats and unpronounceable track names were right up Aphex Twin’s alley… and apparently down his follower’s as well.
7. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
Alt-J faced that intimidating challenge on their second release; to top their Mercury winning album. They succeeded, and out of the uncertainty came This Is All Yours, a more experimental LP than their debut, yet not lacking in hits. ‘Left Hand Free’ was delightfully Beatles-esque. ‘Hunger of the Pine’ brought in waves of experimentalism. ‘Every Other Freckle’ was classic Alt-J.
6. Swans – To Be Kind
Swans’ To Be Kind is without a doubt the most brutal album of 2014. The double LP only contains 10 tracks, but with 4 spanning 10+ minutes, and one breaking the half hour mark, it’s not an easy listen. Michael Gira’s growls and screams over crunchy guitar is one step away from the stuff of nightmares, but fall just short. The result? A sprawling epic.
5. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
After the success of Born to Die, Del Rey could only push it darker. Ultraviolence takes her love of classic literature and combines it with a bleak outlook. Even songs like ’West Coast’ give a sinister twist on the ever happy LA scene. Del Rey’s ‘sadcore’ music is like a waltz at a funeral; with a downbeat sound that winds its way around a listener’s brain and stays there.
4. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
The 10 tracks of The War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream went from haunting to uplifting and from creeping to deep. The album captured the imagination of the people, the bands brand of Americana intertwining itself within the soul of the album. Lost in the Dream quickly grabbed people’s attention and it’s not hard to see why.
3. Adult Jazz – Gist Is
Overlooked and under appreciated, Adult Jazz’s marvellous debut LP Gist Is uses drones and harmonies to create something wonderful. Tracks like ‘Spook’ and ‘Donne Tongue’ slowly make their way through the album leaving grace and peacefulness wherever they go. With ‘Bone Digger’ and ‘Hum’ the band layer percussion on angelic vocals, which reverberate through the track leaving their audience mystified.
2. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Annie Clark goes from strength to strength. Her self-titled fourth album takes the best parts from Strange Mercy and combines it with her work with David Byrne to create a futuristic dance dream. Clark’s warbling vocals glide over synths and brass to create funky tracks like ‘Prince Johnny’ and ‘Digital Witness’, but also the moving ‘I Prefer Your Love’ and ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’.
1. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
To class Mac DeMarco’s Lo-fi masterpiece Salad Days as slacker rock would be unfair, instead there is an aura around the simple ‘one man and his guitar’ vibe that cries out for rest. As the title track suggests, the good days of youth are over, replaced by the monotonous day in, day out routine of work. It’s music that speaks to anyone who’s just emerged from university. DeMarco opts for a structure that entices the listener into the world they will know of only too well.
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