2014. What a year. It may have the blockbuster nature of 2013 but that’s what made it all the better as new artists that were previously unknown to the masses made a name for themselves with some of the most impressive records in their retrospective genres. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any big names releasing albums this year. If 2013 was a AAA film directed by Tarantino then 2014 was a Zach Braff film with Bill Murray and who could deny the appeal of both of them.
Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End
1996. 5 Californian boys in an alt rock band write what’s been hailed as one of the greatest albums of the 90’s. The band in question is Weezer and for the past decade or so they’ve suffered from the success of Pinkerton. With every new release, fans are expecting a worthy successor to the album and are regularly disappointed but this was all changed with the release of Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Featuring some of the best songs that the band has produced in recent memory, arguably their whole career, EWBAITE is an apology letter to the fans and one that makes it hard not to forgive Rivers Cuomo and co.
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
“I feel sort of weathered and beat down and grown up all of a sudden. I’ve always had some kind of plateau that I wanted to reach, and now I just can’t see the next one.”
This is how Canadian musician Mac DeMarco felt after his extensive touring that lasted over a year and you can really hear it. Salad Days , recorded in DeMarco’s apartment, is laid back and relaxing, drawing you in with unwinding melodies like Let My Baby Stay and Blue Boy. It’ll be a hard feat to find any other album that can calm and entertain you as much as this psychedelic pop beauty.
Aphex Twin – Syro
2014 wasn’t just the year of the up and coming, as proved by the return of this borderline insane genius. Announcing his return by flying a small blimp over London carrying the trademark Aphex logo, master of ambience Richard D. James came out of nowhere to clinch the bronze with an album full of a sound that is brand spanking new yet quintessentially Aphex Twin. Starting off with what is arguably the best song of the year, Syro manages to captivate its audience from beginning to end with lovely minimalistic piano solo aisatsana  delivering an amazing end to an amazing album.
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Fans of Bombay Bicycle Club can relax knowing that the boys have cemented themselves as one of the best in the current wave of British indie bands with such a tremendous album, infusing everything from synth pop to RnB that transfer to their live performances seamlessly. It’s odd to think how a band could create a record that has every single track bringing something new or tremendous to the table but Bombay Bicycle Club have managed it and from the looks of things, it’s not set to be the last time.
1. Run The Jewels – RTJ2
Hip Hop was a dominating force last year with Drake, Kanye, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Rocky just a small slice of what the genre had to offer. However no album last year could prepare you for what Run The Jewels have to offer. You need proof? Take Blockbuster Night Part 1, a song true to its name as Killer Mike and El-P rap over a Godzilla-like beat, rap’s equivalent to the Jaws theme tune. Every track is dark and fresh, I could honestly write page after page on why I love this abum. I’ll save you all the earache and just tell you to go pick up Run The Jewels 2, it’s in a whole fucking league of its own.
4.Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Mark Kolezek, love him or hate him, is undoubtedly one of the best songwriters of all time. And Benji (his 6th record under the Sun Kil Moon moniker) has cemented that claim. Benji isn’t an easy ride, but it’s a vital one. All of the album’s 11 tracks are heartbreakingly sad, from album opener Clarissa (which tells of one of Kolezek’s relatives who died in a freak fire at the age of 25) to closer Ben’s My Friend (Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie being the Ben in question), each and every song paints a vivid picture of a man who doesn’t truly know how to express himself outside of his music. Look past the public beefs and media bullshit and lose yourself in the mind of the 21st century’s finest solo artist.
3. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
If you’d have told me that the girl who sang Bulletproof would one day write one of my favourite pop albums of all time I would have laughed right in your face, yet here we are. Trouble in Paradise is a pop masterpiece. It’s 9 tracks are nothing short of pop-funk brilliance and I urge anyone and everyone to listen to it as soon as possible if you haven’t. The departure of founding member (and Elly Jackson’s former boyfriend) Ben Langmaid was, at the risk of sounding like a dick, the best thing that could have happened to La Roux from a creative standpoint. It gave Jackson more freedom to experiment with funk, afro-pop and Caribbean sounds, and these influences compliment Jackson’s voice greatly. Songs like Kiss and Not Tell and Sexoteque will instantly put a smile on your face, and remind me of Prince at the height of his powers. In short, this album is absolutely essential.
2. The Xcerts – There is Only You
Ah, the Xcerts. Hailing from my hometown, I couldn’t help but feel a wee twinge of pride when listening to their latest LP “There Is Only You”. This record is an absolute monster. It’s relentlessly catchy (I can say with complete honesty I get at least one song from the album stuck in my head a day, and I’m still not sick of it) but underneath the catchiness lies real lyrical heart. Songs like Pop Song and Kick It, while feverishly memorable, are truly sad at their core. This, from an outsider’s perspective, sounds like the album the Xcerts have always wanted to make. Heavy, poppy, sad, brilliant.
1. Taylor Swift – 1989/The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pick between these two albums. I tried, so hard to make a call and I just couldn’t. They’re both the best albums of the artists’ respective careers and they’re both absolutely stunningly brilliant. Content-wise, however, these albums couldn’t be any more different from each other.
Taylor Swift has perfected the art of the pop song. She’s 100% the best pop star of the 21st century, and she may well end up being the biggest pop star ever. Songs like I Know Places and Blank Space solidify this, some of the best pop songs to come out in YEARS. I could have used any song on the album to make that point thought: from start to finish it is nothing short of pop perfection.
Now onto the Twilight Sad, the polar opposite to Swift’s bubblegum sweetness. The Twilight Sad are gritty, raw. Their songs have no happy endings, and they couldn’t give a fuck. There’s more heart and sadness poured into this album than there is in all the album’s released this year put together. From the devastating Drown So I Can Watch to album closer Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep and all the songs before and after, you’re grabbed by the throat and taken on a journey. It’s not an easy album to listen to, it’s a harder album to truly enjoy, but it is crucial to listen to.
Favourite albums of 2014:
Although Britain can boast about its electronic success stories like James Blake, Jai Paul and Jamie XX, female artists in the genre are few and far between. However this year, Tahliah Debrett Barnett, aka FKA twigs, served the U.K (and the rest of the world) a plate of female electronic goodness with her debut album LP1. The album is an absolute beauty, combining experimental pop, R&B/hip hop beats, and layered whispery vocals to create an original, almost angelic sound. LP1 undoubtedly features the newest sounds I’ve heard in British music in a while and is definitely the coolest, most weirdly seductive release this year.
Favourite track: Give Up
Nicki Minaj-The Pinkprint
Nicki Minaj is easily one of the most hard working women in mainstream hip hop at the moment. Throughout 2014 she created buzz for the follow up to Roman Reloaded, releasing single after single, controversial video after controversial video and presenting the MTV EMAs. After all the hype I was worried that The Pinkprint wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but if anything, it exceeded them. Minaj is no one trick pony. The record is full of variety, going from emotional looks into her past, sultry duets with the likes of Beyonce and Ariana Grande, heart breaking ballads, pop bangers and impressive examples of her sheer rap talent. Trash talking Nicki is old news. The Pinkprint is fierce, fantastic; and makes her numerous skills absolutely undeniable.
Favourite track: Feeling Myself
Warpaint are talented ladies. As impressed as I may have been with their debut “The Fool”, this follow up is so, so much more mature and developed. With production and mixing assistance from the likes of Flood and Nigel Godrich, and a new band line up, it seems Warpaint has truly allowed the girls to find their sound. As the songs were written mostly during jamming sessions the record has a raw, experimental feel to it, and as expected the vocals feature heart stopping harmonies that are hauntingly atmospheric. Alongside the indie dream pop vibes there are also aspects of shoe-gaze, electronic music, and most notably hip hop and R&B which gives the album a feel of originality. It’s a stunning release that can be left on repeat and still somehow manage to leave the listener fascinated.
Favourite track: Biggy
Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters’ eighth studio album received mixed reviews but you can’t deny they’ve still got it. The theory behind Sonic Highways- recording each song in a different city- flaunts the creative ideas of the band. Using the influences of each location, each track is distinctive but the classic Foo’s clash of guitars and strong vocals is still recognisable.
Most of the mere 8 songs are on point and carry a punch, making up for the limited length. As a stand-alone album, the music is more important than the concept, but the Sonic Highways documentary provides a deeper insight into the record.
Listen by The Kooks
From the first time hearing Listen, it felt like a world away from The Kooks’ earlier albums. They’ve gone in a completely different direction, experimenting with a variety of ideas. No more indie rock, although the guitars are still there, disguised under layers of funk, tambourines and claps. If you don’t want to sing along then you’re not listening properly. Each track is individual, standing out from the others, making their fourth album the most diverse one yet. Their older fans may not like the big change but some may be pleasantly surprised by this fun, upbeat release.
There Is Only You by The Xcerts
You can’t help but keep coming back to this album. The Xcerts put so much passion into their music and There Is Only You is no different. Blending rock with a small amount of pop, they’ve found the perfect balance of not-too-heavy but still rough enough. Even from the first listen, the songs leap out and don’t all mix into one. Catchy? Definitely. And the elegant title track is an unusual but beautiful finish. Touring recently with fellow Scottish band Twin Atlantic helped to boost their popularity along with this energy-filled album.
Royal Blood by Royal Blood
You only need to listen to this to see why Royal Blood have become so popular in such a short space of time. This self-titled debut has propelled their career- going from small shows to supporting Foo Fighters next year. It’s incredible how full and heavy the sound is for just bass and drums. Every song is epic in its own way, whether it’s for the pounding drum beat or the killer riffs. This album is filled to the brim with energy and it would be amazing to see them play live for it to come to life.