Thursday 18 December 2014

The Top 50 Albums of 2014

(according to me)

The Top 50 Albums of 2014 (according to me)
Oh my golly, it’s the end of year again, yayayay! I’m just kidding about the yayayay part of course, because my Decembers are filled with cancer-forming stress and borderline meltdowns. The reason for this is that each year I somehow attempt to pretend I know music better than anybody else, doing so by compiling a list of what I consider to be the 50 best albums of the year (or, more accurately, the most memorable), whilst trying to articulate poetic and clever descriptions of each one—which I’ll have you know, isn’t as much fun as doing nothing at all.

However, it is finished and it is here, 2014 marking an extra special point in this traditional blog series as it is the exact midpoint of the decade—five down and five to go, because if I live to see the clocks change to 2020, I am retiring from life in general. But despite my obvious fatigue and pessimism, I did manage a hefty amount of listens in the last 12 months, reaching 460 albums in total (every single one endured at least three times, I may add), which beats last year by a WHOPPING TWO ALBUMS!! Oh my OMG! Although it must be said that such an amount does make 2014 my second highest score to date, defeated only by 2011’s 580, which as I’ve stated plenty of times before, was sillol.

Regardless, I do consider myself, as one man, to be in a unique position of power where my grasp on 2014 music is definitely superior to 99.99% of the general population, which is why I feel no shame in smugly crowning myself as the best person for the job, even if as a whole, 2014 has been one of my least favourite years of music since the 2010’s began. But no matter, as there were some definite solid gems (even if none of them stand as significant game changers), and I am confident that you personally will find quite a few below that will shake hands with your taste buds and perhaps even educate you about something or other. But before that, there are some pointers in place to protect you, please read:

1. If you do not find your favourite album on this list and wish to cyberattack me with hellsfury behind the safety of your computer screen, I urge you to firstly check out this pedantically organised spreadsheet where each of the 460 albums reside, complete with my ramblings in tact along with a couple of other rad things such as the albums I didn’t listen to and my long list of Song Of The Week’s.
2. For the sake of remaining human, a cut off date had to be enforced, and so no music released after the 9th Dec 2014 was even considered. I’m sure I must have missed some brilliance due to the desicion, but at this point, the amount of fucks I give are in direct correlation to the amount of fucks I’ve had since I started writing this blog, namely ZERO.
3. I am always aware that a lot of amazingly decent albums and songs can’t get their just deserved praise in such a strictly numbered list, which is why I do urge everyone to check out this Spotify Playlist and order it via Date Added. There you will discover, like, a thousand songs from the year, all of which I adore and listen to regularly no matter their lack of acknowledgement on this page.
4. Finally, I also gone and done some of my own music this year, namely the Fear of Telephones EP. It would mean oh so much to me if you gave it a listen because it’s less than 15 minutes long and I worked really hard on it.

Fucking finally, here are the The Top 50 Albums of 2014 (according to me):

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 50. Thantifaxath - Sacred White Noise

50. Thantifaxath - Sacred White Noise

Black Metal
15 April

‘Despair’ is customarily the definitive description for any genuine black metal outfit; a sadistic intention to construct walls of suffering fashioned to unnerve and disarm the listener by invoking an uncomfortable atmosphere of dense desperation—and Thantifaxath are thankfully/regretfully not one to rebel against this core essence. But while the unrelenting chaos of technical misery runs powerful within this band’s debut, Sacred White Noise takes half a step sideways from the genre, nudging the familiar torment towards a more unique, creative plane, which they achieve by simply forcing as many anxious ideas and compelling moments into the already crammed and overflowing package, a technique which threatens to disrupt the remarkably clean production to the point of snapping its stitches, yet never quite managing to do so. It is not afraid to violate you in moderation, regularly allocating a few courteous moments of breathing space before shoving you back into your corner and shouting you to tears, which is something we should be grateful for, I guess? But do I love it? Do I hate it? That is irrelevant, because when two conflicting emotions can somehow coexist without killing me, I know I’ve just survived something special.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 49. Busdriver - Perfect Hair

49. Busdriver - Perfect Hair

Abstract West Coast Hip Hop
9 Sep

Busdriver might have perfect hair, but what he is yet to achieve is the perfect album, this 10th attempt included. His well deserved cult following was built slowly, owed primarily to his countless crowd-pleasing guest slots on almost every underground hip hop album that has mattered in recent history. But it seems like when he gets 50 minutes all to himself, his only priority is to please his own taste, an exercise in entertaining his palate and making his funny-bone laugh, indifferent to any costs of alienating the listener. His uniquely recognisable voice spits dazzling flows with the most absurdist of deliveries, spread thick over awkward beats which are borderline piss-takes, perpetually teasing the outskirts of something perhaps ‘too weird’ or even fucking annoying—one inconsistent and uneasy listen, which is a struggle to chew let alone digest. So now that I’ve dissed the hell out of it, why is it on this list? Simple: because it’s hilarious. Such a fresh charm was impossible to ignore, busdriven by his manic personality, all-over-the-place wit, and cartoon oddness, a record with absolutely everything except anything ordinary. And so even if I didn’t want to include it whatsoever, it kinda just put itself here and I am far too exhausted to argue.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 48. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell

48. Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell

Folktronica, Art Pop
27 May

A plant takes its time to grow; a slow but determined process, allowing the greenery to develop its own unique textures whilst experimenting to find the most effortless direction for its tender branches to reach towards. It values being untouched, and is grateful for details we would take for granted, like the gentle embrace of the Sun, or the angelic dew drops which moisten the soil—natural allies who sooth and encourage the organic advancements of God. Such an image of gradual beauty creeping along the development of life is one we could hardly ever apply to essentially electronic based music, but this is exactly what makes Hundred Waters so distinct in a genre which has become somewhat commonplace in recent years. People speak of it like an amalgamation of Susanne Sundfør, Björk, Little Dragon, Sigur Rós, Bat For Lashes, Braids, and Massive Attack ... yet The Moon Rang Like a Bell is above those in measures of serenity, disinterest, and contentment. However, just like watching a flower grow, the experience can be very mood dependent, at times even underwhelming, but if you are willing to let your preconceptions go, this album may very well be the greatest bedtime pop you hear this year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 47. Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

47. Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

Downtempo Art Pop
28 April

Your run-of-the-mill musician shelf life expires even sooner in our 140 character age, but when a man not only fronted the pioneering britpop band of all time, on top of the most successful virtual band in history, you slowly accept that Damon’s career will only be over when he says it’s over. With that in mind, Everyday Robots (his first bona fide solo record) is somehow up there with his best, still very ‘Albarn’ but without repeats—or perhaps (if anything), a Gorillaz offering with all the sugar extracted and swapped with a valium pill. Described by the artist as his “most personal record” as well as “empty club music”, there is some sort of nature vs. technology theme sleepwalking through the centre where organic meets electronic, often portrayed by its careful sample use alone. Walkmans clang. Dogs bark. Mechanics creek. And a somber acoustic guitar drearily sways over African percussion—the perfect audio rendition of such an apt title. It may be less pop, less risky, and less unashamedly conceptual than the Damon we are used to, but the cold robotic presence is still sustained by the warmth of love which is hypnotically layered without clutter, and is yet just another delightful brush stroke on the canvas of Albarn’s impeccable genius.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 46. Nux Vomica - Nux Vomica

46. Nux Vomica - Nux Vomica

Crust Punk
1 April

Nux Vomica’s self titled monster consists of only three songs, none of which clock in under 10 minutes, one of which pesters the 20 minute mark, and all of which might as well be a series of freight trains determined to run you over and burst your brains all over the tracks. Feedback cries as a weapon, sludgy riffs pummel your ears in hatred, chilling samples taunt your safety, and energetic vocals yell with unstable aggression—a dangerous combination, I’m sure you’ll agree, which explodes together as one viciously intrusive beast, a sound so enraged that you discover tension breeding within your shoulders while your neck swells and aches into submission. That said, it’s not all demons and murder, as moments of punky-beauty do occasionally seep through the cracks of debris, but even these work only to suggest a smile during the harassment, as if the band are having a wonderful time at your expense, and personally, the masochist inside of me appreciates such pride in the homicidal craft. In my gut it goes, in my gut it stays, and in my gut it causes trouble.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 45. Beck - Morning Phase

45. Beck - Morning Phase

Chamber Folk
25 Feb

Six years passed since 2008’s Modern Guilt, and so it’s no great shock to me that when the world welcomed Beck back with their musical arms wide open, many were underwhelmed by Morning Phase’s arrival. Named the sequel to 2002’s equally mellow Sea Change, people were reluctantly faced with the more midtempo and melancholic version of the man, electro jokes and pop dance moves absent in the mist, replaced by light acoustic compositions to which some rejected as a “safe” endurance of monotony driven by forced emotions. And to a degree, I can sympathise. We have come to expect a certain wow factor when it comes to Beck, and this is simply not it. What it is, however, is a beautifully patient ride, one of intimate loneliness which has been smoothed over by wisdom, now rich of substance and exposed bare from the blood of a brooding heart. It’s the oxygen to his stoner appeal; it’s the slumber to his goofy acid trip; it’s the meditation to his stressful nonsensical broadcasting—and we must accept both sides of his personality, for everything has its place, please don't get me wrong. But considering Sea Change is admittedly my favourite Beck album, I’m very happy with it at least. Evidentially happier than Beck, anyway.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 44. Owen Pallett - In Conflict

44. Owen Pallett - In Conflict

Chamber Art Pop
27 May

It’s extraordinarily rare for an album to climb inside of you without you even noticing. And once its compassionate embrace has rooted itself internally, it makes itself at home, dancing around your centre in dainty yet reserved movements, slowly reorganising your contents so they make more sense; colour coded, grouped according to size, and slotted together like some metaphorical organ spring clean. It whimpers profound lyrics, intricately engaging your soul in conversation, but so subtly that if you weren’t paying attention, your spirit will turn up rearranged and unrecognisable, without any documentation on the subject for your brain to recall. However, if you were paying attention (and I recommend you do), you should find yourself marvelling over the maturity of such a calculated process, an electronic wisdom which works within a classical sadness, an album much more concerned with focusing on you rather than exposing any interest about the reciprocation of attention. And what’s more, it preserves a wonderful shelf life, each listen granting Owen the keys to deeper regions of yourself, as well as liberating the awareness you require to fully observe the cleansing of your domestic emotions. These songs are good friends. They want what’s best for you.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 43. Big Ups - Eighteen Hours of Static

43. Big Ups - Eighteen Hours of Static

Post-Hardcore Noise Rock
13 Jan

In a time where that edgy energetic/shouty anthemic/raw melodic type of formula can fall either which way of predictable, it’s a comforting relief when an album not only manages to fall the right way, but does so whilst spitting on your granny. And that's exactly what Eighteen Hours of Static does, a lo-fi mess of mathy distortion dabbling in some catchy mellow-indieish riffs, begging for volumes whilst frontman Joe Galarraga screams hilariously pessimistic line after line (“Everybody says it's getting better all the time, but it's bad! Still bad!”), the offering proving its worth in less than half an hour because, let’s face it, that’s probably all someone like you could stomach anyway. It comes packaged with the scent of Slint, the passion of Nirvana, and the insanity of the Pixies, all without sounding too nostalgic or lost for the next gear, and (despite the aggressive cynicism) is actually a really fun listen. At the risk of making a terribly unamusing pun, big ups to Big Ups for creating one the best albums of 2014 before the year had hardly even begun.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 42. Phantogram - Voices

42. Phantogram - Voices

Indietronica Glitch Pop
18 Feb

What astonishes me the most about Phantogram’s sophomore is how frustratingly unknown it is, and yet even those who are in the circle of trust, hardly seem as impressed as I am. I’ve heard people call it “too inoffensive” and “safe”, but I prefer to use the word “careful”. It tip-toes in the background, wary of intrusion whilst meticulously balancing the maturity of Portishead with the downtempo smotherings of Policia/Purity Ring, somehow preserving an essence of pop catchiness by sucking all the pop right out of it, dribbling half-digested electronica from a frown made out of defeat and sadness. Sarah may oust her male counterpart, Joshua, but the girl/boy dynamic is essential in exhibiting this fusion of what’s-hot-right-now, and that brings a lot of feelings to my feelers. Produced to perfection and solid without being predictable, my only suggestion is to listen to this one alone.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 41. Caribou - Our Love

41. Caribou - Our Love

Deep House
7 Oct

Your prescription is ready, sir, please just sign here. Good, now take one of these and sit over there for a moment. Relax. Fall in love with yourself again. Fall in love with everything around you. Surrender to that euphoric warmth which is busy healing the pathway from your intellect to your heart. Marvel over the colours of the wallpaper, question if they are real or not, and then admire them as they warp in response to your breathing. Note your sudden empathy for the passive ghosts who float through you, delicately brushing upon old memories, cleansing them of all obstructions and resistance. Smile. Be happy. Be yourself. Are you there? Are you lost within the rich textures of happiness? Isn’t that why you came here? For the wonderful? For the magical? For heaven? God, what was I even talking about? Who was I even talking to? Ah, who cares, this is incredible.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 40. Sun Kil Moon - Benji

40. Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Contemporary Folk
11 Feb

Kozelek’s soft approach to music has always worn the unrivaled ability to build intimacy. He reflects profoundly on his own memories and mistakes, and then opens up his vulnerable discoveries for the world to observe. And now we have Benji, an album devastated from the realities of death and mortality, which as it turns out, is the perfect concept for Mark’s monotonous storytelling, connecting to levels above his entire, extensive catalogue. His voice grieves in lethargic despair, crushed by emotions but too tired to cause a scene, and it makes me real sad. So sad, in fact, that I hate this album. I feel like it is killing me, my heart aching and my own life becoming very difficult to deal with, and yet ... I keep coming back. “One more time, Mark,” I’ll say, and he’ll say “ok”, and then destroy me once again, the hardest thing I’ve had to listen to all year. So yes, it’s excessively long, painful to swallow, impossible to bear, and even with all the patience in the world, still won’t grow on you. But it will stay with you, and there’s something indescribably beautiful about that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 39. Saor - Aura

39. Saor - Aura

Atmospheric Pagan Black Metal
6 June

So at first I was like “wtf does atmospheric pagan black metal even mean?” and then I was like “oh”. Basically, it sounds a lot like the album artwork might suggest: marching through Scottish mountains born from nature’s beauty whilst the fog uplifts your spirit but chills your bones, drowning out your Celtic war cries until they are hardly even there. Finally, the long awaited awareness of the gods. Sophisticated orchestral arrangements use their chord changes to realign your essence, summoning enough cold to keep you awake but enough vitality to keep your boots hard, heading towards the unknown, harbouring an emotional concoction of anxiety and zest beneath your ribcage. And what’s more, there is only one leader: Andrew Marshall. The sole sound behind this army, the lone man at the forefront of the storm, the exclusive composer on these epic plains of space. Such a fierce desperation, yet without losing any appreciation of the testing roads ahead is why I admire this album with all my figurative allegiance, a record so pure—so rare—that it is undoubtedly in one scarcely populated league, and I dangerously await its permission to breathe.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 38. Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE

38. Cymbals Eat Guitars - LOSE

Indie Rock
26 Aug

In 2007, Cymbals Eat Guitars singer Joseph D’Agostino heard the news that his best friend, Benjamin High, had died from a heart-related condition. The report struck the songwriter with blunt force, taunting his mind with memories laced with grief and questions of mortality, which developed into an unsettling anxiety consumed by the inevitable demise of everyone and everything he knew. Naturally, such a potent disturbance manifested itself within his art, and was dealt with inside of this very record, a project inspired by the hopelessness of love and loss, aptly titled LOSE. Once you become aware of this story, the immediate jangly prettiness and layers of frenzied solos with nostalgic ooooh icing, cracks away to expose a mourning, fragile sponge beneath, confronted with the hardest part of life to deal with: the end of it all. As a result (and while this record is still a noise pop effort at its core), the chaos is subdued, and restraint is acknowledged instead; a hooky commotion hidden behind a mandatory smile; the sound of a band whose nature is to tear shit up but have purposefully stepped back to reflect, because now is not the time. And it’s their best record.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 37. きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ[Kyary Pamyu Pamyu] - ピ カ ピ カ ふ ぁ ん ​​た じ ん [Pika Pika Fantajin]

37. きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ[Kyary Pamyu Pamyu] - ピ カ ピ カ ふ ぁ ん ​​た じ ん [Pika Pika Fantajin]

Dance J-Electropop
9 July

All hail the queen of J-pop as she marches her second album within two years onto one hysterical scene, complete with enough messed up cuteness and hyper artiness to put even Gaga’s eccentricities to shame. But as much as I already love the genre for its no-fuck-around so-pop-you-actually-want-to-vomit qualities, there is another level of peculiarity to what Pamyu does, somehow floating beyond the usual easy-stick nature of the genre to uncharacteristically grow on you per listen, perpetually revealing deeper regions of darkness—like a nightmarish freakshow dancing between your unmanageable muscle spasms. Its anthemic sing-a-long songs break down all language barriers whilst pumping so many endorphins into your skull that your mind rots into a stupor like a toothy smile drilled with sugar, which is why I am so hopelessly in love with everything about her, please help me. Of course, it’s always a dangerous approach to produce this quantity of music in such a short space of time, and consequently, Pika Pika Fantajin does suffer as a continuation from the previous effort, except a little bit thinner and a touch more rushed. But even if it is the exact same idea, it’s still a pretty spectacular idea.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 36. Trust - Joyland

36. Trust - Joyland

Synthwave Pop
4 March

Upon analysing the joy of Joyland, my mind always presents the same question: is this for real? Like, is it supposed to be serious? Or what? It’s hard to know anything when we are bombarded with retro casio-esque synths playfully producing a relaxing yet definite club-energy, smothered by the contradiction of cold bassy vocals along with feminine falsettos, all sharp edges fit with cushions to ensure maximum comfort during your distress. And it crawls into my mind like a spider made from glowsticks, forcing me to envision a dreamlike cartoon sequence where a creepy yet upbeat industrial machine is slowly drowning in soft melted cheese, which is an irritating hallucination at best, but goddamn, it is hilarious, even if that was never the intention. Regardless, I know it’s far from perfect, perhaps a bit too hefty and sugary for one meal, but as I push it down and bubble in guilt, I cannot deny the sheer enjoyment it grants me, even if I try keep that a secret for my own safety.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 35. Kate Tempest - Everybody Down

35. Kate Tempest - Everybody Down

UK Hip Hop
19 May

While the aggressively heavy beats on Everybody Down deserve their own proper merit, it is undoubtedly Tempest’s well crafted lyrics and bold delivery which dominates this intensely rough trip. With her primary strength lying in spoken word poetry, this album presents some of the best verses of 2014, consciously spitting a smart narrative focused upon the hardships of our chavvy British youth, complete with commonplace circumstances, relatable characters, and the type of situational dialogue you hear every day on these streets. Like a film, it demands your full attention to bravely dig through the thick sound in order to accurately grasp the fast-paced plot, but when you do, you’ll find a talent so fresh that even the Barclaycard Mercury Prize committee blessed her skills with a nomination. Admittedly, the jarring abstractness and awkwardness of the experience can at times prove too tough of a listen to enjoy, and occasionally the choruses may fall short into a more irritating territory, but even these flaws cannot blunt one of the sharpest, most engaging, and realest records of the year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 34. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

34. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

17 Nov

Andy’s 2012 release Luxury Problems was effortlessly one of the best “electronic” albums of the decade, which placed a lot of pressure on this follow up. And for those who agree, I have good news, and I have bad news for you. The bad news is that, unfortunately, Faith in Strangers does not quite stir the same density of the former, as some parts definitely shine dramatically brighter than others, the worst of the lot existing as nothing more than an underwhelming whoosh of ambience, their only purpose to lift the stronger tracks higher in context of their minimalism, I’m sure of it. However, the good news is that when Stott frequently initiates the right type of restraint, we have moments better than anything he has ever done before. Just listen to the intimidating Violence, which stands as maybe the greatest track of 2014, inducing quivers to my tear ducts as it expands into such bleak hauntings that horror films could learn from the suspense. And it is not alone, the majority of the content scraping at that same genius while those that fall don’t fall too far away, cementing Stott as one of the most intriguing producers of our time, no problems.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 33. GoGo Penguin - v2.0

33. GoGo Penguin - v2.0

Nu Jazz
17 March

Nu jazz is the new jazz! For it does seem in recent years (owed in part to the success of BADBADNOTGOOD) that this genre has been gaining momentum, frantically opening gateway after gateway into new lands for us beginners to explore; places where jazz does not need to be wanky, unnecessarily serious, or desperately show-offy, but rather bouncing about in that yay let’s just have a good time type of style. And GoGo Penguin are the epitome of that description, keeping the fast pace light without disguising the underlying feeling of pensiveness, hiding little sounds so far in the background that you begin to question whether they came from your headphones or the outside world, all the while the drummer speeds his snare along at such a delirious pace that the show almost exclusively belongs to him. Thankfully, they’re not just a pretty name, a point proven when this unlikely album became a candidate for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize Album of the Year, even if hardly anyone knows it exists.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 32. SOHN - Tremors

32. SOHN - Tremors

Alternative R&B Art Pop
7 April

Upon reading other reviews for Tremors, one will find themselves colliding into comparison after comparison, so I figured I’d honour the practice by summarising those up right here, just for you. Yes, it’s an elaboration on the clean downtempo production of James Blake, complete with the fat basslines and minimal depth. Yes, it’s about as smooth as a wounded Jamie Woon, the R&B flavour still intact yet probably superior in taste. And yes, his vocals melt all over his words in such an alluring fashion that even Justin Timberlake would pause a dance move to take a few notes. But there is something else going on here, a certain somber peace which brings on an optimistic gloominess rather than one of pure sadness, SOHN’s manipulated vocals working as his main weapon to knock you down gently into the crisp snow, repeated in slow motion on a damaged VHS. And there you lie, so lost in your own thoughts that you cannot concentrate beyond your mind, blissvomiting cold syrup all over yourself until you choke and you drown and you die. Was it good for you, though? Goodnight, darling.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 31. Darkspace - Dark Space III I

31. Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Atmospheric Black Metal
6 Sep

The band’s name is “Darkspace” and the album’s name is “Dark Space III I” and the artwork is really dark, so we can only assume that this will be the darkest music of the year, right? Right! And it legitimately is! Like a pitch black cloud formed from well chosen samples and an almost dancey double-bass-heavy drum programming, all then progressively injected by more and more lethal doses of cheesy guitar leads until the vocals are drenched with such a murky horror that they fall suffocated to the point of inaudibility ... and suddenly I find myself surrounded by an eerie atmosphere which brings the claustrophobia of dying, stuck in a space suit spinning away from our planet. So, yes, it’s terrifying and it’s very intense, a presence so potent that it will imprint on your mind forever even if your eyes are closed and you have no idea what is happening. Would you like to be trapped in a metal container and kept alive by wires? Would you like me to remove your eyeballs and suck on the empty sockets? Is that stuff dark enough for you?

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 30. Jungle - Jungle

30. Jungle - Jungle

Synth Funktronica, Smooth Soul, Electro-Disco
14 July

When you consider 2014 releases like, say, Chromeo’s White Women with its stainless laced funktronica synth, or perhaps Todd Terje’s It's Album Time with its spacey electro-disco playfulness (among many others), it becomes obvious that some sorta wet stylised pattern (consisting of excitement fluid prematurely squirted into a slick puddle of oil) has chosen this year’s carpet as its home. And yet no outfit has embodied this epitome as accurately as Jungle and their affectionate debut. They kept their heads above the daunting hype to produce something which is not only uber sexy, but also consistently uber sexy, inarguably the smoothest ride you will find anywhere this side of music. And I don’t mean, like, ‘smooth’, I mean, like, seriously fucking smooth, so much so that some of the biggest criticisms I’ve read about this release is that it’s “too smooth”? Lol, as if such a thing even exists. It might be nothing substantially new and a bit careful, but I wholeheartedly believe this jewel will appeal to every single one of us on some level or another, and more personally, it granted me the final excuse I needed to touch myself guilt free. And so I do. Slowly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 29. Clark - Clark

29. Clark - Clark

IDM Techno
3 Nov

With the exception of you-should-know-who, the Intelligent Dance Music scene in general aggravates me to the point of throwing my hands into the ceiling fan and proclaiming “IDM? IDK!” and then laughing at how smart I have become. But when I first heard Clark’s self titled release, I kept my mouth shut and my arms at my sides, absolutely caught off guard by this entirely different technique probing my ear cavities and flicking at my nucleus accumbens. You see, unlike so many IDM artists who unnecessarily over complicate matters by arrogantly flexing chaotic math muscles of jarring destruction (embarrassingly losing the plot as they do so), this album was more absorbable, indulging in a straightforward dancey aura which suits the style immaculately. However, this is not to say Clark has played it safe here, as it’s still a very naughty record, proudly protecting a healthy dose of estrangement with an exclusively metallic sound, as if all human limbs have been replaced by machines meticulously calculating the most efficient way to turn the sky into an ominous shade of silver, snidely hinting at the apocalypse without triggering one, a mischievous ploy conceived only to laugh at the look on our faces.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 28. Miranda Lambert - Platinum

28. Miranda Lambert - Platinum

Contemporary Country
3 June

When you run into a Nashville country album which clocks at two minutes shy of an hour, you’d be forgiven in assuming it may be a little bit too much South for one sittin’. But in terms of Platinum, you’d be wrong. Yes, the whopping 16 piece tracklist may feel a touch jammed in there, but the pure consistency and brave versatility of these songs are so unassuming and pleasant that I’ll be damned if you don’t find your foot a-tappin’ without you asking it to. It doesn’t even matter that Miranda only co-wrote half of these tunes, ‘cos what matters is that her endearing personality carries this album alone, high above her cheeky smile and all the way to the end of the dirt road, arrogantly flirtatious without even noticing you. Her hilarious lyrics tell unpretentious tales about living as a gal passing the 30 mark whilst trying to maintain a simple country lifestyle, yet never giving up on her wit, her feminine confidence, her sincerity, or her adorably seductive charm in the process. Which all amounts to the best straight-up country album of the year, hands down.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 27. Oh Land - Earth Sick

27. Oh Land - Earth Sick

Indie Synth Pop
10 Nov

As a long time devotee of the unconventional (underrated!) charm that is Nanna Øland Fabricius, I was relatively disappointed with last year’s Wish Bone, an enjoyable effort by all means, just nowhere near what I selfishly demand from my Danish princess. Subsequently, I crept upon Earth Sick cautiously, but it still heard me coming, swiftly stabbing my heart with a syringe overflowing from joy extracted out of the Sun itself. My God, it was as if in the short time passing between records, this lady had realised exactly where she’d gone wrong and spun back on track, producing a less obviously weird (but still weird) radio friendly album which shined each song with a different brand of production tricks and treats, all intricately detailed and raised to serve one master: Oh Land herself. And then it was settled. She is my favourite quirky popstar right now, because she does what she does in her stride, almost unintentionally, as though she isn’t trying to be quirky and wouldn’t understand if you labelled her as such, like some alien who thinks she is a human yet is totally satisfied with her life. So fukkit, on record: this is her most fantastic album yet.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 26. Cheveu - BUM

26. Cheveu - BUM

Post Dance Art Punk
4 Feb

To accurately describe this Frenchy record, one must analyse the root of the album title itself: the bum. Bum’s are anything but ordinary; strange round mounds of flesh with a crack down the middle which frantically release smelly gas and excrements by its very design. They come in various ugly proportions and states of mess, yet they are still very beautiful, a factor which can trick you into thinking they are friendly. And so you put your penis in one and are surprised to find yourself covered in shit. You catch a disease, and you realise it was your fault for getting involved in the first place—you were the demented lunatic who got caught up in the moment, you silly fool. And now you are panicking in fear, as your genitals begin to decay and warp and twist at such an alarming rate that you are forced to visit the doctor in embarrassment, to which he informs you that “yes, there is definitely something wrong here”. That’s what this album is to me. A post-anal sex penis rot. It’s funny until it happens to you.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 25. Todd Terje - It's Album Time

25. Todd Terje - It's Album Time

7 April

Oh, it’s album time alright! And when considering four of these tracks were already released previously (some dating up to two years ago), it’s actually about time it’s album time, isn’t it? Yet despite the anticipation, Todd pulls it off superbly, as one very distinctive character dancing casually into space, utilising a predominantly instrumental synthy flavour to cover mass ground at his leisure—clever, but not so clever as to disrupt the easy listening (or perhaps just clever enough to know where that line is). The hype may have been a little over-excited, but it’s difficult to think of a 2014 release with such a vibey vibe as sensual as this one, his most impressive talent lying in his allowance to stew a song properly before quickly blasting your legs with a joyous jolt only moments from the finish line, a truly unique trait. Granted, obvious songs rise above others, the production sounds a tad “bedroom”, and it tires slightly near the end (an hour is a long time), but one glance at its charming face, and such minor details are instantly forgiven. Daft Punk who? Haha, just kidding.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 24. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

24. Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

Hip House
8 Nov

When an album takes five years to produce and suffered a two year delay after the original announcement date, even Azealia could forgive us who’d lost faith in this effort’s arrival. So when the record dropped without any direct promotion or predetermined release date, we all froze for a moment until the murmurs began to catch fire, many applauding this eclectic and confident work as the hip hop album of the year—a title which is surprisingly sustainable. Aggressive yet playful, and more dancey/less hardcore than anticipated, Banks delivers an excitingly versatile style where clean singing and fierce shouting in various voices employ clever wordplay to glue together an intense rhyming skill, all of which stands up with the best of them. However, the most impressive feat comes from the stupidly massive single 212, not only because it’s one of the greatest songs of the decade, but because in context with the rest of this album, it fits comfortably without dominating, Azealia rejecting all temptation to create 212 a hundred times over, which alone disproves that ‘one hit wonder’ curse unfairly attached to her in recent years. She finally bit as hard as she barked, and I profusely apologise for ever doubting her skills, I'm sorry.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 23. BABYMETAL - BABYMETAL


Alternative Trance Metal J-Pop
26 Feb

Oh, Babymetal, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: Metal. J-Pop. Alternative. Trance. Djent. Drum ‘n’ Bass. Industrial. Reggae. Hip hop. Thrash. Dubstep. Progressive. Rave. Did I forget anything? Probably. On paper, such a daunting list could easily be written off as a novelty act which shouldn’t work, but believe me, it does. And here’s why: the gimmick survives only due to the sheer talent of their execution, which is as brutal as it is cute (crutal?), and undoubtedly the bounciest, most guiltiest pleasure of the year. I mean, they must have known they were onto something special when they shoved this many adorable genre-bending hooks up the ass of the metal monster just for the fun of it, but even if they didn’t, I personally lol and lol and lol. It’s like a firework injury at Disneyland! It’s like a nose bleed into your candyfloss! It’s like … fuck, whatever! Believe the hype, because when it goes for something, it goes to the nth degree, no half measures on any genre it touches, and does everything they set it out to do. And, really, what don’t they set it out to do?

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 22. Sólstafir - Ótta

22. Sólstafir - Ótta

29 Aug

For a band who have constructed their notoriety within the black/sludge metal community, this album is not quite what you’d expect it to be. Perhaps it does dwell in the darkest of sorrows, a slow empty sadness which strikes with calculated textures of intensity, but even while it searches for a shoulder to cry on, it refuses to be defined by its sadness alone. Each listen may increasingly freeze deeper regions of your ribcage, but beyond that, it’s a predominantly clean sound which prides itself on provoking depression without suicidal intent, advancing with more spiritual energy than you’d assume possible from such a space of desolate suffering. Certainly, albums like this are dangerous, especially when songs are equally as gloomy as they are long, running the risk of overstaying their welcome and underwhelming the listener, but on Ótta (the band’s fifth offering), Sólstafir prove they know exactly what they are doing by exposing just enough gorgeous power to suck the colour out of life and exploit the perfect amount of emotional integrity to reach the end without too many tears (but with tears still).

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 21. The Hotelier - Home Like No Place Is There

21. The Hotelier - Home Like No Place Is There

Emo Pop Punk
18 Feb

Me and emo have always had a love/hate relationship, without the love part. I considered the drama of it all to be pathetic; insecure teenagers discovering relief in scratching their arms with daddy’s razor whilst listening to crappy music, swearing that no one but band-x understands them, ignoring the fact that a million copies sold would indicate otherwise. I watched the genre rise, fall, then ultimately die in recent years, to which I tipped my cap and muttered “good riddance”. So please imagine my absolute awe when The Hotelier’s sophomore followed this blueprint precisely, and yet somehow sounded like nothing I’d ever heard on offer before. The passionate deliveries and technical riffs came across so authentically heartfelt that a welcoming sensation of strength rose up within of me, and I suddenly related to the kids who relied on this type of lift to get through the hardships of youth. It’s because it turns anger into a constructive motivator. It’s because it makes it ok for boys to cry. And it’s because emotional orgasms can sometimes feel better than physical ones. Sorry, I was wrong, emo is not dead. And this is the best of it in over a decade.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 20. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

20. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

Death Industrial
14 Oct

Margaret Chardiet (aka Pharmakon) almost died a year ago. An internal cyst grew so large within her torso that the surrounding insides began to fail and an undisclosed organ had to be removed. This traumatic struggle was very close to killing her, but instead proved to be the key of inspiration for Bestial Burden, as a “desire to show the body as a lump of flesh and cells that mutate and fail you and betray you—this very banal, unimportant, grotesque aspect of ourselves.” It is no surprise then, that this album is the most destructive, terrifying, and disturbing thing I may have ever heard in my life. She screams like a possessed Linda Blair, all femininity perishing as if an animal within the panic of mortality, a primal assault which is impossible to really “enjoy” and that is exactly the point. But even if this percussion-heavy agony begs us to question the very definition of music, it mutates this list purely out of respect (and fear) for Chardiet’s uncompromised delivery as one truly unforgettably brutal experience, without a doubt the scariest, most fucked up thing I’ve come across this year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 19. Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien

19. Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien

Alternative Indie Noise Pop
30 Sep

‘Gerard Way’s debut solo album’ is the type of sentence I’d roll my eyes to. My Chemical Romance were undoubtedly the noughties poster NME gateway drug for young teenage girls to discover emo-punk—if they could even find it so far up the band’s bloated operatic asses. “RIP and fuck off,” I may have said out loud after their dissolution. But when the critics shamelessly took it in turns to lick the aforementioned asshole of MCR singer’s new loner offering, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a sniff myself, and as you’d already assume, I’m overjoyed I did. It appears his priority was to distance himself from The Black Parade, and presented Hesitant Alien, a more mature and odd project which preserves the catchy pop fused within the alternative energy, but patters the contents with a more British even glammy interest, fuzzed out of focus and as urgent as any desperate man with something to prove. And it’s solid, the perfect meeting point between the consistency of sticking to what works whilst refusing to remain the same, proving a difficult listen to pick favourites from, but forcing me to rethink: were MCR really that terrible after all?

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 18. Gazpacho - Demon

18. Gazpacho - Demon

Progressive Rock
17 March

So what do you get if you take the arty intelligence of Radiohead, mix it in with the powerful progression of Porcupine Tree, and then name it after a tomato soup? Well, Gazpacho of course, except even that extraordinary description does not grant their eighth album the praise it deserves. Without being a hybrid, it does everything, and executes said everything in a completely different manner to any definition you’d associate with the prog-rock genre, thank God for that. Such factors include: vocal melodies so moving that my emotions pack up and leave; atmospheres so creepy that I look behind myself; production so slick that I fall off my chair; and ideas so varied that it’s almost sexual, in a very unusual, disconcerting way. Not a note feels out of place, not a chord change fails to satisfy, and it honestly presents itself like a classic from the future, ahead of our time, or perhaps centuries before, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s flawless, and I do not I use that word lightly, just search this article for proof.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 17. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

17. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Art Pop
25 Feb

Annie Clarke described this imaginative album as "a party record you could play at a funeral," and honestly, I could end the review right there, I doubt I could do any better. But here I go anyway: it’s amazing. I have no idea why she opted to self-title her fifth release, but it deserves her name, as Annie over-stuffs the colourful pillow with awkward dancefloor appeal in conjunction with a peculiar sense of commercial potential, blossoming as the most “art pop” art pop record I’ve heard for a very long time, which I shall analyse further. The pop side, for example, is a contorted mess of catchiness, somewhat accessible with confident grooves and a high energy, challenged only by the art side, which is an unorthodox wall of noise, fidgeting anxiously whilst provoking the quirk to max levels of electric eccentricity, and in that way ... it’s pretty weird. Furthermore, as already her third bullet in four years from one very slick musical gun, there can be no arguments that St. Vincent is one of the most exciting, relevant, and innovative artists of the decade, and I think she’s getting better at it.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 16. Septicflesh - Titan

16. Septicflesh - Titan

Symphonic Death Metal
20 June

The word ‘epic’ is thrown around so casually these days that its meaning has been tragically watered down into a much more diluted definition, but if you would like to be reminded of what this term actually means, Titan can be your guide. For this album could not be any bigger, applying Satanic death metal brutality with (and I can’t express this enough) absolutely awe-inspiring symphonic instrumentation to aggressively maul your ears off, a combination which should be cheesy in theory, but in reality, is fucking terrifying. Above this, it’s an intensely visual album, selling itself like some eerie cartoon flick, a soundtrack to a nightmarish operatic horror film which is as evil as it is (dare I say) cute (??), which fucks with my mind to the degree that I see things that aren’t there. Immensely overwhelming, impeccably detailed, and all neatly packaged in a digestible length (a refreshing factor considering the genre’s reputation for indulgence), are the reasons why I dub this as Septicflesh’s most memorable album to date, and I don’t really care what you think about that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 15. La Roux - Trouble in Paradise

15. La Roux - Trouble in Paradise

Synth Pop
7 July

Five years after her dancey debut dropped (the lengthy time away from the spotlight spent splitting from her musical partner Ben Langmaid, whilst dealing with a load of anxiety attacks due to her exhausting touring schedule between), La Roux achieved the impossible: an even better record. Disregarding expectations for yet another single orientated bangers album, Elly Jackson opted to focus on a laid back, light summery offering which stood as one solid unit, each sleek song sunshining their joy without outshining one other, flirting with the cheerful line between electropop and nu-disco, all flaring with flavour. And it's a tropical sex record at heart, every piece like a holiday fling where you find yourself turned on, not in the pervy way, but in the way of intimately embracing a stranger, apprehensively melting as your heart falls a little too hard for this character who you know you’ll never see again once the realities of the real world set you back in. Which is a somewhat mournful scenario when you look at it that way, but my God, how much fun is it?

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 14. Casualties of Cool - Casualties of Cool

14. Casualties of Cool - Casualties of Cool

Ambient Alt-Country Rock
14 May

The more revered half of the Casualties duo, Devin Townsend, accurately described this atmospheric record as a “haunted Johnny Cash”, and then elaborated on a tale which tells of a space traveler who is lured onto a planet which feeds on fear. Said traveler finds peace in an old radio, and eventually confronts his own fears which results in the freedom of some woman’s spirit (?). If such a concept didn’t already stir concerns of overindulgence, then perhaps the ambient waffle will, as this album suffers from far too much content and a relatively monotonous sound, clocking in at almost one hour 15 minutes, which is far too long, c'mon. So, no, it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely different, a creepy country sound smoothing over your emotions during the touching journey, owed massively to the second half of the duo, Ché Dorval, and her incredible multi-layered vocals which soar you up before letting you down gently in one loving scoop. Some tracks may dominate and the tiring length may lull one into a premature slumber, but there is no doubt that Devin is a genius and has done it again without doing anything he’s ever done before. Which says a lot.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 13. Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear

13. Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear

8 July

Basically, I’m just going to spend this whole time worshipping the fuck out of Sia. She is the greatest modern pop songwriter of the last 15 years, and she keeps on doing it—from her previous sugarhooked solo offerings, to her credits on some of the biggest hits in recent memory, to this: 1000 Forms of Fear. No doubt inspired by her pains in dealing with success, she publicly denounced her fame a few years ago yet was unable to fight the desperation of creation, instead polishing together this dramatic offering which is inconceivably smarter and more authentic than any other fucking commercial garbage your radio may spew at you. No melody is too far out there, no word goes pronounced without fervour, and no note isn’t worth reaching for, even if her vocals sometimes squeak and crack before she can get to them. I could crawl into her voice and wear it like a blanket and finally feel safe, because this is life saving pop. Therapy pop. Therapop. It may balance upon the contemporary needle of gold, risking a bad shelf life in time, but even this proves how intentional and calculated her album is. This album. The greatest pop record of the year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 12. La Dispute - Rooms of the House

12. La Dispute - Rooms of the House

18 March

As my ninth favourite album from 2011, Wildlife left a lot to live up to. Which is why I approached Rooms of the House cautiously, careful not to expect too much or unfairly compare this to their sophomore, out of respect. Which as it turns out, was completely unnecessary. For everything I adore about this band still connected wholeheartedly: the poetic, monotonous storytelling maintaining beauty within the tragedies; the restrained guitarwork ripping through any gap it could corrode, premeditating its explosions to the point of nausea; and the drums delivering the final punches to the gut, all colliding into the ceiling with such sincere passion that my emotions overflow and my eyelids turned to goosebumps. In a word: exhausting. The riffs may seem happier this round, more 'alternative' than 'hardcore', yet they still utilise their signature licks to work independently from the conceptual lyrics, these two components functioning on entirely different planes, only occasionally meeting up to force the door down together before drifting apart again, which is oh so fucking special. To conclude Rooms of the House proves La Dispute are one of the best bands in the whole world right now, and so I sit and wonder as to when they’ll fuck it up because I worry about stupid shit like that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 11. FKA twigs - LP1

11. FKA twigs - LP1

Alternative R&B, Art Pop
11 Aug

You know that nervous energy you face just before you have sex with someone for the first time? The alluring feminine scent in the darkness of a sparse room; that awkward excitement which scrapes curiosity from the edges of mystery; and the contradictory challenge of purposefully moving slow and sensual whilst praying your wonky legs don’t betray your overwhelming pangs of panic and nervousness. Such fragile moments, the sensitive phrases, the light touches, the trippiness of familiarising your kisses, the shaky breaths, the silence, the calm down, buddy! It’s only a fantasy, it’s not real, but it is exactly what this album sounds like, some intoxication of pre-sex tension—not the easiest thing to digest, but my God, something you’ll crave forever. And while musical comparisons do exist (Björk, Little Dragon, Grimes, Enya), FKA does feel like some sort of a pinnacle, taking the R&B game towards a whole new experimental future of her design, stairs above us and unlike anything else out there, undoubtedly one of those records which will hit every single end of year list published, just watch. And personally, whenever I think about the “most special album of the year”, LP1 is first to come to mind.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 10. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

10. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

Hardcore Hip Hop
27 Oct

2014 has been a tragically stagnant year for hip hop, which coincidentally proved to be the ideal time for El-P and Killer Mike to burst into your bedroom and violently punch your nose so many times that your face ends up on the inside. It’s one of the rarest of examples in all media: a sequel that obliterates the original, RTJ2 setting out to destroy everything and absolutely doing so, as a darker, more experimental, and fuckloads filthier monster than the debut. And above even this, it sounds like they are having so much fun while they pass the dynamite between each other, Killer Mike undoubtedly owning the better flow, but El-P providing beats so ill that you sometimes have to swallow your own vomit before it spews out of your nostrils. And that is why they should never do a record apart ever again. Perhaps the hype outgrew the album and perhaps some songs are better than others, but nobody can challenge this as the crowned hip hop album of the year, and I personally cannot wait for Meow The Jewels, the crowd funded version of this exact same record, except where all beats will be replaced by cat noises. They get high, reportedly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 09. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

09. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun

Progressive Stoner Metal
24 June

Mastodon have been in a league of their own for a while now, often designated as the metal band for non-metalheads, to the point that it’s difficult to imagine who their 'competition' would even be. Subsequently, Once More ‘Round the Sun had a lot to live up to, and according to many critics, didn’t quite get there—and I can sympathise. Because this is by far their safest creation, continuing directly on from The Hunter’s more alternative radio friendly production, rather a mix of their catalogue than anything particularly brand new. But it’s like, who the fuck cares? The powerful charge is as bloodthirsty as ever, the trance-inducing instrumentation is as technical as we demanded, and the hooks are as dark as they are bright, probably the catchiest record they have ever detonated without damaging their artistic merit. Look, Mastodon are pretty much the greatest metal band of recent times, and this is yet another solid marble stone to their pedestal, not even a wobble nor crack, now towering above the entire genre itself. Perhaps the next album will prove this offering as an indication towards some loss of ingenuity, but for now, it sounds really, fucking, good.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 08. Perfume Genius - Too Bright

08. Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Art Pop
23 Sep

Mike Hadreas is a homosexual artist, and even if this shouldn't matter, it is fun to break that word down in order to help interpret what the label means in correlation to his third chamberesque release. Firstly, let us analyse the homo factor: an album as flamboyant and stylish as the eccentric image portrayed on the cover, yet still remaining vulnerable and dramatically broken—much like the books on queer stereotypes would have you assume. Conversely, let us analyse the sexual aura: an album which seduces without relying on tacky tactics to do so, rather achieving said sexiness with a simple mood, floating all over your body like a blanket of minimalism, turning you on regardless of your orientation. But, and please, do not allow these segregated (perhaps even borderline intolerant) ramblings define this sound for you, for all anyone really needs to know is this: Too Bright is essentially the perfect record. Talented. Well produced. Original. And at 33 minutes long, does not waste a second of your time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 07. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

07. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

Dream Art Pop
17 June

Take 2012’s Born to Die, and tear the pop right the fuck out of it. Strip it of all colour, wash off the sugar, turn off the radio, crumble it into a cinematic performance, inject its pouty lips with misery, force feed it sedatives, shove it into a dark chamber, tell it to be quiet, and then wait for it to kill itself. That’s what Ultraviolence is. It’s the messy girl in trouble—the heroine in distress—about to slit her wrists at any moment, her hazy eyes filling with tears but her face betraying no signs weakness, as if to say “look at what I have done”. And that’s her attraction. She lurks like a moody witch, exploiting monotony as an art, seducing you with a sultry gloom, a romantic reflection compelling you to sleep, an adorable sex appeal saturated with poison. Please, speculate as to what extent this dramatic sound change can be credited to the collaboration expertise of Dan Auerbach (Black Keys), but, by all accounts, this could not be anyone but Lana’s record. This is a style she owns alone. And this is the album she was always supposed to make.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 06. Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

06. Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Post-Hardcore Blues Rock
8 April

Park your motorcycle outside and kick the bar door down. Order yourself a whiskey and entertain the bartender with your emotional life story. The unstable upbringing. The diverse memories of torturous darkness. And all the dramatic details about the love you once had, now lost. Perhaps a stranger overhears your outpour. Perhaps they aggressively label you a gutless crybaby. So you smash your glass into their eyes and proceed to punch your grief out into their face. Ah, such a classic tale, and no easy feat to portray in audio form, but Holy Vacants is exactly that to me: a powerful assault driven by insecurities, vulnerable yet unafraid of a deadly brawl if needs be. And how they achieved this contradiction of moods is no secret: it’s the vocal harmonising. The (borderline stereotypical) epitome of male/female gender roles. The girlie girl (prettier, cleaner, more beautiful) and the manly man (grittier, masculine, Tom Waits type of raw). Now watch as we lift this couple up with stainless production, allowing each instrument to grant one another space whilst leaving no empty space whatsoever, and then listen. It sounds like a classic. And it makes me want to bite something.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 05. Arca - Xen

05. Arca - Xen

Wonky Glitch Hop
3 Nov

There is something disastrously upsetting about this album. I get visions where a terrifyingly ugly yet somehow fascinatingly cute alien-insect hybrid is hesitantly trying to play some sorta messed up game with me. In short bursts it attempts to construct melodies which desperately cling together in an uneducated effort to mimic a song, but the cogs just can’t quite get their shit together and they fall apart in front of me. However, this optimistic creature is determined, continuously rebuilding these sounds solely designed to win me over in a happy, almost celebratory manner, except the components are far too damaged and unstable to calculate just how music is supposed to sound, and instead they crumble once again, a little more impaired per each step. What a hideously scary idea, but also how delightfully flattering, these bits of minimal machinery shedding everywhere yet courageously and haphazardly shoved back together again, in hopes of reconstructing what we once had before, yet never quite getting there—familiar, but just a bit wrong. Which is why I consider Xen to be one of the most magnificent and original albums of 2014, except something else entirely. Something much more important than that.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 04. Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

04. Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

7 Oct

As a fan from the very beginning, I can say with all expertise that Iceage have improved dramatically per release, with their third album Plowing Into the Field of Love stabbing at a whole new peak—not just for the band, but for modern post-punk as a whole. Because while the inebriated vocal deliveries continue their trademark slur over the fearlessly sloppy backings, what honours this release as their most superior work is the definite intention of tidying things up and slowing things down a little bit, peeling back the bandage to proudly boast a much cleaner wound this round, albeit still rubbed raw and ugly as all hell. It sticks skew from any obvious influences (anyone want to mention Nick Cave again?), sustaining itself by itself with a bitter passion that’s been worn down, now unmotivated but never too tired to stop fighting, blindly swinging fists and losing the battle. What’s more, it doesn’t even give a shit about that, which is a far more dangerous opponent, one who floors me on every listen, just like the leg from the cover, high heel and all. The spirit of punk is alive and well, gentlemen, and it lives right here.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 03. Aphex Twin - Syro

03. Aphex Twin - Syro

22 Sep

A blimp flew over London. A cryptic announcement surfaced on the Deep Web. Suddenly after 13 years of silence, it became imminent that a new Aphex Twin album was nearly upon us, and I began to fidget. For Richard D. James is the God of electronic, which is why I chewed my nails and prayed that our saviour would not fuck this up, nervous that he was potentially capable of human error after all this time. What a silly concern, in hindsight. Because Syro (produced from some 138 pieces of equipment often modified by the man himself), is still classic Aphex Twin without being the same old shit, nothing new but nothing dated, a messed up type of mellow which is more than just an album. It is an exercise in self-control, unveiling his most accessibly listenable record to date, whilst remaining as restless as ever, with no distinguishable parts repeated within meticulously textured patterns that engross and invite you rather than alienate as he has done before. So we breathe once again, relieved not only that Aphex Twin managed to construct the most consistent and unified release of his perfect career, but that he is still in complete control.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 02. Behemoth - The Satanist

02. Behemoth - The Satanist

Death Metal
7 Feb

In 2010, Behemoth vocalist Nergal was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with such advanced leukaemia, that even chemo was said to be futile. However, after a bone marrow transplant, months of recovery, and some ‘miracle’, he rose, now much more powerful than before. The incident shed light on his mortality, but instead of utilising this second life blessing for something constructive, he rather birthed a child decidedly destructive, calling out in praise for Lucifer, affectionately naming it The Satanist. And, God help us all, it is truly as Satanic as the title would suggest. Guttural screams of worship desperately hook their horns into the untamed fur of meaty riffs, a filler-less production impressively clean for such a vicious deity. And that brings out the Devil in me. This album is the soundtrack to His war. He has awoken. I forgot He was there. I beg Him to stop, but He knows I don’t want Him to. And His roots resonate within me, a presence which stays behind long after the (nauseatingly filthy) closer abandons you, proving this is not just music. It’s deeper than that. It’s darker. It’s everything. O Father. O Satan. O Sun.

The Top 50 Albums of 2014: 01. Swans - To Be Kind

01. Swans - To Be Kind

Experimental Post-Rock
13 May

Despite releasing 13 albums since 1982, it’s only in recent years that Swans have rightfully been crowned as the masters of audio torture without settling or compromising, which can be owed most predominantly to 2012’s The Seer, and this, To Be Kind. Together, these exhausting double albums are very comparable, both building overwhelming endurance tests by utilising repetitive tension, and organising their demonic ceremonies to provoke hypnotic beauty within a legitimate fear. However, there are differences, most of which can be poetically analysed from their artworks alone. Take the twisted monster on The Seer: a diseased creature hiding in the dark, waiting to claw and infect your face; and then compare it to this crying baby: a little less threatening, an almost “cuter”, accessible scenario, yet still producing panic and annoyance to any adult in its presence. Because when a baby cries, it’s telling you something is not right, and this patient record ensures you understand the extent of this even if it takes two hours to get there. Some albums are difficult to swallow, but this album sounds like it’s having a difficult time swallowing you, which is why many (including myself) consider this as the band’s greatest work, and undeniably the top album of 2014.

As per usual, I always intend to close up these silly things with some tradition of connecting patterns throughout the years, which may indicate what the decade could be defined as when all is said and done. However, what 2014 said and done, has completely thrown me off the scent, not only because I consider it to be a much weaker year in comparison to those who blessed us before, but more importantly, because the genres I treated as the kings who dominated the 2010's sorta fell away, while the ones I figured had passed the point of impressing me, impressed me.

Let's take metal/rock, for one very big fucking example. While nothing stylebreaking burst through the scene per se, the sheer quantity and quality of this work surging out of nowhere was something I doubt anyone could have prepared themselves for. And then on the other side of the spectrum, pop music (including all of its arty subgenres) also had a very sudden strong year, with much more than its fair share rearing its pretty face along with those above. How was this possible? I thought I knew everything?

Not quite as astonishing but interesting enough to point out, is "dance" music, or whatever. Last year was massively saturated by commercial friendly club bangers, but this year took the electronic scene into a much more IDM wonky synth direction, particularly near the end of 2014, where the smarty dark eccentric side of the genre excelled and took the reigns, maybe or maybe not verifying the continued value of programmed music's legacy, even if it is so far passed the general expiry date of what could be considered a modern sound.

Lesser still but forever clawing on would be hip hop, a style that always has some stock to boast each and every year, but was hardly anything to get overly eager about once again, perhaps indicating that as a genre, it will merely survive the stage rather than dominate the airwaves once the finish line has been crossed.

Besides these as well as a few other odd entries here and there, the only other genre worth mentioning is contemporary R&B, which has had the most impressive run starting from 2010, but for the first time since that point, has shown signs of slowing down and perhaps even dying. Personally, I blame Beyoncé.

So in summary, all my bets are off thanks to 2014, not for reasons of anything remarkable, but rather of disappointment, because what goes up will always come down, and come down, it did. Here’s to praying that this will prove merely a glitch in the matrix, and regular decent features shall resume in 2015.

Tune in next year for more definitive answers.

25 Near Misses
51. Temples - Sun Structures
52. Warpaint - Warpaint
53. Kairon; IRSE! - Ujubasajuba
54. Robert Plant - Lullaby and... the Ceaseless Roar
55. Young Fathers - Dead
56. Clipping - CLPPNG
57. He Is Legend - Heavy Fruit
58. Lia Ices - Ices
59. Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything
60. Kishi Bashi - Lighght
61. tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
62. Tinashe - Aquarius
63. Single Mothers - Negative Qualities
64. Tori Amos - Unrepentant Geraldines
65. Mr Oizo - The Church
66. Manchester Orchestra - Cope
67. Royal Blood - Royal Blood
68. Tobacco - Ultima II Massage
69. Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love
70. deadmau5 - While(1<2)
71. Indian - From All Purity
72. Carla Bozulich - Boy
73. Fucked Up - Glass Boys
74. Panopticon - Roads to the North
75. Chinawoman - Let's Part in Style

Hall of Fame (2010 - 2014)
Finally, by adding the positions of reoccurring artists from all my lists (including entries from narrow misses), then dividing it by the amount of times said artist has appeared, we can make a list of who are the greatest faces from the decade so far. I have done so, and my top 20 looks like this:

01. James Blake (2011’s James Blake #01; 2013’s Overgrown #09)
02. Mastodon (2011's The Hunter #06; 2014's Once More 'Round the Sun #09)
03. The Caretaker (2011’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World #04; 2012’s Patience (after Sebald) #15)
04. La Dispute (2011's Wildlife #09; 2014's Rooms of the House #12)
05. Deftones (2010’s Diamond Eyes #10; 2012’s Koi No Yokan #16)
06. Run the Jewels (2013's Run the Jewels #18; 2014's Run the Jewels 2 #10)
07. Kanye West (2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy #25; 2011’s Watch The Throne (with Jay-Z) #19; 2013’s Yeezus #01)
08. Sia (2010's We Are Born #17; 2014's 1000 Forms of Fear #13)
09. Frank Ocean (2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra #27; 2012’s Channel Orange #03)
10. The National (2010’s High Violet #06; 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me #25)
11. Swans (2012's The Seer #34; 2014's To Be Kind #1)
12. St. Vincent (2011’s Strange Mercy #10; 2012’s Love This Giant (with David Byrne) #27; 2014's St. Vincent #17)
13. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (2013's Nanda Collection #4; Pika Pika Fantajin #37)
14. Crystal Castles (2010’s (II) #19; 2012’s (III) #23)
15. Arcade Fire (2010’s The Suburbs #09; 2013’s Reflektor #33)
16. The Black Keys (2010’s Brothers #23; 2011’s El Camino #21)
17. Die Antwoord (2010’s $O$ #04; 2012’s Ten$ion #40)
18. Lana Del Rey (2012's Born to Die #39; 2014's Ultraviolence #07)
19. Devin Townsend (2012's Epicloud (as part of Devin Townsend Project) #35; 2014's Casualties of Cool (as part of Casualties of Cool) #14)
20. Nick Cave (2010’s Grinderman (as part of Grinderman) #22; 2013’s Push the Sky Away (as part of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds) #28)

Ok thanks bye.