I think we can all agree that if there’s one thing we need more of , it’s albums of the year lists. I’ve always been a bit of a list-maker, although I’m better now than when I was a kid. I used to be constantly making lists of my 20 favourite songs, and even used to try and predict the next weeks top 40 every week (quite why I’m not sure). Although this blog is ostensibly on fatherhood and music, part of me thinks that it’s just an excuse for me to make a list from time to time. So, if you haven’t already been already been swayed by the millions of other lists telling you that The War on Drugs or St. Vincent albums are the albums of the year, here’s my selection:
10. Karen O – Crush Songs
I suspect some Yeah Yeah Yeahs fans may have been disappointed with this collection of demo-like recordings, more sketches of songs than songs themselves. However, I like my music more fragile than most, and loved the gentle beauty of Karen O’s voice, especially on opening track ‘Ooo’
9. The Bug – Angels and Devils
I spoke of feeling slightly uncomfortable with some of the lyrics on a previous post, but it remains an excellent album. The slow blissful electronica of the first half making quite a contrast with the angry hip-hop of the second. Might have been higher, but I suspect it’s one of those albums that sounds best through a massive sound system, which I sadly do not have (and would probably wake the baby in any case).
8. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
In a year where a lot of the music I’ve heard has been quite serious in one way or another, this is the most fun album I’ve heard. The house/electro/disco mix reminds me of when I first started clubbing at Bugged Out at Nation in Liverpool. Most of my friends later started going out mainly to techno nights, which were great, but people often took the music very seriously rather than, you know, just enjoying it and having a dance. It does verge on cheesy at times, but is overall a fantastic collection
7. The Juan Maclean – In a Dream
I first listened to the Juan Maclean around a decade ago, due to their links with LCD Soundsystem, one of my favourite bands (especially live). I quickly dismissed them as mediocre, but when I heard the fantastic single ‘A Place Called Space’ this year, realised I may have been wrong. Nothing on the album quite lives up to that, and like LCD Soundsystem they tend to wear their influences on their sleeves, but given a few listens the expansive electro-pop on the rest of the album won me over.
6. Aphex Twin – Syro
I don’t need to add much to the millions of words written about this album. Unsurprisingly, after a 13 year gap, not his finest work, but even an average album by his standards is better than almost any electronic album released this year.
5. Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
Almost certainly the best album released this year to share a title with an early Madonna track. Deerhoof flitted around the edge of my consciousness for many years as a band that I thought I might like, but never got round to listening to (I think confusing them with Deerhunter didn’t help). The likes of ‘Paradise Girls’ on this album made me glad I finally did. The most exciting thing when discovering a band relatively late in their career is the delights that may await in the back catalogue.
4. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Jazz/Electronica/Hip-hop hybrid concept album about death? Yes, please! The new jazzier direction seems to have divided fans and critics, but I think it really worked, despite not being much of a jazz lover. The collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg were perfectly judged, and I loved the woozy paranoia of ‘Descent into Madness’
3. Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean
I never think of The Be Good Tanyas as one of my absolute favourite bands, but I do listen to them a lot more than some others who more readily spring to mind. Often the solo albums from members of favourite groups are a disappointment, but this is far from it. The voice is as wonderful as ever, the songs a match for anything from her former band, and whilst the sounds is similar, it’s smoother and more soulful somehow. In a year in which I’ve not heard many great singer/songwriter albums, this really stands out.
2. Eno/Hyde – High Life
This one was a real surprise. I own a number of albums by both Brian Eno and Karl Hyde’s previous band Underworld, but they’re both artists I’ve admired rather than loved and don’t tend to actually listen to that often. So I expected the same from this collaboration, an album I could listen to once or twice, appreciate, and then file away and never listen to again. Actually it’s a revelation. Whilst you can hear elements of both artist’s previous work, it very much has it’s own sound, combining Krautrock, African rhythms, funk, electronic music and more. The closest comparison I can make is an updated version of the Brian Eno/David Byrne collaboration ‘My Life in he Bush of Ghosts’. Tracks unfold gradually, but build in the most mesmerising way and suddenly nine minutes have passed which felt more like three. Well worth a listen for fans of either artist.
1. Peals – Walking Field
Now, technically (and actually) this was released in 2013, but it was my favourite album of the year, and it’s my blog so I make the rules. Plus, I’m fairly confident no-one cares even slightly what criteria I use to make this list. I wrote about the album back in August:
I would add that my favourite albums are often those that remind me of a certain place and time. The debut albums by The Strokes and The Streets will always take me back to my first post university houseshare, playing FIFA and Mario Tennis and listening to those two albums constantly. And similarly, this Peals album, as well as being a wonderful piece of music in its’ own right, will always take me back to the first year of Frida’s life.
So, those were my albums of 2014. No all time classics in there, but what surprises me more than anything is that I managed to find the time to discover 10 albums that I liked enough to include (as well as a few others that didn’t quite make the list). Any recommendations, please do leave a comment below, they may well end up on next years list!
Happy New Year all!