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1. ON AN ON – “Give In“. Chicago/Minneapolis trio of Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci and Ryne Estwing (formerly of Scattered Trees) create a fantastic debut album that I couldn’t put down all year. Produced by Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene), the album is “a dream-washed textural journey armed with a biting perspective on life, love and the commonality of loss”. I can’t believe it’s not on more of these year end lists. An undiscovered gem for sure.
2. PAPA – “Tender Madness“. Papa is former Girls drummer Darren Weiss and childhood friend Danny Presant and their debut album (Tender Madness) is a collection of “indie rock anthems that pair propulsive electro-pop with open-road, Springsteen-induced Americana”. Following their progress over the last couple of years, I’ve heard these many great songs in different forms, releases and singles. On Tender Madness, they finally fit all together in one cohesive offering.
3. SMALL BLACK – “Limits Of Desire“. The bands’ 2nd album moves beyond the hazy home recorded sound of their previous releases toward a full-fledged, but still self-produced, clear approach. Probably more accessible than the maximalist pop of 2010’s New Chain, but I see it as a band honing their craft and getting better.
4. CHVRCHES – “The Bones Of What You Believe“. It’s hard not to love this Scottish electronic trio. Their album will make you dance with earworms, hooks and features the impressive vocals by lead singer Lauren Mayberry. Always just holding back from sounding “too poppy”, The Bones Of What You Believe was a grower but now one of my favourites this year.
5. CAYUCAS – “Bigfoot“. Perhaps this record made my top 5 because I always look for a “summer” sounding album to put on. Bigfoot posesses flirty rhythmic sensibilities, a tropical warmth and is bittersweet, cheerful and an enjoyable album to get lost in.
1. MOUNT KIMBIE – “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth“. This electronic duo builds heavy layers of jazzy based beats and smooth rhythmic vocals for that crisp electronic sound.
2. BONOBO – “The North Borders“. Beautiful melodies mixed together with downtempo electronica creates the ultimate soothing album.
3. THUNDERCAT – “Apocalypse“. Bass virtuoso throws down funky beats and R&B vibes to produce a grooving yet unpredictable energy.
4. JAMES BLAKE – “Overgrown“. Haunting and emotional, this album lays an perfectly balanced mixture of jazzy, R&B and downtempo textures.
5. RYAN HEMSWORTH – “Guilt Trips“. Canadian producer drops his first solo LP filled with rap rhythms and lush synths that develops an experimental electronic atmosphere.
1. FOALS – “Holy Fire“. In 2014, something changed. Despite the growing presence and necessity for hip-hop, R&B and pop in popular culture, five British musicians managed to create their own perfectly packaged alternative that felt more personal and more direct than ever before. Knowing that songs like ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Bad Habit’ make more sense in the context of Holy Fire’s full sequence – is just one testament as to how from start to finish a band with such innate talent steadily inspired a comforting sensation of familiarity and progression within one cohesive story. It’s unequivocally, one of their best albums to date.
2. THE NATIONAL – “Trouble Will Find Me“. After the classic that was Boxer, to one of my personal favourites High Violet, The National released their sixth studio offering Trouble Will Find Me. We all secretly love the melancholy, and these men, more matured and able, wrote an album this year that stood out for its sonic sophistication. A collection of songs devoid of any ‘look at me’ crowd pleasers, they gracefully sat down and became the steady underrated shoulder for the listener to lean on. For a band to feel confident enough to let the husky murmurs of Matt Berninger’s tempo be dialed down to a simple wry empathy and tenderness only proves their status. From the Elliot Smith quoting in ‘Fireproof’ to the impressive ‘Sea of Love’, they are the only band on earth that makes me listen to their lyrics as though I were part of a select few lucky enough to receive secret instructions to all the answers in life.
3. SON LUX – “Lanterns“. Punishingly intimate and ludicrously layered, Ryan Lott aka Son Lux transcends genre’s by creating a worthy interaction between instrumental textures. He triangulates through these genre’s by boldly heightening classical fundamentals with post-rock and hip-hop colorations. The listener becomes the ‘connector’ for his orchestral electro-pop and it is this album, Lanterns, that manages to evoke a sense of minimalism whilst alluding to a broth of enchanting, heavy-handed experimentation. He found symbiosis between his artistic collaborators on the album and and intelligently intertwined them. Like an informative documentary, this is an expose of a multi-instrumentalist showing off every inch of his talent.
4. FACTORY FLOOR – “Factory Floor“. One of the albums I’ve been feasting on the entire year is Factory Floor’s self titled debut album. There’s somewhat of a brutal attack to their sound, a predatory and jagged edge that keeps me nibbling at the palatable hypnosis this trio create. I find this sound absent in many other ‘sound-alikers’ in this genre. They found the ability to create brain-thumping, heart-bashing, drum-beat clashings that cling onto endless loops and flavoursome vocals. It’s sinister disco, in the intergalactic netherworld.
5. JAGWAR MA – “Howlin’“. I’m a sucker for tunes that have the ability to transport me back to the days when music really sent me gliding into another dimension. However, this it usually the time when we spoil it for ourselves and on the strength of just a few singles place those bands on pedestals. That moment you surpass fan status and become addicted. The young Aussie duo Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield, were my vehicle for teleportation. There’s everything you need here; strains of 60’s pop, psychedelic electro-rave and dance. This album cracked through an inherent primal level that transcended into a cohesive and transformative album for me this year.
1. NOISERV – “Almost Visible Orchestra“. A work of genius by an indie one-man-orchestra from Portugal. Introspective, progressive and intimate, Almost Visible Orchestra is an album that you have to listen to from first to last track. David Santos’s deep and soothing voice combined with kaleidoscopic emotions and numerous instruments, make for a complete, complex and touching proof of brilliance.
2. KAVINSKY – “OutRun“. Vincent Belorgey aka Kavinsky was considered an outsider in electronic music. He made the public wait for ‘OutRun‘ for a long time, increasing everyone’s expectations and anxieties, which could have proven fatal – but it did not. This album is the place where nostalgy, love, adrenaline, cinema and video games are celebrated in a way that the world has never seen before. The soundtrack for an epic nocturnal drive that you will remember your whole life.
3. CHVRCHES – “The Bones Of What You Believe“. CHVRCHES create an addictive electro-pop with beautiful vocals, high levels of danceability, and a disarming touch of innocence – mostly through the sweet (yet strong) voice of Lauren Mayberry. ‘The Bones Of What You Believe‘ is one of the most powerful debut albums that I’ve heard in a long time… and on repeat.
4. DAUGHTER – “If You Leave“. Daughter is a trio from London that developed from the solo work of Elena Tonra. ‘If You Leave‘ contains unsettling anthems for an entire generation, made of lyrics like bullets and music like a tonic.
5. PINS – “Girls Like Us“. PINS are an all-girl punk rock band from Manchester with loads of style. ‘Girls Like Us‘ is an outstanding album, with high levels of energy, passion and explosive thrill.
1. RADIATION CITY – “Animals in the Median“. A perfect blend of smooth indie pop and doo-wop sensibility.
2. DISCLOSURE – “Settle“. London House duo creating what’s probably the most consistent dance album of the year.
3. JOANNA GRUESOME – “Weird Sister“. An ass-kicking piece of fuzz pop with catchy hooks and crunchy guitar rhythms.
4. THE LOVE LANGUAGE – “Ruby Red“. Stuart McLamb’s project loosens up and refines his textures to make a fun, yet elegant lo-fi pop album.
5. RHYE – “Woman“. A fleshed-out, sensual R&B album that runs all over the dynamic spectrum; calling it sexy is selling the emotions evoked from “Woman” is selling it short.