Sunday, 28 December 2014

2014: The Albums Of The Year - 40-31

So yet another music site publishes yet another Albums Of The Year list. Except this one is quite a different 'end of year list', since it has been put together at the end of the year as opposed to in October/November like many music websites hurriedly opted to. Some people forget that the world of music doesn't simply come to a complete stop during the last two months of the year. This way everything that has reached my ears in 2014 has a chance to feature in the end-of-year list. My tracks of the year can be heard on a two-part Best Of 2014 mixtape, which you can find HERE. Here are the 50 albums that rocked RW/FF's world over the last 12 months...




40. Mark Chadwick - 'Moment' (On The Fiddle Recordings)
Levellers frontman Mark Chadwick released his second solo LP earlier this year. For Mark, the album is ‘an honest look at drink, life and love’ and particularly his relationship with the former and its effects on the latter two. Don’t go expecting a ‘rehab’ record however, for Mark that process is ‘one-size fits all and I did not fit the size’ , trusting instead to confront that addiction and its cure through his music, ‘in a sensible and a, hopefully, insightful way’. As a songwriter and recording artist for over 25 years the ten tracks also see Mark taking stock of his journey to date and, to a degree, looking forward to the next chapter. Listen to 'Moment' via Spotify HERE.




39. Sophie Ellis Bextor - 'Wanderlust' (EBGB's Records)
People will be surprised at how brilliant this record is. 'Wanderlust' is her fifth album and was co-written with Ed Harcourt, featuring 11 wonderfully atmospheric songs that bring out the very best in SEB's talents. It has to be said that there are a couple of dodgy moments, but the highlights make up for its flaws. On this album Bextor abandons the disco-pop in favour of beautifully organic moments that are perfectly suited to her voice and sometimes recall her early days as lead singer of late 90's post-Britpop indie types theaudience. I still love that band and always will. 'Wanderlust' debuted on the UK Albums Chart at number four, becoming her highest-charting solo album since 2001's 'Read My Lips'... Listen to 'Wanderlust' via Spotify HERE.



38. Headman/Robi Insinna - '6' (Relish Recordings)
Swiss DJ and producer Robi Insinna has been remixing the likes of Doves, Franz Ferdinand and many others under his Headman alias for over a decade now, yet there are aren't many who will be aware of his own music, let alone the fact that he is now on his fifth album. Despite being his fifth, it's entitled '6' and is released via his own Relish Recordings label. It's an eclectic and highly collaborative work that was created largely using analogue electronics and even a bit of good old fashioned tape delay. Overall it's eclectic and multi faceted, while retaining a sense of identity with the use of analogue electronic sounds, and the collaborators all seem to bring their own shades of colour to the record. One or two overlong and under-par moments, but mostly '6' is an entertaining and irresistibly movement-inducing set of tunes. Read the full review, and listen to the album HERE.



37. Gulp - 'Season Sun'
Back in April, RW/FF discovered Gulp for the first time: "Sometimes there are still rare occasions when the musical world does feel like a small place. Like over the last few days I have been listening to an amazing track from a band called Gulp, without having read any info about this group. All I knew was that the deliciously moody 'Vast Space' is a darkly wondrous thing blending surf guitars with driving psychedelic vibes. So imagine my amazement when I found out that Gulp are in fact a side project of Super Furry Animals bassist Guto Pryce. With SFA currently still on a lengthy hiatus, it's good to see that it's not just Gruff keeping himself busy...". The album arrived a while later, with Louder Than War declaring it "an agreeable blend of compelling melodies and subtle twists that ensure that Gulp have produced a debut that shows originality and huge potential." Read their review HERE, and stream the album on Spotify HERE.



36. Dark Horses - 'Hail Lucid State'
Described as "sonic soul art rockers", the UK five piece Dark Horses follow up last year's debut 'Black Music' with a strengthy second full-length that sees them deliver on their promise in a way their first offering failed to. Venturing into similar territories visited by the likes of Esben And The Witch, Savages and (somewhat surprisingly) the Sneaker Pimps, there are also heavy shades of shoegaze-infused post punk combined with touches of dark psychedelica. 'Hail Lucid State' was produced by Death In Vegas man Richard Fearless, who lends the band's sound a unique edge. While their debut LP from last year gave only occasional glimpses of their potential, Dark Horses have developed a more accomplished sound, and a standard of songwriting that has moved them up to a new level. Melodic, dark, atmospheric, and with stellar production from Fearless, it's post-punk psych rock burning with soul and energy. Read the full review and hear the album HERE.



35. Cherry Ghost - 'Herd Runners' (Heavenly Recordings)
A lovely record, beautifully melancholic but dreamily hopeful. 'Herd Runners' is the band's third album. "Exploring different styles has helped my own songs,” says frontman and songwriter Simon Aldred, “Musicians need to stretch themselves and keep on learning... These songs aren’t as dark as those on previous records. This time round I thought it was important to keep a real empathy for the people I’m writing about.” Recorded in Sheffield with long-term Richard Hawley collaborator Colin Elliot and mixed in Bath with Dan Austin, 'Herd Runners' is described in a press release as "ten perfectly crafted tales of heartbreak and hope." Listen to the album in full via Spotify HERE.



34. Camera - 'Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide' (Bureau B Records)
Repetitive yet progressively explorative, the debut album from the Berlin-based group Camera is a brilliant thing. 'Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide' combines recrafted jams and impulsive improvisation to great effect across the 12 tracks to create what sounds very much to my ears like a modern Krautrock classic. During the forceful 'Roehre', a chunky driving rhythm provides the momentum as snarling drones of bass and guitar do battle with squealing free jazz sax and subtle electronics. Explosive and sensationally addictive. The album was released via the brilliant Bureau B label. Tagged "Krautrock Guerillas" by fellow Berliners for crashing award ceremonies and jamming in Berlin Train stations, the excellent Camera are beyond hipster tags. Have a listen to the album on Spotify HERE.





33. Jimi Goodwin - 'Odludek' (Heavenly Records)
A lot of the time when a frontman of a well loved group goes solo, the resulting material can sometimes end up sounding a bit like their usual band but not quite as good. While Manchester trio Doves have been on hiatus for the last four years, Jimi Goodwin steps out into the musical world with his very own debut offering. It's by no means a low-key affair either, more of a wild adventure at times. “I wanted it to be like that crazy mixtape you’d make your mate which had everything from Duke Ellington to some mad hip-hop track you’d just heard, and back again,” says Goodwin. “That’s how I listen to music, and I wanted to make an album that reflected that. The last thing I wanted it to sound like was some geezer who was in a band. I don’t like being pegged.” A surprising, diverse and strongly assured solo debut from a man who has defied and surpassed expectations. At times a slow burner perhaps, but plenty to enjoy. Read the full review HERE, and listen to the album via Spotify HERE.



32. NLF3 - 'Pink Renaissance' (Prohibited Records)
Each new album from French trio NLF3 holds the promise of some “cinema for your ears”, banishing any impressions of having heard it all before, and 'Pink Renaissance' is no exception to the rule, with its vow of a “new start”, a synthetic synthesis where the electronic melts into the organic. With 'Pink Renaissance' they drag themselves from the darkness and walk into light, a veritable kaleidoscope of light in fact, sporting generous electronics and heavy bass. Pulsing with hope, calm and freedom, yet tinged with a little of the sadness that always accompanies a time of transition, Pink Renaissance is surprising in the current climate of gloominess: sensitive and sensual. Listen to the album in full via Spotify HERE.



31. Trucker - 'Songs To Truck To' (Self Released, Bandcamp)
It doesn't take long for former Babybird man Stephen Jones to make albums. I've lost count of the amount of music he's released during 2014. However, this one doesn't bear his name, neither is it another instrumental set of atmospheric pieces from his Black Reindeer project. This is another alter-ego, Trucker. The beautifully understated 'Radioactive Stars' is pretty much the only track of its kind on 'Songs To Truck To', a spacious and euphoric electro lullaby that glows sweetly. It feels slightly out of place amongst the other pieces here, and could probably be considered relatively normal compared to what surrounds it. The remainder of the 72 minute drive provides us with some of Jones' strangest work to date, heavily electronic and themed entirely around trucking. These ideas must come from a part of his brain that other people don't have.

As well as intergalactic ambient techno, nocturnal garage grooves, warped hip hop, spacey synth ballads, and dreamy piano laments, there's the acid house trucking anthem 'I Like To Truck', and the genuinely sinister 'Something's In The Back Of My Truck' which conjures up all sorts of dark images, as well as capturing the heavy weariness of long distance overnight driving. The spoken word bit at the end is particularly exceptionally twisted. All vocals are delivered in a seedy deep Southern USA accent, highlighting Jones' ability to slip into the roles of convincing characters. Amongst many other diverse and weird things, we get the acid electronica of the spiralling 'Motherfuckingtruckerfucker' and the unsettling varispeed vocals on 'I Dream About My Truck When I'm Driving Her', describing a scene in a motel room, sticking "duct tape newspaper to the window" and keeping "a gun under my pillow, next to a picture of my third wife". It's moments like these that make you wonder if Jones leaves his windows open whilst recording the bizarre vocals and creepy spoken word segments. What must his neighbours think? Only a true maverick like Jones could create something this fucked-up and brilliant. Listen to the album via Bandcamp HERE.



30-1 can be found HERE.
50-41 can be found HERE.
RW/FF's favourite tracks of 2014 can be heard on this mixtape HERE.

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