Although 2014 will not be seen as the best year for music there were certainly a few highlights to be found. Amid all the usual dross there were a couple of gems from both established and new acts. With music I try to listen to a bit of everything which I think is reflected in my top ten below.
10. Aphex Twin – Syro
There are few acts around today that are anything like The Aphex Twin. Syro saw him come out of semi retirement to produce an album of thirteen electronic joys.
It isn’t an easy album to like at first and for me it took a couple of listens before I really started to enjoy it. Whether this marks the beginning of a new phase of his career is unknown as the man is as private as it is possible to be in the age of technology.
9. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
A case of believe the hype. The music press are always on the look out for the next big thing and Royal Blood’s name was at the top of many lists. Fortunately the Brighton duo had the musical ability to back up the claims. This album is the sound of a group at the top of its game and gives the impression of a full band and not just bass and drums. What will be of interest is where they go from here and will a second round in a similar style have the same impact?
8. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
One of the most surprising things about this release is that it took so long for Mr Albarn to do a solo album. He has been involved almost constantly in a variety of musical projects since the demise of Blur. His solo album takes elements from all of his earlier work and fuses them together into something that comes across as a very personal set of songs. A wide variety of guests including Eno and Bat For Lashes add to the impressive instrumentation.
7. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
Technically they should be done under the trade descriptions act as they are neither from Sleaford or indeed Mods. The second album (as a duo) is a frantic and furious rant at the world with emphasis on celebrity culture, knocking one off in your mates bathroom and barely dealing with the small stuff. The lyrics are liberally peppered with some of the finest profanities you will hear this year and the vitriolic turn of phrase often raises a grin.
6. Gruff Rhys – American Interior
The fourth album from the Super Furry Animals singer is a concept piece based on the life of Welsh explorer John Evans and his attempt to find a lost Welsh tribe in the wilds of America. It formed part of a project that included a film, book and app. The songs have a distinct west coast rock flavour which stand up very well on their own. It’s good to see there are still some people out there willing to take a bit of a risk with their careers.
5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
I first heard Angel Olsen in session on the excellent Marc Reilly show on BBC 6 Music. The tracks really peaked my interest and the album that followed provided one of the first shiver down the spine moments with the song ‘High and Wild’. A unique and evocative vocal style on top of a mixture of folk and indie guitar influences make for a splendid collection of tunes.
4. Ty Segall – Manipulator
Segall is one of those annoyingly talented musicians who always seems to be releasing something under his own name or a multitude of side projects.
This album is a glorious mix of Psychedelic and garage rock, topped off with a voice that frequently raises to falsetto. It easily maintains the pace and interest over its seventeen tracks.
3. Funkadelic – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate
The biggest surprise of the year was the release of a Funkadelic album a full thirty-three after their last. Band leader George Clinton, now in his seventies, has been touring over the last few years and brought the troops into the studio for a triple album full of classic funk workouts that recall the band at the height of their powers. Notable guest Sly Stone features on five tracks including the superb single ‘The Naz’.
2. Jungle – Jungle
The break out dance act of the year. Tipped to be one to look out for, the London duo didn’t disappoint with a soul tinged album full of sublime beats and falsetto dual vocals. Lead singles ‘Busy Earnin’ and ‘Time’ were the best of the bunch and both benefited from superbly choreographed promo videos.
1. Kelis – Food
This is the album that I’ve played more than any other this year. It is a heady mixture of soul, funk and gospel with food influenced titles like ‘Cobbler’ and ‘Jerk Ribs’. Kelis possesses a smokey and sultry vocal delivery that adds an extra dimension to the smooth production.
A superb collection of songs, press play below and have a listen.