Our favourite albums of 2014… So far

st vincent

AS WE ENTER July, we begin to reminisce about 2014, and what has come to pass in the first half of the year. Daft Punk stormed this year’s Grammy Awards, Kate Bush announced her first tour since ’79 and Nirvana were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But aside from these big events, what fresh music has been delivered to us? Myself and Alex Pike decided to take a look…

St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Annie Clark would have had to have done a lot to top her 2011 Art Rock piece Strange Mercy, but somehow she’s managed it. Described by the artist as ‘dance music for a funeral’, St. Vincent features tracks such as the crunchy ‘Birth in Reverse’ and ‘Digital Witness’, which displays obvious influence from her work with David Byrne. St. Vincent’s signature guitar sound is combined with funky drum beats and electronics to create one of the most enjoyable albums of the year.

Bearcubbin’! – Girls with Fun Haircuts
When defining what makes an album deserving of placing in the end of year lists that flood the internet in late December, most people would mention something about the music being fresh and ground-breaking. Girls With Fun Haircuts doesn’t tick that box. This is ground that’s been covered by a bandwagon of young, Battles-worshipping bands. Yet quality is delivered by the bucket load, and if you want angular rhythms that’ll make you dance your socks off, then Bearcubbin’! have recorded the perfect album for you. It may be instrumental, but the need for a vocalist won’t cross your mind once during these 46 minutes.

The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Sprawling songs with plenty of synth, guitar and horns to go around, The War on Drugs’ third studio album is one for those lazy days where you can lay back and enjoy Adam Granduciel’s reverb laden vocals. Lost in the Dream is not an album that can be rushed; it’s an album where every instrument lends itself to the feeling of separation and isolation, creating a long, but rewarding listen.

Behemoth – The Satanist
It’s no exaggeration to say that Behemoth have played a pivotal role in the growth of extreme metal since their birth in 1991. With the release of The Satanist, any questions of their continued relevance in more recent years have been well and truly silenced. The album has been said to be largely inspired by frontman Nergal’s battle with leukaemia, which could be the key reason for Behemoth managing to deliver one of their best albums in years. The grooves and solos recorded here are ridiculously infectious, and even those less well acquainted with blackened death metal will be hooked.

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
After last year’s fast paced Light Up Gold, Parquet Courts appear to have calmed down slightly with Sunbathing Animal. None of that Punk attitude is lost, but there is a less frantic approach to songs. Songs like ‘Dear Ramona’ and ‘Instant Disassembly’ are very laid back numbers, whereas the title track is reminiscent of how rocking the band can be. What’s so good about Parquet Courts is their ability to produce such memorable and enjoyable songs from quite a simplistic formula, and that’s exactly what is produced here.

La Dispute – Rooms of the House
Listening to the semi-spoken word storytelling of vocalist Jordan Dreyer is always a pleasure, and as expected, the rest of the band provide the perfect colourful backdrop to the narratives that are found within this album. The more standardised songs structures and a less abrasive delivery than their previous records could be argued to be a maturation of the band as song writers or a deliberate shift to appeal to more mainstream audiences. Either way, La Dispute have by no means dropped their standards. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if it is to your tastes, then you’ll be listening to nothing else for the next six months.

Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Perhaps my favourite album on this list, Canadian Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days is full of peppy guitar pop, and extremely easy to listen to, without compromising its musical integrity. It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly makes Salad Days so bloody good. It might be because each track feels reminiscent of 90s-lite Rock, thereby lending a nostalgic feel to the tracks. In a world where Jake Bugg and George Ezra dominate the British Male singer-songwriter spectrum, it’s nice to have an alternative.

Destrage – Are You Kidding Me? No
The Italian Destrage have made a huge step up with their third record Are You Kidding Me? No. It would be easy to stylistically place the band with the likes of the metalcore acts that have saturated heavy music over the last five to ten years, but their 2014 release deserves so much more credit than that. The album is a catchy piece of work that displays a ludicrous level of technical ability, yet is still ridiculous fun to listen to- how often can you say that about a record? Besides, with songs that lyrically tackle current political issues as well as how to handle a zombie apocalypse…what is there not to love?

The Horrors – Luminous
After their triumphant third album, The Horrors’ Luminous picks up where Skying left off. Luminous at times sounds like Tame Impala’s 2012 album Lonerism, but also slightly more radio friendly. Songs like ‘I See You’ and ‘So Now You Know’ feel upbeat, as opposed to the darker feel of Primary Colours, and aspects of Skying. Live, their tracks are powerful, and contribute amazingly to their live set. Luminous is an important part of the Horrors canon.

The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace is There
This is another album that isn’t necessarily breaking boundaries, but is executed too well to be just brushed aside. The melancholic lyrics and stripped back guitar tone throw The Hotelier right into the heart of the mid-west emo scene that has been regaining momentum in the last couple of years. (If you are fan of the Into It. Over It. End of emo, then I’m sure you’ll already have fallen in love with Home, Like Noplace is There.) Having said that, don’t be put off by the labels- at the centre there’s a fantastic album of emotional rock anthems. The massive growth of The Hotelier fan-base over the last year speaks for itself.

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