Albums of the year – 2014

Hi friends. For the 3 or so of you that often check my blog, here is my list of all of the 2014 albums I listened to. For contrast, look at my post from the middle of the year, where I ranked them up to then.

So, here we go.

The biggest disappointments of 2014:

I was looking forward to a lot of albums in 2014. Plenty of groups I had become pretty big fans of were set to release new material, and I was hyped. Then I listened to it, and, oh boy…

Foxygen – …And Star Power: or, How to make a 2 hour album with nothing interesting and drown in self indulgence. One of the worst things I’ve ever listened to, probably made worse by the fact that their album last year was so good.

The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends: Fucking awful.

Sabbath Assembly – Quaternity: One of the most boring things I’ve ever heard from a project that created some of the most interesting and unique things I’ve ever heard. I was so disappointed.

Really bad (0/10-3/10):

Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (1/10)
Foxygen – …And Star Power (2/10)
Gigi Masin – Talk To The Sea (3/10)
Mogwai – Rave Tapes (3/10)
Flaming Lips – Little Help From My Fwends (3/10)
Sabbath Assembly – Quaternity (3/10)

Pretty poor/mediocre (4/10-5/10)

Taylor Swift – 1989 (4/10)
White Suns – Totem (4/10)
Tosc – Fall Of Man (4/10)
OK Go – Hungry Ghosts (4/10)
Big Ups – Eighteen Hours Of Static (4/10)
Broken Bells – After The Disco (4.5/10)
asobius – pray & grow (4.5)
Circulatory System – Mosaics Within Mosaics (5/10)
Foliage – Singles (5/10)
Jacinta Le – From Little Things… (5/10)
Young Philadelphia – Yawn Philly (5/10)
The Black Keys – Turn Blue (5/10)
Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts: Red Classroom (5/10)
Coldplay – Ghost Stories (5/10)

Far from bad, but far from good (5.5/10)

Lil Spook – Black Silk
Black Santa – Sorry Of This Is Weird
XO – Heart
Marsan – Music For Agoramaniacs
Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine
Current 93 – I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell
sukekiyo – IMMORTALIS
Mariam The Believer – The Wind
Oh Hee Jung – Set Adrift

Far from bad, but far from great (6/10)

Felicity Groom – Hungry Sky
Mono – Rays of Darkness
Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt
Lykke Li – I Never Learn
GUM – Delorean Highway
Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt
Manon meurt – Manon meurt
Beck – Morning Phase
Pure X – Angel
Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. – The Unlimited Dream Cloister (Live album)
hitorie – Imaginary Monofiction
Michael Cera – True that

Pretty good, but either lacking something that makes it quite good, or will fade out on more listens (6.5/10)

Shabazz Palaces – Leje w/e
Eno Hyde – High Life
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Nothing – Guilty of Everything
Baby Guru – Marginalia
Leo Welch – Sabougla Voices
Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
Tame Impala – Live Versions
FKA twigs – LP1
Without Parachutes – This Is A Fire
Ty Segall – Manipulator

Pretty darn good, but not quite amazing, but if you like the genre then a good choice to listen to (7/10)

Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
jizue – Shiori
War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Owen Pallett – In Conflict
watter – This World
Nick Allbroock – Ganough, Wallis and Fatuna
Prima – Staircase Anthem
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Cleft – BOSH!
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Warpaint – Warpaint
Temples – Sun Structures
Contrabox – Bear Town
Shiny Joe Ryan – Cosmic Microwave Background
about tess – Shining
Death Grips – Niggas On The Moon

                The top 12 (click the title for posted review):

12: White Hinterland – Baby

11: Mounties – Thrash Rock Legacy

10: Fire! Orchestra – Second Exit

9: Posse – Soft Opening

8: Sun Kil Moon – Benji

7: Ava Luna – Electric Ball

6: Solander – Monochromatic Memories

5: Swans – To Be Kind

4: Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm

3: Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

2: Fire! Orchestra – Enter

My album of the year is: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

Let’s see if my opinions change over the course of the year. My 2013 favourites have changed quite a bit, and I guess these will too. My most anticipated for 2015 includes: 
Joanna Newsom (I hope!)
GY!BE (I hope!)
Melodys Echo Chamber
Pond
Olivia Tremor Control
Tame Impala (I hope!)
Probably more, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

Songs of the year – 2014

Here is my list of the best songs of the year, I hope this gets at least a few of you to listen to some of them more than it would if I posted the album.

18-6: Too hard to rank these all, so just in random order:

Ava Luna – Daydream
Just a phenomenally good post punk track.

Dva – Javornicek
If Sigur Ros used a ukulele, synth, and spoke in an even weirder language, this is what the result would be. Experimental folk turns in to post rock.

Shiny Joe Ryan – Devonvare $amson
1967 fuzzy psychedelia, extremely derivative but it just sounds so damn good.

Fire! Orchestra – Enter Part 1
Fire! Orchestra plays Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Just breathtaking.

White Hinterland – Sickle No Sword (no sample, lol)
Pretty pop turned abrasive, and filled with killer hooks.

White Hinterland – Metronome (agian no sample, wtf)
Like Sickle No Sword, Metronome takes a regular pop song and twists it to be something more.

Mono – Recoil, Ignite
Simple yet beautiful post rock, crescendos, noise, chilling guitar, got it all.

Swans – A Little God In My Hands
What starts sounding like a blues jam devolves in to a huge noise explosion. The piano after that first noise part is sooooooooo good too.

Mounties – Guaranteed Blonde Enough
Indie rockers have their shot at experimental rock, a touch of Can, and pretty good results

Temples – The Golden Throne
Temples continue their “we’re going to just play 1968 music” thing, but it doesn’t even matter, because it sounds so good. A wonderful psychedelic rock track. I really wish they had at least a LITTLE originality though.

Angel Olsen – Forgiven/Forgotten
Fuzzy folk rock and great vocals singing simple but clever lyrics.

Angel Olsen – Hi Five
Same as above, dat bass drum tho

Solander – Hey Wolf (i cant find it anywhere online)
Neutral Milk Hotel, Modest Mouse, and Arcade Fire rolled in to one melancholy indie rock/folk thing, probably highlighted best on this track.

But for a top 5:

5. Spoon – I Just Don’t Understand
A cover of a 1961 Swedish singers single, the Spoon version just brings this even more to life, the original melody/lyrics/everything were just PERFECT to make a rock song out of. Hell, if this had been released in 1966 or 1971 instead, the track would’ve been so hugely different, but still, the pieces it gives  are just amazing, and Spoon did a masterful cover.

4. Swans – She Loves Us
Michael Gira plays Can, just much, much louder. MY NAME IS FUCK.

3. Wildbirds and Peacedrums – Gold Digger
A credit to stripped back music, this is a blues style track with a pop mind, with jazz instrumentation. The simplicity of the bass cuts in to the drumming, and the beautiful vocals just all work so flawlessly together.

2. A Silver Mt Zion – Fuck Off Get Free (For The Island of Montreal)
10 minutes of huge highs, crushing lows, and haunting beauty. One of the best post rock songs ever. And we make a lot of noise, because we love each other.

1. Fire! Orchestra – Enter Part 3
Simply put, this is Fire! Orchestra’s masterpiece. Sofia Jernberg’s vocals open the track, making screeches and growls and everything in between, sounding at times like a guitar or some high pitched electronics, and even mirroring the free jazz horn sounds. The purely avant garde section moves out when the bass and piano comes in, and it turns in to an even more amazing psychedelic free jazz snowball that just gets louder and louder and bigger and bigger as the song continues. Flawless instrumentation, flawless vocals, extremely weird and not one boring bit. One of the best songs ever recorded.

Honorable mentions to these songs too, all worth a listen:

Ava Luna – Sears Roebuck M&Ms
FKA twigs – Two Weeks
Sun Kil Moon – Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes
Death Grips – Say Hey Kid
Sucra – Sedimentary
Nick Allbrook – ITTTME
Wildbirds and Peacedrums – The Offbeat
War On Drugs – Under The Pressure
Dva – Surfi
Dva – Mulatu (This film clip, wtf?)
Posse – Shut Up
Posse – Zone
jizue – Bullet Bull
jizue – Wind
GUM – Misunderstanding
Contrabox – Earlybird
The Oh Sees – Penetrating Eye
Prima – Realize
Black Keys – Weight Of Love
Swans – Screen Shot
Baby Guru – Baby You’re So Weird
Mounties – Headphones (TW: spooky video)
Mac Demarco – Blue Boy
Temples – Shelter Song
Warpaint – Keep It Healthy
Warpaint – Love Is To Die
ASMZ – Austerity Blues
Solander – Monday Afternoon

Mono – Rays of Darkness (2014)

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>post rock, black metal, noise

[ Download | Sample ]

Japanese post rock legends Mono released two EPs this year, making a sort of double album thing, Rays of Darkness is one of the halves, and sees the band toying around with more than just their typical Japanese crescendo-core post rock, and touching on some black metal and Sun O)))) style noisey drones. The band makes it clear that there is no orchestral instrumentation at all on this album, it is much more of an instrumental rock thing than a post rock thing.

This EP/half album opens with the track ‘Recoil, Ignite’, a GY!BE-esque, 13 minute monster of a song that is among the best post rock I’ve ever heard. It’s noisey yet the whole thing is perfectly crisp at the same time, up and down and all over the place, it’s a phenomenal track and easily the best thing on this record. While there aren’t any strings, the guitars sweeping under the huge noise gives the same effect, so 

‘Surrender’ comes next, as sees Mono do their best Sigur Ros piano ballad impression, sadly it’s pretty lackluster, while ‘The Hand That Holds The Truth’ features 5 minutes of ambience, before launching in to 3 minutes of Burzum-esque black metal, it sounds pretty cool but pretty one dimensional. ‘The Last Ray’ closes the album (get it, Last Ray? Rays of Darkness?) and is a noise/drone piece which, well, isn’t all that interesting. It doesn’t sound awful, but at the same time it didn’t hold my attention at all compared to the first and third tracks.

The first track is a must listen if you like GY!BE style post rock, the rest is pretty average. A mediocre record salvaged by its amazing opener.

December listens: 2014 albums

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Too lazy to write full, proper reviews for a bunch of albums, so I’ll just do this instead.

Need to grind through those 2014 albums ya feel me?

Todd Terje – It’s Album Time (2014)
>electronic, nu-disco
[ Download | Sample ]

It’s Album Time is Shiori without guitars, and puts in synths instead. Groovy as fuck and impossible to dislike.

Spoon – They Want My Soul (2014)
>indie rock
[ Download | Sample ]

Pretty good indie rock, I’m a big confused as to why this is so acclaimed, the best song, ‘I Just Don’t Understand’ is a cover of a 1961 song, but it sounds soooo damn good. Not awful but not as amazing as everyone seems to say it is.

Eno • Hyde – High Life (2014)
>art rock, electronic
[ Download | Sample ]

Collaboration between legendary musician Brian Eno and electronic musician Karl Hyde. I thought this was going to be some wanky ambient/experimental electronics thing, but it turned out to be a really good mix of rock instrumentation and electronic influences. Really diverse too, pretty good.

Felicity Groom – Hungry Sky (2014)
>indie rock
[ Download | Sample ]

Not as good as her debut, which seriously surprised me for its quality, but pretty good stuff.

Coldplay – Ghost Stories (2014)
>alternative rock, electronicy
[ Download | Sample ]

Coldplay deliver another ‘this is so generic’ rock album but add some electronic pop elements to keep it 2014. Yeah, nah.

– 

Ty Segall – Manipulator (2014)
>psychedelic rock, garage rock
[ Download | Sample ]

Loud and dirty and garagey, pretty great album.

Sabbath Assembly – Quaternity (2014)

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>occult rock

[ Download | Sample ]

Rarely have I ever been as disappointed in an album as I am with Quaternity. The third album from occult psychedelic/metal/experimental rock group Sabbath Assembly manages to reject the qualities that made their first two albums so interesting, and instead create 40 minutes of mind numbingly boring hymns.

Their first two albums – Restored To One and Ye Are Gods – employ the lyrics of a 60s apocalypse cult on top of really groovy, psychedelic music with cheery vocals, creating an obvious but effective contrast between the content of the lyrics and the aesthetic of the music. You can’t help but sing along to a 60s pop style track like Glory Hallelujah without tapping your foot and doing your best air organ, then laugh at the absurdity of the doomsday calling lyrics and how they’re so sung so jovially.

All of that is missing on this new album. The band seems to take themselves far too seriously, and it makes this work just so bland and boring. The track listing got me so excited, ‘The Burning Cross of Christ’ coming in at 7 minutes got me excited for a long, free formed jam with apocalyptic imagery, but instead is just an acoustic guitar strumming chords, vocals, and occasional “reowwwwwww” from some electric guitars. For 7 minutes.

“Okay guys, come on, you can pick it up now” I said out loud, hoping, praying (hehe), that this would pick up some steam. Nope, it didn’t. ‘I, Satan’ features some metaly shredding, but still doesn’t have drums or anything to keep this album… like… interesting. These first five songs are just boring 2deep4u church anti-hymns.

“Wow, those sucked, but it’s okay, the albums centrepiece is coming up!” I lied to myself, clearly the desperation was rising. “Look, it’s 18 minutes! And called ‘The Four Horsemen’! This is going to be a throwback to Aphrodite’s Child’s album 666 and really turn this boring organ driven snoozefest in to a great experimental work!”

Turns out that final 18 minutes of the album is just as uneventful as the first 22.

One of the biggest disappointments of the year, and really, really boring.

OK Go – Hungry Ghosts (2014)

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>indie rock

[ Download | Sample ]

Hungry Ghosts is the fourth album of rock group OK Go, who are known for having sub par, generic indie rock music that is buffered by having the best music film clips in the industry.

On this album, they’re even more bland than before. While their previous albums are as generic as they come, save for a handful of decent songs (accompanied by phenomenal music clips), Hungry Ghosts manages to take them even more boring by introducing a bunch of electronic influences, turning this album almost in to synthpop.

Their songwriting is laughable, on one of the ‘oh look we’re deep’ tracks titled Obsession, he sings: “Your blood starts to pump / ’cause you’re worried you might jump / And your head throbbing like a heart / And your heart throbbing like a drum / And the drums throbbing like the point is just go ahead and jump.” Woah man. See how the lyrics blend so seamlessly and easily in to the next line? Did Joanna Newsom pen this one?

Everything is just fucking boring. ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ is slightly okay, a pretty cool funky track that is their lead single from the album (so obviously it has a clip). The clip isn’t as good as plenty of their others, so even that is lacking, the mechanics of it are no doubt amazing, but even then the effect gets kinda old kinda quick.

This album is fucking boring, the only impressive thing is that OK Go have managed to create an even more standardised version of radio friendly generic rock music than Coldplay, and made an album even more boring than that standard. You’ll forget this as soon as you finished it.

Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967)

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>psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop, acid rock

[ Download | Sample ]

Incense and Peppermints was the debut album of psychedelic group Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the album is best known for the title track and it’s incredibly epitomising summer of love sound.

Everybody has heard the title track, knowingly or not, as soon as it starts everyone recognises it and most probably likes it. My thought, going in to listening to this, was that this was going to be a pretty poor album that rested solely on the strength of that fantastic single. Countless 60s psychedelic rock groups popped in to existence in 1966/67, and fizzled out before the end of the decade when their music was too gimmicky. Thankfully, Strawberry Alarm Clock’s debut didn’t fizzle out, and instead was a perfect example of the subtle variations in psychedelic rock in the late 60s.

The opener, ‘The Worlds On Fire’, totally took me by surprise – a 9 minute acid rock track that keeps going and going. If someone asked me to pick some songs that ‘are’ acid rock, this would be on – lots of instrumentation, distortion, harmonies, long running time, everyone trading solos, and psychedelic as fuck.

Most of the other tracks on the album are super short, not cracking three minutes very often, and are all in the same vein as the iconic title track. While they aren’t experimental masterpieces, they’re all very good psych pop tracks, and keep the album interesting and fun.

‘Unwind With The Clock’ is the second to last track, and in typical 60s post-modern fashion, the song talks directly to the listener in both its title and lyrics. The music is a sort of acid fuelled lounge jazz sort of thing, and is pretty damn cool, that breaks down in to a drum solo before coming to a cool close.

One of the better albums of the era, and a nice surprise that it doesn’t just suck other than the hit single.