Best album of 2014 to play at double speed
Todd Terje – It’s album time
When Alex first picked this up, we listened to it almost in its entirety on double speed for the first time. And we were SO into it. In fact almost faintly disappointed when we discovered we’d been doing it wrong. If you own this on vinyl, go and listen to Svensk Sås at double speed RIGHT NOW, and dance until you, possibly, pass out. If you don’t, well, you’ll just have to imagine. Thankfully it’s a brilliant album even at normal speed. (Apart from that appalling Johnny and Mary cover halfway through. Skip that.) Scandinavian disco at its finest.
Most disappointing ‘best album’ of 2014
Metronomy – Love Letters
I love Metronomy. I love that every album of theirs has been totally different. This one? Not so much up my street. Which made me slightly sad. But there’s no denying that Joe Mount is a masterful song-writer, and this album has some brilliant moments, just none which excite me in the way their moments usually do. This is still a good album, and definitely deserves at least one listen, because for you, it might be their best thing yet. ‘Boy Racers’ is a slightly hidden highlight to my mind.
Most comforting album of 2014
Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser
I first heard ‘Stepps’ on Gilles Peterson’s show and was absolutely floored. It’s just everything I love. Languid, elegant synths for about 5 minutes. The rest of the album is not what you would expect if you buy it purely based on that one track. Much more vocal driven and softer, somehow… But it all ties together so, so perfectly, and it’s been my go-to album whenever I’m low or anxious and need something to make me feel better (or indeed, when I’m already feeling good and want something to keep me there)
Best album of 2014 written by someone who once told my partner he’d ‘stamp on his face’
Mono/Poly – Golden Skies
Well that was awkward. We went to see his live show a couple of years back (which was great by the way), and at one point, Alex leaned in to say something to me, and he shouted, directly at us, that if he didn’t shut up, he’d stamp on his face. Which was charming. Regardless of whether or not he’s a nice man, this is a stunning album, and, facetious award titles aside, might actually be a contender for my favourite album of 2014. It’s everything he was doing previously, but more consistent, and all round better. Full of synth fireworks, euphoric electronic glissandos and just the loveliest track-to-track transitions, I honestly can’t fault it. It’s a bit of a masterpiece to my mind. I’d love to see it live. Might not take Alex with me again though.
Best album of 2014 that I’ve only listened to once
Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Sorry Thom. It’s good! It just happened to come out at exactly the same time as a lot of other really good stuff, and because you snuck it up on us so much, I didn’t have time to plan for it, and as a result, haven’t given it the attention it deserves. Still, it’s up there with his best solo work, and I will be endeavouring to spend more time with it, next time I’m in a Thom Yorke/Radiohead mood (Which admittedly happens less and less these days)
Best album for terrible culturally appropriative twerking
Big Freedia – Just be free
There’s been a lot of debate this year about whether twerking is okay, or horrific cultural appropriation. I just don’t know. Fortunately (perhaps), I’m not very good at it anyway, so you’re not going to see me throwing any of those shapes at ‘the club’ anyway. But if anything were likely to make me, it’s this. Big Freedia is the undisputed queen of twerking, and this long anticipated LP only serves to reinforce that.
Best unimaginatively titled album of 2014
Clark – Clark
C’mon Clark. You can do better than that. If your music’s anything to go by, you’re clearly imaginative enough. Title aside, this is a GREAT piece of work from the Warp stalwart (my distant claim to his fame is that I’m friends with someone who used to work in a stationery shop in St. Albans with him).
Clattery and thundery and rich and dense: stronger by far that his previous, which was already pretty great.
Best EP that I wish was a whole album
Tokimonsta – Desiderium
I don’t listen to enough female artists. A very large proportion of this list is just ‘a dude with a laptop’. Tokimonsta is a shining female beacon creating amazing electronica in LA… I adore her, and her immediately recognisable sound, and just wish this lovely EP was a little bit longer stretched into a full album.
Best album of 2014 for listening to while feeling slightly melancholy on trains
Daedelus – The Light Brigade
My love affair with Daedelus has not dissipated. This is not what I expected from him, and realistically, if you’d asked me what I hoped for in his next release, I’d have asked for something closer to his live shows: eclectic and electric and noisy and dense and heavy. This is not that. It’s historically themed, around the charge of the Light Brigade, mostly acoustic, delicate and lovely and sparse and quiet. It’s a beautiful piece that, perhaps, is more what I needed than the noisy something that I wanted.
Special Award for helping me understand why people like taking drugs (while still giving me no desire to partake myself)
Thundercat — Apocalypse
Before I get to that… This is a brilliant album. It’s another one, like Taylor McFerrin that feels right for any mood I’m in… and is a beautifully moving tribute to the sad death of Austin Peralta, whose incredibly premature passing seems to have had a creative ripple effect across a large number of LA based musicians. It manages to capture sadness, frustration, devastation, while also having moments of sheer joy, such as ‘Oh Sheit it’s X’, the track which inspired the above statement. I mean… it still all sounds horrible… “The room is spinning and I’m not winning, it’s about 3.42, and I don’t know where the bathroom is, my friends say ‘you should eat something’”… And YET, the whole song is SO joyful, so effervescently enthusiastic… I guess I get it. Well done Thundercat, for explaining to me what so many other people have tried and failed to convince me of. (But still, no thanks…)
Best album of 2014 with thanks to Gilles Peterson
Leon Vynehall – Music for the Uninvited
Gilles Peterson is great. You should listen to his show on 6 Music on saturday afternoons (but make sure you tune in at 3 on the dot, Liz Kershaw beforehand is possibly the worst thing on any radio station ever). He plays all the good things, and has set me onto so many new things over the last few years. This was one of them, and it’s definitely been a favourite this year. Danceable, intelligent, consistent and fresh. A nice treat.
Least highly anticipated album of 2014 (that turned out to be really great)
Busdriver – Perfect Hair
Busdriver is great. But his last album Beaus$Eros? Less so. In fact, I enjoyed it so little that I didn’t even remember to listen to this, his newest release when it came out… but it came up on my soundcloud because he’d streamed the whole thing on there, and before I knew it, I was pulled in, and he is back on form. All of his usual delicious lyrical complexity but with even more darkness and bitterness than usual… and musically, sublime backing. See, Bliss Point.
Most highly anticipated album of 2014 (that was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped)
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
I was SO excited for this. Flying Lotus is, undisputedly now, I think, a genius. Cosmogramma is possibly my favourite album of all time ever (a bold claim I know), and all his other releases are up there too. I heard ‘never catch me’ before the album came out (which also wins my award for ‘video of the year’), but determined to save the whole album for a much anticipated long train journey across Europe, during which I proceeded to listen to it three times in a row, sucking in new things each time. As with all his releases, there’s SO much in here. It will not get old. It’s another masterpiece, and he still keeps innovating. Massive hyperbole, perhaps, but I feel honoured to be listening to his music fresh and new as it comes out. Because his jazz, electronica, whatever it is he’s doing… It feels like it will be with me for the rest of my life. I can hardly even wait for more.
So there you go. What have you enjoyed this year? Have I missed anything super obvious? And what's next? I hope 2015 has plenty more treats in store.
Oh, and if you prefer your music in track-sized bites rather than whole albums, here's my still-ongoing 'best of 2014' Spotify playlist... Which contains LOADS more lovely things.