Albums of the Year – Numbers 20 to 11

So, back to our top albums of 2014, and things are getting serious as we enter the top 20. And there is a real variation here, from the sexually frank and experimental work of FKA Twigs, to old style Memphis country blues, to psychedelic thrash rock. Enjoy!

20. Simone Felice Strangers

Felice was one of the Americana outfit The Felice Brothers, but with this, his second true solo album, he proved himself a singer-songwriter in the classic James Taylor, Van Morrison or Jimmy Webb mode. He is an author as well, has almost died more than once of various illnesses that have affected him over the years, and these literate, tuneful, timeless songs indicate a true artist and a brilliant, sensitive songwriter.

 

19.  Antlers Familiars

Their previous album Burst Apart was my absolute favourite of 2011, and whilst I don’t think this quite lives up to that, it is excellent. It’s not “rock” as we might know it, but they have carved out a unique sound for themselves – a generally lugubrious, emotionally charged, atmospheric sound. This time, the addition of a brass section adds a warmth to the music, although maybe at times it is a little overdone. A lovely album nonetheless.

 

18. Black Keys Turn Blue

US blues-rock giants return with a break-up album apparently. Their eighth, amazingly, this is a little less "rock" than some of their previous work, with more use of electronics than before. But it is another collection of just really strong songs – although note this track is the most obviously “rock” on the album as well as my favourite!

 

17. FKA Twiggs  LP1

The most exciting new British artist of 2014, trained dancer Twigs (now girlfriend of Robert Pattison too) emerged with this strange and at times totally wonderful mix of R&B, dance, pop and electronic experimentation. With nods to Grimes, Frank Ocean and James Blake, but with her own exotic and sensual personality shining through, this is an amazing debut.

(Warning – sexual content / language).

 

16.  Catfish and the Bottlemen The Balcony

A diametric counterpoint to the totally 2014 FKA Twigs and her genre melting innovation, Catfish are the heirs to Oasis and Kasabian. A young band from Wales, rabble rousing, resolutely retro, indie rock with big choruses, big guitars, big tunes. We’ve heard it all before, of course we have, and the NME reviewer hated it. But when you turn the volume up, it’s still f****g great, isn’t it?

 

15.  Family Rain Under the Volcano

Three brothers from Bath in their early twenties make a retro but current sounding blues- rock racket, bringing to mind Zeppelin in the heavier moments and Kings of Leon in the more tuneful. Very enjoyable and even more promise for the future?

 

14.  Horrors Luminous

The third really strong album in a row from this excellent band, who started out as cartoon Goth jokes really, but have confounded the critics over the years. Post-punk, goth-rock, whatever you call their style, it is atmospheric yet engaging, energetic yet thoughtful. This is perhaps a touch warmer and more tuneful than their last album, and cements their position as one of the very best rock bands in the UK.

 

13.  Frazey Ford Indian Ocean

Ford is a member of folk-country band Be Good Tanyas, but here she went to Memphis and recorded this superb collection of country / blues / soul songs with Al Green’s old band. It’s got a real groove and atmosphere and is just great, with plenty of brass and Hammond organ in there. Really, everyone who loves music should just buy this.

 

12.  Merchandise After The End

I’m still getting into this – for an “indie” album it has surprising hidden depths, which reminds me of times of REM, whose songs similarly could work on several levels. Nice tunes, but with that sense of “something going on” within the track, the lyrics or the overall vibe. Other reference points might be The Smiths and Vampire Weekend, with the odd touch of 80’s British post punk and alt-rock – file under “smart indie pop” and enjoy.

 

11.  Hookworms The Hum

From Leeds, with a vocalist who looks like a Chartered Accountant and sings or screams like a man possessed by the evil spirits of sprits of Jim Morrison and Johnny Rotten, Hookworms make intense psychedelic dance Kraut-noise-rock. You have to listen really, like nothing else in this countdown...

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