Albums of the Year – the Top Ten!

So, back to our top albums of 2014, and finally the top ten. It was really difficult choosing the number one this year in particular. Whilst there were several very good contenders, no one album stood out as a real classic (unlike Vampire Weekend last year), and at various times I thought Ben Howard and three or four others might make it. But finally ... well, read on and find out!

 10.  War on Drugs  Lost in the Dream

Who would have thought that a blend of 80s US radio friendly rock (Bob Seger, late period Eagles, Springsteen) with some hazy laid back Pink Floyd vibes could work so well? An album that came from nowhere and has won numerous Album of the Year awards and indeed topped the Metacritic top album list of albums mentioned in all the top lists! A little too retro to be my number one but a fine album.

 

9. George Ezra   Wanted on Voyage

I resisted this for some time – a fresh faced 21 year old, signing like a 50-year old bluesman, with lyrics that mainly seemed to be about his gap year (girls left behind in Barcelona etc). But it got me in the end, which just goes to show - the song is everything, and these are just excellent pop songs. Unlike some of our choices, it is not challenging or different, but I defy anyone not to enjoy this! (Great video too!)

8.  La Roux  Trouble in Paradise

Pop album of the year, a tremendous comeback with a fresh, fun set of disco and pop songs that hark back to Let’s Dance period Bowie and classic 80 synth bands. On the surface nothing too deep again, but clever touches and it all adds up to a highly enjoyable album.

 

7.  Jamie T  Carry on the Grudge

Another comeback kid, he wasn’t a big favourite of mine previously but this is a very varied, complex album, ranging from the delirious Clash homage of Zombie (track of the year?) to the reflective blues of Mary Lee. He’s been though some rough times apparently, but has come back an older, wiser and better songwriter based on this album.

 

6.  Ben Howard I Forgot Where We Were

After his huge selling and largely sunny debut album of 2012, Howard pursues a bold strategy here, with a much darker and more complex album – still John Martyn influenced in his guitar work, but the songs recall Bon Iver rather than Jack Johnson this time. In the main, it works brilliantly, and at one stage this was looking like my Album of the Year. It just drags very slightly in places, which knocked it back, but it is a fine work from a super-talented artist who will make a masterpiece one day, we suspect.

 

5.  Hozier  Hozier

Talking of talented young male singer songwriters, this year has seen a whole batch of excellent examples, several of them in our top ten! The starring debutant was Hozier, from Ireland, with his own style but influenced by the greats in pop, soul and blues, from McCartney to Van Morrison to Al Green. He writes great songs, can do powerful and dramatic or fun and uplifting, has a great voice, is charismatic live, and is breaking the States as we speak.

4.  Ex Hex  Rips

One of the left-field surprises of 2014. Mary Timony has spent her 20 year career in cult indie bands before forming Ex Hex, an all-female trio, and within a year of starting up, releasing Rips, with no great expectations of commercial success. But quite rightly, it has got rave reviews, with comparisons to Blondie, the Ramones, and the Runaways but with an added ingredient of excellent guitar work from Timony – her solos are sharp and to the point, but really add to these fast, lean and catchy powerpop songs. Perhaps the most fun album of the year. And the video shows how to play rock and roll in a gale!

3.  Alt-J  This Is All Yours

Their debut was my album of the year in 2012 and this almost repeated the trick. Everything from medieval choral sounds to mock southern rock, from gorgeous acoustic work (see below) to weird folk-jazz world music interludes. Somehow the make it work, although they remain a bit of a Marmite band. this was perhaps my favourite track of the entire year.

2.  Royal Blood   Royal Blood

Two guys, one playing guitar with an amazing set up that splits his output into a bass and lead sounds, the other driving the songs forward with superb drumming, making pummeling yet tuneful blues rock, Zeppelin / White Stripes style. But as well as the novelty of the guitar playing, this has been a huge success because of basics are all there – excellent, catchy, earworm rock tunes and great vocals, plus just huge energy and drive. We did mark them down a touch for value for money – the album is just 32 minutes long, we could have done with a couple more songs!

1.  Bombay Bicycle Club  So Long See You Tomorrow

Somewhat overlooked in many “best of” lists I’ve seen, maybe because it came out very early in 2014, or maybe because it is so varied. Using middle eastern and African influences, along with conventional rock, pop and indie, this is an album where every track is different yet carefully constructed – but you can also tell it is Bombay Bicycle Club instantly. In the event, it pipped Royal Blood and Alt-J because I am still discovering more in it every time I listen, so we predict this album will grow in critical acclaim over the years. That makes it a deserving Spend Matters Album of the Year!

Voices (2)

  1. Alex Kleiner:

    Peter, I just want to thank you for taking the time to compile these lists. Through the modern wonders of fast broadband and Spotify I have been making my way through all the albums – starting with the runner-ups. I am still pretty far down the chain so I won’t make any comments other than expressing a sincere ‘thanks’ and noting that Augustines is waaaay too far down your listing.

    Cheers, AFK3

  2. The Guitar Man:

    Good call Peter! A Happy New Year to you and all your readers!

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