8 Jun 2014

The top 10 albums of 2014... so far

For my first post on this blog I thought I'd look back on the past six months in music. It's fair to say that 2014 has already played host to a fair amount of shit hot releases, so without further ado, here is a top ten albums list for the first half of 2014...

10. Axxa/Abraxas - Axxa/Abraxas
The debut release from one of Captured Tracks' most exciting artists didn't disappoint. The lo-fi, slacker stylings of Atlanta-born muso Ben Asbury & co borrow plenty from their Elephant Six influences but ultimately sound fresh and original. Highlights of the self titled debut include the worthy single I Almost Fell and catchy cosmic opener Ryan Michalak (is Coming To Town).

9. III - Bo Ningen
The tenacious Japanese quartet's aptly titled third release hit record stores last month. Although it packs the same punches of ferocious basslines, psyched out jams and punchy-sounding Japanese lyrics as the rest of their output, III offers plenty of fresh sounds to fans of the group. The LP features a reprisal of 2010's Psychedelic Misemono Goya, and the band's collaboration with Jehnny Beth of Savages. What is, however, essential to the band's third album is punch, ferocious lead single DaDaDa - the best song the band have put out since Koroshitai Kimochi.

8. Sun Structures - Temples
Although it's crammed with b-side style album fillers, the parts of Sun Structures that are great are really something. The first release of the band remains the best, as the storming opener Shelter Song is particularly stunning almost two years after it came out. Other singles from it Mesmerise and Keep in the Dark are again highlights of Temples debut, with the title track being the only previously unheard song of any real excitement.

7. Mess - Liars
The fast paced electronica stylings of New York trio Liars's Mess is one of 2014's most interesting albums, and undoubtedly the one with the best cover art. For their 7th studio album Liars draw influence from Aphex Twin and early-Daft Punk alike, with a tinge of Neu! and Faust. The dark sounding Pro Anti Anti is a must listen, as well as Left Speaker Blown which does exactly what it says on the tin. Another Liars release worthy of note is the Mess On A Mission record store day release. Pictured to the right, it features Mess' lead single encased in a stunning bit of clear vinyl with bits of string interwoven.

6. Wig Out at Jagbags - Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Unlike many before him, the Pavement frontman's solo career has been full of fresh, original material that almost parallels his career in a band. January's Wig Out... was the latest chapter in Malkmus' discography, as he (like a fine wine) gets better and more mature with age. This album offers more slacker rock, with an increasing wit and an increasing feel for good sounding lyrics... for instance the "We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead" rolls out of his mouth much more beautifully than anything in Pavement's discography.

5. Luminous - The Horrors
Southend's gothic garage-rock revivalists turned synth wizards' fourth album was one which was very eagerly anticipated. Released in May, Luminous is driven almost entirely by synthesisers, and when not by synthesisers it's guitars that sound like synthesisers. The escalating lead single I See You is a highlight, whilst the warped Valentines-styled Jealous Sun is one of the finest songs in The Horrors discography. The euphoria of Chasing Shadows and So Now You Know also make Luminous much more accessible than the bands earlier trio of albums, which can only be a good thing for a band that were criminally underrated before this LP.

4. Cheatahs - Cheatahs
Captured Tracks' second release in this list is one of the label's few British bands. Cheatahs, like so many CT groups draw influence from the seminal shoegaze groups of early 90's, as well as a lot of the fuzzy indie bands across the pond. Cheatahs self-titled is forty six minutes of energy, coated in  controlled feedback adn almost ethereal textures. The Swan is the most American sounding song on the record, whilst Loon Calls is proper raw shoegazing - Cheatahs have struck gold on their first record.

3. Lost in the Dream - The War On Drugs
Much has been made of The War On Drugs' third record, and after a great many listens, I concur this; what a stunning record Adam Granduciel has put together. Under the Pressure, the eight minute long opener is a contender for track of year, as Granduciel's Dylan-esque vocals and wonderful piano line. Then lead single Red Eyes comes in, catchy and majestic, combining with Under the Pressure to make twelve of the finest minutes ever put to record. Elsewhere on the album, Dylan's influence is apparent, from Ocean Between the Waves to closer In Reverse. But of course, there are worse people to be influenced by.

2. Revelation - The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Revlation is the almighty San Francisco cult band's first fully self-produced album, and their thirteenth studio album... probably. Shamanic genius Anton Newcombe and co's latest studio album was recorded entirely in Berlin, which is apparent in the motorik krautrock stylings of Memorymix. Opener Vad Hände Med Dem? (which google translate tells me is Swedish for What Happened With Them?) is a three minute post punk classic, whilst Goodbye (Butterfly) is full of melodic beauty. In a discography more amazing than almost everybody else's, Revelation stands out as the best BJM album since the last.

1. Eagulls - Eagulls
After Leeds' Hookworms turned out what was undoubtedly the album of 2013, another Leeds band is looking to take that honour this year already. Eagulls' debut is a record full to the brim of energy, dark narcotic textures, and taboo subjects. The controlled feedback and seering bridge section of opener Nerve Endings makes it one of the finest tracks of the year. Possessed is the most obvious pop song, whilst the evil Fester / Blister is full of punk anger. With their self-titled, Eagulls have established themselves as one of the UK's finest indie bands, and it would surprise me if anyone else released anything that I think is this great...

...But then again, there are still many great albums to come this year.

(written by Calum Cashin)