Thursday, 25 December 2014

25 Best Albums of 2014: #25 to #16

As with my list of best songs, it was very difficult to determine which twenty-five albums would make up this year's list. These are all records that had an impact on me in 2014, not only from current favourite artists but from new discoveries as well, and each deserves its spot here. Enjoy!

Honourable Mentions
Anjani – I Came to Love
Charli XCX – Sucker
Jessie Ware – Tough Love
John Southworth – Niagara
Mariah Carey – Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse
Sharon van Etten – Are We There
The Both – The Both
Yann Tiersen – Infinity


25. Future Islands – Singles
Singles doesn’t quite have the same immediacy and kinetic energy as the band’s now-legendary performance on Letterman, but the sweep and enthusiasm of the songs on this record is hard to resist.  






24. Wake Owl – The Private World of Paradise
The Private World of Paradise manages to evoke ‘60s folk-rock without feeling particularly derivative. A fine debut full of shimmery textures, anchored by frontman Colyn Cameron’s earnest vocals.





23. Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust
VanGaalen’s latest takes a few songs to figure out what kind of record it wants to be, but once it does, it establishes itself as one of the strongest, most gut-wrenching singer-songwriter releases this year.





22. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
Trading in the beats and synths of Born to Die for a live band may be the best creative decision Del Rey ever made. A singularly hypnotic, deeply cinematic album, especially on “Shades of Cool” and “West Coast”.




21. Beck – Morning Phase
Morning Phase isn’t Sea Change 2.0, and it doesn’t need to be – it’s one of Beck’s most engrossing records to date, with a moody, string-laden atmosphere grounded by strong songcraft.



Head below the fold for albums #20 to #16.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

25 Best Songs of 2014: #15 to #1

You can read Part 1 of my Best Songs of 2014 list, including tracks by Future Islands, Sam Smith, FKA twigs and Run the Jewels, here. 

15. Hospitality – “I Miss Your Bones”
On “I Miss Your Bones”, Hospitality trades the wistful, NPR-approved pop of their debut for something more angular and aching. One of the year's unlikeliest choruses. 



14. Jenny Lewis – “Head Underwater”
Sublime backing vocals and instantly memorable guitar help make “Head Underwater” one of the most vibrant, and vital, songs Jenny Lewis has ever made.



13. Lana Del Rey – “West Coast”
Del Rey’s decision to swap her synths and beats for live guitar and drums ensures that even in its more languid moments, “West Coast” never drags. Del Rey truly comes into her own on this hypnotic, smouldering song. 



12. Nicole Atkins – “Girl You Look Amazing”
A playful Talking Heads homage, cautionary tale, and killer pop chorus all together in one undeniably hooky package.



11. Angel Olsen – “Forgiven/Forgotten”
"Forgiven/Forgotten" is an album's worth of conflict packed into two potent minutes, and demonstrates Angel Olsen's brilliant use of contrasts more than any other song on Burn Your Fire for No Witness.



Head below the fold for songs #10 to #1. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

25 Best Songs of 2014: #25-16

I had a very difficult time choosing the songs for this list, as demonstrated by my larger-than-usual Honourable Mentions section, but each and every one of these 25 tracks deserves their place as among the best songs released in 2014. 

Honourable Mentions
Anjani – "Song to Make Me Still": Few poems set to music work as well as this one. 
Hilary Duff "All About You": The first folk-pop song I've heard in years that actually has blood flowing through its veins. 
Imogen Heap – “Telemiscommunications” (ft. Deadmau5): Imogen understands both sides of the equation when it comes to technology better than any other artist. 
Jessie Ware – “Tough Love”: The highlight of a very strong sophomore release. Effortless and gut-wrenching at the same time. 
Pomplamoose – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”: Proof that Nataly Dawn can, in fact, smile. 
The Both – “Milwaukee”: The breath of fresh air both Aimee Mann and Ted Leo needed. 

Special Jury Prize: The Bird and the Bee ft. Matt Berninger – “All Our Endless Love”
After years of rumours they were recording a followup to 2009’s Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, the Bird and the Bee – Inara George and Greg Kurstin – returned this year with “All Our Endless Love”, a song for the film Endless Love notable on its own merits. Matt Berninger of The National is an inspired choice for featured vocalist: not only do his baritone and George’s alto blend surprisingly well together, but his presence gives a cosmos-sized ballad necessary gravitas.



25-21

25. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
In its recorded form, “Seasons” doesn’t have the same emotional impact and immediacy as Future Islands’ performance of the song on Letterman, but if there was a better candidate for a purely sweeping, pulse-pounding anthem in 2014, I didn’t find it. Slow Club’s pared-back rendition was one of my favorite covers released this year.

24. Coldplay – “Magic”
After the Technicolor rush of Mylo Xyloto, the simplicity of “Magic” comes as a breath of fresh air. Kudos to the band for writing a song with a skeletal structure that still feels expansive and ingratiating.


23. Mariah Carey (ft. Nas) – “Dedicated”
Mariah Carey’s new album didn’t quite live up to the expectations created by its terrific advance singles; regardless, it was an intimate, warm, cohesive record from an artist who could very well have gone down the path of soulless dance hits instead. “Dedicated” best represents The Elusive Chanteuse’s aesthetic – it’s a song with not only the easygoing feel and flow of a casual conversation but wall-to-wall hooks. Why this wasn't released as a single still puzzles me.



22. Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”
Yes, the Darkchild version with Mary J. Blige got all the Grammy nods, but Smith’s emotional delivery and the song’s gospel-influenced chorus make “Stay With Me” arresting on its own, even without Blige’s support.

21. Jay Rock – “Pay for it” (ft. Kendrick Lamar and Chantal Kreviazuk)
The year’s second late-night TV success story, “Pay for It” opens with a jaw-dropping, powerful solo by co-writer Chantal Kreviazuk (who, after years of success in Canada and co-writing with a bevy of pop stars, finally gets her due) and only gets better from there. Both Kid Rock and Kendrick Lamar show off their stunning delivery – Lamar very nearly steals the show here, as he did on Saturday Night Live.


Head below the fold for songs #20-16.