The countdown continues with the second part of our albums of the year 2014 list: Part Two: 100 – 51. If you missed part one, 200 – 101, you can find it here and you can see the final top 50 albums of the year 2014 here.
51. Eagulls – Eagulls (Partisan Records)
The swaggering Leeds post punk quartet who we’ve been repping reasonably hard since early 2012 finally dropped their debut album – a release that was immediately lauded as a modern day classic. Expect unbalanced riffs, pummelled drums and vocals that scream with authenticity.
Our review said:
“…this is the sound that disillusioned youths living on council estates in Leeds with crap jobs and no (perceived) future sound like.”
Footwork isn’t a genre we cover a great deal of on Louder Than War but that doesn’t mean we don’t like it, and when it comes to footwork no one does it quite as well as the man who wrote the rulebook on the genre; Traxman.
His first album in this series stormed into the top 50 of our 2012 chart and the slightly lower placing for this album reflects the fact that 2014 has been a great year for music. 18 tracks steeped in the principles of original hip hop and house turned into hyper lean ghetto cuts.
Another debut album, this one from TJ Hertz’s dark techno project Objekt. The European techno / electronics producer turns convoluted cuts rich with detail into something universally accessible.
Absolute killer material which Resident Advisor summed up as “raucous, barnstorming, chair-dancing fun.” Amen to that!
The inimitable King Tuff, or Tuffy to his mates, certainly managed to turn a few heads over here at Louder Than War Towers with this, his fourth album and second on Sub Pop.
Inimitable, utterly brilliant and absolutely off the wall. Our review concluded:
“I cannot help but swoon over how brilliant an album it is. However off the wall and bizarre it is there’s no doubt in King Tuff’s pedigree as both a musician and lyricist.”
55. Martin & Eliza Carthy – The Moral Of The Elephant (Topic Records)
Doyens of the folk music world, this album dropped nearly 50 years after Martin Carthy recorded his iconic, eponymous first album and more than 20 years since his daughter Eliza Carthy’s recording debut.
Intricate, sparse guitar work from Martin married with his daughter’s gentle subtle fiddle-playing is the focal point of this release, and so it should be. If this album doesn’t turn you onto folk music then give up trying. Seriously, give up.
56. Emperor X – The Orlando Sentinel (Self Released)
This was our writer, Nat Lyon’s top album of the year. He said:
“Why is this a top pick? It’s a highly imaginative romp across a broad range of global issues. And a sonically stunning spectrum of lo-to-high fidelity recordings.”
57. Hi Fiction Science – Curious Yellow (Cherry Red)
The Bristol based quintet have been around since 2007 and this release saw them delve deeper into their eclectic mission in post rock lit up by Maria Charles’ soaring vocals.
In her review Amy Britton said:
“…this is a record almost gnostic in its mix of dark and light. The songs are well crafted without ever really having a “structured tune”, almost like modernist poetry turned into sound – it would make an amazing soundtrack for an avant-garde ballet. And if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is…”
58. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)
The Detroit post-punk quartet Protomartyr formed in 2010 out of a few bands in a tightly knit music scene. A more subtle effort than their debut, Under Color of Official Right is an album full of sinuous grooves and taut baselines locked in perpetual battle with Joe Casey’s Mark E. Smith -alike (ok, in the loosest terms) make this album one of the best US releases of the year.
59. ACxDC – Anti-Christ Demon Core (Melotov)
Power violence, crust and grind bands get short shrift from most of the UK’s music press, which is a shame as there’s some great music going down in these genres. ACxDC’s Anti-Christ Demon Core is one of the best releases in said genre to drop this year, and after having waited eleven years for it that must be a relief to the band. Or it would be except smart money says they couldn’t give a shit as to what you, or I, think.
Click play on the album and enjoy a blistering torrent of blazing, thrashing and disjointed bile to be immediately rained down on you. Sixteen tracks with only one stretching past the two minute mark, this is an adrenaline fuelled roller coaster into the depths of hell. And it’s seriously great.
60. Cambodian Space Project – Whiskey Cambodia (Metal Postcard)
We had the honour of introducing the world to the new record by Cambodian Space Project and yes, this is the only Cambodian pop-rock album on the list. With this album the band’s goal of creating a “unique mix of space rock, surf, reggae, dub, khmer surin, cambodian rock psychedelica” was easily achieved. Adrian Bloxham reviewed it for us and said:
“The music on this remarkable album sounds like Carnaby Street in the sixties, psychedelic, bright and very very catchy. Which is of course the point. This isn’t about being cool, about sounding left field or alternative; it’s about taking what people had and can remember and giving it back to them. It makes you smile and dance. It feels bright and sparkles.”
61. Rachael Dadd – We Resonate (Broken Sound Music)
Another album that we’d been waiting for an awful long time was Rachael Dadd’s debut album.
We first saw the experimental folk multi-instrumentalist Ms Dadd play live back in the spring of 2011 and were transfixed by the simple beauty of her songs. That she manages to marry that simplicity with a magical uniqueness is why we think she’s one of the most astonishing, imaginative songcraftsmith’s around at the moment. Check out Paul Scott-Bates 9 / 10 review here which he concluded simply:
62. St Vincent – St Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)
The eponymous fourth studio album by American musician St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, was released on February 24 and is full of trademark St. Vincent; distorted, aggressive electric guitars, an ethereal vocal and infectious rhythms.
Reviewing it for Louder Than War Sean Smith said:
“If 2011’s incredible Strange Mercy was the sound of a maverick genius mastering the many weapons in her musical arsenal and honing an undeniable gift for off-kilter melodies, then Annie Clark’s eponymous St Vincent follow-up is the talented multi-instrumentalist at complete ease, a supremely confident artist doing whatever the hell she wants, and everything paying off.”
63. Zamilska – Untune (Self-Released)
Having turned many heads on the strength of her first single QUARREL, Zamilska ramped excitement in techno noise circles by swiftly following it up with her debut album.
It’s mix of raw and heavy noise with techno and samples of chant and song from around the world may be one of the more challenging listens on this list and one of the more original but that’s exactly why we like it.
News of a UK tour in the new year would go down very well at Louder Than War Towers.
64. Woods – With Light And With Love (Woodsist)
Brooklyn band Woods have almost released an album a year since their inception nine years ago and with this one they continued evolving their strange and alluring folk-psych-rock sound.
Said Adrian Bloxham in his review:
“It’s one to smile to, an album to put on when you are having a bad day to turn you around. Woods have the knack of making their sound full of love and light and it will fill you up too.”
65. White Lung – Deep Fantasy (Domino Records)
Canadian punk rock band White Lung dropped their third album earlier this year and true to form it’s an incendiary, menacing beast of a release which won us over from the first listen.
Importantly this is not a backwards looking record in any respect and Mish Way’s tweet pointing out that her band should not be described as “riot grrrl” was as on point as tweets get.
In her review of it Carrie Quartly said:
“Absolutely nothing is wasted here; the sharp and abrasive twenty seven minutes of Deep Fantasy are a whiplash inducing antidote to complacency, both musically and politically. I just hope enough people are really listening.”
One of our standout highlights of the year was the inaugural Temples Festival in Bristol. And one of the standout highlights of that was Belgian post-metal, sludge-metal, doom-metal giants AMENRA’s Saturday night set.
Months later we were still in awe of that set when this album dropped, managing to almost transport us straight back there. Music to soundtrack the end of the world of which our review said:
“It’s a slow; doom laden work, dark and immense. The contrasts between the quiet and loud make the record even stronger. They let you breath before crushing the air out of your lungs again. Amenra are right at the forefront of this sound and this album is excellent.”
67. Gold Codes – Gold Codes (Self Released)
Gold Codes manage to marry afrobeat, alt-rock, indie and post-punk and end up with an album which sounds like something Jimmy Hendrix may have made if he’d been brought up in Derby. Their debut release was also mastered by John McBain of Monster Magnet.
68. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown (Epitaph)
NYC metal-core band Every Time I Die released their seventh album this year, an album which is cathartic and chaotic but always anchored by guitar-fueled hooks. It also saw the band pushing into brighter emotional territory than they’ve ever explored before and was a huge critical success.
Said Bruce Cousins of the album:
“Loud, fast, heavy – this band never disappoint”
69. dragSTER – Dead Punk (STP Records)
dragSTER are a punk n roll five-piece from Coventry who blend fast pounding drums with heavy guitar riffs and vocals from front woman Fi. Dead Punk is the band’s third long player.
Of the album our Phil Newall said:
“dragSTER understand that it’s not all about noise, making a racket is easy, the skill is making a meaningful racket and ‘Dead Punk’ effortlessly demonstrates dragSTER’s ability to do exactly that.”
“In 2012 I embarked on an investigative concert tour of the American Interior, retracing the steps, and looking for the grave of a relative called John Evans” says Gruff Rhys, lead singer of Super Furry Animals on his website. This album tells that story. So yes, a concept album, but not one to be sneered at, one to be lauded as a work of wit, originality and indelible tunes. Genius.
The journey was also turned into a live show, of which our Paul Clarke wrote:
“‘American Interior’ is a timely reminder that pop shows can be more than a few teenagers churning out tired indie rock, and saying nothing at all, but instead live music can inform and challenge the audience. It is a big ask to sit through two hours of new tunes and slides about a bloke you have never heard of, but when it is a beautifully executed labour of love like this then it is well worth the effort.”
Up At Lagrange was The Hobbes Fanclub’s (who we wrote about first in 2012) highly anticipated debut album. Catchy girl-boy vocals, wispy C86 jangles, lush distortion and overdriven guitars are this albums modus-operandi.
Sarah Lay says of The Hobbes Fanclub:
“Sepia-tinted indie pop; lo-fi reverb vocals, a background fuzz and a warm riff pulling it all together.”
72. Good Throb – Fuck Off (SuperFi Records)
There are far too few records one could pigeonhole as “snotty nosed” these days. The absence of an exclamation mark in that title tells it all – it’s “Fuck Off” with a shrug, not “Fuck Off!” with a “hey look at we’ve done! aren’t we…”. A chutzpah laden punk record to add to your collection. Oh, and they really want you to have it for free so go on and get it why dontcha?
And here’s what we said about the record:
“These are, after the first two songs, punky and indeed angry. It sounds tinny and echoey but that might just be my headphones. The songs are short, abrasive and spiky. A step away from shouty thrashy stuff as it is more structured and slower. A good record.”
73. EMA – The Futures Void (City Slang)
Erika M Anderson’s second album may be her bleakest and most austere with its theme of digital despair but it’s also her most relatable work so far. Our review said:
“Not a sunshine filled album, more a static buzzing dark shadow of sound for the times when you need to disappear inside yourself and hide. EMA has provided us with a classic of our times.”
74. Millie & Andrea – Drop The Vowels (Modern Love)
Millie & Andrea are Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare and Andy Stott, fellow labelmates at Modern Love. This album doesn’t dwell so much in the dark spaces both those acts are associated with though.
Rather, it’s a cerebral brew that feels like it was built all wrong and off-kilter but that, with time, breaks down your resistance and worms through to become a well-loved treasure of a release. We said:
“Odd small noises, static and breathing comprise the grooves on this record, they repeat muffled and muted.”
Glass Boys is the fourth full-length studio album from the Toronto, Ontario, Canada hardcore band Fucked Up and as such it’s the second Canadian punk album in this section of our list. Unusually it was released as both a fast and slow version depending on your mood. We’ve always loved these guys and the only surprise should be that it’s not higher in this list.
“The end result of this is a lean and bruising aural assault, shot through with insecurity and anxiety. If Glass Boys consolidating Fucked Up’s position rather than extending it, it nevertheless confirms them as masters of the blistering guitar assault, capable of balancing melody, noise and introspection with no small finesse. Shine On.”
Glaswegian pyschedelic drone rockers The Cosmic Dead dropped this two track, forty-something minute album back at the tail end of February and it blew the fertile genre of “psych” which has kind of dominated the musical landscape in 2014 fair clear out of the steady and slightly dull groove it had slunk down into.
They say “Scotland’s foremost Hawkwind tribute band.” We said:
“A post rock album, with a slow and calculated sound, it comprises of two twenty minute tracks that get steadily louder with more sounds and texture added until total psychedelic psych out which carries on to track two, it feels like it should be just one song and it grooves like a madman.”
Sunbathing Animal is Parquet Courts’ third and best album of slacker / garage rock so far as it moves the band forward both in terms of songwriting and musicianship. The album nods back to their Texan roots and contains blues rants, piercing guitar leads, controlled explosions as it’s propels itself through from start to finish.
We reviewed them live in June, check that out here.
78. Bob Mould – Beauty and Ruin (Merge)
Bob Mould returned this year with an album that recalled what some of us would say was his “hey-day” – Zen Arcade era Hüsker Dü. And yes, we do know what a huge statement that is and no, we don’t need to add any more to that statement.
“The music twists and turns, the sound moves backwards and forwards but it is always Bob Mould and as a clarification of his past, a shout for right here and now and the way forward to the future it’s pretty much perfect.”
79. Sun Ra & His Arkestra – In the Orbit of Ra (Strut Records)
May 20, 2014 marked the centennial of music legend Sun Ra’s birth. The avant-garde jazz composer was in a class of his own, of course, but compilations of his work are few and far between so when this 20 track release came out earlier in the year it was rightly lauded. Every track on here is an unmitigated killer. Fact.
Virtuoso rapper and multi-instrumentalist, Signor Benedick The Moor, dropped one of the most impressive rap albums of the year, a release alive and brim full with ideas and experimentation. Not bad for a twenty-year-old, eh?
Simon Tucker’s review for us said:
“El Negro is is another leap forward sonically and lyrically in Hip-Hop following in the illustrious shoes of Fear of A Black Planet, The 36 Chambers, and Operation Doomsday.”
Long championed by the late John Peel, Ms Cantrell has the honour of being the only country and western singer in this list. Which I guess is one more than every other end of year list you’ll have read / will be reading. I won’t say this about many albums in here but you’d have be dead not to appreciate this album. Or daft.
In his review of Laura earlier this year Willow Colios said:
“One of the real joys of Laura Cantrell’s music is the mournfulness of the lyrics and the warm confidence of their delivery; taking small stories and giving them huge emotional weight. They tug the heart strings on record, but live they are devastating and can bring grown men and women to tears. In country music sadness isn’t a dirty word; it’s an honest and true emotion, just like all the rest.”
UK electro-pop singer Elly Jackson, professionally known as La Roux, finally got round to releasing the follow up to her debut album, and although it may not have had any of the immediately accessible bangers the first album had, it had a maturity and longevity that we feel made it, overall, a triumph.
Despite have serious issues with the final track on the album our review by Fat Gay Vegan felt positively overall:
“…there are multiple opportunities (on Trouble in Paradise) to hear superbly-crafted pop songs sung in Jackson’s lower registers on Trouble in Paradise and these tracks are among the most sophisticated pop you are likely to hear this year.”
I’ve got to be honest – I (Guy) had no idea this had been released and it was only when Phil Newall nominated it in this list that I found out!
“An acoustic greatest hits thing of the boss’s (John Robb) band’s live favourites. The idea came from the guerrilla style live gigs they did over last two years. ”
Wonk Unit have crafted a glorious chaotic, highly imaginative album that elevates them above the DIY punk genre; they have broken the rules and that is how they have ended up with such a perfectly formed release.
In our review we said:
“Wonk Unit are arguably the future of punk rock; I fully accept that that’s a bold statement, but having had ‘Nervous Racehorse’, the fourth full length album from the London outfit on rotation for the past week I feel they entirely justify the claim…”
Luke Slater’s project is based around progressive reductionism – ie breaking stuff down to take it forward. But this album isn’t quite as simple as his previous work, it has more detail and there’s a warmth which is wherein, we feel, lies it’s appeal. This is exhibited never more so than in his collaborations with the poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
“The music is strong, low and whispering. It’s like Dub static escaping from a studio buried deep beneath the Earth.”
Atlanta punks The Coathangers have been on our radar since 2011 when they came over as a four piece supporting The Thermals with all the bold, brash, brilliance of a band who don’t give shit what anyone else thinks. Hence why, between glugs on the bourbon, they were happily trading instruments with each other. Three years later and now a three piece and look: they’ve released an excellent album that marries all that early energy with more accomplished playing and writing skills and it’s a knockout.
“In place of the hysterical juvenilia and idiosyncratic shrieking imprinted on earlier songs like Parcheezi or Pussywillow, the ire of The Coathangers is more measured on Suck My Shirt, and their targets are struck with finer accuracy. There is also plenty of variation, like the sullen and atmospheric Zombie, which in itself flips from an eerie slow burner to a mini symphony of slashing guitar squeals.”
The debut album from Ghost Twins is a slow-build of experimental electonica punctuated by grand pop moments and the punch of melodic hardcore.
In her review Sarah Lay said:
“Ghost Twins are a band who are still metamorphosing but as their electronic wings unfurl from the rock cocoon the patterns look promising. Give the duo a little space, a little time and what’s already shimmering will become a blinding brilliance.”
Athens-based Jef Maarawi’s solo project Egg Hell expands into a five-piece band for his debut album. Essentially alt folk at root but not without faint touches of electronica, alt-rock and jazz which take it to another level.
We loved the original album by long running Bristol band Talisman. A lot. But this follow up, an excellent and atmospheric old school Dubwise mix of by Dave Oldwah Sandford is something else altogether. It’s releases like this that make you wonder why more reggae isn’t covered by UK music sites. And yeah, that includes us.
Reviewing the album for us Paul Scott-Bates concluded:
“Dub is a journey and whilst there are people like Oldwah around churning out superior quality mixes like this, it will be an endless trip.”
The Mistys are The Boats / Tape Loop Orchestra’s Andrew Davies and singer Beth Roberts. It’s a heady synthpop concoction which is as far removed from Elly Jackson’s effort, also on this page, as it’s possible to get. The record plays with the electropop theme but never obliterates it – it’s always recognisably there as other sounds reverberate and crackle over an around it with a quite beautiful warmth. Fans of Bjork should walk this way.
“This is electronic indie with a high strange vocal, a soothing and rich sound.”
When Actress released his fourth album back in January we were pretty confident it’d end up in this list. That it’s so far down in it makes you realise what a great year it’s been for electronic music. Again. Darren Cunningham’s final album as Actress provided is a disconcerting listen, but luckily we like being disconcerted.
When he reviewed if for us Simon Tucker said:
“Like Lou Reed’s Berlin, this is an incredibly bleak yet beautiful record, one that says as much about the nation’s current issues as The Special’s Ghost Town. It’s difficult, uncompromising, heavy, yet warm and inclusive which is an incredibly difficult trick to pull off. An incredibly brave move by an incredibly brave artist.”
Eighteen months on from their breakthrough debut album Pearl Mystic, Hookworms released their latest album and expectations were very high. Luckily they were met as Hum proved to be another treat for fans of psych, freakbeat, space-rock, and yeah, the “echo drenched spiritual wailing and astral synth drone” that heads up their Last.fm page.
Of the album Josh Nicol said:
“Having gained its audience already, the band’s style has managed to subvert and gain more personality in the process, leaving an album of exhilarating character and growth to add to their body of work so far.”
I Am King is the brilliant second album by the band Code Orange Kids but now sans the “Kids”, presumably coz they’re a bit older now. With this release COK have produced one of the darkest, most crushing, suffocating, blistering and replayable album in heavy music of the year. Simple as. They’ve grown up and got tough. And lets face it, they were pretty bloody tough before.
Another former new artist of the day, Liverpool’s BIRD create dark, haunting, enrapturing music and this year saw the release of their debut album, one full of their trademark atmospheric vocals, hypnotic beats and spellbinding guitars. We’re really sad to see this incarnation of the band leave us in 2014 but we’re hopeful there’ll be a regathering and more music under a different identity to come.
As Sarah Lay prophesised about BIRD back in 2012:
“Bird are an exciting and intriguing prospect and the feeling is that Shadows is only the very start of a magical journey into another world.”
Writer Dan Lucas chose this as his favourite album of the year, here’s why:
“This isn’t just the best album of the year, it’s another work of unmitigated brilliance from a band whose discography to date suggests that we’ll one day be talking about them in the same revered tones as we do The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. As the name suggests this is an album of melancholy yearning, but it’s anything but subdued. The band’s widescreen sound echoes U2’s (excellent) 80s work or Springsteen’s Born to Run, but it’s drenched in reverb and distortion to create soundscapes that Kevin Shields would be proud of.”
Post-hardcore emo-punk band Self Defense Family released Try Me back on January 7 – and it’s still been the standout release of its genre all year. This is the fourth album by the bad in their 10 / 11 years together and over those years the band have been universally critically lauded for making idiosyncratic music and making it their own way. It feels like the time is right for them to breakthrough, and that Try Me didn’t really do that for them is a mystery. Their taut guitar-work and occasionally hook laden songs lends the band an unmistakable sound, a band who’re heavy in emotion rather than heavy in sound. Hunt this down and persist till hooked. Then thank me later.
Yes, it’s another album by another Super Furry Animal! This time it’s that band’s bassist Guto Pryce who delivered this brilliant debut with his new psych-folk outfit. One of the most hotly-anticipated albums of the year which triumphantly fulfilled, if not exceeded, expectations.
Dave Jennings, who wrote our review of the album, has followed that up with this comment:
“…sounded great in French sunshine, still sounds great in Welsh November murk.”
98. Nightingales – For Fuck’s Sake (Self Released)
Led by the one and only Mr Robert Lloyd, The Nightingales have been plying their trade for 35 years now so they should have this “knocking out a decent album for the fans” thing off pat now right? Well so it would appear, although Ged Babey, in his review, pointed out that “…it’s a difficult one to fall for immediately. It takes a bit of work. It’s still very gristly and Beefheartian, with the odd glam rock stomp and ‘quotation’ in the words and music.” He also said of the album:
“It’s defiantly pervy, witheringly sarcastic and a welcome addition to the post-reformation canon of the Mighty ‘Gales and any band that writes a song called Bullet For Gove are on the side of the angels.”
John reviewed this one and opened with the words “Kasabian are one of those bands that split opinion and that always makes a band interesting.”
His review can be read in full here, but this is how he signed off:
“Melodic and inventive- Kasabian never do the obvious thing and are an underated force who never rest on their laurals, like their home town Leicester City have come a long way- both are now premiership material – this is a band that is at the top of their game in 2014 and with a Glastonbury headline slot and the big album ready to go this is their moment.”
Rose Keeler-Schaffeler, aka Keel Her, produced this blistering dream pop debut back in February which just cracks our top 1oo!
In her review of the album Sarah Lay said:
“A vein of lo-fi production runs through the album and a sense that this is a very solitary, but never lonely, sonic adventure that Keel Her is on. Roaming off the beaten track of current pop sounds, content in her own exploration,we’re able to gaze in wonder in as her creativity and inventiveness flutters by. This album is further evidence, if any were needed, that in Rose Keeler-Schaffeler we have one of the most promising and imaginative songwriters of current times.”
That concludes part two of our albums of the year countdown. If you missed part one you can check it out here. Now head over here for our favourite album of the year.