Shout4Music Top 20 Albums 2014

by AdamTait
AdamTait
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on 20 December 2014 in Lists


20

Submotion Orchestra

Alium



There are still those among us who will tell you album number three is crunch time for a band. Having introduced themselves with the first and established themselves with the second, the third is where they show what they’re really about. Of course, such maxims have been lambasted and disproven so often as to be worthless, but it is arguably applicable to Alium. With their third outing, Submotion Orchestra seem to have found the golden balance between the delicate fragility of Ruby Wood’s voice and the intense weight of their music. It also sees them blending their jazz, dub and electronica sounds more seamlessly than ever before. Read the rest of the review here.

19

Mo Kolours

Mo Kolours



Mo Kolours self-titled debut is a flurry of frenetic chunks of soul and funk; of silky smooth basslines and beats that drip in vintage cool infused with a thrilling unpredictability born of years of determined crate-digging. Taking obvious cues from J-Dilla, Mo Kolours, the alias of singer/percussionist/producer Joseph Deenmamode, fishes a huge pond of influences that that boarders areas as varied as west Africa, the Caribbean, London and New York. On track’s like ‘Little Brown Dog’ Deenmamode’s voice is a nonchalant soul slink, while the voice that accompanies ‘Mike Black’ sounds downright pain-stricken. Read the rest of the review here.

18

Warpaint

Warpaint



Warpaint have a knack for crafting dreamy ambient vistas in their music that wrap you up in a hazy trance, but this isn't music without focus, left to placidly wash over you as you lose track of time. It’s music with a point. Music that holds onto you. The band have crafted something of a reputation for music imbued with a touch of unpredictability, but it’s not music that constantly seeks to wrong-foot the listener. Rather it’s an uncertain journey the listener takes with the band, testing and exploring different emotive techniques as the music unfolds.Read the rest of the review here.

17

Ratking

So It Goes



There’s a well chosen spoken-word sample at the start of Ratking’s brilliant So It Goes, one that espouses the pointlessness of comparing hip hop endeavors of today with the work done by the likes of Biggie and Tupac. As with many rap greats, Ratking certainly sound the product of their Harlem environs - but not some static New York borough, unchanging throughout time. Ratking sound like the New York of today, the New York that’s a global hub, hungrily devouring influences stretching around the world and across time. The nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s surreal time-and-space-traveling war novel Slaughterhouse 5 in the album’s title does not seem like a mistake. Read the rest of the review here.

16

Jungle

Jungle



Perhaps it seemed like the sexy smoothness of the 70s would never return, until Jungle hit the scene. Their self-titled debut, deservedly nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, is riddled with super-cool funk and irresistible grooves. But it’s also somehow egoless. It’s not an attempt to be cool, it just is cool. It’s not a matter of posturing, it’s a matter of music. The duo’s initial insistence in anonymity played no small part in this, but more than that Jungle felt like music made for the masses, the music everyone deep down actually wanted to dance to but few artists had the balls to make. And in this way their music became not just cool, but righteous.

15

The Bug

Angels & Devils



Born of a musical ancestry stretching back to pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry via dub industrialists like Adrian Sherwood, The Bug’s Angels & Devils is something akin to a panic attack, committed to record. The Bug’s reinterpretation of reggae, dub, dancehall and grime has always been a mixture of sinisterly simmering rumblings and frantic-frenetic hammerings. But his 2014 release pushed the concepts further, polished them brighter and executed them in a still more deadly fashion. it’s a dystopian vision, but one you’re not sure if of the future or the present. And it’s relentless. It’s a looming shadow embellished with a smirking grin.

14

TV On The Radio

Seeds



'Seeds' is TV On The Radio's fifth studio album, and their first since the untimely death of bassist Gerard Smith. With their musical career now spanned more a decade, the celebrated quartet whilst only slowly progressing in commercial success over the years since 2001, have produced many impressive releases and accumulated a core of dedicated fans as a deserved result. 'Seeds' marks another chapter in the TV On The Radio story, with a base of almost aggressive pop music, single 'Happy Idiot' is an excellent track and undeniably catchy. Playing off the traditional "alt-rock" sound against euphoric electronica and pleasant tuned percussion, 'Seeds' dances its way from start to finish, inciting a hormonal whirlwind in the listener.

13

Lost Midas

Off The Course


The heavy haze of Boston-native Jason Trkakis’ (AKA Lost Midas) new home Los Angeles runs through Off The Course. Undeniably, sunshine is certainly everywhere on this record, but not the dazzling bounce of a beach, rather the lazy afternoon of a city under oppressive heat. ‘Sunset Strut’ opens with glittering synths, but the thump of hefty bass and thudding drum runs quickly become clear as the defining features of the track. That same interplay between heavy and soft, robust and delicate, runs throughout the album; Audris’ voice over ‘Head Games’s squelch; the super-high-pitched vocal samples on ‘Dream Of Me’ next to its aggressive bounce. Read the rest of the review here.

12

The Xcerts  

There Is Only You



There Is Only You is the perfect combination of 2009’s In The Cold Wind We Smile’s charming pop-rock and 2010’s Scatterbrain's more sinister alt-rock leanings. Singles ‘Shaking In The Water’ and ‘Pop Song’ showcase the calibre of music on the trio’s latest offering, though are by no means the pinnacle of the affair, though there is no denying just how infectious they are. Laced with dark and shade, the rock power of the likes of ‘Live Like This’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ propel the album along with energetic speed, whilst the tenderness of ‘Kevin Costner’ and the first half of the closing title track see frontman Murray Macleod’s vocals tug your heartstrings. Read the rest of the review here.

11

Glass Animals

Zaba


Glass Animals are one of a fairly large group of bands in recent years that do not easily fit into a recognisable genre, but share an overarching aesthetic of washy, atmospheric soundscapes, reverb-laden vocals and an intriguing approach to the creative process. An assured and impressively hypnotic live show has built on the mixed, but generally positive, reception of two EPs. While their sound is reminiscent of breakout acts of previous years such as Alt-J, Crystal Castles, Burial and Animal Collective, their first full-length release, Zaba, builds on those influences while managing to feel original and refreshing. The key ingredients of this album are breathy, reverb-drenched vocals over layers of glitch-infused electronic grooves. The luscious use of tuned percussion and an innovative attitude towards instrumentation and arrangement give ‘Zaba’ an air of authority that is rare in such a young band. Read the rest of the review here.

10

Kate Tempest

Everybody Down


Everybody Down is everything you'd expect from a natural wordsmith like Kate Tempest. Returning to music after a spell touring her spoken word performances, Tempest brings every bit of the narrative flair that comes to her so naturally to this musical endeavour. The album's 12 songs fit together to form a single narrative that tells a story of small-world bad luck and ubiquitous longing for a genuine connection with another human being. Given the gloomy outlook that seems to hang over today's society, it's no surprise this record is undeniably dark. What Everybody Down does fantastically is cast a perfect mirror image between the the narratives and the music. Read the rest of the review here.

9

Run The Jewels

RTJ2


When combined, this unlikely team is able to cause far more devastation than they could individually, The duo sling elaborate playground insults while smacking you over the head with knowledge, all over a backing track that even Satan would deem ‘a little dirty’. The venom that laced their last release is back, this time they turn their lyrical barbs to private prisons, corrupt cops and shame. El-P has managed to be even more experimental with vocals and the duo are trading verses like Pokemon cards, the RTJ machine has become well-oiled. Read the rest of the review here.

8

Stanley Odd

A Thing Brand New



Stanley Odd's A Thing Brand New is a perfect combination of parenthood, politics, and poetry. The Edinburgh sextet's latest release has evidently been influenced by the parenthood of both MC Solareye and vocalist Veronika Electronika, as well as the politics of the recent Scottish independence referendum. The former drives the more emotive tracks, in the endearing 'Put Your Roots Down' and wonderfully titled and woven 'Draw Yir Own Conclusions'; whilst the former is proclaimed in referendum chart-shifter 'Son I Voted Yes' (made more of a tear-jerker given the eventual outcome). Read the rest of the review here.

7

The Twilight Sad

Nobody Wants to Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave



The Twilight Sad have hinted that ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Be Here’ may be their last, and judging on the musical content that would be an awful shame. Retaining some of the electronic touches from the preceding album, 2012’s No One Can Ever Know, the trio have melded this refined approach with their notoriously raucous tendencies to create a tantalising end product. Throughout it all, as always, is the droning droll of frontman James Graham, whose characteristic accent is synonymous with the band, and as touching as ever. A mesmerising and haunting air lingers over the opening tracks, whilst ‘It Was Never The Same’ introduces a rousing chorus to ruffle your neck hairs, and ‘Drown So I Can Watch’ is considerably less morbid than expected. Read the rest of the review here.

6

The War On Drugs

Lost In The Dream



Striking audible gold, and propelling the band into the international consciousness with a hauntingly perfect third album, Philadelphia's The War On Drugs excelled themselves and everyone else in 2014 with the release of Lost In The Dream. Captivating throughout its duration, the album has multiple passages of soaring ambience, which transcend the vocal sections, and in tandem with them lose you in the band's self-styled musical dream. The title track encapsulates most of the record's atmosphere in four minutes, with gently strummed chords and melodic keys, but after a record of this calibre there's no going back to mediocrity for the accomplished sextet.

5

Young Fathers

Dead



When ‘Deadline’ rolled off the internet and onto our speakers in 2012 a lightbulb flashed above a lot of people’s heads captioned with “Something special this way cometh”. But with the arrival of Dead Young Fathers mark themselves out as something a significant distance away from everything else going on in music around them. Dead’s sonic vistas frequently veer towards the apocalyptic, but just as regularly there’s sheer euphoric beauty in the ebb and flow of the voices (‘Hangman’). As often as the voices rap of harsh realities in jagged prose, they unite in gospel-esque synergy for soul lifting harmonies (‘War’). Read the rest of the review here.

4

Aphex Twin

Syro



At this point it’s a little hard to know where to start with Richard D. James. Some would have you believe he is the returning saviour of dance music, sent back to us to cleanse us of the horror of EDM. Those people would have good reason for those claims. But one of the many things Aphex Twin has consistently surpassed his peers in is shrugging off hype and incessantly innovating and originating. In fact Syro is everything you’d hope it would be. It’s dark and knotty and riddled with moments of beauty that seem to come from nowhere. Read the rest of the review here.

3

Caribou

Our Love



Albums are often written about love, or aim to be. But Caribou’s Our Love is a strikingly successful discourse of the emotion. All bits of love are represented here, from nervous vulnerability to warming comfort and unconditional, never-ending devotion. The voice trembles in falsetto while the music throbs with bass. This contrast and interaction between the touchingly delicate vocals and the mesmeric pulse of the music is in large part what makes this record so unavoidably enthralling. And when you consider on top of this the unfaltering quality of the album’s execution, there’s very few release from 2014 or years gone by that can top it.

2

St. Vincent

St. Vincent



Perhaps there’s a temptation to suggest that Annie Clark approaches something like her creative zenith with her fourth solo album. Doing so, however, would be to ignore the seemingly limitless potential she still has to play with. More than anything, St. Vincent is a stark demonstration of a musician making the exceptional seem effortless. Her voice tinged with a woozy sweetness, the music is knotty and rugged and hard at times, but never difficult or distant. Rather it is unchangingly astonishing. Rather it seems the sound of an artist fully recognising herself in her creative endeavours, and in the process reminding us there’s very little chance this is a one off.

1

FKA twigs

LP1



Give it a couple years, and LP1 may well be a core resource for a university course - literally hours could be, and in this reviewer’s house have been, spent considering the various nuances and meanings to this collection of songs. But let’s dodge that and deal with what’s immediately apparent. What an exceptional voice, an immaculate falsetto that effortlessly penetrates the listener with confrontational and forceful lyrics that bely the sweetness of the voices that expresses them. Musically twigs has found a wonderful balance between Bjork-leaning trip hop and slinky R&B, as much as her voice might float towards lofty peaks, the deep grind of the bass and the winding click of the beats creates a terrific dichotomy that runs through the record, surfacing again in the contrast between the sexual confidence and vulnerability that’s arguably the main lyrical theme. Read the rest of the review here.

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