Rewind: Picks of the year

Posted: January 1, 2015 in music, Uncategorized

Tis the season for list-making  so here’s my annual look back at the albums I enjoyed listening to most in 2014. You can  listen to whole albums via the Spotify links provided (where available) or sample 50 of my favourite tracks on this special Spotify playlist.

 

1lewis. The Voyager – Jenny Lewis

“Where you come from gets the best of you,” sings Jenny Lewis on the title track of her third solo album. After a challenging period dealing with the breakup of her band, the wonderful Rilo Kiley, the death of her father and years of insomnia, Lewis channeled all that into arguably her most polished album to date. Her talent of combining acerbic, bittersweet lyrics with gloriously catchy melodies has never sounded better.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

Robert-Plant-lullaby-and-The-Ceaseless-Roar_6382. lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar – Robert Plant

While former bandmate Jimmy Page noodles endlessly with Led Zeppelin master tapes, Robert Plant continues to widen his musical horizons, exploring the far corners of Americana, folk and world music. Backed by the Sensational Space Shifters, Lullaby was another eclectic triumph. Rainbow was one of my favourite tracks of the year.

 

atkins3. Slow Phaser – Nicole Atkins

I fell in love with Nicole Atkins’ extraordinary contralto voice – somewhere between Roy Orbison and Lana Del Ray – and brilliant songwriting a couple of years ago and this, her self-released third album, did not disappoint, ricocheting from country rock to faux disco via music hall with ease. She deserves to be so much bigger.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

now-porongs4. Brill Bruisers – New Pornographers

The New Pornographers rarely fail to deliver and their latest was exuberant power pop at its best with Neko Case’s Marching Orders the standout track of a very fine set.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify 

 

sonic_Highways5. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

Had I not seen Dave Grohl’s accompanying HBO series, this would have probably passed me by like every other Foo Fighters album. But their journey across America, writing and recording a track in each of eight cities, absorbing the musical culture and history along the way, was fascinating. Watching the songs take shape made the album much more rewarding.

>> Listen to the album on Spotify

morrisey

 

6. World Peace Is None of Your Business – Morrissey

Old Misery Guts has rarely sounded better. Despite the occasional daft lyric (“ill in Seville”?), Morrissey swaggers archly across several genres from indie rock to mariachi. Istanbul and Staircase At The University are among the most poignant songs he’s written in years.

 

 

imgres7. Carry On The Grudge – Jamie T

Five years after the excellent Kings & Queens, Brit singer-rapper James Treays returned with a triumphant third album on which Zombie, the plaintive Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away and The Prophet were outstanding.
>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

 

nutini8. Caustic Love – Paolo Nutini

Five years after his second album, the Scottish singer-songwriter finally shrugged off his soft pop image with a genuinely gritty soul album.
>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

 

imgres-19. I Never Learn – Lykke Li

After flirting with close to mainstream pop on Wounded Rhymes, the Swedish singer-songwriter was back to her dramatic and melancholy best for her third album. The title track, No Rest For The Wicked, and Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone rank among her best-ever tracks.
>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

1imgres-20. Avonmore – Bryan Ferry

The old smoothie has still got it. Aided by the likes of Johnny Marr, tracks like Soldier Of Fortune shimmered with class, along with intriguing covers of Robert Palmer’s Johnny & Mary and – bizarrely – Send In The Clowns.
>> Listen to the album on Spotify

 

 

11. Turn Blue – Black Keys  Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney mixed up crunching heavy blues, electronics and heads-down driving rock to brilliant effect on tracks like Fever and Gotta Get Away.

12. Trouble In Paradise – La Roux  Shiny synths, chunky bass grooves and anthemic choruses! The 80s were back with a classy vengeance as La Roux (Elly Jackson) returned after a five-year break.

13. Playland – Johnny Marr  The former Smiths man may not be the best singer in the world but his guitar still sings loud and clear with memorable riffs aplenty on his second solo effort.

14. Beyoncé – Beyoncé  It was released in late December 2013 but it reverberated throughout 2014. Raw, powerful and passionate with heavyweight help from Jay Z, Pharrell Williams, Frank Ocean and others, it may go down as her masterpiece.

15. High Hopes – Bruce Springsteen  Offcuts, covers and old classics from The Boss’s last decade got an electrifying reworking that left you speechless that songs like Frankie Fell In Love and Down In The Hole were previously discarded.

16. The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett – Eels  Pained but often heartbreakingly beautiful introspection from Eels’ Mark Everett.

17. They Want My Soul – Spoon  Further proof that few people are writing more infectious pop-rock hooks than Britt Daniels. Gorgeous.

18. Live – Gary Clark Jr.  Ain’t nobody playing the blues like Austin axeman Gary Clark these days. An exhilarating double album.

19. In The Lonely Hour – Sam Smith  With his extraordinary vocal range, Smith was one of the year’s bright new stars. Stay and I Know I’m Not The Only One were two of the year’s best pop songs.

20. X – Ed Sheeran  There was no escaping Sheeran this year. Tracks like Don’t and Thinking Out Loud confirmed him as one of the most talented songwriters around right now.

21. Hozier – Hozier  Take Me To Church was one of the best pop singles of the year but there was plenty on this debut album to suggest there is much more to come from the Irish singer-songwriter.

22. From Scotland With Love – King Creosote  Scottish folkie Kenny Anderson delivered a hauntingly beautiful homage to his homeland.

23. Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn  It took me a good few listens but the former Blur frontman’s reflection on his London childhood and past haunts got more rewarding with every play.

24. Black Messiah – D’Angelo  What kept you, O Prince of 90s neo-soul/jazz? After all, it’s only been 14 years since Voodoo. Only released mid-December but already Black Messiah sounds like it’s been around for ages.

25. St. Vincent – St Vincent  Annie Clark is a genuine pop eccentric and this topped many critics end-of-year lists. Not all her stuff works for me but this was one of the most original albums of the year. Birth In Reverse is outstanding.

Breezeblog’s Best of 2014 Sampler
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Comments
  1. Mark says:

    Excellent stuff Chris! Definitely some stuff for me to explore in there plus some I have on my list. I’ll be sure to tag you on my best of 2014 Facebook note later this month. All the best for a safe, happy and prosperous 2015!

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      Thx Mark – look forward to seeing your picks as always. I’m sure there’ll be plenty there I’ve never heard of! Have a great 2015!

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