This has taken me a lot longer to put together than I had anticipated. In fact I feel like I have been in school and this was an essay I’ve been putting off for ages. Has it helped that I had Xmas and Playmobil/Lego construction cities to take up my time too? No that is a shit excuse, I spent a lot of time looking at fabric online..(god I’m thinking about it RIGHT NOW…. help me I have a problem). So I did say in my last entry I would put this up before NYE and today is NYD at the eleventh hour no less. The irony of this is that I’ve always wanted to do this kind of list and on NYD it would be one of the subjects up for discussion in our house whilst eating curry in our pyjamas.
These are all albums I’ve given a lot of time to this year but I have kept the descriptions short. When I read other people’s lists I don’t want an essay, I want a brief description of genre and similarity. That’s enough for me to decide to go on and listen or not. I hope this approach works here for anyone reading.
Should I go backwards, who doesn’t like a countdown?
12.Royal Blood- Royal Blood
Who’s list is this not on? Bass and drums people, just bass and drums managed to provide an album like a punch to the face. It’s rock its raw it’s awesome, it’s impressive and it gives new respect to the rhythm section.
11.War On Drugs- Lost in a dream
If I had to predict what albums would have been big this year, I would not have thought this one. On the top of almost every list this 80’s Bryan Adams sounding album is amazing. I mention Bryan Adams/ Don Henley way too much. Ultimately to me it stands on a weird balance of 80’s FM radio rock that you would listen to while travelling in the car (Under Pressure), prog rock/ Pink Floyd stadium interludes (The Haunting Idle) with shoe gazer undertones. “Disappearing” makes me feel like I should be on a yacht. It has a bass line that reminds me of the opening to Lady In Red.
10.Jenny Lewis- The Voyager
On writhing this my 4-year-old stated this is my new favourite song when “She’s not me” came on. The Voyager is a more retrospective sounding album manner. Part country rock part pop. Pretty melodies and well used harmonies are the shining prize of Lewis latest offering. This is a good solid body of work , much different from her more sombre county styled debut solo album Rabbit Fur Coat. Highlight tracks “Just one of the guys” “Shes not me” and the sad soft leaving song”The Voyager”.
9. Metronomy- Love Letters
What a lovely foray into quaint British retro electronic/pop music. The title track “Love letters” is one of my songs of the year (big hit in the house). “Monstrous” has an excellent use of the harpsichord, that sound is not used enough this day and age. It’s sweet and melodic and album you can get carried away with, all boy meets girl, boy looses girls boy sings sad lonely desperate songs..with a catchy beat. Also one of the physical hold in my hand CD’s purchased this year.
8. The Eels- The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett
If there’s a record to make me cry this year this one is it. He is a tortured soul that Mark Everett. This is his/ their 10th incarnation and with every album I think they change ever so slightly. “Agatha Chang” is the definite highlight , beautifully romantic track, heartbreaking.There is so much quality songwriting on this album. Part Tom Waite’s this is an album full of lost loves and regret. Beautiful.
7. Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways
My oh my, talk about getting in there at the last-minute.
Is it cool to love the Foo Fighters? It is for me. I love everything they have done and this is not an exception. I know there will be some nay sayer out there who will say “oh they haven’t been good since insert any album before Wasting Light here” , oh relax! Each track was inspired by one of the 8 different cities in America that were of certain significance to the band. There was also an 8 part documentary shown on the BBC earlier this year to accompany the album (but I’ve only caught 3 episodes thanks to my dumb tv planner decided to stop working). The tracks here are big ,well crafted songs that are instantly recognizable there are no surprises. If your new to them “Something For Nothing” and “Subterranean” are the best places to start. Grohl can still write a catchy song with a killer hook. I love it.
6. Jack White- Lazaretto
So it’s got all the making of rock n roll classic in a nutshell.
Blues rock and country ballads all mixed in to make on rip-roaring album. This is a far cry from the stripped back days of White Stripes. Loads has been written everywhere you look, so I’m not going to go on about it. If you like to feel like you’ve walked back in time into a honky-tonk bar where everyone is wearing sharp suits and carrying switch-blades and drinking dirty bourbon then you have chosen the right album.
The sleeve photo is so rock too, reminiscent of an old Johnny cash album But what truly excited me is the novelty of the Ultra vinyl edition. It has been the highest selling LP since Pearl Jam’s 1994 LP Vitology. Why? Because of the following “2 vinyl-only hidden tracks hidden beneath the center labels, 1 hidden track plays at 78 RPM, one plays at 45 RPM, making this a 3-speed record, Side A plays from the inside out, Dual-groove technology: plays an electric or acoustic intro for “Just One Drink” depending on where needle is dropped. The grooves meet for the body of the song.” It may be a novelty but it’s all a bit of magic ,the thrill of buying an album .It’s what needed to get the masses back buying physical product again isn’t it?
5. Beck- Morning Phase
I always forget how much I Beck. This is full of overtures. I love a string section and there is so much overlay in this. Wave is magnificent strings and atmospheric. While “Morning” sounds quite like the start of “Golden Age” or “Guess I’m Doing fine” which is fine as he is consistent . The whole album has something of a late afternoon at the beach country feel to it…with strings.It’s also a good album to listen to while on a long walk on a sunny autumnal morning. (If this looks familiar I have edited from my old entry in the autumn)
4. Sebastien Tellier- L’Aventura
Oh I’ve talked about him before, it’s no secret that I’m a fan.
Opening with “Love”, and as with many other songs you can hear influences of Air in there. He claims that he was aiming for a Brazilian themed album to coincide with the World Cup. I don’t hear that on many tracks except for “Ambiance Rio”which could have been lifted off Brasil 66 by Sergio Mendes. Where with the single “Ricky L’adolescent” he returns to more familiar territory – sexually charged, slow and sensual ,think more “Cochon Ville”. L’Aventura on the whole sounds more like the soundtrack to a slightly sleazy / sometimes romantic film soundtrack, with a 70’s psychedelic overtone rather than a Carnival.
3. GUM- Delorian Highway
I don’t know what they have been putting in the water in Perth, Australia or maybe it’s the isolation of the place which is producing so many amazing albums of late. GUM is Jay Watson who in other guises is from Tame Impala and the other amazing side project Pond. This is like an exploration into space and time, a visit into psychedelic plains and rolling hills of dreamscapes. It’s the past it’s the future and everything in between.
2. St. Vincent St. Vincent
When I first heard Rattlesnakes, it annoyed me, I’m not going to lie. But after weeks of airplay I started to like it, now I love it. It’s all sassy with abrupt time signatures. She has collaborated with David Byrne from Talking heads in 2012 with “Love this giant” ,the influence is apparent here. An electronic delight and slighty a skewed to what everyone else is doing at the moment. Joyous.
1. Shiny Joe Ryan – Shiny Joe Ryan & the cosmic microwave background
What has made this number 1 for me this year is more a feeling I have for this album, rather than a formulated musical explanation. It sounds like a mixture of a Sleepy Jackson album “Lovers” which is probably one of my favourite albums of all time and Split Enz. It reminds me of the Australian landscape (but recorded in Berlin) that distinct sound that I can’t pin point but you can find in sliding guitars. A mixture of psychedelic pop, country and rock the best examples from this are the title tracks “Cosmic Microwaves Backgrounds 1 & 2 ” they have an atmosphere to them like they could have been beamed from the emptiness of space.
Cosmic microwave background sounds like its cover art depiction, desolate and jangling (is that what sepia rocks sound like?). I’ve explained it, look at that image and listen to the album.
If you do like Shiny Joe / Gum then it’s worth listening to Nicholas Allbrooks new album Ganough, Wallis & Fatuna / Mink Mussel Creek – Mink Mussel Manticore.
Phew, Honorable mentions go to Ryan Adams and John Grant live at the BBC for also being amazing.