Findlay’s Top Albums of 2014
Posted: by Findlay
10. Young Fathers –“Dead”
Young Fathers are a hip hop trio from Edinburgh, Scotland which is roughly 18 miles from where I live. More polished than their previously acclaimed EPs, the album focuses more on vocals, gang chants and cleanly textured music. Still retaining the mix of rural afrobeat/reggae and electronic hip-hop, the album is concise and catchy as fuck with the 3 way-melodies and the amazing lyrics being a huge highlight for me. Yes, it won the Mercury Music Prize (aka the poison chalice) but don’t let that put you off. This thing is a beast filled with anger, beauty and imagery.
9. Labyrinth Ear – “The Orchid Room”
Labyrinth Ear produce some of the most interesting electronic music you’ll hear. The duo make music you only really associate with actual feelings, not something tangible. Emily’s whispered vocals over Tom’s ethereal, late-night-drive electro dance sounds so fucking unique the album takes this amazingly addictive turn. Sometimes it sounds like dancing in back room on your own, sometimes it sounds like driving a car through space, sometimes it sounds like walking through a forest in the rain. Evocative and totally captivating. Not bad for a debut.
8. Tinashe – “Aquarius”
I was kind of late to the party with Tinashe but maaaaan I’m glad I found it this year. She’s brilliant, eh? Aquarius is a bold as hell R&B album. Tinashe’s vocals are great with comparisons being made to Janet Jackson easy to make, she’s a bit more than that. Her range is so lithe like and she can do breathy inflections so well it’s scary. The production is grade A aswell with most songs sounding super contemporary and weirdly niche, especially for this being a major release. Its only let down is the male rapper guests who are an absolute embarrassment to the albums sound. It’s only on 3 songs so, y’know, fuck it.
7. Cut Teeth – “Night Years”
Hooooo boy! Cut Teeth are a Chicagoan band who makes some racket. Melodic and raw sounding alt-punk, they continue to remind me of other bands but in a good, reflexive way. Sometimes they sound like Drive Like Jehu, sometimes they sound like Bluetip, other times its Small Brown Bike and Native. The influences keep coming as the album progresses but it keeps a strong consistency. See those dicks that are like “aww they don’t make albums like “Yank Crime” anymore”? THEY FUCKING DO. You’re just not looking.
6. Azealia Banks – “Broke With Expensive Taste”
Right. Putting aside Azealia’s constant drama parade to the side (otherwise this paragraph would be 800 pages long) BWET is a belter of a hip hop album. Which is a surprise because it’s been on a hell of a journey from Major Label to Major Label to eventual self-release. Azealia’s flow and rapping is so snakelike and on-point, it’s hard to not be totally enamoured with this album. She is absolutely the queen. Not only that, her actual singing is insane and is so 90’s which totally works. The songs are a big grab bag of genres such as garage, 90’s house, surf rock and industrial which don’t muddle Azealia, rather they showcase how massively versatile Az is. I also was fortunate to catch her live this year and feel a bit smug because I know how banging this album is live. Bow down, man. Bow down.
5. Honeyblood – “Honeyblood”
Scottish female indie two-piece Honeyblood have probably made the catchiest album of the year. Easy. EASY. Its one of those albums you listen to once and basically know all the words. Usually with albums like this there’s some gimmick in the music, but there’s no gimmick here. No pretensions. Just brilliant guitar-driven indie pop with some dreamy as fuck female vocals dripping all over it. The production is lovely and reflects exactly what the two-piece will provide you with live. Fucking belting melodies and songs you’ll be singing constantly. Not a bad song resides on this album and I can personally guarantee you’ll fall head over heels in love with it. Oh, and it features probably my favourite song of the year, “Biro”. Here you go.
4. Dikembe – “Mediumship”
I love Dikembe with all my heart. Dikembe are the best emo band currently putting out music. Reviews of this album have been crap and unfair so I’m here to set the record straight. This album is incredible and basically a complete improvement on their first album “Broad Shoulders”. The songwriting has taken a huge leap forward with whole parts of songs being carefully placed and considered to get the best out of them. Guitar part and vocals sound more emotional and the drums are just as fucking rad. Sure, it’s a bit more emotional than the first album but this is emo at its most creative. There are hundreds more dimensions on this record and we should be grateful it exists. An absolute fucking cornerstone of this generation of emo.
3. White Lung – “Deep Fantasy”
Have you heard this album? I’m surprised we’ve still got our faces attached. This is punk rock ferocity at its finest. A lot of bands can pose and claim to be raw punk but White Lung are the real deal without the need to bolster their sound with huge egos. Ken’s ripping, high-end guitars, Anne-Marie’s skin-breaking drums and frontwoman Mish Way’s shrieks and low howls make this album a force of nature. Lyrically, the album is open about subjects like drug addiction and body dysmorphia. It’s unapologetically loud, melodic and intense but clocking in at just over 20 minutes, it’s an album that doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s like its got endless stamina, man. Seek it out if you like punk that’s sharper than cut diamonds.
2. Emma Ruth Rundle – “Some Heavy Ocean”
Emma Ruth Rundle’s album is pure, esoteric atmosphere. Nothing else. The album is a collection of beautifully composed acoustic songs sometimes including drums or just the use of a distortion pedal. Emma Ruth’s voice is totally incredible. Quiet and shy then sometimes totally exploding into these rising melodies that make the hairs on your arm stand on end. The musicianship and production both melding together perfectly to create these stunning musical vistas that sound rooted in nature and travel and loneliness. Everything sounds so organic and exploratory, I can’t help but play songs again and again to see what they remind me of. Here are some examples of what I’ve came up with: A 90’s prom dance, a mountain drive, fireworks on a beach, thick fog threading through long grass and running through an abandoned house at night. It’s so evocative and stirring, I hugely recommend you give it a listen.
1) Have a Nice Life – “The Unnatural World”
How can I describe how good this album is? I can’t really. Imagine industrial/shoegaze/post-punk/noise/doom being played in the middle of a snowy forest in an empty warehouse that’s burning down. That’s basically this album. “The Unnatural World” came out in January so I can imagine a lot of people have forgotten about it by now (especially in end of year lists) but I haven’t been able to let this thing go. It’s been my benchmark for best album throughout the whole year. Made by two (!) guys, Dan and Tim this album ticks every box I could ask for. Songs are noisy and harsh but with a huge amount of depth and melody. There’s a broad range of dark styles on display but all work well within the album, wether it be hard industrial drums or joy division-y basslines, it all fits so well. Songs sometimes meander into experimental instrumentation then kick right back into a main melody and you just cant help but be impressed. The production is unreal, with drums and guitars having the forefront and the vocals sounding like they’re being sung from another room, giving the whole thing a haunting, dark feel. Lyrics aswell are very provocative and full of imagery of sacrifice and self harm, but totally without pretence. Everything sounds perfectly unsettling but it’s utterly fucking beautiful within its own context. Songs explore themselves naturally and don’t feel forced, Noises eat into themselves, vocals hide and pounce on you and drums break and crash in a ritualistic rigor, but the best example I can give of this album is this: the song “Music Will Untune The Sky”. A 5 minute long, drum-free song, with nothing but vocals and guitars that sound like waves hitting rocks. The only vocals are Dan and Tim singing “I’m Sorry” over and over but harmonizing with themselves multiple times. Now, by the 4th minute the multiple vocal harmonisations are so ethereal and angelic, it feels like an actual spiritual experience hearing them. Just before you’re ready to give in and go to your knees, the song does a quick fade out and, with a little bell chime, it ends. Next song.
Album of the fucking year man. No doubt.