OK, I’ve checked fairly carefully and I think I’ve only listened to 11 albums that came out in 2014. That’s fine. I’ve spent a great deal of time listening to existing music. I’d get to 12 if I included Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant, whose music I had never listened to before watching Glastonbury on television this summer and finding out that he was incredible. I was duly inspired and purchased both this, released in 2013, and The Queen Of Denmark, from 2010, two fabulous pieces of work from a man whose talent had lain hitherto undiscovered by me (but discovered by others). So in my slow world, Pale Green Ghosts, whose electronic, Icelandic influence I prefer of the pair at a pinch, is one of my Top 50, or Top 12 albums of the year.
I don’t have an album of 2014, although I’m currently listening to the plangent and subtle Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn and A Better Tomorrow by a reinvigorated, still-on-it Wu-Tang Clan a lot as they are recent purchases and near the top of the virtual pile. (You may be interested to know that I tend to buy my albums in physical form, otherwise I forget I’ve got them.) I spent most of my adult life being sent records, first as a journalist, and latterly as a DJ, so the world of music was my oyster, particularly the new stuff. Since 6 Music lost my phone number over two years ago, the automatic supply has stopped. Therefore, with limited funds, I take few risks with what I buy. That said, most new music I hear sounds like old music, so I may as well listen to the old music, which I already own! (I like the sound of the new James Blake album, but it doesn’t sound different enough from the last James Blake album to spend a tenner on. Am I being harsh?)
I guess it says a lot about my conservatism that Elbow, Damon, the Manics, TV On The Radio, Jamie T, Wu-Tang and even The Aphex Twin are among my purchases this year. That’s hardly playing with fire, is it? (Actually, thinking about it, I was sent the Manics album as I retain a working relationship with the PR company who have looked after them for 25 years, although I did humbly request it.) I loyally watched every edition of Later and The Mercury Prize coverage, as if in parody of my age group and time of life, and occasionally someone caught my ear. I found FKA twigs interesting, and Jungle, and that duo with one bloke on drums, shouting, and another man on guitar, and that band where the singer gets really het up and emotional. I am not immune to the charms of the new. But rarely do I hear something truly original. This is not a problem for me. There’s enough music out there already, and the themed Global Globules compilations Stewart Lee kindly sent to me – again, old music, but new to my ears in many cases – are proof.
I include GIRL by Pharrell Williams in my list, but if I’m brutally frank, I only really like half of it, and Happy knocks the rest of it into a cocked hat. I bought Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in 2014 too (it came out in 2013), but again, it was the hit single that made it. Maybe a great album is hard to achieve in a world of tracks and downloads. Maybe people don’t put as much due diligence into them? The golden age of the long player may be over, but again, it’s not the end of the world, as there’s almost a century of recorded music already in the tank.
I’ll list my Top 50, in no qualitative order. If they’re on the list, they’re good enough for me.
The Wu-Tang Clan A Better Tomorrow
Damon Albarn Everyday Robots
John Grant Pale Green Ghosts
Aphex Twin Syro
Pharrell Williams GIRL
Manic Street Preachers Futurology
Elbow The Taking Off And Landing Of Everything
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge
Jack Adaptor J’Accuse
Clint Mansell Noah
TV On The Radio Seeds
Ben Watt Hendra
Now, I must try and remember the name of the two bands whose names I can’t remember (one is one word, beginning with “S”, the other is a definite article, The Something Somethings, like Crystal Castles but not that, possibly American). They might be worth investigating so that I can list their 2014 records in my 2015 roundup!
Is the one with the emotional singer Future Islands? In which case the single is, once again, much better than the rest of the album.
As for the one-word band… Sailor? Sparks?
You’re right. Future Islands. It’s harder than you think to look things like this up!
The duo could be Royal Blood, although the “S” thing is throwing me off.
oh, when you said S, I thought Sleaford Mods…
I love the Elbow album, it’s a thing of beauty. A nice steady progression from them. In case you want to bump up the number of albums in your top 50, the Joanna Gruesome LP won the Welsh Music Prize and it’s weirdly cohesive chaotic beast. It’s quite invigorating, but may in fact be the polar opposite to Wu Tang Clan and Elbow.
I think Savages are a four piece. These were definitely two blokes.
Try The War On Drugs – You hopefully won’t be disappointed
Future Islands the album is a let down, but they were brilliant on Jools Holland and I imagine very good live
Slaves must be the 2 piece.
I loved the Gruff Rhys album (whose accompanying documentary made your top 50 film list). To link to another of your lists i’d say Max Richter’s soundtrack to The Leftovers is worth a mention.
‘Run The Jewel’s’ and ‘Freddie Gibbs & Maglib’ are worth a look for a hip hop fan such as yourself. The War On Drugs were at the top of everyone’s list this year and it was definitely a proper old fashioned album. The Kelis album was great fun which I wasn’t expecting but then Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio produced it so perhaps not such a wild card.
I also loved the albums from…
Warpaint, Ex Hex, St Vincent, Eno Hyde, Broken Bells, The Hold Steady, Benjamin Booker, Honeyblood, Beck, Sharon Van Etten, Mogwai, Antemasque, Jack White, Liars and Caribou.
Thanks for the tip-offs.
Slaves could be the band. I’ll investigate. Thanks.