Here we are again… Another year behind us and our recurrent review of the past year and its best records. 2014 was quite a weird year as I felt the overall quality and choice of music was amazing and diverse but at the same time there were not the few killer LP’s that one will remember in 20 or 30 years’ time (hello Kanye West, Daft Punk or Nick Cave in the previous years). However, as in every year, choosing only a few LP’s was a difficult task, excluding either old favourites (Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jack White, TV on the Radio or The Horrors amongst others) or excellent records that made the professional rock critics’ choices (The War On Drugs, Run the Jewels, FKA Twigs or St. Vincent). Anyway, these are the usual rules of the game so let’s start our Festive Top 15!
2014 Favourite Musical…Thing : Foo Fighters “Sonic Highways”
…thing and not strictly speaking record as we are talking here about a documentary plus the record itself. For those who live in an entire different galaxy, Foo Fighters have been for around twenty years the band driven by Dave Grohl (former drummer of a quite famous band called Nirvana…). I do not have in mind another example of one person having so much success and music credibility in two different bands, knowing he does not play drums but guitar in the Foo Fighters (yes, there was as well Joy Division/New Order…but this is different). Every Foo Fighters record in the past years has been a reward as far as I am concerned especially when one goes over the first layer of their music and finds beauty and subtlety beyond the noisy surface. This new record was based on a clear principle : 8 one-hour documentary episodes about great American cities (namely Chicago, Washington DC, Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York) all directed by Dave Grohl . The band’s new tracks had to be recorded in each city in a legendary studio. The results are beautiful and I recommend to watch the entire series before enjoying the record. Is it without any doubt the best record of the year and one that will count in the years to come ? Not sure… Is it the product around music that gave me by far the most emotion throughout the year. Not one hesitation. Watch it and listen to the record.
The rest of the Top 15 records in alphabetical order
Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” Quite surprising but this was the first “real” solo album of Damon Albarn, one of the most hardest-working man in show business after his adventures with Blur, Gorillaz, The Good The Bad & The Queen, Mali Music, etc… A great surprise to be honest as I had not been that enthusiastic with the man lately but here he made a very focused and excellent record… and in particular one of the most beautiful songs of these last years with “Heavy Seas of Love” with Brian Eno.
The Both “The Both” You will not find this album anywhere else, which I do not understand as it was my almost-number 1 and I spent a few days hesitating… Yes, real important things in life, I know… This is the project of indie rocker Ted Leo (voice and guitar) and the great Aimee Mann (voice and guitar). I must admit I am not really objective about Aimee Mann as she is one of my favourite female voices ever and I would find arguments to love her if she were to sing the phone book. If you like punchy, melodic, subtle guitar rock, do the effort and you will be rewarded by this hidden treasure.
Broken Bells “After The Disco” Another project from two quite active characters of the music scene, Broken Bells are James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse who is one half of Gnarls Barkley and probably the most requested producer of these last fifteen years. Their first self titled record from 2010 was good but this one went a step forward. Melancholic 4 am dance pop music when things are desperate and full of hope.
Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” I had seen Mac DeMarco and his band a few years ago and even if one could feel a great potential in their songs and melody, their slacker attitudes was a bit tough to cope on during a full record or show. Complete change with this wonderful album and although the Canadian would hate me for me saying it, he has changed and improved his art with a sense of maturity. This guy might well be one of the classic songwriters of our times so discover him if not done yet.
Flying Lotus “You’re Dead!” The electronica movement has been more dynamic than ever this year and LP’s by Sohn or SBTRKT were really close to be in the list this year. I chose Flying Lotus as his music is an amazing mix of sounds (jazz, hip-hop, dance, jungle) one can listen at home, in clubs or through one’s headphones. Being the grandnephew of Alice and John Coltrane does not bring a bad DNA neither…
Kelis “Food” I had lost interest in her for a long time and her latest records were only Ok-ish but what a come-back this year ! For those who are not that young, Kelis entered the musical world with strength at the young age of 19 in 1998 with her first Neptunes-produced LP “Kaleidoscope” and was married to the excellent rap singer Nas. She found an equal interest in cooking and food in the last years and became a chef. Her last LP was based on her two passions and was produced by David Sitek from TV On The Radio. For those who like soul with a modern touch.
Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband” Fronted by the female singer Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon is a Swedish band which has been doing records throughout the 00’s with a funk/pop/rock formula that found the perfect formula this year with this record. Melodies to hum in the shower and a sense of melancholia made it one of the records that everyone should love, from demanding rock fans to those who love their pop music nice and easy.
Florent Marchet “Bambi Galaxy” Not sure if living now in London is what explains the fact that there are two French records in the list this year… I had always found Florent Marchet’s music interesting but sometimes on the verge of being slightly irritating. This record is completely different as one can feel this is going to be great from the first note onwards. French-speakers will like the Gainsbourg-influenced lyrics but everyone should succumb to the charms of this cosmic and very emotional music. The kind of future we would imagine sounding like when we were young in the 70’s or 80’s.
Metronomy “Love Letters” Their former record “The English Riviera” was our LP of the year in 2011 and remains without any doubt in the Top 10 record of the 2010’s. Their latest LP did not have the same immediate sense of greatness but was one of these records rewarding you little by little. Great and simple melodies and a “je ne sais quoi” that made it part of this list without any doubt. Live review here.
Morrissey “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” Poor unlucky Stephen Patrick Morrissey… Despite a weakening health, he eventually came back on top artistic form and delivered the record we had been waiting for more than twenty years for such a talent… only to see his new record label not really promoting it and getting rid of the former The Smiths singer after a few months. Pity as seeing him back on top of his game after his great autobiography last year was a real pleasure. Re-discover him. Live review here.
Spoon “They Want My Soul” This Austin, Texas band keeps on making excellent records on an impressive regular basis and one can only appreciate the fact that Spoon start to get more and more famous over their historic fan-base. In line with this year’s selection which has been strongly based on melodic songs-oriented artists, to my mind this is impossible not to like their mix of krautrock and catchy songs. Live review here.
Sun Kil Moon “Benji” Another busy year for Mark Kozelek between solo concerts, collaborations and this new record under the Sun Kill Moon banner. Beautiful and long songs about death amongst friends and relatives sung with an acoustic guitar with his as-usual fantastic voice. One of this blog’s favourite artists. Live review here.
Sebastien Tellier “L’Aventura” Our favourite French bearded excentric singer/songwriter, Sebastien Tellier was back this year with a beautiful LP recorded in Brazil. To be listened without prejudice and almost with the ears of a child to be able to jump in the direct, complex and inventive melodies of this album.
Ben Watt “Hendra” This is Ben Watt’s second album…thirty one years after “North Marine Drive”. In the meantime, he was the driving force behind Everything but the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, felt very ill, had three children, went on being a well-respected DJ, wrote two beautiful books… and here we were in 2014 with album number 2. Exactly the record I was expecting and hoping to be honest, which does not mean it was not one of the best of the year. Former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler very much involved as well. Could be your late night record or your Sunday morning one depending on your mood.
Other top 5’s :
- New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 2. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 3. The War On Drugs ”Lost In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin ”Syro” 5. Caribou “Our Love”
- Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. Leonard Cohen “Popular Problems” 3. Aphex Twin “Syro” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”
- Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Beck “Morning Phase” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Sleaford Mods “Divide And Exit” 4. Jack White “Lazaretto” 5. St. Vincent “St. Vincent”
- Paste (US web mag.): 1. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 2. St. Vincent “St. Vincent” 3. Run The Jewels “Run The Jewels 2” 4. King Tuff “Black Moon Spell” 5. Alvvays “Alvvays”
- Pitchfork (US website): 1. Run The Jewels “Run the Jewels 2” 2. FKA Twigs “LP1” 3. The War On Drugs “In The Dream” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Grouper “Ruins”
- Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Christine and the Queens “Chaleur Humaine” 2. Damon Albarn “Everyday Robots” 3. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days” 4. FKA Twigs “LP1” 5. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre”
- Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Ariel Pink “pom pom” 2. Metronomy “Love Letters” 3. Donovan Blanc “Donovan Blanc” 4. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains “Piano Ombre” 5. Mac DeMarco “Salad Days”
- New Noise (French bimester mag.): to be announced soon!
- Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Kelis “Food” 2. Protomartyr “Under Color of Official Right” 3. Benjamin Booker “Benjamin Booker” 4. Mary J. Blige “The London Sessions” 5. Wussy “Attica!” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Against Me! “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” 2. Ex Hex “Rips” 3. Le Butcherettes “Cry Is For The Flies” 4. Aphex Twin “Syro” 5. Shellac “Dude Incredible”
- Other Music (NY records store): Top 30 in no particular order
- Rough Trade (London records store) : 1. Temples “Sun Structures” 2. The War On Drugs “Lost In The Dream” 3. Todd Terje “It’s Album Time” 4. Metronomy “Love Letters” 5. Little Dragon “Nabuma Rubberband”