Saturday, 6 December 2014

Flynndie Reviews #52: Top 10 albums of 2014

Written 6th December 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2014
So as the jingle of Christmas Bells is nigh on the horizon the start of December also signals the close of 2014 and that time of the year where I try and put together some sort of list of my favourite albums from the past 12 months.  It has to be said 2014 really has been a ‘Cracker’ for fans of Indie and Alternative music and I’ve found myself really enjoying a lot of new records this year from both old and new bands and this has probably been the most difficult in the four years I’ve been doing these reviews to rank this year’s albums, so needless to say any records in this year’s top ten I would highly recommend if you previously missed them.

So put on your dancing shoes and pack your air guitars as we head out on tour and check out 10 of the top albums from 2014.

#10. Reverend and the Makers – ThirtyTwo (Released 24th February)

February saw the release of the fourth album from Sheffield’s own Reverend and the Makers with their latest record ‘ThirtyTwo’.  The album picks-up well from their previous album ‘@Reverend_Makers’ with a more upbeat feel and vibe from the lively, suggestive innuendo opener ‘Detonator’, to some more chilled-out Dance (‘I-Spy’) while ‘The Devil’s Radio’ and ‘Different Trains’ are laced with witty lyrics from The Reverend himself, Jon McLure, before the album closes with solid single ‘The Only One’ followed by a hard, banging dance tune ‘Your Girl’.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Detonator’, ‘I Spy, ‘The Only One’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Your Girl’ -   

#9. Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information (Released 3rd February)

February also saw the return of Newcastle’s energetic, Indie pop-pickers Maxïmo Park with their fifth record ‘Too Much Information’.  Possibly the band’s most diverse album to-date ‘Too Much Information’ saw the band return with their familiar, frantic guitar tracks (‘Give, Get, Take’, ‘Her Name was Audrey’), to subtle, lo-fi electronica (‘Brain Cells’), the jangly 'Lydia, the ink will never dry', a gentle sprinkling of soft, tender moments (‘Leave this Island’, ‘My Bloody Mind’) also thrown in with some playful, groovy numbers (‘Drinking Martinis’, ‘Midnight on the Hill’) which in all saw another fine album added to Maxïmo Park’s back-catalogue.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Give, Get, Take’, ‘Brain Cells’, ‘My Bloody Mind’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Lydia, the ink will never dry’ -

#8. Nick Mulvey – First Mind (Released 12th May)

If you’re a fan of laid-back, stripped-down acoustic tracks then ‘First Mind’ the debut record from Nick Mulvey is recommended listening.  A beautifully crafted album, laced with charm ‘First Mind’ demonstrates Nick’s vast range of styles while armed with an acoustic guitar featuring charming, gentle pop ballads (‘Fever to the Form’ and the wonderful ‘Meet Me There’), to the tropically sounding ‘Juramidam’ and intricately picked guitar rhythms on ‘Curcurucu’ and ‘Venus’, this is truly a beautiful debut album from a genuinely talented guitarist.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Juramidam’, ‘Fever to the Form’, ‘Curcurucu’ 
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Meet Me There’ -

#7. Royal Blood – Royal Blood (Released 25th August)

Back in March I was lucky enough to go and see this year’s NME Tour and second on the bill that night was this Brighton duo Royal Blood.  I didn’t know what to expect from this two-piece at the time but after watching them that night, they reminded me a little of another famous two-piece the ‘White Stripes’ but more so I was also impressed with their intense, heavy-rock sound also reminding me somewhat of early sounding Muse and Led Zeppelin.  The band’s eponymous debut album didn’t disappoint either and despite its short running-time of 33 minutes, its more than enough for the band’s large sounding, heavy-bluesy rock to deliver a short-sharp, ferocious kick to the balls and still leave you wanting more, with headline tours for the band now selling out within a matter of minutes.

Recommended Songs: ‘Out of the Black’, ‘Come On Over’, ‘Blood Hands’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Little Monster’ -

#6. Nine Black Alps – Candy for the Clowns (Released 21st April)

If it’s hard, industrialist rock you are looking for then ‘Candy for the Clowns’ by Manchester’s Nine Black Alps might just be the album for you.  Opening with full-on, no-nonsense rock ‘Novokaine’ to the coasting guitar sounds of ‘Blackout’ and the edgy cool, swaggering ‘Supermarket Clothes’ before industrialist live favourite ‘Patti’.  While midway through the record is the standout track for me featuring some bitter sweet rock on ‘Morning After’.  The band dabble with American college-rock on ‘Take Me Underground’ while the deluxe version of the album closes with a couple of raw acoustic numbers ‘You Don’t Need Me’ and ‘Power Failure'.  ‘Candy for the Clowns’ sees Nine Black Alps deliver another solid, underground guitar album with well-written tracks.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Novokaine’, ‘Supermarket Clothes’, ‘Patti’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Morning After’ -   

#5. The Rifles – None the Wiser (Released 27th January)

For ‘None the Wiser’ to only be in 5th-place in this list shows some of the quality albums it has been up against this year, as for me this album saw The Rifles really back on top-form.  Returning with some brillantly, fun and catchy mod-rock tracks with openers ‘Minute Mile’ and ‘Heebie Jeebies’, it was perhaps an early indication the band were returning more to their sound of debut album ‘No Love Lost’.  However ‘None the Wiser’ also showcased the band’s sound maturing with the dreamy, acoustic sounds of ‘You Win Some’ and the assured number ‘The Hardest Place to Find Me’ before finishing with epic closer ‘Under and Over’ and this album set the bar high immediately from the start of 2014.

Recommended Songs: ‘Minute Mile’, ‘Heebie Jeebies’, ‘You Win Some’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Go Lucky’ -

#4. Interpol – El Pintor (Released 8th September)

September saw the return of one of New York’s finest Interpol with their 5th studio album ‘El Pintor’, Spanish for ‘The Painter’ but also doubling as an anagram of the band’s name.  Released 4-years after their eponymous fourth album, for me ‘El Pintor’ saw Interpol back on top form.  Building with a tender guitar-riff and Paul Bank’s distinct vocals ‘All the Rage Back Home’ is a great opener which slowly builds into a full crescendo of a solid guitar track.  The band are noted for their post-punk, brooding guitar sound with intricate guitar riffs found here on ‘Same Town, New Story’ and there are further fine examples here with ‘My Desire’ and standout number ‘My Blue Supreme’.  ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Ancient Ways’ finds the band hitting back with some great full-on guitar rock, and brooding album closer ‘Twice As Hard’ is one of my favourite closing Interpol tracks since ‘Leif Erikson’ from debut album ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’.

Recommended Tracks: ‘All the Rage Back Home’, ‘Anywhere’, ‘My Blue Supreme’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Same Town, New Story’ -

#3. Howler – World of Joy (Released 24th March)

Early Spring saw the return of young Minneapolis upstarts Howler with their second album ‘World of Joy’.   Lead-singer Jordan Gatesmith described this album’s sound as “supposed to be almost like a jukebox at some sloppy bar in Minneapolis” and that really hits the nail on the head with this record.  From the Thin Lizzy sounding opener ‘Al’s Corral’ making a great start to the album, we hear the band sounding like The Ramones on ‘Drip’ and capturing a raw, garage-rock sound with a number of tracks such as ‘Yacht Boys’ and the fun guitar-rock of ‘Louise’.  For me it’s the jangly guitar sounds of ‘Don’t Wanna’ and ‘The itch that creeps through my skull’ that are the standout tracks of this record surely influenced by The Smiths and this second album really saw Howler mature and show a diverse range of tracks they can create on this brilliant record which I’ve had on constant repeat throughout 2014.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Al’s Corral’, ‘Don’t Wanna’, ‘Louise’

Personal Favourite Track: ‘The itch that creeps through my skull’ (live) - 

#2. Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony (Released 15th September)

With their full-on explosive, rock ‘n’ roll sound ‘The Balcony’ was the excellent debut album from Catfish and the Bottlemen.  Four young, cocky but fun lads originally hailing from Llandudno, Wales these boys have spent a good number of years dedicated to live touring and honing their explosive rock sound.  With thoughtful opener ‘Homesick’ setting the pace, this quickly gets build on with the excellent track ‘Kathleen’ which I previously described in my review of this album as Indie-Rock tracks go this is nigh-on fucking perfection”.  ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Pacifer’ further demonstrate the fun, cool, loud rock sounds of this band with infectious guitar riffs and rhythms and lead-singer Van McCann’s distinct, crisp vocals throughout.  The hits continue with further incredibly tight rock tracks ‘Business’ and the up-tempo ‘26’ before closing with the brilliantly cool live favourites ‘Sidewinder’ and ‘Tyrants’. The Balcony features 11 easy-listening but incredibly well-written and exciting rock tracks that will surely see Catfish and the Bottlemen go onto much bigger things. 

Recommended Songs: ‘Homesick’, ‘Cocoon’, ‘Pacifier’, ‘Sidewinder’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Kathleen’ - 

#1. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave (Released 27th October)

Returning with their fourth album this year were the distinctly Scottish band The Twilight Sad with the incredibly, beautifully crafted ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’ and finds itself in the #1 spot on my albums of the year list.  Returning with ‘There’s a girl in the corner’ this saw the band retain their brooding, edgy guitar sound while ‘Last January’ featured a more upbeat yet haunting guitar rhythm with the beautifully crafted tales lead-singer James Graham masterly paints on this album.  A dark, thoughtful yet tender and gentle record throughout laced with charming, hauntingly sounding fairy-tales (‘Pills I Swallow’) we also have an agonisingly beautiful standout track with ‘It Never Was the Same’.  This is yet another finely crafted, edgy, haunting record by The Twilight Sad and is one of the standout albums of 2014 for me.

Recommended Tracks: ‘There’s A Girl in the Corner’, ‘Last January’, ‘Pills I Swallow’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘It Never was the Same’ -

So that covers some of my favourite albums of 2014. Many thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any recommendations of records for me to check out as well, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below or send them across on Twitter.

Here’s to more Alternative, Indie and Rock music in 2015!