Friday, 6 February 2015

Top 5 Albums of 2014

Not only did I leave this until 2014 was completely over but I've left it to the tail end of my top fives of the year thereby ensuring I'm only eight months ahead of the major music publications Albums of 2015.

1. Sharon Van Etten "Are We There" - I first discovered Sharon Van Etten after her third album Tramp did well in the 2012 end of year round ups. Had I heard that album earlier I’m sure it would have done well in my own top 5 that year. My expectations for Are We There were, therefore, pretty high and initial listens a little disappointing. Are We There is a sparser record with some fairly downbeat themes so not the sort of album that you’ll instantly love. However, repeated listening proved rewarding. It is a heartrendingly wonderful collection of songs full of emotional resonance. Eleven tunes that I think are all superb and at least five of which were contenders for my song of the year.

2. Shellac "Dude Incredible" - This may well be my favourite Shellac album ever. It’s intense and loud and brilliant. I’m a big fan of Steve Albini’s ability as a sound engineer and he’s done an amazing job on Dude Incredible. It’s a bit of a cliché but the drum sound is particularly incredible. Every beat is crystal clear and resonates with the enormous power of Bob Weston’s sticks.

3. Thee Silver Mt. Zion "Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything" - A bit like Shellac, this might be my favourite Silver Mt Zion album. It's certainly their most commercial, though this is a statement based on my fairly skewed idea of what might constitute commercial and with the understanding that TSMZ are about as far from commercial as you can get without reaching the outskirts of the Avant Garde.

4. Johnny Cash "Out Among The Stars" - I wondered whether this album was really eligible seeing as it was originally recorded in 1981. However, seeing as it was released for the first time in 2014 it surely does. Recorded when Cash’s career was on a downward path, his record company at the time refused to release it. In the nineties the American Recordings series reinvigorated Cash's career but also captured his gradual decline in health. Some of the later releases became quite an emotional listen as his voice became more fragile. What makes Out Among The Stars particularly enjoying is hearing Johnny Cash in his prime again. There’s some real joy in these tunes, a little cheesy in places perhaps but some proper high points too. Baby Ride Easy is a lovely duet with June Carter Cash, Tennessee has a chorus sung by school children that will melt your heart and both Out Among The Stars and She Used To Love Me are proper Cash classics.

5. Mogwai "Rave Tapes" - Mogwai just don’t release bad albums. Rave Tapes might not be quite as fantastic as Hardcore Will Never Die but it's still a fabulous record. I saw them live on this tour at an amazing gig back in January where my restricted view seat was almost as good as having a back stage pass.


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