2014 – Top Ten Albums

It’s that time of year where we drink too much, eat too much, plan for next year to eat and drink less and also remembering back to the year that was.

What an epic year of music it has been. I have really tried to immerse myself in a lot more music this year and attempted to listen to full albums rather than just the singles. It can be an overwhelming thing to keep up with the sheer amount of music that is released every year but for the first time in a long time I feel like I have kept up pretty well.

So, here it is, my Top 10 Albums of 2014. A pretty epic task to collate the list, but I am happy with how it’s worked out.

Interestingly there are 6 Australian albums, 1 from NZ, Iceland, UK and US, 6 début albums, 3 follow-up albums, 5 duo albums and 3 solo albums.

Hope you enjoy the list. What were you top 10 albums of the year?

10. Kingswood – Microscopic Wars

Last year, these guys blew me away with Ohio, a screaming rock anthem, a genre that has been long overdue for a comeback. Fergus Linacre on vocals just nails every song he sings and then there’s Alex Laksa on guitar and the soulful vocals on ICFTYDLM. Kingswood have a definite blues influence in their music which gives them a definite swagger. I have seen them live four times in the last year and will gladly go back, but nothing will beat that first time in the old Annandale Hotel…

This album travels through screaming rock (All Too Much), quirky bluesy rock (Piece by Piece) and mad rock solos (So Long) and helps us remember that rock still exists.

9. Broods – Evergreen

New Zealand has been kicking goals recently. Not only do they have the stick over us in League and Union, but they are producing amazing music. This sibling duo have come out of nowhere this year and nailed a perfect pop début. It’s beautifully produced and Georgia Nott’s vocals are strong for someone only 19. What is it with teenage Kiwi sensations? There are a bunch of highlights on this album. 

For me, L.A.F. is the pinnacle of this album. Precise, poppy and punchy. This song explodes into a chorus that gives me goosebumps. The song that got them noticed on Pigeons and Planes late last year was Bridges. A delicate, melodic tune that grows and infiltrates your senses. 

This duo have come a long, long way in one year and they’ve only just begun.

8. Thundamentals – So We Can Remember

The Blue Mountains of New South Wales water has been talked about before, but it’s true. It seems to generate amazing artists, particularly in the hip-hop genre. Following the legacy of Urthboy, Thundamentals have smashed into the big time with this release. It’s a mature, personal and very, very well written. 

There are a heap of great tunes on this album starting with Smiles Don’t Lie, their big hit of last year and awesome collaborations with Thom Crawford on Something I Said and Solo on Got Love. It’s the personal and compassionate touches on this album that really make it.

My #TuesdayTunesday for today was going to be the fifth single from the album which has just come out with the video below. It’s a touching tune and exemplifies the great direction that the Thundas are headed.

7. Broken Bells – After The Disco

When one of your favourite vocalists starts a new project it can be a worry. Will it work? Why are they starting a new band? Will the old band keep going? All of these questions flowed through my head when I first heard that James Mercer had a new project.

That project is Broken Bells. A collaboration with Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley fame). The result is spectacular. The production on this album is next level and Mercer’s vocals pierce through as only they could. The title track is a huge highlight here, but songs like the beautiful Lazy Wonderland and the featured song below, Leave It Alone are perfect examples of where this album goes. Until we get another Shins album this will definitely suffice!

6. Sietta – Invisible River

2014 started with this album for me and it still sits in my car a year later. James Mangohig and Caiti Baker have produced an album with so much heart and passion that it moves me every time. From the opening track Let It Go to the beats and horns of Agree to Disagree, this album takes you on a journey through the lives of Sietta. Every song has a meaning, a feeling and a intention behind it. Baker’s vocals soar ride above the fat bassy lines of Mangohig in glorious symbiosis. 

If you’ve missed this hidden gem this year, get on it now. Perhaps the best representatives of the North Territory we’ve had since the NT News front page. 😛

5. Ásgeir – In The Silence

Iceland has a habit for producing amazing artists. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe it’s the darkness, but whatever it is we now have Ásgeir, an Icelandic god with a voice that soars around the world. This album is a combination of electronic sounds, traditional Icelandic folk music and soothing piano…and then there’s the lyrics.

The majority of this album was written by Ásgeir’s 73 year old father, who is a revered poet in his own right. The translation into English gives this album an auto-biographical feel. Every song feels like a story and you can’t help but listen to where it goes…

If you want to get lost in an Icelandic haze, listen to this with headphones on. You will literally float away..

4. Jane Tyrrell – Echoes In The Aviary

I was introduced to Jane at an Urthboy gig many years ago. She bounced onto the stage accompanying Urthboy in fast paced hip-hop tunes MC’ing as well as singing the chorus lines. I could tell straight away that she had some amazing pipes on her. Then she appeared in The Herd and took them to another level (which was already damn high). Some excellent collaborations and 18 months of hard work later, Jane has revealed her début album, and it was definitely worth the wait.

Echoes In The Aviary shows what can be made when you really put everything into it. The production behind this album is attributed to PVT’s Richard and Laurence Pike as well as Dustin McLean, J Walker (Machine Translations) and Pip Norman (Sparkadia). It’s an all-star cast of talent that has worked with Tyrrell to reach this final result and it shows. 

This album relies on some amazing percussion work that stands out for me. The beats in The Rush and Ships are beautifully crafted and carry each song through the album. Jane’s voice is (of course) outstanding throughout, showcasing her awesome vocal range from soulful lows to soaring highs. A glorious success from start to finish (and supporting Ásgeir in January!)

3. Royal Blood – Royal Blood

Described by Dave Grohl as “so encouraging”, Royal Blood are certainly that. The duo from Brighton in the UK have exploded onto the scene this year and released an album that is balls ahead of most rock albums this year. (even Foo Fighters) It’s gutsy, adventurous and exciting. 

As I described in my #TuesdayTunesday post earlier this year, they make such a great racket from their 2 instruments that you can’t believe it until you see it for yourself. From the opening beats of Out of the Black you are sucked into a half an hour (a short-arse album!) unrelenting, drum-driven rock journey. The riffs are thick, the vocals are solid and whilst they may not have longevity past a couple of albums, enjoy it while we can!

2. Joelistics – Blue Volume

There probably wasn’t an album I was l looking forward to more than the second album from Joelistics (aka Joel Ma from TZU). He was probably looking forward to getting it out as well after he lost his first attempt at the album when his laptop was stolen in Berlin.

This album doesn’t disappoint at all. It was everything I was hoping for from this poetic hip-hop lyricist that Australia needs. Parts of Blue Volume may be cynical, angry and sad but that’s what makes it so damn special to me. It’s honest and raw. The lyrics are biting when they want to be (Say I’m Good), reflective (Out of the Blue) or just plain weird (Everyone Everything). I could seriously listen to this album over and over and not get bored. In fact I have!

It may surprise you, but I don’t see this as a hip-hop record. Joel can sing and he does so throughout the album when he’s not collaborating with artists like Wil Wagner from Smith Street Band in Nostromo and Ecca Vandal in Connect. It’s a melodic album with heart. I truly think everyone needs to listen to this and tell me you’re not hooked.

1. Flight Facilities – Down To Earth

Another album that I have frantically been looking forward to, but thought would never happen. Flight Facilities have been busy dropping a couple of singles every year for the past few years and I’ve been fine with that. Perhaps following pressure from the industry, they have decided to actually collate the best of them into an album as well as adding a few new ones to the mix. What we got was Down To Earth,truly a Flight Facilities mix-tape of epic proportions.

This album flows perfectly all the way from the Intro to the final title track. The underlying aviation theme take you on a trip that really explores every corner of FF journey thus far, and one certainly gets the feeling there is a lot more to this story.

There are many highlights on this album, but let’s start with the guest vocalists. Owl Eyes who performs on Heart Attack, but also toured with them, is magical. Christine Hoburg on Clair De Lune is perfection and Reggie Watts is surprisingly awesome on Sunshine. I think it has to be noted that the instrumental tracks on this album take it to the next level. Flight Facilities (aka Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell) prove over and over that they are master music-makers and producers. The track Merimbula is a perfect example of their skills.

It’s hard not to gush over this album (..and I didn’t even mention Kylie Minogue!). It truly is my album of the year and something that I am sure I will come back to many times over the years to come. Just like all of their tracks so far there is a timeless quality about them.

4 years ago

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