When I was asked to do a year end top 10 for No More Workhorse I thought, bloody hell, haven’t we enough lists? Aren’t we done with 2014? What sort of year is it anyway? The whole idea of ranking music is a strange one. How do you rank, say, Max Richter versus And So I Watch You From Afar? Both excellent, yet entirely different types of music. As for categorisations, I struggle with those. Electronica, is it just keyboard based music? Americana, what the heck is that? Music made by Americans? So more questions than answers. Here is an entirely subjective, non-genre specific list of albums from 2014:
10. Caught In The Wake Forever – My Family Goes On Without Me
Otherwise known as Scottish recording artist Fraser McGowan, some might call this and his other work ‘lo-fi’, but this does an enormous disservice to the quality of the recording. This album is a mixture of McGowan’s song based material with more ambient material as hope springs from a bleak musical palette.
I Will Always Let You Down:
9. Earth – Primitive and Deadly
Earth return with a heavier album than for some time and with added vocals. The slow, spacey tempos and drifting melodies are still intact, making this a powerful addition to their catalogue.
Torn By The Fox of the Crescent Moon:
8. New Secret Weapon
The debut album from Dubliners New Secret Weapon rocked harder than any Irish album for some time. In an era of beardy, folky types, this band is unashamedly rocky and the songs propel themselves into all kinds of unusual directions.
Look At The State Of It:
7. Mark Lanegan Band – Phantom Radio
What an unexpected direction Mark Lanegan has suddenly found himself going in. Far from his rocking Screaming Trees material, let alone his dark, brooding solo material, on Phantom Radio he allows the synths and drum machines, found occasionally on 2012’s Blues Funeral, to run riot. It works beautifully.
Floor of the Ocean:
6. Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business
What a strange few years Morrissey has had. Autobiographies, falling out with record companies, illnesses and training both barrels on anyone who crosses him. Thankfully his songwriting was up to scratch on this, his first album for 5 years, with a refreshing variety of instrumentation and tempo across these songs, featuring tunes to overcome some decidedly dodgy lyrics.
World Peace Is None of Your Business:
5. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
Smooth and radio-friendly (if such a thing still exists) it may be, yet Adams’ self-titled album is an addictive listen. His return to electric guitar is a welcome one, it skirts the boundaries of MOR but at the last minute, veers into the ditch.
4. Dakota Suite & Quentin Sirjacq – There Is Calm To Be Done
Dakota Suite is the brainchild of Chris Hooson, who has been releasing albums of quiet despair for nearly twenty years. Here the band is joined by pianist Quentin Sirjacq for an album as good as any in their back catalogue, split equally between song-based material and semi-classical instrumentals. A perfect soundtrack for staring out the window,
3. Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Arguably the most consistent band around, Mogwai’s latest is no major departure for them, but continues where their soundtrack to Les Revenants left off in infusing their sound with keyboards without sacrificing any of their brooding power.
Heard About You Last Night:
2. Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin
I had almost given up on Bob Mould. Sure he has a formidable legacy (Husker Du, Sugar) but his most recent solo material seemed a little ‘by-numbers’. So the energy and sparkle of Beauty & Ruin came as a pleasant surprise. The guitars bite more than they have for years, and Mould’s snarl is mid nineties vintage.
1. A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos
So my album of the year is an instrumental soundtrack to a ballet. The music created by Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie is powerful and resonant, mainly classical instrumentation accompanied by organ drones but absolutely soaring melodies. One I have returned to again and again over the last few months.