2014 has been as hectic a year for album releases as the last. Now, as 2015 looms on the horizon, we take a look back at 30 standout records from the past twelve months, here’s the second half:
Jinkx Monsoon – The Inevitable Album
The world of drag is personified no better than by Jinkx Monsoon, winner of season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Full of flawless showtunes and jazz numbers, her dry wit and sultry side are both on full display as her beautiful voice is matched perfectly with the impeccable Major Scales’ backing. A perfect debut from a true queen.
Jodie-Mae Finch @
Kool A.D. – Word O.K.
After the split of Das Racist in 2012, Heems seemed to be the rapper putting out the better material but when it came to Kool A.D’s self-leaked debut album, it was unexpectedly tighter than any previous DR/Heems material. Kool A.D’s typical lackadaisical flow and delivery have an enhanced philosophical lyrical affectation that is accompanied by an astonishing amount of solid beats. Lines like “more bars than like, three jails” exemplify Kool A.D’s clever/dumb persona, and a feature from none other than Del Tha Funkee Homosapien adds an extra dimension of rap that brings an assured diversity. Victor Vazquez really stepped his game up for an album that snuck in through the back door to join the rest of the AOTY contenders.
Nathan Butler @
La Roux – Trouble In Paradise
From the climactic rush of ‘Let Me Down Gently’ to the stomping strut of ‘Uptight Downtown’ each new track that emerged from this long-awaited follow-up was a pop gem. It was wonderful to hear Elly Jackson letting her hair down as Trouble In Paradise achieves the tricky balance of both excellent song-writing and fun pop.
James Barlow @
Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
Rarely can an album released in one season befit the climate of another, but Little Dragon’s Nabuma Rubberband provided a voluptuous soundtrack for the summer, and rather magnanimously warms one’s rattling bones in the bleak winter months too. An all-weather album if there ever was one.
Nathan Butler @
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Mac DeMarco may be incredibly easy to adore, buthe’s an artist who makes it incredibly hard to take him seriously, however, Salad Days ends up being the point where DeMarco matures into a ‘serious artist’. The overall sound is far more woozy and wary, with his more playful qualities shaken off, it’s the sound of DeMarco beaten down by the pressures of his life, and his lyrics perfectly encapsulate this. While 2 was simply a triumph, Salad Days is the more rounded masterpiece.
Connor Cass @
Martha – Courting Strong
Catchy pop songs about the north, school and love given a punk twist while throwing back to bands in the vein of The Housemartins. It’s fun and light-hearted at times and a little sadder at others, but when Martha borrow a couple of bars from Rush’s ‘Spirit Of The Radio’, it’s hard to argue with really.
Steven Fox @
Melvins – Hold It In
The old, sludgy Melvins are still here – now featuring Butthole Surfers’ Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus – but the band also toys with jangle pop and actually pull it off really well. There’s an interesting experimental quirkiness underlying in the music we can hear too, which the Melvins and indeed Butthole Surfers are no strangers to.
Greg Hudson @
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Run The Jewels 2 is the sound of Mike and El-P attempting to out-do even themselves as a blockbuster sequel to its predecessor. However, at its heart, Run The Jewels continues to be about Mike and El’s unfathomably brilliant chemistry, as two awesome rappers rap about being awesome. In fact, the only record that could take Run The Jewels 2 ‘s crown as the most audacious, potent, and ridiculous hip hop collaborative record around is Run The Jewels 3 (or perhaps Meow The Jewels).
Connor Cass @
Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour
If you’ve never been through heartbreak, Sam Smith tells you what it feels like on In The Lonely Hour. The hauntingly soulful record showcases the singer-songwriter’s undeniably flawless vocals and incredible range within ten sorrowful tracks. It’s hard not to feel the pain Smith’s words express in this emotionally climaxing album.
India Milner @
SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land
Featuring some excessively talented names – Jessie Ware, A$AP Ferg and long-term collaborator Sampha – Wonder Where We Land has the deep, electronic sound that’s expected. The instrumental tracks aren’t without their own merit though either, with ‘Everybody Knows’ in particular containing arguably the most enthralling production on the album.
Will Ackrill @
Second Storey – Double Divide
A lesson in off-kilter, contemporary techno, Double Divide employs subterranean sonics to induce a digital psychosis. From the cosmic lullaby of ‘North Facing’, to the scatty percussion and growling low end of ‘Combustion Hallmark’ and ‘Trope’, the album distorts through its own inertia, establishing Second Storey as one of the promising acts in the UK scene.
Ben Hindle @
St Vincent – St Vincent
A triumph that earned its brainchild the long overdue recognition she deserved, Annie Clark’s self-confessed vision of what her St. Vincent enigma truly encompasses proved to be one of the year’s most refined displays of art pop excellence. Weaving intellectual cuts such as the pompous trumpet fanfare of ‘Digital Witness’ alongside the analog synth anarchy of ‘Bring Me Your Loves’, St. Vincent effortlessly jolts between an erratic mix of styles – and yet it still manages to retain a gratifying sense of immersion.
Joshua Pauley @
Taylor Swift – 1989
Aside from single-handedly remedying 2014’s album sales woes, Taylor Swift‘s wide-eyed foray into full-blown pop proved to be this year’s much desired Top 40 masterstroke. A glorious pastiche of eighties pop culture and an evocative showcase of the breadth of her songwriting prowess, 1989 serves as Swift’s most endearing record by a not so country mile.
Joshua Pauley @
Young Fathers – Dead
DEAD is true new music. The beats are a mash of grainy, droning electronica – such as that found in the winding ‘JUST ANOTHER BULLET’ – but with a distinct afro influence, displayed heavily in the chants and tribal drums of opener ‘NO WAY’. The product of a tri-nation collaboration (Scotland, Liberia and Nigeria), it conveys the artist’s personal struggles, whilst being relatable and expansive. The talent and vision of Young Fathers cannot be denied, and they stand as ambassadors of multi-cultural cohesion and musical progression.
Ben Hindle @
Yung Lean – Unknown Memory
His debut studio album, Unknown Memory, doesn’t exactly clarify what it is Yung Lean is about, but it does at the very least make it easier to explain his mystifying appeal. There’s a joyful sense of exhilaration that comes from Lean’s drawn-out murmurs, and hugely infectious hooks. Essentially everything about Unknown Memory is imperfect as a hip-hop album; and yet, it’s hard to stop listening.
Joe Price @
This feature is taken from the December 2014 issue of Audio Addict. View it on Issuu here, or pick it up along the South Coast.