This is part 2 of my Top 50 Albums of 2014 list, where I will look at another 10 of my favourite albums of the last year. This part looks at a range of different artists; from a blues guitarist, to a man attempting to break away from an emo poster boy image, to a gritty all-female duo from Scotland. Here are the acts ranked 31-40…
40. Howler – World of Joy
World of Joy saw indie rock band Howler follow up their critically acclaimed first album America Give Up, on the infamous Rough Trade record label. World of Joy is full of well crafted indie tunes, utilising sharp lyrics and jagged guitars as to demonstrate how they were one of the US’ more refreshing exports of 2014. With comparisons drawn to Indie heavyweights The Strokes, Howler proved their worth on World of Joy and silenced the few critics that described their sound as ‘heard it before’. Songs such as Don’t Wanna truly channel the spirit of rock n roll, noting in particular, lead singer, Jordan Gatesmith’s sharp lyrical observations, which are crucial to the band’s sound. Utilising elements of indie, slacker and punk rock, Howler’s World of Joy is an old school album that really makes you want to punch the air, proving that young bands can still make good rock n’ roll music.
Best Track: Don’t Wanna
39. Johhny Marr – Playland
Having never really been a fan of The Smiths (they’re pretty overrated) I surprisingly have really enjoyed both of Johnny Marr’s recent solo efforts (The Messenger and Playland), which I felt were far better than Morrisey’s release this year (I just don’t like his voice…). Whilst the album doesn’t particularly push the boundaries of indie music, Playland is full of well-made indie anthems (including Easy Money and Dynamo), the type you’d expect to find on XFM, that are perfectly made for the big summer festivals. An even more glistening sound than the previous album and with astute lyrics, Playland proves that Johnny Marr is a truly great solo artist and a more than capable singer in his own right (something not all guitarists can manage). This is a superb collection of songs that all fans of good indie music can easily appreciate, and you can only admire Marr’s exquisite riffing, a true guitar maestro…
Best Track: Easy Money
38. Honeyblood – Honeyblood
2014 saw all-female Scottish duo Honeyblood rise to prominence through a number of festival performances and the release of one of the most razor sharp albums of 2014. Both melodic and venomous at the same time, vocalist Stina Tweeddale spits out lyrics about ex-lovers and heartbreak on tracks such as Super Rat and Choker with a sort of elegance. In a way the album is very deceptive, as on the surface Honeyblood’s lo-fi indie pop sound is very soft and restrained, however as you dig deeper you uncover the pain and brutal honesty in the lyrics. Honeyblood is album of the highest quality and even in spite of the duo seeing the replacement of drummer Shona McVicar by Cat Myers, the band can reflect on 2014 as being very successful and the start of something bigger to come…
Best Track: Killer Bangs
37. Superfood – Don’t Say That
Superfood are another band that have made big steps in 2014, following in the footsteps of fellow Brummie indie acts Peace and Swim Deep. Taking great inspiration from the Britpop scene and bands including Supergrass and Blur, Superfood’s indie guitar twang isn’t hugely original but has a nostalgic quality that has earned them many fans. Don’t Say That is a fun, crowd-pleasing album full of great indie tunes which all have potential to become festival anthems in the near future, should the band gain wider recognition.
Best Track: Right On Satellite
36. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
Possibly the biggest act so far in my countdown of my favourite albums of 2014, Elbow have already achieved great things as a band. Playing arenas all across the UK (including the London O2 Arena) as well as sub-headlining the infamous Glastonbury festival, Elbow have a plethora of fans up and down the nation, only helped by the success of their previous albums and big hits including Grounds For Divorce and One Day Like This. Whilst The Take Off and Landing of Everything didn’t recieve the same levels of critical acclaim as their previous efforts, I feel it is an understated and melancholic triumph. New York Morning is classic, anthemic Elbow at their commanding best with Guy Garvey’s vocals as uplifting as ever. Whilst it may not be an album that gains the band new fans, it most certainly appeases the already converted, a top album nonetheless…
Best Track: New York Morning
35. Broken Bells – After the Disco
2014 saw a big rise in popularity for Broken Bells, the brainchild of artist-producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys) and singer-guitarist James Mercer (The Shins). After the success of their self-titled debut album Broken Bells’ second album, After the Disco, enhances their indie/space rock sound and creates a very nostalgic and retro sound. The high production value is easily seen on retro pop songs such as Holding On for Life (one of my favourite songs of the year) and After the Disco, proving Danger Mouse’s ability as a high capable song-writer as well as super producer. With influences ranging from R&B and Disco (with lead single Holding On for Life easily sounding like it could have come from a Bee Gees album), the supergroup have created a truly accomplished album with a very unique yet epic sound. The success of the album both critically and commercially was apparent from the band’s high placing on many of the year’s festival, as well as their Hollywood, big-budget music video (of which starred Anton Yelchin and Kate Mara) for the lead single. Whilst ultimately the band is a side-project for both artists and relatively under appreciated by many critics on their album of the year lists, I feel it is important to acknowledge it artistic merits as I feel it rightly earns a place amongst my top albums of 2014…
Best Track: Holding On for Life
34. Foster the People – Supermodel
One of the bigger releases of the year came in the form of Foster the People’s Supermodel, the follow-up to the massive,multi-platinum selling Torches. One of the big challenges the band faced with their new album was moving out of the shadow cast by huge hit single Pumped Up Kicks, which saw Foster the People move out of indie obscurity and into the mainstream, and prove that they were not one hit wonders. The band managed this successfully, with a more eclectic indie sound (rather than the pop anthems of Torches) and using elements of neo-psychadellia, Foster the People have created a more experimental work in Supermodel. Although it may alienate some of the fickle fans that Torches attracted, through lack of any real blockbuster tracks, Supermodel is a layered and sophisticated record with shimmering indie stormers such as Coming of Age and Best Friend more than satisfying their loyal fan base. I was particularly impressed with some of their more experimental efforts such as Pseudologia Fantastica and A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon which demonstrated a newfound maturity in their sound. A very strong effort from a band that has evolved greatly from their chart-topping previous album and deserved of a place in my top 50 albums!
Best Track: Coming of Age
33. Beck – Morning Phase
Morning Phase is the 12th album from the ever changing talent that is Beck. His latest work is far more immersive and subdued than some of his earlier material. The album sees Beck at his melancholic best with a number of epic indie-folk tunes, with stand out tracks including Morning Phase and Blue Moon. Morning Phase is packed with emotion and Beck’s use of mainly acoustic guitar throughout really foregrounds this feeling, giving the album a sense of sadness and beauty. Beck is by all means a true artist, as seen by his ability to be able to harness such a wide variety of genres, whether its the alternative hip hop of his early albums, to the garage rock of his work on the Scott Pilgrim Soundtrack or even the melancholy of his indie-folk tunes. Most definitely one of the finest albums of 2014…
Best Track: Blue Moon
32. Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien
32nd place in my countdown of the top 50 albums of 2014 sees possibly the year’s greatest reinvention as Gerard Way leaves his emo My Chemical Romance roots to create a britpop inspired indie rock album. With a new style (his blue suit) and an entirely new genre, Hesitant Alien sees a total move away from Way’s MCR days swapping teen angst for distorted guitars and poppier vocals. With elements of glam rock, post-punk as well as UK britpop in the production value, Way has found a new interesting, layered sound, showing him to be a more talented musician than many had previously recognised. Hesitant Alien was all in all an accomplished debut album from a reinvented solo artist, only makes you wonder what more is to come from Gerard Way?
Best Track: No Shows
31. Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
From one truly talented guitarist to another, Benjamin Booker was one of the best things to come out of 2014. Hailing from New Orleans, Booker’s raw form of rock n’ roll is old school and of the highest calibre. Another product of the magnificent Rough Trade record label, Benjamin Booker is a truly talented musician and song writer who’s his rich, heartfelt, bluesy vocals tell tales of life in Mississippi. Transitioning between rollicking, foot stompers such as Violent Shiver and the the softer ballads (where he truly shows off his spectacular velvet voice), Benjamin Booker has well and truly created an amazing album and a real homage to old blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf. Recently supporting the likes of Jack White, I can only see a bright future for this highly skilled, Southern guitarist!!!
Best Track: Violent Shiver