Nick Fry’s (Charles Martel) Best of Everything 2014
As the end of the year approaches, it is time to look back at the releases which have really stood out over the year (and a few which have not). So here we go:
1. Nothing – “Guilty of Everything”
Finally, an American nu-gaze album which is worth hearing. Sounds like it was recorded in 1991 but only unearthed this year and then remastered. This has layers and density wrapped around proper melodies. Not since the days of Adorable and Catherine Wheel has indie rock sounded this good.
2. Popguns – “Pop Fiction”
Seventeen years after their last release, the Popguns reunion results in a new album. And it is everything you would expect from the legendary English outfit – catchy hooks, clever lyrics delivered with power and precision by vocalist Wendy Pickles (née Morgan). This album is the reason I delayed with this list – it was only released in early December.
3. Alcest – “Shelter”
Alcest’s fourth album shears off all black metal influences. What you are left with is one of the finest post-rock releases since Sigur Ros caught people’s attention at the end of the nineties.
4. Fundamentals – “Full Mental Jacket”
I had the pleasure of reviewing this album earlier this year and this is undoubtedly the finest release from an unsigned band this year. The Fundamentals play no-nonsense, down-and-dirty rock and roll and do it in a way which reminds you that, above all, music is about having fun.
5. La Sera – “Hour of the Dawn”
Putting the pop back in indie pop, La Sera show how it really should be done. This is lively, catchy and full of crisp melodies and a fun feel.
6. Strand of Oaks – “Heal”
Timothy Showalter returns with an album of personal reflections, branching out from the dark folk music of his earlier releases. Good to see a cult artist with real talent picked up by a record label and given some proper worldwide marketing.
7. Cheatahs – “Cheatahs”
Each member of the band comes from a different country but they united in London to release this nugaze album which almost reinvigorates the whole scene.
8. War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream”
Featuring Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs sound like you would wish Bruce Springsteen would sound in 2014. The band have managed the almost impossible – to make a traditional rock album sound fresh and interesting.
9. Kairon: IRSE! – “Ujubasujuba”
Were it not for the internet, no one would have heard of this outfit hailing from somewhere which, even in their native Finland, is regarded as the middle of nowhere. Shuddering layers of distorted guitars, eerie vocals and gossamer-fine melodies, this makes for an unusual combination. Only available, as far as I am aware, on a Bandcamp download.
10. Swans – “To Be Kind”
This has grown on me, but it took a while. Almost ritualistic in its delivery, Swans force you to listen, sometimes with disturbing results. In the end, there is a feeling of relief at the end of a long and difficult journey.
1. “Dig” – Nothing
2. “If You Ever Change Your Mind” – Popguns
3. “Délivrance” – Alcest
4. “Streets of Time” – the Fundamentals
5. “JM” – Strand of Oaks
6. “Away” – Alcest
7. “Geographic” – Cheatahs
8. “10 Headed Goat Wizard” – La Sera
9. “Bring the Sun/Toussaint l’Overture” – Swans
10. “Valorians” – Kairon: IRSE!
Alcest live in London, February 2014
Given that Atlantic Records re-released the first five Led Zeppelin albums, remastered, and with unreleased live and alternate recordings, it would be hard to look elsewhere for reissue of the year. So I won’t. Pick your choice out of “Led Zeppelin”, “Led Zeppelin II”, “Led Zeppelin III”, “”, and “Houses of the Holy”
Mark Kozelek appears to have lost his way. “Benji” by Sun Kil Moon has become a kind of emo without the noisy guitars and the weird clothes. This is music for suicidal people who need to justify their suicide. For anyone else, it is mawkish, mediocre and self-pitying.