Another year. Another cosmic rotation around the great gramophone in the sky. Another list. Proudly presenting the sixth annual HotSpotMusic Best Albums of the Year list.
Before constructing the list this year, I went back to revisit the writeups of previous years and discovered that the unique observation of most years was, in fact, a recurring pattern. Consistently I noted the blend between fresh new faces being thrust into the limelight alongside long-time returning stars. And I guess that’s the way the music industry works these days with little room inbetween for those artists who take time to grow and evolve their music.
So, I’m excited to see not one, not two but three former HSM AOTY acts (2010’s Owen Pallett, 2011’s St. Vincent and 2012’s Kishi Bashi) return with new albums this year and make their presence felt in the list too. Other observations seem trite - we have some genre-busting new music from several different angles, we have simple music and we have complex music and the death of guitar music has certainly been overplayed (much like the renaissance of vinyl, it has simply morphed and matured).
One of the major themes cutting through this list is the number of acts honing or ‘finding’ their voice by making albums that seem to perfectly distil their essence (at this time) as an artist. A major contributor to this is the production environment and so it is that 2014 is actually the year of John Congleton, the producer who has worked on a great many interesting projects this year, including each of the top three records. Congleton himself has some of his own music slated for release in 2015 but for now let’s kick back and applaud his, and everyone else’s, efforts from the last twelve months.
So, without further ado, here’s the countdown….
25. Adult Jazz - Gist Is
24. Mac Demarco - Salad Days
23. Perfume Genius - Too Bright
22. Eagulls - Eagulls
21. Ausmuteants - Order Of Operation
20. TEEN - The Way and Color
19. Metronomy - Love Letters
18. Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animal
17. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
16. Sun Kil Moon - Benji
15. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
14. Protomartyr - Under Color of Official Right
13. Spoon - They Want My Soul
12. The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers
11. Alvvays - Alvvays
10. Beck - Morning Phase
Smooth, ethereal, comforting music from Beck after some years in the wilderness
9. Owen Pallett - In Conflict
A bold progression taking the baroque pop sound found on HSM’s Album of 2010 and making it darker and richer
8. Sinkane - Mean Love
A veritable tropical salad of sounds and styles, Mean Love is the soundtrack to every summer, even when it’s not summer
7. Ex Hex - Rips
One of the simplest yet purest power pop records I’ve heard for years with tunes that stick in your head for a long time.
6. Future Islands - Singles
2014 was the year (for me as well as countless others) that Future Islands turned from indie dark horses to masters of synth pop
5. FKA Twigs - LP1
An incredible debut album that stretches the boundaries of R&B to create something distinctively sensual and enthralling
4. Ought - More Than Any Other Day
Anxiously nonchalant is how you could describe the taught, nervous, Byrnsian energy that Ought have packaged superbly on their first LP
3. Strand of Oaks - HEAL
Arena-filling intimacy is a hard thing to achieve but the powerful yet heartfelt Americana on HEAL is a heady mix
2. Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness
And speaking of heartfelt, few things can pull the heartstrings of the soul like Angel’s voice which is front and centre on this record
And finally, introducing HotSpotMusic’s favourite album of 2014:
St. Vincent - St. Vincent
It seemed tricky for Annie Clark to top Strange Mercy, the beguiling masterpiece that was this blog’s favourite of 2011, but she’s done it. Not by pushing the strangeness but by honing it, harnessing it and whipping it into varied shapes of perfect songwriting. It’s smart rock music with something to say but it has a pop soul with almost every song as catchy as hell. If you saw her live this year too, you’ll know 2014 was the year of St. Vincent.
So there you have it: 2014’s best releases in a nutshell. And now here they are in a lovely playlist:
Here’s to 2015…