Once again it is that time of year where we look back on the past 12 months of music and we decide what albums have been the standout releases of 2014.
This year we were spoilt for choice but after much conversation, the Already Heard team have decided on the Top 10 albums of 2014. From outstanding débuts to superb instrumental releases to career-best returns, we think Already Heard’s Record of the Year list sums up how great 2014 was for music.
10. Brontide – Artery
UK post/math-rock is currently riding its most consistent wave of terrific new music (as is quite clearly suggested by the genre’s unprecedented presence in our top ten. This rich national vein of form reveals itself stronger still under closer scrutiny, due to its healthy variety. While Talons took their music into a darker, much murkier place, and Axes provided an entirely bonkers palette of just about every corner of the musical spectrum, ‘Artery’ saw Brontide push their sound towards utmost clarity. From the instrumental texture, to the songs’ structure, as well as the production, ‘Artery’ is a masterclass in limpidity. Math rock, more often than not, sounds a lot like an intimidating sonic mess, the internal logic of which is the artist’s job to instil and the listener’s to decipher. As a result, a track’s emotional thread can often get lost in a sea of twiddly-distractions. ‘Artery’, on the other hand, is an instantly intelligible a math-rock album as you’re likely to find anywhere, at any time, but doesn’t ever feel simplistic either. It is, genuinely, a masterclass in patient, resolutely precise and beautifully constructed instrumental songwriting. (JBL)
9. Axes – Glory
Perhaps the most aptly named album on the list, London math-rockers Axes made this cynical soul believe in the sheer joy music can inspire again. I initially dismissed this band upon seeing them live as a “paltry Battles ripoff” – but this slice of humble pie is utterly delicious. It’s the musical equivalent of Daniel Bryan triumphantly winning the title at Wrestlemania – it sounds like eight people playing different songs at the same time, uniting under the one true power of riff. See this band live now. Now. I’m not joking, fucking NOW. The sumptuous Rush-esque basslines are worth double the entry price alone. (OC)
Axes passed on the following comment about their inclusion in Already Heard’s Record of the Year list:
“We’ve spent the past year hiding in our rehearsal room slowly losing our minds writing this album and we felt like four overly protective parents when it was finally released. So we’re very proud and happy that our baby has made your top 10 list for records of the year. It can be hard to make an album in the studio that reflects your live show. We’re really pleased that people seem to be able to hear what we’re all about when listening to it. Nice one guys!”
8. Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
The announcement early this year that The Wonder Years’ frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell would be putting out a solo project rightfully got lots of people very excited. But nobody could have predicted how special the results would be. Soupy turned master storyteller to plumb the emotional depths of the total collapse of his protagonist Aaron’s love and life, his narrative stirring, unflinching but brimming with a downtrodden charm, power and attention to detail. The soundtrack combined simple, often rustic sounding acoustic guitars with a variety of brass elements and more; entwining beautifully with the lyrical narrative to eke every last drop of feeling out of Aaron’s story and place the listener straight in his troubled shoes. ‘We Don’t Have Each Other’ was easily 2014’s most heartbreaking, unique and captivating release and as a result is more then deserving in Already Heard’s top ten. (DW)
Read our new interview with Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties here.
7. Lonely The Brave – The Day’s War
Few albums released this year have made as many appearances in basically everybody’s AOTY lists as Lonely The Brave’s staggeringly brilliant debut ‘The Day’s War’. And that’s really no surprise to anyone that’s heard it. From start to finish ‘The Day’s War’ is as complete and enthralling a Long Player as anything released by any British band in an awfully long time. One that demands you plug in some headphones, give it your undivided attention and get chills from David Jakes’ remarkable vocal performance and the gorgeous soundscape LTB have created. Never mind being one of the albums of the year, ‘The Day’s War’ is one of the best albums of the decade. (DW)
6. Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon (Music For Escapism Only)
A daring attempt at venturing away from the sound crafted on ‘Winter Forever’, ‘Reverie Lagoon: Music For Escapism Only’ is quite simply a thought provoking, aesthetic body of sound that not only delicately surpasses the passage of time but at the same time, doesn’t; it’s a whole new world of auditory pleasure to lose yourself in, only to be awoken at it’s finale from the most lavish of dreams.
From the opening of ‘Fifty-Four’ into the final climatic exposure of ‘Andreas’, to the juxtaposing of delicate and destructive in ‘Wild West Selfishness’. The band’s progression is not completely forgotten as ‘Flesh’ is like catching up with an old friend. The entirety of the album is, of course, a much more matured effort than their previous releases, but also shows a band who are straying from their contemporaries in search of new light, new beginnings and new ways to escape. As it says so itself, it’s music for escapism only. (MB)
Read our new interview with Seahaven here.
5. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time
We’ve been earmarking Moose Blood for big things for quite some time and with ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time’ they did not disappoint. Like many we were swept up in the bands crushing sentiment and modern emo pop melodies. The themes of young love and lust are consistent and accessible and are delivered in a admirable ball of jangly guitars, poppy hooks and lyrical naivety.
On ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time’, Moose Blood produced a more focused effort yet builds on the nostalgic and introspective tone used the foundations of past releases. It ebbs and flows and takes you on a journey of hope and optimism with the end result being an exceptional record from a band that has a long career ahead of themselves. (SR)
Read our new interview with Moose Blood here.
4. The Xcerts – There Is Only You
After the explosive pop-punk of ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ and the brooding ‘Scatterbrain’ it was always going to be interesting to see what the Aberdeen-via-Brighton three-piece would do next. The hope was they’d deliver something special – but no-one could have expected something so perfectly life-affirming as ‘There Is Only You’.
Ever the teases, the slow-building instrumental of ‘2.12.12’ prolongs the reveal – but the moment the opening riff to ‘Live Like This’ kicks in, it’s begging you to bounce along in delight. Every song is bigger than the last, with ‘Kick It’, ’Pop Song’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ all stadium-sized anthems. It’s exhausting stuff as huge songs crash into each other, but they all will you to throw your first in the air and sing along. And, when the drums kick in midway through the closing, rousing, title track, the level of elation and satisfaction is unparalleled.
Combining the effervescent fun of ‘In The Cold Wind We Smile’ and the maturity of ‘Scatterbrain’, ‘There Is Only You’ is a wonderfully rounded modern alt-rock record imbued with that touch of inspiration The Xcerts have always threatened to deliver. For them, it’s career-defining; for us it’s one of the musical highlights of the year. (RM)
Read our new interview with The Xcerts here.
3. La Dispute – Rooms of the House
The easy option for Michigan heavyweights La Dispute would have been to deliver ‘Wildlife’ MKII – a cathartic, bruising and powerful post-hardcore record driven by Jordan Dreyer’s raw lyrics and passionate vocals.
Instead, they took a step back and considered the bigger picture. The result is an album with such phenomenal scope and depth it’s almost cinematic. From the furious and tempestuous ‘Stay Happy There’ to the achingly beautiful ‘Women (Reading)’ , ‘Rooms of the House’ is so considered and structured and layered everything down to the smallest detail has significance. Whether it’s the mundane facts of everyday life – doing the dishes or listening to the sound of the coffee maker – or the larger questions about life and death, everything fits together beautifully, giving ‘Rooms of the House’ a grounded, real-life edge most bands could only dream of recreating.
There was, of course, a danger such a concept could have become burdensome and restrictive, yet it’s an issue deftly addressed by Dreyer and Co, as they navigate time and space through changes in mood and tempo to help guide the narration. The result is a thematic and musical triumph which can be considered equal to – if not better than – its lauded predecessor. (RM)
2. Talons – New Topopgraphics
This was my number two record of the year, and sits behind my favourite record of 2014 on our list; if Sean’s done it any kind of justice, you’ll see why. However, this album is no afterthought, no throwaway runner-up prize; in a year when British math & post-rock is undergoing something of a renaissance, Talons’ second record stands head and shoulders above an impressive chasing pack. Clearly influenced by the breakout success of Deafheaven last year, Talons take you to some dark places on this album; see ‘The Dreams Have No Dream’ for evidence. Brutal, beautiful and an emotive masterwork without a single word being spoken, this little old land may have finally found its equivalent to Godspeed You! Black Emperor in this Herefordshire sextet. (OC)
Talons bassist Chris Hick passed on the following comment on ‘New Topopgraphics’:
“Thanks a lot for including ‘New Topographics’ in this list, it’s always nice to hear people’s reaction to our music – especially as it’s been four years since the first album. To us, ‘Hollow Realm’ to us feels like a snapshot of the time, we were all residing in Hereford then, and on the most part, our lives revolved around keeping this small band churning along. Once the first record was released, we spent the best part of two years touring around the UK and mainland Europe in our tiny blue van. Eventually we drifted apart to some extent, leaving Hereford to study for degrees, work on new projects and in one case, start a family.
After such a long time without releasing any music, we wanted to write a record that reflects our current situations. We wrote this record as a response to the everyday worlds we reside in, with members of Talons now spread out across the country in various cities.
We wanted to create an album that was a reflection of the shared relationships we have with the architecture that envelops us, and how we unwittingly interact with our surroundings on a daily basis. The artwork was also a crucial means of portraying these themes, by forming an ambiguous representation of the real world, rather than representing a set geographical location.
‘New Topographics’ is very much a collaborative album in the sense that all band members contributed significantly to the writing process, which has led to something we feel is truly representative of our collective tastes and meditations as a band.
You can read about some of the concepts behind the record and view some of the artwork here.”
1. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
Whilst some albums were simply superb in 2014, no other record exceeded making an impact more than The Hotelier’s ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’. Having been released under the radar of many back in February, the albums reputation has spread through word of mouth for the best part of 2014, and for good reason.
From the stirring opener ‘An Introduction to the Album’ all the way through to ‘Dendron’, you’re left hanging on to every last word from Christian Holden as his band takes you on an emotional journey of highs and lows. At times its throughly intense (‘Life In Drag’) yet its counter-balanced by laid back, bittersweet songs like ‘Among the Wildflowers’ and ‘Discomfort Revisited’.
Lyrically The Hotelier allowed the listener to adopt their own meaning from every song on ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’. It gives them the opportunity to find something to connect with throughout the nine track record. Whether its relief, hope, despair, isolation, or grief, ‘Home’ is a cathartic record where the band and listener become one. Together they produce an emotional outpouring that is simply gratifying.
Its ideally rough around the edges yet through the bands lyrical prowess and musical rawness, they’ve rewarded themselves, and us as music fans, a remarkable record that resonates beyond the confines of genre definitions. ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ has been embraced by many and we’re sure it’s influence and impact will continue to grow in the years to come. (SR)
Read our new interview with The Hotelier here.
Words by Sean Reid (SR), Rob Mair (RM), Mikey Brown (MB), Dan Wirght (DW), and James Berclaz Lewis (JBL)