Thoughts on 2014 … extract from my end of year compilation sleevenotes

Throughout 2014 I had a sinking feeling that it was bound to be a somewhat underwhelming year for new music to the extent that by the end of August I could only
generally name 4-5 albums that I had any time for. This may have been due to my lack of time to investigate the ever increasing number of releases recommended on blogs, twitter, messageboards, apps, magazines (yes they still exist) and by friends due to other (more important?) things such as life, work and family or maybe it was just one of those
years (like 2008 or 1998) . . .

However the beauty of compiling annual end of year compilations and lists is that, despite a growing number of detractors, it is a fantastic way of discovering and rediscovering new music. Over the last 5-6 weeks I’ve been revisiting albums or listening to newly acquired CD’s ….(yes they also still exist as well and people do still buy them to answer the question the salesperson in Reading HMV asked me when I was making a regular purchase earlier this year) that peaked my interest having read through the exhaustive amount of end of year lists out there (which seem to being published so early that I wouldn’t be surprised if a record industry decision is taken to stop releasing records after August soon). In doing this I realised that 2014 wasn’t quite so underwhelming after all, what was lacking was probably 2 or 3 out and out great albums but that is still too early to call after only a maximum of 12 months of listening to these records. However, for what it’s worth, in my opinion 7-8 of the albums I’ve listed above work very well as “albums” (an art form we were told by the “Controller” of Radio 1 was irrelevant during 2014) and I can see myself coming back to rather than consigning to the neat box of 2014 which gathers cobwebs and is never listened to again once compiled and listed.

My favourite album was a close run thing between a what seems a very unfashionable record (not contained in any lists or even widely reviewed) and one which was universally loved by what remains of the music press. The new (We Are?) Augustines record just pipped The War on Drugs, the reason? … well I don’t really have one, ask me next Tuesday and I’ll probably prefer Lost In The Dream …. but as a soundtrack to a rather beautiful coach journey from Logrono in Rioja to San Sebastian as my wife and son slept next to me and then a triumphant end of year gig at the Roundhouse I’ve developed a rather special affection for the Augustines.

Ultimately this is the differentiator as to why some albums stay with us and become favourites, for the emotions and memories they elicit when we listen as well as the appreciation of the fantastic music. As I sit writing this (listening to Catherine Wheel and Charlatans albums from 1992) in 3 January 2015 I’m excited about sharing this list and the compilation CD’s that accompany it with you in the hope that you may discover something new and share my enthusiasm for some of these bands as much as I am excited about the next enthusiastic recommendation I receive from you, whether it’s new music released in 2015 or a random record from any other year.

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Top 25 – Albums of 2014

1. Augustines – Augustines
2. Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs
3. Manipulator – Ty Segall
4. They Want My Soul – Spoon
5. The Hum- Hookworms
6. It’s Album Time – Todd Terje
7. Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son – Damien Jurado
8. Atomos – A Winged Victory For The Sullen
9. They Worshipped Cats – Les Big Byrd
10. Run the Jewels 2 – Run the Jewels
11. Distance – Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards
12. Sukierae – Tweedy
13. Amphetamine Ballads – Amazing Snakeheads
14. This Is All Yours – Alt-J
15. Present Tense – Wild Beasts
16. Commune – Goat
17. Familiars – Antlers
18. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – Thom Yorke
19. Do The Beast – The Afghan Whigs
20. Our Love – Caribou
21. Divide & Exit – Sleaford Mods
22. Wig Out At Jagbags – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
23. Embrace – Embrace
24. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
25. Black Hours – Hamilton Leithauser

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Wednesday – 9 May 2012 musicdiary2012#

Had a meeting in London today so had 1 hour plus commute on the 7.15am train, which suited me as I had the new My Bloody Valentine reissues to devour. What didn’t suit me was the horrific congested standing conditions, made me glad that I usually have a 15 minute walk to the office.

I selected Loveless on my iPhone first, the Digital Remaster (or so I thought until Nick Southall’s blog directed me to this the next day so it appears it was the Analogue Remaster).

Loveless is a record I would say I have always admired rather than loved, but this week (and I’ll write more about this followed repeated listens) I’ve enjoyed Loveless more than ever before and now (nearly) understand what the fuss is about. Even without it being a record I’ve regularly listen to or listened to a lot of in the past, every track was familiar, Soon and Sometimes in particular are tracks I had in playlists for my 3 month sabbatical in South East Asia. For the first the however standing on a crowded commuter train it genuinely clicked into place, like a picture coming into focus through  a viewfinder, or with Loveless a deliberately out of focus picture which looks great.

After Loveless I listened to Disc 1 of EP’s 1988 – 1991 by My Bloody Valentine, or most of it, I got to the EP version of Soon just as I arrived at my destination. Unlike the previous listens these were not tracks I was overfamiliar with but whilst walking and taking the Tube they sounded great at 8am.

After my meeting we went fro drinks in a pub and a bar, some music was playing but have to say thinking now I can’t remember for the life of me what was played.

On return to Reading and for my walk home I went back to EP’s 1988 – 1991 by My Bloody Valentine, however Glider after a 6am start following 2-3 hours sleep and a view glasses of red wine just sounded way too harsh for my tired head so I flicked to my The National playlist on my iPhone and listened to:

Runaway – The National

Terrible Love – The National

London  – The National

As a postscrip to the day after watching The Apprentice, I vaguely listened to the first 3 tracks from The Cribs new album In the Belly of the Brazen Bull. I’m not a big fan and actually downloaded from eMusic by mistake as I had meant to save it for later and maybe check it out following the good Drowned In Sound review. From what I heard of it it’s likely that I won’t be a fan anytime soon.

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Tuesday 8 May 2012 – musicdiary2012#

Was hoping to listen to more today, particularly as my My Bloody Valentine Reissues arrived from Amazon, but unfortunately was very busy at work which meant I was limited to listening on the way in and then again on the way back on my iPhone.

I selected for the journey in my Current Playlist for May and June 2o12, which is a combination of favourite new tracks from new release records I have recently bought, tracks off reissues /   newly discovered old records I have recently bought and tracks from records I have been revisiting. I have been making these playlists for 6 years now since I got my first iPod. Two months worth usually gives me 60-70 tracks by the end of the period which is unite an eclectic mix and a nice record of what I was listening to at that time.

So tracks listened to today were:

Way to work at 8.30am

Spiritualized – I Am What I Am

Lee Ranaldo – Tomorrow Never Comes

Allo Darlin’ – My Sweet Friend

Django Django – Introduction

Way home from work at 10pm:

Moonface – Heartbreaking Bravery

Howlin Rain – Can’t Satisfy Me Now

The Jesus and Mary Chain – All Things Must Pass

I did after getting home and eating dinner at 10:30pm (never fun or good for you) rip the MBV reissued and put them on my iPhone so had them for listening the next day to listen to whilst travelling up to London for a meeting. In doing this I decided to listen to one track as (1) I didn’t want to soil the experience of listening all the way through and (2) MBV at 11:.30pm won’t put you in the mood for sleep. The track I selected was You Made Me Realise, as it isn’t something I own or have as an MP3 and you don’t hear it on the radio or in clubs that often, so haven’t heard it much or in a long day.

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Monday 7 May 2012 – #musicdiary2

Recession Hits Glastonbury

Bit late on writing the blog for the music diary project this year, as I’m currently writing this on the Sunday 13 May. Also noticed that I haven’t actually written any further entries since last year and also never wrote up Sunday for the music diary project 2011!

So anyway music listening on Monday:

Very light for listening to music as had the family visiting for the Bank Holiday.

Although as my alarm went off at 7am (as it was a Monday and I forgot to turn off) I put on the Shaun Keaveny Breakfast Show on BBC 6Music to have in the back ground as I slumbered. Consulting the playlist from his website, the following was on when I was listening which I took note of:

Word Up – Cameo

Take It Easy – Eagles

National Express- Divine Comedy

Watched the Homeland finale, which had some miscellaneous Jazz and original score music in it, something sounded like Terminal 7 by  Tomasz Stanko Quintet and I tried to Shazam the music over the closing credits but it came up blank, must try and find that song.

Then I slept on the sofa for 4 hours, watched  Justified which had some blues song in a scene between Boyd and Limehouse which I liked.

That was it.

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Saturday 9 April 2011 – #musicdiaryproject

Skyline, Makati, Manila - August 2010So I’m writing this Tuesday night, as on Saturday evening I wrote Friday’s mammoth entry, then Sunday was a relaxation day with no computers and then Monday I worked until gone 9pm, got home late and was in no way inclined to spend more time in front of computer.

I’ve just put on the new Metronomy album which after hearing the single on Shaun Keaveny’s Breakfast Show this morning has got me very excited and a further good review by John Mulvey on his Uncut Wild Mercury Sound blog (comparing it so summer listen in the vein of Phoenix) has prompted me to listen on Spotify.

That aside what did I listen to on Saturday and how?:

First thing I remember was waking up with Bone Machine by The Pixies in my head, as I was thinking about a visit to France on an Easter holiday with my family. My best friend at the time made me a copy of Bleach by Nirvana on tape and stuck Surfer Rosa by The Pixies on the other side to take up the blank space of the C90. At the time I was startled by such a raw and alien sound, I was firmly into Grunge (mostly Nirvana) and was beginning to veer towards a short-lived Metal phase (a small spell where Metallica were my favourite band) but this was something different and when I look back I love the way that such an important discovery was so accidental, by virtue of how music was consumed at that time.

10am I flicked on Adam and Joe’s BBC 6Music Show using the iPhone to listen through the Tunein Radio app. I had been fearing that I would miss Collins and Herring, but Adam and Joe are designed for this slot, the mix of humour and enthusiasm for music make it a great Saturday morning listen. Songs of note were:

Street Tuff – Rebel MC (just before Adam and Joe started maybe, love primitive early 90’s dance, prompted me to breakdown all the basic elements and sing these to my wife whilst we lay in bed listening)

Fascinating Rhythm – Bassomatic (prompted the exact response for Street Tuff, including singing of broken down individual parts)

Month of May – Arcade Fire (danced whilst lying in bed)

Intergalactic – Beastie Boys

Battery Kinzie – Fleet Foxes

Caught In My Shadow – Wonder Stuff (always love hearing early 90’s indie)

Summer Madness – Kool & The Gang (the one that forms the basis of Summertime by Will Smith & DJ Jazzy Jeff, the bassline just makes you feel like it’s a sweltering day outside)

Blitzkreig Bop – The Ramones (I had “Hey-Ho Let’s Go” ringing through my head for a good two hours after)

We then prepared for a picnic , visited the bookies, went to the park, ate the picnic, headed back to watch the Grand National during which time I heard no music other than snippets from a few car windows which were down due to the beauty of the day but I was unable to tell what any songs were. The Grand National had some music on the coverage leading up to the race but either I wasn’t sure what it was or if I did know I didn’t remember it.

Then after having picked horses finishing 1, 2 and  4 headed back to the bookies to pick up the winnings (£55 from £20 bet, good but not a career and the guy on the till knowingly said “see you next year” which raised a smile) I sat in front of the computer to write Friday’s blog and as is the norm put some music on (using iTunes).

First I played Carnival of Light by Ride as after having From Time To Time in my head the previous day I had promised myself I would listen to the whole album. It was as good as I remembered it and actually underrated, probably as it was something of a departure from their previous records. When it came out I hadn’t heard much late 60’s / early 70’s Stones or The Faces so it was new and fresh and in a way it still sounds like that as I heard this first no matter how derivative it is. Also, to me, Birdman and Moonlight Medicine are dense, psychedelic and wonderful and remind of a sweltering summer, listening with my windows wide open looking at a spectacular view and also strangely watching World Cup 94 (the last good World Cup). When Carnival of Light ended iTunes played Leave Them All Behind and Twisterella and it would have been wrong to turn either off.

After Ride I turned to Warren Zevon as I was writing about Funny People and downloaded the track Keep Me In You Heart, the download failed so I turned to Spotify to listen.

I then stuck on The Veils new EP  Troubles of the Brain EP, I was still writing, I chose it as I love this record.

However whilst writing about Friday Night Dinner I jumped after 3 tracks of The Veils EP and listened to I Hot Those – Casio KidsMeddle – Little BootsAnimal (Punks Jump Up Remix) – Miike Snow all on Spotify and then dowloaded Casio Kids on eMusic and listened again.

Casio Kids led into Cats Eye’s – Cat’s Eyes alphabetically and I listened to the first five tracks as it sounded really good.  However I was writing about Later with Jools Holland and decided to listen to King of Spain – Tallest Man On Earth which led into Love Is All. I put the final touches to Friday’s entry and went back to the final 3 songs on Troubles of the Brain EP – The Veils.

That was it for Saturday, I watched some TV and don’t remember any music heard incidentally.

UPDATE: Metronomy was a little bit disappointing, however Alexi Murdoch has a new album out, which was a complete surprise after 5 years and it sounds amazing.

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Friday 8 April 2011 – #musicdiaryproject

Mammoth music listening day today as on Doctor’s order I was told to take a long weekend to rest up after leaving Hospital. Taking time off work is not something I’m used to and I would usually drag myself into work unless I literally can’t get out of bed. However the Hospital incident had given me sufficient concern to follow Doctor’s orders.

For me relaxing is listening to music so after a long sleep and lie-in to around midday I took myself to the music room / office / spare room for some dedicated listening and also listening whilst writing the Monday to Thursday entries for this blog. The strange thing was when writing the blog what I was writing in some cases informed what I would chose to listen to.

Listening was as follows:

Smile EP + 2 tracks from Carnival of Light – Ride

I read an article in Uncut Magazine first thing on the making of the first Ride EP, so I was inspired to give it a listen. Weirdly I started at Drive Blind (track 2) then went back to Chelsea Girl when I reached the end. After Chelsea Girl I had From Time to Time (from Carnival 0f Light) lodged in my head so decided to play it and that led into Natural Grace the next track on the album. Carnival of Light is an often derided Ride album but was actually the first of their albums I bought on CD (I had Going Blank Again taped from the library as I was in love with Leave Them All Behind from first hearing it on the BBC Top 40 when it entered at No.9 and Reverence by JAMC entered at No.10, what a week!) so I do have a natural fondness for it but still think it is a very good album and think I’ll give it a listen this weekend.

Screamadelica + Dixie Narco EP (remasters) – Primal Scream (from Higher Than The Sun onwards)

When Ride finished I noticed it was gloriously sunny and I fancied listening to something to match the mood outside, Screamadelica is one of my first choices for great weather. I decided to start at Higher than the Sun. I have had a strong impulse to listen to that as soon as I think of Screamadelica after the Brixton show in March where it was the definite highlight for me especially as it merged into the Dub Symphony in Two Parts and had a fantastic jammed outro. After it finished I decided to stay with the rest of the album as I need to hear both Come Together and Loaded on a beautiful sunny day, it’s some kind of music law. After which I let the album play out as I surfed the net, took a shower and generally relaxed. The remaster sounds great as I had bought the super deluxe boxset version as a present for myself, for beating my best half-marathon time earlier in the month, excessive price but I think this is one of the few albums I would buy such a boxset for. I keep meaning to buy The Stone Roses boxset as well but still can’t bring myself to make such a lavish spend when there is so much new music I want to buy. One thing I noticed during the album (from the play counts) was in comparison how little I have listened to Shine Like Stars, not sure why, it’s not that I don’t like it, maybe just after the heights of the Dub Symphony I don’t think anything can top it and turn off or go elsewhere. Anyway…

Space Is Only Noise – Nicolas Jarr

… on return from making some breakfast/ brunch and during the Dixie Narco EP I started writing the Blog, during writing I e-mailed Nick Southall to let him know that I would be participating in the Music Diary Project and had a flick through his blog. The Nicolas Jarr album has been in my eMusic Save For Later list since it came out, I liked the first track on a listen last week and it seemed to have a good write up from Nick on his blog so I was in the mood for something new and downloaded it from eMusic. I played it through from start to finish. Another album I definitely look forward to coming back to, especially for summer listening, light, breezy, relaxing with lots of good sounds going on.

Constant Future – Parts & Labor

After Nicolas Jarr finished I put on another recent download from eMusic, the new Parts & Labor album. Don’t really know much about this band but read a DiS messageboard post how the album had some songs with weird time signatures which spiked my interest, noticed it was on Jagjaguwar Records (a general sign of quality) and flagged it as one for investigation. Three of the tracks I listened to on Spotify made the Current – April 2011 Playlist on iTunes (Hurricane, Constant Future, Never Changer) so I was looking forward to listening to the album through and  wasn’t disappointed. Sounds really good, but I was writing the majority of the blog during the album so it didn’t have my full attention but I will be going back.

Welcome to Lunar Industries / Two Weeks and Counting … – Clint Mansell (from the Moon Soundtrack)

I continued to write the blog, and this was one of the choices which was informed by writing about my listening earlier in the week. I was writing about Wednesday’s music and noted that the piano on With Love by Elbow sounded like a piano figure from the Moon soundtrack, so whist writing I played the track which is definitely very similar and it ran into the subsequent track on the soundtrack. Great film and great soundtrack.

Journey to the Line – Hans Zimmer (from the Thin Red Line soundtrack)

Whilst I was thinking about soundtracks I remembered the last piece of music I had heard before I went to Hospital on Wednesday night, it was on the advert for the new Kennedy’s drama on the History Channel. I knew the music but couldn’t place it (big emotional orchestral piece) so Shazammed it on the iPhone app and noted to listen to it later.

Rejoice – Secret Mountains

Took a break from writing and decided to listen to some new tracks I had downloaded from Pitchfork, this was the first. Not bad.

Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins rework) – Starslinger

This was the 2nd as it followed alphabetically, good track, will go back.

Still Sound – Toro y Moi

Not really been hit by Toro y Moi, despite / because of  the hype, plus the new album sleeve disgusts me, what the hell is on his face? Please tell me it is grapefruit pieces and not weird polyps or something (I’ve just Googled it and found this interview, it’s pomelo). This however sounded good on a breezy sunny day. Listened as it followed alphabetically.

On the Corner / Blackbird and the Fox – Twilight Singers

A band I seem to own every album by since I loved the first album after adoring 1965 by The Afghan Whigs. Before buying I downloaded a couple of free tracks from the Sub Pop website. Will definitely buy the album at some point. Listened as it followed alphabetically.

Troubles of the Brain EP – The Veils

I love this new EP and decided to sit back and enjoy it from start to finish. Another eMusic download.

Crazy Yes Dumb No – The Naked and the Famous

iTunes single of the week from a few weeks back, hadn’t listened yet. It’s ok.

Think You Can Wait – The National

Listened as it followed alphabetically. Have written about the track earlier in the week.

Belong – The Pains of the Pure Beating Heart (Tracks 1 – 3)

Went back to write about Thursday’s listening and decided to stick on a newly downloaded album from eMusic which has had some decidedly mixed reviews, got as far as track 3 before ….

Music from Treme

… I started writing about David Simon’s Treme and was inspired to dig out a few of the tunes. Firstly online samples on Amazon.com before moving to Spotify to listen to the actual sountrack. I listened to Feel Like Funkin’ It Up (Street Version) by The Rebirth Brass Band I really cannot recommend this tune more, especially if you love brass / horns (which I do), so goddamn funky; Shame Shame Shame by Steve Zahn and Friends a George W. Bush baiting post-Katrina rant wrapped in some funky blues, Steve Zahn’s Davis has been cited in reviews of Treme as potentially ruinous, not sure he is even polarising as no one seems to like him, is it wrong that I don’ t mind him too much?; and Indian Red (Wild Man Memorial) by Mardi Gras Indians one of my favourite tracks from a scene involving the fantastic Chief Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters).

Belong – The Pains of the Pure Beating Heart (Tracks 4 – 10)

After finishing writing briefly about Treme and digging out a cool sunset photo I took on my trip to New Orleans for the blog entry I went back to the The Pains of the Pure Beating Heart album. Passed me by, a bit generic indie rock, maybe in a good way, may listen again.

Last Night At The Jetty – Panda Bear

Listened as it followed alphabetically. can’t wait for the album. Want that Record Store Day version with the awesome T-Shirt.

I then decided to have a break from listening / writing / surfing and went to watch some TV with my wife. We watched the final two episodes of Justified which had been shown on Five USA this week. Music wise during the viewing there was the theme tune and closing the final episode was a pretty cool country track which I’ve now found is You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive by Brad Paisley. If you haven’t seen Justified yet you definitely should, however I still cannot get over how much Timothy Olyphant looks like Jimmy Anderson, it’s uncanny.

I then went to listen to some more music before dinner.

Yuck – Yuck (Tracks 9 – 12)

One of my favourite records this year for it’s unashamed rip-off / homage of earlier 90’s indie rock mainly Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub, but equally it’s an album that Steve Lamacq could have played a track from circa 1993 on the Evening Session and I would have probably ignored. I listened to tracks 9-12 as I hadn’t given them a listen since my first few play throughs, tracks 9-11 are the album’s weakest but final track Rubber is a guitar-fuelled beast.

Several Shades of Why – J Mascis

Realised I hadn’t played through since I bought this two weeks ago, which is a breach of my new music buying / listening rules. Picks up in the 2nd half and some good guitar solos for an “acoustic” album. Will definitely be back.

If I Had A Boat – James Vincent McMorrow

Listened as it followed alphabetically. Really good track, an iTunes single of week, will give the album a listen on Spotify.

Country Dumb (Piano Version) / Thou Art Loosed – Josh T Pearson

Was chatting with my wife and these were in the background as they followed the last songs played alphabetically in the recently added playlist.

After which I then decided to spend the rest of the evening watching TV. We watched the Judd Apatow movie Funny People which was a lot better than I thought it would be as it had been on the Sky + box since it was first premiered on Sky Movies. I enjoyed the stand up and the ensemble cast was strong. Music wise there was a constant reference to Wilco throughout and a live version of Jesus etc. featured. Otherwise there was lot of West Coast soft rock including a fairly touching moment with a song I now know is Keep Me In Your Heart by Warren Zevon (I’ve just downloaded it whilst writing).

After Funny People finished my wife quickly watched American Idol mostly on fast forward, I heard a flash of Unchained Melody by a former alumni (as Ryan Seacrest put it) I can’t be bothered to look who it was and the version was awful. Iggy Pop played Wild One, which was not great and then there was a shock eviction and one of the favourites sung I’ll Stand By You by The Pretenders as a leaving song, the music went out of tune as did the vocals and the whole thing was quite poor for a show watched by 50 million people or whatever.

Friday Night Dinner was next, a good show which could be better and the definite highlight is Mark Heap as the creepy next door neighbour very much like his roles in Blue Jam / Jam and in Spaced, I convulse with laughter at his interactions with his dog. Music wise the music doesn’t quite fit with a show ostensibly about having dinner at your parents, although it is rather good (I Hot Those – Casio Kids, Meddle – Little Boots, Animal (Punks Jump Up Remix) – Miike Snow).

Before sleep I noticed that Jools Holland (I now can’t watch him without thinking of Joe Cornish’s hilarious impression) had a new series so switched over hoping to see Elbow. I saw Tallest Man On Earth play King of Spain and noted to listen to the album I had downloaded last year (and only listened to once) as live he seemed a completely different artist. Beady Eye then played Millionaire, Andy Bell was playing on the last piece of music I would hear that that day and coincidentally he also played on the first piece of music I heard that day, he looked incredibly bored, though maybe a little less than Liam who growled with no passion. I switched off after 30 seconds I had seen enough….

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