In no particular order…
Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home
The Seattle band’s second LP is a brilliant testament to drunken mayhem and pondering self-reflection. Sounding a little like an all female version of DIIV. It is lyrically very open to confronting past regrets whilst, at the same time, feeling sedated to them and looking forward. Chiming counter-melody guitars aplenty and deceptively strong vocals make this record a great listen every time.
Listen to ‘Joke’
John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
A great mix of dirty synths and wonderful orchestrations still remain from his previous album Pale Green Ghosts. This third and probably most optimistic of John Grant’s albums is also his angriest. It’s packed full of wit, jibes, vamping and beautiful melodies that we have come to expect from this wonderfully talented individual –With a gorgeous baritone, John Grant threads his lyrics like a master weaver; singing acceptance of time, age and perspective. He reminisces of an old love, with the regrets still looming in the air but the happiness and comfort that he has found in his new home of Iceland shines through.
Listen to ‘Geraldine’
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
The genius that is Ruben Nielsen laments on Multi-Love about a unique situation – a polyamorous relationship that left him feeling confused and heartbroken. The sound of the record, however, is upbeat with funked-up psych riffs and the occasional latin beat thrown in – combined with the subject matter this gives the LP a truly unique feel; The most danceable record of the year.
Listen to ‘Multi-Love’
Vennart – The Demon Joke
Ex-Oceansize singer and guitarist, Mike Vennart’s first venture as a solo artist has proven to be a profound one. Finally free of the post-prog-death-indie shackles of his former group, Vennart has been able to pursue a path to pop (OK, only slightly). Written with former ‘size members Steve Durose and Gambler, the result is a fuzz heavy stomper with ACTUAL CHORUSES! Probably the most overlooked record of the year and the best guitarist on the scene.
Listen to ‘Infatuate’
Everything Everything – Get to Heaven
Manchester’s finest alt-poppers returned to their prime with their third LP – packed full of spicy guitars, dashes of politically charged lyrics and a sprinkle of Jonathan Higg’s trademark impossible and ridiculously challenging vocal lines. And they have the songs to match to make this their best effort since Mercury Prize nominated Man Alive. Criminally overlooked for the Mercury Prize this year, however, this has pushed them to their widest audience yet – playing their biggest gig earlier this year at the Manchester Apollo. A fine achievement lads.
Listen to ‘Distant Past’
Torres – Sprinter
Mackenzie Scott’s fiercely honest, touching and transparent account of her youth (even though she’s only in her mid twenties) and events that have moulded her to the woman she has become today. It is a great grungy record that is aggressive, accessible and heartbreaking and has drawn comparisons to early PJ Harvey. What about that voice though…
Listen to ‘Sprinter’
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
The Melbourne musician has a knack for imagination and has a talent for vocalising our inner most, and sometimes mundane, thoughts. This has drawn the term ‘Slacker Rock’ quite a lot for description but to suggest she lives up to this title would be way off. This, her debut album, is a definite grower with influences from the likes of Dylan, Sheryl Crow and like. Old skool rock and roll with some genuinely excellent guitar work through out – The best drive-time album of the year
Listen to ‘Elevator Operator’
Bop English – Constant Bop
White Denim front man, James Petralli AKA Bop English, made this album from a collection of new and old compositions. You can tell – you could put each song onto a different record and still it would not seem out of place. The result is a very diverse LP with a variety of influences. His wonderful guitar lines shine through and his ever more accessible vocals are allowed to grow over some truly amazing beats and rhythms. It could well be an album of White Denim B-sides but it’s still one of my choices of this year.
Listen to ‘Struck Matches’
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
The second record under the FJM moniker for Josh Tillman, the ex-Fleet Foxes drummer, is definitely his best work so far. Bathed in witty and sometimes abrupt lyrics, perhaps even influenced by John Grant, Tillman has evolved into a genre of ‘Ironica’. Occasionally self-deprecating, romantic and down right full bitch-mode but never boring this record is the evidence of a songwriter in his prime.
Listen to ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
Jamie XX – In Colour
The London producer lived up to the mass amount of hype surrounding this album with a fantastic adventure through club nostalgia and re-imagined old-school house. Influenced by raves gone by and with a couple of cameos from XX band mates Romy and Oliver – this record manages to be warm, trippy and grandiose without getting pretentious or bloated. Put together in his spare time and still includes ‘Girl’ one of my favourite tracks of 2014. Branded by some as standard music for the hipster – the quality, however, proved that it was so much more and one of the finest contemporary moments this year.
Listen to ‘Girl’
SLUG – ‘Greasy Mind’
The North East indie darlings most infectious hit from their riff heavy album RiPE. The bizarre namesake lyric that features just sticks in our greasy minds
Lonelady – ‘Silvering’
My favourite track from her album Hinterland. A trademark of the LP – full of funky guitars, 90’s club vocals and an upbeat tempo just makes you want to get up and dance
Jamie XX – ‘Loud Places (feat. Romy)’
As you might expect this track contains some excellent samples, it’s definatily the most radio friendly track on the album with band mate Romy’s beautiful voice, touching lyrics and minimal guitars makes this track work. The video is pretty awesome too
Tame Impala – ‘The Less I Know the Better’
I was slightly disappointed with the direction of their latest album Currents but this song proves that Kevin Parker can still pull it out of the bag with an infectious bass line and 80’s synths
Sleater Kinney – ‘Surface Envy’
Their album No Cities to Love just missed out on my album list but this song is an absolute belter – tons of energy and aggressive in guitars and vox complete with some excellent drumming throughout. Release the inner Riot Grrrl!
Torres – ‘Ferris Wheel’
The only song this year that made me cry
Ex Libras – ‘Woe’
Great song from a great band who no-one has ever heard of. I’ve been following them for a few years. They’re pretty consistent with evolving their sound and they’re just starting to sound like they’ve found their niche with this infectious track full of aggressive riff laden guitars and energetic drumming.
Whyte Horses – ‘La Couleur Originelle’
A lovely summery tune from Manchester’s best kept indie secret, glockenspiel and all – perfect pop.
Grimes – ‘Flesh Without Blood’
A statement of intent and a new direction for Claire Boucher. She has taken a giant step into the pop main stream universe and this song proves she probably has the staying power and talent to succeed
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’
Without a doubt the biggest booty shaking anthem of the year
Everything Everything – Academy 2 10th April
This was the pre-album warm up tour and the crowd seemed to already know most of the lyrics. A great home town gig for the band, the highlight of the night was when the whole room was bouncing to ‘Distant Past’.
British Sea Power – The Ritz 11th June
The Rough Trade legends returned to Manchester to celebrate the 12th anniversary of their debut LP The Decline of British Sea Power and promptly played the album, in it’s entirety, and in order as well! A wonderful evening of raw guitar powered nostalgia and probably the only time I would have ever heard ‘Apologies to Insect Life’ live…had I not gone to the Roundhouse gig, in London two days later.
The Holydrug Couple/Horsebeach – Soup Kitchen 8th July
I picked this one as it was such a bizarre and hazy night. Went to review without knowing any of the music but often they can turn out to be the best gigs. The Chilean outfit barely said two words to the audience but completely psyched out the crowd with an epic 15 minute wig out at the end. Before that and by a big contrast Horsebeach charmed us with their lovely chiming guitar lines and breezy vocals.
Idlewild – The Ritz 12th Sept
Never a dull night when you go and watch your favourite absolutely kill it. Idlewild released a new album this year, Everything Ever Written, and it’s their best material since 2005’s Warnings/Promises. With a new line up, their classic songs have been given a big and much needed shake up. The Scottish indie veterans are sounding like they were in their prime.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – The Ritz 26th Sep
UMO’s biggest Manchester gig to date was also their best. With the addition of Quincy McClary on keyboards the band have definitely developed their already exciting performance. Reuben seems to have a new lease of life with this stage presence too; during ‘Stage or Screen’ he descends the stage into the crowd, ending up on the bar still singing away to excited fans. The entire band all had their moments and showcased each of their obvious talents. Things can only go from strength to strength for these guys