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The 50 best albums of 2014

Features

As is traditional, we’ve waited a little longer than most to post our favourite albums of the year, partly to avoid the desperate rush to get these bloody lists up first, and partly to give us time to assess all the albums released in December. As it turned out the Wu-Tang Clan, Smashing Pumpkins and Nicki Minaj albums were all shite so we needn’t have bothered on the latter front, but hey ho, it’s not completely outlandish that one of them could’ve pleasantly surprised us? And the Lord RAJA album came close to inclusion to be fair.

Anyway, the other reason we wait a little longer is to see what everyone else picks and make sure there’s nothing undeniably brilliant that we’ve missed. We listen to a ridiculous amount of music at The Monitors (a couple of us work in music sync, meaning that listening to new music is pretty much our job description), but there’s always something that slips past. Although actually, this year, not so much. In fact, most of the lists we’ve seen seem to be either very underwhelming or very predictable – in many cases, both.

Seriously, there are a lot of extremely dull albums that seem to be in virtually every list, to the point where you start to question whether maybe you’ve got it wrong and they’re actually works of genius. Then you listen to them again and realise, no, they’re the same steaming vessels of effluence that they appeared to be in the first place. I’ve been perplexed to hear so many people moan about how bad a year it was for albums, but after reading these lists I finally understand why – the music people are being told is good isn’t actually that good (naming no names… but only because the worst offenders will be cropping up in our ‘most disappointing albums of 2014’ list very soon).

People don’t have that much time to seek out and discover new music themselves, so many rely on critics to let them know the albums they should definitely check out. Which is why it’s disappointing that many critics appear to have reached a very narrow consensus of what that is. I have absolutely no data to back this up with, but you’d imagine that the ease of releasing music digitally would result in more albums being released now than ever before; yet if you look through the end of year lists there might as well have only been a couple of hundred put out.

Anyway, this whineging intro has obviously set us up for a massive fall, not least because our own best albums of 2014 list does indeed include a bunch of albums you’ll have already seen on other lists. Meanwhile, the records featured here that you may not have seen appear on any other round-ups could lead to accusations of us choosing them just to be different. That is definitely not the case. Every album on this list is there solely on its own merits, as we only choose to cover music we’re genuinely excited about. While sometimes that excitement is doomed to be dashed on the rocks of disappointment, the albums below are the ones that both justified and reinvigorated it, reminding us just why we love writing about music.

To that end, a very heartfelt thank you to all our contributors. Whether rhapsodising or rubbishing, it’s a real pleasure to be bombarded with words by such a well-informed, discerning, funny and opinionated bunch. I’d like to particularly thank Nicholas Burman, Luke O’Dwyer, Emma Hall and Ted Ralph, whose writing is consistently impressive in frequency, quality and, perhaps most importantly when I’m uploading it in a bleary-eyed haze in the morning, the ability to crack me up. Thanks a lot guys.

Anyway, enough of my bollocks. Hopefully this list will introduce you to your next musical love, but even if not, at least it’s a bit different eh? Merry Christmas.

Kier Wiater Carnihan

Actress – Ghettoville (Werk Discs / Ninja Tune)

“‘Ghettoville’ is the best album of its type since last year’s Huerco S. LP, and the most cohesive and affecting Actress record yet. If it does turn out to be the record Darren Cunningham retires his pseudonym with, it’s a fitting way to bow out.” Kier Wiater Carnihan

Read a bunch of Actress-inspired poetry here. Honestly.

Alex Banks – Illuminate (Monkeytown)

One of the most richly produced albums of the year, combining the fluidity of James Holden, the depth of Nicolas Jaar, the pop nous of Goldfrapp and the muscular beats of Banks’ label bosses, Modeselektor. The fact he also secured the vocal talents of Elizabeth ‘Gazelle Twin’ Bernholz, the woman behind one of the other stand-out electronic albums of this year, just seems greedy. KWC

Anenon – Sagrada (Non Projects)

A surprise favourite of the year; the relatively unknown LA producer delivered a subtle but perfectly formed jazz -influenced, electronica-based emotional ride with Sagrada. Landscapes and dreams pop and fizzle through the likes of ‘Karma’ and ‘The Colour White’. Do not playlist or shuffle it, put it on from start to finish and allow it to swallow you up. Nicholas Burman

Read our full review here.

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)

“Invocations of Dylan, Sandoval, Breeders and Pavement flutter (and sometimes skulk) by on this album, and I’m neither the first nor the last to mention Leonard Cohen in relation to ‘White Fire’; frankly there’s no getting around it. Whilst the song’s “Everything is tragic, it all just falls apart” opening line is almost a caricature of the Canadian, it broods and grows into a hypnotic seven-minute exercise in disguised optimism, the bass and guitar dancing a constant, stalking waltz.” Kwojo Ackah

Read our full review here.

Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche – Zubberdust! (Constellation)

Montreal’s Constellation Records put out some beauties this year, and this was one of the best. Though split into ten tracks (perhaps a smart way of maximising streaming royalties?), the album basically centres around two long pieces, both of which are explored with a relentless enthusiasm and almost reckless disdain for restraint. If you find a lot of modern krautrock-inspired music oddly humourless, this is the antidote you need. KWC

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste (Azealia Banks / Prospect Park)

This album was in production for so long that there was a risk no one would really care when it did finally emerge, especially as people seem more interested in Banks’ twitter account than her music these days. Yet Broke With Expensive Taste was everything her old sparring partner Angel Haze’s debut sadly wasn’t: sharp, rowdy and stylistically volatile in the most fun way possible. Anyone who takes on both 2-step and surf-pop on one album has to be pretty confident, and while there was never any doubt about Banks’ self-belief, it’s a relief to confirm that it’s justified. KWC

BadBadNotGood – III (Innovative Leisure)

This Canadian trio have generally been better-known for their work with the Odd Future clan, and their previous albums have relied heavily on covers of everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to My Bloody Valentine. III, however, is their first album comprised entirely of originals. The fact it’s also their best, moulding free-flowing, seventies-style jazz-funk into surprisingly tight compositions, says it all. While an upcoming collaborative album with Ghostface Killah means they’re not leaving themselves entirely to their own devices just yet, III proves that they don’t need big names to produce big tunes. KWC

Big Freedia – Just Be Free (Queen Diva)

I reckon the best capsule review is that the faintly terrifying trap of ‘Mo Azz’ actually almost made me grab hold of my ankles in the middle of a busy Brighton shopping street and start attempting to twerk. Freedia has AUTHORITY. It’s brash, it’s blunt, it’s harsh and often unpleasant, but on its own terms I haven’t heard a better, more intense album this year. Alex Allsworth

Read our full review here.

Brace/Choir – Turning On Your Double (Tapete)

“Brace/Choir sound like a band who’re trying to actually do something (ie, more than the bare minimum many groups try to get away with). They swap instruments between songs, rotate vocal responsibilities, write each other’s lyrics, and pen songs about multiple personality disorder and identity theft… The warming, whirring psychedelia of Turning On Your Double is capable of putting you in the most delicious daze.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Chapelier Fou – Deltas (Ici d’ailleurs)

“If one wanted to describe Chapelier Fou’s music in the language of a cultural studies student, one would say the combination of highbrow classical instruments with old school adolescent video game technology makes for a delightful post-modern juxtaposition. But I won’t, because it would make me sound like a twat. Instead, I’ll say this: it rocks.” Zoe Cormier

Read our spotlight piece on Chapelier Fou here.

Christian Fitness – I Am Afraid Of Everything That Isn’t Me (self-released)

Recorded at his home and almost entirely alone by Future of the Left frontman Andrew Falkous, this collection of self-released songs is definitely classic Falco. Witty, pithy and spiteful, but more fun than a room of religious fanatics in spandex, working out to Mr Motivator videos. It’s certainly more lo-fi than current FOTL records, with a scratchier fuzzed out sense of pop immediacy like a throwback to Mclusky’s earlier offerings. Sexy. Luke O’Dwyer

Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)

“If you’ve been waiting for an album that fuses African field recordings and traditional percussion with trap, techno and footwork beats… OK, chances are you probably haven’t, but you should be damn glad it’s here. Every time I’ve played Clap! Clap! in public, whether DJing or to colleagues at work, someone has come up to me within seconds to ask me who it was. Seriously: Every. Single. Time.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Clark – Clark (Warp)

Richard D. James may have taken all the attention when it came to Warp Records this year, but it was Chris Clark who delivered the stronger album. While Aphex’s Syro was about as consistent an album as he’s ever released, this was partly because there were no real stand-out, jaw-dropping moments; just a lot of expertly executed acid techno. In contrast, the music on Clark’s record was as imaginative as its title wasn’t, roving from meaty bass to ethereal ambience without a second thought. In many ways, and while both records are very good, Clark is the exact opposite of Syro – harder to get into, but more rewarding when you do. KWC

Read our review of Clark live here.

Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son (Secretly Canadian)

“What goes in to a record is never as important as what comes out, and what comes out here is frequently magical. ‘Silver Timothy’ starts out in fairly familiar America/Neil Young territory before exploding into a blissful, bubbling wig-out, while the woozy trudge of ‘Return to Maraqopa’ is kept cropped in length and fluffy in feel, and slips down like a greased salamander.” KWC

Read our full review here.

David Douglas – Moon Observations (Atomnation)

“For all Douglas’ undoubted skill as a producer, it’s the moments when he uses that talent to push things slightly off-kilter that really shine. The title track is a particular gem, with a touch of brass towards the end adding some subtle grandeur to proceedings. You almost feel like saluting as the album comes to a close.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Dead Fader – Blood Forest (Robot Elephant)

Blood Forest is the most accessible Dead Fader work to date, although it’s still comfortably weird enough to subtly freak out your co-workers if played at an insidious volume. Boards of Canada provide the most obvious reference point, with the record frequently ridden with their trademark tremulous pitch-shifting, while a range of deliciously haunting, subtly twisted melodies lurk round every corner.” KWC

Read the full review of Blood Forest (and its significantly noisier sister record Scorched) here.

East India Youth – Total Strife Forever (Stolen Recordings)

If Jon Hopkins had a protégé with Donovan, East India Youth might be the result. He inspired The Quietus to start a record label to put out his debut EP (which even they admitted was nuts given the current climate). However, they’ did it for a worthy cause, as William Doyle’s first full-length is an emotive piece of work. Openers ‘Glitter Recession’ and ‘Total Strife Forever 1′ create a warm embrace of electronics, before ‘Dripping Down”s psychedelic vocals (“Find new love, dripping down your soul”) make their way direct to that part of your head which is all gooey and romantic. NB

Read our full review here.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata (Madlib Invazion)

Madlib’s beats for Pinata are luscious, soulful bangers reminiscent of those that he made for Dudley Perkins in 2003/06. The lyrical and thematic content of is very different from that of the Perkins collaborations that spawned the classic ‘Flowers’ though; Freddie Gibbs’ authentic thug narratives and glamorisation of guns and drugs mean that Madlib has never ventured so deeply into thug rap. The warm glow of Madlib’s obligatory Hammond organ sprinkles and searing soul strings counterbalance the aggression of Freddie’s flow throughout the album. A bracing, soulful thug rap record to put hairs on your chest. Ted Ralph

Gazelle Twin – Unflesh (Anti-Ghost Moon Ray / Last Gang)

Uncompromising but tonally and dynamically diverse, the jarring body horror of Elizabeth ‘Gazelle Twin’ Bernholz’s Unflesh was not for the faint-hearted. Operating in similar field of cerebral dance music as The Knife and Planningtorock, it rages against some of the same societal constructs as those artists but frequently focuses inwards rather than outwards, analysing the wounds modernity inflicts. A mighty work. KWC

Hail Mary Mallon – Bestiary (Rhymesayers)

To be honest, we had no idea Aesop Rock had started a new project since his Uncluded collaboration with Kimya Dawson until someone pointed us towards the video for ‘Whales’ – a masterpiece of puppetry and a satirical send-up of cash-hungry rappers. An even more pleasant surprise was to discover that the album it came from was the best work Aesop has released in an age. Teaming up with long-time associate Rob Sonic, the wordplay is as engaging as you’d expect but set to better beats than he’s had for a while. We could give or take the skits about saving a local bowling alley mind. KWC

Halasan Bazar & Tara King th. – 8 (Moon Glyph)

“Halasan Bazar & Tara King th. channel early Broadcast alongside a wide cast of intriguing characters and a healthy dollop of Lee ‘n’ Nancy vocal interplay courtesy of vocalists Fredrick Rollum Eckoff and Béatrice Morel-Journel. The resulting concoction may not cause you to lapse into a shamanistic trance wherein you’re encouraged to give up smoking by your spirit animal, but it still makes for a tasty cuppa.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Half Man Half Biscuit – Urge For Offal
(Probe Plus)

“I linger and gawp / When the council dig a big hole / And I cheer for a corner / I don’t know why, they rarely lead to a goal / The greatest surface underfoot is springy turf / Why does the winner of Mr Universe / Always come from Earth?”

Lyrics like the above are why, despite the band resolutely resisting even the most basic promotional traditions, a new Half Man Half Biscuit album will always be a huge event for their legion of fans; so much so that is was voted Guardian readers’ album of the year despite not even being reviewed by the paper.Urge For Offal may not be quite as solid as 2011’s 90 Bisodol (Crimond), but the fierce wit and raw cynicism of tracks like ‘Baguette Dilemma For The Booker Prize Guy’ and ‘Westward Ho! Massive Letdown’ harks back to their earlier, punkier work, while it’s hard to imagine any other band writing a love song about a mileage chart. Never leave us, HMHB.KWC

Henry Blacker – Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings (Riot Season)

Two thirds of drone/sludge troopers Hey Colossus and a xxxxx drummer make filthy noise rock brilliance. It’s unhinged and heavy as a motherfucker, just how it should be. Absolute class! LO

Jessica Lea Mayfield – Make My Head Sing… (ATO)

“Mayfield ditched former producer Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys) and turned up the distortion for her third solo album and best to date. There’s still a tinge of her inherent country sensibility (Mayfield played in her family’s bluegrass band from the age of eight) in lonesome heartbreakers like ‘Seein* Starz’, but the crunching ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Anything You Want’ have added some serious muscle to her sound. Then there’s the aching comedown of ‘Party Drugs’ and, perhaps best of all, lead single ‘I Wanna Love You’, which takes the riff from ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ and twists it into a Holly Golighty-esque stomp.” KWC

Jonathan Boulet – Gubba (Popfrenzy)

It’s probably best to just let Mr. Boulet introduce this himself, which he does in deadpan style in the video above. Suffice to say Gubba has been my semi-drunkenly kicking customers out of the shop at closing time album of the year. KWC

Jordan Dykstra – Audition (Marriage Records / Shatter Your Leaves / Modern Documents)

It’s probably a bit lazy to say that if you liked Mica Levi’s soundtrack to Under The Skin then you’ll like this, but I’m a lazy fecker and, in fairness, if you liked Mica Levi’s soundtrack to Under The Skin then you will like this. Dykstra takes the viola, not generally considered the most appealing of stringed instruments, and uses it to create fascinating compositions that waver between stirring, lonesome and downright queasy. Insert ‘Dykstra has passed the Audition’ joke here. KWC

Kate Tempest – Everybody Down (Big Dada)

“One of the most remarkable British rap albums in years, Everybody Down follows a convincing cast of characters through London’s streets, and manages to sum up not only life in the capital’s cocaine-ridden bars and massage parlours but the intricacies and inconsistencies of love itself. It’s not just Tempest’s incredible narrative rapping though; Dan Carey’s production is pristine throughout, and comparisons to The Streets are frankly way more flattering to Mike Skinner than they are to Tempest.” KWC

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (Heavenly)

“Melbourne’s King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard offer up the chance to return – if just briefly – to the heady days of harmonica solos, trilling flutes and seven-minute long riff repeats. But, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with reviving blues-infused amphetamine-laced psychedelia if you do it well. The music worked the first time round for a reason. And in the breathless, attention destitute internet age, sometimes it’s nice to just zone out and enjoy three notes over and over for a change.” ZC

Read our review of King Gizzard live here.

King of the Mountains – Zoetrope (Melodic)

“The halfway point is marked by what might be the album’s high point, the spacily psychedelic ‘Zebra Girls’. Its weightless feel is tempered by a bittersweet emotionality, while the sickly synth melody that limps in halfway through adds a smartly disarming element – combined with the occasional bursts of background noise, it makes sure things never get too comfortable. In fact, it sums up what I imagine a space-walk would actually be like – an ecstatic, drifting victory against gravity, but tainted with a faint feeling of panic and claustrophobia.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Last Ex – Last Ex (Constellation)

It’s almost four years since Broadcast’s Trish Keenan passed away. The best thing you can say about Last Ex’s eponymous debut is that it’s the first record that even comes close to filling the musical void she left behind. Seriously, it wouldn’t be surprising if this was revealed to actually be a collection of lost Broadcast instrumentals, which is damn high praise. Sinister yet with moments of quiet tenderness, we can’t wait to hear what Last Ex do next. KWC

Marissa Nadler – July (Bella Union / Sacred Bones)

“The strings, synths, multi-tracked vocals and sometimes stacked, sometimes bare fingerpicking combine to lend an osmium-like density to most tracks… That the intoxicating, suffocating brew manages to be so visually evocative is remarkable: from the winter walk recollection of album highlight ‘Dead City Emily’, to the out-of-the-bedroom-window gaze of ‘Holiday In’ and the sunbeam-in-a-dark-room immersion of ‘Anyone Else’, you might not be able to breathe, but you can certainly see… July is – and will remain – one of 2014′s most involving, draining, and best albums.” KA

Read our full review here.

Metronomy – Love Letters
(Because Music)

“While the subject matter is a little sadder than usual, and Joe Mount’s vocals sound way too dry on certain tracks (perhaps a result of being recorded at Liam Watson’s Toerag Studios?), the riches that reveal themselves after frequent listens are plentiful. ‘I’m Aquarius’ and ‘Reservoir’ are gorgeously melancholic pop songs, ‘Love Letters’ sounds like some lost ’70s Top of the Pops relic, while ‘Boy Racers’ harkens back to the quirky electronic instrumentals that peppered debut album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe). KWC

Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)

“It amazes me that an artist who I first heard blasting out of my mum’s stereo when I was a nipper is still making such vital music, but when you consider Neneh Cherry cut her teeth in bands like The Slits and New Age Steppers (and is the daughter of legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry) then it really shouldn’t be so surprising. 2012′s The Cherry Thing saw her collaborate with The Thing to produce fantastic covers of the likes of MF Doom and Suicide, but this year’s Blank Project LP is even better. Born from personal tragedy after the death of her mother, it moves from the dark trip-hop of ‘Spit Three Times’ to the upbeat strut of the title track without putting a single foot out of step. Recorded with electro-jazz experimentalists RocketNumberNine and produced by Four Tet, Blank Project shows that after more than three decades in the business, Cherry is still strides ahead of her peers.” KWC

Oliver Wilde – Red Tide Opal in the Loose End Womb (Howling Owl)

Oliver Wilde’s A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears was one of our favourite albums of 2013, and the fact he managed to produce an album of equal quality this year shows a hit-rate few can match. Blessed with a similarly awkward title but peppered with tracks that boost the tempo beyond his debut’s occasional lethargy, if that was a blissful slumber then Red Tide Opal in the Loose End Womb is the sound of Wilde really waking up. Let’s hope for another in 2015. KWC

Parquet Courts / Parkay Quarts – Sunbathing Animal / Content Nausea (Rough Trade)

“Sunbathing Animal follows in a long tradition of great American lo-fi rock; you can feel the lineage filtered through their ramshackle lens of early Pavement and Sonic Youth back to Television and The Modern Lovers. Dual guitarists and vocalists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown both spray out Malkmus-esque wry drawls and, much like Jonathan Richman’s legendary band, focus on dryly observed lyrical portraits, full of witty images and off-kilter situations.” LO

Read our full review here.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright (Matador)

“On Too Bright, Hadreas throws off these past musical inhibitions and embraces a broader more electronic sound. Lyrically he’s no longer looking for acceptance or understanding through his music. This is a defiant, gloriously confident album. If former battles had previously made Hadreas withdrawn and inward facing, here he turns his attention to the outside and he now performs with a gutsy swagger and sway.” LO

Read our full review here.


Planningtorock – All Love’s Legal
(Human Level)

“Fall in love with whoever you want to…” Planningtorock announces on the opening bars of her third record, and it’s a statement of intent that flows through the album like a big warm earworm. It’s not just P2R’s politic which makes her an important and individual figure, lyrics deal with everything from gender identity, sexual equality and humanism delivered with a panache and unique style, a melting pot of disco, house, techno, riot grrrl, classical, soundtrack and pop. Where most artists would try and write multiple songs in one to cram their ideas into three minutes, ‘All Love’s Legal’ brings the disparate elements together in a perfectly formed forty-two. From the striking, peacock colours of the cover, right through to the dancefloor stomp of ‘Let’s Talk About Gender Baby’, the former The Knife collaborator delivers a confident, important album, with songs as great as the intentions behind them. The Bolton-born artist has produced my album of the year, hands down. NB

Read our interview wih Planningtorock here.

Pridjevi – Pridjevi (OSA Media)

Many people fell over each other to praise Goat’s second album this year, but while their live show undoubtedly packs a colossal punch, I kind of felt the record suffered by seeming a little… samey. Croatian three-piece Pridjevi may not have the outlandish costumes, but they tread similar psychedelic territory on their debut, while showing significantly more grace and diversity. Annoyingly their album appears to have disappeared from Bandcamp in the last few days, but when it reappears I highly recommend getting a copy. Until then, enjoy the sultry groove of ‘Ako je’, above… KWC

Ravioli Me Away – The Inevitable Album
(Good Job)

“The whole album seems like it’s permanently on the verge of collapse, an effect enhanced by the extremely lo-fi production – listen to a random section of any song and you could be mistaken for thinking you’re listening to a rehearsal recorded onto somebody’s phone. Yet, with space, many of the tracks reveal magic underneath the rough exterior. Not least ‘Romance Amnesia’, which combines an Ari Up-style chorus with spoken-word verses that exude a mundane sexuality Jarvis Cocker would be proud of: “Do you remember Faithless at Creamfields in ’98? / You tore off my tights with your teeth in your Volvo Estate.” KWC

Read our full review here.

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal / Sony RED)

“Fans seeking refuge in releasing their tension and anger will find unabashed solace in this work and will not leave disappointed, even if the lack of depth lyrically, not in skill but simply diversity of topics, hinders some levels of higher praise. Still, if anything, the successes that Run The Jewels brought to the table last year for feast have been returned, deliciously adorned this time around and prepared for use in the rowdy food fight that’ll follow the impetuous spontaneity the album evokes. If Run The Jewels 1 was King Kong, Run The Jewels 2 is Godzilla.” Brian Tabb

Read our full review here.

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD)

“Soused IS theatre, but in that huge transformative sense. Music as a show to educate, estrange and destroy. Scott Walker and Sunn O))) will show you sights that couldn’t possibly exist, and briefly make them loud and all encompassing around you. This particular record doesn’t quite push the limits of human experience outward in the way that The Drift did, but it might just drag a few more people out there. And leave them, naked and alone. Hey nonny nonny.” AA

Read our full review here.

Sleaford Mods – Divide And Exit (Harbinger Sound)

I know they also did the awesome Divide and Exit this year, but while that album ‘proper’ lost a bit of momentum at points, the singles collection is a more well rounded set of tunes. And to be honest, with the Mods, its all about the tunes. From the honest and self referencing ‘Job Seeker’ to the list-making and day-to-day referencing ‘Scenery’, the Mods, in all their effectively simple punk production glory and bitingly honest and witty spoken/spat word lyricism, can do no wrong at the moment. NB

Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser
(Brainfeeder)

Early Riser is a sophisticated début, displaying gentle spiritual roots and a blend of freeform jazz and electronica… There’s no part of the album that doesn’t feel warm and good, and it’s tempting to equate this with implied goodness of heart or even naïve innocence. Early Riser certainly encompasses more complexity than first appears, but really it’s more of a smiling homage to shining sun, and that’s a fine and lovely thing.” Amris Kaur

Read our full review here.

The Blind Shake – Breakfast of Failures (Goner)

“Two rotten eggs and some softly fizzing coleslaw. The dregs of a bottle of Buckfast and an apple core someone left in the ashtray. A dish covered in dandruff washed down a steaming mug of your own shame. These could all be deemed the breakfasts of failures (or at least failed breakfasts) but as much as they would likely leave you sick, shivering or sobbing, none are as punishing as The Blind Shake’s Breakfast Of Failures. Which is meant as a compliment. The new album by the Minneapolis three-piece (the band’s sixth) sparks and thunders with a ferocity that could leave you in a state of nervous exhaustion, most likely after running around your house screaming in tongues and punching the furniture.” KWC

Read our full review here.

The Bug – Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)

Angels & Devils, like the majority of The Bug’s output, feels like going to a party at a coke dealer’s house. Sure, there’s fun to be had, but there’s also a deep trepidation – the self-preserving voice in your head calling you an idiot under its breath relentlessly. An ambient menace pervades – pay for what you take, don’t take too much, arrive late, leave early – things could fall apart at any moment. There’s excitement, there’s danger – oh, and there’s The Bug in the corner.” Luke Skinner

Read our full review here.

The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader (Heavenly)

Annabel Dream Reader, The Wytches’ debut album, rides waves of far grungier, murkier water than your classic surf dudes. It’s water filled with the yellowing tears of angry, lovelorn youths. Or piss. Probably piss. Either way, this is surf rock for goths, Hawaiian shirts with dead palm trees on them. The album shares the same stylings as surf rock but not its otherwise sunny disposition. Let’s call it gurf. Imagine Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff popping a few ‘gnarly cutbacks’ (I looked those up, they are proper surfing terms right!) whilst dressed in their full 1940s Universal Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster outfits.” LO

Read our full review here.

Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave (Fat Cat)

Just as the English winter time started allowing nights to creep in early, and windows started frosting over, this perfectly timed release from Twilight Sad brought with it an emotional chill to battle the drop in physical temperatures. “Carry me away from here…” James Graham croons in his warm Scottish accent on ‘Drown So I Can Watch’, echoing a sentiment I think a lot of us feel time to time. NB

Ty Segall – Manipulator (Drag City)

“Whatever the downsides of Segall’s latest offering, witnessing an artist develop and, most importantly, getting more interesting and original as a result, is more than welcome. He’s becoming less of the comfort blanket I’d presumed him to be, and more the songwriter he wants to be. Stick around for as long as you like, Ty.” NB

Read our full review here.

Wiley – Snakes & Ladders (Big Dada)

Blessed with one of the most distinctively crisp deliveries in the business, it’s a mystery to many how Wiley never followed Dizzee Rascal from the grass roots of grime into international superstardom. Ironically, now he’s no longer on a major label, he finds himself producing some of his all-time best work. While Snakes & Ladders fades towards the end, up until then it’s solid gold. He’s slid down his fair share of snakes in the last few years, but this is the biggest ladder he’s landed on for some time. KWC

Young Fathers – Dead (Anticon / Big Dada)

Mercury winners who properly deserved the prize, DEAD is an exquisite visit into genre-bending and futurism. The trio meld hip-hop, gospel, spoken word, electronica and pop with a notable confidence. While the record feels a little unbalanced (first half is all the ‘tunes’, while second is more experimental), the vision and potential of Young Fathers has been set – let’s hope they keep up the sterling work. They even succeed in pulling on the heartstrings with LP highlight ‘HANGMAN’. NB

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