2014: Albums of the Year

SCROLL DOWN TO STREAM A MUSIC OF 2014 PLAYLIST, OR CLICK HERE TO OPEN!

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

It says something when an artist gives a non-debut album an eponymous title, and so with Annie Clark’s fourth solo album, St. Vincent by St. Vincent feels like a restatement, a culmination of all that has gone before into some perfect representation of what St. Vincent means. And what it means is spiky, vibrant, gorgeous rock, with consistently killer tunes throughout. While it’s clear that her collaboration with David Byrne on Love This Giant has contributed to her craft and showmanship, this is still its own beast entirely. From the rambunctious likes of ‘Digital Witness’, ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ and ‘Birth in Reverse’ to the moving and haunting ‘Prince Johnny’, there’s a creativity at play in both music and lyrics that is completely individual. Ladies and gentlemen, this is St. Vincent. And she’s awesome.

2. Porter Robinson – Worlds

With its conceptual mix of Japanese videogames, virtual reality and vocaloid, Worlds succeeds in evoking an emotional response for something that has not yet existed. Can you be nostalgic about the future? While it’s ‘Sad Machine’ that got the most attention around the chiptune and synth blogosphere, there are better tracks here, dramatic opener ‘Divinity’, personal favourite ‘Flicker’ and the power pop of ‘Lionhearted’ just a few examples. It’s big, unabashed, electronic anthems, brimming with confidence and energy, and if you like CHVRCHES and M83, comes highly recommended.

3. Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE

It’s fair to say London (and Manchester) was hit with a spell of purple fever earlier this year as Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL embarked on a string of hit-and-run dates, and this continued with the announcement of not one but two albums. And while the 3RDEYEGIRL release is good, it’s ART OFFICIAL AGE is the must-listen of the two. It’s indulgent, demented, and excessive, but in all the right ways (yup, one minute in and there goes the cheesy air horn), deploying as many wacky production tricks and effects as can be permitted by health and safety. And if it sometimes overextends its reach, the highs it does achieve in the process are magnificent – the lazer-blast bolstered ballad ‘BREAKDOWN’, the sexiest song about the most important meal of the day ‘BREAKFAST CAN WAIT’, and whatever the fuck ‘FUNKNROLL’ is supposed to be beyond the ultimate party song. In the words of the man himself “I might be small, but so is dynamite!”

4. TV On the Radio – Seeds

After a difficult period for the band following the tragic death of bassist Gerard Smith, the TVOTR team regrouped and with Seeds released an album that might be their most accessible yet, filled with hope and positivity and, most importantly, really good songs: ‘Careful You’, ‘Happy Idiot’ and ‘Lazerray’ among their best work.

5. Beck – Morning Phase

In terms of songwriting and execution, Morning Phase might be the most dreamy and beautiful album of the year. Simply wonderful.

6. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Cheerfully acknowledging that it had reached a point where a full-length release was inevitable, DJ and producer Todd Terje brings together old favourites and new classics in this compendium of cheerful, groovy, classy disco lounge par excellence. ‘Oh Joy’ indeed.

7. Aphex Twin – Syro

The return of Richard D. James was cause for much celebration amongst those who like their electronic music cerebral, uncompromising, and a tiny bit weird, but if Syro is not necessarily an evolution of what had come before, it’ still unlike anything else around. There’s so much going on at any one time yet it manages to retain a focus and clarity that sees it never come unstuck as blips and beats come at you from every direction.

8. Astroskeleton – You Are Not Alone

As I venture ever deeper into the chiptune realm seeking new music to play at the Gamerdisco club nights where I DJ monthly (and here’s a relevant Spotify playlist!), it was this release from astroskeleton that served as a reminder that a great chiptune song needs to be a great song first and foremost. If the wait for the new Anamanaguchi album is too much, you are not alone’s blend of rock and 8bit emotion gave just as good and sometimes even better.

9. Last Ex – Last Ex

I am a sucker for music that sounds cinematic, so this instrumental off-shoot of Timber Timbre (borne out of an unused score for The Last Exorcism Part II of all things), with its mix of Lalo Schifrin-style drums and off-kilter blues rock, is right up my dark and spooky alleyway. Cool and creepy in equal measure.

10. Neil Cicierega – Mouth Sounds / Mouth Silence

Internet viral pioneer Neil Cicierega (he of Potter Puppet Pals and the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny) released his masterworks in the form of Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence. If Mouth Silence is more straightforward mash-ups and silliness (samples of newscasters talking about Pokemon to the tune of ‘I Want You Back’, or simply chopping around the lyrics of ‘Wonderwall’), it is Mouth Sounds, in which Smash Mouth’s ubiquitous (circa 1999-2001) blight on mankind ‘All Star’ is inserted into the likes of ‘Float On’ and ‘Imagine’, that best demonstrates the strange artistry and audacity at play. Trolling through music it may be, unapologetically puerile, and barely listenable in places too, but also very smart at being very dumb.

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Viewing Gum Listening Post #23

Viewing Gum Listening Post #23, and the last of the standard playlists of the year. But fret ye not, for it is a doozy, with returning favourites from past installments, plus a few newcomers thrown in for fun. Next up will be my customary Songs of the Year (expect a couple of these to make an appearance) and Soundtracks of the Year playlists, but until then, enjoy VGLP23, as all the cool kids are calling it, by clicking here or streaming through the embed below.


  1. Kero Kero Bonito – Build It Up
  2. The Dø – Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy
  3. TV On The Radio – Careful You
  4. The 2 Bears – Not This Time
  5. Röyksopp – Skulls
  6. David Bowie – ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore
  7. Last Ex – Girl Seizure
  8. Museum Of Love – FATHERS
  9. Young Fathers – DIP
  10. Paul Smith & Peter Brewis – Old Odeon
  11. Mark Lanegan Band – Harvest Home
  12. Clark – Everlane

Viewing Gum Listening Post #22

VGLP22 is here – shorter than most, but sweet as can be! Much like Prince, who happens to open this latest playlist with the glorious FUNKNROLL. It’s then a helluva journey through music, old, new, remixed and rebooted. Lots to love here, so without further ado, set earbuds to STUN, stream this bad boy below, or click here.

 

  1. Prince – FUNKNROLL
  2. FM Belfast – Delorean
  3. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz – Where No Eagles Fly
  4. Aphex Twin – minipops 67 [120.2]
  5. Flying Lotus – Putty Boy Strut
  6. TV On The Radio – Happy Idiot
  7. Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Anamanaguchi Remix
  8. Buffalo Daughter – Calling Out From The World Of Echoes
  9. Goat – Hide from the Sun
  10. Perfume Genius – Queen
  11. Manchester Orchestra – Indentions

 

2011: Albums of the Year

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST ALERT! Though I’ve picked out ten of my favourite albums of the year, there were plenty of other great albums and some damn fine singles released too, so I’ve put together a pretty great collection of 28 tracks into one super-duper playlist. Enjoy!


1. Darwin Deez – Wonky Beats

I’m probably as surprised as you that a concept rap album sampling Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory from already accomplished none-more-hip singer-songwriter Darwin Deez would be my album of the year, but it’s just too much damn fun for it not to be. The lyrics are more like a bizarro geek stream of consciousness than anything, a 21st century pop culture time capsule, and few have other musical offerings this year have left me with quite as broad a grin on my faces as Wonky Beats. And the best thing of all? It’s free!

TOP TRACK: I Don’t Like The Look (Remix)


2. The Horrors – Skying

The Horrors expand on the successful formula they nailed with Primary Colours, with an even bigger and better sound than before. Not original by any stretch of the imagination, but by golly, it’s an album that truly soars.

TOP TRACK: Monica Gems

 


3. Matt Berry – Witchazel

Not just gifted with a smooth voice and comedy chops, Matt Berry is also a supremely talented musician, as is evident with this, his third album – a magical folk-infused journey into the English countryside, with a warm 70s telly incidental music sensibility.

TOP TRACK: Take My Hand

 


4. Metronomy – The English Riviera

The sound of the summer, Metronomy’s best album yet was stripped-back, stylish simplicity married with bona fide excellent tunes.

TOP TRACK: The Look

 

 


5. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

Another typically strong work from the TVOTR team, though tinged with inevitable sadness with the passing of bassist Gerard Smith shortly after its release.

TOP TRACK: Repetition

 


6. Battles – Gloss Drop

Battles return as a trio, but on fighting form with a sparky set of intricate tracks, buoyed by wonderful guest turns from the likes of Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, and Yamantaka Eye.

TOP TRACK: Ice Cream

 


7. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Abstruse, for sure, bordering on the impenetrable, but given time, The King of Limbs unfolds into a fascinating and atmospheric listening experience.

TOP TRACK: Lotus Flower

 


8. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Few artists manage to conjure up quite so wonderful dreamy soundscapes as Anthony Gonzalez, and this double album is a fine example of what he does so well.

TOP TRACK: OK Pal

 


9. Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

Topping their debut was always going to be a tall ask, but Justice come pretty close with another batch of hard-to-beat beats that mainline into whichever part of the brain responds to awesomeness.

TOP TRACK: Civilization

 


10. The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water

A musical voyage of pure unabashed loveliness that gently rocks you into submission. Something special.

TOP TRACK: Into The Murky Water

 

 


Honourable Mentions:

Cults – Cults
Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome
The Dø – Both Ways Open Jaws
Flashman – To the Victor the Spoils!
Fruit Bats – Tripper
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Ladytron – Gravity the Seducer
Russian Circles – Empros

BONUS: Music Video of the Year

Is Tropical – The Greeks (Dir: Megaforce)