Here’s our list of albums and EPs that we liked the most this year:
This Is All Yours
Recommended by Annie May: With their debut album “An Awesome Wave” winning the Mercury Prize and being highly acclaimed by critics, alt-j had some big shoes to fill, and this time without their bassist Gwil Sainsbury, who had quit the band. The timing of their follow-up “This is all yours” was perfect. They took enough time to not rush and ruin it but also manged to put out their second LP before the public forgot about them. Alt-j don’t let anyone tell them what to do or what not to do and you can feel that on this album again. The first single “Hunger of the pine” featured a Miley Cyrus sample, the second one “Every other freckle” has some sexy lines about licking crisp packets and cat paws. Still, this is my favourite song of the album. I recommend listening to the song while watching the official music video. It intensifies the whole feeling of this song. Another favourite is “Left hand free”, an upbeat song that sticks out on this album. The other songs blur into that typical alt-j style: soft guitar melodies, Joe Newman’s unique voice, exquisite percussion and even more guitar melodies. Also quite notable are the songs “Arrival in Nara”, “Nara” and “Leaving Nara”, which give the album a structure. This album took me longer to “get” than the first one but it was also worth it. It’s strange to see such an experimental band whose music is far away from the „mainstream“ indie being so successful. Fingers crossed for the boys from Leeds as “This is all yours” is currently nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Alternative Music Album”.
Recommended by Redheadess: New Orleans-based singer/songwriter Benjamin Booker released his eponymous debut album in August, and it’s everything you need for a sweaty summer evening if you just want to dance the night away.
‘Violent Shiver’, the first song on the album – and also the first single – is already kicking off with an easily recognizable guitar riff that will be sitting in your ear for a bit longer. His danceable garage blues guitars and happy organs will have you on your feet in no time. Benjamin alternates beautifully between huskily sung lines and long instrumental moments that never get boring. It takes three up-tempo pieces until ‘Slow Coming’ lets you rest for four and a half minutes, before kicking back in with ‘Wicked Waters’. ‘Have You Seen My Son?’, a five-minute long hit in the middle of the record, feeds you with a drum intro and a raw one-minute-breakdown of furious guitar-strumming that stretches out into an amazing wave of instrumental experiments before fading out. Benjamin has mastered the art of writing both beautiful blues ballads that make you get lost in his hushed, throaty voice and powerful garage smashers you can lose your mind to. The record is maybe the most important debut of the year.
Feinste Seide EP
Recommended by Belle Brummell: What a year it has been for Austria’s Bilderbuch, without them even releasing an album (third LP “Schick Schock” is announced for February 2015). The outstanding “Feinste Seide EP”, released on the 1st of January, was enough to propel the Viennese band to unexpected heights. Even though fans of their first two albums might be shocked at the introduction of auto tune and vocabulary such as “Schwanz” (dick) and your-mom-jokes to their music, boldly embracing trash is not the only development Bilderbuch have shown this year. Yes, on hit single “Maschin” they do sound a bit like indie-rock Backstreet Boys, but their lyrical finesse and taste for experimentation successfully keep them from overdoing their new trash concept, especially as they haven’t dropped their notorious sense of drama and apocalyptic decay. On six-minute track “Moonboots”, singer Maurice Ernst asks the song’s addressee to put her moon boots on, for “a cold wind blows outside”, all of this with a gravity that makes you forget he is singing about, well, moon boots all the while using auto tune. The EP, composed of four tracks plus a remix, gives Bilderbuch’s experimental indie rock a new spin; more pop, more hip-hop-beats, some kick ass guitar solos, as a result making them one of the most exciting bands in German-language pop at the moment. God knows this is not for everyone, but the haters will make them famous.
Recommended by Redheadess: Berlin’s craziest combo is at it again: In May Tobias Jundt aka Monsieur Bonaparte released the fourth studio album. Before anything else, the single ‘Into The Wild’ was released, which sounds surprisingly little like any other single we’ve heard from the indie punk project. Music videos for the minimalistic ‘Wash Your Thighs’, the upbeat ‘Two Girls’, the chaotic ‘Out Of Control’, the melancholic ‘Riot In My Head’, the lyrically most brilliant ‘May The Best Sperm Win’, and the 2014-in-a-nutshell song ‘Me So Selfie’ were released over the year as well, without any of them being singles. Monsieur just really likes shooting music videos.
The album’s intro ‘1-800’ tells us next to nothing about what we can expect, before going into the typically Bonaparte-like ‘I Wanna Sue Someone’: steady beats, primitive guitars. It’s simple, but always effective. Tobias Jundt has always mastered alternating between complicated arrangements in one moment and super easy dancefloor fillers the next. And it’s working so well. ‘Me So Selfie’ features Brooklyn-based hip hop artist Tim Fite, who has already toured with Bonaparte in 2012 and has a unique approach to technology’s wonders of the past few years – social media and smartphone trends in particular. The song is a praise to the self-shot portrait (“I’m so sweet I could eat my selfie / Oh yeah, I treat my selfie / If your boyfriend is nosey, delete my selfie / I complete myselfie / Retweet my selfie / Me me me me me and myselfie”) and a hell lot of fun.
Next to the simple upbeat Bonaparte tracks we’ve come to cherish, there’s also stripped-down songs like the above mentioned ‘Riot In My Head’ or ‘If We Lived Here’, that give the record the needed moments to relax a bit.
Finally, there’s no Bonaparte record without a song that makes you think “Did you really just say that?” – In this case, ‘May The Best Sperm Win’, which is about exactly what you thought it would be: “He knows love comes in spurts / Spurts and then some / See, Daddy’s little favorite, she’s got a headstart / Twin brother competing in a fancy sidecar”. Nothing that really surprises you anymore once you’ve seen Bonaparte live, really.
Recommended by Belle Brummell: Brother duo Drenge from Derbyshire dropped one of the most relevant debut albums in rock music this year, in my opinion. Their straight-forward, grungey garage rock comes with a typical sense of lethargy, yet not without anger. The stripped down guitar-and-drums set-up gives their music a raw and immediate quality. While the album works great as a whole, it’s also brimming with outstanding tracks, such as epic stompers “Bloodsports”, “Backwaters” or “I Wanna Break You In Half”. Although the energy and anger are the album’s strong points, the most memorable track, somehow, is the slow-burning finale “Fuckabout” with its great chorus and undeniable 90s flair, perfectly summing up the feeling of being young and useless.
Carry On The Grudge
Recommended by Annie May: One of 2014’s indie music highlights was definitely the return of the long- missed Jamie T. And with that return came not only a massive UK tour (we’ve been at one of the dates) and some festival and TV appearances but also a new record by the name of “Carry on the Grudge”. The album artwork, an oil painting of a woman breast-feeding, and the first single “Don’t you find” might put some old Jamie fans off. But after that first melancholic, dark single came a song that reminded everyone why we had missed the Wimbledon man so terribly while he was gone. “Zombie” continued straight where “Sheila” and “Sticks ‘n’ Stones” had left off and proved to drive the crowd absolutely crazy at gigs. While the third album as a whole is definitely darker and more thoughtful than its predecessors with songs like “Limits Lie”, “Murder of Crows” and “Peter”, a song about having another voice in your head, it also has its brighter moments. “Love is only a heartbeat away” and “Turn on the light” are songs of hope and “Trouble” sounds almost cheeky and similar to the songs on Jamie T’s debut album. Jamie T’s sound might have changed and matured a little bit but his live shows are full of energy and sing-alongs so if you have the chance to see the man live, then do it!
Recommended by Belle Brummell: Canadian newcomers July Talk were one of my hottest inside tips this year after I discovered them at an unforgettable instore gig at Reeperbahn Festival. Their interesting flavour of indie-pop ranges from raw to sweet as singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay take turns with their opposing voices. The mixture of punk-ish energy, noisy guitars and pop hooklines makes for some genuine hits, such as “Guns + Ammunition”, “Paper Girl” and “Blood + Honey”. If you ever get the chance to catch them live, defintiely go and dance your feet off.
Recommended by Redheadess: Three years after their last album, Leicester lads Kasabian surprise with an extremely minimalistic new release: 48:13 (the album length) consists of 13 songs of which three are instrumental intermissions. One-word-song titles, lowercase letters, a two-coloured album concept under the art direction of Aitor Throup – Kasabian have managed to create a stripped-down, completely thought-out album that has deserved every praise it’s gotten so far.
Earlier this year, when frontmen Serge Pizzorno and Tom Meighan painted a wall in Hackney pink, and carefully wrote the album title on it, excitement arose within the fans. When the band came forward with their crazy, carefree video for ‘Eez-eh’, it was beyond anything one would have expected. The hit single, according to guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno, was written in a matter of minutes, but immediately had the potential to become big. Which is exactly what happened. Go to any Kasabian gig this year, and you’ll have people chanting ‘Eez-eh! Eez-eh!’ left and right. It’s also the most celebratory track with the most critical undertones (“We’re tired of taking orders / Coping with disorders / The wrong men have the power / It’s turning my milk sour”). Third single ‘Stevie’, which comes second on the album, is an epic, apocalyptic soundtrack with an outstanding string arrangement, while my personal favourite ‘Doomsday’ – which has not made it onto their concert setlist yet – comes with fast, steady drums and adrenalising organs. The perfect soundtrack for a quick run, if you ever wonder.
Seven-minute electronica track ‘Treat’ is actually four minutes of experimental instrumental arrangement, sounding like a remix of itself, and it’s not the only song on the album to sport more of Pizzorno’s intricate studio work and less simple singalongs. Second to last track ‘Bow’ has Pizzorno on vocals, which shows that he’s finally gone from being the quiet mastermind in the background to full-on co-frontman without whom the band would never, ever be able to exist.
Out Of Body EP
Recommended by polinomdivision: This year’s realese from The KVB, ‘Out Of Body’, is a six-song record. Once again the band remains loyal to their concept of haunting melodies in the post-punk/80s/cold-wave style and dreamy, shoegaze-influenced vocals. The EP is filled with athmospheric tunes such as ‘From Afar’ or ‘All Around You’. All in all: magnifique!
Recommended by Belle Brummell: “Disgraceland” is The Orwells’ second album, which saw the young band from suburban Chicago rise to well-deserved fame. Picking from classic rock as well as skate-punk, they brew together a style fit to reach generations, gripping and authentic enough for the kids yet so musically accomplished as to also convince grown-up listeners. In fact the youthful nostalgia of tracks like “North Ave” or the timeless “Bathroom Tile Blues” are hard to be untouched by, regardless of your age, while smashers “Dirty Sheets” or “Who Needs You” are 100% sure to get the pogo started. The Orwells’ songwriting seems almost too advanced for their tender age, while the sound is delivered with a well-fitting lo-fi touch that keeps the album from sounding too overproduced while also infiltrating it with a nostalgic flair.
Recommended by Belle Brummell: Definitely running for “Debut of the Year” as well are British psychedelic outfit Temples. With their dreamy soundscapes, sweet melodies and beglittered faces they quickly turned into posterboys of the new psychedelic hype, but it’s mostly thanks to the brilliant songwriting that “Sun Structures” is such an impressive album. Not a single weak song can be found among the twelve tracks, instead Temples deliver instant hits like “Mesmerise”, “Colours To Life” and my personal favourite “The Golden Throne”. Every melody carves itself into memory, the lyrics are abstract yet coherent with the album as a whole, artwork and all included. Most importantly, they always remain listenable, with the songs forming distinctive entities, not zooming out into endless instrumentals (as they sometimes do on stage), although the genre may tempt one to do so. In this sense Temples are the perfect gateway drug into the psychedelic world.
Recommended by polinomdivision: After a two-year break Trust have released another masterpiece this year. ‘Joyland’ is an amazingly danceable record in the style of synth-pop, wave, post-punk and 80s music. From ambient songs such as ‘Slightly Floating’ to the dancefloor-filler ‘Rescue, Mister’, this LP definitely has got it all. A synth-disco heaven for everyone….