Best albums of 2014: 5 – 1
best albums of 2014

Our week-long countdown of the year’s best albums, based on the choices of our music bloggers, comes to a conclusion today with the top five.

Catch up on the list so far: 25 – 21 / 20 – 16 / 15 – 11 / 10 – 6

5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Label: Olsen Records
Released: 8 April, 2014

Ten years in the making, Norwegian producer Todd Terje finally delivered a full-length release with the self-consciously titled It’s Album Time. In doing so, he leapt beyond the confines of the dance fraternity and started turning the heads of the mainstream music press. Sure, the album might recycle older cuts like ‘Inspector Norse’ and ‘Strandbar’, but it also takes his production skills to the next level, reaching far beyond his signature disco sound into much wilder terrain. There’s even space for a cover of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny and Mary’ (sung by Bryan Ferry no less), but it’s in the retro madness of ‘Delorean Dynamite’ and ‘Alfonso Muskunder’ that Terje’s talents come to the fore.

4. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise

Label: Polydor Records
Released: 7 July, 2014

No-one knows about difficult second albums like Elly Jackson. Making a Platinum-selling, Grammy-winning LP at the age of 21 doesn’t guarantee the smooth escalator to future success you might imagine. Instead, a five-year gap ensued, in which time collaborator Ben Langmaid departed on seemingly less-than-happy terms, and Jackson found that the music industry had moved on: La Roux were no longer du jour in the pop business. Her response was defiant, and La Roux returned with an album that may not have set the charts alight, but did reassert Jackson as one of the most compelling stars of our times. Trouble in Paradise is a polished, confident collection, one that proves (once again) that pop doesn’t have to be facile.

La Roux interview: ‘My music represents how I’ve changed’

3. East India Youth – Total Strife Forever

Label: Stolen Recordings
Released: 13 January, 2014

Bryan Duncan writes…

In an interview with The 405 in January, Will Doyle, aka East India Youth, said there’s “a little bit of George Costanza” in his debut album Total Strife Forever. Perhaps a neurotic, balding, bespectacled man isn’t the image you’d associate with such a dark, inventive record, but it’s in response to the similarity between George’s realisation in an episode of Seinfeld that he should go against every instinct because it’s always wrong. Doyle’s tendency is very similar: to always do the “opposite”.

The final result is an ominous but attractive soundscape, and Doyle modestly puts this down to a state of emotional outpouring at the time. It definitely has a sense of spontaneity – the woozy electronica of Total Strife Forever lulls you into a false sense of security that this is an instrumental record, then ‘Dripping Down’ hits you square in the jaw with a schizophrenic mix of optimistic pop, catchy couplets and heart-wrenching choirs.

‘Hinterland’ is the anthem for a paranoid clubber on a bad comedown, while ‘Heaven, How Long’ soars beautifully into some other-world. Doyle manages to articulate both a sense of melancholy and optimism, not just in the lyrics, but in the actual DNA of the music.

It’s a wonder more people don’t take a leaf out of George Costanza’s book, even if that might not be the healthiest approach.

2. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Label: Fat Cat Records
Released: 27 October, 2014

In an interview with WOW247 in October, The Twilight Sad’s James Graham admitted that the band felt a real sense of pressure to deliver the goods on their fourth album. It seemed like the critics were always going to use their stunning 2007 debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters as the benchmark against which all future releases would be found wanting, and even the band themselves were pondering whether they had run their course.

On Forget the Night Ahead (2009) and No One Can Ever Know (2012) the Kilsyth band, understandably wishing to move on from their celebrated breakthrough, had experimented with a darker, more muscular sound, which seemed to sacrifice some of their original dynamic range. But instead of trying to reinvent the wheel again, on Nobody Wants to Be Here they hold up a cracked mirror to their recording career and discover new glimmers amidst the pervading darkness.

Through Graham’s ever intriguing lyricism and the understated power of Andy MacFarlane’s guitar playing, this isn’t a radical departure or reinvention – instead, it’s a reflection of where they’ve come from, and the smallest hint of where they plan to go next.

1. Young Fathers – Dead

Label: Anticon / Big Dada
Released: 4 February, 2014

Harris Brine writes…

While a stunning album arrived from The Twilight Sad in October, the year’s first two months boasted two wonderful releases for me. Mogwai’s Rave Tapes was an ominous military helicopter skulking through the black, crammed with a pulverizing armoury and decibel-packed mercenaries like ‘Remurdered’.

However, while concocting their genre-dissolving release, Young Fathers didn’t just think outside the box, they tore it apart to be used as soundproof studio padding. Dead sees soul and choir unexpectedly – but expertly – blended in with rap, electro, tribal and techno in a fearlessly innovative creation that somehow manages to express the political and polemical without ever once being overbearing.

It’s as if they’ve approached the mixing desk without having read the rule book, and it’s clearly worked – their framework is elastic, their beats oscillate from acutely rhythmic to off-kilter like a heart murmur. In its ambition Dead signals a long future with countless continent-stretching collaborations ahead.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell noted that every accepted idea was at one point considered an eccentric one, and Young Fathers have long revelled in their own eccentricities. But it’s still pleasing to see a group receive widespread critical recognition after sticking to their own internal barometer rather than adjusting to the trends of the day.

Scooping the SAY and Mercury awards must have been nice of course, but, like Massive Attack before them, Young Fathers have developed a musical language that feels unmistakably their own. No award or end-of-year poll could bestow higher praise than that.

Contributors: Nick Mitchell, Matthew Dunne-Miles, Alex Watson, Bryan Duncan, Alex Nelson, Patrick McPartlin, Harris Brine, Daniel Jeakins

The top 25 in full

25. Honeyblood – Honeyblood
24. FKA twigs – LP1
23. Wild Beasts – Present Tense
22. Beck – Morning Phase
21. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
20. Jungle – Jungle
19. Interpol – El Pintor
18. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nakk
17. Withered Hand – New Gods
16. Caribou – Our Love
15. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
14. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
13. Death from Above 1979 – The Physical World
12. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader
11. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
10. Mogwai – Rave Tapes
9. Future Islands – Singles
8. St Vincent – St Vincent
7. Eagulls – Eagulls
6. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
4. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
3. East India Youth – Total Strife Forever
2. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
1. Young Fathers – Dead

A recap of the list: 25 – 21 / 20 – 16 / 15 – 11 / 10 – 6

What was your favourite album of 2014?

We want to hear your votes for the best album of 2014. Have your say via email, by tweeting @wow247, on Facebook, or by posting a comment below.

Listen to all of the top 25 albums in this Spotify playlist:

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