The Children Have Spoken: Top 5 Albums of 2014

You’d be lying if you said that you weren’t a sucker for end of year lists. What was a year of normcore fashion and the ever-expanding lips of Kylie Jenner, also was a year that saw some insane releases. For each musical atrocity that plagued the airwaves for one reason or another, there were copious tracks, EPs and albums that oozed pure gold. But where – more often than not – a generic list is collated, the Vicious team took it upon themselves to delve deep and collect their top choices of the year.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Vicious Children top 5 albums of 2014.

kinggizzard

State your name: Beau Curran

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Before I even start trying to justify these five albums you must know that this was near impossible for me. Having a music library so vast and carefully regimented by release dates, with over 2000 songs (divided by a generous 10 tracks per album that’s 200 albums) to get through – let alone the backlog of unlistened music to come – it’s often the case I won’t have heard half the years’ releases until sometime mid next year. The sad reality is my top five albums could not even be my top five in a month or two from now. Despite that bleak outlook, a careful look back on my iPod plays (it’s a classic baby so I’m sitting on a gold mine), highlighted just how many times I had listened to these disparate and contradictory albums and also helped me realised that my year would have been that little bit shitter had these not existed. I’m basically a sucker for lo-fi weirdo pop, 60’s flower power and a little bit of garage/punk thrown in for fun. Call me the genre-spanner.

The Top 5
Ariel Pink – Pom Pom
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
Tweens – Tweens
Alex G – DSU
White Fence – For The Recently Found Innocent

State your name: Yusur Al-Azzawi

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2014 has seen swathes of new acts rattle the ground with each dropped EP, as well as rebirths of some of the industry greats. Harvey Sutherland’s latest brings us more of his mature, disco-infused sounds and tight production. The EP sees the Melbourne-based DJ manoeuvre the electronic spectrum with perfectly controlled beats and easy, bouncing rhythms. Rearing their heads for the first time since 2011’s Work (work, work), HTRK take their sound in an ethereal and devastatingly chilling new direction with Psychic 9-5 Club. Standish’s mystical vocals float through the production as it reverberates wistfully like the last strands of daylight through smoke. The effect is completely engrossing and utterly moving. Quantic drops Magnetica in a swirl of global beats and carefully orchestrated sounds. The magic of this English producer’s latest is its ability to make each song feel like a wholly contained home of rhythm in its own right, whilst still having its door open to the street full of soulful beats. Out of the UK again, Mo Kolours’ self-titled debut album sees English street-style jazz teaming up with laid back Afro-grooves. The result is a well-blended medley bred for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Chicago-based Mick Jenkins drops another mix tape, no apologies. The Water[s] tackles rough subject matter with eloquence and a backdrop of smooth, steady rnb and sharp hip hop breaks. Jenkins’ lyrics are thoughtful and precise, and his beats carefully matched in a way that both complements and contrasts the content.

Overall, these guys have given us an outstanding standard of production and music that globalises easily in its comfortable movement through and across genres.

The Top 5
Harvey Sutherland – Brothers EP
HTRK – Psychic 9-5 Club
Quantic – Magnetica
Mo Kolours – Mo Kolours
Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]

State your name: Maddie Auhl

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So this was quite a tough shortlist to compile. There are so many more albums that were released this year that I got to hear singles from and snippets of, but never had a chance to sit down and listen to in full once, let alone multiple times. However, these are the albums that stood out for me. These are the ones I went out and purchased physical copies of, these are the ones that I’d listen to on repeat in my car or while working on a jigsaw or in the background while cooking or at the gym. I’m not going to list a number one; they’re here for you in alphabetical order.

The Top 5
alt-J – This Is All Yours
The second album from this English group is full of glitchy beats and exploratory sounds and lyrics – some more than others (“Every Other Freckle”, anyone?). There are a few old songs on this record that the band have taken time to work on and let grow; there are others that carry on themes from their debut An Awesome Wave. Some songs show a completely different side to alt-J, while many others are developments of the style of music so unique to them. This album took a few listens to get me hooked: at first I found it slow and sparse. However, listening closely, especially during late night drives, allowed me to hear the beauty that comes out of the simplicity of this album.

Standout tracks: Hunger Of The Pine and Nara

Chet Faker – Built On Glass
This would be on the top of many peoples’ lists this year. Smooth, sultry, soulful and all around gorgeous, Melbournian Chet Faker has already won many accolades and awards with his excellent debut record, including multiple ARIAs and a J Award, and I can’t imagine that it will be stopping any time soon. From the first “woahhhh” I’m there. Oh boy, dat voice. Excellent production, clever lyrics and interesting beats team up with ‘dat voice’ to make a journey in record format. The great thing about Chet is that he’s quite diverse: he traverses the line between accessible pop and alternative electronica-soul perfectly. We’ve seen him cover Blackstreet and Sonia Dada, we’ve seen him collaborate with Flume; next stop, world domination.

Standout tracks: Gold and 1998

Glass Animals – Zaba
The debut album from the Oxfordshire quartet is extremely impressive and has stuck with me since its release. Similar to fellow Englishmen alt-J, the band use really cool glitchy beats as a signature part of their sound. Frontman Dave Bayley provides fascinating lyrics, many of which come from his studies of neuroscience. The great thing about this band is that their sound is so exotic – they use bright keys and smooth vocals to mask somewhat creepy lyrics (“fresh out of an icky gooey womb” or “squish squirmies in your nose”?!), and LOTS of animal themes. On top of all this, the undercurrent of beats just make you want to dance. They let their songs create dreamscapes and build crescendos for the listener. No matter what you’re doing while you listen, whether it’s driving, cleaning, or writing this paragraph, this band will take you on a journey into another world.

Standout tracks: Gooey and Walla Walla

Jack White - Lazaretto
Mr White’s second solo record brings a whole lot of blues fun to the table. It’s weird and wonderful and manic, with vocals and guitar taking the main stage but always leaving room for a solo from an electric violin. It feels like a record that is harking back to an older style of music, which makes sense because many of the songs based on old poems and plays White wrote back when he was only 19 and discovered a few years ago in his attic. There’s a mixture of styles on this album – some downright country, some bluesy, some rock and some just plain strange. There are even hip hop vibes on some of the tracks. The listener gets taken on a pretty fun ride – a ride through musical styles, through history and through the madness that is Jack White.

Standout Tracks: Lazaretto and That Black Bat Licorice

Kasabian – 48:13
The lads from Leicester brought their fifth studio album into the world this year and oh man, it brings the party to your earholes. Kasabian are a band whose career I have followed for many years, so I was probably always going to like this album – but they’ve really impressed me here. From the hot pink album cover to the most basic of all album titles, this record is a really fun listen and brings a lot of different genres together – there’s electronica, rock, hip hop, flamenco, pop, the list goes on. Serge Pizzorno’s lyrical skills may have stymied slightly in my opinion since earlier albums – there’s a lot more repetition in the choruses on this record – but the beats are killer and the band really explores some new sounds here. The track “Bumblebee” rips you a new one with an incessant building up of pressure that all of a sudden gets let loose in the chorus. An excellent live opener, this is just the sort of song you HAVE to dance to, fists raised in the air and feet lifted from the ground. And that is just the sort of record that this is. In their own words, Kasabian “work it like a treat”.

Standout Tracks: bumblebeee and eez-eh

State your name: Fab Melican

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You wake up. You’re immediately hit with the chilled, spoken word breeze of those poets from London and the world feels so right, you wish it’d stay like this for months so that you could learn more. The mood is shifted by a patchwork, psychedelic colour-wheel; splashing out tunes you’d swear were recorded in a yesteryear – sending you above & into a daydream. You have to come down sometime. Crashing down to earth with spikey, electric shocks of rock, this experience is nothing new but man – this is what you loved about guitar rock when you were fifteen. But now darkness is creepin’ on the horizon and so is the soul, mysterious and just so damn slick– it’s exactly what you’d hoped for when you first tasted these new-school electronic stylings of an old-school flavour. This all seems too clean though, so you crank up those speakers and dive into the dirty streets of the real world. This is where you like it most, partying away the night with the man of the year.

The Top 5
Hawk House – A Handshake To The Brain
Temples – Sun Structures
Drowners – Drowners
Jungle – Jungle
Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron

State your name: Toby Newton

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Unfortunately this list is not a comprehensive one, nor is it likely to be wholly reflective of my future thoughts on 2014’s crop of releases. There are a whole host of albums that I just never got round to (not least Angel Olson’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness, EMA’s Future Void, Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time, Swan’s To Be Kind, Azealia BanksBroke With Expensive Taste and Parkay QuartsContent Nausea to name just a few).

My list is also very dude heavy, something that is, I’m sure, entirely down to my own unconscious biases, and for which I apologise. To help rectify this, let me highly recommend the two-thirds female White Lung and their brilliant Deep Fantasy LP, Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love and tUne-yArDsNicki Nack.

As you might be able to tell from all my bet-hedging and fence-sitting, I’m struggling with this list thing and, well… fuck it, let’s give the crown to Taylor Swift and 1989. Because if you don’t like Taylor Swift, there’s something wrong with you.

The Top 5
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Clipping – CLPPNG
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Young Fathers – Dead

State your name: Bec Goolagong

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Choosing just five albums was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do all year! There is no way I can rank them so these are in no particular order…

The Top 5
Jack White – Lazaretto
Everything Jack White does is awesome. Also…there’s an instrumental.

Olivia Jean – Bathtub Love Killings
Fuzzy garage rock, catchy beats, some kind of quirky nod to 60’s nostalgia, and probably one of the best album titles of the year results in this delightfully unique and refreshing album.

C W Stoneking – Gon’ Boogaloo
LOVE an album that sounds like a vinyl from your grandmothers collection! C.W. Stoneking uses old school, dark blues, far off backing vocals, and good old fashioned call and response to transport the listener to a musical time past.

The Melvins – Hold It In
Just as weird, innovative and hilarious as they were when they released their very first album, The Melvins deliver another cracker. Who wouldn’t love song titles like Onions Make the Milk Taste Bad and Piss Pisstopherson? Long live King Buzzo!

Slipknot – .5: The Grey Chapter
If you feel like being simultaneously creeped out, punched in the face, and brutally euphoric then this is the album for you. Bring on Soundwave, motherfucker!

State your name: Bront Lourey

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(She didn’t feel like it).

The Top 5
Caribou – Our Love
A late release for 2014, well and truly deserves its place in the best of the year list. An album saturated with bangers, this is best served with an Aperol spritz in hand. Soundtrack to your summer BBQ.

Future Islands – Singles
Future Islands proved to be the breakthrough band of 2014 with the release of their fourth studio album Singles with new label 4AD (home of The National, Bon Iver, Ariel Pink). Notably, Singles sees more vocal restraint from frontman Samuel Herring than we have come to expect, often exchanging his vocal ferocity for a more authentic lyrical approach. The result is an energetic yet balanced masterwork from the Baltimore based foursome.

Singles is easily my favourite album of the year.

Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
Bombay Bicycle Club kicked off the year with the release of So Long, See You Tomorrow and a worldwide tour. Their most consistent and unashamedly pop release to date, the band were rewarded with a Mercury Prize nomination for their efforts in late 2014. One of the most exciting electro-pop releases of the year.

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
One of the best rock releases in recent memory. A near perfect album.

Spoon – The Want My Soul
Spoon – the band that just keeps on giving. Their eighth record in 21 years, They Want My Soul is Spoon’s most mainstream offering of their career. Highlights include Do You, Rent I Pay and Inside Out. Put it on your good speakers and blast it on a Sunday morning.

State your name: Tiffany Madour

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2014 was the year for some new material from some of my favourite artists! Lost on the River and Cheek to Cheek were two collaboration albums that showed me a different side to some artists that I already listen to (or even don’t listen to), much as in the case of Gaga (I did not expect that voice!). I have been looking forward to a lot of these albums, and they definitely did not disappoint.

The Top 5
Jack White – Lazaretto
The New Basement Tapes – Lost On The River
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek to Cheek
Of Mice & Men – Restoring Force
Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone

State your name: Simone Ziada

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I get it time and time again – “What was your favourite album of the year?” “What was the best festival and gig you went to?” “Song of the year?” And every single time, I can’t decide. Call me easy (please don’t call me ‘easy’), but more often than not, there’s always just way too much good shit to choose from. So I did what any mature adult would do; I necked a beer, wrote an entire list of all of my favourite albums from the year, closed my eyes, and wrote down whichever albums were the first five that I pointed to. I know that I’m going to look back and be like “Oooh, but what about this one?” But shut up, future me. You’re being a sook.

And just because I’m a suck for showing a little love to a lot of people, here are a few honourable mentions:

Bass Drum Of Death – Rip This
Kasabian – 48:13
Jack White – Lazaretto
Glass Animals – Zaba
Alt-J – This Is All Yours
FKA Twigs – LP1
Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Chet Faker – Built On Glass
ZHU – The Nightday

The Top 5
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz
Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
Temples – Sun Structures
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
Jungle – Jungle

Cheers for a rad year, 2014. It’s been real!

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