Well then, let’s see what is definitively The Best Album of 2014 according to me.
10. Hark – Crystalline
“If you were to assess this as just a debut album Crystalline would be an astonishing effort – but then that would be to ignore all the years of sweat and blood that went to into the house that Taint built. No matter – Crystalline isn’t just ‘good for a debut’; this is as stunning a display of riffcraft as you could could hope to hear in 2014, not to mention the best album of it’s type these ears have heard for a long time.From a purely musical perspective the hard work has paid of handsomely, with the end product being the kind of record that in any just world would take Hark wherever it is they want to go.”
9. Shellac – Dude Incredible
It’s always a nice surprise when Shellac crop up every 6 or 7 years to drop another album. Steve Albini and Bob Weston are busy guys with their day jobs so when they get themselves together to record an album it’s always a treat, even if they rarely sound like they’ve spent all that much time writing the songs with so many years between them. It’s not really their style – they’ve been doing this that long that they can fit back into that old, familiar, tight lockstep riffs and grooves without much fuss. What is surprising is how immediate Dude Incredible is – Shellac records are often slow burners whereas this one grabs you from the off and refuses to let go. And their usual ascerbic lyricsims are at their most straight forward funniest – Surveyors, Dude Incredible and Riding Bikes have more laugh out loud moments than most stand up records. I had a pithy line set up about how The Austerity Programme may have released the best Shellac album in a decade – however they stepped up themselves, stole their spot in the top 10 and reminded everyone just how potent their brand of malicious riffery can be.
8. Ought – Today More Than Any Other Day
“It’s the infectious kind of ridiculous, like a giggling fit. It’s the kind of ridiculous it’s hard not to want in on. And you get the feeling they want you in on it too – look at that album cover, hands atop hands like a sports pep talk. Listen to them talk about a, “non-specific party in a non-specific city” or end the title track with an exasperated “Today/Together/We are all the fucking same.” They manage to communicate that communal DIY scene vibe without sounding overly pretentious or aloof, as if they want to expand it outwards and include as many people as possible.”
7. The Budos Band – Burnt Offerings
“The new Budos may look a bit more metal but sounding very much like the old Budos – but to bastardise that old cliche one more time it wasn’t broken so it’s all for the good that they didn’t do too much fixing. When they do it’s a surprising success; it’s a blast listening to the Budos playing dress up in black, but truth be told they still sound too damn righteous to sound convincing when playing it evil.”
6. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
“”I’m learning how to be here and nowhere else,” Baldi sings, and of course that’s not quite a lesson you ever really get to learn – even on my best days it’s like a needle on a loose old FM tuner, swaying back and forth and only occasionally finding the signal of The Moment. But Baldi sings like he’s figured it all out It starts right now, there’s a way I was before/But I can’t recall how I was those days anymore. It’s cool, he’s over it, he’s moved on – everything starts anew from right now. And that’s the kicker to Cloud Nothing’s brand rock n’ roll: merely making such a riotous punk flecked rock sound quite so catchy and memorable is quite something, but they do more than that – they make the quiet little battles of youth sound like world wars, and above all, somehow make those emotionally turbulent moments sound like the most fun and exciting things in the world.”
5. Origamibiro – Odham’s Standard
“For me it’s feels like the agoraphobia of a ghost inexorably tied to a place for whatever reason, life unbearably continuing around them as they contemplate eternity. That may well be a million miles away for what they aimed for. I hope to find out eventually, but in the meantime I’ll keep exploring the nooks and crannies of this fascinating record, headphones on, encased in sound, staring with the nauseous mix of longing and revulsion at the world outside my window.”
4. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
“And that really is the defining characteristic that separates Benji from the rest of his work. He’s never been short of empathy but the past few years have seen the focus of his songs move a little away from himself. I think he’s still a solipsist at heart – him and his thoughts are still at the heart of his songs, only he spends a lot more time considering the sorrows and trials of others as well as his own. And it’s this that redeems his new found disdain for brevity and his latter day plainspoken, talky singing style – it gives him room to tell multiple stories, to not skimp on the details, and whilst never quite finding answers they at least cast a light on the questions and the questioner that wasn’t there before. And then there’s that belief that in the power of song, that he can give poetry and meaning to the lives of the people he sings about.”
3. Tempel – On the Steps of the Temple
“The album-as-journey thing is a trope as old as the album itself (or at least as old as prog) but precious few over the years manage to really justify that conceit. Tempel have done so on first try, even if it took them a while. They’ve blithely ignored any genre parochialism and reached deep into whichever sub genre of metal they needed to in achieving their aims, and blurred it all together so that it never sounds like genre tourism for it’s own sake. It’s a dark, crushing, uplifting trek.”
2. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
“Pallbearer…feel like a band who also find themselves staring into the abyss but rather than trying to summon up so much nihilistic rage that the abyss itself would be forced to respect them Pallbearer gaze into the void at the heart of everything and wish to raise a glass to everyone who has to bear witness to it alongside them.”
1. Adebisi Shank – This is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank
“Sometime after the inevitable machine uprising, when all us humans have all been roundly and probably rightly brutally slaughtered in our beds, the robots will eventually achieve sentience. They they will look at each other through camera eyes and see their robot brothers and sisters anew, and discover love. World in Harmony is most likely what it will sound like.”
When I was in college me and a friend of mine used to use the analogy of Drunktown to describe how pissed we were on a night out – after a few pints we’d be on the city limits, by the end of the night we’d be throwing up in a phonebox next to the town hall. Ideally the aim was to stay cruising around the drunktown suburbs – to keep that early-mid drinking session happy haze going rather than careen sideways into the front entrance of the Drunktown Museum of Diseased Livers. Maintaining that giddy high always seemed impossible – for some reason between us achieving peak drunk and drinking that 6th mysterious cocktail the guy we knew behind the bar would make us on the sly we lost it and found ourselves inevitably slumped on a staircase wondering why our legs weren’t working like they should.
On Third Album Adebisi Shank achieve the impossible – from moment one they strike that fizzing caffeinated note of wide eyed inhebriated happiness and they maintain it right until they exit on Trio Forever. Sadly shortly after it’s release Adebisi Shank called it quits. It’s a bittersweet passing – it’s always great to see a band go out at their peak before they succomb to the law of diminishing returns, but the world is a duller place without the Shank in it. You’ve got to respect their decision to burn out rather than fade away but I can’t help but feel that they went out with a lot of fuel left in their tank. But that may well be me being selfish – This is the Third… was the brightest spot in a fine year for music for me. They’ll be missed.
That was the last album by the band called Adebisi Shank. Godspeed, gentlemen.