Editor’s Pick: Albums of 2014

JescaThe Best Albums of 2014, so selected by Editor Tiffany Daniels.

Last year we started a new Christmas tradition. It wasn’t a unique enterprise, but it did mark a sign of the times, and particularly a sign of our growing team. The Editor’s Pick of the Best Albums of 2014 is designed to highlight my individual taste as much as it’s there to support the little (wo)man. These artists aren’t necessarily found under the watchful eye of the majority, but they deserve some credit for what they’ve achieved this year. I also hope more than a few of you will adjust your view of 2014’s finest, if you end up discovering something new below.

2014’s been a corker of a year for the independent, unsigned and emerging artists of the world. Together, these troubadour and bedroom purveyors have offered up a bounty of musical wealth, that far outstrips their commercial counterparts. I’ve considered this list for a good few months, and after a lot of jostling, it’s not a major label release with heavy financial backing that takes pride of place at the top. It’s in fact a self-release, bitterly under-covered but no less loved by those who know it. It’s backed by a plethora of artists on independent labels; all of them absolutely stunning in their creation and production.

I’m really still not sure about the order in which I’ve placed some of these albums - the race has been so closely run. One thing, however, is certain: without them, I’d have lost a little faith in the music industry. Here are my Albums of 2014:

Albums of 201410// Elephant Stone – Three Poisons (Hidden Pony Records)

Fans of Elephant Stone will already know Dhir can write masterful, well crafted melodies, and infuse them with synth and dirge without spoiling the underlying foundations of his work. The Three Poisons takes things one step further. It pushes and cracks the boundaries of the psych-rock genre to introduce new and previously unexplored territory. Lead track “Knock You from Yr Mountain” demonstrates this perfectly, incorporating a Spoon-style strut to a song that otherwise stays true to Elephant Stone’s walk of life.

Albums of 20149// Pillar Point – Pillar Point (Polyvinyl)

To say Pillar Point’s Scott Reitherman has recorded a decent record is an understatement. As with British peer East India Youth, this Bay Area-born, Seattle-based artist appreciates the power of a cohesive sound. Through an essentially electronic web of instrumentation, Reitherman’s voice collides with sound to cherry pick key moments on the album. Closing track “Echoes” is the crème de la crème of those tracks on offer, with the title word hiccupping out of audible darkness. Likewise “Eyeballs” submerges itself in muttered harmonies and what sounds like “itchy water” appears, stuttering at random intervals.

Albums of 2014

8// Broncho – Just Enough Hip to Be Woman (Dine Alone)

Away from the slightly annoying call of fans who’ve spent too much time glued to BBC Six Music, Broncho have created a stunning debut album that exceeds the general airplay pandemonium of their breakthrough hit “Class Historian”. Think Violent Femmes sucking up to the modern American garage rock scene, plus some stuttering swag.

Albums of 20147// Jesca Hoop – Undress (Republic of Music)

Undress was recorded on the long and winding road of Jesca’s travels, emulating her troubadour existence while charming its way into the softly spoken, campfire inspired bracket of acoustic music. Hunting My Dress was arguably an obvious candidate for such an acoustic interpretation, and none of these songs stray too far from their original path. “Four Dreams” is perhaps the most different; stripping away layers of electronica to reveal its hollow yet evocative core. Thanks to this self-described “wooden sound”, ultimately it’s Jesca’s voice that shines through in the production. Stripped of studio intervention, the music allows Hoop to flourish in her own light, drawing attention to the beauty of her chords.

Albums of 20146// Kyla La Grange – Cut Your Teeth (ATC Label Group)

Music critics have compared Cut Your Teeth to every female pop solo-act under the British sun, with exquisite focus on Ms Florence Welch. This is just about as useful as comparing St Vincent to PJ HarveyCut Your Teeth draws closer comparison to artists with a tendency to bore anyone who doesn’t wear fake prescription glasses; we’re talking Niki & the DoveSay Lou Lou etc. Kyla’s overcome her brethren’s issues by producing an album that’s of equal high standard from start to finish, and she’s thrown in two great hooks per song for good measure. The result is a modern day Siobhan Donaghy with multi-coloured hair and a fascination with graveyards. It’s particularly amazing.

Albums of 20145// Esben and the Witch – A New Nature (Nostromo)

Esben and the Witch’s strengths have always overshadowed their weaknesses. Of the brief glimpse we’ve been allowed, their tendency to get lost in their own rambling, murky world has perhaps shone the brightest. On A New Nature, that criticism is completely diminished thanks to a powerful, throttling rhythm section. It constantly blows away the cobwebs, both figuratively and literally, but still allows the guitars the space they need to let their hair crawl. It’s best represented on opening track “Press Heavenwards”, which lulls the listener into a false sense of security (or cause for concern) before blasting a thousand volts of pure, terrifying Esben in your face.

Albums of 20144// Whales in Cubicles – Death in the Evening (CLUB.THE.MAMMOTH)

Whales in Cubicles may not stray too far from the beaten track on their debut album Death in the Evening, but they do bite at the heels of independence. Ironically, perhaps. Theirs is a talent comparable to the forefathers of the grunge and rock scenes; opener “Yesterday’s News” stinks of Gish era Smashing Pumpkins and “Nowhere Flag” has a touch of Nirvana about it. Meanwhile Whales in Cubicles’ peers blend into a melting pot of neighbours, dogs and mainstream hit makers. There’s a tendency to sound very similar to the next Joe. Whales in Cubicles wear their influences on their sleeve, but their shirt is a tailored cut. They're no Mr Bloggs.

Albums of 20143// EMA – The Future’s Void (City Slang)

Some albums defy space, time and whatever intergalactic studio they were recorded in. Some albums push and embody musical boundaries, taking sound to its very limit without making the process seem try-hard or even deliberate. Some albums leave in their wake utter devastation, combined with an intoxicating realisation of beauty. 2014 doesn’t deserve such an album. EMA has given it to us anyway, in the form of her sophomore album The Future’s Void.

Albums of 20142// Thumpers – Galore (Sony RED/Sub Pop)

Melody is a point unto itself on Galore. Pockets of it sneak up on you when you’re least expecting it. You think you’ve grasped the largely percussion and vocal led crux of a song, and then suddenly, wham! Guitar riff! Although they’re isolated to specific areas of the album these lines ring in your ear from start to finish. They’re poignant and very well placed. With Galore, Thumpers have marked the start of their career with a triumphant lion call of pop. Unforgettable, highly enjoyable and – as they’ve already proved – persistent, this is the kind of debut their peers dream of.

Albums of 20141// The Horn the Hunt – Terrafidella (Gpig Records)

A lot can be said of The Horn the Hunt's admirable songwriting process, the mysticism of their lyrics and their ability to use brass without being annoying - but ultimately what makes Terrafidella a success is the fact that Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne are equivalent to the iconic musicians of Britain past. They're simply staggering.  At this rate, we're going to have a very hard time forming a coherent sentence by the end of the year, let alone select a favourite album.

Want more? Read our Ones to Watch in 2015 article here, and head back to the site on 27th December 2014 see the results of DrunkenWerewolf's Albums of 2014 poll. Listen to our Editor's Pick: Albums of 2014 playlist below!

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