Music changed for me in 2014, for the worse I’d say. I feel much more of a disconnection with music this year than I have ever done previously. I have bought fewer albums, devoted less time to listening and attended fewer concerts. The reason? Spotify. Around May I got a new (and eye-wateringly expensive) contract from my mobile phone provider and bundled into this was free Spotify Premium. Spotify is great, and I’m listening to a lot more obscure music and organically (through Spotify’s taste-bots) discovering bands that I would otherwise have never heard, but it has drastically slowed my consumption of new music. Therefore my resolutions, musically, for 2015 are as follows:
- Listen to more new music.
- Go to more local gigs; learn from the ground up.
- Write more.
- Get my band off the ground (finally); play a gig and record a demo. (Hey at least I get advance preview rights!)
Anyway, I’m doing this in a slightly different format this year. I didn’t think 2014 was an especially vintage year for music and choosing my top five albums of the year was very difficult due to the sheer dearth of anything that I truly loved. In order to back this up with some things I actually did like, I’m going to give you a brief rundown of my top five songs of the year, plus the best gig I’ve attended. Here goes…
Top 5 Albums of 2014
- The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
The Gaslight Anthem are one of my favourite bands, so this is probably a bit of personal bias here but it’s my top 5 so fuck you, I’ll cry if I want to. Get Hurt starts out with a devastating riff, the opening of ‘Stay Vicious’, an opening statement that sets up the rest of the album as classic Gaslight; big melodies with believable breakdowns, honest lyrics delivered by Brian ‘heart on his sleeve’ Fallon. This isn’t as good as The ’59 Sound or Sink or Swim, but it is a Gaslight Anthem record, and that (for the most part) will do for me.
- Jungle – Jungle
Every year has a classic summer album, and Jungle is that, so grab a Somersby cider paper cup, fill it with your festival Pißwasser of choice (Tuborg normally), put on those Ray-Ban Wayfarers, go sit in a field in the middle of nowhere surrounded by women and blokes with better stomachs than you and stick this through your crappy Apple headphones. I guarantee that it will make you feel better about your life.*
*DISCLAIMER: I will accept no responsibility for anybody catching hypothermia by doing this in inclement weather, or decent weather for that matter.
- Royal Blood – Royal Blood
In February of this year I saw Royal Blood perform to a tiny crowd in a back room of a pub on Cowley Road in Oxford. In May I saw them open for Arctic Monkeys in Finsbury Park. In June 2015 they open for Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium. Their sheer volume filled the first two venues with no problem and I’m sure that it won’t be an issue at Wembley. Royal Blood have, it is safe to say, risen meteorically this year and it is due to their catchy songs (‘Come on Over’, ‘Little Monster’, etc.) and sheer wall of noise. The lyrics are audible enough so that people can learn them and sing along and they sit somewhere between balls-to-the-wall-heavy and not-so-heavy-that-your-mum-heard-them-on-the-radio-and-likes-them, thus generating that magic that is known as ‘universal appeal’. Unlucky not to win the Mercury Prize this year.
- Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Rave Tapes came from out of nowhere early on in 2014, certain sections of the music press had, obviously, pissed their pants in anticipation late on in 2013 but otherwise it was quite under the radar, much like the album, which isn’t a bad thing. Sure it doesn’t induce the sort of skull-fucking chaos I feel when I even think about Come On Die Young or Young Team but it doesn’t need to. Mogwai make movie soundtracks these days and that is more than fine. I’d rather watch a movie with a soundtrack by Mogwai than a movie with a soundtrack by, well, most people.
- Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
Brilliance in 19 minutes. Never Hungover Again is another album that just never lets up, songs like ‘Christmas Card’, ‘Victoria’ and ‘In the Army Now’ feel longer than they actually are (clocking in at a combined total of just over 6 minutes) and are all the better for their brevity, leaving you wanting more. Sure they signed to Epitaph but, as major label debuts go, this stands out amongst the crowd, displaying, if anything, a growing maturity from their previous two albums but showing that they are still rooted the pissing about and singing about every day things (such as a breakup and a makeup and getting a shitty tattoo) that forms the core aesthetic of any Californian pop punk band (see FIDLAR).
Top 5 Songs of 2014
- Mogwai – ‘Remurdered’
I think I said most of what I wanted to say up there. This is the standout track on the album by a mile; a daunting song with one of the filthiest synth bass lines I’ve ever heard.
- Charli XCX – ‘Break The Rules’
Completely different to the above, this is just pure fun. Along with (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) Taylor Swift, Charli XCX has the potential to save pop music from Simon Cowell’s foul, hairy and presumably sweaty grasp.
- Bad News – ‘Azur’
From Oxford and Cheltenham with love comes a song from newcomers Bad News. A 3 minutes and 41 seconds crescendo about making mistakes and telling people that you are trying to right them (I think). This is a song that you go to gigs to hear and it works just as well on record.
- The Hold Steady – ‘On With the Business’
Hey, I watched Breaking Bad, did you watch Breaking Bad? Hey wanna listen to a song ostensibly about Breaking Bad that could also relate to our lives as 20somethings who have made a couple of stupid decisions? I tell people when I’m drunk that Craig Finn is one of my favourite songwriters, this song is a testament to why I feel that way.
- ∆ (alt-j) – ‘Hunger of the Pine’
Besides a couple of other songs I really did not like This Is All Yours and the band were incredibly boring live, but in my opinion this song runs away with the crown of ‘Song of 2014’. It samples Miley Cyrus. Miley fucking Cyrus! Who the fuck even thought that would be a good idea? In this context it wasn’t a good idea, it was fucking genius, perfect. The rest of the song is sonically exemplary, from the opening bleeps, the vocals, the ominous bass, tight as anything drums and that sample. Wow. Hats off.
Gig of 2014
Hands down this has to be Kanye West at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park. I spent hours and hours sat in brutally warm conditions that I hadn’t at all prepared for and saw something that I never thought that I would see. That was, of course a Giorgio Moroder DJ set, but the best was yet to come. Kanye, Yeezus, the biggest rock star on the planet, narcissistic cretin, whatever you prefer to call him, produced a stormer of a set. It was an experience that I’m not sure I will ever equal or surpass in terms of amazement at a musical performance; this setlist, the fact that he wore a strange mask throughout, his 25 minute rant at the portrayal and treatment of black people in the fashion industry and his encore, which consisted of ‘Blood on the Leaves’, twice. It was amazing, just amazing. Kanye West knows how important and talented he is, whether he implodes remains to be seen, but if you can catch him at his peak (right now) then I wholly urge you to.
That’s me out for 2014 people. Watch this space for more of my self-involved ranting in the new year and check out an extended list of my tracks of the year on, *sigh*, Spotify.