Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top 10 Albums of 2014

10) Sivu - Something On High 
Sivu first came to NotAnotherRainySunday's attention at an intimate Sofar Sounds gig in Oxford, and since then the musician has moved from strength to strength. His debut album, Something On High, is hardly the most cheerful of albums, but its bleak lyrics are elevated by soaring melodies and intricate instrumentation. He's sure to be one to watch over the coming year. 

9) Toumani & Sidiki Diabate - Toumani & Sidiki 
Father and son duo, Toumani & Sidiki Diabate are two of Mali's best known musicians, and have found widespread praise in the west for their kora playing. The first time they've created a record together, their eponymous debut is a stunning showcase of Malian instrumentation. Toumani Diabate once described music as the "mineral wealth" of Mali, and the album as a whole is powerful proof of how important music is to the nation as part of their cultural heritage. 

8) Caribou - Our Love 
The sixth studio album from Dan Snaith (under his stage name, Caribou) is a vibrant and danceable album, which still retains a thoughfulness throughout all the tracks. Citing the birth of his daughter as inspiration for the more personal approach towards the album, Snaith points out that it's an album of reflection, making for wonderful listening. 

7) Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything 
In recent years, Elbow's popularity has seen a dramatic surge, culminating in an arena tour of the UK in April 2014, and it's not hard to see why. The band are known for their power ballads, lending themselves well to huge venues. On their latest offering, The Take Off and Landing of Everything, 'New York Morning' follows this formula, but it still manages to sound fresh, a theme prevalent throughout the whole album. 

6) Metronomy - Love Letters 
For their fourth album, Metronomy stick to the similar roots of its predecessor, The English Riviera, and it's no bad thing. 'I'm Aquarius' is reminiscent of the previous album's 'Corrine'  as the vocals of leadsinger Joe Mount and drummer Anna Prior are beautifully intertwined. However, in some respects the latest release witnesses a progression in their sound - Love Letters is refined yet vibrant, and a truly triumphant album. 

5) Lykke Li - I Never Learn 
Written after a breakup, I Never Learn is an album of heartbreak. It's the shortest of Lykke Li's albums so far, but each song is a powerful ballad. Vocally, the singer could not be stronger, however her voice retains a delicacy which sweetens the harsh electronic backings. Across the album, Lykke Li proves that although it's short, it's her finest record yet.

4) Wild Beasts - Present Tense 
Present Tense is Wild Beasts' fourth album, and the band show no sign of slowing down. With each of their albums featuring widely on end of year "best album" lists, the Kendal band have proved that their music is like no other. The distinct falsetto of  leadsinger, Hayden Thorpe, which sets the band apart from so many, once again is sumptuously featured on their latest album. Present Tense is a richly textured album, with Thorpe singing on 'Wanderlust', "we're decadent beyond our means... we're high in our poverty". Even the simplest of Wild Beasts' songs sound like symphonies. 

3) Snowmine - Dialects Brooklyn five-piece Snowmine
triumphed with the release of 'Dialects'. Recorded in a church, the tracks on the album have a fresh and expansive sound. Across the album, the vocals are reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, but the comparisons end there. With strings and clarinets, the sound is rich and vibrant, with each song on the album seamlessly flowing into the next, meaning a unified sound spans the record. The album is perfectly produced, with recurring instruments providing overarching musical themes. However this isn't to say the tracks are repetitive. Each individual song is a masterpiece, meaning 'Dialects' is safely one of the best albums of 2014.

2) Spring Offensive - Young Animal Hearts 
In November, Spring Offensive sadly played their last gig after a decade together. However, 2014 proved to be a fantastic final year for the band, with the release of Young Animal Hearts in March, making their breakup even more poignant. The album opens with the darkly beautiful 'Not Drowning But Waving', a clever take on Stevie Smith's poem 'Not Waving But Drowning'. Spring Offensive are a poetic bunch - the band name is taken from the Wilfred Owen poem of the same name. Their songs follow great narratives, and refreshingly are not always about love. It's hard to fit Spring Offensive into an exact genre, but perhaps this was a blessing for the band. Although they are no longer together, their music can survive listen after listen without ever growing old. 

1) Francois & The Atlas Mountains -  Piano Ombre 
After gaining widespread critical acclaim for their last album, E Volo Love, Francois & The Atlas Mountains returned with a stunning follow-up in Piano Ombre. The first of their albums to be recorded with a professional producer, the album surprisingly doesn't sound too over-produced, as is often the case when musicians hand over the reigns. Instead, the raw beauty of E Volo Love remains. Piano Ombre is more paired-back than its predecessor, relying more on lead singer, Francois Marry's fragile voice, which expresses far more emotion that a sea of instrumentation ever could. A group combining musicians from both sides of the channel, the majority of the songs are in French with  the lilting lyrics adding to the sublime majesty of the music. However, even when singing in English, the subtleties of Marry's voice are not lost. It's a testament to his talent as a musician that the transition from French to English is seamless. There's something distinctively French about the minimalism of his music, which at the same time is so emotive. Although instrumentally simple, the melodies are consistently strong throughout the entire album. The serenity of Piano Ombre shows a development in their sound as the band has matured. It's an exquisite album, thoughtfully produced to perfection. 

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