As usual I’m not limiting myself solely to what was released in the last twelve months, just to what was new to me. 2014 has been surprisingly difficult, so the Spotify playlist Best of Newly Heard in 2014 is longer than the six songs I’ve high-lighted below, but everything is worth a listen.
Bass Drum of Death - I Wanna Be Forgotten
What’s not to love in the unstoppable energy of the drum intro and garage rock riffs? Pure energy and no-nosense.
The Menzingers - Rodent
Classic Menzingers, this is a hard choice given the amount of great tracks on Rented World. Initially not as convincing as their previous brilliant album On The Impossible Past, Rented World has stood up to repeated plays with their trademark combination of heart stoppingly honest observational lyrics and catchy hooks. Bad Things and I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore are also fantastic songs.
The War On Drugs - Under Pressure
This album is topping a lot of best of year lists, and rightly so. The opening track is a great lethargic, echoey, dreamy soundscape. Across the almost nine minutes of run time I don’t think there’s an instrument that doesn’t make an appearance.
Brian Eno - The Big Ship
This was a surprise find on the Eno’s classic 1975 album Another Green World. Most of the tracks on there seem very much of their time; jaunty, sharing a kinship of over the top arrangements from Yes and Mike Oldfield. The Big Ship on the other hand is beautifully dark, brooding and paired back, sounding strikingly different to the rest of the album and perversely very modern.
Caspian - Hymn For the Greatest Generation
My favourite post-rock track of the year, HFTGG is equal parts quiet and reflective, then exultation and honourable fading glory. The whole EP is worth repeated listening, The Heart That Fed being a great track and the two re-mixes being very worthwhile (something I rarely say about re-mixes).
Patrick Park - Deep in the Wilderness
Yet more echo, but simpler and deeper. The whole Love Like Swords album is great as well
Album wise Against Me! released the great Transgender Dysmorphia Blues, even if no single track particularly stood out - having said that True Trans Soul Rebel and Paralytic States are both great, but the whole thing works much better as an album than one-offs.
Ryan Adams, in his usual prolific way, released two albums, the better of which is the self-titled; channeling Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty much more successfully than anyone else recently, including Petty and The Boss themselves. It’s clear that he is torn between hundreds of genres and musical possibilities, and doesn’t know which way to turn his very self-aware talent, but this album, even with it’s pastiche bad album cover, is much more together than anything else he has created in recent times.
On the punk side Screaming Females’ 2012 Ugly is great, and the two teaser singles for 2015’s Rose Mountain sound very promising for next year. The Holy Mess also produced a short sharp pop-punk shock to the system with Comfort In The Discord, with Spencer Reid having almost made it into the best of year songs.