I’d say best albums but I am not sure there have been many really good albums this year (ok I will note them as I think of them).
- I Wanna Be Your Lover – Fenech Soler
- Jerk Ribs – Kelis (Food)
- Black Belt – John Grant (Pale Green Ghosts)
- I Believe – Bright Light Bright Light (Life is Easy)
- Rumble – Kelis (Food)
- U Know – Prince (Art Official Age)
- Don’t Tell – Mansions on the Moon (Mansions on the Moon)
- Are You What You Want to Be? – Foster the People (Supermodel)
- Little Bit More – Bo Saris
- Best Friend – Foster the People (Supermodel)
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot some repetition and some tracks (John Grant) which wear released earlier than 2014. These feature because a) there were only a few good albums this year and b) I only discovered some of this during the year via other means.
UPDATE – Since I published this D’Angelo and the Vanguards released Black Messiah. I like everyone was surprised when this happened and I have to admit I have listened to it several times since it’s release. It is an amazing album, one you simply cannot describe or hum (although I recognised it playing in a store today). I was listening to it on Spotify but love it so much I have purchased it.
The album is wonderfully elkletic, rhythmic, soulful, political and spiritual but all in good measure – this should be the top item on my list now as the album and The Charade are amazing. I’m not re writing this entry though, I thought I would spill ensure it gets the mention it deserves… Oh and listen to it and see if you too are amazed when it ends… cause it just does… and it’s brilliant…
Fenech Soler go straight in at number one for this complete left of the field hit. It’s not featured on any album, it was simply a request by some music magazine in the states that asked them to perform a live cover. They chose this obscure but wonderful Prince track and a true piece of genius was born – I cannot get enough of this song and am very happy with was released as a free download on Soundcloud. Well done boys – great work!
Kelis has had an amazing year and another departure from the norm… This was a highly anticipated album as the Jerk Ribs was leaked last year and we knew there was a new direction for Kelis. Food was not to disappoint and delivered a brilliant jazz funk mix that we have not heard from her before.
I was lucky to see Kelis perform the album at Somerset House in London in the summer and she applied the new sound to all her old hits which was wonderful – this truly exhibits how versatile she is and as ever her voice works wonderfully with any style.
I discovered John Grant via my muse friend and Looking and love his wit and clever writing. Black Belt and Pale Green Ghosts are brilliant songs and very witty. GMF of course is another cool track but not one you can sing everyday!
By sheer fluke I got to see him perform live this year as he turned up to duet with Alison Goldfrapp and the London Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. He was the perfect partner to Goldfrapp’s whimsical pitch and tone and complimented her perfectly.
Rod or Bright Light Bright Light has had an exceptional year and released Life is Easy – his second album. The messages remain similar to the first album but the direction and production has moved on and it shows. I honestly though I Believe would have been a summer hit but being an independent I think it is hard to break the charts. It’s a shame as it’s a killer track and a real dance floor filler.
Rod had a great year with his own tour and supporting Elton John (we could hear him from the living room window when they were playing Colchester!). Sadly that was as close to Rod as I got this year as I didn’t manage any of the live shows despite having tickets. I din;t see him in the pub this year either – maybe next year!
Prince surprised everyone this year by releasing two albums on the same day, engaging with social media (in his own special way (Princestagram)), leaving social media and proving he is still a formidable force.
I didn’t get to see any of the guerrilla shows or small concerts he put on in the UK as the timing was not right but I am so glad he released Art Official Age. Surprisingly cooky, wonderfully produced and ethereal – this was a trip back to the dizzy heights of Lovesexy albeit it with the help of more drum machines and synths than ever before.
He has released albums in the last couple of years but they have some and gone and to be honest I have only listened to them once or twice. AOO is a true album, a real body of work and a wonder – I wish he’d produce work like this more often – or at least release it.
There’s such a mix of styles it really shows off his talent and proves he still has it!
Mansions on the Moon were and probably are virtual unknowns and they are a first for me. I cannot remember where I heard Don’t Tell but the power of the internet got me to investigate and for the first time I crowd funded an album.
They’re self titled album is a wonderfully floaty pop synth affair and I love it. I feel proud to have helped a fledgling act produce a body of work – especially as I like it so much.
I can only hope 2014 was the start of something big for them…
Foster the People‘s second album Supermodel was much richer and vibrant then Torches yet helped the Cali boys cement their unique vibe.
They played one gig in the UK to launch the album and Enda and I managed to get tickets. I think we were the eldest in the audience but that didn’t matter as FTP really know how to put on a show. They did mix things up though, putting hits in the middle of the playlist and not saving them for an encore – but that’s what helped keep the show fresh and lively.
At the time the audience didn’t appreciate the Supermodel material but I am sure they are all fans of it now.
The Bo Saris track Little Bit More is a bit of an anomaly as this was simply a track and remix from Mousse T that I really liked. I am not a huge fan of his work but this was lively and something different. It also takes me back to my fortieth birthday in New York as I a certain this is where I heard it first.
Goldfrapp didn’t make the top ten this year for songs but they deserve an extra special mention as they did some spectacular stuff this year. At the beginning of the year they released art house videos for songs from Tales of Us (some very dark) and performed a lice concert afterwards. This was unique in that it was broadcast to cinemas globally at the same time.
They also preformed at the Royal Albert Hall which was amazing (see below).
Pet Shop Boys also performed at the Royal Albert Hall this year unveiling their opera (Man from the Future) about the life and work of World War II code breaker Alan Turning. A very special evening (to paraphrase Neil Tennant) which saw Overture to Performance performed with a live orchestra for the first time, several songs performed live by Chrissie Hyde and the premier of the opera – a magical evening only made possible by the likes of Neil, Chris, their vision and the commissioning team at the BBC.
I would have loved to have included things like Restart by Sam Smith but I soon grew very bored of hearing him. I thought he would be huge in 2014 and I was not wrong but as usual the music industry and the press went all out to make him this massive start and ended up flooding the press, social media and the air waves with his high-pitched shrills – so much so I now hate hearing anything he does and his millennial view of being a gay man in the industry! I call this the Adele effect – give an artist a chance to produce two good songs and instantly they are rammed down our throats until we can take no more (well except the general public and tweens who can’t seem to get enough of this shit).
Plectrum Electrum strangely didn’t make it either – and this is odd as Prince released two albums on the same day and yet this was a big no-no for me. I really do not like this group Third Eye Girl and feel this album was a step too far – too much guitar, too heavy on the drums and lacking any sort of real emotion – thankfully we got Art Official Age to help so out this travesty.
I didn’t mention the King of Pop either – Xscape really was the album he should have released before he died and was produced wonderfully and very sympathetic to his style and voice. Apart from the creepy 3D Hologram performance earlier in the year, Sony should be applauded for letting us hear this body of work as it was so good. It’s such as shame he’s no longer around to really help us enjoy it.
Ultimately this has a mixed year musically. I have passed on so much cultural and popular stuff and have forgotten quite a bit too. I seem to have gravitated towards the same things and songs have been forgotten very quickly. Maybe 2015 will be a richer year for music?
Saying that with all the experiences I have had at concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, Somerset House and intimate gigs, I realise and know I am thankful and very lucky to be able to experience all of this.
Here’s to 2015…