One of the (few) perks of updating (occasionally) a music blog is that you get to foist on (both of) the readers a round up of the albums you liked best in 2014.
And IMO this has been a cracking year. I really could have made a list of around 40 albums that I reckon are worth a play or two from Damon Albarn through to The Sudden Death Of Stars. Apologies too in the direction of Beaulieu Porch and Of Arrowe Hill which arrived just a bit too late for this list.
I should add that guitars, the 60s and mind expanding pop are my thing – but that should be pretty obvious from the bands featured here.
Here then are my favourite 20 – starting with an album that has soundtracked much of my year.
1 Pete Fij and Terry Bickers – Broken Heart Surgery – Nigh on a decade after ‘the one’ smashed his heart into a million pieces (don’t they always!) ex Adorable singer Fij finally got round to recording his misery-soaked masterpiece. But what saves Broken Heart Surgery from being just a catalogue of calamity with its dark and bitter tales of rejection, stalking and technophobia is the gloriously uplifting guitar of the ex-House of Love chap Terry Bickers. Even at its most downbeat take Parallel (‘there’s a parallel world where everything turns out right and the parallel girl sleeps by my side,) ouch, Bickers’ John Barry-esque twangy guitar sounds make something so bleak sound almost joyful. Fantastic and utterly addictive album with or without a broken heart.
2 The Church – Further Deeper – It really is almost beyond comprehension that a band that has been around so long and created so much great music along the way can still be this ambitious, experimental and downright brilliant. Further Deeper is total redemption for Steve Kilbey and his unique psychedelic visions. Shorn of one of the band’s key members (the elusive Marty Willson-Piper) Kilbey has nevertheless conjured up a suite of songs that take the band’s sometimes jangly, sometimes edgy sounds to new levels. Further Deeper’s finale, Miami, is a total triumph that almost reaches ten minutes but feels like three, while Old Coast Road could grace any of the band’s seminal 80s albums. Wonderful stuff.
3 Temples – Sun Structures – If Benny and Bjorn had given the girls the afternoon off, dropped a couple of tabs and pressed record they’d probably come up with something like the Temples debut. A glorious mixture of dreamy pop songs decorated by soaring harmonies and gentle strings. Northamptonshire should be very, very proud of them.
4 David Woodcock – The year’s other epic break up album, for while Fij and Bickers focussed on dark and bitter tales of rejection, Southend based piano man David Woodcock took a slightly different approach on his fantastic debut album, where over upbeat piano riffs the estuary man tells of ‘37 year single mothers who could teach me a thing or two.’ This is classic English pop with nods to everyone from Blur to Mott the Hoople. And best of all it boast some of the best tunes, and quirkiest lyrics this side of Parklife.
5 The Junipers – Paint The Ground – Strictly speaking this shouldn’t be on this list as it was originally issued as a download in 2012. However a vinyl issue of this stunningly slice of English pop melancholy has been one of my most treasured musical possessions this year. The band have packed their picnic headed off into the English countryside and crafted a gorgeous piece of pop that’s part English folk and part the autumnal early 70s stuff that pops up on some of the Fading Yellow compilations. Simply gorgeous.
6 The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia – In a year where journalists and bloggers tried to capture the essence of what psychedelia is came Entropicalia from Leicester’s Soundcarriers which more than anything else in 2014 totally nails the genre. Entropicalia is smart, expansive, dreamy music which pulls in from the left field of pop, easy listening, folk and jazz from over five decades. You can’t stop missing Broadcast now, you have Entropicalia.
7 Mikey Georgeson – Blood and Brambles – The man behind David Devant, Mr Solo and the utterly bizarre Carfax tossed away the mask in 2014 and issued this masterpiece in his own name. A wonderful minestrone of quintessentially vaudevillian pop it ranges from the Bacharach meets Anthony Newley waltz of Sometimes through to the Springsteen-ish (had he come from the Essex shore rather than the Jersey one) anthemic pop of I see what you did there. Fabulous.
8 The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelation – Just like his fellow psychedelic troubadour, The Church’s Steve Kilbey, Anton Newcombe’s pop visions seem to get even more ambitious and technicolour the older he gets. Revelation is one hell of a great trip.
9 Foxygen – And Star Power – Sure it is over long, over ambitious and hideously pretentious, but I wouldn’t have Foxygen any other way. A wonderful distillation of all the wonkiest bits of the early 70s from Lennon to Todd Rungren.
10 The Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows – The LP3’s Glen Page is a class A storyteller. My Grandad Jim recounts wartime heroics over a vicious garage pop tune while the Weller-influenced Billy Mason relates another wartime tale this time of a family friend who built an aircraft in his house. Put simply no one else on the planet is penning lyrics like these at the moment. Nobody Knows is yet another triumph from the Medway boys.
11 Robyn Hitchcock – The Man Upstairs – A wonderful mix of inspired covers (Ghost In You and Ferries) with gentle folky originals San Franciscos Patrol). Just like a Judy Collins album from 1967.
12 The Primitives Spin-o-rama – After a twenty or so year hiatus the band returns with an album of new tunes, and guess what? They are just as much fun as the stuff they put out in their heyday.
13 Ultimate Painting – In the year where we said goodbye to Lou Reed this is a wonderful re-imagining of the third Velvets album. Many glorious tunes.
14 Morgan Delt – A wonderfully bonkers collection of way out pop songs that anyone who loves the trippier side of psych will go bananas for. Barbarian Kings is an absolute classic.
15 The Young Sinclairs – This is the Young Sinclairs – The US janglers finally get their moment in the sun courtesy of some very nice people from N16. This is a sweetly addictive collection of Byrdsie jangles, which to these ears trumps the output of several other higher profile garage folk acts.
16 Colorama – Temari – Another wildly schizophrenic collection from Carwyn and his crew. If you ignore the slightly bizarre yacht rock interludes this holds up really well. The opener Paraglide may just be their best ever song.
17 Balduin – All In A Dream – The Swiss psych pop alchemist, think Jacco Gardner but with the mellotrons turned up to 11, delivers yet another burst of tunes that had they been issued on 45s in the late 60s would have collectors trading limbs for.
18 White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent – Who style power pop with a twist. Their best album yet.
19 First Aid Kit – Stay Gold. Maybe not quite as epic as The Lion’s Roar, Stay Gold does however boast Cedar Lane, which lyrically totally nails post-relationship melancholy and has the most gorgeous plaintive tune to match.
20 The Paperhead – Africa Avenue – Not quite as bonkers as their surreal Pink Floyd drenched debut but this has better tunes to accompany their wildly original ideas.