We may now live in a self-professed ‘digital age’ but the album hasn’t lost its grip or power on us as a generation or as a society. It still has its hold and its place in an industry that’s ever changing.
In my mind, 2014 has been the year of the album. With countless outstanding début records being released this year by burgeoning bands and some great sophomore records. Now is the time to shed some light on all the musical goodness from these LP’s that have been sent unto this year.
Syd Arthur – Sound Mirror
‘Sound Mirror’ is the bands sophomore album, whether you’re a veteran to the sounds of Syd Arthur or a new listener, I think this record quite simply sums up the band in the best way possible. And if you are new to the band then it’s the perfect introduction to the prog rock band. It’s elegant and intensely melodic, maybe at times self indulgent but that’s what makes it superbly progressive.
Melding the sounds of old and new together in perfect unison, you have to tip your hat to Syd Arthur. It comes across that they must be perfectionists but taking the time to get something just right has to be done or else what’s the point really? ‘Sound Mirror’ is a great accompaniment to a lazy Sunday afternoon, a long car journey, or whatever life may throw at you. This album is as fresh and blossoming as the day it was conceived.
The Pretty Reckless – Going to Hell
‘Going To Hell’ is a very assured sophomore record from The Pretty Reckless. They took the time out to work and perfect the sound of this record and it completely shows. Shrouded in atmosphere and intense, heated, unadulterated rock’n’roll, ‘Going To Hell’ is a foot-stomping good time from beginning to end.
Although, this record is still seasoned with the bands softer, maybe not sweeter side. But what’s certain is that no matter whether it’s a loud and angsty rock song or an acoustic ballad, The Pretty Reckless definitely have one-upped themselves with this record. Momsen’s vocals sizzle with fiery intensity highlighted by her signature vocal stylings and quirks.
The Pretty Reckless are at the forefront of a music industry that isn’t dead at all, it’s blossoming even more so than ever before and The Pretty Reckless are the torchbearers for true rock’n’roll with a bucket load of swagger and an ample dose of soul, this album really does shake things up.
Ed Sheeran – X
Ed Sheeran’s sophomore effort ‘X’ or as he refers to it ‘Multiply’ is a patchwork of thoughts, feelings, sentiments and moments in time. All I can describe this record as is a cocoon: warm, homely and comforting.
‘X’ builds on what Sheeran established with ‘+’ and works to showcase his growing maturity as an artist, as he pushes his creativity much further with ‘X’. Though, Sheeran still does keep it consistent with his searing lyrical honesty and fiery quick wit.
‘X’ covers a range of emotions from the vulnerable, heart torn-open ‘Bloodstream’ to the hand-on-heart love letter ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and then staying true to who you are with ‘The Man’. This isn’t an album for just a moment but an album for life. It’s spirited, heartfelt and quick witted, everything that Sheeran established with his debut but with added gusto and fight.
Sheeran affirms why he is hot property. ‘X’ is a testament to the hard graft he’s put into this over the years – ‘X’ is a triumph in many respects.
Drowners – Drowners
Drowners formed in New York and essentially, are a product of the big city. Their self-titled debut is as high octane and bustling as the big city. It moves and grooves with a charm and ease that could only be replicated by this band. Loaded with smart remarks and backchat, Drowners will always get the last word in.
Singer and songwriter, Matt Hitt proves that his songwriting ability is limitless and one to be regarded highly. Drowners have made a record that has no dull moments or full stops, it’s just go, go, go. In other words, it’s a record that just keeps giving.
Foxes – Glorious
There’s something about the power of a good pop song that in itself can be timeless. Now I’m not saying that what Foxes has given us on her début record is timeless but it sure does have the capacity to win you over and ultimately, to become a constant in your life. ‘Glorious’ is proud to be a pop record, in all its glory it does what it says on the tin. It’s breezy pop but with added lyrical bite.
As a pop artist what Foxes brings to the table is sparkling, hearty pop that has a message of empowerment, embracing life to its fullest and learning from the mistakes we make in life. Louisa Rose Allen is not just your average pop artist. Her songs are personal, open letters about her life and society in general – all the tracks on ‘Glorious’ are co-wrote by Allen.
Her powerhouse vocals could outshine many of today’s pop stars. Allen can credit her childhood musical upbringing in part to this, schooling herself in the vocal stylings of classic female vocalists such as Bjork, Kate Bush and Patti Smith, it’s easy to see where she gets her inspiration from.
What Allen has carefully moulded with ‘Glorious’ is a fine specimen of intent. Her vocals pull the basis of the track forward not overshadowing the lyricism or the melodies but adding light and texture to them. Her vocals shine so bright that you might just have to pinch yourself to believe that it’s real.
Matthew and the Atlas – Other Rivers
The long awaited début record from Matthew and the Atlas is a welcome delight from start to finish. ‘Other Rivers’ is buoyant with mystifying melodies of unsung stories, it’s an album that will haunt you over and over again. What struck me on my first listen is the earnest and captivating quality of Hegarty’s voice. He has the voice of an older gentleman, a voice of wisdom and maturity that strikes up a powerful emotional connection between the listener and the storyteller.
Hegarty has created a fairytale of his own – thundering, rolling soundscapes draw in like the clouds roll in before a storm, slowly and then all at once. Vast and engrossing in its form and conception ‘Other Rivers’ is a mighty record. I’d say, just one listen to ‘Other Rivers’ and you’ll be smitten.
Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s début record is one that we’ve been highly anticipating, so to finally have it in our hands and be able to say it’s exceeded our expectations makes us very proud of these boys. The album is filled to the brim with previous singles like ‘Rango’, live favourites such as ‘Kathleen’ and a couple new songs including ‘26’ and ‘Business’, all which work to create an astonishing debut.
‘Tyrants’ acts as the band’s calling card, it’s a monster of a song that builds and builds, it comes alive in the closing half of the track to demolish us. It’s intense energy and bubbling solo’s create a wall of noise that is intensely melodic yet still raucously entertaining and thoroughly fitting for the album closer.
Not many bands would even attempt to cut out on a track, but that’s exactly what Catfish and the Bottlemen do. Leaving us in a state of disarray, craving and holding out more, creating this anticipation for what’s next, which is sure to get heads at gigs and in turn, fans for life. This track is a reflection of the sheer power and connection that Catfish and the Bottlemen have on a live audience.
Luke Sital-Singh – The Fire Inside
‘The Fire Inside’ is an album that I feel has been severely overlooked by the majority. Its sincere coursing lyrical heartbeat is something of real beauty. Sital-Singh’s lyrics are taken straight from the heart: strikingly honest, warm and fuzzy but completely defeating.
There’s nothing that can measure up to the power of a singer completely opening themselves up to a stranger and laying it all out there for everyone to dissect and consume and that’s exactly what Sital-Singh does on ‘The Fire Inside’. It’s an album I will be listening to all my life. It’s one of those that will grow with you each and every listen. I highly recommend it.
JAWS – Be Slowly
The début record from Birmingham wild child’s JAWS is beyond what was expected of them. An album that one foolishly might have mistaken for being a trip into a breezy indie pop world, and while the record does have its breezier and lighter moments, you would be wrong to think that’s all it is.
‘Be Slowly’ has a harder, rougher edge to it, a nod to the bands influences in grunge and rock. Though, the record still does feature singles and live favourites like ‘Gold’ and ‘Surround You’. ‘Be Slowly’ is a culmination of the bands past and present, showing the bands growth and increasing musical ability.
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
‘Royal Blood’ is a powerhouse of riotous raw energy, insatiable grooves and mighty riffs. Bass and drums act as the primary mouthpieces which drive the music ensuing in carnage, sonically and emotionally. ‘Royal Blood’ is a barrage on the senses.
Although, this record of course is loud and heavy, it’s not about making as much noise as possible, but about awakening a world that is craving that primal connection. It’s that pure connection, music is the centrepiece in the equation which connects artist to audience and so forth.
‘Royal Blood’ is lean, mean and completely rockin’. Royal Blood have given us a record full of instant classics, it’s a big statement to make but unbelievably they have achieved this feat with their début no less.
HARTS – Daydreamer
‘Daydreamer’ is a music lesson in itself. Hart schooling us in the fine art of rock’n’roll, funk, pop and soul. His masterful guitar solos and pulsing energy propel this album into the stratosphere and what’s more impressive is that he has wrote, recorded, mixed and performed the whole record solely on his own.
Truly, the future holds limitless opportunities for his artist, as Hart asks himself: “Are you with me for the ride?” and of course, the answer is hell yes! We wouldn’t miss it for the world.
The Trouble with Templeton – Rookie
The Aussie band’s debut is quite simply something of beauty. The record is lithe with its witty retellings of the mundane but told from the perspective of frontman, Thomas Calder, its hard not to be taken aback by the articulate musings of his penmanship. He’s gifted with the writing ability of one beyond his years, you can only be impressed by that.
The record is emblazoned with a vivid, kaleidoscopic wash of melodies, topped off with a sufficient helping of Aussie sunshine and a vocal from Calder that cuts deep in its evocative torment. ‘Rookie’ is one of those albums that with each listen you will uncover something new about it, it just keeps getting better and better.
Sir Sly – You Haunt Me
Sir Sly’s first venture into the long player, I can only say, is a magical, mysterious adventure. Lyrically, it’s an album that’s haunted by the breakdown of a relationship. It’s vulnerability is both heartbreaking and endearing.
Yet the soundscape for the most part doesn’t reflect this. ‘You Haunt Me’ is enamoured with a propulsive drive and consuming energy, even in its darker moments we are hit by a melodic rush of prowling electronica laced with pop melodies.
Supernatural themes dot in and out of ‘You Haunt Me’ as the title might suggest, but nothing on this record is set to scare you. It’s more likely to thrill you and get under your skin, causing a succession of late nights of it on constant repeat, I’ll tell you now.
Glass Caves – Alive
Glass Caves début record is nothing if not ambitious, opening track ‘Go’ proves this ten times over. Shaking with fierce aplomb and a ferocity that will make even the strongest quiver in their boots, this band aren’t messing about. As we move through the record we are cut by explosive bursts of guitar led bedlam and soaring vocals, if the plan was to give the listener sonic whiplash, then they’ve succeed in the best way possible.
‘Alive’ is a feel good album of indie rock anthems in the making. From a band that are still cutting their teeth on the live circuit to fuel their ever expanding fanbase, their début is intensely confident and definitive of a band that are on the rise.
Superfood – Don’t Say That
‘Don’t Say That’ is in one word: Fun. Grooving with a swagger and an energy that only Superfood can emit. Immediately with track one ‘Lily For Your Pad To Rest On’, we are met by Superfood’s unusual lyrical themes from songs about raisins to TV’s to talking flowers. It’s all in there.
But to me, it’s a sum of its parts. Standing alone, lyrically this album may seem eccentric but added to euphoric choruses, a raucous energy, gritty bass lines, blazing guitars and tumultuous drums. ‘Don’t Say That’ is one of the most endearing debut’s of this year. From a band that have clearly found their footing and are ready to venture forth in their own unique way.