Tuesday, December 23, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 15-11

15 Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
Van Etten's struggles against a seemingly constantly broken heart have proved fertile lyrical ground, but on this fourth album she seems at rock bottom at times, documenting an on-off relationship with her usual cut to the bone uncomforting honesty while musically extending the intimate Americana brief of yore into wider fields, country rock and billowing overtures mingling with stratospheric piano balladry and the darkest of US underground influence. It's seldom less than melodramatic but it feels like it's earned its heft, an enormous sound juxtaposed with the most nakedly intimate thoughts and feelings, ending with the awkward thought that she might need a lack of resolution to keep going in such style.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

14 Bastard Mountain - Farewell, Bastard Mountain
As longstanding admirers of Song, By Toad's folk subversions, a practical label supergroup was always going to prick up our ears. What we hadn't anticipated is the stillness and darkness in its atmospheric landscape. Shivering, discordant violins and droning low-pitched guitars are like the heavy fog across the lake which the likes of Neil Pennycook (ex-Meursault) and Jill O'Sullivan (Sparrow & The Workshop) along with occasional fingerpicked guitars attempt to float on in the dead of an unstill night. Drifting without dulling, their take on gothic country is rich in texture, serene without becoming one-paced, absolutely fascinating and goosepimple chilling.

13 TV On The Radio - Seeds
After the flat Nine Types Of Light and the loss of Gerard Smith you might have forgiven TVOTR for drifting a little. Instead they found a third way, at once becoming more accessible while tightening up the values that had threatened to drift somewhat. In truth it's a straightforward pop album put through their unique filters, R&B, synthpop, soul and commerciality put through loops, nameless dread and assorted wringers, pushing against those elastic boundaries with endless not-too-careful layers of noise intervals, dry funkiness and a certain layer of glossy lustrousness, or as much as can be provided when juxtaposted with Tunde Adebimpe's still remarkable soulfulness as existential guilt of a voice.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

12 Christian Fitness - I Am Scared of Everything That Isn't Me
As is the way with these things, Andrew Falkous is insistent that just because he's pretty much the only musician on the record that doesn't mean Christian Fitness makes him a solo artist. Well, that's as maybe. What differentiates this from Future Of The Left is the necessarily more lo-fi and slightly less geared towards endlessly quotable lyrics, highlighting in place Albiniesque guitars set to kill, part of a leaner and meaner sound that still retains the rolling threat of the main band. It's a messier record, angry and paranoid against a sound that doesn't so much set teeth on edge as threaten them with a claw hammer.

11 Caribou - Our Love
How did this become a top ten album? The sense of surprise on Dan Snaith's chartbreaking achievement is based on how odd this seems for a breakthrough, following the previous flirtations with broken electronic rhythms by once more taking apart contemporary club music, here dubstep and the less bro-friendly bits of EDM, just to see how it works, and then rewiring it wrongly, just because. Moments of euphoria and tension mix with almost uncomfortable elements, swirl in and out of the foreground mix, clash with synths that recall the first wave of house, and go generally to make it sound like a very odd, warm and yet welcoming excursion.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

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