Monday, December 22, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 20-16

20 Her Name Is Calla - Navigator
Turning their back on the post-rock easy trappings they fell under for a while, Navigator is an album that lays bare some pretty tough emotions in more intriguing settings. Just in the first three tracks with vocals they traverse rustic folk, darkwave synths and rolling, agitated skyscraping piano balladry. That it all still feels like the same band is testament to their command of such intensity, rolling into storm-tossed sections or string-led peacefulness with the same flair for quiet, stately grace and outright soaring dramatics, held together by Tom Morris picking at scabs and working through his dark nights of the uneven soul.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

19 First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
You'll recognise Mike Mogis' production a mile off if you know what you're looking for, but you wouldn't confuse the Soderberg sisters for your standard harmonic west coast folk outfit. Not with those gossamer harmonies, not with a very Scandinavian sense of strength in misery, and not with as punchy a set of hooks as these, washing across desert lands to try and find a sign of humanity but finding only the remains. They sound convincing in their poetic attempts to come to terms with their new way of life, the melodramatic string section and country shuffle backing adding the natural grit and the idea of personal transcendence.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

18 Spoon - They Want My Soul
Oh, Spoon. Always different, always similar, soul-infused angularity in a crisp, concise, Costello-influenced vein. And that's what this album sounds much like, with maybe a little more of an eye on the mainstream. The devil is in the detail, the production carefully overseen and micro-managed in the way little found sounds and keyboard runs come in to take the ear away from the natural progression or how sometimes the guitars don't quite sound like they should. Underneath all the tricks, however, are just taut indie-rock songs of the old school from a group of people who know intrinsically how to write, arrange and play such things.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

17 The Phantom Band - Strange Friend
Just when you thought they were done they drag you back in. The Phantom Band's third album was more approachable than the first two but still perambulated around the edges of the Kraut-electro-indie-riffrock-acid-folk they've been extending to breaking point with only Rick Anthony's rich baritone to tie it all down. Shifting gears, diving from chugging tension verses into big wordless choruses and only after that launching into something bigger, it's an album that joyfully skips from swirling organs to washes of obtuse guitar sounds, a multicolour kosmiche charge that pays little heed to notional rules when the real joy lies in putting elements of various sources together in case they lead to a cohesive whole.
[iTunes] [Amazon]

16 Slow Club - Complete Surrender
This is not the whole Slow Club you used to know. The ramshackle alt-folk revue are now a self-sufficient soul duo for the lovers, or at least those who were once lovers. Things were really always heading this way in retrospect, and for all the swing and triumphant horns there's enough of a through-line – Rebecca Taylor's skyscraping vocals, the shuffling rhythms, the harmonies – to make it seem like an obvious step. The vocal intertwining remains the key to their appeal, Taylor an embodiment of heartbreak at times, Charles Watson a bruised, tender foil, that combination turning what could have been a stylistic exercise into something you can easily believe in from two pasty Sheffielders.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

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