Friday, December 26, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 5-1

5 Martha - Courting Strong
Smart, unpretentious punk-pop with an indiepop bent. It's an old trick and quite a difficult one to pull off, especially when it's carried as superbly well as the residents of Pity Me manage on their debut. Melodies to spare, riffs that sound easy and probably aren't, and four vocalists harmonising, falling over each other, attempting to elbow in front of each other, all without bringing the edifice even down to the teetering stage. It's a youthful album with a funny, honest lyrical soul well beyond its years, a form of nostalgia laced with uncertain friendships and lost crushes, personal confusion and the loneliness of being left behind when everyone else goes off to develop. There's far more fascination going on here then their musical setting might suggest.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

4 Hookworms - The Hum
Strange thing to say about a second album a year after the first, but this was the album Hookworms had been threatening to make. It's where the many parts of their headspinning, intensifying stew – Spaceman 3 hazed psych-outs, Krautrock, shoegaze and drone, Nuggets and all full pelt garage rock since, Velvets-via-Modern Lovers and whatever MJ's often manaical, ultra-reverbed vocals and whirring organ which sounds like no other keyboard sound since Clinic emerged count as – have coalesced most effectively into songs that under the layers seem quite approachable even as they build towards the ecstatic codas. There's only six proper tracks on the album but they all hit home and leave a definite impression like little else this year.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

3 Wild Beasts - Present Tense
The fourth album (already) is a step sideways, taking in more overt electronic influences while still sounding both like themselves and a natural progression from Smother. In doing so they continue to scope out their own unique space, where carnality, menace and awkward reflection meet in fields dappled with retro-futuristic synths, the familiar arrhythmic drums and very little in the way of obvious guitars, almost experimental R&B production at times. Apparently a four-piece band can do sensuality properly. Their lyrics are still written in a way nobody else does, getting over themselves and their flesh-feast satires into a place of enchantment and actual romance. Yet again they've staked out an area that moves on and is purely their approach, their internal rules.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

2 Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Mike Hadreas has had enough of confessionals, turning his internalised wounds outwards to find out what everyone else makes of him. “No family is safe when I sashay” is the much quoted lyric, really acting as a trojan horse for a theme of being the one who stands out, who isn't like everyone else and has learnt to accept that and have fun with it. There are still stately, quavering piano ballads and Hadreas' lonely, bruised vocal style largely remains, but they're in the minority set against humming, twinkling Sakamoto synths, brooding guitars, pulsing electronic basslines and the odd shifted vocal just to make things sound creeper and more “other”. A curious, sad, confrontational, aching, powerful album that we'll be marking as a sleeper classic one day.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

1 St Vincent - St Vincent
You don't often hear the moment when an artist moves from decent to spectacular as it's happening, but the moment when Birth In Reverse transforms from odd and tentative into a rush of endorphins with just a slight change of rhythm, driven by Annie Clark's distorted guitar, is a fine example. Those vaulting, fuzzed-out guitar runs seem to step up a gear here, in a context that seems to have every important part filled while still seeming taut and fat-free, Clark having seemingly worked out what she wants to do and how best to get it over in leftfield pop shapes, proudly idiosyncratic and shifting styles subtly and with the smallest of visible fragments while still notably following her own muse throughout. It feels like The One, and that's why it's our favourite album of 2014.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

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