15. Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
What is that guitar sound? Some sort of slide steel drum as far as I can tell. It’s as mesmerising as it is mysterious, and drives the lazy feel of DeMarco’s second full length album, released by Captured Tracks back in April. Be careful letting the easy-going vibe suck you in: you might think you’re kicking back the sand somewhere in the summer sun, lyrics like those on the title track might inform you otherwise:
Oh mama, actin’ like my life’s already over
Oh dear, act your age and try another year
14. Metronomy - Love Letters
It’s amazing how much anger and hate you can generate in others just by recording an album like Love Letters. It is the spirit of the age, though, to not just leave something for others to enjoy, but to take pleasure in pointing out how far above it you are. So it is that Joe Mount must be decried as "up himself" and no doubt one of those terrible hipsters you hear so much about, because he wanted an entirely analog recording process. Me, I just like the vibe, the wavering vocals, the occasional plinkiness, and how, with Reservoir, Metronomy conjured a whole world from a cheap keyboard or two.
13. Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Through much of Too Bright there's nothing beyond a voice and a piano, and so stretched are the spaces that you only get one of these at a time. And then you're given only a tantalising silence. "Queen" and "Grid", on the other hand, offer bold bursts of noise. And then there’s the extraordinary Fool, all fingersnaps, uncomfortable imagery, and an incredible falsetto crescendo. Too Bright packs in a wealth of feeling into its surprisingly brief running time.
12. Real Estate - Atlas
The excitement and anticipation of watching Real Estate perform their new album in full for NPR’s First Listen Live before its release seems a long time ago now Songs like "Talking Backwards" and "Crime" still elicit burst of joy ten months on. The guitars jangle merrily, duetting with the vocals; Atlas is a falling leaf, dancing, fluttering just out of reach.
11. Fear of Men - Loom
There’s a depth to Loom that you might not guess at from the album’s brief song-titles or Jessica Weiss’ entrancing vocals. Linger awhile, however, and the watery preconceptions, the hints at the sinister, reveal the darkness on the edge of Loom that Brighton’s Fear of Men use to demonstrate that indie-pop doesn’t have to mean bouncy and carefree.
10. Cheatahs - Cheatahs
Let’s not call it a shoegazing revival: bands have been quietly going about their reverb-laden business long before this year. 2014 saw ‘gaze and noise-pop goodness from the likes of Whirr and Seasurfer among others, but London’s Cheatahs came up with arguably the most satisfyingly rounded dose of the good stuff.
9. First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
First Aid Kit’s Söderberg sisters create harmonies the pureness of which are seldom heard. Seldom in conjunction with melodies so captivating and songs so beguiling as theirs, anyway. Despite their youth, Stay Gold is somehow their fourth album, with surely plenty more of their brand of beautiful melancholic folk yet to come.
8. Fanfarlo - Let’s Go Extinct
So, did you catch Fanfarlo’s third album when it came out way back in February? Probably not. Don’t feel too bad - it seems to have passed most people by if the end of year lists are to be believed. In a loose sense, Let’s Go Extinct is a concept album, its songs bound by common strands of DNA: genesis, life, evolution, death. Its existence seems as incidental to the musical landscape of 2014 as our own existence does in the vast time and space of the universe. Unlike lfe itself, though, it’s far from being “brutish, nasty and short”, instead comprising ten beautiful (yes, there’s that word again) tracks of delicate beauty that make me hope that the lyrics to the final track - the album’s title track - aren’t prophetic.
Let’s get misplaced, all obsolete. I wanna go... the world will go on without us
7. Elbow - The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
Guy Garvey and co are not quite so youthful as First Aid Kit, with several band members hitting the magical 40 years milestone in 2014. After the minor blip that was Build a Rocket Boys they returned this year with an album of remarkable slowness, but one with a glint in its crow’s-feet eye and a cracked smile on its time-worn face. The Take Off And Landing Of Everything takes almost as long to get going is it does to say, which probably passes for irony these days. Stay with it, though, and you’re rewarded with an hour of lazy comfort in the company of a band by now thoroughly versed in the fine art of comfort music.
6. Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin
In many ways the anti-Elbow album, Beauty & Ruin packs 14 tracks into the length of a lazy Elbow intro, barely pausing for breath or reflection. After falling in love with Sugar and working my way back through the Husker Du catalogue, I’d found it harder to embrace Bob Mould’s ensuing solo albums. Each time there would be a track here or there that became highly addictive, but until Beauty & Ruin I hadn’t had that feeling of wanting nothing but to hit the play button and rip through it all again. And again and again. After the relatively stately opener "Low Season", Mould gets down to raucous business: "Little Glass Pill" bleeds into "I Don’t Know You Anymore" feeds into "Kid With Crooked Face", and so it goes on all the way through to album closer "Fix It" with barely a pause for breath.