Top 10 International Albums of 2014

It’s that time of year, when I sell my soul, and conform to the expectation that all blogs, no matter how small and shitty (of which Soundly Sounds is both) needs to compile an end of year list, summarising all the great things that have been accomplished by the fair artists of the year. Now, if you’ve ever been on this blog, or heard words out of my mouth, it becomes apparent that I have a habit of hyperbole, and describing everything as “my favourite” or “the best thing ever”. Well, now it’s time to pay up, and show what I, King Deadshit, reckons is the best of the best this year.

With part one of the ‘Best of 2014’ thankfully out of the way (musings on the best music videos of 2014 this way), it’s time to turn our attention to the best international releases of 2014. As one ARIA red carpet attendee so accurately put it, Australian music sucks shit, and the only good music comes straight from our brothers n’ sisters of the USA! YEAH! ‘MURICA. And look, whilst The Clean and Cosmic Psychos didn’t release anything new this year, there have been some great releases. From Flying Lotus, to Caribou, to Sharon Van Etten, a wealth of talent was dumped on our ears in 2014. Here’s the best:

Honourable Mentions: Ty Segall (‘Manipulator’), Flying Lotus (‘You’re Dead!’), Schoolboy Q (‘Oxymoron’), Sharon Van Etten (‘Are We There’), The War on Drugs (‘Lost in the Dream’), Mogwai (‘Rave Tapes’), Ex Hex (‘Rips’), Golden Pelicans (‘S/T 12″).

10. Caribou – Our Love

A big toss-up between this record and Ty Segall’s ‘Manipulator’. Both are extensive leaps forward from established artists with near perfect track records. But it was Ty Segall’s inability to self-edit his 17-long tracklist that pushed Caribou into adoration. ‘Our Love’ is swirling, mystifying romance that is impossible to not get caught up in. Plus, “Can’t Do Without You” is a smoothie of Taylor Swift’s pop supreme, Spiritualized’s piercing gaze, and the best production this side of ‘Endtroducing…’.

Caribou is coming to Aus in February for Laneway, and a show at the Sydney Opera House, February 3.

9. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits

2014 has been the year of The War on Drugs, and whilst ‘Lost in the Dream’ is a superb album, it seems unfairly raised above another working class band. But then again, that’s the curse of The Men. For too long, they have been serving up stone cold cult classics, from ‘Leave Home’, to ‘Open Your Heart’. On ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’, they almost completely erase their sludgy-punk/noisy past, and embrace country and the kind of rock ‘n’ roll that was deemed raunchy, but acceptable in the 1950’s. You can sing the praises of how great the lyrics and progression of “Red Eyes” and “Under the Pressure” are, but in turn, you’d have to say that about “Settle Me Down”, and “Different Days”. As far as Bruce Springsteen-love goes, The War on Drugs take the pain, but The Men preserve the joy. (Album Review)

8. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Speaking of joy, nothing came even close to the maniacal fun of Todd Terje’s debut album, a perfectly honed magnum opus. ‘It’s Album Fun’ seems like something Dan Aykroyd  and Bill Murray would’ve cooked up in the 80’s, but only if Barry Gibb had possessed their souls.  Deep, sultry cuts of synth-led party jams, Todd Terje never misses a beat. What’s more, he occasionally ramps things up into a sentimental overload, with the Bryan Ferry-assisted tear jerker “Johnny and Mary”. But never fear, Terje’s classic ability to spice things into a frothing paste of swooning, electronic, Cantina-band-esque lushness  is always around the corner, as “Inspector Norse”, “Delorean Dynamite” and “Strandbar” easily attest to.

7. Liars – Mess

Once again, very hard to pick between Liars’ new record and Mogwai’s brilliant ‘Rave Tapes’. Both records had a hard-edged zealot-ness to them, but Liars simply harnessed and appropriated it more. Liars showed they weren’t afraid to plunge into the obtuse, as their insanity and demented nature ramped to new heights. Their music has always bordered on paranoid, but now it became frighteningly so, a schizoid mixture of frightening, alien sounds munching on gnashing lyrics. For sheer animated terror and cartoonish slasher value, Liars’ ‘Mess’ was a helluva album. (Album Review)

6. Die! Die! Die! – SWIM

Hailing from New Zealand, it feels like this shouldn’t be an Internationally Acclaimed Album (TM), but rather one of our own. Alas, New Zealand have different accents and laws, and as such, we can’t claim an act like Die! Die! Die! as one of our own in the same way we can with Russell Crowe.

On their fifth record, Die! Die! Die! maintained the ferocity and biting cynicism that would seem appropriate for a band with their name. The friction caused between the power trio that is Andrew Wilson, Michael Logie and Michael Prain is enough to power a town to the same capacity of a nuclear reactor. As soon as someone can figure out how to harness this, the global energy crisis will be over. Until then, let’s just enjoy the beautifully pure punk explosion that is ‘SWIM’. (Album Review)

5. Shellac – Dude Incredible

The almighty Shellac returned this year, and delivered a brutal heap of music that hate-shamed most of the rock music released this year. Powered as always by Bob Weston’s inhumanly powerful bass, Steve Albini’s serrated lyrics and Todd Trainer’s consistently vile drumming, ‘Dude Incredible’ is a bile-spewing, looming work of the Gods of the music industry. You want affirmation in a world full of 5SOS and neutered indie acts that think a fuzz pedal is a nickname for an electric razor? Chuck on ‘Dude Incredible’, and allow yourself to whisper those same words over and over again, as each crushing song belies your idea of awesome. (Album Review)

4. Eagulls – Eagulls

Depressingly good, Eagulls have painted a picture of a visceral England so much more brilliantly than any Arctic Monkeys record ever could. Their debut self-titled is raw power, in the Stooges sense of the word. It pulsates and breathes, each song a punch in the guts whilst a bellowing drill sergeant insists you surge onwards. It is a sensational experience to put on this Eagulls record, a face-melting treatment of pop smudged and bludgeoned by teeth-baring, white-knuckled frenzy. (Album Review)

Eagulls are coming to Aus in February for Laneway Festival, and play a show at OAF on Friday 30th January.

3. King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

Probably the most perfect party rock record since Judas Priest’s ‘British Steel’ (“BREAKING THE LAW, BREAKING THE LAW, DUH DUH”). Coincidentally, “Headbanger” begins with a line that swoons over a girl’s record collection: “You had Sabbath, and Priest and Number of the Beast, it was heavy metal perfection”. Indeed ‘Black Moon Spell’ excels at just being a really fun record to rock out to. From the Marc Bolan-isms to the Slash-levels of gratuitous guitar solos, King Tuff revels in an  unparalleled love of classic rock with a modern flair, laying down the tastiest jams since Ozzy was in Sabbath. (Album Review)

2. Spoon – They Want My Soul

There’s a reason Spoon are the most consistently rated band of all time – they’re really fucking good at being an indie rock band. Believe it or not, being an indie band is hard. People, like me, will hate you for no other reason other than you have a trendy haircut, which means YOU’RE MUSIC SUCKS SHIT! But with Spoon, there’s nothing to hate; Britt Daniel simply aches with great songwriting. Catchy melodies snared by heartbroken lyrics on “Rent I Pay”, “Do You” and “New York Kiss” are too much. (Album Review)

1. Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else

Ahhh, Cloud Nothings. Over the course of four albums, they’ve gone from a solo project of fun, if not particularly memorable, lo-fi pop jams, to throttling, fearsome snaps of exhilaration. When the Steve Albini-produced ‘Attack on Memory’ came out a few years ago, everyone was thinking that there was no way it could be topped. Enter ‘Here and Nowhere Else’, a challenger with balls and a willingness to show them (that sounds fucked up).

The lyrics of ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ are deceptively simple, but nonetheless powerful. They’re bolstered even more so by some of the most brilliantly scathing music of the last few years. But most memorable is the way Dylan Baldi, a bearded and bespectacled fellow of an unassuming nature, belts and inflects his words with whipping fury. There is something in his throat which carries through onto record that is completely unexplainable. Pair that with vicious ability and concentrated aggression that wouldn’t be out-of-place on a  Fugazi record, and you’ve got Cloud Nothings at their jaw-dropping finest. (Album Review)

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