In a time honoured tradition going back many years, that no one really cares about apart from, well, me, here is 2014’s unscientific and utterly subjective “Acoustic Egg Box Top 20 Albums Of The Year”.
Obviously, as a man with a time-consuming day job plus evenings and weekends spent ferrying kids around to a never-ending stream of social and sporting events there are only so many albums that I can physically listen to during the period. Therefore, as happens every year, there are undoubtedly some great records I haven’t even heard yet but almost certainly should have! I am always open to suggestions regarding what I should have included (or not), how dazzlingly brilliant my taste in music is, or why I should never be allowed near a record ever again. Anyway, here goes for the first instalment:
20: SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – Give The People What They Want (Daptone) After beating cancer last year, Ms Jones and her Dap-Kings celebrated by going on tour and releasing their 5th, and best, album to date. This is old school soul and funk played by a band at the top of their game and sung by a charismatic vocalist quite obviously enjoying life to the full.
19: GRUFF RHYS – American Interior (Turnstile)
Ex Super Furry Animal Rhys has written a brilliantly inventive album about an 18th-century ancestor searching for a mythical Welsh-speaking Native American tribe along the Missouri River – with tunes. If this doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will…..
18: NAOMI SHELTON & THE GOSPEL QUEENS – Cold World (Daptone) Despite recording material since the 1960’s, this is only 70-year-old Shelton’s second solo release. Although containing hints of reggae and country, this is a defiantly old-school gospel album released on the consistently excellent Daptone label. Fans of Mavis Staples will find much to love here.
17: DAMON ALBARN – Everyday Robots (Parlophone) Albarn has had involvement with 12 albums since Blur’s demised yet this is the first bearing just his own name – and a lyrically smart, beautiful and often plaintive one it is too. Albarn has always been one of those artists who divides opinion, but on the strength of this release, the balance should definitely be with the “ayes”.
16: THE PRIMITIVES – Spin-O-Rama (Elefant) An album that feels as fresh and vibrant as their brilliant debut “Lovely” did 26 years previously. 28 minutes crammed full of superbly crafted sunny psychedelia, with a nod to the 60’s here and a splash of Blondie style power-pop there. One of the year’s unexpected but hugely welcome comebacks.
15: RODDY FRAME – Seven Dials (AED) As this is his first new album for 8 years, Roddy Frame could hardly be described as prolific. However, he remains one of our greatest songwriters and has an ear for a tune only a handful of others possess. Seven Dials is the musical equivalent of a warm summer’s day spent with an old friend – comforting, reliable and welcoming.
14: THE AUTUMN DEFENSE – Fifth (Yep Roc) Given the title, you won’t be surprised to hear that this gem is the 5th album release from the band formed by John Stirratt and Patrick Sansone of Wilco. Containing melodies the Byrds or the Beatles would be proud of, this beautiful collection of songs wouldn’t feel out of place in Laurel Canyon circa 1971.
13: AVI BUFFALO – At Best Cuckold (Sub Pop) Four years after releasing their brilliant debut album, the Californian based Avi Buffalo do it again with 35 minutes of sublime West Coast bittersweet pop. Think Eliot Smith sings the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and you’re not too far wide of the mark.
12: THE HOSTS – Softly Softly (Fierce Panda) Sheffield’s The Hosts unashamedly channel their hero, Roy Orbison, on several tracks (including a cover of “In Dreams”) throughout this excellent debut album – and they do it superbly. Richard Hawley’s production duties are also much in evidence – no bad thing for a new band so obviously in love with the 50’s & 60’s.
11: GOAT – Commune (Rocket Recordings) Goat are an enigmatic Swedish psych-rock outfit shrouded in a mystery mostly of their own making and on this, their second album, they’ve concocted made some magical sounds: heavy, hypnotic tribal beats, chanted vocals, driving Krautrock and Afro rhythms. You have to hear it (lots!) to appreciate what an uplifting and glorious noise they make.