Well here’s the bit you’ve all been waiting so patiently for – numbers 10 to 1 in 2014’s “The Acoustic Egg Box Albums Of The Year”. If the amount of letters, emails, tweets and phone calls are anything to go by after the 20-11 section was issued, it appears both of you were disappointed to see there were no entries from One Direction, Mario Lanza or Anal Vomit. Never mind, there’s always next year…….
10: ALLAH-LAS – Worship The Sun (Innovative Leisure)
The second album from L.A based Allah-Las sees them once again ploughing their own retro furrow of fuzzy psyched up/ 60’s garage, but with a more assured feel than their 2012 debut. The influences are many (The Byrds/ Love/ Seeds etc) and their version of The Frantics’ 1960 single “Werewolf” (No Werewolf) is great, mad fun.
9: DAMIEN JURADO – Brothers & Sisters Of The Eternal Sun (Secretly Canadian)
Although still as inventive and “out there” as ever, Jurado’s Richard Swift produced 11th album is the most eminently listenable and coherent record of his prolific career. In places, the songs are shimmering and beautiful, in others psyched up and jazzy but all of them worthy of repeated listens.
8: SLOW CLUB – Complete Surrender (Caroline)
From 2009’s folky debut to 2011’s poppier follow up and on to this, their fantastic, tune laden and soulful third, Sheffield’s male/ female duo, Slow Club, have certainly been anything but formulaic in their musical progression. The production, although polished, stops short of being too contrived, allowing their superb vocals room to shine.
7: TY SEGALL – Manipulator (Drag City)
Manipulator is the longest album in this top twenty with its 17 tracks running to just over an hour – an hour of joyous, rocky, glam, psychedelic, driving, garage from start to finish. Segall may be prolific but he certainly doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Fans of Bolan, Bowie, Iggy, The Stones, Yardbirds et al won’t be disappointed.
6: CHERRY GHOST – Herd Runners (Heavenly)
Cherry Ghost is, essentially, Simon Aldred – one of Britain’s finest, most underrated songwriters. This is an album of proper songs; songs of romance, heartbreak, lost love and found love – all sharing a soulful, melancholic beauty. If you can listen to “Drinking For Two” without a lump in your throat, you must have a heart of stone.
5: ELBOW – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything (Fiction)
For a band who have now been together for nearly 25 years they aren’t having a bad run of form! Their trademark melodies and orchestral flourishes are here in full effect and the vivid songwriting and unique lyrical aphorisms are better than ever. In summary: the more things change the more they stay the same – but in a good way. Gorgeous
4: MANIC STREET PREACHERS – Futurology (Columbia)
The fact that Futurology was recorded in Berlin is evident from the off. The album brims with influences from Neu! to Bowie and even the early (good) incarnation of Simple Minds. Synths are used to great effect throughout but especially so on “Let’s Go To War” – one of 2014’s best tracks. A brave, brilliant album from a band still very much at the top of their game.
3: REAL ESTATE – Atlas (Domino)
It could be lazy of me to describe Real Estate’s “Atlas” as “21st Century Byrdsian”, but that’s pretty much the vibe that they conjure up, and an absolutely joyful vibe it is too. Listening to this album on a cold, wet and windy English December day has the power to transport you to summertime on a Californian beach.
2: REIGNING SOUND – Shattered (Merge)
Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright is probably the best American songwriter you’ve never heard of, and “Shattered” is his most accomplished work yet. The band’s brand of garage rock is still evident, but it’s now been given a Stax era makeover. This is joyous stuff – a soulful, funky, country rock album awash with horns, strings, pedal steel and glorious stabs of Hammond organ. To hear it is to love it!
1: BECK – Morning Phase (Capitol)
“Morning Phase” has been favourably compared to 2002’s sublime “Sea Change”, but as good as that album is, Beck’s new magnum opus blows it out of the water. If he had made this Californian sunrise of a record during the prodigious late 60s/ early 70s Laurel Canyon era, it would have gained classic status. It’s that good.
Although there’s a melancholy running through the album’s 13 tracks, the emotion generated isn’t sadness, but soothing warmth; the aura of the opening two tracks, “Cycle” and “Morning” frame this feeling beautifully. You don’t so much hear the music as become immersed in it. “Unforgiven” is a prime example; Beck’s languid vocals combine with swooning strings, haunting piano and an opening verse which implores you to “Drive to the night, Far as it goes, Away from the daylight, Into the afterglow”.
Now his 12th studio album, “Morning Phase“ has cemented Beck’s place in as one of America’s greatest contemporary songwriters of the last 50 years. It’s a set of songs that luminaries including Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell et al. would have been proud to call their own. Exquisite, timeless music and a career-best by some way.