#10 - Passenger - Whispers
I was waiting for this album ever since I fell in love with his 2012 release All the Little Lights, and although this one as a whole didn't quite live up to it, there are some great songs on this one. A few of the songs are a little too dark lyrically for me but the highlights here are numerous, including 27, Heart's On Fire, Start A Fire and my all time favourite Passenger song Whispers. Lyrically this song speaks to me like almost no other, so well written and really reflects where I'm at in my life at the moment and over the last couple of years.
#9 Ed Sheeran - x
I do like Ed Sheeran and this album, but some of his stuff can be a little samey, but this is a good effort overall. When Sing was first released I thought it was rubbish and thought the rest of 'x' would be too, but luckily he mostly stuck with the back bone of the music from +, which was a brilliant folky pop album also. My favs here are One, Sing, Thinking Out Loud and the best one IMHO is Bloodstream.
#8 - Michael Jackson - XSCAPE
I never thought Michael Jackson would feature in one of my charts again but this album was one of the big surprises for me in 2014. These songs which were taken from demos and tracks which missed out on some of his biggest albums of his career are actually really good songs! I also think Epic Records did a good job, as well as the muiltitude of guest producers used, I tend to like a mixture of the original demo versions and the newly produced 'remixes'. Another fantastic album from the now God of pop. Highlight for me here are Do You Where Your Children Are, Blue Gangsta, Xscape, A Place with No Name, which is a reworking of the America classic A Horse With No Name and my fav of this was Chicago. Some of these songs I believe are some of his best work, if only he were still here to produce them himself, this could have been another masterpiece from the legend that is Michael Jackson. R.I.P.
#7 - Cherry Ghost - Herd Runners
While their last album wasn't quite up to the standard of their debut IMHO, this one certainly delivered. A big wait of 4 years between albums but definitely worth the wait. Going back to the sound of their debut Thirst For Romance a little bit which works well with this group of songs. The impressive thing is that there really is no weak track as such but as always I have my favs, My Lover Lies Under, The World Could Turn, Clear Skies Ever Closer and a toss up between Herd Runners and Drinking For Two as my fav off the album.
#6 - Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Any other year this album would have normally made my top 5 easily, but this year has been very strong. 8 long years in the making, this is a serious return to form from the Irish folk singer. His first studio without the vocals of Lisa Hannigan, and also I believe there may have been some romantic sparks involved, which has all come to the fore in the lyrics of most of these songs. Fantastic album and to be honest every song on this is great, typical Damien Rice style dramatics in a lot of these songs, my fav off the album is Colour Me In.
#5 - Coldplay - Ghost Stories
This album was a total surprise to me, I try to keep on top of album releases and in particular album releases from my favourites, but they managed to sneak this one under the radar. Maybe a tiny bit disappointing, although I think I am used to such a high standard from Coldplay that an album as good as this can still be called disappointing is a credit to them. The collection of songs on this album are really good, just not great. The telling sign for me is that my favourite off this album is actually an iTunes bonus track!! Ghost Story really should have made the cut for the original album but for some reason putting less and less songs on albums seems to be in fashion these days (only 9 tracks on the original LP). Anyway, other than Ghost Story, Magic, Oceans, O, A Sky Full of Stars and Midnight is a different avenue for the boys to explore.
#4 alt-J - This Is All Yours
Another surprise release this one, off the back of their amazing debut An Awesome Wave from 2012, this one has come very close the awesomeness that was that album. I saw alt-J live for the first time in 2014 and they were amazing, and it was largely that gig that really made me appreciate this album. The only thing they haven't been able to do for mine is really deliver a full set of songs on one album that are jut immense, both albums have songs which i regularly skip but the songs which I don't are just at another level. The 'Nara' Trilogy is good, but the middle song from that trilogy Nara is the best of the three by a way. The Gospel of John Hurt is a really well produced track, Pusher has some amazingly delicate vocals, the mix between Joe and Lianne La Havas's vocals in Warm Foothills is mesmerising, the (in)famous sample in Hunger of the Pine certainly delivers a uniqueness to the track and the out and out rock of Left Hand Free is a surprising fresh sound from them. But for me it's Every Other Freckle that really steals the show in this record. Lyrically and instrumentally it is almost perfect, the production is superb and it's no wonder it is my most scrobbled song of 2014.
#3 - Beck - Morning Phase
Another one which could quite easily have been the top album of the year any other year. And another surprise packet for me. I have never really noticed Beck before, other than of course his big hit in the 90s Loser i hadn't really got into to any of his other stuff. Unbeknown to me he has actually made 2 albums of folky indie type music, this one being the second installment, the first being 2007's Sea Change, also very good. This album just has so many good tunes on it, from the dreamy surrender openerMorning all the way to the final coffee-with-the-morning-paper type sound on the last track Waking Light, he holds your attention in the calmest possible way. Unforgiven, Blue Moon, Turn Away and Don't Let It Go are also highlights but for me, the smooth silky instrumentation on Wave with the hauntingly spot on vocals Beck delivers is beyond ethereal. The song really does sweep you away with the tide as fills your ears, and before you know it, you're are swept away and swimming back to shore for another go. I can't recommend this album enough.
#2 - Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
I truly did not believe Lana could better 2012's Born to Die... But she has. While Born To Die is still an amazing album, there are a couple of songs I do skip, Ultraviolence just has no weak song on it at all! Even the 3 bonus tracks are good, the pick of them being Black Beauty. It's difficult to pick out just a few to highlight, but here goes: Old Money has a sadness about it that cannot be ignored, Cruel World is a brilliant opener that really sets the tone well for the rest of the record, Ultraviolence has a sad but powerful message in it but these 3 songs are just scratching the surface. Pretty When You Cry's first verse is just so delicate vocally, it sounds like she is literally about to cry while delivering the versus is this song, such a contradiction in the power of the lyrics and the vocalisation, then West Coast with its unbelievable offbeat chorus is just sublime and finally the vocal performance in Shades of Cool just leaves you absolutely speechless every listen, not to mention the amazing guitar solo in the back end of the track. The whole album is stunning and I read she is already in the process of recording studio album number 3 as I type!!!
#1 - Angus & Julia Stone - Angus & Julia Stone
It was the album that was not meant to be made. After the brother sister duo went their own ways after the huge success of their second studio album Down the Way in 2010, the pair each released solo records in 2012, both featured in my Top 5 Albums of 2012, Julia Stone's By the Horns rounding off the top 5 and Angus Stone's Broken Brights making a huge impression at number 2. Although they had not officially called it quits together, they had mutually decided to concentrate on their own solo music. That was until they received a call from legendary producer Rick Rubin, the man having produced records for some huge names such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run D.M.C., Beastie Boys and more recently Kanye West, Adele, Eminem and Lady Gaga, he's just someone you do not say no to if he calls. The duo set to work writing songs together, which in their previous two LPs had not been the case, they used to come up with songs individually and then effectively pitch their ideas to each other. However this writing partnership proved to be extremely fruitful. Penning all 16 songs (including 3 bonus tracks) in relatively quick time, they managed to produce some their best work yet. Once again it's difficult to single out highlights as the whole album is almost flawless. The opener, A Heartbreak has a real sunny vibe to it, Heart Beats Slow is a sweet love song, Wherever You Are, Get Home, Little Whiskey and From The Stalls are all great tunes but for mine it's Crash And Burn which is the big stand out. At almost 7 minutes long it's a true epic ballad, and Angus's vocals are brilliant throughout, not to mention the guitar licks throughout the solos. This one's definitely worth a listen or two!!!
So what a year right!!!? Any of that top 5 could easily have been number one, but with such strong competition from so many artists I love, it's a tough one to call. A couple of honourable mentions (even though it was a top 10!!!); Ben Howard's new one I Forget Where We Were had its moments, especially the title track; Ásgeir from Iceland released a magical album too, In the Silence in 2014 too, some stunningly beautiful tracks on that one, not least Torrent; Jack White with his second solo record Lazaretto certainly impressed me, as did The Black Keys with Turn Blue. And the locals did not disappoint either, Vance Joy released his debut Dream Your Life Away and Chet Faker's Built On Glass was quite impressive too. My song of the year is a bit of a toss up between alt-J's Every Other Freckle and the brilliant vocal performance on Sia's Chandelier, this song has such a powerful message in it and Sia's vocals are top notch.
As for 2015, as I mentioned, Lana Del Rey is set to release her 4th studio album; Coldplay are set for their 7th release; Sufjan Stevens has a new one due in March; and Red Hot Chili Peppers are overdue too. It could be another big one!!!
See you then and take care :D