Best Albums of 2014: The View From Far Out

Over the past 12 months, Far Out Magazine has been showered with a feast of albums that have restored much of our faith in the power of independent music.

There are some who claim the traditional LP is entering its twilight, but with the kind of quality found on this list, we think it has a bright future.

Through a DIY approach and motives that are genuine and honest all the below artists produced records that struck a cord with us and went some way to soundtracking our 2014.

So without further delay – and in no particular order, because ranking them one by one would be a nauseatingly pointless exercise – here are Far Out’s favourite albums of the 2014 that was…

Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal

They’ve quickly become one of the most hotly-rated bands to come out of New York in the last few years, and have an enviable productivity to match. After the momentum they gained from the flawless Light Up Gold, Parquet Courts returned with the more visceral, but just as enjoyable Sunbathing Animal. It’s a stonker of a record.

Standout: Bodies Made Of

The Amazing Snakeheads – Amphetamine Ballads

They may not have been able to make through the year and the release of their debut album without a couple of shifts in the lineup, but Dale Barclay and his bandmates made one of the most enthralling records of 2014.

They draw their influences as much from funk and soul as grizzly grunge rock. On first listen, Amphetamine Ballads might sound like the former is most prominent, but there’s so much more going on. Gets better with every listen.

Standout: Flatlining

Kate Tempest – Everybody Down

She well and truly burst onto the scene this year with with a Ted Hughes Poetry Prize and a more than deserved Mercury nomination for her debut album Everybody Down. Kate Tempest is a true wordsmith with an ear for a beat (with a little help from Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey) and an ability to create a thoughtful and engaging narrative like no-one else in the UK right now.

Everybody Down tells the story of Becky and Harry, an infinitely complex couple from Tempest’s stomping ground of south London. Its release on Big Dada this year brought about the most intelligent and immersive UK hip-hop album since The Streets and A Grand Don’t Come For Free.

Standout: Theme From Becky

Ty Segall – Manipulator

This Californian garage-rocker has long been a favourite in the Far Out office, but 2014 saw Ty Segall take a slight detour from the rough-around-the-edges approach of his earlier material.

Manipulator is very much still defined by riff-heavy rock ‘n’ roll, but there’s a more intricate production and unprecedented falsetto vocal that came as a slight surprise to some. Make no bones about it though, this is still a hammer-blow of a record, with guitar-driven hedonism from start to finish. If you haven’t already, get it now on Drag City.

Standout: It’s Over

Hookworms – The Hum

After they created huge waves with their debut Pearl Mystic in 2013, Hookworms returned this year to treat us to its follow-up – an album that not only matched it’s predecessor but sounded like an even more complete piece of work.

The fuzzed-up noise and animalistic vocal performance from frontman MJ are still there, but there is a more layered sound and at times enchanting aura to The Hum’s more blissed-out tracks that give it the edge. If this band continue on the same trajectory, their greatness knows no bounds.

Standout: Off Screen
 

East India Youth – TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER

Maybe we shouldn’t be singing his praises so highly, given that his debut album was released by our friends over at The Quietus, but we wholeheartedly agree with them that William Doyle aka East India Youth is one of the most encapsulating new artists around.

TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER – as well as coming across as a mildly amusing Foals pun – is a record that straddles genres with every track, but brings them together in a collage of dexterous songwriting and electronic exploration. This probably would have been our choice for the Mercury Prize, but the eventual winner wasn’t too bad…

Standout: Dripping Down

Young Fathers – DEAD

We promise our next choice will be a little more accepting of lower case lettering! Edinburgh-based hip-hop trio Young Fathers were the recipients of the coveted prize, having shifted a criminally modest total of 2,000 copies before their nomination.

They didn’t seem overly enthralled by the exposure at the ceremony, but they can be safe in the knowledge that they have come up with one of the most intriguing and vibrant hip-hop records of the last decade. God knows how their current stint in Berlin will warp the follow-up, but we can’t wait to find out.

Standout: GET UP

The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader

This angry young trio have been among our most listened to this year. We spent over half of 2014 on tenterhooks waiting for this one to drop on Heavenly Recordings, with pretty much every Wytches single having been chosen as out Track of the Day. The end product didn’t disappoint either.

Taking influence from grunge, surf-rock, punk and pop, Annabel Dream Reader is a heady brew, but you’ll come out the other side feeling on top of the world. Pure exuberance of youth.

Standout: Wide At Midnight

Parkay Quarts – Content Nausea

A second appearance on the list for perhaps our favourite – and certainly most prolific – band of the year. Parquet Courts were two men down (hence the orthographically promiscuous name change) when they recorded this very speedy follow-up to Sunbathing Animal, unleashing it in November of this year.

With a little help from their other Big Apple friends, Austin Brown and Andrew Savage came back with Content Nausea, a record that is slightly less punk-influenced, but just as catchy and dripping with dry lyrical wit.

Standout: Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth

White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent

One of the closest allies of the aforementioned Ty Segall, Tim Presley also released his latest White Fence album For the Recently Found Innocent on Drag City.

This blissed-out psych belter has the 60s all over it, conjuring memories of The Yardbirds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It could be counted among some of the most chorus-driven work Presley has produced too, with a sun-drenched vibe that was rarely off our stereo over the summer. The very best kind of nostalgia trip.

Standout: Wolf Gets Red Faced

Eagulls – Eagulls

They’re hot on the heels of Hookworms, attempting to snatch the title of the undisputed heavyweight champions of the current noisy Leeds scene. The debut album from Eagulls was one of the revelations of the last 12 months, packaging the pent-up rage of West Yorkshire and bringing it to the head-banging massive with pure vigour.

The phrase breath of fresh air comes to mind when you first put this record on, but by the end of it you have experienced an all-out shock to the system. This is indie done properly, away from the prying eyes and grubby mits of an all-consuming industry.

Standout: Possessed

Allah-Las – Worship the Sun

These infectious 60s revivalists returned this year with the follow-up to their self-titled debut. Released on Nick Waterhouse’s label Innovative Leisure, the album draws on psychedelia, R&B, soul and country.

Worship the Sun is packed with pop hooks and a quickfire lyrical delivery that firmly grasps the listener’s attention right from the off, and never let’s go thereafter.

Standout: 501-405

Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker

This croaky blues-rock exponent was one of the real success stories of 2014. Early singles garnered a huge amount of attention and a tour with Jack White quickly followed for Benjamin Booker.

Luckily for us, all the hype paid off when his self-titled debut album dropped on Rough Trade. It’s ram-shackled, riff-heavy and packed full of choruses that will surely be filling ever-growing venues over the coming years.

Standout: Have You Seen My Son?

Mac Demarco – Salad Days

This record is pop music exactly how we think it should be done. Salad Days sounds like the most complete record Demarco has put his heart and soul into so far in his short career. It’s lo-fi when required, but some truly catchy guitar riffs and a quirky lyrical approach led it to stand out from the crowd as one of our favourite LPs of 2014.

Standout: Salad Days

Amen Dunes – Love

Perhaps the most heartfelt record to have made into our list, Amen Dunes aka McMahon stepped it up on his new one Love, enlisting the help of members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Iceage in the process.

At times, the album is still pretty expansive, but leans towards folk and stripped-back pop in a way that demonstrates real versatility.

Standout: Lonely Richard

Twin Peaks – Wild Onion

These Chicago garage-rockers brought us the fantastic Wild Onion this year, taking pop melodies and dry, slacker wit and presenting them in a way that is punchy and accessible in equal measure. Just one listen, and this record is guaranteed to make an impression.

Strandout: I Found a New Way

Patrick Davies

 

 

 

 

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