The second of our ‘Music of the Year’ lists. Again, this was assembled through lists from our editors and contributors. These are the ten albums which came out on top, in order.
10. Savages – ‘Silence Yourself’
Savages are the latest entry in the tweenies’ post-punk revivalism, following in the wake of Iceage, Lower Dens and The Soft Moon. There’s an overpowering tension between its abrasive confidence and brooding insecurity; hidden in Silence Yourself’s thumping bass lines and crashing cymbals is an austere aesthetic, an intense vulnerability embodied by Jehnny Beth’s frantic, coarse squawk.
9. Kanye West – ‘Yeezus’
It’s certainly divided opinion, but one thing we can all agree on is that Yeezus was like nothing else released this year. Thematically, he covered (though not condemned) egoism, alcoholism, slavery and 300 years of afflicted black history. Tonally it ranges from the poignant (‘Blood on the Leaves’) to the hilarious (‘I Am a God’), and stylistically? Basically Death-Grips-cum-TNGHT. Epic.
8. Jai Paul – ‘Jai Paul’
Leaked through a hacked laptop, Jai Paul’s non-debut (it’s an unofficial mixtape) nonetheless reinforces his status as one of the most exciting new acts in R&B. Perhaps its greatest strength is its variety; it bends from the James Blake stripped-back-funk of ‘Jasmine’ and ‘BTSTU’ (two preceding singles) to Princeesque grooves in ‘Str8 outta Mumbai’ while remaining startlingly inventive yet comfortingly familiar.
7. Haim – ‘Days are Gone’
Through their life-affirming fuzziness and song-writing excellence Haim became one of the most beloved acts of the year. Channelling a less drug-addled Fleetwood Mac, they made accessible, hook-heavy pop swarming with cheery harmonies, catchy choruses and delightful one-liners. Thankfully, their intelligent lyrics ensured they remained on the sincere side of sentimentality.
6. David Bowie – ‘The Next Day’
Bowie’s first album for a decade saw him revert from the quasi-experimentation of Reality to his iconic space-rock, and it’s all the better for it. It’s sonically glorious; perfectly arranged guitars, drums, strings, and keyboards flow around Bowie’s emotionally charged melodrama, the mesmerising, theatrical dichotomy of ‘The Stars’ and ‘Love is Lost’ representing one of the best moments of the year in music.
5. James Blake – ‘Overgrown’
It features Bubble Music’s Song Of The Year, but Overgrown is no one hit wonder. Blake’s sophomore effort signifies something which almost resembles arrogance, his quavering croon as assured as his delicate compositions of string samples, synth lines and piano flourishes. Despite his expert, at times over-elaborate, instrumentation, there’s plenty of space and silence to get lost in in this dubstep mini-classic.
4. Queens of the Stone Age – ‘…Like Clockwork’
Very arguably Queens’ best album since Songs for the Deaf, …Like Clockwork could be mistaken as portraying a matured Josh Homme: the arrangements are tighter: the riffs more melodious: the LP itself immaculately structured, but this is still a Queens album, possessing all the murky grunginess and thrilling unpredictability such a title denotes. Listen to ‘Smooth Sailing’ then tell me this is a mature Josh Homme.
3. Disclosure – ‘Settle’
This year Disclosure have more or less established themselves as the sound of deep-house. Each vitalic snare, each ethereal whistle, each uncanny synth click resonate with an engrossing universality; you’re just as likely to hear ‘White Noise’ treading the hipster hallways of Urban Outfitters as crumpling in the grimiest corner of Klute. They’re the banner which the Indie kids and the Rave kids can unite under. They’re that good.
2. Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’
Two of Arcade Fire’s biggest conceptual gripes have been adolescent disillusionment and technological isolationism. Reflektor synthesises them into a big ball of badness. Sure, it’s profound and cerebral and that, but it’s also an all-consuming blast of James Murphy-monopolised hi-hat funkiness that’s just a pleasure to listen to. It’s self-indulgent and occasionally hit-and-miss, but it’s so, so, so brilliant.
1. Vampire Weekend – ‘Modern Vampires of the City’
Vampire Weekend have been the unequivocal masters of light guitar-pop for the past five years, but Modern Vampires, while just as (if not more) syntactically pretty, is a socio-philosophical colossus. Religion, existentialism, societal disaffection, mortality, true love, lost love, Christ it has everything; and it’s expressed with the astonishing intelligence, sly wit, heartfelt honesty and painfully relevant uncertainty of Ezra Koenig. A masterpiece, and more than deserving of Album of the Year.
Here’s reviews for; Reflektor
Modern Vampires of the City