THE FIFTY BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2014-PART 5.

THE FIFTY BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2014-PART 5.

SUPERSILENT-12.

Four long years have passed, since Supersilent released their eighth album 11 on Rune Grammofon. Since 2010, Supersilent’s fans have eagerly awaited the next chapter in the Supersilent story. At last, the wait is over. Supersilent recently released their ninth album 12, on Rune Grammofon. 12 marks a welcome return from the innovative Norwegian supergroup.  

Everything from ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental, free jazz, psychedelia, jazz and rock can be heard on the thirteen tracks on 12. As these disparate musical genres melt into one, it’s apparent that the music is ambitious, bold, innovative and pioneering. 12 you see, is no ordinary album. 

Instead, 12 is akin to an album of futuristic soundscapes. They veer between beautiful, broody, moody, chilling, cinematic, dramatic, eerie, ethereal, melancholy and wistful. Futuristic, sci-fi sounds are omnipresent on what’s like a long lost soundtrack album. All this makes 12 a truly compelling and captivating album from Norwegian musical pioneers, Supersilent, who are at the vanguard of Norway’s vibrant music scene.

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THE GRITS-MAKE A SOUND.

It was five years ago that since The Grits released their debut eponymous debut album. Recently, however, The Grits have released their long awaited sophomore album, Make A Sound. It essentially, is The Grits’ comeback album. As comeback albums go, Make A Sound which was recently released on BBE Music is like no other.        

The Grits made a funky, psychedelic  and soulful return recently with Make A Sound. It’s a return to form from The Grits. They fused their own quintessential brand of English psychedelia with deep fried funk and soul. This compelling combination of musical genres, should see The Grits continue to win friends and influence people.

After all, The Grits music is funky, psychedelic and soulful. On some of the tracks, The Grits incorporate electronica and a myriad of sci-fi sounds. The result is music that’s futuristic, trippy and cinematic. Essentially, Make A Sound is a magic musical mystery tour through musical genres, where The Grits showcase just how tight, talented and versatile a band they are. Seamlessly, The Grits fuse and flit between musical genres. The result is Make A Sound, a captivating album of funky, soulful, psychedelic music from the Brighton quintet, The Grits. 

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THE PEARLFISHERS- OPEN UP YOUR COLOURING BOOK.

“Everything comes to he who waits.” So the sayings goes.  Even a new album from The Pearlfishers. Recently, Scotland’s best kept musical secret, The Pearlfishers, released their seventh album, Open Up Your Colouring Book, on Marina Records. Open Up Your Colouring Book was released seven years after their previous album, Up With The Larks. 

After a gap of seven long years, The Pearlfishers make a very welcome comeback. They’ve been away far too long. Open up Your Colouring Book is a reminder of what we’ve been missing. Hook-laden, joyous, cerebral, thoughtful, melancholy and wistful describe the music on Open up Your Colouring Book. That’s just a few words that describe Open up Your Colouring Book. So does captivating, bewitching and beautiful. 

Especially when David Scott, dawns the role of troubled troubadour. His lived-in, weary vocal sees him breath life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. For anyone whose lived, lost and lost love, then Open up Your Colouring Book speaks to and for them. It brings to life their heartache and hurt, their sense of how life will never be quite the same again. 

Other songs have a cinematic quality. They’re akin to soundtrack to short films or plays. You can shut your eyes and imagine the lyrics unfolding before your eyes. The characters, their hurt and lives seem very reals. Sometimes, it’s as if they’re laying bare their soul. Not only do they lay bare their soul, but articulate their hopes, fears, frustrations and dreams. Articulating this gambit of emotions and musical vignet, is David Scott, another of Scotland’s troubled troubadours. Just like previous albums, David Scott, accompanied by the rest of The Pearlfishers. They play their part in Open up Your Colouring Book’s sound and success. 

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THE PHANTOM BAND-STRANGE FRIEND. 

It was back in June 2014, when The Phantom Band released their third album, Strange Friend, on Chemikal Underground. Strange Friend was released five years after The Phantom Band’s debut album Checkmate Savage. Since then, The Phantom Band have set about reinventing their music. 

To do this, The Phantom Band combine everything from ambient, folk, indie rock, Krautrock, pop, psychedelia, synth pop. There’s even a brief nod towards Acid House and prog rock. Strange Friend is without doubt, a truly eclectic album. It sees The Phantom Band draw inspiration from Can, Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jeff Buckely, Johnny Cash and Brian Eno on Galápagos. The result is a rich, eclectic and captivating musical tapestry. 

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PINK FLOYD-THE ENDLESS RIVER.

I, like many people, never thought we would hear from Pink Floyd again. How wrong I was. Earlier this year, they released their musical swan-song, The Endless River. It’s an album where Pink Floyd revisit their musical past incorporating ambient music with post-rock on their swan-song. To do this, Pink Floyd utilised the latest musical technology on what’s akin to a musical tapestry. Music from Pink Floyd’s past was edited into music recorded in 2013. This allowed Rick Wright, the ghost of Pink Floyd to play an active role on The Endless River, an album full of twists and turns aplenty

As The Endless River slowly revealed its secrets and subtleties, musical genres sat side-by-side. The result was music that’s captivating, cinematic, dramatic, ethereal, haunting, intriguing, melancholy and wistful. One thing The Endless River never is, is predictable. You never know where Pink Floyd are heading, as they take you on a musical journey down The Endless River. They’re your tour guide on what’s much more than a homage to Pink Floyd’s past.

Innovative, ambient soundscapes and post-rock tracks feature on The Endless River. So do a number of tracks where Pink Floyd revisit elements of their illustrious back-catalogue. This makes you want to revisit More or Dark Side Of The Moon. As you do so, you’re reminded that Pink Floyd, in their heyday, were one of the most innovative, progressive groups. That will always be the case. That’s the case right up to Pink Floyd’s unexpected swan-song The Endless River.

After twenty years away, Pink Floyd made a welcome return on 10th November 2014. Reduced to a duo, after the loss of their keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008, Pink Floyd take their fans down on a trip down The Endless River. Memories of a forty-seven year and fifteen album career come flooding back. By the end of The Endless River, only then do you realise that this is the last we’ll hear from one of the most successful, innovative and progressive bands in musical history. This leaves me wondering when will we see their likes again?

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THE WAR ON DRUGS-LOST IN THE DREAM.

Earlier this year, The War On Drugs released their third album Lost In The Dream, on the Strictly Canadian label. Lost In The Dream is the followup to The War On Drugs’ 2011 sophomore album Slave Ambient. Slave Ambient had been a long time coming. Three years had passed since The War On Drugs released their debut album Wagonwheel Blues. In the intervening years, The War On Drugs’ had been honing their sound. They were now perceived as one of America’s best up-and-coming groups. Since then, The War On Drugs have been winning friends and influencing people, including music loves and critics alike. This continued after the release of Lost In The Dream.  

Released to critical acclaim, Lost In The Dream was a coming of age for The War On Drugs. Lost In The Dream was the finest album of The War On Drugs three album career. Soon, word was out. Here was a band with a big future ahead of them. There was a reason for this. The War On Drugs weren’t like many other bands. Far from it. They were innovators who created groundbreaking, genre-melting music. 

Everything from alt-country, ambient, Americana, classic rock, indie rock, Krautrock, post rock and psychedelia can be heard on Lost In The Dream. Many tracks are a fusion of several genres. There’s anthems, ballads and experimental tracks. On other tracks, including Under The Pressure and In Reverse, The War On Drugs take you on a magical mystery tour. The track heads in one direction, before The War On Drugs throw a curveball. You’re then taken in a totally different direction. This results in two truly compelling tracks. As a result, you can’t help but admire producer Adam Granduciel’s vision. He’s played a huge part in the success of Lost In The Dream, the album that should transform The War On Drugs’ career. 

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IMARHAN TIMBUKTU-AKAL WARLED.

Over the last ten years, Imarhan Timbuktu have been providing the soundtrack at dance clubs and private parties in Northern Mali. Imarhan Timbuktu have starred at the famous Festival au Desert. Gradually, word began to spread about Imarhan Timbuktu. Recently, Imarhan Timbuktu’s music has been heard further afield. This includes in Europe and North America, where recently, Imarhan Timbuktu have been touring. For many people, this is their introduction to Tuareg music. However, still, many people have yet to discover the delights of Imarhan Timbuktu. Now everyone has the opportunity to hear the music of Imarhan Timbuktu. They’ve recently released their debut album Akal Warled, on Clermont Music. It’s been a long time coming, but well worth the wait. 

No longer are Imarhan Timbuktu Mali’s best kept secret. Far from it. This makes  this is the perfect opportunity for Imarhan Timbuktu to release their debut album, Akal Warled. It’s an innovative and unique fusion of traditional Tuareg instruments and electric instruments. The result is a meeting of two musical cultures. This was a first. Nobody had dared to do this. Thankfully, Mohamed Issa Ag Oumar El Ansari did. The result was music that crossed cultural borders. Tuareg desert blues meets Afro-beat, funk, jazz, psychedelia, rock and soul. The result isn’t just music to dance to, but music with a social conscience.

Over eight tracks, Mohamed’s vocal veers between worldweary, lovelorn, heartfelt and heartbroken. He delivers his vocals with power and passion. His vocal is variously hopeful, to needy to joyous and proud. Meanwhile, the music is hypnotic, irresistible, mesmeric and pulsating. Much of this is down to the unique fusion of traditional and Western instruments. This glorious fusion results in Akal Warled, a truly captivating album from Imarhan Timbuktu. 

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SHARON VAN ETTEN-ARE WE THERE.

Are We There is singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s fourth album. Released in May 27th 2014, on Jaguarwar, Are We There was released to widespread critical acclaim. Critics hailed Are We There, the finest album of Sharon’s four album career. It surpassed everything that had come before.   

During Are We There, Sharon continues to reinvent her music. The eleven songs are best described as a mixture of folk rock and indie rock. With a tight, talented band for company on Are We There, Sharon lays bare her soul. She tells you about her troubled relationship. You’re privy to the six troubled years she spent having every grain of confidence squeezed out of her. Sharon was traumatised. Fear, frustration, pain and hurt were constant companions. She couldn’t seem to do wrong for right. Often, she was left wondering what she’d done wrong. You can’t help but empathise with her plight. Nobody should’ve to endure what she did. That’s no way for anyone to live. So it’s no surprise Sharon left that relationship traumatised. Now, well on her way to putting those traumatic years behind her, Sharon used her experiences for Are We There.

Hopefully, Are We There will prove an inspiration to other woman who find themselves in a similar situation to Sharon Van Etten. Thankfully, she survived the hurt and pain to tell the tale on  Are We There, It’s without doubt, the best album of Sharon Van Etten’s career. Are We There is also a cathartic and soulful confessional where Sharon Van Etten lays bare her soul for all to see.  

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STIAN WESTERHUS AND PALE HORSES-MAELSTROM.

Having established a reputation as one of the finest abstract guitarists in Europe, Stian Westerhus decided to change direction. After three critically acclaimed solo albums and several collaborations, Stian decided that now was the time to go from solo artist to frontman. Not long after this, Pales Horses, an electronic rock trio was born. This saw Stian joined by keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen. A group featuring three of Norway’s most innovative and inventive musicians was a truly captivating combination. 

With their different musical backgrounds, Pale Horses set about reinventing a rock album on Maelstrom, which was released by Rune Grammofon in May 2014. Maelstrom is best described as a fusion of fluidity and improvisation. Everything from jazz, post-rock, psychedelia and rock melts into one. Then there’s Stian’s vocal. It oozes emotion. So, much so, that the lyrics come to life. That’s why Maelstrom is one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2014. It’s also why Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses have been compared to The Blue Nile, Talk Talk and Radiohead. That might seem like high praise, but Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses are three of Norway’s top musicians. 

On Maelstrom, Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses combine everything from experimental, jazz, post-rock, psychedelia and rock. Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses play with a fluidity, intricacy and accuracy, before kicking out the jams. They’re then transformed into a power trio. This brings back memories of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Other influences include The Blue Nile, The Bathers, Talk Talk, The Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead. This is a truly eclectic mix. However, each of these influences shine through on Maelstrom. Especially, The Blue Nile influence.  Sometimes, Stian sounds not unlike Paul Buchanan. Both dawn the role of troubled troubadour, and sound as if they’ve lived the lyrics they’re singing about. Other times, Stian sounds like Chris Thompson of The Bathers and on On and On James Dean Bradford of The Manic Street Preachers. However, there’s more to the success of Maelstrom than Stian Westerhus’ vocal. innovative and maverick guitar stylings. However, keyboardist Øystein Moen and drummer and percussionist Erland Dahlen more than play their part in Maelstrom’s success. Just like Stian, they’re talented and inventive multi-instrumentalists. They’re all parts of a bigger picture. Without Øystein’s keyboards and Erland’s percussion parts Maelstrom wouldn’t be the same album. It’s just a case that’s it’s always the frontman who takes centre-stage. In this case it’s Stian Westerhus. Pale Horses are however, no one man band. Far from it.

Instead, Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses are an innovative, inventive and influential band. They comprise three of Norway’s top musicians, are responsible for Maelstrom  one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. No wonder. Maelstrom oozes quality and hopefully, will be the first in a series of groundbreaking albums from hugely talented Stian Westerhus and Pale Horses.   

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WITHERED HAND-NEW GODS.

Five long years have passed since Withered Hand recorded their debut album Good News. It was released to critical acclaim and praised for its stark honesty. There was a reason for this. The man behind Withered Hand, Dan Willson was  a latecomer to music. He was already thirty when he wrote his first song. So, Dan had lived a life and had stories to tell. Many of them were based upon his life. This is also the case with Withered Hand’s sophomore album New Gods, which was released in March 2014 with the help of funding from Creative Scotland. New Gods features eleven songs based on Dan’s life. For New Gods, Dan penned eleven tracks. These songs deal with the big issues in life. There’s songs about love, death, friendship and infidelity. There’s also songs about road trips, stargazing and cough mixture abuse. New Gods is a grownup album from a perceptive and talented songwriter. However, Dan is a relative newcomer to music. In fact, Dan’s best described as an accidental songwriter.

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JAH WOBBLE PRESENTS: PJ HIGGINS-INSPIRATION.   

Since1981, Jah’s solo career has been a sonic adventure. He’s never stood still. Each Jah Wobble album is different. He’s released over thirty albums since 1981, including albums of alt rock, ambient, dubby dance, experimental and world music. This is why Jah Wobble is considered one of music’s innovators. He’s constantly challenged musical norms and sought to push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, beyond. That’s why no Jah Wobble album is the same. Far from it. Each new Jah Wobble album is akin to a sonic adventure. That’s still the case. One listen to Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, which was released on Sonar Kollektiv, in June 2014, and you’ll realise this.  

During each of the eight songs on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration, musical influences and genres melt seamlessly into one. The result is spellbinding, captivating and enthralling. With each listen, you hear new sounds, influences and musical textures. Layer upon layer of music reveals itself. Musical subtleties, secrets and surprises gradually unfold. Other times, the During each song, musical influences and genres melt seamlessly into one. The result is spellbinding, captivating and enthralling. With each listen, you hear new sounds, influences and musical textures. Layer upon layer of music reveals itself. Musical subtleties, secrets and surprises gradually unfold. Other times, the music on Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is infectiously catchy. Irresistible, it’s akin to a call to dance. You can’t help but submit to its charms. Truly, Jah Wobble Presents: PJ Higgins-Inspiration is an eclectic magical musical mystery tour where two musical chameleons, Jah Wobble and PJ Higgins provide the soundtrack. 

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NEIL YOUNG-STORYTONE.

Over the past forty-six years, Neil Young has released thirty-five studio albums. He’s always determined to reinvent himself musically. He’s released albums of Americana, blues rock, country, folk, folk rock, grunge, new wave, psychedelia, rock and rockabilly. There’s no finding a winning formula, and then sticking with it. That’s not Neil’s style. The closest he came was during his dalliance with grunge. However, after that, Neil spread his wings and headed in a different direction. That’s what Neil has continued to do, and did in 2014. 

During 2014, Neil Young released two albums, including Storytone, which marks a return to form from Neil Young. The original musical chameleon draws inspiration from previous albums like Harvest, Harvest Moon and This Notes For You. This is quite an eclectic source of inspiration. So it’s no surprise that Neil veers between melancholy and wistful, to soul-baring and soul-searching, right through to flat out hard rocking. It’s a glorious combination. Ballads and rockers rub shoulders on Storytone, where not for the first time, Neil Young becomes the comeback King.

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That’s my look back on the fifty best new albums released during 2014. Choosing just fifty albums isn’t easy. After all, every week literally hundreds of new albums are released. Each week, I sift through these releases, choosing the creme de la creme. This year, these new releases have been an eclectic selection of albums. Everything from Afro-beat, ambient, avant-garde, blues, dub, experimental, free jazz, funk,indie rock,  jazz, Latin, psychedelia and rock. These albums come from the four corners of the world. Most of the fifty finest were released by American, British and European labels. They played their part in what was a vintage year for new releases. Labels like BBE Music, Chemikal Underground, Crammed Discs, Hubro Music, Rune Grammfon, Sonar Kollectiv and Strut Records have been responsible for what I consider to be the fifty finest new albums of 2014. Each of these labels have searched high and low, far and wide for the best new music. They deserve our thanks, and hopefully, they’ll continue to do so for many years to come.

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