donderdag 1 januari 2015

WoNo Magazine: Wo.'s 2014 Top 10 albums

Another year gone. Another full year of reviews of the old, the new, the live and .NoWordsNeeded. 2014 brought a lot of fine albums, but thinking about it up front I could not think of one single album that simply defeats all others. There were many good albums, many great songs. The long list brought 54 records, including a few EPs. To make my life easier, I scrapped those first, as I did with Bob Dylan & the Band's 'The basement tapes'. Too much to really appreciate, no matter how good some of the songs are. From there the long route to a top 10 started.

10-12. Things are going fairly smoothly. Albums are striped away with ease. I'm down to 18. And I start reading about the album of the year in 'Oor Magazine'. It's still on my shortlist, but one of the reasons it is praised by Oor, is the reason I decide to take it off the shortlist: Springsteen, never liked his music and there's just too much of his sound in 'Lost in the dream' for me to continue it's presence. 'I'm not bossy, I'm the boss', Sinead O'Connor's latest album also leaves the list. Good, but only just not good enough.

16-12. I'm down to fifteen albums. At this point in time I've decided to give two very special praises for two albums that have not made it to this point, but are so special that they deserve a mention of praise: 'Bidonville' by De Kift and 'Gloria' by Broeder Doeleman. Both albums are hard to listen to all in one go. They are very different, arty in the best of senses, extremely good, but not albums that are 'easy" to listen to every day. And a top 10 album should be just that.

Two others leave the short list: "Lazaretto' by Jack White and 'The endless river' by Pink Floyd. Both good albums, but not outstanding enough compared to all that went on before. Three left to go before I can present the 10 below.

17-12. And out went the last three. Two Dutch acts ended number 13, 'We both know the rest is noise', by Moss and 12, 'Promises of no man's land' by Blaudzun. Both great albums, but I like what I have listed above just this little bit (or) more. And then I had one left to go. And that was very, very hard. The last stripe went through 'The take off and landing of everything' by Elbow. Only because I like the band on number 10 so much more in general. With 'The take off ...' Elbow for the first time made an album that I truly like as a whole. (And then lurking somewhere is Ty Segall's 'Manipulator', that I like, don't like as much, like a lot. A real moodswinger that album is. It could have been in there below on any other day.)

Being a favourite song list man from early youth onwards, there has to be a list. So, here it is:

10. Blood Red Shoes. Blood Red Shoes

The 2014 list starts with the number one album band of 2012, Blood Red Shoes. It's probably impossible to ever make a better album than that one, for me. All the elements of 'In time to voices' are there. Everything that made that album so good, but the impact isn't the same on me. Which is impossible. Having said that I enjoy Blood Red Shoes a lot and it deserves a spot on my 2014 list easily. Laura-Mary Carter and Stephen Ansell cook up another storm with their drums, guitars and voices. The continuous switch between female and male lead vocals works very well and the melodies of the songs are nearly always superb. Great band.

9.The three poisons. Elephant Stone

An album that pushed itself forward very late for this list, but it's in here none the same. The three poisons nearly turned me off with the very first notes. Luckily I kept on listening as what presented itself was an album that combines the best of pop melodies, 60s pop and rock with psychedelic influences and Indian music and instruments. Together the best of all these worlds come forward. On top of that the very pleasant voice of Rishi Dhir and the harmonies of his three band mates are laid. A winner in short.

8. Oklahoma lottery. Karen Jonas

Another album that Erwin Zijleman pointed me towards. I would have missed it in all other cases. Despite having The Parlor Soldiers' only album in the house. Karen Jonas comes back with a debut solo album that graces all ranges of folk, singer-songwriter, country and some pop on the side. As I wrote in my review of the album: "the title song 'Oklahoma lottery' is so good it deserves a statue" and I stand by my words. Although some songs are just too country for me, then there's always Karen Jonas' voice to save me. Karen Jonas is a real talent and it's time for her to come over and play the European clubs. (On this blog you can also find an interview with Karen Jonas.)

7. Brill bruisers. The New Pornographers

The Vancouver, BC, Canada based band, after a silence of four years, is back with a fabulous album. All things 80s, pop and rock are blended into well-crafted songs. Songsmith is the word invented for songs like these and applicable here in the totally right context. Carl Newman and his band, with three songs by Dan Bejar, sing, play and arrange so well that all songs are winners and sing-a-long hits. 'Backstairs', 'Brill bruisers', Dancehall domines' up front but with the other songs very close behind. Brill bruisers is that good. Believe me.

6. Second nature. Flying Colors

Yes, the joke can be made again, as Second nature succeeds with flying colours, just like the self-titled debut album in 2012 did. Flying Colors finds its way into my year list again, even though I have only listened to the album since last week and a few times at that. Everything making up this album is huge. The sound, the production, the songs, the performance. Even though there are quite some symphonic rock clichés and some sound copy catting from famous bands of a long time ago, it is done with so much love and taste that all is permissible. Second nature delivers what the title promises: the chosen idiom fits these musicians like a glove. What they play is their second nature. It can't come out in any other way. In combination with inventiveness, strong melodies and the will to explore a few new alleys, some more successful than others, the traditional prog music comes out trumps.

5. Education, education, education & war. Kaiser Chiefs

After one of my favourite Kaiser bands stopped playing and recording altogether (Kaizers Orchestra) and the other releasing another album that was just a little less interesting than the previous one and driving force and composer Nick Hodgson leaving the band, I had given up on Kaizers. The more I was surprised when Kaiser Chiefs released an album that made a difference and had a load of great songs on it. Education, 3x & war is the best album in consistency and the quality of songs since debut album 'Employment'. With the exception of one song, with the spoken word in there, Education is a fun album, bringing out all that makes this band so good: fun, great melodies, enthusiasm and the songs to match that all.

4. We let go. Sunday Sun

Two years ago the band made it to my top 10 with the three EPs released in 2012. In October 2014 finally the debut album was released and what an album it is. Again the foursome, with previous drummer Wouter on record and new drummer David on stage, convinces totally in their mix of Beatles, Beach Boys, 60s pop and a modern sound. Together with producer Rutger Hoedemaekers Sunday Sun has come up with a nearly perfect pop album in which every possibility within a song to come up with an extra melody or harmony was explored with so much success. With single 'I call you honey' all over the radio, the deserved breakthrough can only be a matter of time. The music more than pardons the hideous album cover. All is a matter of taste, I'm sure.

On this blog you can also find a recent interview with guitarist/singer Yoshi Breen.

3. Maggie Brown. Maggie Brown

Another record that I've played a lot in the past year and another tip provided by Erwin Zijleman. The mysteriousness of the music and the melodic twists made me like the album straight away. A relationship that deepened steadily over the past months. Maggie Brown also showed to me that a good album does not make a good live band. The band has steps to make and take there. The music is there. From the well built up instrumental opening song, through to everything that follows, Maggie Brown has come up with a great album. The best album from Dutch shores in 2014 for sure. And the best read upon album in 2014 on this blog, unfortunately spread out over two reviews, which will lead to at least one entry in that other list on this blog.

2. Ultraviolence. Lana del Rey

A very surprising number 2 as far as I'm concerned. Ultraviolence is an album that I've played a lot over the passed months. Lana del Rey manages to be ultraseductive on this album. In cooperation with producer Dan Auerbach she created an album that has everything that makes a whole album interesting to listen to in one go. Del Rey combines all the singers of the past that are never mentioned as best, but scored many hits none the same, starting with Nancy Sinatra and her James Bond theme 'You only live twice'. Despair, pure seduction and the end of all things fun and lighthearted make a mix on Ultraviolence that is ultrasuperb.

1. Somos. Jarabe de Palo

My favourite Spanish band did it again. This music makes me feel soooo gooooood. The mix of Spanish and Latin American rhythms mixed with plain old rock and pop is irresistible. A relationship that started in early summer 1997 in the discos of Salamanca, Spain on a Monday and Tuesday evening. I can't understand why this band hasn't broken big in western Europe. They should have in the previous century already. Somos, no matter how good this album is, hasn't altered the band's status over here. In the meantime they are huge all over America. The best album of 2014 Somos is.


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