Neneh Cherry – 'Blank Project'
Neneh Cherry’s first solo album in 18 years doesn’t disappoint. She has delivered not only one of the best but also one of the most innovative albums of 2014 so far. There is so much going on with the musical arrangements and even where perhaps they don’t quite work, they’re constantly interesting, providing an engrossing backdrop to her meditations on life and motherhood.
St. Vincent – 'St. Vincent'
That lyric (“Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate.”) might have overshadowed many a record but St Vincent’s self-titled album is such a stride forward that when it does appear, it almost goes unnoticed given the strength of the music.
Her previous work – a collaboration with the alternative music godfather David Byrne – seems to have given St. Vincent even more confidence and her quirkiness now provides another layer to the songs rather than distracting from them. While her previous have included great moments, this is her first LP which can be truly considered brilliant, consistently impressing throughout.
Future Islands - 'Singles'
Without realising it, I’d been a fan of Future Islands for a while. After their iconic performance on 'The Late Show With David Letterman', I checked out my iTunes collection and saw that not only did I have their previous records but had kept in my library most of their songs. And perhaps that’s been their problem – many enjoyed their music but they weren’t front of mind.
You could argue that their mix of new-wave and 'Scary Monsters'–era Bowie atmospherics isn’t particularly innovative but the captivating pathos of frontman Samuel T Herring takes them to a different level. The record has my favourite song of the year so far, 'Seasons (Waiting On You)' and I’m glad that they’ve fully broken through to the wider public attention that they deserve.
Sun Kil Moon - 'Benji'
Honesty. That’s what this record has in abundance and at times, for example when Mark Kozelek is singing about his first sexual exploits there is the danger of too much information being provided but he deserves great credit for opening up his life to such a large extent.
While many of the lyrics are downbeat with tales of premature deaths and loss, the record doesn’t feel depressing or voyeuristic thanks to the way he imbues the songs with a disarming spirit. In fact, when he sings about seeing Led Zeppelin’s concert documentary 'The Song Remains The Same', you feel like you’re sitting next to him, such is the magically evocative nature of the album.
The War On Drugs – 'Lost In The Dream'
I was explaining the genius of this record to a colleague who said to me that the album sounds great but surely they could have come up with a better name for the band? If you can get past the name, you’ll be richly rewarded with a collection of songs from a songwriter at the top of his game.
Imbuing not only the influence but the soul of the great American songwriters – Dylan and Springsteen – primary songwriter Adam Granduciel delivers one great song after another. There is definitely also the mark of Dire Straits on the record with its intricate guitar solos, and all the aforementioned artists would be proud to call 'Lost In The Dream' their own. Like Sun Kil Moon, there is a charming honesty to this album and when combined with its timeless melodies, the end result is a powerful combination.
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