2014 album of the year

A lament that 2014 has probably had some good music but damned if I’ve been able to find it.


Although all my music is bought and listened to primarily on a physical format, I’ve been obsessively maintaining my iTunes library for a decade now.

Every year, I have a running smart playlist in iTunes that groups together all the music I’ve bought over the past twelve months. It’s a useful track of the scary amount of money I spend on this hobby but also an excellent aide-mémoire of things I might have forgotten about, a little archive of what it is I’ve actually spent my hard-earned on.

At this time of year, I go through that list, agonise over what my favourite half-dozen releases have been, sort them in order of best to worst, and write a little post here, again for my own records as much as anything else.

This year… it’s not been a task that I’ve really looked forward to.

2014 has not been an inspiring year. There have been plenty of alrightish albums but there’s been nothing that’s really moved me, nothing that’s challenged me, nothing that feels like it might contend for a place in my list of all-time favourites. Albums I’ve liked have either been good-but-retreading-old-ground, deliberately nostalgic, or late-career-naval-gazing.

Let me emphasise again: I’ve liked all these albums, but I’ve not loved any of them. They’re not bad, but they’re not brilliant either.

If I were to choose a record of the year, I’d be Alvvays’ self-titled debut:

A lovely little pop album whose first two tracks in particular - Adult Diversion and Archie Marry Me - are joyous jangly nuggets that haven’t been seen since Camera Obscura discovered that it’s ok to be happy every now and then. It’s an album I’ve listened to constantly since release and seems to suit every mood and every eventuality.

But… Alvvays are a band who are painfully in thrall to other artists. The Glasgow indiepop scene is an obvious point of comparison (and probably why I’ve loved this album in particular), so is anything Phil Spector touched (not like that) before 1980 or so. It’s an enjoyable album but it feels like an album that could’ve existed ten, twenty, even thirty years ago. It’s not telling me anything about 2014 other than that we seem out of ideas.

Painfully out of ideas.

And it’s not a problem I see a quick solution to either.

The band I’ve enjoyed the most recently are Deers, a group who make cheaply recorded but really fun four minute pop songs. If you don’t mind music made on scratchy four-track recorders with £75 guitars, this is for you. Trippy Gum in particular is delightful.

But, just like Alvvays, Deers are a band that could have existed at nearly any point since 1980. Arguably, they could even be contemporaries of The Velvet Underground. They might have been inspired by previous greats, but they don’t feel inspiring in and of themselves.

Alright, fka twigs’ album was fun and felt new, but it’s not something that can be listened to day and night. Kate Tempest seems like something new, but the album was patchy and it doesn’t feel like she’s quite found her voice quite yet. The Jungle album’s nice enough, but “nice enough” is hardly a ringing endorsement.

I’m far from resigned that ALL MUSIC EVER IS OVER. I’m hopeful that 2015 will reveal something truly different and make us all feel that we’re at the start of something new rather than sloshing around a synthetic approximation of what was good decades ago. Fingers crossed.