As the 2014 calender draws to a close, A Love That’s Sound would like to share 10 of its favourite ambitious, imaginative and well executed musical albums expressed during the last year. Here, without further adieu, in alphabetical order, are ALTS’ 10 Top Albums of 2014:
#1. the Allah-Lahs – Worship The Sun
60’s revisionists of elite ability, the Allah-Lahs play catchy, slinking garage rock with clever melodic interludes, coupling catchy surf rhythms and gentle vocal harmonies with subtle hooks. Clear, resonating amplifiers are restrained to clever licks that never overpower the moderate paced dreamscapes. Lethargic yet snappy and always pleasant, Worship The Sun is packed with bouncing instrumentals, jangling tambourine and tasteful, clean production.
#2. the Black Lips – Underneath the Rainbow
The Black Lips’ last record Arabia Mountain consisted of a sometimes disjointed set of cheeky, catchy as hell garage songs. Never sounding overproduced, the Black Lip’s more professional studio work has buttressed their sensible arrangements without deflating their flower punk outlook. The Black Lips hit bull’s eyes with infectious rolling pop bullets like “Smiling” and “Dog Years” while showing deepening complexions on the ponderous rockers “Justice After All” and “Boys in the Woods.”
#3. Blonde Redhead – Barragáin
Four years following the glittering sprawl of Penny Sparkle, Blonde Redhead resurrect many techniques used on past albums on Barragáin. Dusting off old techniques from a Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons era recoridngs, Blonde Redhead offer one of the most sparse, calculated and intriguing records major label releases ever cut to wax. Subtle synthesized sonic textures, plucked guitar and Kazu Mako’s sweet, squeaky fragile voice culminate a particularly fine set of minimalist art rock. Released only due to the persistent encouragement of their band manager, Blonde Redhead forged forward with one more record just as they were ready to call it quits. Dreamy, innovative and concise, Barragáin is a fitting hallmark of Blonde Redhead’s spectacular career.
#4. the Brian Jonestown Massacre – Revelations
The strongest Brian Jonestown collection since Bravery, Repetition and Noise, bandleader Anton Newcombe and his Berlin based colleagues’ provide a variety of succulent cuts that often match or improve upon BJM’s best work. “What You Isn’t” dangles a melodic hook over a figure-eight progression with hypnotic effect. More developed song crafting makes this record an improved cousin of 2011’s overtly cinematic Aufheben. Revelations is an agreeable execution of a vast spectrum of BJM experiments without skimping out on quality song writing. The Brian Jonestown Massacre may have made better records in the past but Revelations is a playful, ambitious statement and a stirring return to form.
#5. Elephant Stone – the Three Poisons
Deviating from the bright and fluid psych rock of 2013’s Elephant Stone, bandleader Rishi Dhir and Montréal band pay homage to 90s’ Manchester bands on the Three Poisons. .Infectious, flowing bass lines sound natural and effortless over the energetic “We’ll knock You From Yr Mountain.” Elephant Stone show no shortage of ingenuity in their blend of succulent bass, danceable rhythms, drifting sitar and sweet, clear vocals. Finding a fine balance between dazzling textures, danceable rhythms and all around solid pop structures, Elephant Stone continue to impress and amaze.
#6. Foxygen – And Star Power
A spastic collection of massive orchestrated chaos, And Star Power runs through bizarre combinations of highly blown psychedelia. Like a stormy sky opening up for an occasional break of sun, And Star Power is a tumultuous collection of meandering music, often shifting suddenly from bombastic arrangements to quiet, soulful moments of vulnerability. Energetically embodying a psychedelic mindset, Foxygen are full of sassy tricks and homage to classic elements of soul. Singer Sam France is ambitious, both with a large dynamic vocal range and a willingness to experiment. Dramatic, sombre Jim Morrison-inspired vocals on “Cosmic Vibrations” rise to sweet falsetto with fantastic lines like “if you want me / you can have me but I’m all used up.” Ever challenging but oh-so-catchy, And Star Power is full of nourishment that can only be appreciated upon repeated listens.
#7. Goat – Commune
Originating from the far north of Sweden, Goat is a relentless psychedelic jam band well renowned for their bright and audacious costumes and masks suggestive of cult ritual. Building vast peaking psychedelic jams over bold, searing guitars and afro-beat, Goat play with a ferocious savagery. Following up their debut album World Music and recent Sub Pop live album, Goat’s sophomore effort continues their savage effect without sign of compromise. With powerful, dual shrieking female vocalists, Goat’s relentless tribal attacks continue unabated. Check out top notch jam-rockers like “Talk To God” and “Gathering Of Ancient Tribes.”
#8. Temples – Sun Structures
Newcomers hailing from Kettering England, Temples embody a neo-psychedelic style in a stream of colourful, well constructed songs. Sun Structures finds an enticing balance of textured keyboards, clever song craft and saturation of psychedelic clichés. Bright, chiming guitar melodies are paired with sharp, snappy drums, pondering bass and Moody Blues inspired vocal harmonies. Combining the sonic brightness of Tame Impala and the baroque pop sensibilities of The Zombies, Temples’ have cut their teeth with an unusually impressive album debut; look no further than ‘Shelter Song” or “Colours in the Dark.”
#9. Doug Tuttle – Doug Tuttle
Signed to Massachusetts based record label Trouble In Mind, guitarist Doug Tuttle offers his first solo effort. Formerly part of the New Hampshire outfit MMOSS, Doug Tuttle has used his debut album to tell the story of his recent breakup from his long-time partner, Doug Tuttle provides an authentic, tasteful set of songs united in theme. Lean, spacious and glowing, Doug Tuttle’s debut record rides on mid-tempo psych rock with glowing touches of telecaster. Meandering organ swells buttress solid tunes occasionally launch into space with first into swirling, trebled Neil Young-like solos such as on “Turn This Love.” Concise in theme, Doug Tuttle successfully demonstrates an array of Mr. Tuttle’s talents that suggest future promise.
#10. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Dripping with lush atmosphere, The War on Drugs’ most recent Lost in the Dream matches and exceeds the feeling and arrangements of their previous efforts. Gently sloped melodies float atop, snappy beats on clear, extended arrangements like “Under the Pressure” and “An Ocean in Between the Waves.” Comprising of over an hour of music, Lost in the Dream’s warm textures and river-like flow are notable in their slow burning crests; gradual sonic landscapes and cohesive, inspired atmospheres culminate into a drifting standout, a memorable modern classic.
Honourable mention: Best Extended Play [EP]:
the Black Angels – Clear Lake Forest
A 2014 Record Store Day original release, Austin Texas based neo-psychedelic masterminds the Black Angels supply a return to form. Clear Lake Forest, a seven song collection that not only recaptures the haunting charm of analogue recording absent on Indigo Meadow but also shows the band at their most abstract. The Black Angels break new ground, such as on the slow wonky burner “Linda’s Gone.” The Black Angels retain their signature, snappy song structures on “An Occurrence at 4507 South Third Street” and “the Flop.” Continuing their brazen output, the Black Angels continue to be masters of abstraction.