Helen writes about her top 5 albums and gigs of the year.
TOP 5 ALBUMS:
5. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe.
Catchy electro-pop with soul and a brain. Every other pop act should take notes from CHVRCHES’ debut album. It’s a lovely balance between experimentation and familiarity. Lauren Mayberry’s clear voice rings through, looking at heartbreak and all kinds of loss in creative ways. The stand-out song for me here is ‘We Sink’.
4. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
My 2013 soundscape record. The result is a fluid collection of sounds and ideas, all blended into the sound that makes Oneohtrix Point Never so himself. The music video for ‘Boring Angel’ is also the simplest tale in the modern condition of instant gratification.
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
I believe Ezra Koenig has one of the best voices out there at the moment. Constantly high-energy, eccentric and relatable. You have to have patience to dive into Vampire Weekend’s world, they want you to work for it. My favourite at the moment is ‘Diane Young’, it somehow springs to mind a (non-imitated) Elvis Presley.
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me.
The National consistently puts out great music. Matt Berninger attracts me to his world of anxieties and desolation with as much of an objective view as he can muster. The Dessner brothers continue to swamp me in reverberated guitar magnificence, and the drummer is just plain inventive. Being able to witness most of these songs live this year has also stretched and breathed even more life into them. My favourite is ‘This is the Last Time’.
1. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe completely amazed me with her sophomore album this year. The story is a prequel to her debut album Archandroid, and she continues to build on the futuristic cyborg world with protagonist Cindi Mayweather. The result is a wacky, crazy, feminist and socially aware album that really hits the spot in inventive grooves, urging you to dance and stand up for what’s right at the same time. Listen to Givin ‘Em What They Love, featuring Prince!
TOP 5 GIGS:
5. Clive Carroll – 25th January, Latest Music Bar, Brighton
The Guthrie Govan of the acoustic guitar world. He battles the stereotype of ‘just another guy on an acoustic guitar’ even though he is just another guy on an acoustic guitar. From what I remember of Clive Caroll’s show much earlier in the year was his penchant for being able to fuse all kinds of styles consciously with just the use of an acoustic guitar (and some looping)! There was no bricolage here.
4. RM Hubbert – 2nd October, Prince Albert, Brighton
I got to support RM Hubbert this year and it was an absolute pleasure to watch his set. Very rarely do I want a set to never end. RM Hubbert sucked me in with his tales of hope and despair, telling us personal stories of his life, his battles with depression but how in the end, music and living life is fun and will win!
3. Villagers – 17th February, The Old Market, Brighton
My first time seeing Villagers play with a band earlier in the year. Great balance between big band improvisation extravagance and intimate solo songs. O’Brien is a little man with a big heart; there is a great emphasis on his literary lyrics that it sometimes reminds me of Leonard Cohen. Despite amazing musicianship from all musicians involved, my favourite parts of the show were O’Brien and just his guitar; that’s when I find personal meaning, that come from his songs, at its most resonant.
2. Sigur Ros – 20th November, Brighton Centre, Brighton
Read review here.
1. The National – 4th November, Alexandra Palace, London
Read review here.
Stay tuned for Tom’s top 5 tomorrow!