Best Music of 2014: So Far
Billion Dollar Babies
Think the 40th anniversary reissue of a masterpiece. Has a record ever opened as excitingly as this, with the menacing, glorious fanfare that is “Hello Hooray”? All these years on, it still sets a tone that never lets up throughout this triumph of glam metal. Forget the guillotines and gimmicks, this is one of the greatest rock albums of this or any era, packed to the gunnels with big pop hits—“No More Mr Nice Guy” never ages—and a swaggering, shivery sense of dread.
Think a King Crimson-loving all-girl quartet. If you or any of your friends has an asymmetric haircut, a beard, tight drainpipes and a fitted short-sleeved shirt buttoned at the collar, I guarantee that you/they will be drooling at the prospect of this release. There’s a more urban edge to this, Warpaint’s second collection of dreamy hipster pop with a faintly unsettling vibe. “We’re going for an underwater mood,” they assert, and you can see what they mean.
Rock’s demonic cherub makes overdue return. The contradiction at the heart of David Crosby’s music is that work so ethereal and haunting should have come from a life so often dark and dissolute that it saw him incarcerated for possession of firearms and cocaine. His first album for 20 years is an intimate, intense collection of which he says, “This won’t be a huge hit. It’ll probably sell 19 copies. I don’t think kids are gonna dig it, but I’m not making it for them. I’m making it for me. I have this stuff that I need to get off my chest.”
After the Disco
Think Howard Jones for hipsters. The second album by Broken Bells—an icily cool duo comprising The Shins’ James Mercer and the ubiquitous Danger Mouse—has a perfect title for the mood of weary, lovelorn comedown that this collection of songs is imbued with. Forget the heavy Bee Gees stylings of single “Holding On for Life”, the ghost of 1980s trembling-lip popsters à la Nik Kershaw walks these slick retro grooves.
Total Strife Forever
East India Youth
Think James Blake meets Philip Glass. Winsome young men making melancholy electronica is very much the current thing, but William Doyle brings a genuinely shadowy experimental edge to the party. Having been a fairly conventional indie frontman in Doyle & the Fourfathers, as East India Youth he has turned his considerable talents to making grainy abstract music equidistant from Radios 1 and 3.
Here Come the Nice
Think pop goes Time Team. As the traditional business structures of the music industry crumble—with today’s kids no more likely to spend money on a physical music artefact than they are to buy an ear trumpet—so the biz has to add value to lure the affluent middle-aged consumer to the tills. This almost absurdly lavish box set takes this to new heights—one brief but glorious period (1967–69) in the history of the much-loved mods explored via set lists, ticket stubs, lyric sheets and, yes, the songs: nuggets of Mockerney psychedelia from a golden age of UK pop.