The Albums Of 2014: Our Writers’ Picks feat. Swans, Sleaford Mods, The Twilight Sad

The run up to Christmas was all about Essential Listening for us here at Live4ever, and now with the turkey, Brussels sprouts and other festive cliches out of the way, we’ve handed the reigns over to some of our writers to single out their own personal favourite of the year just before 2014 leaves us.

Don’t forget, you can catch up with Live4ever’s Essential Listening Series 2014 in full at this link, and your own favourite album of the year can easily be shared by leaving a comment below.

We’ll see you in 2015!

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Beau De Lang: Swans – ‘To Be Kind’

“Spanning two CDs, three slabs of vinyl and clocking in at just over two hours long, it would be easy to assume that Swans’ latest effort ‘To Be Kind’ is an overstuffed and self-indulgent mess not worthy of its epic runtime.

Instead, these no-wave pioneers have managed to twist a series of disparate sounds into another seamless and immersive experience, filtering everything from swamp rock mysticism to mutant caveman funk through their own distorted lens of thunderous repetition and intensified menace.

There is a twelve minute gothic blues dirge dedicated to Howlin’ Wolf, a ten minute noise-ridden rumination on Kirsten Dunst, and a thirty-four minute mini-epic that begins as a cultish Sun God worship ritual before morphing into a haunting soundtrack to the Haitian Revolution. Throw in the fact that it was all composed and conducted by a sixty year-old man in a cowboy hat, and it’s easy to see why ‘To Be Kind’ is one of the most bizarre and compelling albums of the year.”

Christine Hogg: Elephant Stone – ‘The Three Poisons’

“Elephant Stone are a band that does reverb and fuzz right: by jazzing it up with some Indian sounds. Frontman Rishi Dhir’s sitar adds the perfect twist to their 2014  release ‘The Three Poisons’. The record is a subtly rhythmic, nebulous dream – reminiscent of an old photograph full of lensflare, immortalising a summer of exotic adventures.

Filled with many instrumental build-ups, climaxes and fade-outs, it’s also the perfect match for Dhir’s vocals as they manage to sail just above the surface of this twirling sea of psychedelia. It’s one to keep close to your heart, because it’s unashamedly tender and inescapably catchy.”

Andy Peterson: Sleaford Mods – ‘Divide and Exit’

“Once heard, never forgotten: Sleaford Mods sound like no other band in Britain, mostly because their yards of anger, bitterness and contempt for pointless, de-humanising cultural ephemera is about as saleable as a mouth full of grit. But buried in amongst the caustic jibes Jason Williamson (Ranting) and Andrew Fearn (Programming, looking into the middle distance) have in fact astutely turned a mirror back on all of our modern day conceits, hence the frequent sense of discomfort they generate.

In the process, they became a voice for the downtrodden, zero hours contract worker ghosts and the sundry disenfranchised, people for whom the entertainment industry has no time as they have no cash. ‘Divide and Exit’ has been described as having the musical quality of Marmite: this is only true if it’s a whole jar being poured down the throat. You MUST hear this record and decide for yourself.”

Dave Smith: The Twilight Sad – ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave’

“The gorgeous songwriting and propensity for a long fade-out of The War On Drugs’ ‘Lost In The Dream’ came close to getting my vote, but I’m picking the album Live4ever already has at #1 on its Essentials list, and who cares eh? For The Twilight Sad have a remarkable debut under their belts; ‘Fourteen Autumns…’ is an incredibly confident first record. On it we find a band already fully formed, already comfortable in their own skin and already on a firmly cemented path. But it’s probably taken ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here…’ to really justify that path, and the direction in which it has been heading.

That’s not to write off the two intervening efforts, though time hasn’t been without its tribulations, but this here is a true culmination of nearly a decade’s work. It’s still unmistakably the Sad, it has all the elements which have made them so vital to anyone with the inclination to search that bit harder for a band with a heart, but now those elements are fully formed, entirely consistent, and with a whole new batch of virtues thrown in for good measure. It’s considered and personal, eloquent and consequential, and just about my favourite of the year.”

Trey Tyler: Alvvays – ‘Alvvays’

2014 yielded some of the most excellent music in recent years; St. Vincent transformed into an art-rock goddess on her blockbuster self-titled album, indie underdogs Future Islands blasted into the mainstream, but with that said, the album I keep coming back to is Alvvays’ self-titled debut.

Artists don’t always have to break new ground, especially if their work is well crafted and enjoyable. The album kicks off with a strong one-two punch – opening track ‘Adult Diversion’ is a shimmering surf-rock jangle where lead singer Molly Rankin ponders the mystery of unrequited love, while the Pixies tingled ‘Archie, Marry Me’ features one of the year’s finest choruses and some tasteful guitar work from lead guitarist Alex O’Hanley.

The band shifts through a variety moods over the course of the album’s nine-song set. It sounds nostalgic and familiar through its use of hazy reverb, but it is rare to find an album filled with so many great hooks and melodies. Alvvays is an album that you can fall in love with immediately after the first time after you play it. Simply put, this is an outstanding first effort.

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