Joe Curran’s 2014


1. Ought – More Than Any Other Day

Ought’s debut album is a modern masterpiece. It sounds like an unholy jam between Television, Talking Heads and At The Drive In. Combining moments of frantic energy with captivating intricacy, the progression between the two is masterful. Gritty riffs lead into choruses you can shout from the rooftops. Exactly the sort of exhilarating guitar music we keep hearing doesn’t exist.

Song – Today More Than Any Other Day

2. FKA Twigs – LP1

When something receives as much hype as FKA Twigs’ debut album, I often find myself recoiling rather than intrigued. Well, once I finally played the record, I immediately wanted to stick it on again. The effortless blending of trip-hop, R&B and twitching electronica initially make LP1 a compelling listen. Scratch the surface and you find aching vulnerability and brazen sexuality perfectly delivered in Tahliah Barnett’s ice cool vocal. A stunning debut worthy of anyone’s attention.

Song – Two Weeks

3. St Vincent – St Vincent

I don’t think anyone expected St Vincent’s fourth album to be such a barnstormer. Even 2012’s collaboration with David Byrne felt like an extension of her first three records rather than the departure that her eponymous album is. Suddenly, the guitars are cranked up and now it’s party time. Quieter moments are executed with the same charm as before but the injection of rock makes St Vincent one of the most exciting musicians around.

Song – Birth in Reverse

4. Future Islands – Singles

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen that Letterman performance which propelled Future Islands from indie also-rans to viral sensations. Thankfully, they have the tunes to back up the hype. Away from Seasons (Waiting On You), Singles is full of catchy hooks, heartleft lyrics and great new wave beats.

Song – Seasons (Waiting On You)

5. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

It turns out Chuck D isn’t always right, and sometimes you can believe the hype about a sequel. While their eponymous debut last year was promising, it felt less like a real band than on their second LP, adventurously titled Run The Jewels 2. Killer Mike is in the form of his life – fierce and political – while El-P provides some the best hip-hop production in years. To cap it all off, Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) reminds the world just how brilliant Zach de la Rocha is.

 Song – Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)

6. Tom Hickox – War, Peace & Diplomacy

Tom Hickox is without doubt Britain’s best kept secret. His debut album is full of absorbing, heartfelt songs delivered in Hickox’s gorgeous baritone voice. There are ballads here that John Lewis would kill to put on a Christmas ad, only Hickox seems far too sincere to bother with any of that. Album highlight Out Of The Warzone features Richard Hawley on guitar, a man who knows only too well the frustration of years on the shelf. Let’s hope Hickox finds the audience he deserves sooner in his career than the Northern troubadour did.

Song – Out of the Warzone

7. Iceage – Ploughing Into the Field of Love

Ploughing into the Field of Love is quite a shift for Iceage. The same visceral anger exists from the Danish punks but they’ve added off-step piano balladry and sea chanty melodies into their songs, suggesting it may have been recorded during a 27 hour bender with Shane Macgowan. In a good way of course.

Song – The Lord’s Favourite

8. Alvvays – Alvvays

Alvvays debut album is choc-full of wonderful jangly, Spector-influenced indie-pop. The sort that made Camera Obscura and Pains of Being Pure at Heart so beloved. Yes, it’s been done before but when it’s executed with such verve, how can you summon the strength to care? And you just know they would have gone down a storm at Smile.

Song – Archie, Marry Me

9. Swans – To Be Kind

It certainly isn’t dinner party music, or any party music for that matter, but Swans 13th studio album is an audio behemoth. Two hours in length and released across 2 cds (or 3 LPs), Michael Gira allows himself amble room to explore his inner musings – both confrontational and gentle, claustrophobic and spacious. Some parts even sound a bit like a normal song. Only a bit though.

Song – Oxygen

10. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Certainly their best work since their incredible debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. NWTBHANWTL feels like a band who are no longer weighted down by expectation and feel free to be themselves. Freedom hasn’t brought cheer, but an incredible paranoid, sub-zero rock record.

Song – There’s a Girl in the Corner


1. Jack White – Lazaretto

At a time when White’s Nashville residency heavily influences much of his song writing, Lazaretto is a timely reminder that the former White Stripes man is untouchable when he cranks it up. Huge riffs, screwball lyrics and a marvellous false ending, Lazaretto has done as much as any song in years to elevate Jack White into arenas, and boy does he deserve it.

2. tUnE-yArDs – Water Fountain

Tribal drums and handclaps lead Tune-Yards superb comeback single. A melody chanted over a triangle before all hell breaks loose and bizarre earworm “WOO HA!” is born. The spirit of Graceland lives on (the Paul Simon record, not where Elvis lived).

3. Manic Street Preachers – Europa Geht Durch Mich

After last year’s largely acoustic Rewind the Film, most people thought the Manics had made the move gracefully to Radio 2. Confusion reigns then as a Goldfrapp influenced, bi-lingual Krautrock duet with Nina Hoss stomps along as an ode to Europe and is somehow better than the Manic’s last collaboration with someone called Nina.

4. Real Estate – Talking Backwards

Perfect slice of sunshine pop. Simple as that.

5. Caribou – Can’t Do Without You

One of the songs on Our Love that sounds like it might be on last album Swim, rather than side project Daphni. Carbiou’s trademark house beats are dazzling as usual but the evocative twin vocal elevates CDWY into one of the tracks of the year.

6. Horrors – I See You

Owing more than a nod to Donna Summers and in spite of terribly mundane lyrics, I See You is an incredible seven minutes of Neu-inspired electronica and an impossibly catchy chorus.

7. The War On Drugs – Under The Pressure

Lost In The Dream was unfortunate to miss the cut in the records of the year, ultimately the back end fades a little. Truth is, the album actually peaks with this amazing eight minute opener.

8. The Juan Maclean – A Place Called Space

Eight minutes of glorious Moroder-influenced disco-punk.

9. SBTRKT ft Ezra Koenig – New Dorp, New York

Pure late night bass and jittering jazz drums supplement a brilliant cameo from Vampire Weekend’s frontman.

10. Camera – Synchron

I’m grateful there are plenty of Krautrock torchbearers about at the minute and German band Camera are certainly amongst the best. While this year’s record didn’t quite match 2012’s Radiate! Synchron is the pick from their latest LP. A mandatory motorik beat lies beneath swirling rhythms building to a crashing end.


Manchester Gig of the Year

1. Manic Street Preachers @ Albert Hall

Full album gigs have become a little passe recently, (Shed Seven doing A Maximum High anyone?) but the Manics and The Holy Bible is a different beast altogether. Even die-hard fans have had scant opportunity to hear songs from one of the greatest records ever made. Every song sounds incredible, as fierce and sincere as the day it was made.

2. FKA Twigs @ RNCM

Not only has FKA Twigs produced one of the albums of the year, her live show is equally brilliant. A full live band create her songs incredibly, and Twigs performing arts background is telling with some killer moves. If she does the rounds next year, don’t miss it.

3. The Horrors @ BBC 6Music Festival

The Horrors live is quite an experience. While Damon Albarn was previewing new music in the main hall, Horrors fans were crammed into the tiny second room barely able to breathe. This simply created unity amongst fans as shoegaze-y mumblings became huge sing-alongs.

4. Future Islands @ Manchester Cathedral

With grand acoustics but poor sightlines, it’s important to get a good speck at a gig at the Cathedral, never more so than when Samuel T Herring’s inimitable dancing awaits. The fuss around his earnest performances is more than justified, seldom is a frontman so unpretentious yet so celebrated.

5. Shopping @ Sounds From The Other City

Sounds From The Other City is a fantastic showcase of emerging talent that makes excellent use of the quality pubs around Islington Mill. The fantastic thing about watching Shopping in The Crescent was it felt like it could have been at any time in the past 35 years. An old boozer back room packed with hippies and hipsters, all raging to girls playing angular guitars.

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer