2014 has been an incredible year for music of all genres, from Jamie T’s incredible return after 5 years away to Royal Blood releasing one of the most successful debut albums in a long time, it has never been a better time to be a music fan! Some of the members of the BurnFM have picked their favourite albums of the year and say why they love them so much.
Sam Taylor (Head of Music Internal):
- Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All – With their debut album, Sports, Modern Baseball emerged onto the scene with much promise however the follow up has solidified their place as one of the most best young bands around. With an their unique electro-acoustic sound combined with a quirkiness that only Motion City Soundtrack can rival, this album was the perfect soundtrack to my summer. The upbeat pace of the music combined with catchy melodies, you will find yourself humming along with songs such as “Broken Cash Register”, “Fine, Great” and “Your Apartment” within the first couple of listens. The real crowning piece on this gem of an album is the lead single, “Your Graduation”, a song that represents everything that makes Modern Baseball so great. Overall You’re Gonna Miss It Allis an album that is consistently great, every track on there could be released as a single. If you haven’t heard it yet, go listen, you will be hooked within the first track.
- Transit – Joyride – After hooking me in with Listen and Forgive, Transit have been a band I listen to regularly for a couple of years. While Young New Englandwas a slight disappointment, Joyride sees Transit firmly back to their best. From the opening bar of “The One and Only”, Transit prove that they are the perfect soundtrack to both your summer and lazy days. Their infectious melodies stick in your head and when mixed together with a musical backing that compliments it perfectly. With it only being released at the tailend of October, it is still growing on me however I know that this album will be the soundtrack of the next few months of my life.
- Issues – Issues – Formed in the fallout from Woe Is Me, with their debut album Issues have change the landscape of metalcore. With a sound that encompasses everything from metal breakdowns to hip hop beats to boybandesque vocals, Issues push boundaries consistently with this album. When the boundaries are being pushed and it is successful, what emerges is incredible, tracks such as “Never Lose Your Flame” and “Mad At Myself” can lay claim to be two of the best tracks of the year. However the reason it is not top is that it can be slightly inconsistent, there are moments that almost strike you as filler. By ending on “Disappear (Remember When)”, Issues still surprise you with their ambitiousness with their music. The gospel choir at the end of the track is one of my favourite musical moments of the year.
- Neck Deep – Wishful Thinking – It is no secret that I am a huge pop punk fan, and in Neck Deep, the UK finally has a top quality pop punk band that they have been craving for years. The best part of the album is that Neck Deep are quintessentially British, there is no fake American accents that has previously plagued British bands in the genre. The first half of the album can lay claim to being some of the best pop punk songs written in recently years, what lets the album down is a very weak B side. Tracks such as “Crushing Grief” and “Damsel in Distress” can rival any tracks released by bands such as The Wonder Years, The Story So Far or State Champs in recent years. Overall this album is a great debut album and is brimming with promise that the future for Neck Deep is very bright.
- Beartooth – Disgusting – There have been some great new bands emerging throughout 2014 in the metalcore genre, the one that really excites me is Beartooth. With a sound that combines Architects, Every Time I Die and Pierce The Veil, it might sound on paper as something that would never work but in practice it is incredible. With Caleb Shlomo, Beartooth possess a frontman who has the ability to sing to a level most pop bands would be proud of, yet still have brutal screams filled with emotions. With tracks that cut very close to the bone, Shlomo, the bands chief songwriter, talks about his battle with depression that can make for slightly uncomfortable listening due to the brutal honesty he has. With breakdowns and screams that make you want to smash stuff and start a mosh pit whenever you hear it, combined with chorus’ that you can imagine being sung by thousands of people in the near future, Beartooth firmly lay the gauntlet down here as being a key part in the future of metal.
Calum Ridyard (Treasure of BurnFM):
- Royal Blood – Royal Blood – When we played Out Of The Blackfor the first time on Burn last November, I was excited to hear some brand new British rock music. Their début album had the punch that was needed to help them blow up into a household name in very little time. Plus, frequent comparisons to The White Stripes and the support of acts like Arctic Monkeys do them little harm either. The tracks themselves are well produced with surprisingly few extra instruments other than Mike Kerr’s vocals and bass and Ben Thatcher’s drum kit. I can only hope that Royal Blood hails the resurrection of rock music in the forefront of the mainstream once again.
- Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love – Having been a fan of this soulful Scotsman since These Streets (2006), I’d been quietly awaiting this album for a while. One can sense a lot more raw emotion in this album – something that even the album artwork manages to illustrate. We can also see how he as grown as a person over these last few years in just the themes of the tracks. I’m sure he’ll have more awards coming his way for the work he’s put into Caustic Love. My advice: if you haven’t already, go and fall in love with Iron Sky!
- Taylor Swift – 1989 – Here we have a woman who has shown her blatant refusal to adhere to the critics’ wishes – and man, has it paid off! I have always appreciated her previous work, but never loved it enough to call myself a proper fan. With 1989, I feel like we’re seeing a whole new side to her, which is clearly a good thing – this being the first and possibly only platinum selling album of the year. Of course, the repercussions of her streaming services boycott are yet to be felt so perhaps it’s a little early to make a full judgement. Still, the music is fantastic!
- George Ezra – Wanted On Voyage – What a man; what a voice! When I first heard Budapest, I was sure this guy would be going somewhere and the whole album certainly didn’t disappoint. He feels a little different than most of the other male singer-songwriters out there at the moment in more than just his tone. All of the tracks, even the more sombre ones have an upbeat feeling with rhythms you can’t help but bob along to. I will be waiting with baited breath to hear what he releases next.
- La Roux – Trouble In Paradise – It was great to hear a return from Elly Jackson earlier this year, despite the parting of ways with Ben Langmaid (who produced their début album, La Roux (2009)). I was hesitant at first as to the new direction she would head on her own but, on reflection, I was very impressed with the end result. The whole thing feels a lot more welcoming than the début and it was certainly a long time coming. The only reason this isn’t higher on my list is due to the fact that a couple of tracks feel a little bit lost in there.
- Jamie T – Carry On the Grudge – When Zane Lowe originally premiered “Don’t You Find” back in July – the first new material from Wimbledon’s Jamie Treays in nearly 5 years – a sense of apprehension was felt among many of his (most now in their mid-twenties) fanbase. With other bands from the same era (i.e. Klaxons) making a stunted attempt to re-launch their careers after four years away in 2014, people feared Jamie was to suffer the same fate of failing to connect with the new generation of young music fans who have simply moved on. After selling out his two triumphant nights at Ally Pally last month it was clear he had come back bigger and louder than ever. With classic raucous indie tracks such as “Rabbit Hole” sitting alongside the acoustic refrain of “Love is Only a Heartbeat Away”, Jamie showed he can still do what he does best but in his years away has matured and become a more rounded songwriter. Aside from the challenge he faced of the current music climate, “Carry on the Grudge” is an outstanding LP throughout and is why – for me – it is undoubtedly the best album of 2014.
- Alt-J – This is All Yours – Having lost bassist Gwil Sainsbury at the beginning of the year, alt-J were faced with the challenge of working together as 3-piece to create the follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed and Mercury prize-winning album “An Awesome Wave”. The first taste we had of new material was earlier in the summer with Miley Cyrus-sampled “Hunger of the Pine”, indicating a successful move-away from the acoustic percussion of their debut to new electronically created beats. Following on from their debuts feverishly original sound, the group’s second offering has more in common with the theatrics of a blockbuster movie soundtrack – even with an added recorder solo in interlude “Garden of England”. Its greatest achievement however, is the inclusion of accessible songs such as “Left Hand Free” and “Every Other Freckle” – the band’s material most worthy of Radio 1 A-list and high chart positions to date. With an album also worthy of winning the people’s award for “Filthiest of the Year” – due to the some of the greatest lyrical sexual innuendos interjected throughout – “This is All Yours” has taken alt-J up a gear on the road to becoming one of the biggest indie bands in the world.
- Paolo Nutini – Caustic Love – Only very occasionally is an album worthy of the title “modern masterpiece” but if there’s any album that’s been released this year that deserves it, it is “Caustic Love”. Another solo artist who returned in 2014 after a long time away from the spotlight, Paolo said he took a few years off to “live his life and find new inspiration” and it seems to have paid off. Returning earlier in the year with the injection of soul summer 2014 needed, “Scream (Funk my Life Up)”, showed a more nostalgic tone compared to 2009’s reggae-styled “Sunny Side Up”. Having seen him own pretty much every festival he appeared at this summer proved Nutini is not just a talented songwriter but also an outstanding performer who has – without a doubt – a lengthy and colourful career ahead of him.
- Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were – Devon’s finest surfer-singer-songwriter returned this year with a much darker follow up to 2011’s “Every Kingdom”. After walking away with two Brit-awards in 2013 – fighting off competition from artists such as the EDM megalith that is Calvin Harris – the expectation on the 27 year-old was huge, but it is fair to say he lived up to it and more. With the introduction of reverb-tinged electric guitar into his songs along with the acoustic balladry present throughout his debut, it appears the outlook Howard took to writing IFWWW is that writing a follow-up album which pays a lot more attention to detail and atmospherics can bring you out of the MOR singer-songwriter rut that so many artists of the last few years have unfortunately become stuck in. With tracks such as the breathtakingly romantic lament, “End of the Affair (coming in at just under 8 minutes long) – sure to wow audiences at festivals across the world next summer – this album is set to continue to reach more and more people over the coming months.
- You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth – Weybridge’s original pop-punks YMAS returned this January with one of strongest rock albums of the 2014. Coming back at the end of summer 2013 with single “Lived A Lie” indicated a move from sixth-form emo band to fully fledged-arena rock band and it is true to say the rest of Cavalier Youth followed suit. Tracks like album opener “Too Young To Feel This Old” managed to keep the attention of their older fans in their twenties – exploring a lust to return to return to their teenage years. Conversely, other tracks such as single “Fresh Start Fever” helped to bring in new, younger fans with their more accessible newer and more “poppy” material. Along with Bring Me The Horizon last year, with “Cavalier Youth”, YMAS took an even greater leap to achieving a future Reading & Leeds headliner spot in the years to come.
Niall Flynn (Programs Controller):
- Jamie T – Carry On The Grudge – He’s back! Five years since the astronomical success of his sophomore effort Kings & Queens, the One-Man-Arctic-Monkey has returned with his most personal album to date. Still recognisably Jamie T, yet more polished – the South London born songwriter continues to revel in post-punk excellence whilst presenting a more mature, reflective sound. Managing to perfectly strike the balance between hook-heavy extravagance and low-key, emotive numbers, Mr Treays offers us a record that is both good, clean throwaway fun and a heavy emotional narrative. ‘Zombie’, the album’s second single, is a deliciously jubilant sing-a-long that highlights everything that’s brilliant about Jamie’s music, yet it’s the slower, philosophical tracks that truly showcase his songwriting ability – ‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’ and ‘They Told Me It Rained’ conclude the album in a perfectly poignant manner. Carry On The Grudge is a diamond mine – spanning genres, themes and moods seamlessly in a manner that still screams ‘Sheila went out with her mate Stella!’. It’s a great record, and it’s great to have him back.
- Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow – The Crouch End four-piece manage to reinvent themselves yet again as a band, producing a vibrant and exciting record that’s one of 2014’s most enjoyable. Championing a new sound that delves between playful electronica and upbeat alternative, BBC wholeheartedly embrace this new-found musical freedom – they’re enjoying themselves, and you can tell. ‘Feel’ is a Bollywood-inspired gift of an indie-rock toe-tapper, whereas ‘Home By Now’, the best track on the album, is a keyboard-weighted love-song that makes you want to pour a large glass of something and watch the sun setting with everybody you love in the world. Whilst the musical ambition was clear on ‘A Different Kind Of Fix’, the application was not – but with ‘So Long’ the band have truly captured everything that made their previous outing a good album, and polished everything that meant that meant it wasn’t a great one. Colourful, lively, and undoubtedly fun – So Long See You Tomorrow is a genre-blurring bundle of energetic tunes, and an album that I still can’t get enough of.
- St Vincent – St Vincent – Annie Clark truly solidified her status as a rock goddess in 2014, much to the thanks of her bold, self-titled album. Clark is lively and confident, using a skewed yet sparkling electronic haze to provide the soundtrack to her ponderings, which range from masturbation to the futility of the Facebook generation – she’s an indie-rock polymath. ‘Digital Witness’ is flirtatious and funky, but transforms into an electronica epic when the chorus kicks in, whereas the album’s closing tack, ‘Severed Crossed Fingers’, is a beautifully crafted ballad that finishes the album on a discreet, poignant note. St Vincent is an album that I had the pleasure of stumbling upon by accident, and perhaps this is the best way. To go into one’s listening without any idea what Clark has in store is to come out completely bewildered as to what it is you’ve just listened to. St Vincent is extravagant, erotic – and almost impossible to categorise. It’s also one of my favourite albums of 2014, and one that will certainly provokes a reaction, regardless of what that may be.
- Benjamin Clementine – Glorious You EP – Okay, okay – not strictly an album, but this is a collection of music too wonderful to neglect, and one that is without doubt one of my favourites this year. The Edmonton-born troubadour is widely considered one of the country’s most exciting young artists, and his second release does nothing to devalue this claim. Haunting and epic, Clementine’s vocals are Simone-esque, and his lyrics brooding and self-reflective. ‘Silly boy, don’t you know that your girl was always going to leave, she wouldn’t have stayed even if you two were meant to be’ the barefoot spinto tenor hums in ‘Mathematics’, presenting the inevitability of heartbreak as nothing more than an unavoidable equation. Clementine’s music is epic in expression, with a poetic beauty that resonates throughout, and when you combine this with the EP’s minimalist instrumentals, one cannot help but sit back and listen to what he’s telling you – it’s easy to become completely engrossed, and it’s marvellous. Clementine possesses all he requires to conquer 2015, and if Glorious You is anything to go by, watching him do so is going to be a lot of fun.
- Wild Beasts – Present Tense – Bewitching, yet impeccably produced, the Leeds-based four piece’s latest offering is an extravagant slice of dramatic electronic perfection. Driven by the dual-vocals of Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming, lyrical eloquence and daring, synth heavy musicianship – this sleek and melancholy album is one of 2014’s best. Present Tense is an album that’s difficult to dip in and out of, and one that is best enjoyed in one heavy emotional chunk. ‘Wanderlust’ begins the record in a memorable manner, it’s brooding – and a little creepy, but you can’t help but want to dance. The album’s singles, ‘Mecca’ and ‘A Simple Beautiful Truth’ are similar, contemplating the idea of spiritual compatibility over haunting yet beguiling instrumentals. With this release, Wild Beasts continue to demonstrate that they are one of the country’s most important bands. They’ve crafted their own genre, and in Present Tense they govern it. Unsettling, articulate yet unarguably beautiful – this is a band doing what they do, and doing so better that anybody else.
Maihri Gill (Social Secretary):
- George Ezra – Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra has completely dominated 2014. He went from a slightly awkward-looking teenager to a name that everyone, and I mean everyone, knows. Ezra has a timeless voice; his talent is unique and undeniable. It’s sometimes the case with debut albums that new artists feel they have to prove as much as they can all in the space of ten tracks, but that’s not the case with George Ezra. The album is a smooth and fun little ode to what he does best – play guitar and just sing. Little additions such as ‘Over the Creek’ make the album authentic, as it was the first song his father taught him to play on guitar. The album sounds even better knowing he’s the type of man your mother would like.
- Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony – This band started making moves seven years ago, but got signed just last year to Communion Records. They moved to Island Records in early 2014, and released their first few singles before hitting the jackpot with this album. They’ve stayed true to the music they’ve always made – fun but refined, individual but relatable. This album is packed with guitar riffs you wish you could play and heartfelt lyrics you’d wish you’d written – a favourite of mine from their hit ‘Cocoon’ being “I’d rather go blind than let you down”. Van McCann might just be the coolest frontman (and name) ever, but he’s completely humble about the unreal year they’ve had. In my opinion, it’s hard not to love everything on this album.
- Jessie Ware – Tough Love – Jessie Ware slid seamlessly back onto the music scene this year after two long, long years, and this album, Tough Love, is elegant, sultry and effortless. She has a knack for creating something beautiful and complex, but treating it as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Every track on this album is completely heart-on-sleeve, with lyrics dripping in honesty. The writing collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Miguel are a stroke of genius, and the stripped-back sound the album as a whole gives off is unlike anything else I’ve heard this year.
- Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow – In my eyes, Bombay Bicycle club never really fail to disappoint, but in the past they never really wowed me either – until this album. It came out of nowhere as they ditched their rainy-day melodies and acoustic guitar and went for a more upbeat, quirky and colourful take on things. The album gels so well together; there’s not one song that doesn’t belong there and you can’t sit still for a lot of them. Bombay Bicycle club have always been lyrically very sufficient, but this album sees them excel in terms of production and musical prowess, making their lyrics even more poignant – a personal highlight of the album, for me, being ‘Home By Now’.
- James-Vincent McMorrow – Post-Tropical – – This album is James-Vincent McMorrow’s second album, and saw him ditch his trusty acoustic guitar for drums, horns and a piano. This new home for him makes this album feel completely unspoiled; his vocals are pristine and haunting at falsetto. The album as a whole is not trying too hard to create something shocking or substantial, it’s more just a collection of pretty songs that glide into one another. His lyrics are cryptic and beautiful, made even more so by his faultless voice, epitomised in the stand-out track ‘Cavalier’.
- Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 – I thoroughly enjoyed the first Run the Jewels project, brought to us by veteran hip hop artists El-P and Killer Mike, and so I was excited when a sequel was announced. I thought it was too hard for them to release an album that banged as hard as the original, but I was pleasantly surprised by Run the Jewels 2. Both El-P’s and Killer Mike’s lyrics made improvements and El-P’s production was still as hard-hitting and bass-filled as ever. In addition, the features are mostly on-point, particularly BOOTS, Gangsta Boo of the Three Six Mafia, Travis Barker, and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, who appears on the appropriately named ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count to F**k)’. Other highlights include ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’ and ‘Love Again’.
- Mac DeMarco – Salad Days – Mac DeMarco only appeared on my musical radar around the release of this album in the summer, thanks to my girlfriend’s persuasion, and I am eternally grateful to her. Salad Days is one of those albums that you can just whack on shuffle in (almost) any situation and not have to worry about having to change a song because every track is so chill. DeMarco improves upon his first album, 2, with more delightful “jangle pop” sounds, driven by his sweet voice and airy sounding guitar. My favourite tracks would have to be the title track, ‘Blue Boy’, and ‘Chamber of Reflection’.
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata – This is almost definitely my favourite hip hop release of the year. I had only heard Freddie Gibbs previously on his 2013 debut album, ESGN, so it was interesting to hear him spit bars in his consistent flow over Madlib-produced beats. This duo has released a couple of songs together over the last few years, which appear on Piñata. Gibbs’ subject matter isn’t always the most relatable but he delivers a compelling story of a gangsta lifestyle and Madlib provides us with some fantastic beats, mixed with unusual samples and recordings. I believe that the album sounds best when listened to from beginning to end; each song sounds as if it should belong exactly where it sits on the track list. My must-listen tracks are ‘Thuggin’’, ‘Deeper’, ‘Broken’ and ‘Shame’, although I don’t think there is a single track on this record I don’t enjoy.
- Bury Tomorrow – Runes – Since coming to university I have somewhat abandoned my metalhead roots for the world of hip hop but I still look out for new releases from my favourite metal groups, one of which is melodic metalcore group Bury Tomorrow. Their second album, Union of Crowns, was a very hard record to follow up and, whilst perhaps not quite as good as that, Runes is still my favourite metal LP of 2014. Bury Tomorrow continued to blend hard-hitting riffs with emotional melodic moments, whilst also mixing their usual harsh and soft vocals. Much like Union of Crowns, this record has a theme that acts as inspiration for the lyrics, this time being ancient runes, as could already be guessed by the title of the album. Having seen the band live in October, I already eagerly await their next release. My favourite songs on Runes are ‘Man on Fire’, ‘Our Gift’ and ‘Shadow, A Creator’.
- ASAP Ferg – Ferg Forever – Ferg Forever only came out just over a week ago but it has already made its way on to my ‘Albums of the Year’ list, despite technically being a mixtape (I think it deserves a place). I was already a massive fan of ASAP Ferg after his album Trap Lord, released in the summer of 2013, because it brought such bangers as ‘Shabba’ and ‘Work (Remix)’. Ferg Forever further provides a platform for Ferg’s eccentric persona and ear for banging beats. He even takes a few breaks from telling girls to get on the floor (‘Weave’) to rap about his toxic relationship with his uncle (‘Uncle’) and his commitment issues (‘Commitment Issues’). Those three tracks are all awesome but my stand-out favourites are ‘Fergsomnia’ – which has a great Twista feature – ‘Reloaded’, ‘Doe-Active’ and ‘Dope Walk’, which is just about as crazy as Ferg gets. I cannot wait to see what Ferg brings to the table on his inevitable sophomore album.