Contributor William Alex Young’s Best Of 2014
Strangely enough, this year has been a year of surprises with albums; my top two are debuts, with a further two almost making the list. I also must give a shout out to the Foo Fighters‘ concept album, as the premise was brilliant, even if musically it didn’t make my mark – but do check up Sonic Highways and the series that documents the recording.
As with every year I’m bound to discover more likings to albums not on this list but for now, here it is!
Originally I didn’t quite get the ‘Muse-shuggah’ reference that kept getting thrown around about Alaya, but after one listen to the album as a whole it started to click. Thrones is extremely powerful for a debut, with an entirely unique sound, this is why it stands as my top album this year. Their arpeggio based riffs over polyrhythmic bass parts are a pretty fresh sound in the tech sound and hooked me instantly. I recommend to fans of any rock genre.
Listen to: “Sleep“, “Poor Gloria“, “White Noise”
Has this tech metal phenomenon finally become pop? With this sparkling debut it would seem so! Hooky vocals, hooky riffs, hooky production and even some eastern European influence for good measure; Lun has it all!
The album flows smoothly from track to track; each with its own identity and hooks. Destiny Potato certainly need to get to touring and bring this amazing music to the larger audience it deserves.
Listen to: “Lost Dreams“, “Love Song“, “Walls Of Thought”
An early surprise of the year came in the shape of Alcest’s fourth album. While I have liked Alcest for a little while now, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d make of their transition into a more post-rock outfit after the brilliant Opale, but in context it works brilliantly.
A pure post-rock classic for me, Shelter captures the feel of a warm day in the countryside. I’m eager to see where they take their sound next after this blinding record.
Listen to: “Delivrance“, “La Nuit Marche Avec Moi“, “Voix Sereines”
Being As An Ocean
How We Both Wondrously Perish
The addition of ex-The Elijah guitarist & clean singer Michael McGough was relatively low key, but How We Both Wondrously Perish has set a new bar for Being As An Ocean’s ilk melodic hardcore bands. There’s excellent production and a great mix of vocal styles, and their post-rock influences shine through at various points towards the end of the album, making use of less conventional instruments (trumpets, organs, pads), which makes for a thoroughly engaging listen.
It may not be the album that makes them, but it’s definitely shown a more mature band, and their third release may just be their golden egg.
Listen to: “We Drag The Dead On Leashes“, “The Poets Cry For More“, “Even The Dead Have Their Tasks“, “Natures”
I Forget Where We Were
Another release that I was not anticipating, I had not heard much of its progress, but from the first listen, I knew this was miles better than Ben’s first album, and definitely shifted Ed Sheeran’s X out of place (sorry Ed). It brims with atmosphere and the techniques he uses with his guitar to create a blend of varied music as a singer/songwriter shines through in this album. It’s the perfect album to relax to.
Listen to: “Small Things“, “End Of The Affair“, “Conrad“, “I Forget Where We Were”
The Weird & Wonderful Marmozets
Another explosive and original sounding debut, The Weird & Wonderful Marmozets is an amazingly well-written take on the technical rock sound, which can be hard given its chaos and dissonance.
The album seamlessly blends this with pop sensibilities, much in the way Destiny Potato’s does with tech metal. The buzzing vocals of Becca Macintyre are at times ravenous and at others soulful. Another album I’d push to general rock listeners to get them into some of its subgenres.
Listen to: “Particle”, “Move Shake Hide”, “Hit The Wave”
The Acacia Strain
It was a tough choice to void Martyr Defiled’s sleek and well written No Hope. No Morality., and especially Black Tongue’s remastered full-length version of their revolting two EPs, but the daddies of the latter’s style win the crown here. Coma Witch is gritty, depressing and downright disgustingly angry. At times slow and heavy, at others fast and frantic yet throughout it maintains a sense of disgust for which they are renowned. The closing track is most notable, standing at almost half an hour, and is a really dark, really progressive doom-influenced piece. This album is not for the faint of heart.
Listen to: “Nailgun“, “Cauterizer“, “Observer”
No Love No Hope No Future
Another dark and gritty album; another debut – this time from UK post-hardcore-ists Canvas, who bring back a spin of what Devil Sold His Soul & Heights abandoned after their debuts, with a dark look at the post-hardcore sound.
The album title pretty much sums up the feel of the album, with its drawn out chords, pained repeating vocal refrains and ominous drum patterns. This band are certainly one to watch out for; I just hope that, like those before them, they do not let slip this dark niche they have hewn for themselves.
Listen to: “Griever”, “Tired Eyes“, “Eulogy”
Yes, you may laugh, but the fact that Chris Martin, plain of voice and looks, has been able to front a band of such variation since their debut and still create catchy songs that have explode on the charts and radio with regularity really says something for their creativity.
Ghost Stories is really honed. Songs like “Midnight” hint at Radiohead-like experimentation while not straying from the memorable melody lines or structure, while “A Sky Full Of Stars” showcases their ability to write almost trance like anthems.
As a fan of hooks and variation, these guys get a thumbs up from me, as does this album.
Listen to: “Midnight“, “A Sky Full Of Stars“, “Another’s Arms”
5: The Gray Chapter
They’re back; they’re finally back! My inner teenager was both sorrowful of the loss of bassist Paul Gray and departure of drummerJoey Jordison, and super sceptical at first listen, but following my mixed thoughts of All Hope Is Gone I must say that they have revived the spark of their old flame.
While it’s by no means another Iowa or debut, it is up there with Vol. 3 - except it’s retained some of the experimental factors that didn’t quite work for me in AHIG. There is the classic Slipknot melody as well as the unrivalled aggression that has made them so infamous.
Listen to: “Sarcastrophe“, “AOV“, “Custer”