What does and doesn’t make the end of year lists on websites, newspapers and magazines is subject to so many factors: what did people respond to? What did we respond to? What did we say was good…and is it still as good as we thought?

Balance is the key. For the last three years, we have used the same methods to determine Best Fit’s favourite records. Favourite - not the best - being an important distinction. We look at the site's scores for the 850+ records we've written about in 2014 so far and we add to that our our personal top tens. Ranking the resulting shortlist has always been the hardest part and so, this year, we present it without order, aside from one notable exception.

One record, we agreed, stood out from the fifty as something consistent, unique and damn near perfect - an album that delivered so much and continues to reward after each and every listen. Lost in the Dream is without a doubt, one of the most impressive records this decade and we're proud to name it as our album of the year. You can read our take on why elsewhere on the site.

Otherwise, settle in here and see what we've come up with for this years Best Fit Fifty...

 Adult Jazz - Gist Is

Label: Spare Thought
Released: August
Original Review by: Andrew Hannah


The debut from Adult Jazz shows a lightness of touch that’s few and far between on first albums. The songs seem to start at a small point in an undefined centre before pulsing outwards in all directions, changing form and structure as they go – in that respect, it's almost impossible to describe what this music sounds like, or how it might make you feel.

You get the feeling that the next record might be entirely different given how unpredictable this one is, but for now, here, this is an album without boundaries - lose yourself in it.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Alex G - DSU

Label: Lucky Number
Released: August
Original Review by: Larry Day


The Internet’s made it simpler than ever to share your homegrown sounds with the ears of the world. Alex Giannascoli - or as he’s better known, Alex G has made a record that's a bit grubby, dishevelled even but is pure, soft pop underneath, carved up into palatable little nuggets of joy.

Devouring the whole record multiple times in one sitting is far more likely than you'd expect – not that it'll be a problem in any way, shape or form. It's a debut that demonstrates Giannascoli's talent for a variety of genres, pop bedrock and his own idiosyncratic experiments.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Alvvays - Alvvays

Label: Transgressive
Released: July
Original Review by: Larry Day


For their eponymous debut, It had to be an ordeal to try and follow-up the kinds of magic that their first two singles brought. However, the peppy Toronto quintet managed it. Alvvays is a thrilling, often lethargic debut. It can be a catalyst for out-of-body relaxation with its deluge of frothy, bubble-bath timbres, or it can be a rousing, strangely communal record, enabling all-night gab session on the beach by campfires.

It’s an album for friends, for lovers and for the self.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Label: Jagjaguwar
Released: February
Original Review by: David Tate


Songwriters can often exhibit natural defensiveness towards their own songs and it takes a special kind of artist to lay their feelings bare for the entire world to pick over. Angel Olsen proves herself as a songwriter not only capable of remarkable vocal delivery but also crushing honesty. While earlier records marked her as a musician of considerable talent, it is on Burn Your Fire... that we see its true fruition. She's capable of incredible complexity and fearlessness, and despite her ostensibly considerable inner sorrow, manages to deliver an album that is as equally exultant as it is despondent.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Aphex Twin - Syro

Label: Warp
Released: September
Original Review by: Luke Cartledge


Syro feels pretty monumental from the moment it churns into action with Richard James’ trademark Aphex atmospherics, transporting the listener into a sonic space that could be constructed by nobody other than him. A (relative) lack of innovation is more than made up for by sheer quality and in some ways the more familiar feel of this album actually enhances the listening experience. More layers become audible on repeated listens - more snatches of melody and beauty breaking through the dense, rhythmic canopy. It’s difficult to avoid feeling a little disorientated as Syro continues to explores this space for its duration, manipulating shape and boundaries.

Richard D. James is back, and he’s still absolutely untouchable.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Arc Iris - Arc Iris

Label: Bella Union
Released: March
Original Review by: Jon Putnam


Multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams - late of eccentric Rhode Island folk-rockers The Low Anthem - dauntingly and effortlessly combines nearly any and every instrument one can think of across the arresting Arc Iris project debut. Her sonic palette is a wonderful paradox of deep and complex layers rendered completely accessible and comfortable due to the absolute familiarity and organics of the instrumentation. Befitting Bob Dylan’s notorious proclamation that “traditional music…comes about from legends, Bibles, plagues and revolves around vegetables and death”, Arc Iris is thrillingly positioned at the nexus of the old and new.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Ásgeir - In The Silence

Label: One Little Indian Tune
Released: January
Original Review by: Laurence Day


In The Silence is a complete package. It’s got pristine pop lacquer, it’s full of hum-along motifs, it’s got moments you can dance to and moments you can chill to; the lyrics are emotive, and every instrumental performance is as powerful as the Ark Of The Covenant.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Beck - Morning Phase

Label: Fonograf Records
Released: February
Original Review by: Alex Wisguard


In the six quiet years since Modern Guilt, Beck has moved forward by going back. Morning Phase marks a gentle return to the Americana of 2002 and it definitely doesn’t sound like your standard ’comeback’ record. The burn here is slow but Morning Phase is a hopeful, welcoming beast; there’s far fewer lost causes fought or lonesome tears shed here than on previous records.

The songs are as strong as ever and this may well prove to be the biggest grower in Beck’s catalogue Only a curmudgeon could fail to allow it into their heart.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Caribou - Our Love

Label: City Slang
Released: October
Original Review by: Larry Day


Canadian producer Dan Snaith has crafted a dance album like no other with Our Love. Almost any track is an electromagnet on the dancefloor, but there's a strong sense that it's not just for that environment. Our Love will be what you need it to be in a time any chance time of need. It is uplifting, and it is wholly life-affirming. If you need Caribou to hoist you out the blue-tinged doldrums, he's here. If you just want a brief, electric moment of blood-pulse, adrenaline-hackle energy to feel alive, he's here.

If you want to dance your fucking legs off, he's still here.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 ceo - Wonderland

Label: Modular
Released: February
Original Review by: Larry Day


Eric Berglund's made a cracking slab of chewy pop-toffee in his first LP in four years as CEO. Wonderland's sugary, and superficially slathered with rainbow glitter, but it takes more than a few seconds to comprehend and devour the music. When you do break through the alienating honey-gloss, inside is fuzzy, gut-warming morsels of intimate pop. It’s like toffee, but it’s also like a piñata, ’cause when you get inside there’s more goodies. Maybe it’s more like a Gump-ian Milk Tray. Or an array of nice jams?

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

Label: Thirteen
Released: April
Original Review by: James Killin


Everyday Robots manages to combine Albarn the restless romantic with Albarn the maudlin bard. It’s the first record in his 25-year career that dares to call itself a solo record and one that draws together his ideals into a mercifully magnificent chronicle of estrangement and melancholy.

After the cool reception afforded to last year’s Rocket Juice and The Moon, Everyday Robots is his redemption of sorts, a just reward for a life’s worth of implacable curiosity and studiousness. Modern life might still be rubbish, but it is rarely shown to be so beguilingly beautiful.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Douglas Dare - Whelm

Label: Erased Tapes
Released: May
Original Review by: Larry Day


Glimmers of hope break in upon occasion on Douglas Dare's debut LP, but they’re rare and fleeting moments, all too easily lost within the Bridport export's morose deluge. He's obviously an adept musician, and if you can stomach the hefty sincerity, that’s probably what you’ll walk away with remembering. If you’re not partial a surplus of vaguely gothic piano-lead pop, it might be more effective broken up into snack-sized chunks you can nibble on without getting sadness fatigue.

Regardless of your ingestion method, denying that Dare has created a magnificent record would be plain foolish. Whelm is a Herculean debut.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 East India Youth - Total Strife Forever

Label: Stolen Recordings
Released: January
Original Review by: Larry Day


Total Strife Forever It’s a trance-inducing hallucinogen of an album; a guided tour of a fractured psyche; another world, another galaxy, shrunk and squished into less than an hour of CD space. Where the debut Hostel EP put William Doyle's pipes on a pretty pedestal at the front of the sound, the lion’s share of Total Strife Forever is instrumental, or the words so mangled it may as well be. It’s an evolution away from Hostel‘s offerings, and perhaps a demonstration of his growth in confidence  that he doesn’t resort to the same formula in order to achieve success.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Esben and the Witch - A New Nature

Label: Nostromo
Released: September
Original Review by: Larry Day


This record is a masterpiece of aural and visual pandemonium. It’s breathtaking, inducing arrhythmia, driving you to the verge of cardiac arrest – there’s a real, present danger in their music. It’s also breathtaking in another sense: it’s beautiful. Skyscraper girders buckle and contort, the eerie creak of iron echoing in through A New Nature.

At times, you may be in the middle, dodging the pummelling wreckage, but at other points, like “Those Dreadful Hammers”, you’re sat watching the destruction from afar.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Fear Of Men - Loom

Label: Kanine
Released: April
Original Review by: Jon Putman


Loom is rife with allusions to water, employing it as a compelling motif for navigating through the complexities and paradoxes of romantic relationships. Throughout the album, frontwoman Jessica Weiss conveys her thoughts in an insular first person conversation with a nebulous “you”; arguably, not since The Smiths have we come across a group so hypersensitive of their own inner workings as Fear of Men.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 FKA Twigs - LP1

Label: Young Turks
Released: August
Original Review by: Larry Day


In a climate where instant gratification is rife, where the adhered-to pop formula of massive hooks, massive beats, dumbed-down lyrics, monosyllabic choruses and plastic parping pap, Tahliah Barnett has sculpted a complex beast, and one that can’t be defeated overnight. LP1 is not an easy record by any means – though you may be lucky enough to be completely besotted on first sight. Like any relationship, it demands work and effort; if you’ve been hooked by Barnett’s early noise, then you’ll want to put the hours in. You’ll need to: this longform escapade is the real McCoy, and where the magic happens. 

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Future Islands - Singles

Label: 4AD
Released: March
Original Review by: Larry Day


Singles is an effortless wonder. Each and every track runs its course avoiding any pitfalls: they not once sound laboured or tryhard, and although this is still very un-standard pop, Future Islands fool you into believing this is the bar from which we gauge the charts.

It’s got bits that make you shimmy and/or shake, bits to force weeping and bits to grin sans gorm. It’s endlessly positive, even in the darker moments, providing a kind of opiate numbness – it’s all gloriously warm, and no matter what troubles exist in your world, they just fizzle away into the ether.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Grumbling Fur - Preternaturals

Label: The Quietus Phonographic Corporation
Released: August
Original Review by: Jannie Oinonen


Those who came to Grumbling Fur was through debut record Furrier - the streamlined collisions of glittering electronic pulses and pastoral acoustic meditations that fuel this, their third album - might have been surprised. A beguiling, all-too-brief album, Preternaturals is big on melody but isn’t about to roll on its back and expose its belly for a scratch straight away. You’ll have to put in a bit of effort to get to the full riches.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Halls - Love To Give

Label: No Pain In Pop
Released: February
Original Review by: Larry Day

South Londoner Halls has made a sophomore record full of exquisite ambiance, requiring undivided attention – not because it’s especially complex, though it’s certainly not a facetious hunk of glossy façades, but because it’s a sacred pilgrimage, necessitating respect. Give it that, and your soul will be greatly rewarded.

Where debut Ark was built from the ground up as an introspective, dark, indoors album, Love To Give is too cramped in those shackles. It belongs outside, in rustic dells and feral glades and the eternal Russian taiga. It, like Ark, is innately personal and solitary, but instead of squirrelling itself away into confined nooks, it pines for adventure, and lusts for cleansing isolation.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Hookworms - The Hum

Label: Domino
Released: November
Original Review by: Chris Todd

Leeds five piece Hookworms have now proved for a second time that you can find beauty within the sound of confusion, and you can be psychedelic and danceable at the same time. The Hum is a shattering, all-encompassing experience; there's climactic rage, broken organs and blank-eyed trance outs. At times it’s like listening to war, but there are also moments of beauty, musical tantrums and periods of bummed out weirdness.

The result of all this? Total exhilaration.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

Label: Bella Union
Released: January
Original Review by: Charlotte Krol


"I Break Horses’ follow up to their arresting 2011 debut sees Maria Lindén perforate shadows of self-doubt with bursts of light, heeding to the album’s definition: ‘the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting’.

Thus, on Chiaroscuro I Break Horses shed their skin of heady electronic drone in favour of more immediate synthpop and the result is some of the most strangely comforting and life-affirming music of the past few years - it’s triumphant!

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Label: Island Records
Released: October
Original Review by: Paul Bridgewater


Ware’s take on finessed, mood-driven pop is what binds her second album together. The grounded, almost absurdly human element of Devotion continues into Tough Love but it’s actually the elements around Ware’s vocals and lyrics that deliver the album’s biggest punches.

It’s an album in the traditional sense, and taken on its own merits, a modern British pop classic.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Katy B - Little Red

Label: Ammunition
Released: February
Original Review by: Paul Bridgewater

An immediacy and fluidity lie deep within the DNA of Katy B’s Little Red, the follow up to her 2011 debut On A Mission. Across a clutch of edgy and brilliantly radio-friendly cuts that raise the bar for UK pop, the record succinctly captures the essence, talent and appeal of the 24-year old South Londoner. Alongside producer Geeneus, she’s turned in an involving convergence between dance and pop that mixes timeless songwriting with an energized and gutsy production.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Kindness - Otherness

Label: Female Energy Records
Released: October
Original Review by: Stephen Jenkins

Adam Bainbridge has clearly put a lot of himself into Otherness. That, more than anything, is what makes the man behind Kindness one of the most intriguing producers working right now. If Otherness heralds a change in Bainbridge's sound then it’s one that retains a soulful core but substitutes energetic, hot-to-the-touch funkiness for a downtempo RnB sensibility with a lusciously lazy rhythm section.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Korallreven - Second Comin'

Label: Cascine
Released: September
Original Review by: Andrew Hannah


Three years since Swedes Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjader gave us Korallreven’s stunning debut long-player and we get a more honest account of searching for perfection and happiness with the follow-up.

econd Comin’ is escapism in its most honest form, love with all its problems and life exposed, striving for the ultimate ideal in the face of everything. Korallreven have surpassed the dreams of their debut with something more tangible and seemingly achievable.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Mac DeMarco - Salad Days

Label: Captured Tracks
Released: March
Original Review by: Slavko Bucifal


As the title suggests, DeMarco’s third solo effort is much lighter on the palette than his previous releases, in terms of that endearing sleaziness evident in his live shows and ever present on his past records. There are even moments which almost sound tropical and fun. Fear not though, DeMarco still puts the cool back in the cigarette, happily manipulates his old beat up guitar through seemingly effortless valleys of picking and plucking, and grounds us all with his unpretentious prose.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Mica Levi - Under The Skin Original Soundtrack

Label: Rough Trade
Released: March
Original Review by: Kate Travers


The prolific, maverick creativity of Mica Levi finds a perfect home, matching director Jonathan Glazer’s understated, minimal aesthetic in Under The Skin scene for scene. Never does the music outweigh the carefully constructed silences and – as all good film music must – it only ever adds to the potent illusion of a twisted, heart-rending reality.

Utlimately, the brilliance of Levi's soundtrack lies in its simplicity: three notes – just three – lie at the core of the movie, united in one chromatic motif which snakes its way up and down your spine as Johansson’s alien seduces her prey.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Morrissey - World Peace Is None Of Your Business

Label: Virgin EMI
Released: July
Original Review by: Michael James Hall


There is no sense of finality to Morrissey’s World Peace Is None Of Your Business and we could be witnessing the beginning of a true renaissance in his career. It’s a bold, sometimes unsettling record that represents his most interesting, engaged and utterly enthralling work since Vauxhall & I, with producer Joe Chicarelli really working hard to bring out the detail of Morrissey’s band, shining a light on their invention, managing to blend the seemingly incongruous with the more traditional tropes of the rock n’ roll backing band. Most heartening though is the sheer quality of songwriting and performance.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Neneh Cherry - Blank Project

Label: Smalltown Supersound
Released: February
Original Review by: Andrew Hannah


On Blank Project, it almost sounds like Neneh Cherry is making up for the last eighteen years of silence. Across a ten-track Kieran Hebden production (recorded in a five-day burst) lies a rough and ready, powerful, flawed, intense and ultimately wonderful record. It benefits from Hebden both pulling back on any production tricks or treatments and trusting that Cherry and the musicians she’s assembled will turn their near-improvisational sketches into fully-formed songs.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Label: Turnstile
Released: September
Original Review by: Alex Cull


Seattle’s Mike Hadreas spent the best part of his first two full-lengths under the Perfume Genius moniker finding ways to weather and draw strength from humanity’s darker moments. On his third record, Hadreas finally appears to have found a sound palette as provocative, forward-thinking and confrontational as his vehement, brave lyrical style - alongside new ways to step out of the haze and to explore himself, his sexuality and the world around him.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2

Label: Productomart
Released: November
Original Review by: Andrew Hannah


Run The Jewels 2 starts as it means to go on: deep bass, blaring percussion and wired guitar that underpins (Killer) Mike Render’s flaming verses and Jaime (El-P) Meline’s conversational rhymes. What the the record lacks in sheer brutality, it makes up in the depth and avant-complexity that peppered El-P’s time with Company Flow and Def Jux.

The duo represent the very best relationship in hip hop right now - more than just producer/rapper, Render and Meline truly are brothers in arms.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Samaris - Silkidrangar

Label: One Little Indian
Released: May
Original Review by: Larry Day


Silkidrangar yankis your attention upon the first notes. While the Icelandic trio's core formula hasn't changed much in the nine months since their debut record - they still recycle 19th century Icelandic poetry, parade the clarinet and forge atmospheres -what has changed bolsters their claim as one of the most exciting artists in recent memory. There’s few things that elicit such a visceral reaction, but when Samaris haul us to their fortress of solitude, we can’t help but be reduced to awestruck piles of glazed-eye gibbering.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 

 Scott Walker & Sunn O))) - Soused

Label: 4AD
Released: October
Original Review by: Ross Horton


Soused is Sunn O))) at their most playful and Scott Walker at his most enjoyable. Walker's wet croon is as gorgeous and ectopic as ever as he moans amidst growling guitar feedback, and you can sense he's instantly at ease coated in corrosive electric dew by Messrs Anderson and SOMA.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Shabazz Palaces - Lese Majesty

Label: Sub Pop
Released: July
Original Review by: Tom Regel

Given that back in his Digable Planet’s days, Shabazz Palace’s Ishmael Butler and his cohorts configured their own colourfully abstract conception of socialism - which they dubbed the ‘insect theory’ - there might well be room for a utopian endnote to Lese Majesty. Digable Planets were fascinated by the communal and cooperative habits of insects and conceptually, it seems not to have evaded Lese Majesty either.

The record gently disorientates you with dizzying vibrations, droning, ephemeral space sounds and abstract noise pieces (the weirdest being the utterly formless “Divine of Form”) that don’t so much blow you away, as lull you into a deep cosmic trance. It’s really quite beautiful.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: May
Original Review by: Danny Wadeson


For sheer consistency and confidence Are We There is Van Etten’s best yet. It lacks some of the rawness of her earlier efforts and it’s both satisfying and necessary to see her sound get a few layers of polish. It’s an album full of resonance, one likely to sink deep into your bones. It's also bolder than her previous works, more at home in its own skin and as a result seems to look forward, chin jutting out and head held high, rather than falling into introspection.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Shellac - Dude Incredible

Label: Touch & Go
Released: September
Original Review by: Andrew Hannah


Dude Incredible came after the longest period of downtime in Shellac’s history; it’s seven years since Excellent Italian Greyhound, and that record followed a similarly fallow period following 2000’s epic 1000 Hurts.

It’s going to be hard for Albini, Weston and Trainer to ever top what we find on this year's record -  worthy of filing alongside and above At Action Park and 1000 Hurts, it’s the sound of one of the great bands at the height of their powers.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Snowbird - Moon

Label: Bella Union
Released: January
Original Review by: Jon Putnam


Given the exceedingly specific and personal circumstances that resulted in Snowbird’s existence and Moon’s unique genesis - coupled with both Simon Raymonde’s and Stephanie Dosen’s otherwise busy musical and non-musical careers - one wouldn’t be remiss in assuming the project and record may ultimately prove to be one-offs. Should that be the case, the duo have left us with an unerring testament to the power of nature; their potential lone shot at glory resoundingly nothing but back of the net.

 

 SOHN - Tremors

Label: 4AD
Released: April
Original Review by: Larry Day


The debut foray from SOHN will perhaps be a curveball to some. His production and remix jaunts have seen him mastermind massive, swooning pop tunes, which while still brooding, boast a chart-nagging aura. There’s some of that on offer here, but it’s in smaller doses. Instead of vying for the Top 40, he’s cultivating a more cohesive milieu which is arranged for its tranquillity and resemblance to dawn. If you’re looking for the next Disclosure, you’ll be sorely disappointed in the lack of future garage plastic. If you want to dive into a gooey, spiritual bout of hypnagogic jamais vu, then Tremors will be your guiding light.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Spoon - They Want My Soul

Label: Epitaph
Released: August
Original Review by: Alex Wisgard


They Want My Soul may be the most varied thing Spoon have ever put out, but there’s nothing tentative about it. It sounds like the best dive bar you’ve ever been to. It’s got the best jukebox, the coolest clientele, and it’ll fight your corner if another album’s giving you grief. If you want it put more plainly, Spoon are exactly the kind of band who don’t give a fuck if they were the ‘Artist of the Decade’. They just make fantastic, intricate albums that sound like they’re not even trying. Spoon are a band with nothing to prove. They Want My Soul proves everything.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Label: Caroline
Released: February
Original Review by: Chris Lo


From the first 8-bit beat of panicky opener “Rattlesnake” to the last wash of synth on David Bowie-esque space ballad “Severed Crossed Fingers”, this is St. Vincent engineered to perfection. Those who never warmed to the sharp-elbowed vibe won’t find themselves wooed by a new angle, but for everyone else St. Vincent is close to definitive. All of Clark’s familiar tics are present and weaponised for pure pleasure. The big numbers are bold and plugged full of fascinating hooks, like the propulsive shredding on the chorus of “Birth in Reverse” or the appropriately regimented horns on social media ragequit “Digital Witness”.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Sun Kil Moon - Benji

Label: Caldo Verde
Released: February
Original Review by: Ray Honeybourne


Mark Kozelek in the twenty-first century has insights as compelling as those he gave us in the late twentieth century, and an indication of an enduring creative figure is surely that ability to translate perception into a new - but no less vital - language. One thinks of Hardy’s nineteenth century novels and then his twentieth century verse. The latter may be less picturesque, but few would deny its winter-sharp clarity. On Benji, Kozelek is at least as piercing and persuasive as in his best output over the last two decades.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 

 Swans - To Be Kind

Label: Mute
Released: May
Original Review by: Sam Kriss


To Be Kind sounds alternately like a derailing freight train, a spreading wave of nuclear obliteration, the scream at the end of the world, and the chilling calm afterwards – but for all that, it might be the most accessible Swans album yet. A few moments might even qualify as singalong road trip anthems (albeit anthems best suited for a road trip directly off a cliff).

It’s worth pointing out that Michael Gira turned sixty this year. However, Swans are as furious and as boundary-pushing as they’ve ever been, and despite the meticulous composition of the album, there’s still the constant nagging suspicion that Gira has gone utterly, chaotically insane.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Taylor Swift - 1989

Label: Virgin EMI
Released: October
Original Review by: Larry Day


Taylor Swift going (pure) pop is not a surprise. RED was the platter of hors d'oeuvres gauging our appetite for this kinda thing, and when “Trouble” et al. went supernova, it was clear that the twangy country-at-heart pop was going to be ditched, at least temporarily. It couldn't have been a better career move: there's evolution with purpose in every fibre of 1989, and far from jettisoning her integrity in this drastic lunge, she's proved that she's got courage in her convictions to pull it off and faith in her fans to accept the new direction.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 The Bug - Angels & Devils

Label: Ninja Tune
Released: August
Original Review by: Chris Lo


Kevin Martin, The Bug’s creator, curator and co-ordinator, might have made us wait for more than half a decade before making his next big Bug statement after London Zoo, but what a statement it is. Simply re-hashing its glories would never have been enough as a follow-up.

It’s to his credit, then, that Angels & Devils does such a stellar job of blending the old and the new, and has the stones to shove Martin’s sinuous new ideas to the forefront. It’s that courage and singularity of vision that makes The Bug stand triumphantly apart.

 

 ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream

Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: March
Original Review by: Erik Thompson


Anyone actively looking for flaws in Lost In The Dream is listening to the album wrong. And at any rate, they simply won’t find any, no matter how hard they search. The title implies being absorbed in a directionless reverie, but there is nothing confused or unfocused about these engrossing numbers, which confidently take the listener on a guided and graphic tour of the down and out lives of those on the dark side of town. The promise of dawn’s gradual arrival suggests that the sun hasn’t set on us all quite yet.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Thumpers - Galore

Label: Red Uk
Released: May
Original Review by:
Larry Day

Thumpers' debut is a record that easily forms a bond with your ligaments and joints – and your squishy emotional centre in its restrained moments – by Marcus Pepperell, John Hamson Jr., and a stream of best buds, simply being true to themselves. It’s a remarkably uncompromising, genuine album, which perhaps isn’t poignant to the extent of making you question all you thought was true, but it handles the details, the subtle moments of love and life, with grace and class. It’s an honest album primarily because Thumpers are just being themselves.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Todd Terje - It's Album Time

Label: Olsen
Released: April
Original Review by: Chris Todd


For all the career curveballs Terje has so far served up, it was always expected of him to come up with something pretty extraordinary for his debut. Still, to pull it off with such vigour is a pretty impressive feat. The maverick approach to genre-isation has not been reined in even slightly – in fact, it’s even more out there. It’s not just Album Time, it’s crazy psychedelic hoo-ha time, and it sounds pretty damn fine.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Wild Beasts - Present Tense

Label: Domino
Released: February
Original Review by: Paul Bridgewater


The fourth album from Kendal’s Wild Beasts begins with rage and ends in fragmented hope. Present Tense is an album that shows vast and cohesive development at all levels and take a fast and free gamble with an idea and a sound that could easily have failed.

Yet through careful process, thought and order, the four piece avoids sprawling chaos and conceptual farce to deliver something quite transcendental.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Woman's Hour - Conversations

Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: July
Original Review by: Paul Bridgewater


There’s a relatively simplistic formula at work on the debut long-player from Woman’s Hour, but it’s executed with sensitivity and a richly opaque narrative that allures and ultimately binds the listener from start to finish. Conversations succeeds in capturing - entirely unpretentiously - a humanity that’s both poetic and grounded. It’s simply astounding that they’ve pulled it of so perfectly, without a trace of lull.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon

 

 Young Fathers - Dead

Label: Ninja Tune
Released: January
Original Review by: Jack Enright


Perhaps the highest praise you can lavish on any band is to say they've successfully created a sound of their own. Many bands spend their entire careers being compared to a host of their peers and predecessors, operating more as an amalgamation of influences than creators in their own right. Others, however, become just the opposite – the cultural touchstones against which other artists will always be measured. With the Mercury-winning Dead, Young Fathers have become on those bands – it’s like nothing else out there.

Buy on iTunes | Amazon