5. Ed Sheeren - X
Ed Sheeren's previous record '+' was focussed around the singer's feelings about his then girlfriend. 'x' is focussed around his feelings about a new (although now 'x') girlfriend.
It's not quite this simple though, as we now see a more mature musical foundation, with better and catchier lyrics. Also, this record gives opportunity for a bit of rage to come out, and damn does it work! Pharrell Williams (who wrote 'Sing') only seems to involve himself with those destined for glory, and that is certainly the case here. It's really a simple equation:
Bitter lyrics + punchy guitar work x heaps of charisma = success.
4. Kasabian - 48:13
The quartet's fifth album is their fourth consecutive UK chart topper, and no wonder either. Their last - Velociraptor! - set the bar pretty high, with rave reviews stating that it was the moment when the band came into their own.
I have to admit now that I'm not sure they've outdone themselves, and the lyrics are typically banal, but you just can't argue with the tunes they bang out with relentless energy. 'Bumblebee' is up there with their best songs, and recalls the infectious and aggressively arrogant feeling of 'Underdog'.
3.Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love
A real favourite of critics and fans, this album is hard to praise highly enough. This record truly saw the birth of a musician.
Finally, Nutini lives up to the promise he showed in his first two albums. The vocals are raw, powerful and straight out of the soul hall of fame. 'Iron Sky' is not only one of the best tracks of the year, but it must surely rank amongst the most stirring songs to ever come out of Scotland - a country that let's be honest, likes a bit of pride and emotion.
2. Pink Floyd - The Endless River
Right, let's just get it out of the way... No, it's not as good as 'Dark Side of the Moon'. And let's be honest with ourselves, it couldn't be. Time has moved on, and very few albums will ever hold a candle to the legends' Magnus Opus.
This album is a truly beautiful work however, when viewed in its own right. The album is rumoured to be the bands' swansong, and if that's true it's the end of an era. But, it must be said that it's not a weak ending, bringing back some of the wonder that's been missing for the last few decades.
1. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
For the self-proclaimed 'gangster Nina Simone', 2014 has been pretty huge, with her first US number 1 album, and the success of 'The Great Gatsby' making her a household name.
'Ultraviolence' is beautifully expressive and dark without being utterly depressing. Every song fits with the next, and the album flows in a way which proves that Del Rey is more than just a pretty face with a decent voice. Lock yourself in a dark room with a drink and listen to this record - you don't need to thank me, just do it.
5. The Pretty Reckless - Going To Hell
I had quite the dilemma as to which record should slide into spot five in my list, but in the end it was The Pretty Reckless that had to take the spot - and not just because I'm slightly in love with Taylor Momsen. Although that definitely played a part.
'Going To Hell' is an awesome record, pairing Momsen's rebellious twang with bold, clear instrumental work. The music is kept pure and the inspirations behind it provide a welcome nod back to the days of classic rock.
The record is fierce, unforgiving and packed with strong riffs and vocals that range from comic to hypnotically raw. It's modern rock stripped down to the basics. And it's absolutely wonderful.
4. Paulo Nutini – Caustic Love
This album is brilliant, but it’s been somewhat tainted for me since the Scottish referendum result.
Iron Sky is the standout track on the album – a beautiful mix of passionate vocals and instrumental wonder interweaved with that Charlie Chaplin speech. It put its precedence on freedom and all things related. People were playing that shit on the way to the ballot boxes, and people were crying to it the next day!
Looking past my political differences though, this is a brilliant record (and yes, I am still pretty bitter).
It's golden soul and it's a meaningful masterpiece. Good job Paulo. Let’s vote yes next time.
3. Young Fathers – Dead
Scholars debate whether anyone knew who the fuck Young Fathers were before they won the Mercury Award earlier this year.
They had made a few big name television appearances over here and in the States in particular, and they had a cult following, but they had sold less than 3,000 of their awesome debut album Dead. That’s all changed now. And we're happy to say that we managed to clock how good this album was when it did first drop back in February!
'Dead' is packed with electronic, African-inspired hip-hop that very few artists have actually succeeded in turning into good music previously. Get Up is the headline act, catchy as hell, and Low is another that attracts particular attention. Basic beats, clever lyrics. Plenty of variety.
2. Gorgon City – Sirens
This was the album that I was most looking forward to this year, and it didn’t disappoint.
The several singles that dropped from the album early had already put Gorgon City on the map for their unique style – chilled beats with a consistent score of pounding bass. It’s a mixture that I’m always ready to welcome into my life.
Highlights from the record? Ready For Your Love, Coming Home and Lover Like You. All very different tracks, one driven by a bassline, one by a vocalist and one by a piano rhythm. All absolutely brilliant. Clever and consistent without getting samey.
1. Caribou – Our Love
Without a doubt the record of the year in my (beautiful hazelnut) eyes. ‘Can’t Do Without You’ is the amazing album opener, playing with subtle but sexy synths and clean vocals to produce a musical masterclass, and good old Dan Snaith doesn’t let it down from there.
Originality is present in overdose throughout this album, which flexes from chilled vibes to emphatic backbeats and uses every weapon in the electronic cupboard to do so. The sheer creativity of tracks and consistent quality is what makes this really stand apart.
It’s intimate, it’s funky, and it’s really fucking beautiful. This guy is an unconventional genius.
Honorable mentions: Hilltop Hoods - Walking Under The Stars, Clean Bandit - New Eyes, Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways, Fred V & Grafix - Rocognise
5. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
The Foo Fighters are certainly one of the biggest bands around and previous release ‘Wasted Light’ was pretty epic. Unfortunately ‘Sonic Highways’ doesn’t quite hit that mark but instead delivers a solid record with that signature sound that we know and love.
Each track was recorded in a different American city (awesome idea) but it doesn’t seem to affect the character of the songs which I think could’ve really added some uniqueness.
4. Caribou – Our Love
Dan Snaith’s fourth album under the name Caribou is wonderfully odd. The Canadian’s been growing in popularity within the electronic music world since he released ‘Swim’ in 2010. Our Love is a little more subtle than ‘Swim’ and an improvement in my books. The songs build up well and drop at the perfect time.
3. Alt-J - This Is All Yours
A seriously fun second album from the Leeds band. I love listening to Alt-J but I find it difficult to put a finger on why.
They’re often compared (as many other ‘different’ bands are) to Radiohead but the songs on ‘This is All Yours’ are a hell of a lot happier and less sombre. Thoroughly enjoyable!
2. Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars
The Adelaide hip-hop trio are back with the their seventh studio album. Much like ‘Drinking from the Sun’, the previous album recorded at the same time, this one comes with chilled out, jazzy beats compared to the more aggressive anthems of earlier albums like ‘The Calling’.
This cool second instalment is not quite as good as the first I can still put it on whenever I want, in any mood and still enjoy it. Whenever it plays people ask who it is and I’m still mind blown how the group haven’t had more worldwide success despite ruling the scene down under.
1. Pink Floyd – The Endless River
From the start you can tell this is a Pink Floyd album and that makes it quite brilliant. A fitting tribute to Rick Wright, it’s filled with music recorded when making 1994’s ‘The Division Bell’.
If you liked that then I see no reason you wouldn’t fall in love with this. Apparently the last album we’ll see from Pink Floyd, ‘The Endless River’ has the classic cinematic and wondrous sound that one of the greatest bands in history was so good at producing.
This filled me with equal parts nostalgia and space sounds. There’s even a part from Stephen Hawking again, so it obviously gets to take the top spot.
5. You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth
While You Me At Six have always had great songs, their early albums always seemed to have a lot of filler. A lot of whiney filler.
'Cavalier Youth', the band's fourth sees the band refine their songwriting craft so that the album just has epic pop song after epic pop song. While the album is, overall, a lot poppier than 2011's 'Sinners Never Sleep', the band does dip into their heavier side on tracks like 'Room To Breathe' and 'Love Me Like You Used To', giving the album a diverse collection of songs.
4. The Orwells – Disgraceland
This year saw the release of The Orwell's sophomore LP. The album was filled with great energetic rock songs like 'Who Needs You?' and 'Let It Burn'.
What differs the Illinois quintet from garage rock counterparts, FIDLAR and Wavves, is their sense of melody. It's an album you could listen to with your parents if all the lyrics weren't about shaggin'.
The album sounds like a mix of The Strokes and The Shirelles. If you have a spare 5 minutes, look up the band playing 'Who Needs You?' on Letterman. It's such a bizarre performance but it's worth it just to see Letterman's band leader, Paul Schaffer losing his shit at the end.
3. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
No-I-said-Ryan Adams' last album, 2011's 'Ashes and Fire', boasted a lot of great songs but it's weepiness grew tiresome after extended listening.
This year, he completely switched it up and released an album full of sexy stoner jams. These songs are among the best from Adams' illustrious career. While the album does run the risk of being one note, acoustic moments like 'Am I Safe?' and 'My Wrecking Ball' give the album its needed variety.
2. Broken Bells – After The Disco
Dangermouse had a hell of a 2014. As well as assisting The Black Keys with their change of direction, he also played a large role in creating an annoyingly good U2 album. It's his collaboration with The Shins' James Mercer which makes this list, however. The album beautifully marries the duo's sensibilities creating album of dreamy synth pop songs with a heartfealt acoustic edge.
1. The Xcerts – There Is Only You
I hate to say it but Biffy Clyro and Twin Atlantic have started to embarrass me. While Twin Atlantic's penchant for cheesy lines and Simon Neil's use of the word 'baby' are prone to inducing winces, it's a relief that Scottish rock has a new savior in the waiting.
The Aberdeen trio ditched the noisy messiness of 'Scatterbrain' and have delivered a near perfect straight up rock album. Everytime you try to find your favourite songs of the record, you end up choosing the whole thing. The fact they are sung with Murray MacLeod's Scottish drawl also doesn't hurt it at all. This album should have been given much more attention.
Honourable mentions: Catfish and the Bottlemen - The Balcony, The Black Keys - Turn Blue, Ed Sheeran - X, U2 - Songs of Innocence and Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness - Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness