END OF YEAR CHARTS: Steve Drayton | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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5) Taylor Swift – 1989

taylor swiftI hate Taylor Swift. Second only to the utterly loathsome public enema No 1 – Miley Cyrus. She’s a rich-stage-school brat-goody-two-shoes who peddles anodyne country pop rock for which she should be taken outside and given a right good kicking, not once, but twice and maybe trice for good measure, she’s that rotten. Awful.

And someone should pull her hair for good measure.

I love Taylor Swift. I just happened upon a copy of 1989 which is this year’s great pop album. There were so many positive reviews surrounding its release I had to have a listen, embrace the beast as it were. She may well have had a long listen to Lorde’s Pure Heroine album – last year’s great pop album – and that’s no bad thing.

1989 has style and substance, it’s funny and it’s as catchy as Ebola, but in a good way, like if you caught Ebola but its symptoms were singing smart catchy and beautifully produced pop songs. My daughter considers me to be a complete doofus for my new Taylor love, you may do too. You’d be missing out on one real treat if you did. More fool you.


4) Jack White – Lazaretto

jack whiteIf there was an award for the actual physical release of an album this would win by a country mile. On vinyl, side 1 plays from the inside out, it has a hologram of an angel on the run out grooves. Side 2 looks like a shellac 78 and has a double groove intro into the opening song and there’s gimmicks galore… but now we need to talk about Jack.

Any album that features a song like High Ball Stepper is a winner. A dirty, crawling, gutter-snipe of a tune, a stone age call to arms, doing what White does best – making a fucking racket. That’s not to say that Lazaretto is a racket from start to finish. Making the best of his talents, the songs butterfly from style to style, but it’s all underpinned by all the attack and intelligence that possesses Jack White. The brooding, bruising love of music he has informs this album, it’s angry and glorious and a little bit tender in the middle as well.


3) The 2 Bears – The Night Is Young

the 2 bearA glorious hook laden hip-hop-pop-two-step-house album. The 2 Bears are Joe “Hot Chip” Goddard and Raf Rundell; both well versed in the world of dance music, they’re very adept at bringing a right old toe-tapping, finger-popping style to some gloriously uplifting sing-along tunes.

There are a couple of clunkers on this album – Money Man is particularly trite – but happily the rest more than make up for this miss step. Maybe the idea of two older gentlemen, dressed in shabby eBay Bear costumes making a record with lyrics that take on the credit crunch, lost youth and unrequited love is a tall order, but the music soars, especially on the ode to a dying relationship Not This Time, which, had it not been for Future Islands would have been the single of the year. It’s the video of the year anyhow, so not all is lost.


2) Spoon – They Want My Soul

spoonSpoon have been around for ages. This is their 8th album, so they should have got it right by now. Not only are the songs on this album gold standard, the production pushes them through the roof. Some records start off well and then drift in the middle. They Want My Soul doesn’t. The songs are arresting enough as it is, the dressing elevates them, and it makes your ears go “what was that?” You have to go back and listen again just to ensure you’ve not been caught out. Repeated listens pay dividends. Tunes by the shed load.


1=) Sisyphus – Sisyphus

sisyphus“We have so little in common but we have deep love for each other and we are pushing that stone together.” Sufjan Stevens teams up with electronic wizard Son Lux and rapper Serengeti on this and all quite magnificent in their own right.

I came to this via Sufjan, as I worship the very ground he walks upon. I consider him to be one of the towering talents of the modern age. His adaptability, his ambition, his panoramic talent, are all hugely underrated in the digital pop age. Without wanting to sound too much of a dick, in the world of the great American composers he’s up there with Aaron Copland and Miles Davis.

Sisyphus takes the electronica of Age of Adz and expands the palate, and often three voices are better than one. From opener Calm It Down, there’s a thread; sometimes obvious, other times oblique, it might not work all the time, but the flaws are better than most bands complete output.


1=) Future Islands – Singles

future islandsEarlier in the year there was much derision surrounding the appearance of the Islands on Later… For his extraordinary performance, vocalist Samuel T Herring attracted catcalls galore. I admit I wasn’t smitten. Until I listened again. And again. I bought the album.

I listened to everywhere and its unique beauty began to unravel. The obvious ‘excuse me’ are the vocals. Yelps, grunts and, at one point, a very scary growl surround Herring’s baritone as he intones some frankly bizarre lyrics.

It all works; it’s a lean mean song machine with a warm heart and an utterly fantastic guitar sound. And it features the single of the year, Seasons (Waiting On You). If your Auntie Phyllis gets you a record token this year I advise you to spend it on this album.


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