Music of 2014

Music of 2014, then. Let’s squeeze this in before more exciting stuff next week.

I won’t lie, it’s been a struggle to think of last year’s music. Books and television of 2014, on the other hand: easy. There were plenty of books, films and TV shows that stand out. But music? I think I could write with more confidence and enthusiasm about last year’s video games, which makes me feel sad as I look upon shelves of CDs.

There was Pink Floyd’s The Endless River, obviously, and Kate Bush performing in London for the first time in three decades had many of us gleefully rediscovering her entire back catalogue and playing it for months on end (not that it counts here), as well as that addictive ‘Take Me to Church’ song by Hozier with its intriguing lyrics and video.

But, well, that’s about it for 2014, right? I’ve even been wondering if 2014 was possibly the worst year for music – ever. Not so, claim Rolling Stone, whose expertise I frequently salute. They thought 2014 “another phenomenal year for music, illuminating darkness when it often seemed that the only light was from buildings burning in Ferguson, Missouri.”

Wow. That bright and cheery?

I’m a self-confessed misery-guts. For example, I passed on Coldplay now that I’ve decided that they’re too big for their boots, I only heard U2’s Songs of Innocence when I eventually discovered it had appeared on my iPad (weeks later, that’s how sharp I am) and the only new album I bought on its release was Gary Clark Jr Live.

Just as it’s reported that there are now more shops than ever in the UK selling music, where you walk in through an actual door and pick up plastic cases in your hands and look at the artwork and sometimes even hear music playing, like in ye olden days, which amazes me (although in November it was reported that vinyl sales had hit an 18-hear high, which amazed me more). It’s true that many of those real, physical music shops are actually supermarkets (boo!) and “generalist retailers selling limited ranges of music and video aimed at the impulse market,” but I suppose it’s still encouraging. At least if you don’t dwell too long on the idea of a CD being nonchalantly tossed into a metal cage on wheels that you push around a brightly-lit warehouse and into which you’ve already placed tomatoes, pasta and cat litter. How sad that art has been reduced to this: something else you added to a list so you wouldn’t forget it.

Not that it matters, perhaps, because nowadays you can so easily stream an entire album online, listen to it freely as many times as you wish, and download it with ease. Or not, if you come to realise that you could live without owning a copy and move onto something else instead. I chose to do without the Manic Street Preachers’ Krautrock-influenced Futurology, although it provided another of my favourite lyrics (from ‘The View from Stow Hill’, yet another Manics song that’s so much better as a stripped-down acoustic number):

“The misguided tweets, the sad Facebooking
Cheapness surrounds me but I’m not looking.”

Even Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems, with its horrible cover (what is it with all these half-arsed album covers that look like they were fashioned in a matter of minutes, like all the art homework you did on the school bus the morning it was due in?), hasn’t particularly grabbed me, although CD/DVD combo Live in Dublin is a treat.

Streaming now accounts for 12.6 per cent of all music consumed in the UK. An incredible 14.8 billion songs were streamed in 2014, almost twice as many as were streamed the year before.

So, who else released an album in 2014? I can feign little interest in Thom Yorke or Damon Albarn, having never cared much for their bands, Radiohead and Blur. Likewise Bruce Springsteen, who I always thought incredibly over-rated. (Besides, it’s still too close to Christmas; I heard that God-awful ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ of his so many times, I’m not ready to forgive all that shouting just yet.)

Never a big fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I did, however, very much enjoy the sour and surly Hypnotic Eye. Perhaps that was helped by hearing ‘Forgotten Man’ on the radio so often.

In continuing the grumpy theme, expectations of Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways and Beck’s Morning Phase are fairly low, but I will get around to listening to them eventually. The War on Drugs, who put out Lost in the Dream, seem to be on TV all the bloody time lately. So much so that I’ve become sick of the sight of them, more than the actual sound of them. A bit like Elbow, I have to confess.

Meh, as the kids say.

But in researching this and in trawling through numerous ‘50 best albums of 2014’ features, as compiled by respected publications from both sides of the Atlantic, and in listening to a right load of forgettable rubbish in the process, I discovered some that probably wouldn’t have been on sale, never mind playing in many of the new ‘music shops’ we’re meant to cheer – and I found I rather liked. I don’t know if I’ll like them a year from now, or if I’ll ever feel as comforted by them or as relieved to be reminded of them, as I did with The Red Shoes or The Dreaming, but it’s a start.

My first find: Sean Lennon, with partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl, as The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Their Midnight Sun has some lovely psychedelic moments. Here’s ‘Xanadu’ (and one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen. Children really should interview bands more often.)

I enjoyed Tweedy’s Sukierae (here’s ‘High As Hello’); really enjoyed Small Town Heroes by Alynda Lee Segarra/Hurray for the Riff Raff (what a lovely, old-fashioned album cover, too; Leonard Cohen, please take note), and even Mac DeMarco’s mumbly, jangling Salad Days provides a pleasant soundtrack for a quiet evening in, when you don’t want to be worrying yourself analysing the lyrics.

Stone me, but I find that the older I get, the less I need music accompanying me from the moment I wake to the moment I fall into bed. I really like the sound of silence and of birds singing and mundane, modern life. (Is there even time to listen to an album in its entirety with a glass of wine and friends with similar tastes, without the interruption of kids and chores and telephone calls about payment protection insurance? Who gets to stay up late discussing music any more? Come on, make us feel old and jealous, why don’t you.)

Where was I again?

Jack White’s second solo album Lazaretto has its moments (but he’s allowed them only when my head’s not feeling delicate, as he’s rather loud). When it is, and it so often is, Jackson Browne’s sensitive musing on Standing in the Breach, particularly its graceful title track, works well. As does the painfully beautiful Angel Olsen (try ‘Windows’ from Burn Your Fire For No Witness as a taster).

Also easy-on-the-ear are Swedish sisters First Aid Kit.

I’m thankful to bands that sound like they were recording in the late-Sixties, such as Temples, whose debut album Sun Structures – with its Who’s Next cover and Beatles sound – isn’t original but is a most welcome break from whiney, wimpy babble and pointless electronic din. More psychedelic revivalists, please.

The Black Keys’ Turn Blue has some catchy tunes on it, and is still growing on me, but much more slowly than their previous albums.

Alas, instead of the Sixties, I mostly hear the damned Eighties (when you can avoid Ed Sheeran, that is), although this is absolutely acceptable in the case of Ryan Adams’ eponymous album.

I still don’t think these made 2014 a “phenomenal” year for music, and, Pink Floyd aside, they probably only illuminate darkness about as effectively as energy-saving bulbs do for the first few minutes, until they’ve had time to warm up (not knocking them, just saying), but I’m glad things aren’t quite as bad as I first thought. What do you think?

Let’s also take a moment to remember Pete Seeger, Joe Cocker, Phil Everly and Francis “Franny” Beecher (lead guitarist for Bill Haley & His Comets), who were among the musicians who died in 2014. What fine music and memories they’ve let us.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

48 comments

  1. Paul Sexton

    We went to Glasgow to see Matt Schofield..anyone into Blues/Jazz type players please check him out, a really incredible guitar player and nice chap as well!

    …really enjoyed Tweedy FE’d..good call on that one.

    Can we also blog about how bad the Brits award show was..they should have torched Kanye West with them fire blower things..just sayin’!

    • FEd

      I couldn’t bring myself to watch. I’ve not forgiven them for giving Blur ‘Best British Group’ (or was it ‘Best British Album’?) instead of Pink Floyd in 1995.

    • Buffalo Phil

      Yeah Schofield’s quite good. His ‘Far as I can See’ album was excellent. You can hear influences ranging from Robben Ford to Albert Collins to the obligatory James Marshall Hendrix. Good stuff. How was he live? I haven’t caught him yet.

  2. KenF

    The Endless River is a given as the outstanding highlight of 2014, ever since Polly tweeted the news on that glorious day in July when the Tour De France was rolling out the Grand Depart in my own backyard.

    David Crosby released Croz in January, which started the year nicely and I found to be a very pleasing listen.

    I also found myself getting hooked onto a CD my wife bought (which is a rarity in itself), Wanted On Voyage by George Ezra.

    Knowing nothing about him beforehand and hearing his deep, rasping vocals, for the first time led me to believe he must have originated from the deep south of America until I discovered otherwise. Which I found pleasantly refreshing and hard to believe that such a rich voice could emit from someone so young.

    Hoping the exciting stuff you’re holding back on is revealed before I embark upon a Caribbean cruise next Thursday, although with David’s impending birthday a couple of days later, perhaps that’ll be the day when you surprise us with the news we’re all eagerly anticipating.

    • FEd

      Thursday? Yeah, you’ll be OK.

      Can’t believe I forgot Croz. We even talked about it, and listened to some of it, in the chatroom, didn’t we?

  3. Howard Bayliss

    I’m like you Fed. I can go weeks now without music preferring quiet and weather permitting the sounds of outdoors.

    I think it is the perpetual loudness of the outside world that leads one in this direction. I must admit though I was partial to silence even as a young lad so I can see this as a natural progression for me.

    Music was bleak last year but I have been saying that for some time as I have passed my threshold for new music anyway.

    The only real purchase of new music was The Endless River but really that doesn’t count as new anyway. BTW my copy is for sale cheap.

  4. Julian

    Well Fed, a lovely line in fluent grouchiness, poetic!

    I am out of touch these days so I don’t know if these were actually released last year, but they are what I bought during 2014.

    Robert Plant – The Ceaseless Roar
    Francois & The Atlas Mountains
    Hugh Laurie – Didn’t It Rain
    London Grammar – If You Wait (what a voice!)
    Proffessor Long Hair – Rum & Coke
    Seasick Steve – Hubcap Music

    That’s it. I think there is a couple of those that probably were not chronologically released in 2014 but so what!

    Looking forward to your good news Fed. Have a good weekend y’all.

    • FEd

      I enjoyed what I’ve heard of Hugh Laurie singing and meant to get that album, actually. Thanks for reminding me.

      Released in May 2013, but like you say… 😉

  5. Craig Muckleston

    I saw Augustines live a few times in the UK in 2014 performing their eponymously titled album. These guys have raised live performances to new levels.

  6. Pavlov

    I really fell ‘in love’ with The Black Keys’ Turn Blue … well, to be more precise, a couple of the tracks on the album. A co-worker suggested that I was ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’ listening to “the poor man’s White Stripes”. I much prefer The Black Keys.

    This same co-worker put forth a handful of 2014 pickings for me to experiment with — one stand-out was Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There. It’s been a very slow “getting to know you” but there’s something achingly honest there … I liked Taking Chances and Your Love is Killing me.

    “More psychedelic revivalists, please.”

    Here you go …

    To Be Kind – The Swans.

    I was disappointed with what little I heard of Judas Priest’s Redeemer but will perhaps revisit at another time.

    A few treats for [the slightly ‘wilder’ side of] me were

    Rival Sons, Wolfmother’s New Crown and a couple of tracks from Spoon’s They Want My Soul.

    Haven’t decided whether I want to invest in Mike Oldfield’s Man on the Rocks (perhaps for hubby’s birthday since it’s more his style).

    Band of Skulls did a great job on Himalayan (Get Yourself Together, Brothers and Sisters and Hoochie Coochie are good).

    Have a great weekend all!

  7. Tom B - Dublin

    You don’t sound yourself FEd, I hope you cheer up, and maybe you’ll bring some cheer to all of us soon perhaps.

    I discovered Angus and Julia Stone by accident a couple of years ago. I downloaded some inexpensive albums before going on holidays, ‘Down the Way’. I have since bought most of their catalogue. Last summer they released a fabulous album, very reminiscent of Neil Young in places, particularly the tune ‘Crash and Burn’ – that could have come off his album Zuma. I think they played live in the UK before Christmas, but have not heard them played on the radio here in Ireland. Anyways their latest album has been on top of my playlists for a long time and is worth a listen.

    Struggling to find others worth mentioning, although Ed Sheeran’s is good if you’ve got young teens in the house. Maybe James Vincent McMorrow’s Post Tropical is worth a listen too, completely different sound from his excellent debut album. Enjoy.

    Come Ireland on Sunday!!!!

    Regards, Tom B – Dublin

    • FEd

      Good find, Tom. Here’s one of theirs called ‘Heart Beats Slow’.

      And well played, Ireland – on course for the Grand Slam. Just what Wales wanted to see on St David’s Day. Must be firm favourites for another Six Nations crown after that. Should be an absolute cracker in Cardiff next Saturday.

  8. WOW - Deni

    Hey Fed,

    Sorry I missed you on my very first visit in the chat room. Maybe next time.. soon. Your friends had good things to say about you.

  9. Dejonghe

    Thanks god, your music is still so powerful and makes me like having a trip without moving from home!

    In France, music has never been so poor…. just one new artist : “Christine and the queen”….

    Anyway, David’s guitar always brings me thrill in the body, you are, with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in my personal guitar players pantheon!

  10. Taki

    … you seem to be right about 2014, FEd, which is mostly the way it is. 🙂

    I had a look at my purchases in 2014 and The Endless River seems to be one of the few new releases I bought last year, AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust being another one. The rest of them were items to complete or replace parts of my collection but I will mention only two groups here:

    Led Zeppelin – quite a few remasters
    Dream Academy – The Morning Lasted All Day: A Retrospective

  11. George Maciver

    Erm, I went straight from Slade to Pink Floyd when I was still at school. I did buy one or two albums from others through the years, but rarely did I buy two from the same artist. It’s all David’s fault! Mind you, if I were forced to live my life over again, I wouldn’t change a thing (I’m exceptionally content with who I am, what I’ve done and where I’m going), so it’s not really a fault I guess, more a blessing in that I didn’t have to force myself to listen to anything else and pretend I was enjoying it.

  12. Davie

    You’re right, FEd, it wasn’t the greatest year for music but there were still a few highlights for me, some of which you mentioned above. “Croz”, “Ryan Adams”, “Hypnotic Eye” and Beck’s “Morning Phase” all ranked highly for me.

    Also, I seem to recall that you were a Neil Young fan (correct me if I’m wrong!) I really enjoyed “A Letter Home” (though the “clean” version was better), and the multiple versions of “Storytone” were great.

    There were a few other good releases, including those by Counting Crows, Robert Plant, Pixies, Roger Daltrey and Wilko Johnson, as well as some great “new” archival releases from CSNY, and Bob Dylan.

    In fact, I’m actually coming round to being a 2014 Music fan after all! The only releases I didn’t enjoy were the two new Prince albums which just felt unnecessary…

    Looking forward to 2015, though the schedule seems quiet so far… Here’s hoping the upcoming news will improve that!

    Good post though FEd, I had many of the same thoughts myself… Must be an age thing, right? 🙂

    • FEd

      Old age doesn’t come alone, as they say (loudly and several times to be sure you understood).

      I agree about the Prince albums.

  13. Bella

    Since my children have left home I know nothing about contemporary music anymore but who cares? I spent most of last year waiting for November 11th 2014 when Pink Floyd came out with their last album and I was transported by Louder Than Words with Polly’s lovely lyrics – so à propos. I am sixty now and to be able – once more – to breathlessly await a Pink Floyd album like the teenager I was, saving my money for the next PF LP, was an immense gift. Thank you David, Nick, Rick, Roger and Syd for this amazing life-long journey of music. Yes, it was indeed Louder Than Words. Merci, merci, merci de tout coeur.

    I was very amused by Polly’s post on twitter today about St. David – did he mind being called Dave?! I actually thought about it and as he was Welsh, his nickname might have been something like Dallwegllnyvidgnnpnwellwn. OR since the lingua franca of the day was Latin, Davidissimus and maybe he would have disliked Davissino. Who knows.

    Wishing a very Happy St David’s Day to our DavID!

    Bella xo

    • FEd

      I actually thought about it and as he was Welsh, his nickname might have been something like Dallwegllnyvidgnnpnwellwn.

      Really? I don’t know why it would have been.

      Oh right, it’s a joke.

      (It is, isn’t it?)

  14. Damian Cunningham

    My friend has an indie record and film hire store up in Hexham and now after so many years on the high street he and his brother have decided to call it a day, as they cannot continue the way the market is.

    Damian

    • FEd

      I’m very sorry to hear that, Damian. The fond hours I’ve spent in shops such as his down the years, but not in a very long time, I have to confess. What a shame.

      We’re all responsible, aren’t we? It’s the same with book shops and pubs… How we miss them when they’re gone yet didn’t find time to use them when they were there and struggling to keep going.

      That’ll mean another betting or charity shop on the High Street, then. Just what we all need.

  15. Pete -Coventry

    Apart from the latest by Pink Floyd I personally think 2014 was quite a good year for album releases.

    Latest releases by…

    Anathema – Distant Satellites
    Syd Arthur – Sound Mirror
    My Brother the Wind
    Lunatic Soul
    Gazpacho – Demon
    Tim Bowness – Abandoned Dancehall Dreams
    The Pinapple Thief – Magnolia

    …(I have added album titles where I remember them) were all quite exceptional.

  16. Michèle

    So…

    No Bob Dylan – ‘The 50th Anniversary Collection 1964’ ? – Nine-LP set, Length 440 minutes!!! Mon Dieu! 😉

    No AC/DC – ‘Rock or Bust’? Not that I’m a big fan of hard-rock and old men in short trousers…

    No Robert Plant – ‘Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar’? I quite like ‘Up On The Hollow Hill’. Very Led Zeppelin-ish. – Of course.

    No Mogwai (‘Rave Tapes)?, no Ben Watt (‘Hendra’)?, no Joe Bonamassa (‘Different Shades Of Blue)? I think I heard about them on the blog last year.

    You said “Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems, with its horrible cover”, what about Mariah Carey’s ‘Me, I’m Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse’? Worst cover, worst title, probably worst album, worst diva, don’t you think? OK, I haven’t listened to any of the songs. 😉

    On the other hand, I have enjoyed very much Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’. Please anyone, don’t bash me… sometimes a happy and catchy song is just what you need, no? Even the video makes me feel happy.

    Here is the list of the 50 best albums of 2014 as voted by the listeners of Classic 21 radio-station. I’m happy to see there Pink Floyd at #2 and #8.

    One for FEd: ‘The Joy of Motion’, an album released in 2014 by the band… ‘Animals as Leaders’. – Right? 😀

    • FEd

      🙂 Very good.

      I’ve got enough Bob Dylan now, thanks; I don’t want more. In all honesty, he could probably take about 25-30 per cent of it back and I’d still feel spoilt.

      I could have sworn that Hendra was the year before last (it was released in April 2014). Where is the time going?

      I’m saying nothing about that Mariah Carey cover. Leonard Cohen has more modesty, I’ll give him that.

    • Pavlov

      I’m so glad you mentioned Mogwai Michèle. I’d heard a snippet of No Medicine for Regret and loved it but never went back to revisit …

      I’m a huge Joe Bonamassa enthusiast but wasn’t as ‘taken’ with Different Shades of Blue as some of his previous releases — it doesn’t detract from the fact that he is one of the most brilliant blues guitarists in our lifetime.

      I’d also forgotten about The Pineapple Thief Pete mentions above – was only recently ‘introduced’ to them.

      Fortunately there are enough of us to fill in what has been forgotten, never heard or overlooked. 🙂

  17. Martin C.

    Hello Everyone,

    Regarding 2014 music:

    – Walter Trout – The Blues Game Callin’
    – The Barr Brothers – Spleeping operator
    – The Touré-Raichel Collective – The Paris Sessions
    – Leonard Cohen – Popular problems
    – Robert PLant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar
    – Eric Clapton & Friends – The Breeze, An Appreciation of JJ Cale
    – Joe Bonamassa – A Different Shade of Blue

    I would like to mention the passing of Johnny Winter, and his last album released a few weeks later: Step Back.

    All that being said, let’s now live prospectively instead, and let’s get us some great news about a “special to this group” 2015 album out soon, indeed.

    Martin

  18. Howard Bayliss

    Drum roll please…….

    And the “more exciting stuff” of the week is….

    Cheers, Howard

  19. Heather

    Enjoyed Robert Plant Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar which tided me over nicely until The Endless River was released. Those two plus Led Zeppelin 1V were the only new releases from last year and I already know what the next album will be that I purchase!!!!……I can wait and be very patient!!!!……….

    Best wishes
    Heather

  20. Damian Cunningham

    I must admit whenever I want a new album I always buy the CD and it was always from my friend’s store. I have never downloaded, I think iTunes is pants.

    Damian

  21. Damian Cunningham

    I do own an iPhone6 but use it as a phone and for emails only. It never crosses my mind to put music on it.

    Damian

  22. Damian Cunningham

    All happening at the Gilmour home – new album, birthdays, anniversaries. Shall I bring a bottle to the party or Guinness? I’ll be good, I promise and I wont say “Dave”.

    Damian

  23. Damian Cunningham

    I’m 51 now, you know Fed another birthday you forgot, so I’m a grown up now and will behave like an adult and I wont touch anything.

    Just messing, sorry.

    Damian

  24. Damian Cunningham

    Sorry I keep blogging but I’m off this week and start a new job on Monday. Anyways here’s a secret, I hope it wont get me in bother.

    As you know I’ve bragged enough about getting into the Pink Floyd after-party. Well I did wander off on my own behind the stage. There I saw all the band’s equipment, instruments. I was stood next to the great man’s guitars all lined up with Guy’s. Anyhow a security person came up to check on me and then Guy came up making sure I wasn’t stealing anything and he insisted to the security that they don’t leave his guitars unattended. So there you go.

    Damian

    • FEd

      How long has it been since your last confession, my son? I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So don’t worry about it.

      Or something like that.

  25. Groovyjuve

    I am turning 59 on the 28th of March and I have to admit that I have become quite the old fart. 2014 was a trying year medically, including the nasty spider bite that almost cost me an arm. Music became more important to me, but the only music that was of any importance to me was Endless River.

    I am so glad 2014 is over! I am looking forward to a better year for health and music in 2015!

  26. Drew M.

    ‘David Byrne’ and ‘Bad Company’, they fit together like a hand in a glove.

  27. Tom B - Dublin

    Well? Aggghh! I was expecting to read some exciting news today, am I too early? Guess so. Thought your reply to KenF hinted at a small leak or something today, maybe tomorrow then.

    Nice win for the Irish rugby team on Sunday, and Padraig Harrington returning to form with a win after eight years, hold on, that’s nearly as long as the last release from a certain D Gilmour. A big birthday coming this year – I might make a trip to stateside if I knew of any good gigs I could catch while over there? Could plan it next year either. Mmmmm.

    Regards to all.

    Tom B – yeah still in Dublin (on a lovely sunny morning)