Christmas is coming, and the Cowell is getting fat...
As we enter the belly of the 12th month, the yearly clamour to hail the best recent records is reaching its apex.
Generally, one comes to the fore and is universally recognised as top dog. Yeezus was last year, tailed by Arctic Monkeys. Project Orange and good kid m.A.A.d city were 2012, while 2011 saw the whole on and offline world fall in love with PJ Harvey and Bon Iver. Again.
This time round there isn't one noticeably ahead of the pack. Taylor Swift seems to be there or thereabouts, as do The War On Drugs, Run The Jewels and St Vincent. We also live in a world in which Young Fathers are a thing, and where most adults can finally name a One Direction song.
With all these albums and more in mind, we asked Sabotage's writers to name the albums that should be top of your Christmas list. The list is as eclectic as you would hope...
Augustines - Augustines
Augustines isn’t an album you just listen to, it’s an album that you live. Classic blue-collar Americana in the style of Gaslight, via Springsteen with a touch of U2 -scope production in the mix. Right from the opening sounds of Into (I Touch Imaginary Hands) to closer Hold Onto Anything, it is absolutely captivating. The sound of a band aiming for the stars and comfortably sailing passed them. Not just an album of the year, Augustines is in album of the decade territory.
Rich Gang - The Tour
With much of modern rap's validity all but washed away completely (cheers Iggy), we should give thanks that there are still two Atlantans holding it down. Curiously androgynous trap trashtalkers Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug's mixtape The Tour is typified by hysterical bass-driven beats, near incomprehensible lyrics and an attitude so grounded in giving no fucks that I'd be fucking amazed if they even half understand the OED-defined concept of fucks. If future generations don't look back with wonderment on the ecstatic dick-swinging bravado of tracks "Tell 'Em" and "Givenchy" then they deserve what fresh hell surely awaits them.
Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness of Dancers
I basically flipped a coin between this and Benji by Sun Kil Moon. While the latter is definitely a towering piece of work, I feel Lateness of Dancers more. With its title coming from a Eudora Welty story, it's a record that's dripping with the south - all country twang and smoky vocals. Southern Grammar in particular sounds like something from Music From Big Pink, and indeed if HGM had been around all those years ago they'd definitely be hollering with The Band et al on The Last Waltz. They're touring with Ben Howard at the moment, playing huge theatres around Europe, before coming to the UK for a series of smaller headline shows next year - there's no reason why they can't be massive.
Jamie T - Carry On The Grudge
I love Jamie T. I will never not love Jamie T. With effortless swagger and lyrics so poetic they make Alex Turner weep into his rhyming dictionary, T is heir to a throne previously sat upon by youthful bards Morrissey and Billy Bragg. After a hiatus, the man returned this year with an album that had not only matured with his fanbase, but that contained enough pranging guitar chords and strained wails to take his devoted followers right back to their teenage years. Jamie T is an artist for people who feel music, and Christ does Carry On the Grudge knot the heart strings and punch you full of endorphins.
Woman's Hour - Conversations
I've been banging on about this album on an almost daily basis since its release just before the summer. It's a beautiful record, with vocals and synths that put it above any record of a similar ilk this year. It's a delicate pop sound, chock full of songs that could easily be singles. It also speaks volumes about the quality of 'Darkest Place' that on an album so strong, one track still stands out. Without that song this would still be a 10/10. Instead, I suppose, it is 11/10.
Alex G - DSU
When DSU finally got a proper release this year, it seemed like Alex G had been around for years. And when you think that he's now self-released five albums, I suppose he has been. In fact, the 21-year old is still only in the fledgling stages of his career and it's scary to think about the quality of his song writing at such a young age.
Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2
2014 was a disappointing year for hip hop as war generals and the new breed took the year off. There might have been a superb flurry of hype from Nicki Minaj, and your new favourite dance from Bobby Smurda, but there was a distinct lack of full fledged banging LPs. (Sorry T.I.) Rick Ross had a go with TWO albums, and #ShoutOutToAllThePear but he’s still yet to top B.M.F.
Instead album of the year goes to Run the Jewels 2 from Killer Mike and El-P. Slick beats and powerful wordplay combined to make a thunderous album equally comfortable in the club or the gym. Thank you Killer Mike. For this, and for your work in Ferguson.
Goat - Commune
Look - I’m gonna have to level with you. Goat are band of Swedish people making African/Turkish inspired psychedelic music, but please don’t let that put you off. Commune is immersive, it really feels like a completed body of work, and it’s something that, if you allow it to, can just take you out of your own head space for its entire duration. They chant rather than sing, they bash instruments I’m not even going to pretend to know the name or origin of, and the songs take turns you forget exist with every listen. Like some strange Tame Impala, tUnE-yArDs and Hookworms orgy, what emerges is terrific. Try it, I implore you.
Strand Of Oaks - HEAL
Sometimes your choice of favourite albums comes down to volume of listens, and others it's a gut feeling about how much it and the artist will endure. If I was to just use the former method Augustines and War On Drugs would be on a planet of their own; a land where Springsteen is God and no sentence complete without a reference to a broken highway.
On the surface, Strand Of Oaks might not be so different to either of these bands. But there's something scraggier in the synth-laden bombast of songs like 'Same Emotion', 'Shut In' and the title track. They suggest Timothy Showalter is a man with enough skeletons in his closet, to keep us banging on the door for years to come.