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The Raccoon’s Albums of the Year: 2014

Posted on the 15 December 2014 by The Raccoon @TheRaccoonUK

The Raccoon writers make a glorious return, just in time to say a lip-trembling goodbye to 2014 with their albums of the year. They laughed, they cried, they put good stuff on and they turned shitty stuff off.

Here’s the Raccoon definitive albums of the year with a top 3 from each. All other lists belong in the gutter.

Matthew (@MDunneMiles)

Mac Demarco – ‘Salad Days’

Shrug off Demarco as a hipster douche at your own peril. Mac’s gap-toothed, cigarette-chugging, bollock-naked persona doesn’t do justice to his sharp wit and ability to make earworm jangly guitar pop. The melodies are hooky, the guitar riffs are stunning in their simplicity and Demarco’s lyrics are a mix of heartache, puppy love and obscure cultural reference points. A glorious pop effort playing itself off as a lo-fi indie record. A tight thirty minute record that gets stuck in your head, until you literally have to name it your favorite album of the year.

Young Fathers – ‘Dead’

Mean, moody and magnificent; the Edinburgh trio picked up their Mercury Prize with an expression of total apathy – a refreshing attitude to the ceremony. Young Fathers don’t need grumbling TV appearances to get appreciation though, Dead stands on it’s own as a strange and interesting record that takes UK rap and soul, strips away all the cringeworthy elements, adds some furious wailing, fucked-up drum beats and takes in a whole new direction. Keep your ears locked to see where this trio go next.

Aphex Twin – ‘Syro’ 

The old pro steps out of shadows, emerging from his deepweb and ‘scouse-house’ tapes to put together an album that shows why Richard D. James is still the grand master of electronic with a twisted soul. Many artists take bits from the Aphex sound but none quite match that mixture of pure rhythmic joy and chopped-up mess. If you’re looking for an album that sounds like someone burning a pile of Shy FX records, then look no further.

Andrew (@andrew_skinner_)

Glass Animals – ‘Zaba’

Truly weird and wonderful, there really isn’t any other band that sounds quite like Glass Animals. Part hazy acid delirium, part futuristic nightmare, it sits somewhere on the spectrum between the XX and the Weeknd. However, the beauty of ‘Zaba’ is that it’s so hard to ever pinpoint what it stands for or where it’s heading. Each track will take you on journeys of varying colours and sensations, but perhaps its main strength, and an unusual one for debuts, is that there isn’t one point in the album where things dip or become tired. To create an album that’s consistently intriguing is one hell of a fine achievement from the Oxford band.

Jungle – ‘Jungle’

Jungle emerged shrouded in mystery in the summer, their identities masked by a well orchestrated, but not entirely original, marketing plan (think Wu Lyf, sigh). Hearing a Jungle track for the first time, it was easy to imagine it as a funk soul collective/supergroup who had reformed after conquering the 1970s. Alas, it’s a London-based band formed by two mates from Shepherds Bush, whose debut album is a mix of irresistibly appealing hits in the form of Busy Earnin’ and Time, and sinister moments which offer a sort of social commentary on inner city life, like the siren-ladled The Heat. Props to Joshua Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland for making funk cool again, or indeed, for the first time ever?

Warpaint – ‘Warpaint’ 

Christ, to think that this album came out this year is frightening (January 17). A lot has happened since then, but Warpaint’s second album remains one of the highlights of the musical year. Whereas on their debut, and the EP before that, the four piece mastered the intricate looseness of jamming, Wayman’s and Kokal’s guitars overlapping each other like wispy clouds of smoke, Warpaint marked an interesting development for the band, with more of a focus on, well, focus. The experimentation still remains, but the whole album is so fiercely driven, and drummer Stella Mozgawa, who wasn’t part of the recording for The Fool, deserves much credit for that. As, of course, does her rhythm sister Jenny-Lee Lindberg, the two of whom have one of the most natural and enviable musical partnerships imaginable. Warpaint is a true masterpiece from a band that will only likely ever get stronger and stronger.

Luke Arthur (@luk3arthur)

Kiasmos – ‘Kiasmos’

Hands down my favorite release this year and an album that blows me away more and more with each listen. It’s my favorite kind of album in that it reveals more of itself, almost knowingly so, over time and repeated listens. The intensity of the music on show here is matched only by the sheer beauty that accompanies it, as thumping techno is paired hand in hand with the stripped back ambient soundscapes of Olafur Arnalds solo work. What can’t be underestimated is just how well this all comes together. It would be all too easily dismissed as just adding classical strings to a bit of techno but it is so much more. Headphone listening is advised, or just blast it as loud as you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Movement – ‘Movement EP’ 

Bursting onto the scene with a sound that was fully realised, mature and utterly irresistible, Movement had a pretty good 2014 and this, their debut EP is testament to that. Produced by Illangelo, the man behind The Weeknd’s inaugural mixtapes, the 5 songs here demonstrate a fashionable fondness for the dark side of soul that has sprung up in recent years, whilst also displaying a confident willingness to experiment. The guitar solo that steals the show at the end of Ivory is more than enough proof of that.

Caribou – ‘Our Love’ 

A pretty easy choice, really. Dan Snaith has upped his game tenfold for this release and has clearly reached a point in his musical career that sounds comfortable whilst maintaining an unmistakable adventurousness that runs through the veins of every Caribou record. There’s a beautifully warm richness to the sound of this album, evoking a strange nostalgia for a summer that you’ve never had. It retains an emotional resonance that so much electronic music lacks, especially on second track Silver, which gleams with whispered harmonies and synth lines that just stop you in your tracks. Cracking work.

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