Oh yes, we make music lists. Especially at the end of the year.
It’s tradition, you see.
And here at Team Frog International, part of that tradition is opening with some miscellaneous awards that are basically an excuse to mention other albums I bought/acquired/downloaded this year.
Although actually, I only bought/acquired/downloaded 21 new releases this year, so actually there’s not much more to add on that criteria. But there’s always streaming – and cheap jokes – so I do have enough to fill out a blog entry (which is of course the whole point of doing this).
So here we go: THE 21ST BEST ALBUM OF 2014
U2, Songs Of Innocence (Island)
By default, obviously. Everyone knows about that Apple marketing stunt. The actual album is a major improvement over No Line On The Horizon, but it takes until the fourth or fifth track for the album to really kick into gear. There’s some worthy songs here, but as U2 albums go, it’s pretty hit-and-miss. There’s also the elephant in the room, which is this: if Apple hadn’t put this in my iTunes for free, would I have bought a copy? The answer is: probably not. BEST SINGLE
David Bowie, “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)”
After all the hoopla over Bowie’s surprise return in 2013 with “Where Are We Now?”, I’d have thought that any new music from The Dame would have warranted more attention than this song got. Released along with the Nothing Has Changed compilation, it’s a jazzy noir ballad recorded with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and it’s pretty cool (if you like jazzy noir ballads, that is). Maybe it’s because I’m outside of the US media hype bubble, but it didn’t seem to generate that much excitement. All I can say is that if it’s a sign of things to come with his next LP, I’m looking forward to it. CUTEST DEATH METAL ALBUM
Babymetal, Babymetal (Toy’s Factory)
It’s a prefab J-Pop teenybop dance trio singing death metal songs about chocolate and fox spirits. That beats the crap out of anything that popped up in the Billboard charts or on American Idol
. You know this. BEST PINK FLOYD TRIBUTE ALBUM
Pink Floyd, The Endless River (Columbia)
Okay, this is kind of a joke category. But Floyd’s final album – which is based on outtakes recorded by Rick Wright during the Division Bell
sessions – is in essence a tribute to Wright, who died in 2006, making clear just how essential he was to the Floyd “sound”. More than that though, the album’s four “sides” do frequently remind you of earlier classic Floyd albums, musically. That’s also the album’s main weakness – it reminds you that Floyd’s best work, and their days of innovation that made their classic stuff so great, are long behind them. That said, it's a pleasure to listen to them play. As a nostalgia trip, it’s actually a nice album. BEST SYD BARRETT TRIBUTE ALBUM
Richard MF Hall, "1974 Syd Barrett Sessions (finished)"
You can read the full backstory here
. The short version is this: EMI talked Syd Barrett into going back into the studio in 1974, hoping to get another album out of him. What they got was a few days worth of recording and some barely started tracks before Syd left the music business for good. Richard Hall thoughtfully fleshed them out a little with some added layers of his own. The objective wasn’t to make a “completed” Syd Barrett album but to demonstrate the recordings weren’t the noodlings of a madman but the basis for what could have been a great Barrett album if he’d had the capacity to finish it. In which case, mission accomplished. If nothing else, it’s a fascinating music experiment. BEST PRINCE ALBUM FEATURING PRINCE
Prince and 3rd Eye Girl, Plectrum Electrum (Warner Bros)
Prince blessed us with two albums in 2014. Neither of them was especially awesome, but this was the better of the two, thanks to backing band 3rd Eye Girl, who are quite good, even if they essentially serve as a Prince gimmick so he can showcase his long-forgotten guitar skills (which are, incidentally, considerable). It’s okay for what it is – if you like yr recycled rock riffs chunky and funky, then this is pretty good. Essential? Well, no.BEST LENNY KRAVITZ TRIBUTE ALBUM
Prince and 3rd Eye Girl, Plectrum Electrum (Warner Bros)
See above. BEST COMPILATION I WOULD GET IF I COULD AFFORD THE SHIPPING COSTS
Various Artists, Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985 (Light In The Attic)
Leave it to Light In The Attic to release an anthology of obscure songs by North American Aboriginal artists recorded over a 19-year period, collected by Vancouver-based record archaeologist and curator Kevin “Sipreano” Howes. From the press materials: “You’ll hear Arctic garage rock from the Nunavik region of northern Quebec, melancholy Yup’ik folk from Alaska, and hushed country blues from the Wagmatcook First Nation reserve in Nova Scotia. You’ll hear echoes of Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, and more among the songs, but injected with Native consciousness, storytelling, poetry, history, and ceremony.” Namedropping aside, it’s a fascinating untold chapter in 20th Century music, and a lot of these tracks deserve a wider audience. BEST REVISITED CLASSIC ALBUM
Kate Bush, The Dreaming (EMI)
I made this category up because (1) I didn’t buy any reissues in 2014 and (2) I spent a lot of time listening to this. Kate Bush is one of those artists I listened to a lot in the 80s, but lost track of as I moved on to other kinds of music (and ended up selling a lot of my old cassettes for needed cash). Inspired by all the ink over her comeback show in the UK, I saw this in a used CD shop and decided it was time to revisit her music. I’m glad I did. It’s amazing this album was considered a commercial failure at the time because it was too eccentric for the pop charts even by Bush’s own standards. To me it sounds fresh, original, inventive and brave. It may be over 30 years old, but it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. BEST COVER ART
In the category of Albums I Bought:
And in the category of Albums I Didn’t Buy:
Tomorrow: the Big List!
The suspense is killing you,
This is dF