It’s that time of year again. Over the last month, we've asked all our staff members to vote for their favourite albums of 2014 and they've responded in droves. Here, without further ado, is the hmv’s Top 10 albums of 2014…
10. Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter
Six years is a long time between albums, but the gap hasn’t cost the Iowa metallers any of their power, energy or ability to write pulsating anthems. Their fifth album is packed full of the same rageful, caustic and piledriving songs that have been Slipknot’s trademark. Let’s hope they leave less time between records this time.
Best Track: ‘AOV’
9. Jungle – Jungle
They began the year shrouded in mystery, with just a handful of tracks and some tiny live shows under the belts, but they’ve ended the year as critical darlings and selling out big, big venues. Their debut album fully lived up to expectations, with its mix of swaggering hip-hop beats and early 90s trip-hop, bolted together with big pop choruses.
Best Track: ‘Busy Earnin’’
8. Taylor Swift - 1989
2014 was the year where Swift graduated from country girl made good to full on global pop superstar. An ode to the best pop that the 1980s had to offer, this album is packed full of skyscraper sized hits, from the bouncy, hand-off ‘Shake It Off’ to the Prince esque slinky floor filler ‘Style’, 1989 cemented Swift’s place as true pop royalty.
Best Track: ‘Style’
7. Beck - Morning Phase
A full six years after his 2008 LP Modern Guilt, Beck returned with a whimsical and mournful collection, which tipped its hat to country and folk heroes like Nick Drake and Woody Guthrie. When people first put it on, they weren’t greeted by a knock out punch, but it’s become an album that has stayed on stereos and racked up many, many listens, with a deeper connection each and every time.
At this stage of his career, Beck has nothing to prove anymore, but he continues to surprise and inspire, 12 albums in and he’s still going strong.
Best Track: ‘Waking Light’
6. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
What do you do if you’ve headlined every festival, sold out every stadium and sold over 11 million albums? If you’re the Foo Fighters, you decide to take your record on the road, literally. Recorded in eight different cities across America, each in a studio with its own rich history, the album soaks up so much of what is brilliant about American music. From the driving ‘Feast And The Famine’ to the slow-burning ‘I Am A River’ to the freewheeling ‘Outside’, this is a record full of variety and charm, an album that’s in love with the music that came before it.
Best Track: ‘Something From Nothing’
5. Aphex Twin - Syro
At the beginning of the year, almost everyone had accepted that they’d heard the last from Richard D. James under the moniker of Aphex Twin. He’d moved to a remote village in Scotland, hadn’t released a full-length studio album since 2001 and was seemingly happy being away from it all.
Then suddenly in September, after a marketing campaign that included an announcement made available only on the Deep Web, as well as several press releases in broken English, Syro emerged. Not only did it emerge, but thrilled everyone who heard it. It kept James’s relentless pursuit of experimentalism at its heart, taking him into new, ravier and more extreme territory.
He might have been gone for a while, but no one has the ability to unsettle and thrill like James does.
Best Track: ‘180db_ ’
4. Ed Sheeran - X
Lots of artists have had good years, but 2014 will belong to one musician, and that’s Ed Sheeran.
X proved a number of things, it proved that Sheeran could fill arenas (he’s filled hundreds of them this year and will fill Wembley Stadium three times next year), it proved he could write Number One singles (two, so far…) and it proved he was capable of writing a variety of great songs. From the Justin Timberlake/Pharrell influenced R’N’B of ‘Sing’ to the stripped back, Tracy Chapman esque ‘Thinking Out Loud’. There are angry, bitter moments like ‘Don’t’, regretful laments like ‘Nina’ and tender ballads like ‘Afire Love’.
He’s promised himself a long break next year, but let’s hope he decides to get working on that third album sooner rather than later.
Best Track: ‘Thinking Out Loud’
3. Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
The oddball metallers continue to go from strength to strength. Their sixth album combines all that’s brilliant about their previous five, adding up to a trippy, exciting, but surprisingly lean record. Particular highlights are the bombastic ‘The Motherload’, the super-charged title track and the epic ‘Diamond In The Witch House’.
Best Track: ‘The Motherload’
2. The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream
Every year it feels like there’s an album that is a real word of mouth success, the kind of record that is passed from person to person and picked up after countless recommendations, and, in 2014, Lost In The Dream is that record.
A wondrous trip from beginning to end, full of glorious harmonies, layered melodies and endlessly hummable moments, it’s the perfect meeting point between classic 60s pop and psychedelia. Wonderful.
Best Track: ‘Red Eyes’
1. Royal Blood - Royal Blood
We’ve all spent the last decade reading endless articles, think pieces and columns about the death of guitar music. They tell you people are over bands, they’re over guitars, but they’re not, truth is, people are just over landfill, over four blokes plodding away in corners of rooms and expecting success. Every year new bands pop up and blow people away, which is exactly what Brighton twosome Royal Blood have done this year, and it’s won them hmv’s Album Of The Year.
Royal Blood’s formula is a simple one. A bass guitar, cranked up to the loudest possible volume, a drum kit, a microphone, a few effects pedals and a whole lot of energy, all thrown together and spun out into a sonic whirlwind.
All the tracks are bangers, there’s no let-up in quality, from the opening vibrations of ‘Out Of The Black’ through to the closing drone of ‘Better Strangers’. A very, very worth winner.
Best Track: ‘Ten Tonne Skeleton’
Each of the albums in the Top 10 are available to buy in hmv stores across the UK and from our digital store.