2014 and all that
[Last update: 02/01/15]
'There's that part of High Fidelity where,
you may remember, Rob decides it's time
to rearrange his record collection. Not
alphabetically, not chronologically, but
autobiographically. In the film version, his
words are channelled through John
Cussack as follows:
"If I wanna find Landslide by Fleetwood
Mac, I have to remember that I bought it
for someone in the fall of 1983 and the
didn't give it to them for personal
Comforting as both Rob and his friend
Dick fid this notion, and ignoring the
implicit adoration of that band with Stevie
Nicks in it, the task of arranging hundreds
of albums by the order in which bought,
begged, borrowed or stole them seems a
daunting, daunting, daunting task.
There was a time, once, when I was first
embarking on my obsession with music,
when, at year's end, I would dutifully log
all the albums (and singles) I had bought
over the last twelve months. As my
conglomeration has expanded, such an
annual trawl would be riddled with
appalling gaps in the memory.
One thing of which I can be sure is that
the albums I bought with a 2014 release
date were bought at some point in the
last 365 days. That much I do know.
And so I can be certain I bought Alt J's This
is All Yours, St Vincent's self-titled release
and Damon Albarn's Everyday Robots in
2014. The same goes for Morrissey's
World Peace is None of your Business and
his ex-bandmate Johnny Marr's Playland,
along with Pink Floyd's The Endless River and Half Man Half Biscuit's Urge for Offal.
See also King Creosote's From Scotland
with Love, Wilko Johnson and Roger
Daltry's Going Back Home, the Manic
Street Preacher's Futurology, Robert
Plant's Lullaby and... the Ceaseless Roar,
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' Wigout at
Jailbags, Mark Lanegan Band's Phantom
Radio, Neil Young's Storytone, Erlend
Øye's Legao, Wild Billy Childish and the
Chatham Forts' Acorn Man and Smoke
Fairies' Wild Winter.
In addition I might be able to claim some
kind of custody rights over my wife's
purchases of Royal Blood's debut, Beck's
Morning Phase, Elbow's The Take Off and
Landing of Everything and First Aid Kit's
It is, I appreciate a fairly orthodox list of
albums one might have expected
someone like me to have acquired in
2014. Six of the Morris household's
purchases appear in the BBC 6 Music 15
albums of the year, eight appear in the
top 50 list from Mojo, nine are in the
Uncut top 75, ten can be seen in Q's top
50, but just three are found in The
Guardian's top 40.
All of which teaches us...not much really,
other than your correspondent has been
spending rather a lot of money (as usual)
on stacks of music; we've not even got to
a list of older albums which I've got my
mits on in the last twelve months.
But there are some things I've learned.
For example the Manic Street Preachers
are sounding fresh and interesting again
(for the second album running), a
Morrissey solo album is always going to
be better than a Johnny Marr solo record
(the latter's single 'Easy Money' was a
brilliant piece of pop-mongery in an
otherwise so-so long player), and Half
Man Half Biscuit are still as brilliant as
ever ("You're so beige I bet you think this
song's about someone else" from 'This
One's For Now' being a particular
What else have I learned? That Pink Floyd
would have been well advised to have put
out The Endless River (or an
approximation of it), with all its nods to
Wish You Were Here glory and percussive
magnificence, twenty years ago instead of
The Division Bell. That Neil Young can
indeed front a big band - and an orchestra
too, for that matter - but not both at the
same time (the orchestral arrangements
of Storytoneare spectacularly sumptuous,
by the way: think of the sound on Joni
Mitchell's Both Sides Now album of 2000
and you're very nearly there).
learned it is possible for a Norwegian
singer-songwriter to create a reggae
album supported by an Icelandic band.
I have also learned that it is possible to
put a Christmas album in your list of
favourite records of the year. See my
Smoke Fairies post for further details.
There were plenty of other - slightly
older - albums keeping me occupied
during 2014 though. This was the year I
discovered (a very, very late discovery I
will be the first to admit) The Teardrop
Explodes by way of their excellent
Kilimanjaro. With its thrumming bass lines, Julian Cope's full-of-gusto vocals and those telltale Teardrop trumpets parping away throughout, it is a piece of 80s indie perfection. There is not a duff note on it.
2014 also seemed as good a time as ever
to swell my accumulation of American
folk-rock. More of Dylan's back catalogue
entered the house: Hard Rain (1976),
Nashville Skyline (1969), Together
Through Life (2009) - even Christmas in
the Heart (2009). Dylan's sometime
backing band, The Band were also
recognised in an impulse purchase when I
finally got round to buying Music from the
Big Pink (1968 - you know the one: it's got
that song Ab Fab pilfered for their theme
tune on it).
It can now finally accompany the
copy of The Band (1969) I got 14 or so
years ago at university. Was university
really that long ago.
And Neil Young put in further
appearances too; not just his Storytone record from what is now last year, but also
the likes of Freedom (1989), Hawks and
Doves (1980), Everybody Knows this is
Nowhere (1969) and his self-titled debut
(Incidentally, has anyone else in
possession of Storytone noticed the
strange juxtaposition of 'Who's Gonna
Stand Up?', a song mourning the
destruction of the planet through
mankind's selfish pollution, with the track
immediately following, 'I Want to Drive
my Car', which celebrates the joys of
driving a gas guzzler for the sheer hell of
From Neil Young it is but a short leap to
Crosby, Stills and Nash. Or Crosby and
Nash. Or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
And so it made perfect sense to check out
Crosby, Stills and Nash (1969 - where
you'll find 'Marrakesh Express'), Deja Vu (1970), Daylight Again (1982) and Take
the Money and Run (2008).
sentimental part of me nearly shed a tear
of pure happiness when driving boxes
from our old house to our new one as
'Our House' poured out from the car
stereo. But don't tell anyone.
What is it that's attracted me to the works
of C, S, N and Y (and permutations
thereof) and others? I guess it's because
the sound harks back to some kind of
halcyon, golden age when cynicism was
trumped every time by honesty, gutsiness
and a untarnished love of the music.
It is, of course, most likely to be pure
A listen of Crosby, Stills and
Nash's 'Helplessly Hoping' from the three-piece incarnation's debut, reveals a load
of pretentious gibberish that makes less
and less sense the more you think about
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad
dreams he worries
Did he hear a good-bye or even hello?
Well, hang on a minute, if he's so
heartless, why's he worrying? And why
would a heartless person take on the
burden of bad dreams? And why would he
feel guilt about intruding on someone
who won't greet him? Actually, what does
it matter if she's not said goodbye? What
relevance does that have to the taking of
bad dreams? And how, precisely, do you
help yourself to bad dreams? As they're
not objects that can be stolen, I'd imagine
it would involve some kind of talking
therapy, which requires some kind of
communication and a councillor--client
relationship which would probably involve
greetings and not being heartless at all.
And -- well, it just doesn't make any sense
at all, does it?
But there is enough magic there - or
enough of an illusion there - to allow you
to suspend your disbelief for just long
enough to imagine yourself dropping out
in Laurel Canyon and escaping pretty
much everything the rest of the world
insists on throwing at you.
All of which may well explain why the music I've been listening to this year - and getting most excited about - is not the fresh sounds of 2014, but stuff discovered by chance in the corners of record shops or hiding at the back of charity shops. It's the things I've found out about by talking about music with others or just scouting around the internet.
Just don't ask me to put these albums in the order in which I got them.
(look out for my book, Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway coming soon)