The Suss team list their favourite albums, films, books and gigs of the year.
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days:
Hard to say whether it’s a step-up from previous album, 2. They’re both absolutely brilliant, but, Salad Days is more introspective, with DeMarco defending his life choices and trying to reconcile romantic problems. The slacker atmosphere of his prior release remains an integral part, with DeMarco’s signature drawl as evident as ever, while the guitars can’t help but describe somewhere sunny. – Bryan Grogan
Ricky Eat Acid – Three Love Songs
Sam Ray has struck gold before, somewhat accidentally. Three Love Songs has been described as his first “patient” project, one where he discarded the “first idea is the best” method he had previously used in teen suicide, Julia Brown and other projects.
What follows is a cathartic mixture of pulsating ambient and dance music, like the Drake-sampling album highlight “In my dreams we’re almost touching”. Emotionally heavy without becoming overwrought, its third quarter will have you dancing before you even realise what your body is doing. – Odrán de Bhaldraithe
George Ezra – Wanted on Voyage
Nobody thought that 2014’s breakout star would be a young man with a guitar and a voice as deep as a stiff drink. George Ezra’s Wanted on Voyage showcases his impressive range, and lead single “Budapest” is solidified as one of the catchiest songs of the year. – Fionnuala Nic Sheoin
Royal Blood – Royal Blood
When Royal Blood were tipped to be the Sound of 2014 earlier this year, very few people knew who the British duo were. 12 months on, and the band has recorded the fastest selling rock album in Britain in the past three years.
Sounding like something Jack White might produce, Royal Blood has also drawn comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys for its attitude and satisfying riffs.
A major contributor to the album’s success is its balance between being loud and quiet, a case proven while listening to “Little Monster”. Although this debut album doesn’t add anything new to rock music, it seems Royal Blood have just done a lot of things right. – Mark Hogan
Sun Kil Moon – Benji:
It’s a bit hard to stand Mark Kozelek at the minute, even if his recent release, “The Possum”, is a 10-minute masterpiece. With all the attention he’s been getting, as he refuses to let his feud with The War on Drugs frontman, Adam Granduciel, die out, it’s easy to forget his last album; Benji. Musically austere, with Kozelek sounding as if he’s singing into an empty room, Kozelek’s voice and inflection combine beautifully with the lyrics to describe some deeply emotive ideas. – B.G.
Future – Honest
The sophomore album of the Dungeon Family affiliate took what made his debut, Pluto, so special and brought it back down to earth. Tracks like “I Be U” gave Future a personal edge his debut couldn’t. The Dungeon Family affiliation allowed him to call on the much-sought after André 3000 to assist on the song of the year candidate “Benz Friends (Whatchutola)”. Outstanding guest appearances from Kanye West on “I Won” and Pharrell Williams on “Move That Dope” threaten to steal the show, but it’s Atlanta’s favourite alien who stands out most, firmly cementing his place in mainstream hip-hop as the leader of post-Wayne autotune gargling. – O. de B.
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
Devon beach boy Ben Howard came back with a bite. I Forget Where We Were showed an aggression never seen before in the song-writer. Snapping and snarling on “Rivers in Your Mouth” and “Conrad”, the most unique sounding track is “I Forget Where We Were”, charged with emotion and sliding guitars. – F. Nic S.
Taylor Swift – 1989
With pop music becoming more frustrating by the day (2014 was the year of Jennifer Lopez’s “Booty” after all) it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold out any hope for the genre.
Add to that an album with a title as cliché as the artist’s year of birth and things aren’t looking good. But there is a reason Taylor Swift is at the top of the pop music pile: she is substantially better than most pop stars.
Swift knows how to write a song. Be it fun (“Shake It Off”), emotional (“Wildest Dreams”) or honest (“I Wish You Would”), the Pennsylvania native has a chord for it.
1989‘s lyrics may be suspect at times, but the overall product makes up for that. There are catchy hooks, power-pop choruses and a synth so addictive it will have you mouthing how haters will hate and fakers will fake down even the darkest of alleyways. – M.H.
Most sci-fi films spend too much time talking about the technology of the future. Her eschews this generalisation by discussing the problem of futuristic relationships. Our main character, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with an AI forcing him to confront a variety of different problems including, y’know, how do they have sex? – B.G.
Very much a Christopher Nolan film, he lets his imagination run wild as he tries to envision and then communicate such things as relativity and five-dimensional beings. The story, despite being extremely relevant for our modern world, does tend to get bogged down by these ideas. Luckily they are well-represented and extremely interesting, while also helping to compliment the sentimentality in the film. – B.G.
Haruki Murakami – Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (English translation)
This book doesn’t devolve into the usual surrealistic and cryptic story as most of Murakami’s books, in the same way as Norwegian Wood. As a result it tended to get a mixed critical reception, even though it’s one of Murakami’s most personal stories, dwelling a lot on concepts discussed across the full-range of his literary output. Most interesting is the way in which paranoia and superstition become a much clearer source of the crazy plot-lines and occurrences in his work. – B.G.
Michael Harding – Hanging with the Elephant
Following on from 2013’s award winning Staring at Lakes, Harding continues his exploration of his psyche, his depression and dealing with his demons. Hanging with the Elephant follows Harding as he deals with his first time being alone since recovering from depression. A mesmerising and emotional read from the outset. – F. Nic S.
St Vincent – Electric Picnic, August 31st
A St. Vincent show is an otherworldly spectacle. Annie Clark exuded control throughout. Her part-robot, part-lizard, eerily inhuman movements drew us in and tampered with our suspension of disbelief as she executed another precisely choreographed shuffle in tandem with her rhythm guitarist, in heels, while playing guitar. The perfect discipline and control she exerted on herself spread to the audience, who obediently responded with “yeah!” when called upon during “Digital Witness”. The distance and mystery built by the onstage theatre led to a frenzied reaction for closer “Your Lips are Red” – where front-row fans got to play her guitar as she sat on the shoulders of security. – Stephen Keegan
Foals – The Olympia Theatre, February 4th
They came, they saw, they conquered. In the first of two live dates, Oxford upstarts Foals tore the roof off of the Olympia, in support of their album Holy Fire. In a set which saw frontman Yannis Philippakis jump from the boxes, the rowdiest of dancing and lasers, the band truly demonstrated what makes them one of the most exciting bands in the industry right now. – F. Nic S.
65daysofstatic – Koko, London, March 27th
65daysofstatic’s The Fall of Math changed my life when I was 14. It’s one of those albums. I hadn’t heard anything like it at the time, and only poor imitations since. The album sounds like its title. They played it live in full at this show. If you ever get the chance to see your favourite album live, seize it, particularly in a venue as beautiful as Camden’s Koko, even if you have to wait four hours in a hellhole like Luton Airport. They played a second set of material from their latest album, Wild Light, and wrapped up with the iconic “Radio Protector”. Amazing. Perfect. Wow. – S.K.
The National – Live at the Marquee, July 14th
The penultimate gig of the tenth Live at the Marquee, saw indie darlings The National return to the Docklands. Though the show didn’t sell as well as their last, it didn’t affect their performance. Singer Matthew Berninger was boisterous in the band’s performances of “Terrible Love” and “Mr. November”, while “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” ensured everyone was misty-eyed. The band proved that they had earned their reputation as one of the best rock bands of this year. – F. Nic S.
Future Islands – Vicar Street, November 3rd
Future Islands’ live show serves as a curious counterpoint to that of St. Vincent. Whereas the audience’s fascination with Annie Clark is built from her cold precision and control, Sam T. Herring’s charm lies in the total opposite – his emotional honesty, explosive, unpredictable movements, his willingness to let the audience see his vulnerability. Though the methods differ, the end results are the same – the crowds buy into both spectacles wholeheartedly and have a brilliant time. At Vicar Street, Future Islands proved to the Letterman bandwagoners that they’re no mere flash in the pan, and those moves have the tunes and drive and ambition to back them up. – S.K.
Lana Del Rey – Live at the Marquee, July 15th
In her second ever Irish appearance, Lana Del Rey seduced the crowds with fluttering vocals and her vivacious movements. After spending a good ten minutes chatting with the front row and receiving hugs, Lana delivered the performance of a lifetime, with “Ride” and “Summertime Sadness” being the notable standouts. – F. Nic S.
And So I Watch You From Afar & Le Galaxie – Róisin Dubh, June 14th
The fact that Ireland’s two best live bands came together to celebrate the Roisin Dubh’s 10th anniversary tells us a lot about the esteem the legendary Galway venue (and its principal booker, Gugai) is held in. Openers Meltybrains? proved worthy of their name – ending their set with a bizarre dance routine, Le Galaxie overcame early technical difficulties to play a storming set of mostly new tunes and ASIWYFA truly put the night to the sword – debuting a new song named “Gugai” for that night only. Bless. Though ASIWYFA and Le Galaxie’s sounds may differ, both are in the business of delivering euphoric experiences and complement each other perfectly. – S.K.
Squarehead – Róisín Dubh, July 31st
The perfect headliners for Galway club night Strange Brew’s annual Summer Shindig, Squarehead blasted through a set heavy on material from 2013’s criminally underlooked album Respect. The anthemic qualities of songs such as “What’s Wrong?” and “Ghosts of Terroir Noir” and the energy of the band’s performance created a charged atmosphere in the room, uniting a dedicated crowd in appreciation of the Dublin trio’s songcraft. One of those incredible gigs where strangers embrace and sing lyrics to each other, I was buzzing for days after. They play the Sugar Club on December 13th, don’t miss them. – S.K.
Image credit: cocostereo.com