The 10 Albums That Defined NfNBlog’s Year

The year 2014 was quite big in the music world. The Black Keys showed they aren’t a band who will quickly be forgotten with the release of “Turn Blue”; David Gilmour and Nick Mason collectively as Pink Floyd released another record; The Foo Fighters delved into music-documentary waters with the HBO TV show “Sonic Highways” and AC/DC announced that Malcolm Young was ill, their nephew Stevie Young would take his place, Phil Rudd (the drummer) was arrested (and later released) and yet the band STILL managed to release their new album, “Rock Or Bust”.

So, which albums were on the Note For Note Blog record player and iPod this year? There were some new releases, a couple of old timers and a surprise album that is still being played. I bring you the “NfNBlog Top 10 Albums We Listened To” of 2014 list… A list solely based on the stuff I have listened to over the past year and not necessarily albums that were released in 2014…just to be clear 🙂

10) AC/DC – Rock Or Bust

AC/DC have always been tough survivors throughout their long career. They survived the loss of their charismatic frontman Bon Scott (who passed away in 1980 from “acute alcoholic poisoning”, which basically means he choked on his own vomit after passing out drunk) and came back stronger than ever with the man with the throaty voice, Brian Johnson. So when 2014 brought the announcement that Malcolm Young would be leaving the band because of his dementia condition as well as the imprisonment of drummer Phil Rudd after he was accused of ordering the death of a couple of people in New Zealand, I wondered whether the upcoming album, Rock Or Bust would be released and whether a tour for the new year would be announced. As they have proved before, the band didn’t called it quits and powered through the hard times and released the hard rocking album in December and announced a tour for 2015! The album Rock Or Bust, after only a few listens, seems to be a decent effort on the part of the Aussie rockers. I can’t quite say whether there is anything really special about it (*thinks back to Let There Be Rock and Back in Black*), there is no single track that stands out above the rest. It’s a ‘typical’ AC/DC album with good riffs, punchy lyrics and rocking and rolling melodies, but as mentioned the album requires much more listening time and hopefully a review in the weeks to come… watch this space… 🙂

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

9) Black Sabbath – 13

One of the comeback albums of the year….in 2013 was Black Sabbath’s epic return-album, 13 which spent a lot of playing-time both on the record player and in the car. The eleven tracks on the album are modern, hard-sounding, guitar-riff and solo-driven sounds that take the best of elements of the old Sabbath and make them sound fresh and new. Ozzy still has the voice (although, understandably, he can’t quite hit those higher notes anymore), Iommi still produces crunchy riffs from his guitars, Geezer still jams on the bass like its 1968 and Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk manages to do a decent job in filling in for Bill Ward who left the band because of contractual and financial disputes. The songs are heavy, the riffs are mean and Ozzy Osbourne still manages to surprise everyone with his performances. Not just a great comeback, but a genuinely good (and produced by Rick Rubin) heavy metal album!

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

8) Pink Floyd – The Endless River

After the Division Bell album, released in 1994, it seemed that the end of a most psychedelic journey for Pink Floyd had come to end, but 2014 would prove otherwise. The band, or rather David Gilmour and Nick Mason, dug up some old material from their Division Bell sessions while they were working on a reissue of that great Floyd record for the 20th anniversary of it’s release. The two remaining members (Roger Waters left back in 1987 and Rick Wright passed away in 2008) went through all the unused material, a lot of which included great piano work by their talented pianist and keyboardist, the late Rick Wright, and decided that they had some good material that could be made into an album. So they mixed the songs, added some guitar parts, did a few vocal bits and The Endless River was created and released on the 10th of November 2014. It’s a mostly instrumental album, one should know, but when it comes to Pink Floyd and the fact that so many of their albums have long, instrumental pieces it’s really no surprise that this record is that different. There is a difference though, which lies in the many elegantly played piano pieces on the album by Wright. There are clear references to the Division Bell material and one can even recognise some material that goes back even further. The album is still doing the rounds, but it’s time will also come to be thoroughly listened to and to have a review written about it. But for the time being, it will have to settle for 8th position on our countdown of Note For Note Blog’s most played albums of 2014.

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

7) Jack White – Lazaretto

I have never had the opportunity to see Jack White perform, but heard good things about his live shows. He performed in 2014 at the Glastonbury festival in the UK and I watched footage of his time on the stage and I was, safe to say, quite impressed with not only his guitar-playing, but his showmanship and his talented band that seemed to blend with him musically in every song. It was after this performance that I started listening to his 2014 release Lazaretto and was even more surprised…pleasantly surprised to be exact. I’ve know for a while that Jack White is an extraordinary guitar player, ambitious song writer and overall very talented musician, but I had somehow over the years gotten the impression that he seemed a little lost, to be honest. He had a good thing going with the White Stripes, then he had The Raconteurs and I’m not sure what happened after that, but it’s the solo work that seems to be the focus of his musical energy today and it’s going good. Lazaretto is a rock album with infused elements of everything and White’s frenzied guitar playing is balanced out by the quality of the other musicians and instruments on the record. The track “Temporary Ground” is a weird one and “Three Women” is a catchy one.

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

6) Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

A few of years ago I saw Judas Priest perform live in Belgrade and while I knew the hits (“Breaking the Law”, “Living After Midnight” etc.) it wasn’t until that night that I really got into Judas Priest. I started building up my Priest record collection rather quickly because I felt like I had missed out on so much great metal music. Albums from the first Rocka Rolla to Screaming for Vengeance to British Steel and everything in between and after. 2014 saw the release of their first record since 2008’s Nostradamus and as with Sabbath’s 13, the new Judas Priest album Redeemer of Souls is another testament to a great band that can still make some great music. I reviewed the album back in September ’14 and gave it 4/5 ‘Rock Stars’ I believe. It’s a really good, loud and energetic Judas Priest album with some heavy riffs, loud Rob Halford-screams and sounds like the British heavy metal legends are still able to rock out with the best of them.

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

5) Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

The 1982 Fleetwood Mac release, Mirage is the classic album that got the most airplay (among classic albums) in 2014 and deservedly so, in my opinion. My favourite Fleetwood Mac album is Rumours which is poignant, sad, a little angry, very emotional and showcases all the band members as ultra-talented musicians and song writers. Mirage is very different though. While it still portrays the band as talented musicians, the subject matter of the songs isn’t as morbid and mournful. The songs are lighter, more melodic in a way but are still very well written and make for an easy-listening, classic-rock album recorded by one of the best classic-rock bands in the business.

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

4) Rudimental – Home

I’m a rock guy it’s safe to say. Of all genres of music that I have listened to, rock is my favourite, which isn’t to say I don’t and can’t appreciate good music when I hear it (FYI I used to be a baggy jeans-wearing hip-hop fan in the early 90s until I discovered Nirvana). Such is the case with drum&bass/electronica/pop/soul band, Rudimental, from the UK and their 2013 debut album “Home” (the “special album” I mentioned earlier). I can always appreciate an energetic beat, soulful vocals and uplifting melodies in a drum & bass track and “Home” had me hooked with a few such songs, including “Feel the Love”, “Not Giving In” and “Waiting All Night”. I shall not pretend to be an expert on drum & bass or electronica and I shall not explore the production values, the sampling, the mixing etc. I know a good song when I hear it (and by “good” I mean a song that I enjoy listening to) and the guys and gals from Rudimental can make good, catchy drum & bass songs…and they can sing and play a variety of instruments too! 🙂

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

3) Black Keys – Turn Blue

With the release of El Camino in 2011 the Black Keys broke into the mainstream and with 2014’s Turn Blue they cemented their place as one of the top rock bands of today. In my review of the album I went into detail about all the “factors” and “elements” and “meanings of songs”, so now all I’ll say is that it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time. It has the edginess and blues-rock influence of some of their earlier work, but is meshed together nicely with the great songwriting and musicianship that they developed from their experience in recording the El Camino album. Catchy pop keyboards on “Fever”, mysterious psychedelia on “Weight of Love” and bluesy guitar on “It’s Up to You Now”, are just a few of the various elements (I had to say it) that encompass this album. Just give it a listen 🙂

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

2) Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

The Foo Fighters seem to be one of the busiest bands on the planet right now. From TV music-documentaries, to a brand new album, to sold-out shows all over the world (including performing for the first time in South Africa at two sold-out venues), to playing small and intimate gigs all over America, the Foo Fighters are holding the flame high and strong for rock & roll. Their latest studio (or should I stay “studios”) effort, Sonic Highways is a record that was made on the road, in different studios across the country as they went from city to city while making their HBO TV series of the same name, “Sonic Highways”. The songs are great, plainly put. The music is pure rock & roll (with a few spices added along the way), the band plays like a tight-knit unit, Grohl’s lyrics are some of the best he’s ever written and his vocals sound better than ever. The songs are catchy, melodic, emotional and feature a number of special guests that recorded with the band on the tour (e.g. Joe Walsh on “Outside” and Zac Brown on “Congregation”). I reviewed the album recently if you want to know more, but if not then just give the album a listen (and watch the TV series if you can, to get a fuller picture of how the songs on Sonic Highways came about and how the band recorded the album) and I’m pretty sure you will be hitting repeat on at least a couple of songs.

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

1) Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar

Of the three remaining Led Zeppelin members (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones), it is Mr. Plant that is having the most success and satisfaction in his musical career at the moment. Plant has been actively pursuing his solo career since the early 80s when Zeppelin disbanded after the death of their drummer, John Bonham, but it would seem that he is gaining more critical acclaim and is more content, musically, now than he was back then. Long gone are the wild and debaucherous days of Led Zeppelin, but Plant doesn’t seemed bothered by this at all. He seems to be enjoying his musical creativity at the moment and doesn’t show signs of hanging up his microphone just yet. Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar is a melting pot of various instruments (from banjos to the African ritti) and eclectic sounds and shows Plant at his best, both lyrically and musically. Listening to this album is like listening to his whole personal record collection (presuming he has records that range from rock, folk, country, funk, jazz, African and even classical). Every song has a different style and a different tone which makes each track individually unique and interesting to listen to, thus making the entire album one worth playing from start to finish, time and time again. (Read my review of “Lullaby…” here.)

You can buy the album on iTunes, here.

So those are the top 10 albums that Note for Note Blog has been playing in 2014.  A number of them will go back on the record shelf, while others will continue to be played well into 2015.  This year has already promised a few new releases (the new album from Faith No More, for example, or the eagerly-anticipated new Slayer record) and I’m sure that 2015 will bring us some more great music, so keep checking out my blog for all the latest in album reviews and music news in 2015.

Season’s Greetings to all and keep on rockin’!

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One thought on “The 10 Albums That Defined NfNBlog’s Year

  1. Pingback: NfNBlog Reader’s Poll for Best Rock Album of 2014 | notefornoteblog

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