Dec 11 2014 – Welcome to the 4th annual installment of T-Mak World Top 10 Albums of the Year #RealRock style. While there has been much talk of the album format dying and more bands releasing EP’s or just singles, we couldn’t disagree more with the naysayers. Sure the album may be irrelevant for talentless pop and chart topping crap but we wouldn’t expect those artists to typically have the ability to release a full album of quality art. However for real rock n roll with musicians whose talent levels are off the scale, the vinyl resurrection proves that albums are a very viable and beloved format.
In 2011 our number one album of the year was Circuital by My Morning Jacket, 2012 proved the year that Rush’s Clockwork Angels topped the chart, and 2013 was an easy selection because the fabulous 13 by Black Sabbath took over the number one spot.
Below is T-Mak World’s Top 10 Rock Albums of 2014 – we only hope that our readers find a hidden gem on this list and remember any such list is simply a matter of personal taste.
10. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
The domination of the hipster crowd continues by the garage blues duo with Turn Blue. It is hard to argue with the quality of music these guys offer, and with their latest offering they tuned down the pop hit making machinery and offer a more substantial and rich album than El Camino or Brothers. Turn Blue actually gets away from the garage blues formula and creeps along the Pink Floyd headphone stoner type of music in an experimental way that works very well. The Black Keys may have not fully reinvented themselves fully on this album but they did offer a nice twist to what we expect from them.
9. Going Back Home – Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey
Wilko Johnson was the guitarist of Dr. Feelgood during the 70’s and Roger Daltrey needs no introduction. The two Brits started a friendship four years ago and toyed with the idea of collaborating together. Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer last year and as a last hooray him and Daltrey just made it happen on Going Back Home. The album is a killer R&B album with a vintage feel that is a homage to an era of a much simpler life. Johnson shines on guitar and Daltrey give it his all and the result is a damn good album. As an epilogue to the story in October of 2014 Wikipedia claims that “Johnson announced that he was “cancer-free” having undergone “removal of his pancreas, spleen part of his stomach, small and large intestines and the removal and reconstruction of blood vessels relating to the liver”. Johnson said: “It was an 11-hour operation… This tumour weighed 3kg – that’s the size of a baby! Anyway, they got it all. They cured me. It’s so weird and so strange that it’s kind of hard to come to terms with it in my mind. Now, I’m spending my time gradually coming to terms with the idea that my death is not imminent, that I am going to live on“.
8. Catacombs of the Black Vatican – Black Label Society
Zakk Wylde may have been Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist for quite a number of years but his band Black Label Society have delivered a heavy metal masterpiece with Catacombs of the Black Vatican. What sounds like a classic mashup of Alice in Chains and Black Sabbath the headbanging anthems are here in varied forms from the classic acoustic guitar buildups to the raging anthems. My Dying Time is a beautiful slow burner and Empty Promises shows us how much of a wicked shredder Wylde is. Grab a cold brew and rock out to this offering.
7. 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault- Stevie Nicks
This album is composed of new songs from Stevie Nicks, that she wrote between 1969 and 1995. Primarily a soft rock offering that conjures images of Nicks in her San Fran hippie days the album is in many ways as pure a Nicks album as any she has ever released. I Don’t Care gets on the heavier side of the album and one immediately wonders if Nicks is once again singing about her scorned lover (or is it ex-lover) Lindsey Buckingham. The anger, the mysticism, the lace is in full display on this album and that’s what makes it such a damn good Stevie Nicks solo album.
6. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters
The gimmick on the Foo’s 8th album is each song was recorded in a different city and the album accompanies a documentary about the road tour. While not the most impressive Foo’s album there are some gems in this offering such as Something From Nothing and I Am A River which will be phenomenal live. The Foo Fighter’s are the current poster boys of rock in America and as such have to be a bit less “punk” as they would probably like to be – but then again they are now over 20 years removed from their Nirvana roots. The album is a solid offering and the variety of music makes it a very solid pick for our Top 10 Rock Albums of 2014 list.
5. Midnight Sun – The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way up front. This band is a duo that happens to consist of John Lennon’s son Sean and his smokin’ hot model girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl. Their band The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASST) sound a lot like the Beatles during their psychedelic era and that ain’t a bad thing at all. The often melancholy sound is a throwback to early Pink Floyd in the swinging 60’s where things were just “grooooovy man”. Too Deep and Xanadu kick off the album and the opening 1-2 punch is phenomenal.
4. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
Riffs, riffs, riffs, riffs, riffs… ahhh. This British duo continue the tradition that the White Stripes started and The Black Keys perfected but with a rawer and bluesy-er sound. Jimmy Page is a fan of the band and that should tell you enough. Album opener Out Of The Black will hook you within 30 seconds and the ride goes on all the way to the end with killer track Ten Tonne Skeleton. If there is one album on this list that you should own on vinyl this is the one.
3. Great Western Valkyrie – Rival Sons
Rival Sons formed just 7 years ago and have easily planted themselves in the top 3 rock bands performing today. It is baffling that they aren’t selling out arenas and stadiums all over North America, but for now us in the know get to enjoy them up close and personal in smaller venues (yeahhh!). Great Western Valkyrie is the band’s fourth album and is an aural triumph. So many good songs are on this album but for a sample try Destination On Course and Belle Starr. The band has often been called the saviors of rock and if that prophecy holds true, Great Western Valkyrie will go down as the album that defined classic rock in 2014.
2. Black Buffalo – One Bad Son
Canada’s Rock n Roll kings have come strong with their fourth offering. With the great breakthrough success of their previous album as their foundation, One Bad Son elevate their unique brand of hard rock to the stratosphere with Black Buffalo. One Bad Son is Canada’s best live rock and roll band right now and Black Buffalo captures the essence of the band’s live show. Satellite Hotel has been tearing up the charts since its launch, and Decades will do even more damage as it has “potential Number 1 hit” written all over it. Vinyl Spin Burner is my highlight track of the album and as good as any Canadian rock song ever made – and the chorus sums it up best – “Drop the needle, and spin this fucker ’round!” The only unfortunate thing regarding Black Buffalo is that it is the only album on the top 10 chart that I don’t own on vinyl (because it hasn’t been released in that format).
1. The Endless River – Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd’s farewell offering. Comprised of outtakes from 1994’s The Division Bell, the album is primarily an instrumental voyage into the Floyd’s vaults. David Gilmour and Nick Mason released the album as a tribute to Richard Wright who passed away in 2008 and Wright is the star of the album with compositions that would have easily fit into the end (or middle) of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Louder Than Words is the album’s only song with lyrics but make no mistake this is not the type of masterpiece lyrics that previous songwriters Syd Barrett or Roger Waters would craft. The album was not reviewed favorably by the mainstream critics but then again do you really care? Rolling Stone Magazine picked U2’s crapfest as their album of the year. I will personally take any new Pink Floyd album over anything on their top album chart anyways. Thank you for the lifelong ride David, Nick, Richard – just wish Roger was there with you on this one.
And there you have it folks our Top 10 Rock Albums of 2013! If this was a top 20 list we would have included releases by AC/DC, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, the Led Zeppelin reissues and Jack White on here but this is what we came up with. The great news with our list is that you can see 5 of the 10 artists in small venues (and they have all played Toronto in such intimate settings in 2014), some of them in big venues, and one in particular you can wish they were here to see them again, but alas it ain’t meant to be.
Just to reiterate these lists are simply a matter of personal preference and the only reason we do them is to help rock lovers potentially find a gem they missed this year. #RealRock is alive and well and that is how T-Mak’s personal Top 10 Albums of 2014 went down.