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Best 40 Albums of 2014: 30 – 21

We racked our collective brains to pluck out a top album list for 2014 and couldn’t pick less than what you are about to read. 2014 has been an exceptional year for new music and many fan funded efforts have crept in ahead of general commercial release. Treat this as the basis for your wishlists and thank us later …

Contributions from: Nix Cooper (NC), Tom Mimnagh (TM), Steve Brixey (SB), Dan Stent (DS), Andy Close (AC), Mark Granger (MG) and Karl Eisenhauer (KA).

30. Trojan Horse – “World Turned Upside Down”

After an excellent self-titled debut in 2010, Mancunian weird-rock progsters Trojan Horse have nailed the follow-up. Opening track ‘Jurapsyche Park’ (other than having a brilliant title) twists and turns, going from groovy riffs and vocal harmonies to a crazy keyboard solo, before switching it up again as the song reaches it’s noisy conclusion. And that’s just the first song. Throughout the rest of the album you’ll experience full-on psychedelia (‘Sesame’), a dub-reggae breakdown (‘Scuttle’), a musical acid trip, (‘Hypocrite’s Hymn’) and even the odd pop moment (‘Paper Bells’). This is a mind-bending journey into the rabbit hole of modern progressive weird-rock and it’s bloody great. (DS)

29. Matt Stevens – “Lucid”

Three years in the making, “Lucid” sees Matt Stevens take us on an instrumental adventure, which is not as straightforward as the title may perhaps imply. Musically diverse and featuring members of Chrome Hoof, King Crimson, Frost* and Knifeworld, Different styles sit alongside one another. Take the start/stop madness of ‘The Ascent’, the riff heavy ‘Oxymoron’, uplifting acoustic number ‘The Other Side’ or the atmospheric ‘Coulrophobia’ (fear of clowns in case you were wondering). Suffice to say, “Lucid” is varied, deep and well worth checking out. (DS)

28. Gong – “I See You”

Time is a meaningless human construct, or at least so it would appear on Planet Gong as the avant-garde rock legends return with a psychedelic multi-dimensional treat in the form of their latest album “I See You”. Front-man Daevid Allen has struggled with his health as of late, though fingers crossed this will not be his final Gong outing, as here aged 76 he proves to be as uncompromising and non-conformist as ever. From exploratory jazz (‘I See You’, ‘Occupy’) and schizophrenic psychedelia (‘The Eternal Wheel Spins’, ‘When God Shakes Hands With The Devil’) to trippy spoken word (‘This Revolution’) and whimsical pixie silliness (‘Pixielation’). Gong have crafted a unique soundscape which is a spectacular return to form. (DS)

27. Dirt Box Disco – “Bloonz”

Fired up on a diet of wrestling masks, face paint and cheap ‘n’ nasty beer, this was a catchy-as-hell third effort from these Midlands madmen. While powered up Ramones/Buzzcocks indebted thrills were in plentiful supply, elsewhere they conjured up memories of the late ’80s Soho glam scene and bands like the Soho Roses and the Babysitters. The next album’s already being recorded apparently, if it’s anything like as good as this it should be near the top of your things to watch out for next year. (AC)

26. Edguy – “Space Police: Defenders of The Crown”

The best British heavy metal band in the world are German. Accept it. Deal with it. Move along. Fast becoming legends in their own lifetime, Edguy continue their ascent to the pinnacle of rock hierarchy with stylish aplomb. Space Police – Defenders of the Crown is a grin-on-your-face, fist-in-the-air coronation of humour, heavy riffs and rousing choruses. Rock me, Amadeus! (KA)

25. Shear – “Katharsis”

Proving there’s more to female-fronted Finnish metal than Nightwish, Shear’s sophomore album Katharsis knocks one out of the park, makes the run, receives the touchdown pass and shoves it down our throats for good measure. From Last Warning to Turmoil this is non-stop anthemia. A power-house of progressive, melodic metal and vocal dexterity. (KA)

24. Feed the Rhino – “The Sorrow & the Sound”

The third studio album from the Kent based noisesters, The Sorrow & the Sound is a tour de force from start to finish. From the jangling opening riff of New Wave, an apt name, the album does not relent, taking you on a thrill ride from a to b. There are a number of standout tracks, including set sail to treason, and behind the pride, before the album signs off in style with Another Requiem. Lee Tobin’s vocals are on point throughout ranging from ferocious to melodic at a moment’s notice, while James and Sam Colley bring the riffs with precision, backed up by a metronomic rhythm section. A fantastic album from one of the most promising bands on the circuit today. (TM)

23. Brody Dalle – “Diploid Love”

Dalle released her debut solo effort this year after a five-year music making hiatus. The product is something more developed and mature … and more importantly, something more happy. Distillers era Dalle was a woman who battled with addiction and abusive relationships. Solo Dalle in 2014 is more settled, loved (more importantly loving herself) and motherhood. She teams up with Garbage’s Shirley Manson for a wonderful dark, emotionally charged tune that goes rather riot grrrl at the end for “Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy”. “Diploid Love” has wonderfully sharp rock tunes you’d expect but also heavier, complex layer tracks such as “Dressed in Dreams”. If you enjoyed the short lived Spinnerette then Diploid Love should still be enjoyable for you. If you were hoping for another Distillers record, you’d be barking up the wrong tree here. So much more than a punk rock record. (NC)

22. Andy Cairns – “Fuck You Johnny Camo”

Initially available at Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns’ recent solo performances (and subsequently through their webstore), this album is a must for any self respecting fan of the band. Fuck You Johnny Camo features live in the studio acoustic renditions of both Therapy? favourites and previously unheard songs, with random noise experiments and asides from Mr Cairns interspersing the tracks. The Therapy? tracks manage to take on an even more sinister, claustrophobic tone on these solo performances, while the new songs have a melodic, punky feeling reminiscent of Troublegum or High Anxiety. A Therapy? fan’s wet dream. (SB)

21. Servers – “Leave With Us”

Former members of GU Medicine and Disarm joined forces a couple of years ago to form a cult-inspired hard monster. The product of this was Servers. For debut albums, the band is off to the best of starts with their hard rock pedigree showing through each track. “Leave With Us” is a good mix of the slower, heavier tunes mixed with faster and more aggressive anthems. Frontman Lee Storrar takes it to the next level with his gritty, powerful vocals. There is something else extremely special about it, so much so that Undergroove Records actually resurrected themselves to release this album – how often does that happen? Do what the title says – just leave with them now. Join the bandwagon before cult member numbers explode. Standout tracks – “Run With The Foxes”, “Claustrophobia” and “Universes and Supernovas (The Ride)”. (NC)