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Ten From 2014 #4: Rock

Friday, 12 December 2014 Written by Simon Ramsay

Picking the best rock albums of 2014 has been about as easy as threading a zeppelin through the eye of a particularly small needle.

The contenders are numerous, with the last 12 months having played host to stellar retro-rock debuts by Blues Pills, Black State Highway and Blackwolf, superlative AOR from Night By Night, Brother Firetribe and Free Spirit, and down-home southern rock excellence courtesy of Black Stone Cherry and Whiskey Myers.  

California Breed, the Quireboys, Night Ranger and Uriah Heep fired killer shots for the old guard and Joanne Shaw Taylor, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Benjamin Booker made it another outstanding annum for blues-rock. Oh, and there were new ones from Foo Fighters, Tom Petty...

Anyway, you get the picture. These choices represent the many faces of that landscape and are albums that pay tribute to rock's rich heritage while packing the original character, songwriting skills and musical chops to make an indelible mark in the here and now. More importantly, they sound fucking great when played loud.

1.  Slash feat. Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators - World on Fire

This ambitious 17 track monster is one of the most impressive, consistent and thrillingly diverse hard rock records for donkey's years. The band have evolved into a phenomenally tight unit, with Kennedy’s vocals and hooks potent and Slash playing like the living, breathing embodiment of middle finger-flicking, badass rock ‘n 'roll. A reminder of just how special this music is when executed with utter passion and conviction.

2.  Manic Street Preachers - Futurology

This is one hell of an artistic statement, as indie-rock, electronica, Krautrock, punk rock, power pop and ornate balladry underscore a love letter to European culture via painters, philosophers and an expressionist art movement. It’s challenging, captivating, thought-provoking and wonderfully pretentious. Proof, if any were still needed, that the Manics are the greatest British band of their generation.

Listen: Walk Me To The Bridge

3.  Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

The Boss’s post-millennial Indian summer continued with 'High Hopes', a collection of out-takes from previous recording sessions whose variety, unity and quality belied their leftover tag. Aided by the E-Street Band and Tom Morello, these songs play out like an invigorating road trip through the social and musical touchstones that have informed Springsteen's whole career.

Listen: Just Like Fire Would

4.  Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie

The finest rock ‘n' roll band of the modern age delivered a fourth LP that took their bastardised blend of Led Zeppelin and the Doors and whipped up an epic, texturally sprawling cinematic tour de force. Hard-hitting fuzzed up bangers, terrifying devil blues, sense-tingling tales and primal rock ‘n' roll.  All here, all intoxicating.

Listen: Open My Eyes

5.  Lionize - Jetpack Soundtrack

Behold Lionize’s bestial mixture of funk, reggae, jazz and massive rock riffage. Dance to its organ-soaked grooves. Sing along to its left-field hooks. And rejoice in its geeky sci-fi lyrics that depict our dystopian future while referencing Star Wars, X-Men and The Terminator. Hell, why wouldn't this be on the list?

Listen: Reality Check

6.  Sixx Am - Modern Vintage

Winner of most apt album title of the year here as Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx and co. packed album number three with upbeat positivity, searing solos, riff-fuelled grooves and a little glam sparkle from the icons of yesteryear. They then threw the mix into a snotty blender with big fat contemporary hooks and timeless pop sensibilities.

Listen: Stars

7. H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls

In what's been a storming year for melodic hard rock, this high octane treat is the cream of the crop. With sizzling riffs, contagious choruses and the roof-shaking vocal wallop of Erik Grönwall, its fusion of old school AOR with ball-breaking swagger will see H.E.A.T become superstars once the world catches on.

Listen: A Shot At Redemption

8.  AC/DC - Rock or Bust

Despite the difficult circumstances that attended its recording, this is good time rock ‘n' roll of the highest calibre and an all killer, no filler microcosm of everything AC/DC have excelled at for 40 years. You want snake-hipped devil riffs? You want boot-banging rhythmic clobber? You want hearty gang chant choruses to punch the air to? You got it.

Listen: Rock or Bust

9. Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright In The End

After years of self parody and ill advised attempts to broaden Weezer’s audience, Rivers Cuomo finally remembered what made them such an idiosyncratic, counter-cool delight. Sounding like a long lost relative of the Blue and Green albums, its blend of grunge riffs, Beach Boys melodies and honest, introspective and cheekily self-deprecating lyrics made this a long overdue return to form.

Listen: The British Are Coming

10. Work of Art - Framework

Taking the prize for the finest old school AOR album of the year is this exceptional effort from the Toto-loving Swedes. Without a single duff moment on the record, they hit all the familiar structural points in super-smooth style, while fleshing the tunes out with expansive instrumental passages and the glorious vocals of Lars Safsund.

Listen: The Machine

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