This week we feature the best albums and live gigs of 2014

THIS is the absolutely best time of the year and equally the most frustrating for GazetteMusic.

There is a massive amount of pleasure to be had in reflecting back on the best releases and live experiences of the year, hearing for the first time records that have somehow slipped through the net, and then realising that you have a limited number of words and space to tell the world about what you loved the most over the course of the past 12 months.

However, here are the best albums and live experiences of the year – a tough choice in 12 months when there was so much good music on offer, with a vast and ever-changing list of equally fantastic releases just bubbling away outside the shortlist.

Ask me again next week, and there might be a completely different list. But, for now…

Kiasmos

A glacier-smooth ride on cloud nine, courtesy of Icelandic BAFTA-winning composer, Olafur Arnalds (responsible for the score to ITV drama, Broadchurch, and parts of the soundtrack to The Hunger Games) and Janus Rasmussen, from the Faroe Islands.

Their minimal, hypnotic music is genuinely a balm for the soul – a comedown classic that ebbs and flows between beats and moments of sublime melody.

Their exploration of the outer limits is hopefully just beginning, and Arnalds has lined up a pair of dates in February at The Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire.

Also keep an eye out for Kiasmos labelmate, Nils Frahm, at the National Concert Hall next year.

Royal Blood

If Kiasmos is a velvet glove, Royal Blood is tough as leather. The two-piece – whose pile-driving drums and how-is-he-doing-that bass playing slayed The Workmans and The Academy earlier this year – delivered a short, sharp shock of a record filled with the catchiest proto-metal tracks since Rage Against The Machine’s debut.

Figure It Out and Little Monster are already festival favourites, and the other eight songs are no slouches, either.

Royal Blood hooked rock fans with 33 minutes for a peerless first foray into the field. Job done. More of the same, please.

Run The Jewels – RTJ 2

If the measure of the record of the year is the one you keep coming back to almost instinctively, then Run The Jewels 2 meets that standard – and then some.

Killer Mike and El-P put out their second free album online and toured extensively behind it; their perfect blend of beats, bluster and bravado connecting on every level.

The production was seamless, the sentiment unarguable, the package complete from start to finish.

RTJ2 was repeat-listening catnip and their show in Dublin last Sunday night was as celebratory as it was incredible.