I've given up on writing a new intro for this - it's going to be the same every year so we should all make our peace with it now.
Below is my Top 20 of 2014 but a few words before you continue...
You won't agree with me. Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of. Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices. Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off. And that's fine. My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be. This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that. But before you grumble to yourself or tell me I'm an idiot, try and do this yourself.
The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included. Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist. I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred. So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one. This is only to add variety. You can find the Top 20 of 2011, Top 20 of 2012 and Top 20 of 2013 by following the links.
The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album). They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good playlist. I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroooOwl and tag your posts #top20of2014
1. Southern Comfort - The Orwells (Disgraceland) This is quite simply guitars and drawling lyrics and superbness. In my opinion, the album has some absolute belters like this (and Bathroom Tile Blues) and this is a great way to kick off this year's list.
2. My Silver Lining - First Aid Kit (Stay Gold) First Aid Kit are probably top of my list of bands to see live. I'm yet to see them perform much to my own disappointment. I love their country twang and this song is quintessential FAK for me.
3. When You Walk In The Room - Architecture in Helsinki (NOW +4EVA) Another band I'm determined to see live at some point in the future. This is proper pop gold and jumps out from an excellent album. Their previous albums are all a little different so well worth checking out too.
4. Love Test - The Growlers (Chinese Fountain) The Growlers' album has a very 50s feel to it which is hard to describe until you listen to it. It's almost as if you'd expect to hear Buddy Holly vocals over the top of it. I came across this pretty late this year but it's an instant favourite and this track particularly is excellent.
Banging On My Door - High Hazels (High Hazels) There's a couple of albums where picking a favourite is almost a coin toss and this is one of those. The opening track has a hint of Vampire Weekend about it, whilst others are reminiscent of Alex Turner solo work. Banging On My Door just edged it in the end but you should get the album - I can't do it justice here.
6. It's Not Serious - Hospitality (Trouble) This just flows from the start and has a chorus that you'll be humming to yourself for hours afterwards. It's the stand out track on the album for me but quite some way,
7. Pretty Girls - Little Dragon (Nabuma Rubberband) I've been in love with Little Dragon for years since hearing "Ritual Union" (hunt it down and listen to it!) and whilst this isn't quite up to that impossibly high standard, it is very good.
8. Quiet Love - Erland And The Carnival (Closing Time) Another album where you could stick a pin in the track list and pick a winner. I was tempted to include "Daughter" because I personally find it very moving but on balance I think this is my favourite track from an exceptional album.
9. My Sad Captains - Elbow (The Taking Off And Landing Of Everything) Guy Garvey is criminally under-rated in my opinion. His ability to write such fantastic songs goes over-looked by most people and really that ought to change. I was lucky enough to see Elbow this year and they didn't disappoint. This is simply fantastic.
10. Are You OK? - Dum Dum Girls (Too True) If you're after a throwback to some cool 80s girl group sound then stop everything and listen to this. If I didn't know better, I'd swear it was a Bananarama track and think what you like but there's nothing wrong with that at all.
11. Gooey - Glass Animals (Zaba) Slowing things down a bit with is Glass Animals. It's a peculiar but good album and this really stands out for me. It's difficult to explain so it probably makes more sense if you just have a listen - I think you'll enjoy it.
12. Pretend - Tinashe (Aquarius) I had Tinashe described to me as "a bit like Aaliyah" which is really all you should need to know if we're being honest. The album doesn't disappoint and whilst I think this suffers slightly for the inclusion of A$AP Rocky I can overlook it given how much I like the song overall.
13. How You Got That Girl - Ex Hex (Rips) You could almost describe Ex Hex as Dum Dum Girls with attitude. The guitars are excellent and this is one you'll be nodding along to. My daughter loves the chorus and I think it's a bit of late 90s throwback which you can't help but like.
14. Pumpkin Noir - Happyness (Weird Little Birthday) Slow, soft and subtle. There's just something about this that makes you feel like you're sitting in an Ohio field on a summer's day. It has a very familiar quality that I can't pin down but I absolutely love it.
15. Zombie - Jamie T (Carry On The Grudge) The album that'd I'd been most eagerly waiting for in 2014 didn't disappoint. As with most music, Jamie T isn't necessarily for everyone (which is fine) but I really love the images his music conjures up. I defy anyone to listen to "Zombie" and not be tapping along by the start of the second chorus.
16. Alone In My Home - Jack White (Lazaretto) An odd love/hate relationship with Jack White this year for me. The album is great and this track is exceptional. My live experience was a disaster but I'm not holding that against him (I'm sure he's relieved to hear that...). Jack White does a lot and does it all very well - this is no different.
17. Sexotheque - La Roux (Trouble In Paradise) I'm glad La Roux is back this year. It's been five long years since her self titled debut with it's myriad catchy hits and I'm glad there's a second record. Where 'Trouble In Paradise' is catchy, it's very catchy and "Sexotheque" is one such place - enjoy!
18. Lonely Daze - Kate Tempest (Everybody Down) I'm fairly sure there's nothing I can say about Kate Tempest that hasn't already been said a lot better by other people a million times before. It's hard to pick out a track from an album that tells one story across all the tracks but this is a wonderful snapshot.
19. Suffering You Suffering Me - Slow Club (Complete Surrender) Slow Club go from strength to strength with every record and I'm immensely happy to already have tickets to see their home-town gig in Sheffield next year. I adore Rebecca Taylor's voice and it's at its best on this song. Another album where choosing a favourite is damn near impossible.
20. Red Eyes - The War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream) I'll admit I was a little surprised to see 'Lost In The Dream' at the top of so many 2014 album lists. It was one of those I don't remember how I found but I've definitely enjoyed listening to it. "Red Eyes" is the stand out one for me and a great way to close the 2014 list.
As with last year, there's some music I've been disappointed in, some other good albums that didn't make the cut and others that I'm ashamed to say I've not even managed to buy yet! The Royal Blood album didn't do it for me (which is sure to make me unpopular in a lot of circles). I saw them support Arctic Monkeys and gave them the benefit of the doubt but it's just not for me I'm afraid. Amen Dunes and their Love album just missed out as did Catfish & The Bottlemen and (surprisingly) Kylie. For those who would point me in the direction of Sharon Van Etten, St Vincent or Future Islands, in some ways I'm way ahead of you, but in others, I'm obviously way behind. My apologies.
The "award" for my Album of the Year this year is a no-brainer. Everybody Down is absolutely without doubt one of the best things I've listened to in the last 5 years (and that's saying something). Kate Tempest is supremely talented and has already achieved so much without so many of us even realising it. Listen to her album, buy her poetry and just be overawed.
The 2014 Live Performance Of The Year is also reserved for Kate Tempest. When you've listened to the album (which again, I insist you do), try and imagine what it would be like hearing it performed live. Ahead of the show I couldn't quite see how it would work and not lose the essence that makes the music so good. Watching her walk out to a HUGE amount of music and then kick of "Marshall Law" acapella to a hushed room was probably my favourite music moment of the year.
If you made it this far, then thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll find something new you've not heard before. We'll do it again this time next year eh?
Happy New Year