Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top 20 of 2014


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 2011Top 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.

5. 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


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Top 20 of 2014 - The Longlist


Its that time of year where I start reviewing the new music I've listened to over the past year.

If you're not too familiar with the approach, you can see the 2011 Longlist and 2011 Shortlist posts by clicking the links.  The 2012 Longlist and 2012 Shortlist are also here if you fancy reading, whilst last year's can be found on the 2013 Longlist and 2013 Shortlist links!  Basically anything which has been released since Jan 1st 2014 is eligible.  I've narrowed down about 45 albums and EPs to a Long list of 92 tracks.  I'll then go through and select a Top 20 of 2014.

It's a good way to review the year and find some new music along the way.  Hope you enjoy.


Artist Album Track
Amen Dunes Love Lonely Richard
Amen Dunes Love Splits Are Parted
Amen Dunes Love Sixteen
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA When You Walk In The Room
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Dream a Little Crazy
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Boom (4EVA)
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Born to Convince You
Black Angels Clear Lake Forest Sunday Evening
Black Keys Turn Blue In Time
Black Keys Turn Blue 10 Lovers
Catfish & The Bottlemen The Balcony Homesick
Catfish & The Bottlemen The Balcony Fallout
Cloud Boat Model Of You All On Of My Years
Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain Kick
Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain Zigzagging Toward The Light
Dum Dum Girls Too True Rimbaud Eyes
Dum Dum Girls Too True Are You OK?
Dum Dum Girls Too True  Too True To Be Good
Dum Dum Girls Too True  Trouble Is My Name
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything Charge
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything Fly Boy Blue/Lunette
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything My Sad Captains
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Closing Time
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Quiet Love
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Birth of a Nation
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Daughter
Ex Hex Rips How You Got That Girl
Ex Hex Rips Hot and Cold
Ex Hex Rips New Kid
First Aid Kit Stay Gold My Silver Lining
First Aid Kit Stay Gold Master Pretender
First Aid Kit Stay Gold Waitress Song
Glass Animals Zaba Gooey
Happyness Weird Little Birthday Pumpkin Noir
High Hazels High Hazels Valencia
High Hazels High Hazels Banging On My Door
High Hazels High Hazels Night Song
High Hazels High Hazels Hanging Moon
Hospitality Trouble Nightingale
Hospitality Trouble Going Out
Hospitality Trouble I Miss Your Bones
Hospitality Trouble It's Not Serious
Jack White Lazaretto Three Women
Jack White Lazaretto Lazaretto
Jack White Lazaretto Bat Black Liquorice
Jack White Lazaretto Alone In My Home
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Limits Lie
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Don't You Find
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Zombie
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge The Prophet
Jungle Jungle Accelerate
Jungle Jungle Busy Earnin'
Jungle Jungle Julia
Kate Tempest Everybody Down Marshall Law
Kate Tempest Everybody Down Lonely Daze
Kylie Kiss Me Once Into The Blue
Kylie Kiss Me Once Million Miles
Kylie Kiss Me Once Feels So Good
La Roux Trouble in Paradise Kiss And Not Tell
La Roux Trouble in Paradise Sexotheque
Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cruel World
Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Fucked My Way Up To The Top
Little Dragon Nabuma Rubberband Mirror
Little Dragon Nabuma Rubberband Pretty Girls
Mac DeMarco Salad Days Salad Days
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar The Day I Come Alive
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar Suzanna
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar Nature's Child
Slow Club Complete Surrender Tears Of Joy
Slow Club Complete Surrender Suffering You Suffering Me
Slow Club Complete Surrender Not Mine To Love
Slow Club Complete Surrender Complete Surrender
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Big Toe
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Going Gets Tough
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Love Test
The Horrors Luminous Chasing Shadows
The Horrors Luminous First Day of Spring
The Horrors Luminous So Now You Know
The Orwells Disgraceland Southern Comfort
The Orwells Disgraceland The Righteous One
The Orwells Disgraceland Bathroom Tile Blues
The Orwells Disgraceland Let It Burn
The Proper Ornaments Wooden Head Gone
The Proper Ornaments Wooden Head Sun
The War on Drugs Lost In The Dream Red Eyes
Tinashe Aquarius Pretend
Tinashe Aquarius All Hands On Deck
Tinashe Aquarius Far Side of the Moon
TVOTR Seeds Careful you
TVOTR Seeds Could You
We have band Movements Someone
We have band Movements Please