Sunday, 7 December 2014

Tracks of the Year 2014

It's always a struggle to pick my favourite tracks at the end of the year. What criteria should I use - tracks from my favourite albums? Songs that remind me of good times. This year I've kept it nice and simple - you could subtitle this list as "Songs that I have to turn up when I hear them on the radio". It's as easy as that. Consequently it's quite a mixed bag in terms of styles and genres, but they're all tracks that have had me reaching for the volume button this year. I've sorted the top 10 in order, and give you the next 20 randomly just so you've got some stuff to go and seek out.

1. Caribou - 'Can't Do Without You (Extended Mix)'. When the original version of this song came out there was one single thing wrong with it; it felt a few minutes too short. Three weeks later this version appeared and it was perfect. This is the track that's had me reaching for the rewind button most often this year.

2. Flying Lotus - 'Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)'. Pretty much encapsulates FlyLo's magnum opus album 'You're Dead' in 4 minutes - jazzy piano, frantic bass from Thundercat, and spot-on flow from Mr Lamar. 

3. Kendrick Lamar - 'i'. While we're talking about Kendrick, here's his comeback single which points to the fact that his next album will be immense. One of those classic hip-hop uses of a sample - The Isley Brothers song is exactly the right track used in exactly the right way

4. Jack White - 'Lazaretto'. Almost the perfect Jack White song - a great fuzzed-up riff, a brilliant solo, a change of pace, even the violin gets a chance to let rip. A classic that he'll be playing for years to come.

5. Jenny Lewis - 'She's Not Me'. Really I've got no idea why I love this song so much, it's not normally my sort of thing. I've come to the conclusion that everything in it is just done so well I can't help but love it. Great production, great lyrics, a great hook, a catchy, sing-able chorus and proper old-school guitar solos in the middle and at the end.

6. Johnny Marr - 'Easy Money'. The most effortlessly simple and effective indie pop song you'll hear all year. More reminiscent of Marr's stuff with Electronic than The Smiths with a melody that most professional songwriters would kill for.

7. Little Dragon - 'Klapp Klapp'. Another catchy and upbeat tune, and one that moved the Swedisg band up a league or two in 2014. Totally infectious.

8. Maxïmo Park - 'Leave This Island'. A change in style for Paul Smith & the boys (which sadly wasn't repeated on the rest of the album), I love the moody electronic feel to this, which goes well with the dark lyrics.

9. Jessie Ware - 'Tough Love'. I'm pretty sure my love of this track is entirely due to the fact that it reminds me of 'Raspberry Beret' by Prince every time I hear it. But I don't care, it's a great song.

10. Hot Chip vs William Onyeabor - 'Atomic Bomb'. My favourite track from my second-favourite purchase on Record Store Day this year (the LCD Soundsystem boxset wins of course). This is a brilliant reinterpretation of the song, with a gentle reggae bassline and a hypnotic groove.

The next 20 are in no particular order, but I guarantee you that they're all worth a listen.

Röyksopp - 'Skulls'. Their new album is like a cross between Justice and Jean-Michel Jarre (which is obviously a good thing).

Hudson Mohawke - 'Chimes'. You know, the one off the Apple Macbook advert.

Daedelus - 'Onward'. A hauntingly moving track, from his album about the 1853-56 Crimean War (!).

Francis Lung - 'A Selfish Man'. A brilliant warts and all account of leaving his former band Wu Lyf.

Warpaint - 'Love Is To Die'. Featuring the most surprising key change this year, it really catches you off-guard (in a good way).

Hamilton Leithauser - '11 O'Clock Friday Night'. Great production, and I love the way it builds over the percussive backing.

The Wytches - 'Wire Frame Mattress'. A brilliantly disturbed slice of garage-psyche-rock.

Metronomy - 'Love Letters (Soulwax Remix)'. Great track, even better remix which, with the way the girls' vocals are brought to the fore, reminds me of the Human League.

Jane Weaver - 'Argent'. From her excellent album 'The Silver Globe', here the Liverpudlian lass makes French-sounding Krautrock!

Elbow - 'Fly Boy Blue / Lunette'. A great return to form from Elbow, the 'Lunette' part of this track features some of Guy Garvey's best ever lyrics.

The War on Drugs - 'Red Eyes'. Classic mature guitar-rock that sounds more than a bit like Bryan Adams.

Jungle - Busy Earnin'. In a year which featured an over-abundance of white-boy soul, this track stood out for me above the rest.

Sylvan Esso - 'Hey Mami'. Like one of those old-fashioned round songs they used to make you sing in the school choir, updated for the 21st century.

Mogwai - 'Remurdered'. Proper pounding  classic Mogwai.

St. Vincent - 'Digital Witness'. Working with David Byrne has clearly had an effect on Annie Clarke, and this track kick-started her startling re-birth.

New Build - 'The Sunlight'. Evokes the spirit of every great Balearic blissed-out moment.

Redinho - 'Playing With Fire'. Sleazy electro-funk with Zapp-style vocals.

Wild Beasts - 'Wanderlust'. "Don't confuse me with someone who gives a fuck." Perfect.

Young Fathers - 'LOW'. One of the best tracks from one of the best albums of the year.
Son Lux - 'Easy (Switch Screens)(feat. Lorde). One of my favourite tracks from last year gets a re-boot with one of the ladies of the year.

When I get the chance I'll do a podcast of them all in an order that makes sense for listening and post it on Mixcloud and here (and maybe even give it away if I don't get caught). Enjoy!

PS Just so you know, I very nearly put 'Shake It Out' by Taylor Swift and 'I'm Not The Only One' by Sam Smith in this list...

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