As we come to the end of the year, I thought it only right to put together a ‘best of’ for my Tracks Of The Week – a ‘Tracks Of The Year’, if you will. 2014 has been a pretty exciting year for music – I’ve fallen in love with a number of songs, for a number of different reasons. An eclectic range of music has caught my attention, from impassioned blasts of rage against the state of society to spellbinding tales of beauty. So, here are my top ten tracks of the year…
10. Lizzo – ‘Faded’
Houston-bred, Minneapolis-based, Lizzo, is one of the most innovative, creative hip-hop artists in the world today. With her seamless delivery, Lizzo has an inspired talent for word-play and an ability to insightfully comment on society in an informed – yet witty – way, whilst oozing a unique charisma that it is impossible not to fall in love with.
Whilst my admiration and slight addiction to all things Lizzo marks a step away from my usual penchant for all things guitar-based, her remarkable song-writing talent, alluring feistiness and willingness to challenge stereotypes and societal norms have left me completely captivated.
Whereas her infamous debut, ‘Batches And Cookies’, saw us introduced to her fun side, showcasing her ability for wordplay and wit, ‘Faded’ is a much more poetic offering, displaying Lizzo’s ability to effectively fuse together upbeat rap with bursts of her smooth, soulful vocals. With typically poignant lyrics, ‘Faded’ is an empowering message of strength; enlightened and insightful, whilst retaining all of the catchiness and charisma of ‘Batches and Cookies’.
Sensationally oozing with talent, sizzling soul and exuding a plethora of styles and an eclectic range of influences, Lizzo is one in a million, the sheer beauty and aptitude of whom should not be ignored. Just listen to ‘Faded’ and you’ll fall in love like I have.
9. Laura Doggett – ‘Phoenix’
It’s been a pretty exciting year for Laura Doggett; having signed a deal with RCA and featured as Radio 1’s BBC Introducing artist, she’s received generous airplay and praise a plenty from those in the know, performed on ‘Later… With Jools Holland’ and supported John Newman on tour.
Oozing an ethereal beauty and majestic sparkle, Laura Doggett’s ‘Phoenix’ is a wonderfully enchanting creation. Produced by the highly esteemed SOHN, it’s filled with Doggett’s sultry, quivering vocals, stirring melodies and an emotion-strewn crescendo that leads to the powerful refrain “Phoenix gonna rise from the ashes again”. With a dark beauty and subtle hypnotic power, ‘Phoenix’ proves just what Laura Doggett is capable of.
8. SLUG – ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped In Plastic’
Despite the rather disturbing image conjured by the title ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped In Plastic’, this single from Slug is one of the best things I’ve heard on the radio all year. Slug are a new band fronted by Field Music’s bassist, Ian Black, and couldn’t really be more of a contrast to the band’s other side projects… (Peter Brewis’ orchestral venture with Paul Smith).
‘CRWIP’ is a fantastic blast of experimental rock, with shades of the thrashing pulses of QOTSA, but with an entirely unique edge. As pummelling beats race alongside Black’s speeding falsetto and discordant riffs ripple with gusto, this is a heartily eccentric track that leaves you wanting more.
Keep your ears peeled for an album from Slug in the near future…
7. Pins – ‘Waiting For The End’
Having wowed crowds at SXSW, Manchester quartet, Pins’ debut single hit our earwaves like a refreshing blast of fresh air. ‘Waiting For The End’ exudes vibrancy, a post-punk buzz and is filled with upbeat, catchy lyrics that are impossible not to sing along to (helped by the fact that they are on screen in the karaoke-themed vid…)
Exuding raucous, retro rock, with hints of Elastica and all the delivery of Siouxsie, ‘Waiting For The End’ offers a perfect balance of musical skill with a whole lot of fun. You certainly won’t be ‘waiting for the end’ of this song; in fact, it will leave you wanting more of its infectious joy and exuberant absolution.
6. The Lake Poets – ‘Honest Hearts’
Raised in Sunderland, and with influences ranging from Tom Waits to Feist, Martin Longstaff has been writing lyrics since childhood, and now – still at a pretty tender age – succeeds in creating some of the most captivatingly beautiful, moving songs I’ve heard in a long time. ‘Honest Hearts’ fits this description perfectly, with Longstaff’s genuinely heartfelt lyrics, pristine folky melodies and his alluringly smooth, dulcet tones.
With subject matter ranging from annoying friends to heart-breakingly emotive tales of loss, The Lake Poets will tug at the heart strings in all the right ways and compellingly draw you into a world of beauty and sadness that you won’t want to leave. Although Longstaff sings that “You can take my body, but you will never get my soul”, I think my soul may have just been completely won over by ‘Honest Hearts’.
5. Honeyblood – ‘Killer Bangs’
Scottish duo Honeyblood have certainly been making waves with their catchy, raucous, garage-rock this year. They’ve toured with Superfood and Catfish And The Bottlemen, and have been a firm favourite on Steve Lamacq’s 6music show.
‘Killer Bangs’ contains all the bitter-sweetness that you’d expect from a band with such an oxymoronic name. With twinkly, sugary-pop melodies fused together with Best Coast-esque garage-rock, catchy hooks and pummelling beats, ‘Killer Bangs’ is an energy-fuelled summer anthem: the perfect accompaniment to sunny days on the common…
4. Malibu Shark Attack – ‘Better Off As Friends’
Responsible for one of the most exciting gigs I’ve ever been to, despite the dishearteningly small crowd, Malibu Shark Attack released their incredible debut album this year, and I’ve had it on repeat ever since.
“Man, I hate it when my favourite band goes on an indefinite hiatus…”
Just one of the many self references to fill ‘Better Off As Friends’, it would seem that producer Rocky O’Reilly and rapper Tribe One have hit the nail on the head with this one. This latest creation to come from the Trans-Atlantic Indie-Rap duo sees satirical self-referential allusions a plenty, and Tribe One rapping about the dissolution of the band’s previous musical efforts. With multiple insinuations to O’Reilly’s previous project – “What happened to Oppenheimer? I liked their old stuff better…”, this track gives a whole new meaning to ‘post-new wave-prog-electronic-indiecore-synthpop’, and I like it. As Tribe One’s raps are strewn alongside anthemic, melodic indie interludes and O’Reilly’s trademark electro-pop production, MSA appear to have skilfully fused together a range of genres with style and humour.
Despite ‘Better Off As Friends’ apparently not being ‘real hip hop’ (as Tribe One informs us), I find myself compelled to listen to it over and over (as Steve LaMacq did too – it being the only song I’ve ever heard him play twice in a row). The song’s cheery witticisms, uptempo beat, lyrical satire and general catchiness prove infectious, and reflect a pair who clearly aren’t taking themselves too seriously, and yet are capable of creating something pretty wonderful.
3. Radkey – ‘Feed My Brain’
I’m aware Radkey were probably included in my Tracks Of The Year last year too… But hey, I’m a broken record and proud. These Missouri brothers keep consistently creating extraordinary, exhilarating blasts of punk-rock that I can’t help but love.
Following the release of two EPs last year, ‘Feed My Brain’ retains all the pulsating beats, seething vocals, blistering riffs and enthused teenage vigour of previous tracks but with a slower, more reflective tempo and dark undertones. Skillfully amalgamating fist-clenching potency and climatic thrills with strong melodies and thoughtful musicality, ‘Feed My Brain’ is yet another, buzz-filled breath of fresh air to come from these inspired youths. They’ve done it again.
Apparently Radkey’s aim is to “start a wave of something… something f***ing huge”, and rightly so: I am in no doubt that they are capable of doing just that.
2. Sleaford Mods – ‘Tied Up In Nottz’
Currently taking on the world with their crude, succinct poetry and lyrically astute comments on the disillusioned state of society, Sleaford Mods are a force that should not have passed you by in 2014.
‘Tied Up In Nottz’, the lead single taken from the band’s seventh album –Divide and Exit – offers ironic criticisms and bold statements, accompanied by bass-heavy electro beats. Jason Williamson eloquently depicts the bleak state of society with more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, but mostly just genuine, exasperated, cathartic rage.
What Sleaford Mods offer is not only relevant – filled with spot on intent, wit-filled social commentary and throbbing beats – it’s necessary. They deliver a vital outburst of poetic, indignant passion – something most artists are too cowardly to express – at a time when we need it the most.
1. Alvvays – ‘Archie, Marry Me’
A sparkling, reverb-infused taste of summer, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ is filled with wonderfully sugary harmonies and a spritely surf-rock vibe that would make Best Coast proud. Skilfully juxtaposing this carefree summery feel, that exudes effortlessly from the track, with lyrics strewn with angsty teenage awkwardness, Alvvays have succeeded in creating something perfectly charming that will prove impossible to rid from your head.
Oozing endearing naive romanticism, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ has the effect of transporting you to the Californian sun – the rays beating down, sunny-gs on, surfboard under arm – despite having been written by a group of Canadians. Whatever the band’s geographic location, however, one thing’s for sure – Alvvays should be essential listening for all.
What’s been your favourite track of 2014? Let us know at @Gigslutz_ !