Tracks of 2014 — #24 Royal Blood “Ten Tonne Skeleton”

Tracks Of 2014
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Index
>>>Track 1

This sounds like rock and/or roll. In a year when the guitar wielders have been mostly concerned with keeping things low and layered, Royal Blood are the great table-upending, high octane alternative. “Ten Tonne Skeleton” could not give one solitary flippetyjibbert about bursting out of the office radio at a tone and level that would suggest somebody had been altering the dial again, as more often than not, it would be the loudest and brashest part of the running order. And praise be to the heavens for that.

Royal Blood is just a duo, by the way, which makes their output all the more unbelievable. If you’re not up to speed with them, I’d call them for ease of reference “the long term legacy of the White Stripes”, and all deeply covered in a British rock sensibility. I looked down the remaining clump of songs in my end of year longlist, ummed and aahed, chin-stroked and fretted, and then concluded that it was logical enough to end on both a high note and a loud one. This age of softly-softly needs to be kept on its toes, that’s for sure.

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Tracks of 2014 — #23 Thumpers “Tame”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 22
Index
>>>Track 24

 Oh I might end up regretting this. Two entries left this month, and my remaining shortlist of cracking tunes of the past twelve months is tumbling out of my Spotify account, leaking all over my internets. I can’t swipe clean, let alone left or right, without another belter suddenly leaping into my ears. Darn you, arbitrary cut-off points.

“Tame” has been chosen because, ultimately, it’s daft. It’s got all the characteristics of a 2014-vintage indie tune; knowingly vintage, hardly a chorus to speak of, folksy off-mic harmonies. But what’s that running all the way through? Well, contemporary references abound, that’ll be a new take on the tribal chanting from “Little Britain”, that is. No, the song, not the…never mind. Are all Thumpers songs like this? I hope so. This one is nuts, certifiably mad, and I just know it has to push aside the clump of nearly-not-quite-sorry songs I’ve been tossing and turning about recently.

Not to say that “Tame” is a lucky loser. Like so many of the songs of this year, there’s a great respect of pop sensibilities here without losing any cred under the surface. Heck, this is entry level Arcade Fire, this is, with quite a bit of Gruff Rhys’ psychedelia too, and that’s always going to prick up my ears. As t’were.

Tracks of 2014 — #22 First Aid Kit “My Silver Lining”

Tracks Of 2014
<<<Track 21
Index
>>>Track 23

If there’s an equivalent to last year’s list, I’m looking at First Aid Kit as this year’s Haim. The track “My Silver Lining” is a charming track with an undercurrent of bite and attitude, as flowing and ‘Americana’ as something like yesterday’s choice Real Estate. I have quite the personal thing for this kind of multi-layered song, simple on the surface with a lot content running along underneath. With all the dangers of being full of quaint “new country” charm, “My Silver Lining” has a full-on punch which runs through the entire song, picking out influences from far off in its family tree (there’s enough Fleetwood Mac and Dolly Parton to keep Radio 2 happy for years) without ever sounding out-and-out-retro.

Like Haim, First Aid Kit successfully manage to be a band of women without the big neon arrows pointing out how darn tooting feminine they happen to be; there’s no tokenism here, and how refreshing to look back over the past few years at the growing number of all-female bands whose gender is far in the background behind their music. Just the one tiny little teeny-weeny issue………that band name is shyte, no?

Tracks of 2014 — #21 Real Estate “Talking Backwards”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 20 
Index 
>>>Track 22

Softly spoken, day-dream like, and with a cunning loosening of melody, “Talking Backwards” is the great effortless indie track of the year which fits the term “shimmering” so often attached to songs of this kind in years past. Real Estate have been busying themselves for a tidy while without causing too many bleeps on the cultural radar: this year’s Atlas album has changed all that, with this song perhaps being the great stand out push from underground to mainstream attention.

It’s the softly-softly approach I like the most; somewhere tiptoeing around Weezer and REM, very clearly “Atlantic” in its phrasing and character. It is as winter-warming as it is summer tune, light in tone whilst being of significant weight. I’ve had it humming away around my head for months, which can’t be too bad a thing.

Tracks of 2014 — #20 Kyla la Grange “Cut Your Teeth”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 19
Index
>>>Track 21

One attraction for me above most others (song wise; I won’t go into any other eye-catching motif just yet) has to be naturally formed melody. That one line, the one bridge, the killer hook, whatever it turns out to be, it is phrased within a tune that just makes your insides flutter. “Cut Your Teeth” is one of those (and heaven knows its been a running theme throughout the selections this year).

I know little about Kyla La Grange. Her back catalogue certainly seems cut to the melodic bias, but like Mø or Florence without her Machines, there’s a stand-offish attitude I really like. That might be worth mentioning at my next therapy sessions. Anyroad, “Cut Your Teeth” has a pop sensibility whilst swaggering around with a verve part-resentful, part-gloating. It is quite the undiscovered gem; it can’t be long before it’s ”rediscovered”

Tracks of 2014 — #19 DZ Deathrays “Reflective Skull”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 18
Index
>>>Track 20

Flippant, middle-finger flipping, grungy, silly, crotch-grabbing japes. I love it.

“Reflective Skulls” is the Beastie Boys taking “Seven Nation Army” for a swift pint. I don’t know much about the youthful scamps behind DZ Deathrays, but whatever makes up their band, song writing format and future career plans is all fine by me. “Reflective Skull” is bonkers, utterly cuckoo-bananas, and yet it gets to me just as “Seven Nation Army” did all those years ago: killer riff, no-nonsense title spewing, over in under four minutes. It may be that I’ve misinterpreted the attitude here, but the flippant video and Australian nationality does lean towards this whole package being one great rebirth of surf-n-stoner-turfing-out and I can’t help but feel attracted.

Championed as the kind of song to get the party started (or the party ramped up another notch), I just wish it had appeared on a number of end-of-year lists. It seems to have been overlooked. I can’t fathom why. DZ Deathrays may never release anything again; they should be renowned for “Reflective Skull”. *Unless, as the video suggests, they’re proper Australian punk-popsters and give not one solitary fruit-loop……*

Tracks of 2014 — #18 The Sunshine Underground “Don’t Stop”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 17
Index
>>>Track 19

Let’s be very clear here. This is a TUNE (capital T, funny hand gesture) and no mistake (frantic nodding).

I’m at the action end of the 30s these days so my visits to dancefloors have all but dried up. Had I heard “Don’t Stop” more often this year on my jaunts out to the hotspots of Lancashire, I would have found it difficult to leave. It’s just one of those great indie belters, a slab of funky groovy goodness all served up on a proper plate, none of this polished slate nonsense. I know that ‘indie’ is going through yet another of its inner turmoil moments of late, and it’s difficult to turn to even 6Music without being swamped by neatly fashioned types with a couple of chords and a whoah-ho-ho chorus or twelve, so chancing upon something like this little number is all the sweeter.

The Sunshine Underground have been getting on with various shades of peaks and troughs for many a moon. “Don’t Stop” is one of the better examples of their current swagger and I hope it’s going to pay off eventually for them. Hardworking, yes. Recognised for such? No. Harsh.

Tracks of 2014 — #17 Röyksopp and Robyn “Monument”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 16
Index
>>>Track 18

Hold my hand up time. I did not know when (or for that matter, how) Robyn became such an icon amongst the hip, happening and trendy set. Maybe she always has been, and I’m the clueless chump. There could be a whole shelving unit of music I’ve ignored and dismissed, I wouldn’t know. And for that, although I don’t know to whom, I apologise.

“Monument” is quite the introduction, if that’s the right word to use. Not merely dream-like, but ethereal, a quality I recognised from something yonks ago from Björk’s “Headphones” (although, of course, contemporary references are available). The prevailing mood is quite stark, as all Scandi-dance should be, with the pop sensibility I’d expect from the Robyn I assumed was trapped in the charts of my youth. Shows how much I know.

Tracks of 2014 — #16 Neneh Cherry “Blank Project”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 15
Index
>>>Track 17

Unless I miss my guess, music commentators of December 2014 have all but forgotten about Neneh Cherry’s highly praised comeback album from the earliest breaths of the year. Maybe they’ve got short memories. Maybe they didn’t really like the album after all. It does appear that she will be leaving the year somewhat frustrated and deflated: “Blank Project” is no embarrassment and this track is certainly not best left on the shelf forgotten.

An usually structured song, with a great whammer of anger throughout, “Blank Project” is a good reminder about Cherry as a woman who knows her talents and how to build on them. Maybe history has been cruel to her, maligning her as something of a one-hit wonder, when she is anything but. This song has all the energy and spark of a newbie singer attempting to make a splash on the radio, yet bubbles over with a character so bonkers you’d consider crossing the road rather than standing with it under the same bus shelter. I hope somebody somewhere has remembered about this song for their own end of year rundown, because it has all the elements of a cracking little “known unknown”.

Tracks of 2014 — #15 St. Vincent “Prince Johnny”

Tracks of 2014
<<<Track 14
Index
>>>Track 16

Among the scattering of glossy mag fashion shoots is a story of a damn well talented woman who intrigues and delights with every song she releases. I can read all manner of coverage and profiles about Annie Clark (for it is she) and still feel satisfied that there’s so much left to discover. It is no surprise that the top 40 lists of the year from more reputable music commentators than I place St. Vincent at the summit, praising her creativity and playful spirit. I join that praise; in much the same way I am attracted to Björk, so I find St. Vincent intriguing and interesting.

“Prince Johnny” is the great character piece of her recent album. Who is this Johnny, and is the tale of snorting bits from the Berlin Wall artistic apocrypha or much polished anecdote? Is he, as I first thought, a gay man having feelings for St. Vincent herself? Whatever the back-story,and doubtlessly the Internet would tell me were I to ask, the song’s majestic hypnotism is enough to have me swooning quite ungentlemanly-fashion at its feet. It seems harebrained at the very least not to champion such a cracking song.