Tracks Of 2014
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.
Tracks of 2014
I was not expecting to dive straight into The War On Drugs, though Blimey Charlie, how easy is it to let their album drift up track by track until you’re completely smothered? Their particular retro-charm is, of course, more middle of the road than neon lights, and I kinda like it. Written during a prolonged moment of personal heartbreak, “Lost In the Dream” is an album dripping with pathos and lost love, and yet there’s no sense that we’re just being allowed into the celebration of self-pity which can often happen under such trying circs.
This song clocks in at over 7 minutes, managing to take in a bit of Bruce Springsteen, a great swathe of Dire Straits and just a smidge of Fleetwood Mac as it does so. Beautifully crafted without ever feeling anchored a particular mood, I flagged this track up almost immediately as a standout of the year, and so it proved.
<<<< Track 4
>>>> Track 6
A cheat, this one. When I wrote last year’s run-down I didn’t know this track was released. Now it’s being re-released, so in a way, it’s Fate and happenstance, rather than out-and-out cheating. Anyway, Slow Readers Club are criminally underrated and I think they ruddy well deserve highlighting every which way.
It is a little insight into my mind, this, but I like the different elements of the song as much as the whole; the bass chugging along, the lyrics (both in character and melody), the mood of indie sensibilities which remind me that, mercifully, there are bands out there who don’t sound like nampy-pampy boyband nonsense.
If you scoot about Souncloud you can enjoy a fair amount of live sets from them which should attract you to them even further. I will be, hem hem, forever in their debt.
Tracks of 2014
I bloody love a good pop belter and “Heavy Crown” hit me right between the ears when I first heard it back in February. You may recognise the voice of Elliott Williams from Airship, whose staggeringly good “Algebra” drips with the tastiest melodic sweat this side of a late 80s basement rave.
The moment I heard “…even broken hearts can tessellate”, I knew that “Heavy Crown” was the kind of song I needed on repeat. It is packed full of lyrics that will haunt you to the grave because you didn’t think of them first; (“It takes more than bricks to build a home”, there’s another). I would like to point you to the myriad remixes now piling up on Soundcloud and elsewhere as, quite rightly, this tasty slice of pop gets slathered up by all and sundry. If you like things a little more downbeat, can I further point you to the Rae Morris-ish “You Are Everything”, btw.
I knew little about Crosses (….sigh, okay then, †††) before finalising my choices for Tracks of 2014, and who’d’ve thunk it, I quite like what I’ve heard. “Option” (….sigh, no, not “Op†ion”, but, yes, that’s how the title is rendered on the album) seeps along with menace and an undercurrent of heat, all brought up bubbling and smoky in its final section, and I ruddy well love it. The WikiHole down which I fell on researching Crosses was certainly deep: I know now about ‘witch-core’, for one thing, although I suspect there’s a touch of the Nathan Barleys about that actually being not true.
Brooding rock and metal of this kind is just about on the fringes of what I’ll listen to in this ballpark these days. I flirted with all manner of heaviness over the years (and, to my shame, purchased and wore over-sized skater pants in public, for the love of all things holy). Crosses might be just a side project but I’m fully on board, particularly with the chin-stroking emotive tracks like this. I mean, like †his. Sigh.
As the year draws to a close, so we look back at some of the top tunes handpicked by me….. (sorry, came over all Tom Robinson there). I am but a man, so these are the songs which have managed to rise to the top of my memory after the end of a very long twelve months.
They are, of course, released here in no particular order.
1. Katy B, “Crying for No Reason”
2. ††† (Crosses), “Option”
3. Y.O.U, “Heavy Crown”
4. The Watchmakers, “Illumination”
5. Slow Readers Club, “Forever In Your Debt”
6. Drippy Dolphin, “Oooops”
7. Carcharorion, “Hiraeth”
8. Beck, “Blue Moon”
9. Ásgeir, “Going Home”
10. The War On Drugs, “An Ocean In Between The Waves”
11. Espher, “To The Sky”
12. Then Thickens, “Restart Your Heart”
13. Rae Morris, “Skin”
14. Altar Flowers, “We Still Can’t Be Friends”
15. St. Vincent, “Prince Johnny”
16. Neneh Cherry, “Blank Project”
17. Röyksopp and Robyn, “Monument”
18. The Sunshine Underground, “Don’t Stop”
19. DZ Deathrays, “Reflective Skull”
20. Kyla La Grange, “Cut Your Teeth”
21. Real Estate, “Talking Backwards”
22. First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining”
23. Thumpers, “Tame”
24. Royal Blood, “Ten Tonne Skeleton”
Go to Index
Camp is what happens when you give personal fragility a punchline, and whilst that which is “camp” does not always mean that which is “gay”, the two concepts are inexorably linked. Divas (and Disney) know the power of the great big camp ballad precisely because the lyrics of which can be so easily adapted/adopted to represent the struggle for acceptance by LGBT people. Listen to Annie Lennox’s “Why” or Frozen’s big bad coming out anthem…..sorry, I mean Frozen’s female emancipation powerhouse “Let It Go”, two great examples of songs with a centre of camp.
I dare say this has much to do with personal circumstances, of course. Katy B may not have expected “Crying for No Reason” to be interpreted as either camp or gay, but it has a thread of “the cold never bothered me anyway” about it to my ears. I don’t know much about Ms B and her back catalogue, but this is a real whammer of a tune to my ears. Simplistic lyrics strike home a truly heartfelt message, and for all the pop sensibilities, there’s something deeper here which struck me from the start. I ruddy love it when a big, bold pop ballad comes out and shows more than just the knob-twiddling prowess of the producers; this one has true heart and soul, and gave me hope for the year ahead.