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Friday, 1 January 2016

Top 50 Songs of 2015

I struggle to say a lot about the music of the last 12 months. 2015 was another year where nothing much of anything really happened. I really like all of the below songs, in varying degrees and for different reasons. Some are singles from albums of 2014, but as far as I'm aware all were at least released in some form in 2015. There's a near complete Spotify playlist (missing Alvvays, Kitty and Taylor Swift) at the bottom for anyone interested.

50) Alvvays – Underneath Us
49) Beach Slang – Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas
48) The Go! Team – Reason Left To Destroy
47) Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
46) Protomartyr – The Devil In His Youth
45) Caitlin Rose – Been Thinking About You All The Time
44) Algiers – Irony. Utility. Pretext.
43) Joanna Gruesome – There Is No Function Stacy
42) Doctrines – Second City
41) Field Music – The Noisy Days Are Over
40) Lonelady – Bunkerpop
39) The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It
38) Chorusgirl – No Moon
37) The Vaccines – 20/20
36) Hop Along – Sister Cities
35) Summer Camp – Bad Love
34) Waxahatchee – Under A Rock
33) Colleen Green – Pay Attention
32) The Cribs – Summer Of Chances
31) The Lovely Eggs – Magic Onion
30) Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home
29) British Sea Power – Atom (Sea Of Brass Version)
28) Blur – Thought I Was a Spaceman
27) Menace Beach – Tastes Like Medicine
26) Low – What Part Of Me
25) Desperate Journalist – Control
24) Wolf Alice – Bros
23) Gaz Coombes – Detroit
22) Ash – Dispatch
21) CHVRCHES – Empty Threat
20) Daphne & Celeste – You & I Alone
19) Mitski – Townie
18) Stealing Sheep – Not Real
17) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
16) Ryan Adams – Welcome To New York
15) Richard Hawley – I Still Want You
14) Ezra Furman – Can I Sleep In Your Brain?
13) Everything Everything – Distant Past
12) FFS – Piss Off
11) Tellison – Boy
10) Paul Smith & The Intimations – The Deep End
09) Pesky! - Keep Me
08) Kitty – Drink Tickets
07) The Decemberists – Make You Better
06) Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
05) Taylor Swift – Style
04) Grimes – Flesh Without Blood
03) Public Service Broadcasting – Gagarin
02) Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
01) The Darkness – Open Fire



Monday, 21 December 2015

Albums Of The Year 2015

It seems weird to be posting a non-Star Wars related piece of content at the moment, but here we are -  another year and another list of albums. More so than ever before it's been difficult to narrow this down to a mere 20. As such really good albums from Wolf Alice and Sleater-Kinney are missing. Maybe you could think of them as #21 and #22.

As always I make no attempt at objectivity here. This is simply where I try to make sense of the music that I've enjoyed the most in the last 12 months presented as a list. Because I like lists. It's how my brain works.

20. The Darkness - Last Of Our Kind
The opening pair of tracks on Last Of Our Kind, 'Barbarian' and 'Open Fire', are easily the best that The Darkness have recorded since their seminal début, Permission To Land. Had the rest of the album maintained this standard then we would, no question, be looking at the album of the year. Unfortunately despite containing some of their bravest and most varied material yet Last Of Our Kind fails to live up to the brilliance of its initial salvo.

19. Desperate Journalist - Desperate Journalist
Desperate Journalist pack a lot into the 38 minute running time of their début album, not least an edge and sense of excitement that has been largely missing from British indie rock since it lost itself to landfill. One may suspect that the best is yet to come from this band, but for now we can rejoice in razor sharp tunes like 'Cristina', 'Hesitate' and 'Control'.

18. Colleen Green - I Want To Grow Up
I kinda just want to write “Feels” to describe this album and leave it at that. But in order to give those unfamiliar more of an idea what to expect I'll instead say that it contains power-pop brilliance ('Pay Attention') and the best and bleakest examples of DIY bedroom pop that I've encountered in some time ('Deeper Than Love'). Essential for anyone struggling to be an adult.

17. FFS – FFS
Franz Ferdinand have always managed to keep their sound fresh, but in teaming up with Sparks they've managed to make an album that's like a début all over again. Granted, some moments sound more like one of the two bands than the other, but when they're both going at full-pelt on tracks such as 'Piss Off' they're an unbeatable combination of art rock and glam pop. Refreshing and as idiosyncratic as you'd hope from that acronym.

16. Tellison - Hope Fading Nightly
Tellison finally made a welcome return this year, following up The Wages Of Fear with their first album for Alcopop! Records. Whilst it's perhaps not as consistent as it's predecessor Hope Fading Nightly contains some of the best and most emotive rock songs of the year with 'Boy' and 'Tact Is Dead'. Let's just hope that we don't have to wait another four years for the next album.

15. Menace Beach – Ratworld
Leeds 'super-group' Menace Beach finally unleashed their début album this year after a couple of years of singles and EPs. Thankfully it more than lives up to the expectation with tunes and noise aplenty. Comparisons have been drawn to a range of bands, but Menace Beach only really sound like themselves. Since Ratworld they've already released another EP, so hopefully we won't have long to wait for even more.

14. Hop Along - Painted Shut
Thanks in part to Frances Quininlan's voice Hop Along are a hard band to pigeon-hole (see their Wikipedia page where someone has come up with 'grunge folk'), so it's a good job that I rarely try. What's really important however is that there's not a bad track on Painted Shut, which at forty minutes long, flies by, and with closing number 'Sister Cities', saves the best for last.

13. Grimes - Art Angels
Perhaps a somewhat low placing considering Art Angels critical supremacy but after only a couple of weeks living with this record I can't help but feel that not all of it works. That said, when everything does come together (on tracks such as 'Flesh Without Blood', 'Kill Vs Main' and 'Venus Fly') Grimes can lay claim to have recorded some of the most compelling pop music of the last few years.

12. The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
There's something delightfully old fashioned about the seventh album from Portland's finest. Where many artists have been more sonically exploitative or playful with new technology The Decemberists have focused on good old songwriting with strong melodies and exquisite vocal harmonies. 'Make You Better' is the greatest example of this, but the whole album is a refreshing treat.

11. Paul Smith & The Intimations – Contradictions
Contradictions is without a doubt the strongest and most consistent album that the Maxïmo Park frontman has released in quite some time. Looser sounding than the records he puts out on the day job it feels as though Smith is perhaps being more true to his music tastes. With nods towards Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera there's more than one instance of pop perfection.

10. Gaz Coombes – Matador
Matador has gained the former Supergrass singer his biggest critical hit since the early days of his former band and it's easy to see why. His best album since Road To Rouen (perhaps longer) it's combination of digital and acoustic instrumentation delivers all that last year's boring Damon Albarn record failed to. Complex, interesting and emotive it's a record that rewards multiple close listens.

09. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye
The Bones Of What You Believe is probably the greatest début album of the decade so far, so there's no shame on CHVRCHES in failing to match it. Every Open Eye comes close enough however with even the deluxe edition failing to include a duff track. Solid and consistent, it especially glows on 'Make Them Gold', but it's only really 'Empty Threat' that has the edge that their début had.

08. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Artists as singularly talented as Courtney Barnett are few and far between. Perhaps they come along once in a generation. Even if that's the case then this generation is lucky to have Courtney. It's her particularly brilliant lyrics that gain her the most attention, but on Sometimes I Sit And Think... her guitar playing easily matches them. Favourite track? Well it's hard to pick just one, isn't it?

07. Blur - The Magic Whip
It was a long road to get here, but well and truly worth it - Blur have finally delivered a worthwhile follow up to their seminal 13. It's not perfect ('New World Towers' is a bit of a drag) but delivers much more than one would expect from a Blur album. 'Pyongyang' and 'Thought I Was A Spaceman' are particularly moving, whilst 'There Are Too Many Of Us' addresses the biggest problem on the planet without sounding preachy.

06. Chastity Belt - Time To Go Home
Time To Go Home is the main record from this list that I'm surprised to see missing from most other End of Year round-ups. On the surface this is simply another American indiepop record, but rewards multiple listens with perennial earworms. Chastity Belt will sit nicely alongside Alvvays, Waxahatchee and Honeyblood in anyone's record collection without sounding like any of them. A real gem.

05. Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
Another slow burner, Ivy Tripp by Waxahatchee feels already like a minor classic. Not the sort perhaps that makes the Mojo Top 100, but the sort that real people will return to and reference in years and decades to come. The sound is varied and the songs intimate, this is an album to get lost in.

04. Ash – Kablammo!
Not for the first time on this list, this album is one of my favourite artists at the best that they've been in a number of years. In the case of Ash Kablammo! is their finest 'proper' album since the seminal Free All Angels. Whether it's the driven pop rock of 'Cocoon', the Muse-without-the-wankiness instrumental of 'Evel Knievell', or the emotional frankness evident on 'Dispatch' this is a fantastic collection of songs that it's easy to imagine revisiting with regularity for years to come.

03. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
It feels like THE pop album of the year has come from an unlikely place. I had Carly Rae Jepsen pegged as a one-hit wonder and have been proven spectacularly wrong. Emotion not only rarely puts a foot wrong but manages to sound like more than just a collection of incredible singles. Understandably this record has drawn comparisons to Taylor Swift's 1989, but this doesn't sit in anyone's shadow. How this underperformed in the charts will be one of the great pop mysteries and injustices of the 21st Century.

02. Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space
Clearly the sky was never the limit for Public Service Broadcasting. Only on album number two and they've already covered one of mankind’s greatest endeavours. Whether it's the successes or failures of the space missions PSB place the listener right there, sharing in the seat-edge suspense of the Apollo 8 orbiting the moon ('The Other Side'), the devastation of Apollo 1 ('Fire In The Cockpit') or the elation of actually putting a man in space (the funky 'Gagarin'). I can't wait to see where they go next.

01. Ezra Furman - Perpetual Motion People
And finally onto my album of the year. More so than any previous year it's been hard to decide on a favourite, but Perpetual Motion People it is. Furman has described himself as 'a weirdo Springsteen', and to an extent one can see where he's coming from as this record exudes a love of classic rock and roll and is crammed full of excellent songwriting. For me this feels more akin to a glam era Lou Reed, but however you approach this record it's impossible to deny – it's of the few albums from this year that has really caught the ears of my fiancé – and one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone.

Friday, 4 December 2015

November 2015

Mitski – Townie
One of the highlights of this year's Halloween event at the Brudenell was solo artist Mitski, at what I believe was her first UK show. Unlike on record she performed with only an acoustic guitar, but still managed to lodge the chorus of 'Townie' in my head  where it has stayed since. From this year's album Bury Me At Makeout Creek it's a wonky, a little noisy and utterly captivating.



Protomartyr – The Devil In His Youth
Playing just below headliners Metz at the aforementioned Brudenell gig was the fantastic Protomartyr. Where Metz were all noisy thrash (I didn't stay until the end), Protomartyr were all about post-punk tension, translating their records superbly to the live arena. I struggle to recall when I was last this impressed by a live performance of a band that I was largely unfamiliar with. 'The Devil In His Youth' as the opening track from The Agent Intellect is as good a place as any to start with them.



Field Music – The Noisy Days Are Over
I've not been able to turn the radio on this last few weeks without hearing the latest single from Field Music. In many ways it's the band career to date in a nutshell; hard to pin down, it starts off brilliantly before becoming more complex and even better as it goes along. The album (due in January) is going to be great.



Los Campesinos! - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed
Preparing to go and see Los Campesinos! for the first time since around Romance Is Boring I got a little excited and decided to revisit their second record for the first time in what must be quite a few years. It was a timely reminder of its brilliance and by happy coincidence their set drew fairly heavily from the material, as did (for more feels) the latest issue of Phonogram which used quotes from WAB,WAD as well as The Long Blondes “Couples” for it's chapter headings.



Low – What Part Of Me
Aside from a charity shop purchased copy of C'mon, Low aren't really a band that I've spent any time listening to. 'What Part Of Me' came my way this month on a cover-mount CD that seemed to launch this year's End Of Year list deluge and simply sounds magical. It's minimal and Wintery with sublime vocal harmonies that I just want to sink into. It captivated me so much that I pretty much went straight out to purchase the album Ones And Sixes at a time when I'm really trying to do less of that.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

October 2015

October flew by with a flurry of work, sleep and gigs. Now we're in November and it's perilously close to End of Year List Season (never mind Xmas, it's this that gets earlier every year) and there's still a great amount of stuff from 2015 that I want to listen to. The below is some of what I've managed to spend some time with this month...

Tellison – Orion
Aside from the phenomenal 'Boy', which has been doing the rounds for a while, this track is a personal favourite from the new album Hope Fading Nightly. Building from a quiet intro with just voice and guitar, it gradually builds to an emotive rocker with nice dynamics. It's probably nothing you haven't heard before, but it's signature Tellison and more than welcome around these parts.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me
How naff is that opening saxophone part? It really shouldn't work, but perhaps that's what separates Carly from 99% of her pop contemporaries. This isn't overly focus-grouped lowest common denominator pap, but joyous, fantastic and timeless pop. This is just the opening track on Emotion, and from here it rarely slips below utterly ace.

Ezra Furman – Body Was Made
Perpetual Motion People currently sits at the top of the pile for albums in 2015 so far, and the fact that my better half is into it too meant that we jumped at the chance to go and see him live. Like with the album, it's hard to pick a particular highlight from his set, but I remember an especially positive crowd response to this number. Furman is a fantastic live performer and I strongly recommend that anyone who has the chance goes to see him.

Chastity Belt – Drone
Time To Go Home as revealed itself as a perfect autumn record that I've found myself coming back to repeatedly over the last month. Again it's hard to pick out a single highlight, but thanks to the lyric “He was just another man trying to teach me something”, 'Drone' does stand out. Almost too short, even at four and a half minutes long, it's a showcase for their brilliance as musicians and how together they're even greater than the sum of their parts.

Grimes – Flesh Without Blood / Life In The Vivid Dream
Aside from hearing the hits off the last album, somehow I've never managed to get around to listening to Grimes before now. Still I always try and check out the new tracks that seem to get everyone excited and this time I'm incredible glad I did. Vocal aside, 'Flesh Without Blood' sounds like Taylor Swift and as such is actually brilliant. Very much looking forward to this album – even though it doesn't get a physical release until December. BOO!

Pesky! - Keep Me
Talking of delayed physical releases, I've finally got the Pesky! album on CD. The band have an average age of 12, but musically they're damn great. There's a naivety about the album that's missing from pop these days, and as such this really stands out. This is the obvious hit from the record, and has taken up permanent residence in my brain. Easliy one of my favourite tracks from 2015.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September 2015

It's been a long time since I've taken the time out to sit down and update Keep Pop Loud. Blame life getting in the way, a lack of ideas or just general burn out. As such this feature (which I've totally ripped off from The Album Wall, btw) is here chiefly as reason to get me to park myself at a keyboard once a month and put down some thoughts about the music I've been listening to.

Some of the music I'll write about here will likely be older, or having been doing the rounds for a while, but hopefully that's besides the point.


Paul Smith & The Intimations - The Deep End

I've eagerly followed Paul Smith's career for at least the last ten years, but somehow a gig at The Brudenell in Leeds at the start of the month was the first time I've seen him perform in any guise since Maxïmo Park were touring their debut album. Paul and backing band The Intimations played a cracking set that I was happy to see opened with this track, the highlight from recent album Contraditions which has been stuck in my head for most of the month as a result. The lyrics that document snapshots of a holiday perfectly complement the shimmering music, which is as refreshing as dipping into a pool on a hot day.

Kitty - Drink Tickets
I've got half a feeling that Kitty might actually be terrible, but I can't stop listening to this track at the moment. You might say that it was my jam, but I've got a feeling that has fallen out of parlance and there's something really now about Kitty. Named after the best member of the X-Men (she previously went under the name Kitty Pyrde) she makes electronic-y rap-pop that I'm sure Pitchfork hates. Dorky and very Tumblr this track bounces along on a nice pop groove and has lyrics about wearing fake jewellery and getting guest-list entry because you're skint. An album's in the works that will soon show if Kitty has any staying power, but for now this is on repeat.
Someone's uploaded it to youtube, but it's available as free download 3/19 in this year's Adult Swim Singles Project.

Stealing Sheep - Not Real
I picked up the Rough Trade Shops Heavenly 25 compilation as holiday listening for my trip to Barcelona this month, and whilst I can't say that I loved everything (I've never got the fuss about Temples) it introduced me to plenty of acts that I'd not normally have taken the time to listen to. Even by Heavenly Records standards Stealing Sheep, from the evidence of this track, are something of an oddity and as such stand out from the compilation as a highlight. A spectacularly wonky pop song, it features interesting vocal arrangements and a sound, that although feels part disco-y is also entirely un-placeable. Will investigate further.

CHVRCHES - Make Them Gold
 
Even though I've only just started listening to Every Open Eye I couldn't help but include CHVRCHES in this post. Whilst my initial feeling is that it's not as good as The Bones Of What You Believe it still manages to pack in enough sonic and emotional punch to keep them in my favourite acts of the last few years. 'Make Them Gold' is the track that makes my heart beat fastest at the moment and as such could well be the closest thing this record has to a 'The Mother We Share', but I'd like to refrain from any further judgement until I've listened to this record a lot more.

Keep Pop Loud

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Top 50 Songs Of 2014

Without further ado here is my Top 50 Songs of 2014. Some of the below you might note were on 2013 albums, but if they've had some sort of release or extensive radio play this year then I've included them. After all, it is my list. If you want to listen along then there's a  Spotify Playlist here or embedded at the bottom of the page (it's missing only Pris, Taylor Swift and T.O.Y.S).

50) Sounds Like There's A Pacman Crunching Away At Your Heart - Haiku Salut
49) Erdbeer Mund - Franz Ferdinand
48) Fake Your Death - My Chemical Romance
47) Don't Get Caught - Blood Red Shoes
46) Dripping Down - East India Youth
45) Do You Wanna Be In My Bland? - Pris
44) Fortune Teller - Menace Beach
43) Control The Radical - bis
42) Mistakes Of My Youth - Eels
41) Medicine - Tim Wheeler
40) Rimbaud Eyes - Dum Dum Girls
39) Anti-Parent Cowboy Killer - Joanna Gruesome
38) Delorean Dynamite - Todd Terje
37) We Sink - CHVRCHES
36) Unfurl - Blessa
35) Koko - T.O.Y.S
34) Skeleton Dance - Teleman
33) Bury Our Friends - Sleater-Kinney
32) Soweto - Screaming Maldini
31) When Christmas Comes - Los Campesinos!
30) The Party Line - Belle And Sebastian
29) Do It Again - Röyksopp & Robyn
28) Don't Blow It - We Are Scientists
27) Gloom - Kid Wave
26) Chimes At Midnight - Mastodon
25) Interference Fits - Perfect Pussy
24) TV Song - Robert Ellis
23) For One Night Only - King Creosote
22) Choker - Honeyblood
21) History Eraser - Courtney Barnett
20) Leave This Island - Maxïmo Park
19) 24 Hours - Sky Ferreira
18) Crouching Bees - Fight Like Apes
17) Digital Witness - St. Vincent
16) Opaque - Eagulls
15) Action Cat - Gerard Way
14) All The Rage Back Home - Interpol
13) Two Weeks - FKA Twigs
12) Until The Sun Explodes - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
11) Boom Clap - Charlie XCX
10) Half Heart Necklace - Allo Darlin'
9) Bows & Arrows - Kaiser Chiefs
8) 1967, I Miss You I'm Lonely - Martha
7) To The Death - Johnny Foreigner
6) Blank Space - Taylor Swift
5) Everything Is Awesome!!! - Tegan And Sara feat. The Lonely Island
4) Seasons (Waiting On You) - Future Islands
3) Walk Me To The Bridge - Manic Street Preachers
2) Archie, Marry Me - Alvvays
1) The Pieces - Slow Club

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Top 20 Albums of 2014

Another year goes past and we all get a little older and more cynical. Well, typically anyway. Although I can't say I succeeded at every turn, I've made every effort to listen to records outside of my usual comfort zone in the last 12 months. This list doesn't entirely reflect that as many that I've tried have been older albums, and I've not turned my ear away from my old favourites, who still crop up in the 20 albums below.

All things said, I think we can all agree that 2014 has been a decent 12 months for new music with critically acclaimed and otherwise brilliant records coming from all corners. If you've not found plenty that you've loved this year you've not been looking hard enough. I've not been looking hard enough and I've found these twenty records that I think are ace!


20) Maxïmo Park - Too Much Information
Although sadly not the left turn that teaser single 'Brain Cells' hinted at, there was more than enough on the fifth album from these old favourites to stop them slipping into irrelevancy. The elegant sweep of 'Leave This Island' was the highlight, but elsewhere the snappy post-punk sound that Maxïmo Park have made their own over the last decade remains strong whilst nicely evolving alongside their masterful songcraft.


19) Teleman - Breakfast
The sublime return from three fifths of Pete & The Pirates. With motorik beats and the pop sensibility you'd expect with their pedigree Teleman allow their music to soar on spacey keyboards whilst remaining grounded. Minimalism has become cliché in recent years, but it's used here to make sure that not a note is out of place and so even the subtlest sounds delight.

18) Future Islands - Singles
Although 'Seasons (Waiting On You)' towers over this record it's far from all that Future Islands have to offer. That it's on my list as well as every other seems to indicate that I'm getting less contrary/softer as I get older. Alternatively you could see it as a singularly strong breakthrough record that features some of the best written songs that 2014 had to offer.

17) St. Vincent - St. Vincent
The album of the year almost everywhere, and it's not hard to see why. This is a defining musician at the top of her game releasing some of the smartest pop music of the year. From the spiky brilliance of 'Birth In Reverse' to the elegance of 'I Prefer Your Love' there was so much to keep coming back to that it made St. Vincent one of my most listened to albums of the end half of 2014. Although I remain unconvinced by 'Rattlesnake' as an opener, this is really as special as everyone says.


16) Eagulls - Eagulls
Yes! The fury and the anger that has been absent for many, many years finally seems to be coming back. Every song on Eagulls sounds pretty much the same, but it's driven by meaty bass riffs and pounding drums that allow the wailing guitars and vocals to do their job. Calling this album a shot in the arm doesn't really do it justice. It's only this low down on the list as I only got around to listening to it a week or so ago.


15) King Creosote -  From Scotland With Love
Sprawling across two LPs, From Scotland With Love was a timely and heartfelt tribute to the titular country, its people and its history that couldn't have been more different from much of the political rhetoric from either side of the debate. King Creosote's voice is as wonderful as ever but, to the album's immense credit, the instrumentals here are as evocative as the vocal-lead numbers. Like British Sea Power's soundtrack records it swells with optimism and encourages repeated listens.


14) Honeyblood - Honeyblood
A fantastic début album in a year where that's not a novelty; Honeyblood seemed to appear from nowhere to be one of everyone's favourites. That's more of an indication of how far away from the ground my ear has been this year, but any record that can sound like the best bits of Best Coast distilled down into something sharp and contemporary has my vote.


13) East India Youth - Total Strife Forever
Total Strife Forever is one of those albums that I investigated this year thanks to the fact it sounded like something a little outside of my comfort zone. On a record divided between leftfield electronic soundscapes and direct, emotive songs, East India Youth explores both music as an artform and pop as a method of mass communication to brilliant effect.


12) Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place
A new album from everyone's favourite Anglo-Australian indie-popsters is always welcome and never disappoints. Masters of their craft Allo Darlin' simply delivery hit after hit and We Come From The Same Place is no exception. There's no 'Capricornia'-level stand-out but there's plenty else that that really doesn't matter. An album to return to again and again.



11) Perfect Pussy - Say Yes To Love
At under 25 minutes, Say Yes To Love is a slab of punk that feels absolutely essential to music in 2014. Sexism in on the rise and this is the fight back. Perfect Pussy exist to make a noise. But this isn't a worthy 'you're obliged to listen to' record, this is a snappy exhilarating rock record of the type that doesn't come my way often enough.


10) Alvvays - Alvvays
The indiepop breakthrough of the year. It seems that everyone who has heard Alvvays has fallen in love with them, and it's not hard to understand why. Few if any songs this year have been as good as 'Archie, Marry Me' and the rest of the album doesn't disappoint. Often hazy, but with a dark undercurrent this is a masterful début album, but one I'm confident that the band will surpass with in the years to come.


09) Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien
Although it's Bowie that the former My Chemical Romance singer is channelling on the cover of his solo début it's his indie and britpop influences that sine through on vinyl. 'Drugstore Perfume' brings to mind Pulp's 'Something Changed' whilst elsewhere there's hints of Suede, Sleater-Kinney, Pixies and Supergrass. In short, Hesitant Alien is a record that it's easy to stick on repeat and not grow tired of.

08) Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time
A delayed UK release meant that everyone seems to have forgotten about Sky Ferreira this list season. Nonetheless it gets my vote as an eclectic and engaging début album from an intriguing young artist. '24 Hours' is better than (almost) anything released by any chart-bothering pop singer this year, whilst few 'alternative' artists have songs as simultaneously beautiful and claustrophobic as  'Omanko'.


07) Martha - Courting Strong
Fortuna POP! have a strong claim to being the best label going right now and Martha are the jewel in their 2014 crown. Courting Strong is yr classic punked up indiepop that will never go out of style and is delivered so excellently I can't help but wonder why it's absent from everyone else's lists. No other album in 2014 has so encouraged hapless flailing that passes for dancing as this one. That it addresses some important points - including the imposition of gender roles on children - shouldn't go unmentioned either.


06) Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun
A return to form from the best band in metal* after the largely forgettable The Hunter. Once More 'Round The Sun may not have followed the high concept method that provided Mastodon with their finest moments but with it's still an engaging and driven beast that stitches together elements from psychedelia, rock, metal and prog into a cohesive and unclassifiable whole.
*From an outsider's perspective at least


05) Johnny Foreigner - You Can Do Better
From the time I discovered Johnny Foreigner to when I made ..Vs Everything my Album of the Year in 2011 this band felt like such a lifeline. I'm in a better place now, but the high placing of You Can Do Better on this list indicates just how fucking great they actually are. Their first album as a four piece it sees JoFo at their most cohesive and straightforward - Johnny Foreigner the Rock Band - but is none the worse for it. 'To The Death' is the highlight, but there's so much to keep going back to.


04) Manic Street Preachers - Futurology
With it's pro-European focus Futurology could not have been more timely. But even if we weren't seeing the ugly rise of UKIP this would still be the Manics best album in a long time. It features Nicky Wire's lyrics at their most engaging and finely merges the rhetoric with musical influences. The dizzying 'Walk Me To The Bridge' shines brightest, but this album - this masterpiece - keeps drawing me back in. Genuinely inspiring.


03) Slow Club - Complete Surrender
Slow Club have come a long, long way since their days playing Sheffield folk nights and using a chair for percussion. With each successive record they've progressed leaps and bounds with Complete Surrender hitting truly remarkable highs, such as on 'The Pieces' and 'The Queen's Nose'. This is a really special record and one that's going to be hard to top for the band going forwards.



02) Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education And War
Until a few days before I wrote this up Education, Education, Education And War was sitting comfortably at the top spot that it'd held since it's March release. 'Return to form' doesn't quite cover what this album has done for Kaiser Chiefs. This is the sound of an unfairly maligned band with nothing to lose and everything to prove making the album of their careers (with a little help from Bill Nighy). Lyrically it takes to task a centuries old political establishment that subdues and uses its people through war and industry, and in combining imagery from different eras shows us how nothing ever really changes. An exhilarating, triumphant record.


01) Taylor Swift - 1989
No album or pop star have been written about this year as much as 1989 or Taylor Swift and I'm not capable or willing to add to it. Anyway, Kieron Gillen has already said it best and most simply:



Until next year....