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2014 Songs of the Year: Part Five - 20 through 11

Just got here? Get up to speed with parts one, two, three and four. Click the Prev post button at the bottom of this post to get to Part Six once it is out.

20. Forgive - Pr0files

All I need to say is that you probably haven’t even heard of Pr0files, and yet here they created one of the year’s greatest pop records. Take one part Drive-inspired 80s noir and combine with power-pop vocal hooks dealing with broken hearts. Sure, the formula may be obvious, but being this great whilst executing it is spectacular.

19. Chandelier - Sia

Sure, the video has since become a meme that has overshadowed the actual song, and the album never quite managed to hit the same peaks. Yet one thing is clear: Chandelier proved Sia can deliver outstanding pop. Nothing else I heard this year felt so inherently ingrained in 2014 - it will age, sure, but if in years to come you ever want to remember what 2014 felt like then you can’t get much closer than Maddie Ziegler weird teeth brushing dance-routine paired with Sia’s brand of hyper-emotion.

18. Cigarettes & Loneliness - Chet Faker

Build On Glass was one of my favourite, durable listens of the year. Cigarettes & Loneliness is the most grown-up and self-reflective moment on that record, a song that curls itself up inside your foggy mind like the brutally crystal clear realisations of your failure that only truly hit with that unique combination of a hangover and personal shame at 9:15am on a Thursday morning. There really isn’t enough eight-minute beardy folk R&B in the world, and Nicholas James Murphy’s repeated refrain of "Breathe, this is love without love without love without love without love without love” reminds us that we aren’t alone in our imperfection.

17. No Angel - Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s self-titled album dropped out of the blue close enough to Christmas last year that a balanced view was difficult… When the past two years have been dominated by alternative R&B and young up and comers, Beyoncé showed she still knows how to blow them all away… Yet it’s best moment was defined by her willingness to hand over the reigns to the increasingly eccentric production efforts of Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. The result is No Angel - both breathless and effortless.

16. If You Went Away - Daniel Wilson

Daniel Wilson’s Boy Who Cried Thunder has a handful of wonderful moments but none is as instantly heart-stopping as the dramatic If You Went Away. This is the kind of track that manages to be so in love that it is almost creepily intense, but the production is so sincere it is impossible not to empathise with Wilson’s pain.

15. Goshen ’97 - Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks’ Heal starts with a rambunctious bar band rock song of the like it never returns to… Perhaps because it nails the delivery to such a degree there is just no point. Where the rest of Heal uses electronics and increasingly complex production techniques, Goshen ’97 plays it straight, making it’s tail of growing up and growing old all the more poignant.

14. Ivory - Movement

Ivory is the moment where Movement went from being a diversion to one of 2014’s most exciting bands. In comparison to their earlier work Ivory felt darker and sexier, JUST THAT GUITAR.

13. Violence - Andy Stott

It seems like every time we hear from Andy Stott he gets more interesting. Violence was no different - incredibly dense and dark, it recalled Tricky at his most paranoid and is almost guaranteed to stop you in your tracks on your first listen. Play it LOUD.

12. Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone - Lykke Li

Lykke Li’s third album was packed full of emotion, but Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone represents her at her most exposed. It’s hard to listen and not want to do something to reassure, but that is the magic - Li manages to expose so much human emotion.

11. Is This How You Feel? - The Preatures

Technically Is This How You Feel? is a cheat - it came out in 2013… But I only discovered it this year, and it actually remains unreleased in Europe despite significant success in Australia. Is This How You Feel? is timeless, the kind of record that could have been released at any point in the past 35-years, and if you wished Haim would rock just a little bit harder then this is for you. And the video manages to be incredible without even really doing much - it turns out it is impossible to take your eyes off of Isabella Manfredi.

2013 Albums Of The Year: Part Two

Following on from last week's post covering my albums of the year here are my favourite five albums of 2013. Don't forget the Spotify playlist of all of my favourite tracks from the year too.

 

5. Modern Vampires Of The City - Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend's third album feels a little older and wiser than the previous efforts, still ramshackle and chaotic as it tumbles out of the speakers on tracks like Diane Young but also a little more worldly-wise and heart-breaking. You can hear a growing maturity on tracks such as Hannah Hunt, a song that sounds like the conclusion to Springsteen's Born To Run (or, more likely, Vampire Weekend's own similarly optimistic Run). There was a gritty Gatsby-esque glamour to Modern Vampires Of The City, and it was hard not to be charmed by it's sparkle.

Purchase on Amazon.co.uk on CD or MP3 [affiliate links]. Listen on Spotify:

 

4. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk [review]

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories was album almost too big to view up close, better for having a little distance and hype dulled perhaps, though an element of the thrill has innevitably gone. It is deserving of a place on this list, if not at the top, for sheer ambition. Daft Punk blew away all their imitators by making real music and delivering what feels like the last ever conventional 'event record' - something Beyoncé has just rendered all the more obsolete by creating the first real 'event album' of the future. Her staggering eponymous video release dropped with none of the hype or fanfare Columbia threw at Random Access Memories. Both are a pleasure to behold, true widescreen artist visions.

Purchase on Amazon.co.uk on CD or MP3 [affiliate links]. Listen on Spotify:

 

3. Field Of Reeds - These New Puritans [review]

These New Puritans, image copyright: Dean Chalkley

In Field Of Reeds, These New Puritans emerged a considerable musical force, shaking free the shackles of their post-punk revival birth to become one of Britain's most intriguing bands since Radiohead. Field of Reeds sounds like the onset of paranoia or manic depression, and you can forget aggression - as Homeland's Carrie knows, feel psychological anguish doesn't get much scarier than when it is soundtracked by dischordent jazz and classical music.

These New Puritans are at their best when beguiling with approachable yet malicious moments - the delirious cover of Herb Alpert's This Guy's In Love With You, or the ghoulish screaches set against Organ Eternal's spiralling melodies.

Purchase on Amazon.co.uk on CD or MP3 [affiliate links]. Listen on Spotify:

 

2. Immunity - Jon Hopkins [review]

Jon Hopkins

Whether it is whilst it is in the midst of kicking your ass on its more electronic and intense first-half or stoking your heart on the slower, more contemplative latter Jon Hopkins' Immunity was 2013's dance album non-dance fans could dig.

Those stark melodic moments certainly helped - Abandon Window is cinematic and heart-breaking and the closing title track feels like a healing experience. But the album achieves much through structure and pacing, building in intensity from the taught opener We Disappear to the strung out and reeling Collider. In his work with Brian Eno, Hopkins has learnt from the best, and here he shows what you can do when 'the best' makes up your foundations.

Purchase on Amazon.co.uk on CD or MP3 [affiliate links]. Listen on Spotify:

 

1. Cupid Deluxe - Blood Orange [review]

Dev Hynes

No other album released this years captured the imagination in the way Dev Hynes' second album as Blood Orange did. From the opening sultry come hither eyes of Caroline Polachek's turn on Chamakay (keep watching for her forthcoming rise to R&B mega-stardom... She was last heard providing Beyoncé with her jams) to the empathetic band-aid of a record that is album closer Time Will Tell this is an album that wears its heart and sexuality on its sleeve. And I can't help but love the honesty. Hynes drops heartbreaker after heartbreaker whilst also honing his production style to near-perfection.

The result is an album that never suffers a dull moment. Cupid Deluxe is a gorgeously approachable record, packed with creativity and surprises yet also chock-full of hooks. Full of intelligent self-referential nods to Hynes' own work, there is enough on Cupid Deluxe to keep attentive listeners fascinated.

Yet it is the songs themselves that I will remember. The slow moving balladry of Chosen, a song floating on skipped heartbeats and heavenly sax. The jazzy breaks and 90s raps of Clipped On. The tears that On The Line's relationship difficulties inspires. No other album in 2013 felt so human, and no other album felt so good.

 Purchase on Amazon.co.uk on CD or MP3 [affiliate links]. Listen on Spotify:

That's it for 2013... Let me know what I missed or what you agree or disagree with, otherwise I'll be back all fresh and excited in 2014.