Welcome to Song, by Toad’s brief tuppence tossed into the swirling whirlpool of List Season. I know everyone writes these lists and mine isn’t exactly going to overthrow the status quo, but I think mine tends to be a little different, so I hope you’ll find it worthwhile. Most of the big sites are offering up pretty much what you’d expect, particularly the ones who collate votes from amongst their writers, which always tends to iron away the more interesting wrinkles.
In that sense, I think that if you can find the right person, then one person’s list is generally more interesting than an organisation’s list, just because the law of averages tends to push the more left-field (and therefore by my definition more interesting) choices out of the limelight. For me the aim of these lists is not to be definitively right – everyone who writes one is right by definition; we’re all just expressing our own favourites after all – but to find those surprise gems which have stuck with people over the course of the year despite little or no real exposure.
I don’t need another list telling me about those insipid fucking records by FKA Twigs or Alvvays or Woman’s Hour or War on Drugs or, God forbid, that fucking dismal Royal Blood album. I want someone like Tom from Gold Flake Paint to give me ten albums I know (even if I might disagree with some of them) and ten I’ve never heard of before so I can go exploring.
That said, this year’s end-of-year list on Song, by Toad is going to be far from complete. There are all sorts of albums you might reasonably expect to see on here – The Twilight Sad and John Knox Sex Club spring most obviously to mind – but I genuinely just haven’t had time to listen to them (and many others), what with the record player being out of commission for months while we had our living room sorted out, and with moving house, and being out of country for over two months in the course of the year.
So what you have instead is a weirdly skewed list of the albums I have enjoyed the most this year. No doubt in six months I will want to change it, once I come to terms with some of my more recent purchases which I just haven’t heard enough yet, but at this precise moment this is what 2014 was like for me, musically.
11. Broken Records – Weights and Pulleys
The better these guys get, the less people seem to talk about them which is… I dunno, odd, perverse, infuriating? Take your pick. Their grandiose, broad-vistaed, slightly US-leaning indie-rock gets better with each release and this new album is no exception.
12. Deathcats – All Hail Lubo
Surfy, psychey and garagey are pretty much my ideal combination of traits, and this album is all of these. Just enough pop tunes to be hummable as fuck and just enough nasty meandering to be weird and unpleasant. In a good way.
13. Krill – Lucky Leaves
Flat, nasal and very plain-vanilla in terms of its American indie rock style, but for some reason this has just grown and grown on me with every listen. There’s plenty of self-loathing and self-dissection, but it never gets as annoying as it can with other folk.
14. Sex Hands – Pleh
Short, sharp punchy rock songs about Friends. Yes, Friends the TV show. No, I have no idea why either. Doesn’t matter, because it works fantastically well, and they may be about virtually nothing at all, but every one of these tunes is great.
15. Michael Cera – True That
A meandering, shambolic mess which is barely an album at all, frankly. There are barely-conceived interludes, a cover song, some bits and pieces of this that and the other and yet for some reason the final result is a record which is great to listen to but for some weird reason makes me like Cera more as a person for having made it. Don’t ask how that makes sense, but it does.
16. Goat – Commune
Shamelessly anachronistic folk-tinged proggy psychedelia, but done with such hypnotic abandon that it stands head and shoulders above all the other people ploughing this particular furrow. Joyful and exuberant.
17. The Wytches – Annabel Dream Reader
This is an unbelievably simple formula, and far from a new one: short, sharp psyche-rock songs played with plenty of snarl and fantastically nasty guitars. Simple things done well can yield fantastic results.
18. Body Cheetah – Raking the Wind
I think I’ve heard a lot of people make music a bit like this, but for some reason this is the first time it’s all really, properly clicked for me. It’s ghostly and weird, but the beat keeps it from drifting off into the ether.
19. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy
Simple, personal, engaging and lovely. If things like Juno were to be less smug and irritating they should try and be more like this, because that kind of underground smarts can be really nice when done with some subtlety and sincerity.
20. 808s and Greatest Hits – Featuring A. Fantastic Reprise
An album so DIY is exists only as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp, which is a complete and utter fucking travesty. This is a fantastic, ambitious album of experimental psychedelic pop – and if you’ve had a shot every time I’ve used the words ‘psychedelic’ or ‘pop’ whilst reading this list I suspect you may need to have your stomach pumped by now.