UK Blog Sound of 2014 - My Views

Earlier today I posted the sixteen acts who made the Blog Sound of 2014 list. It really is the only time throughout the year where I post acts I don't really like much, the title of this blog kind of indicates it, but, this blog aims to write about music which I like. I think it's a lot more fun and fruitful to write about stuff which excites you and I don't quite see the point in spending your time purposely posting a critical blog about something that someone has recorded. Ignoring pretty much everything I just said in that paragraph, I'll now give a brief opinion piece to each of the acts that made the Blog Sound long-list. It's a much better list than last years in my opinion (and in according to my tastes obviously), seemingly the crazy people who voted for The Neighbourhood have been struck off the list in favour of people with functioning ears.

Two of my three selections made the list, I won't reveal all now (my own personal tips are coming later this week, ten in total, posting two a day from tomorrow). If you want to read about The UK Blog Sound of 2014 and stream a track from each act long-listed, check out the original Blog Sound 2014 post here.

The BBC Sound of 2014 Poll was also released this week and shares just three acts with the UK Blog Sound list which is a little unusual I think but given that I've featured the grand sum of zero of the fifteen acts on the BBC list here before I'm not too surprised. It either shows I'm way off the pulse or perhaps the general blogging (I really hate the term 'tastemaker') vibe is pretty far away from my tastes. I find the BBC list incredibly narrow. It's either soulful boys with lovelorn acoustic tracks, dancey female fronted quirky-pop or just plain shite. Thankfully the Blog Sound of list on the whole makes up for that with an admittedly indie-heavy list but a much better one too.

Okay, listening time, I love some of these acts already, I like some of the acts and I don't like a couple of those I know. I've not listened to five of the acts previously. In alphabetical order:

BANKS: I've heard the name, I think you'll all heard her name by now, she's featured in every one of these tips for 2014 I've seen so far. I don't think I've ever listened to Banks before though so I'll press play with interest. One minute in and it is alright, she's got a lovely, soothing voice and the piano is pretty nice. Oh, it's all going a bit wrong now, the synths are sounding like you're standing too close to the speakers at a gig or that horrid sound you hear when you are forced (because they are playing it so fucking loud) to listen to someone's iPhone playing music from across the street and it's not got any better in the time it's taken to write that line. That's a no from me - not that she'll mind. Perhaps if there are a few stripped back tracks I'll like them, as just as I opened with, the voice is rather nice.

EMBERS: Ah, a band I've followed from the beginning and featured in my own version of this poll in both 2012 and 2013. I was a little premature (not for the first time and not like that) with my tipping of the Manchester quartet but having seen their mesmerising live show three times this year I can safely say that success will follow whatever they release next

GEORGE EZRA: It's this years Tom Odell already. How many of us of have heard from Tom recently? Well George has a good voice and looks like a rather nice chap (even if he calls his fans Ezranites) but this isn't the sort of thing I'll be queuing up to see. He looks too friendly to overly criticise though but it's a little bit tepid for me, well when I say a little... I can see Radio Two loving him.

HELLA BETTER DANCER: In all honesty I was surprised to see HBD on this list, a very happy surprised. I never voted for the London/Brighton quartet as I'm too closely involved with the band through my little label Beautiful Strange (after releasing their latest single "Sleeptalking" on 7" vinyl) but it is great to see the writers of UK blogs can spot talent when they hear it. "Sleeptalking" follows "Sleep" and last years Living Room EP and highlights an incredible progression from a band still at University - damn them and their lovely young faces!!

HOCKEYSMITH: Don't think I've come across this sister duo before, "Let's Bang" the track is called which has me worried. Actually it's not really banging, there's nice guitar and soft vocals with a minimal beat weaving its way through the mix but after three minutes I've not got anything else to add. I don't think I really get the whole lo-fi, ambient scene. I'm sure others do.

HONEYBLOOD: Another band I know and have been featured here a bit, "Bud" gives a good introductory point to their raw, indie-rock sound. They are great fun live and I hope they can make a name for themselves

IYES: I saw Iyes at The Great Escape, a show full of set malfunctions but I left suitable impressed and their debut single "'Til Infinity" builds on that. It does a nice job of summing up what I remember, a luscious, swooning beauty that should be filling the airwaves (it probably did, I don't really listen to the radio). Yeah, here's a band that perhaps could have been near to the BBC list for there's an obvious mainstream potential here, combining the glacial beauty of London Grammar and The XX with a show-stopping voice. Nice.

KHUSHI: An act I probably should have heard of before pressing play. "Magpie" is progressive folk, indie, pop track that sounds pleasant enough and is definitely made for radio airplay and festival season. I like the rattling percussion and emotive backing vocals, yeah it's not bad.

LYLA FOY: A favourite of mine indeed. I'm glad other bloggers agree (that might be a hint at my voting and one of my tips to come!) Lyla Foy's "Easy" is one of the most impressive returns I've heard this year, a startling progression from her earlier work yet still as intimate, beautiful and devastating as before. Luscious is this.

MARIKA HACKMAN: I could almost replicate exactly what I put above for Marika Hackman, her voice is more ethereal and tracks like "Cinnamon" are more ambient but her beautifully haunting style is sure to resonate with listeners and her debut album should be a marvelous thing.

MT. WOLF: We're properly on a role now, three acts I've featured here multiple times in a row, it's almost as if I've taken over. Mt Wolf are ace. Kate Sproule has the most incredible voice and their music send shivers through you. "Life Sized Ghosts" alone is better track than some bands will ever make.

ROYAL BLOOD: Just when I was thinking it had gone so well. Is it 2001 all over again and Muse are about to release Origin of Symmetry? No, no it's not. Muse have become a bad cover version of themselves and this is a poor imitation of that. If we are looking for a new flag-bearer for the guitar rock genre, there must be something more inspiring than this.

RHODES: It's a strange thing that Josh T Pearson aside I can't think of a single man with guitar act that I like yet I can name countless female equivalents, I guess my tastes favour the emotion and intimacy I think a female voice can portray over a male counterpart. I've read the opposite of course - different strokes for different folk and all that. Anyway this isn't quite a man and a guitar, it builds with some doom-laden drums but it's still all a bit bland for me.

SIVU: Heard this chap by name but never listened to him. Let's go with "I Lost Myself". Immediate worries with glitchy effects opening the track, spells trouble but it does get better, I like the piano twinkles and strings but it's all a bit Radiohead for my tastes. Seemingly I'm in the minority though so don't take my word for it...

SOPHIE JAMIESON: Phew, we are back on track. I really hope Sophie Jamieson gets the further exposure she deserves soon. I don't think I've ever come across as hard a working singer-songwriter. She must have played a couple hundred gigs over the past few years and possessed with such wonderful songs, song-craft and a beautiful, emotive voice - listen to "Dinah" if you don't believe me - it takes you to such a lovely place and I'd happily stay there for a while longer but I have one more act to go...

WOLF ALICE: I was really surprised Wolf Alice were not included in the BBC Sound of poll, I thought they'd be just what certain voters were looking for, a band bringing multiple genres and style to the plate who actually pull it off. They've really grown in the live arena too and are well deserving of the impending success heading their way.

A couple of criticisms aside I think it's a pretty good list. I'll be back tomorrow with the start of my own ones to watch followed by my favourite albums of the year then some normal posts before a little Christmas break.