It's the mid-point of the year so I thought what better time for me to join in with the endless 'best tracks of the year so far' type posts... As you're reading this I'm probably just about getting home from Glastonbury but in no fit state to blog, so this post is a pre-write... I won't waffle too much, just copy my initial comments on tracks and add clips / link so you can listen to my twenty one favourite tracks of 2014 so far (it was twenty but I remember one I missed!). Eleven below in this post with ten more following in part two in precisely one minutes time. As ever with a list, it's ever-changing and I've probably forgot a couple of tracks too!
Before pedantic comments come out, a couple of these could technically be 2013 tracks but they are new to me in 2014, that's all that matters...
21. Tennis - Never Work For Free
...a slice of infectious, 80's leaning pure candy-pop propelled by a repeating drum beat, breezy guitars and shiny synth lines, it gives Alaina Moore's the freedom to soar with her timeless sounding vocal. The result is instant love and smiles.
20. Marissa Nadler - Dead City Emily
...sitting in the same realms of dark melancholy "Dead City Emily" is equally rewarding, with a pretty guitar melody creating a serenely beautiful mood around a soft soothing vocal, it's the sort of thing dreams are made of, comforting you like a warming blanket on a chilly, cold night.
19. Ottilia - Siren
"Siren" is as minimal as they come, much likes last years "and then he said" demo and causes goosebumps with little more than Ottilia's woozy, lovelorn voice, the repeated, haunted vocal of "Don't go home with me, I'm a siren" and the lullaby echoes of an acoustic guitar, it's all that is needed to be carried away by this intoxicating, emotive beauty.
18. Abbey Bowden - Dust
"Dust", recorded live for Basement Sessions, sees Abbey sitting in a dimly lit room with pictures of singers hanging on the walls alone with her guitar. What comes to pass over the next four minutes is as cathartic experience as music can bring, a real send shivers down your spine moment as Abbey's soulful, emotive vocal purrs over delicate finger-plucked acoustic, utterly, utterly transfixing.
17. Layla - Black Mud
"Black Mud" aims to hit at your emotions, that much becomes clear after mere seconds as piano twinkles are joined by a string orchestra and Layla's soulful voice, they ebb and flow in perfect harmony with the instrumentation, one moment delicate, tender and pure, the next strong, passionate flourishes. The result leaves me swooning all over.
16. Ice Cream Cathedral - The Swans
A bizarre yet incredible single "The Swans" Immediately takes the trios self-defined genre of 'space pop' to the next level with a video that sees the band on an intergalactic journey across the universe propelled by subterranean beats and dreamy, Blade Runner esque atmosphere. It's not just Anja T. Lahrmann's breathy, soothing vocals that draws instant comparison with Annie Clark's but the magical sonic palette that "The Swans" follows, deliciously offbeat, eccentric and unpredictable, woozy synths are complemented by soaring guitars and all manner of 'space' effects and then at the four minute mark the bizarre turns into the unfathomable when the video sees the trio arrive on a barren looking planet inhabited by gigantic dogs (really) as the track morphs into an elongated instrumental ending of stark instrumentation and galloping beats. Quite the introduction!
15. Alexandra Stewart - I Grow
The skeletal beauty "I Grow" is led by melancholic piano and understated instrumentation which beguiles around a soft, dreamy atmosphere and Alex's soft, luscious vocal. The sort of voice that carries your mind away and here I'm left with my eyes closed and transported to somewhere as beautiful as the artwork that comes supplied on the soundcloud link. After three and a half minutes the track surprises, morphing from plaintive piano-ballad to something akin to a slow-motion Dirty Projectors at their finest, with ambient guitar shimmers and pared-down drums closing the track with the repeated whispers of the title. Absolutely gorgeous is this and that will do just fine for me today.
14. Eliot Sumner - Information
A surging drum march drives the synth-and-strings track forward with gorgeous shimmering guitars dueling with korg keys, it's Toy-esque both in terms of its dense, extended Motorik rhythms and progressive, glistening melody. "Information" keeps on giving throughout its seven minute duration, Eliot's soaring, impassioned vocal is just the icing on the cake.
13. Aldous Harding - Hunter
"Hunter" is taken from Aldous' self-titled debut album and now comes backed with a rather fittingly chilly, brooding video. The track is the sumptuous feast of rich musical landscape and fragile, haunting vocals from the get-go, Aldous blends a style not dissimilar from Joanna Newsom with touches of Joni Mitchell, with subtle, weaving melody and intriguing lyrics full of lovely imagery and extraordinary beauty carrying off to places warm and brilliant. It's just a shame you have to get on with your real life after. Here's a talent that can't stay hidden for long.
12. Hunt - Reset My Bones
Entwined around the poem "Jellyfish" by Andrea Gibson the track is heady mix of melody, emotion and beauty. It begins with a slow, longing introduction, built around a fuzzy bass line, metronomic drums and shimmering guitars before climaxing with a luscious crescendo of post rock noise and atmosphere and gorgeous, hazy vocal harmonies, light and dark merge effortlessly and my heart is instantly melted. Those drums at the end too...
11. First Aid Kit - Cedar Lane
Cedar Lane" is a rich, sumptuous beauty with slide guitar melody and heart melting vocals, just the sort of thing we've become accustomed to from the duo.