2014 in Music

2014. The year Kate Bush came back and melted the Ticketmaster website. The year Britney continued to writhe listlessly around Vegas. St Vincent sat on an amazing chair, La Roux perched on an amazing car, and Lady Gaga stumbled over a shark dressed up as Tony Bennett. That takes us up to October, when Taylor Swift released 1989 and I lost interest in anything else. What a year it was. What a year it was for MUSIC.

Song of the Year: The Pierces - Kings

According to Last.fm I listened to Kings twice as much as any other track released this year, so tune of 2014 it must surely be. At the very least it’s the best Pierces song of the year - all pounding drums and feathers, with a suitably ‘tribal’ music video (though thankfully with no headdresses in sight). They've come a long way since their lo-fi Nashville debut, but the higher production values never get in the way of their piercing (sorry) harmonies.

Non-Taylor Swift Album of the Year: First Aid Kit - Stay Gold

Tuneful folksy sister duos are my new jam. Like the other two I was just talking about First Aid Kit are fucking brilliant, and their third album more than achieves their aim of "throwing in lots of extra bells and whistles to make us sound more exciting when we play live" (I paraphrase).

Best bits: My Silver Lining, Master Pretender, Waitress Song, Stay Gold, Cedar Lane

(On reflection, My Silver Lining should probably be my single of the year, if only for this thrilling moment in the video:

"THE PIERCES??!?!?!")

Definitive ranking of Taylor Swift’s 1989

I've definitely cracked it this time. Taytay's 2014 masterwork, in order of awesomeness, is as follows:

1. (3) Out of the Woods. CHVRCHES-style angst-anthem about everyone's favourite One Direction-related skiing accident.

2. (-) Blank Space Features my fave lyric of 2014: "Got a long list of ex-lovers, they'll tell you I'm insaaaaane".

3. (4) Style Next single yes?

4. (1) Wildest Dreams If not, this'll do. 

5. (6) How You Get the Girl Or this.

6. (5) Clean Imogen could probably do with the royalties? 

7. (-) All You Had to Do Was Stay I have a theory that all Taylor songs including the word 'stay' are improbably brilliant (see also: Stay Stay Stay)

8. (-) I Wish You Would Not a single but still better than anything Katy Perry released this year.

9. (-) I Know Places Think the voice memo's put me off this one.

10. (-) This Love Just fine.

11. (-) Bad Blood Nowhere near as good as a Katy Perry diss-track should be, but again better than anything Katy Perry released this year. 

12. (-) Welcome to New York New York is unlikely to embrace this. 

13. (6666) Shake it Off I hate it less than I originally did, okay?

Little Boots Award for Most Unexpectedly Brilliant Follow-up Album From Someone Who Was Quite Big in 2009: La Roux

It's fair to say I was expecting precisely nothing from La Roux this year, but funnily enough that didn't put her off releasing a bloody fantastic second album. Trouble in Paradise is big and glossy in a way her tinny debut could only half-manage towards the middle of Bulletproof. Well done, La Roux. Loving the car.

Best bits: Uptight Downtown, Kiss and Not Tell, Sexotheque, Tropical Chancer, Let Me Down Gently

Disappointment of the Year: ‘Sheezus’

The mixed, autotuned messages of Hard Out Here ("Feminism! Ironic sexism! What? Shut up") set the tone for 2014's patchiest, overduist and most underwhelmingist comeback. Lily's usually razor-sharp wit - previously deployed against consumerism, the housing market and religious extremism - is here wasted on an array of undeserving targets, from annoying mums to people who accuse her of being a bit posh and spoiled. I barely made it past the title track, which boasts some of the worst lyrics of 2014 ("Queen B's going back to the drawing... We're all watching Gaga, L-O-L-O haha") but the whole project was ultimately derailed by that pointless schoolground chant of a lead single, Air Balloon.

Lily is still one of my favourite pop persons and her post-Sheezus blowout on Soundcloud pretty much confirms she's got at least another three It's Not Me It's Yous in her. Let's all hope for the best and reconvene in 2019 for Album #4.

Very amazing pop video of the year: Blank Space

I'm still thrilled how they did my favourite line such mad-eyed justice.

Has Michelle Branch released her new album yet?

11 years since her last solo release and there's still no sign of 2011's West Coast Time, but we did get a semi-palatable cover of Radiohead's Creep via Soundcloud! That's okay, right guys? Guys?

Not song of the year: Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass

Leaving aside the not inconsiderable issue of how she spells her own name, this song is the fucking pits. "My mama told me not to worry about my size, but to squawk judgement at skinny bitches while prancing around in a technicolour pre-pubescent nightmare. Looking smug. And sounding terrible."

Pop crush of the year: Perfume Genius

While Sam Smith was selling millions of records and doing his best to alienate the entire gay community with newfound levels of towering banality, Mike Hadreas went on the warpath in his best heels and sequins. Queen is the perfect queer anthem for a year where David Cameron might be okay with gays getting married but bumsex is whitewashed out of a film about Alan Turing.

NO FAMILY IS SAFE WHEN WE SASHAY.

U2 Award for Music Moment No One Wanted But We Got Anyway: Band Aid 30

You had room for three YouTubers in the studio but no one thought to give Dido a ring? What gives, Geldof?

Charli XCX's increasingly fine line

 

YouTuber in ‘Does Something Mildly Productive And Not Completely Terrible’ Shocker

Take note, other human-shaped YouTube voids - if you take time out from pointlessly filming yourself for 23 hours a day it's actually possible to write and record five not-bad songs. No, not you, Zoella. Sorry. Should have been more specific.

It’s been 10 years since Anniemal

And it still sounds as brilliant as ever. Fingers crossed for a full Annie/Richard X album in 2015.

It's also been 10 years since this

I saw Franz Ferdinand live in March. That's up there with phrases such as "Thank god I passed that Maths NAB" and "Smirnoff Ice please" I never expected to say again.

And this

Oh 2004. What a hideous, tuneless, soul-destroying 12 months you were. May you forever be the year we accidentally on purpose overlook in 'Best of 2000s' lists.

Big Reunion Series 2 wasn't a complete waste of time*

Because it reminded me that THIS INCREDIBLE SONG EXISTED:

All through February I had A1's greatest hits on repeat in the hope of uncovering similar moments of genius, but I'm sorry to say the other 12 tracks are completely shit.

*I'm sure Eternal and Girl Thing probably disagree with this.  

The B*Witched Award for Surprise 6 Track EP Release of the Year: Madonna - Rebel Heart

We're a way away from the glory days of Ray of Light/Music/American Life/Confessions yet, but it's such a goddamn relief to hear Madonna singing actual SONGS again. Living for Love is serving some Like-A-Prayer-thirty-years-later realness, and I'm particularly partial to the dark folksiness of Devil Pray. Illuminati and Bitch I'm Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj) are predictably tiresome, but 4/6 isn't at all bad.

The surprise B*Witched EP on the other hand? 1/6 at best. Soz Keavy.

Best non-Kate Bush gig of the year: Kelis, Somerset House

The only thing more thrilling than hearing Food live was getting organically funkified versions of Milkshake, Trick Me and Acapella on the side. Though you can't make it out in my shaky Instagram efforts Kelis was also wearing a very beautiful dress - complete toot from me.

Most Anticipated Album of 2015 I’m Also Very Terrified Might Not Actually Come Out: Say Lou Lou - Lucid Dreaming

Say Lou Lou have had an incredible run of singles (Julian, Better in the Dark, Beloved, Everything We Touch) and yet they managed to sell copies of just about none of them. Argh. Lucid Dreaming, their debut album, remains tentatively scheduled for a February 2015 release, but I live in fear of another Mini Viva/Michelle Branch/Mutya Keisha Siobhan-style disaster. I will clutch their mostly digital back catalogue close and cross my fingers for a sudden renewed interest in swoopingly brilliant pop.

Speaking of which

I can't talk about MKS without wanting to burn Polydor HQ to the ground. If everything goes properly tits up next year (though it's hard to imagine anything worse than 2014's 12 months of deathly silence) I hope we at least get a third Siobhan Donaghy album out of it.

The Bright Light Bright Light Award for Amazing Artwork: Bright Light Bright Light

Nothing pleases me more than consistent campaign visuals and Bright Light Bright Light never disappoints. Second album Life is Easy*  and associated singles run were very good indeed - in terms of tunes as well as fonts.

*I'm sure Eternal and Girl Thing probably disagree with this. 

Spicewatch - risk of imminent reunion:

After rumours of a four-piece Vegas stint fizzled out in early spring and Mel B finally wangled herself a spot on the X Factor UK judging panel, the likelihood of a Spice Girls reunion was downgraded from substantial ("a tour is a strong possibility") to low ("even a joint photocall is unlikely") for the first time since Mel C's solo career actually seemed viable.

Did Cheryl Fernandez-Versini release a decent solo album this year?

The frustrating thing about Only Human is the first three tracks are actually pretty solid, but it's business as usual from there on in - we didn't even get a customary banging single out of it. YOU SPLIT UP GIRLS ALOUD FOR THIS, VERSINI?

Bafflingly Superb Rita Ora Single Award, Sponsored by Paris Hilton's Stars Are Blind: Rita Ora - Never Let You Down

If you'd told me 12 months ago I was about to spend the best part of a year bopping merrily to a Rita Ora track I would have scoffed, obnoxiously. Thankfully we can all rest assured it's unlikely to happen again on account of Calvin Harris deleting the rest of her album.

Chairs in pop: 2014 update

1. (-) Siobhan Donaghy and her pet tea bees

2. (NEW) St Vincent

3. (2) Victoria Beckham's wedding throne

Oh shit I've not talked about St Vincent yet

St Vincent. Isn't she just tremendous?

Three good Scottish albums happened 

From the top: Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and the front man out of Frightened Rabbit. We might have screwed up the independence referendum, but we sure know our way around a guitar. Or at least these three do. All I play is the recorder.

One Direction

1. (-) Harry Styles 2. (3) Zayn Malik 3. (4) Niall Horan 4. (2) Liam Payne

... 5. (-) Louis Tomlinson

Oh hey, they managed to release one good song this year too!

In case you're interested: My full top 2014 albums list, not all of which I could be bothered to write about above

Arthur Beatrice - Late Beck - Morning Phase Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were The Black Keys - Turn Blue Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow Bright Light Bright Light - Life is Easy Caribou - Our Love First Aid Kit - Stay Gold Jenny Lewis - The Voyager Jessie Ware - Tough Love Kelis - Food Kylie - Kiss Me Once (or at least half of it) La Roux - Trouble in Paradise Lykke Li - I Never Learn Owl John - Owl John Perfume Genius - Too Bright The Pierces - Creation Röyksopp & Robyn - Do It Again EP Sharon Van Etten - Are We There St Vincent - St Vincent Taylor Swift - 1989 The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling

But my real music moment of 2014?

Seeing this live. Like the sun coming out.