#97 Alive And Amplified’s Top 10 of 2014

And as another year comes to a close, let us not forget the incredible year that’s passed us by! Years and Years came from nowhere to take on the world – DZ DEATHRAYS came back with an album that was one of the must haves of the year, Pitbull kept making music and thank god the Foo Fighters did return, not only with some fab music, but with a stunning documentary to boast. Cover-versions went from strength to strength with The Night VI’s cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking Bout You” being a real moment in my playlist and PVRIS revamping AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It” with added rarrr. I further showed the world I loved Australian music by writing an epic piece in my role as Artist Discovery Editor for Unrecorded (check out Somebody I Should Know: The New Australian Music Scene) as well as discovering gems such as Klo and Go Go Fish who both have bright 2015’s ahead of them.

But, as is tradition with the Alive and Amplified output, we must pick a Top 10 and place them in a curated order. No easy fete I can tell you…but here we go.

10. Portico – Living Fields

(October)

As well as being a type of porch, Portico are an amazing London trio who give James Blake a run for his money. Finding a worthy home on Ninja Tune their debut album is due March 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more of their crytpically soulful indie. It may sound poetic, but this track from beginning to end has little twists and quirks that keeps the pop fan nodding their head and niche music lovers enveloped with the intricacy of this tracks construction.

9. Raury – God’s Whisper

(April)

Looking back at my first post on Raury I described him as an alt-folk Weezer…which, it turns out, didn’t quite apply to the rest of his stunning debut LP, but sits perfectly on this beast of a track that swept the internet by storm. In the space of a few weeks Atlanta’s golden boy (just 17 years old) become extremely hot property. And it’s like we’ve only scraped the surface. Raury has so much more to offer…but this is a perfect introduction and still a hit.

8. Moody Good – Musicbx

(February)

Eddie Jefferys (part of 16-bit) clearly had a second calling in life – to make thoughtful trap influenced alternative beats. His self-titled LP was stunning from track to track, but Musicbx had that jewel box tinkling on the opening bars that pulled me in with Eryn Allen Kane’s vocal complimenting the piece perfectly. The album is still 100% worth a full stream, having recently won the Best Album crown at the BMAs.

7. Vundabar – Ash In The Sun

(December)

Just squeezing in there as an Alive And Amplified 2014 pick, Vundabar are an emerging Boston trio who really impressed me with their shoegazer, post-grunge, alt. rock radness. Introduced to me via a fellow new music lover I was again revitalised by the thought that the new music community is still the number 1 destination for true new acts…nothing can rival the online music community 🙂 In the same way Crushed Beaks impressed me from the British side with their early stuff, I imagine a live Vundabar set is truly…ermm… vundaful?

6. Tom Vek – Sherman (Animals In the Jungle)

(April)

People talk about Josh Homme, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Dave Grohl…Pitbull. But I’ll always contest that Tom Vek deserves to go down in the wiki history of the music of 00s-10s. A cult underdog hero, I think We Have Sound (his debut album) is a life defining LP for me, changing people’s acceptance of what indie and electro and standing the test of time (being almost a decade old now) as a fantastic record. “Sherman” is the first track I heard of Vek’s 3rd studio album and he’s doing what he does best…letting that bassline lead. Long live Vek.

 

5. The Patriots – Empire Park

(August)

For anyone who has known me for a while The Patriots entry on this list is assumed. My love of 00’s rock, grunge and alternative rock in general makes this song an instant ‘Elise favourite’, making me slightly more jealous of my Aussie buds that have not only the likes of Violent Soho who headline festivals but a whole new generation of underdogs barking up with audaciously good music.

4. Black City Lights – Not Enough (For Us)

(July)

At a time when the world was saturated with new electro acts, New Zealanders Black City Lights shared a track super-charged with emotion. Everything about this song is set perfectly for a film score or some other atmospheric, highly emotional visuals. Even a rocker needs some escapism and this track is one I’ve felt particularly passionate about since hearing back in the summer. (PS – random admission, but this track does bring images of Data from Star Trek to the forefront of my mind…the track has nothing to do with Data. But hey…)

3. PUP – Guilt Trip

(June)

The post-hardcore / garage punk scene in Canada is 200% alive and…well, amplified! Having built up a small army of musical connections across areas through Vancouver to London (Canada to be clear also has a place called London…) I have had my ears invited to listen to some incredible guitar-based music. After spending a summer seeing PUP support some of my favourite acts and put on a killer set at Reading Festival, I still list “Guilt Trip” as one of my rock anthems.

2. Kwabs – Pray For Love

(April)

There’s always a bit of a curveball in these Top 10’s. Something that’s not (on paper) in line with the Alive And Amplified spirit, but still stands out as something truly special on my weekly new music hunts. Kwabs is, hands down, the most talented voice box to come out of the UK this year…reverse… this decade. Not to belittle his songwriting, creativity and general otherness, but his jazz training at the Royal Academy of Music has finely tuned that body part to the delight of us lot. This artist has had some strong positives and negatives throughout his young life and brings this to light through his lyrics, vocal dexterity and song-writing, whilst still managing to be an incredibly polite, punctual and humble man. Having the pleasure of meeting him myself through the course of 2014 and hearing some of his (would be) chart singles slightly ahead of the crowd earlier this year I have continually been impressed by this genuine musician. Produced by Plan B – who is definitely showing off his production prowess here – Ben and Kwabs have created one hell of a tune that needs to be listened to without prejudice or comparison to either artists work. It is truly a future classic that is maturing in a metaphorical musical wine rack somewhere and I bet in 20 years time, it will still be pulled out the bag as a cult classic.

1. Jim Valentine – Hello 

(November)

In 2012 Pulled Apart By Horses nabbed the top spot and last year QOTSA sat triumphantly at number 1 following a phenomenal return to form. 2014 a brand new act has taken the crown. Glaswegian rockers who have taken a leaf out of the old skool rock n roll’s book and pulled off a quiff to such a degree that Alex Turner is (probably not) crying in his bedroom at his attempt. For a band that had 2 songs up on Soundcloud when I heard this, I relied on the ‘goosebumps don’t lie’ litmus test for new music – this band are really something special. Appealing to the Arctic Monkey crew as much as they do the Rolling Stones, riffs, bass lines and a raspy rustic vocal to compliment, I, hand on heart, can say this is the best song I have heard during 2014. Surely that makes it worth a listen alone?

#96 Twas the night before Christmas.

Not quite…but it certainly feels like I need a nap and a large and piggish portion of food (left my lunch at home…bugger).

Found reason No. 8983490589047689 to love Triple J Unearthed – they were the first home of GRRL PAL – Perth’s Aussie answer to CHVRCHES, without the seriousness of their Scottish pals.

In the scarily similar vein to Jaymes Young, both bring from Los Angeles, could make Lostboycrow just another future R&B meets pop act out there. The reality is that with every artist there are certain quirks, preferences and vocal traits that make them distinct. Lostboycrow has captured a real pop essence to his sounds that mean his first ever upload to Soundcloud has already turned heads.

I first heard Sydney’s Redial a couple of weeks back and couldn’t place my finger on his style. Flume-esque AUS dance? Or tropical Skrillex? After careful consideration I’ve concluded that as long as it sounds like the bollocks it’s worth sharing. “Work It Down” is the bollocks so we’re all good.

London producer Royce Wood Jr. has already chummed up with the right crowd in London and it take about 7 seconds of listening to his debut “Rover” to hear the boys got talent. Totally refreshing from the likes of Disclosure and Route 94, with appealing elements to American house this is a stunning first track from someone who’s clearly got a tonne of chart-smashes on his laptop ready to unleash in 2015.

Hindsights are a great UK based alt-band that bring melodic sing-a-long choruses with post-grunge verses and hooks to the new music table. Ones to watch…

Minimal beats and hip hop in a big ol’melting point is the recipe of the day for Black Vanilla – another Sydney offering whose profile and sound likens them to the AUS version of Burial.

Vaults are an alternative Florence & The Machine…with toned down wailing. An enchanting first listen for me was to “Vultures” whose atmospheric, evocative feel would fit perfectly on a film score.

I think if this has been anyone but an unknown to my iTunes I’d be telling you WTF…but this slightly off key beat with sythy piece being a fresh slate to my ears I’ve been drawn in. In the same way White Town’s “I Could Never Be Your Woman” was a bit odd…this works perfectly. Meet Nicholas Allbrook. 

And leaving you with some Christmas cheer in the form of Marilyn Manson – a man who never ceases to bring dark, scary and dominating sprinklings to his rock music. A king…

Have a bloody great Christmas break guys  – speak in the New Year with the next summary of new music from across the globe and a new House Of Savages gig night to put in your diary.

Love & chips,

Elise xx