Over the last three weeks we had a look ahead at 15 artists we recommend you Listen Out For in 2013. This week it is time to look back a bit as 2012 fast draws to a close. Over the next few days we will countdown our EPs and Albums of the year but today we start with our 20 favourite tracks.
We have purposefully used quite a loose definition of ‘tracks’. We are not looking at singles only but tracks that were released in one capacity or another over the last 12 months. These are the tracks that stood out and stayed with us across the year, we hope you like them and hopefully even find some you hadn’t heard before.
20. Lovepark – “How Do I See?”
The debut release from Brighton based Lovepark was a perfect track for late summer evening listening, and despite the onset of winter, it still sounds as lovely as ever. The warm, dreamy sounds gently nudge and probe into your subconscious, simultaneously relaxing you while stirring something from within. Not bad for four skater boys who met on the ramps of Burgess Hill.
19. Dare Dukes – “Meet You On The Bus”
Dare Dukes is blessed with the ability to perfectly encapsulate the minutiae of everyday life in the most charming and endearing manner. Of “Meet You On The Bus” he said, “I was trying to capture the great American leaving-on-a-jet-plane narrative the comes up again and again in popular music, and I was trying to run it through the brains of modern-day Romeos and Juliettes looking for escape from all the things that Romeos and Juliettes get fed up with”. Which is a good thing, because it is exactly what he achieved in such a sweet and catchy way.
18. Eye Emma Jedi – “Sin”
There is something slightly antipodean about the opening guitar lines of “Sin” which we just love and the rest of the track is damn fine too. It’s frenetic indie-pop a-go-go with full on festival bounceability that blasts along at breakneck speed revving up the guitars as it goes. Brilliant stuff from a brilliantly named band.
17. Wall – “Magazine”
Utterly enchanting, Wall’s voice is as soft and refreshing as the cool side of the pillow and as fragile as crystal, perched delicately and perfectly atop her sparse, muted soundscapes. It’s no wonder her debut single, “Magazine” was snapped up for release by the label arm of Black Cab Sessions in double quick time.
16. MS MR – “Hurricane”
Introspective without wallowing in self-pity or melodrama, “Hurricane” is a fantastic twist on the classic pop of yesteryear. It deals with the emotion of a breaking or broken relationship but via self-analysis rather than by proclaiming remorse and undying love for the other party. The production too is stunning, it’s about as clean as we have heard all year and is the kind that could make almost any system sound amazing.
15. She Makes War – “Minefields” (Alphabet Bands session)
A little bit of a cheat we admit, but as much as we love the original version of “Minefields”, this stripped back acoustic version that She Makes War recorded for us earlier in the year is just stunning. It is just gorgeous and we fell more than a little bit in love with it, it being our first ever session just made it even more special.
14. Seasfire – “We Will Wake”
We weren’t the only people to love “We Will Wake”. It didn’t take long for it to burn up the Hype Machine chart and hit the top spot. It takes their trademark haunting melodies and glitchy sounds and adds in a huge, anthemic Hurts-style pop hook that just builds and builds. The gentle darkness that has been ever present in their sound thus far has been cracked by a ray of light pop breaking through, it sounds fantastic.
13. Of Monsters And Men – “Little Talks”
“Little Talks” is a great pop song, when you first hear it you have to sit up and take notice. We love the boy/girl duet, and it’s so vibrant and colourful. This was the first track we heard from Of Monsters And Men and it made us stop what we were doing and go and find everything else we could of theirs and ultimately resulted in their album being imported from Iceland.
12. Public Service Broadcasting – “Waltz For George”
“Waltz For George” consistently knocks us sideways with its haunting and harrowing elegance. Other tracks on The War Room may get more recognition and plaudits, but as great as they are, they lack the emotional resonance of “Waltz For George”, which highlights the realities of warfare and the price that must be paid even in victory.
11. Superhumanoids – “Geri”
“Geri” is one of those tracks that just goes round and round in your head on a never ending loop. It’s so damn catchy and infectious. The melody, the light electronica, the beat, the vocal counterpoint of the male and female duet (which gets us every time) is all rather special.
10. Arrange – “Caves”
Listening to “Caves” is akin to catching the faint scent of something from your past on the breeze as you stride along. Without realising why, memories and emotions have been stirred within you and you just have to stop for a moment to take it all in and compose yourself. The soft, haziness of Malcolm Lacey’s vocals waft around while ambient beats and electronics move deliberately below. It’s music for an early morning walk in the autumn, just as the sun rises and the dew drops glisten. Haunting and melodic it is absolutely beautiful.
9. Rhye – “The Fall”
“The Fall” is a velvet smooth recounting of a relationship that is crumbling and the ache to feel just one moment more of tenderness; “My love, make love to me one more time before you go away” is the lament. It is awash with a mid-life crisis feel, the element of looking across at grass that is greener and wondering how you ended up here, all delivered in a rich and beguiling package.
8. Olympians – “It Was Words That Sunk Our Ship”
Full of rousing harmonies and popping rhythms layered over intricate guitar and synth lines, “It Was Words That Sunk Our Ship” just edged out “The Dictionary” as our favourite Olympians track of the year. Arriving as part three of their acclaimed Book Club project “It Was Words” further illustrated the bands rapid growth and their ability to create intricate and intelligent sounds.
7. Vuvuvultures – “Ctrl Alt Mexicans”
Vibrant, fractious guitars jump over pulsating, relentless beats and skittering electronics. Named after one of the samples used within in, “Ctrl Alt Mexicans” is a fantastic track of pulsating and edgy darkness. It whips along at pace, taking you with it as it rocks out and jumps around.
6. Milly Hirst – “Rose”
Taken from Milly Hirst’s eponymous debut EP, “Rose” is just sublime, a track of real beauty. As delicate as its subject, wistful and heartfelt it leads you, floating to meet this Rose, to see her and understand her. Its porcelain fragility is divine and makes you want to just close your eyes and drift away on her voice.
5. Haim – “Don’t Save Me”
“Don’t Save Me” is so infectious that people could well die from it. Hear it and you want to dance, preferably in a not-quite-groovy-but-still-really-fun 80’s way, like Springsteen when he dances with Courtney Cox in the “Dancing In The Dark” video. It is just a great pop track that will have you up from your seat and grooving like a loon.
4. Niki & the Dove – “Somebody”
Speaking of great pop tracks, with “Somebody” Niki & the Dove has leant over and drawn from the well once reserved for Prince, and the result is an absolute gem. There is so much crammed into less than 3 minutes, it’s like they have taken the best elements of every great pop song of the last 30 years and crammed them together, taken a giant hit and blown out a perfect smoke ring of utter pop magnificence.
3. 2forJoy – “Michaela”
2forJoy’s Ruth Ivo has one of the most enchanting and heartbreaking voices we have heard in a long time. On “Michaela” it is soft and gentle, exciting but somehow distant; tinged with an overwhelming melancholy as she sings of a lost friend. Intermittent electronics and percussion build a perfectly brooding, wistful atmosphere for the vocals to melt into. It’s a wonderful piece of low-key, haunting pop music and one that we absolutely adore.
2. Embers – “Hollow Cage (live performance)”
In just the last couple of weeks, Manchester based Embers have exploded across the internet, taking no prisoners on a path of unrelenting critical acclaim. It is entirely justified as well as on “Hollow Cage” they build sound like a cinematic narrative. Layers are added and woven in as the song progresses and evolves. Recorded in a monastery, the acoustics help add to the scale of the sound, which seems to expand and contract at will. Vocals and strings escalate, rising up to the top of the vast ceilings and filling every nook and cranny above and crypt and cellar below. There is drama and intensity on a grand scale, emotional and honest. Had they released this just a month before, the Blog Sound of 2013 longlist would probably have looked a bit different.
1. Spring Offensive – “Not Drowning But Waving”
We said at the time of release that Spring Offensive’s epic “Not Drowning But Waving” could well end up as our track of the year, and so it has. Its anger, fear and guilt all flow like the tide that plays so central a role in the song’s narrative. From the understated tick-tocking of a clock at the start, through the soft remorseful recounting of the situation, the intense rousing worry of the denouement and onto the resigned coda of culpability and consequence; everything is exquisitely crafted and considered. “Not Drowning But Waving” is a stirring and emotional tidal wave that pulls at your heart and threatens to suffocate your soul. It is a magnificent track and one truly deserving of its place as our favourite of the year.