As surely as night follows day and unlistenably long ‘best albums of …’ lists follow twelve months of music reviews, here is my contribution to stealing the last of your ear’s remaining music-free moments.
In what is becoming a standard, below are my top six tracks, but the Spotify playlist also contains all those that almost made it; with a total length of a very reasonable 49 minutes.
Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea
Travels With Myself And Another is now regarded as a classic, and while I know the song Hope that House Built well, I hadn’t really heard the rest of the album. This year I stumbled across it again, really listened, and it turned out to be as good as people said. The opening track Arming Eritrea is my favourite, the perfect combination of a simple noisy riff and the spittingly angry exorcism of a grudge.
Public Service Broadcasting - Go!
Last time it was the song Everest that made my spine tingle, this time it’s the beautifully put together and expertly paced Go! Race for Space magically captures the hopes and dangers of the space race while producing a nostalgia for the optimism and possibilities of the time.
Beach Slang - Punk or Lust
To really enjoy Beach Slang you have to put aside your cynicism and accept the songs at face value, even if they seem a bit too ernest to be true. If you can do that, you can enjoy some of the best pop-punk (dare I say, gulp, emo) music that I’ve heard in years. This track is from a collection of two EPs that came out this year and is my favourite, but they also released their first real album The Things We Do To Find People Like Us this year.
The St Pierre Snake Invasion - Rock’n’Roll Workshops
I’m glad to see that TSPSI have now released a full-length; having had the good fortune of seeing a few of their intense shows in Bristol and around in the last few years I wish them the best of luck with it. Rock’n’Roll Workshops is a perfect example of their aggressive self-mocking style in 1 minute and 57 seconds, as they continue to struggle with defining how to be themselves and not become all the hardcore/rock’n’roll clichés fighting to be the most ‘authentic’. See them live if you can.
Torche - Restarter
Restarter the album is a welcome step back into the darker side of Torche’s sound, the whole thing relentlessly roaring over you. Choosing one song feels silly, like trying to pick out one boulder in a massive and spectacular rock slide, but the track Restarter gets my vote for being the most sweeping and flowing of the album, exemplifying the singular way Torche manage to mix pop and doom.
The Manic Street Preachers - Dreaming of the City (Hugheskova)
Yes, The Manic Street Preachers and yes, I’m as surprised as you are. While they’re dear to my heart for their original musical left wing political rebellion, this is something else. It’s the Manics crossed with eurodisco/PiL/insert your own random music genealogy here - but it really works. I missed the album Futurology completely in 2014, and had someone described it to me I would have dismissed it as very, very bad idea, but their experiment has paid off. Dreaming of the City is probably my favourite of all the tracks, as it sounds the least like a traditional Manics' song. They’ve managed to combine their core sensibility with a very different sound, showing a far reaching and flexible talent I never knew they possessed.
All the tracks this year come from great albums, plus the others mentioned above, but there are a couple more worth mentioning. Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi is really good and the best thing they’ve done since 2005’s Plans. If you like echoey guitars and a space sound I can recommend Diiv’s Oshin, which creates a beautiful shimmering atmosphere you can easily slip into.