[1] Future Islands, ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’


Now it’s 2015, we can truly appreciate how this was the single of 2014. That’s my justification for the delay. It has nothing to do with the fact I fancied a pale ale on the 24th and everything went to the dogs.

It’s a bit dreary putting this here – what with NME, Guardian, everyone else doing the same – and indeed when I submitted my list to NME in, what, August or something, I had it at 2 and Miracle Fortress at 1, but… wait for it… SEASONS CHANGE. This cuts to the heart like a particularly ferocious chest-beat on the Letterman show.

My wife would tell me my preference is all about the synths sounding a bit 80s, and she’s got a point, that’s my Kryptonite. But it’s also the sadness and acceptance wrapped into a couple of warming hooks, and the little crack in Samuel T Herring’s voice that’s so much better than a pantomime roar. I do have reservations – and maybe it’s a sign of a non-vintage year that I’ve got a slight nag about the supposed best single. It’s that chorus. Too muddy, too Killers. The rest of the song props it up.

So do we have consensus?

Junior 3 immediately says, “Good!”
Junior: “It’s calm, it’s nice, I like it.”
Junior 2 knows the words because she has absorbed all of pop music.
My notes say Junior 3 is now making my hair “look cool”.
The last word, once more, to Junior: “I want No.2 to be No.1.”

[2] Taylor Swift, ‘Shake It Off’


I’ve loved Taylor Swift since I was twice her age. I know the narrative – fuelled by her, essentially – was that this was where she finally went ‘pop’, but if ‘Love Story’ wasn’t ‘pop’ then I’m feeling 22. Obviously I got caught up in the whole Taylor-goes-pop frenzy because, well, I have editors, but the only material difference is the heavier emphasis on synths. The rest is familiar, all hooks, love, no love, lost love, anticipation, regret, proper choruses and a singer who understands how to get it all across, emotionally and pragmatically.

‘Shake It Off’ is silly. Not too silly to be dissected lyrically, but that’s just a projected persona, isn’t it? I can’t imagine she’s really worried about haters or what they say. Its strength is in its hectic joy, the wail into the final chorus, the horns on the second, its immediacy – I watched the video that night and never again, but it and the song were glued down from that moment. It’s usually in my head but I still play it again.

Inevitably, it’s huge around here and they’re beaming from the first ‘Hey Mickey’ beats. “I love it,” says Junior 3. “I said I love it straightaway.” She did. Junior loves it too and does the whole “THIS. SICK. BEAT.” thing because, like Taylor, she’s well hip-hop. Junior 2 goes for deeper analysis: “I love the voices. It has a lot of expression.” It’s about time this family had a proper music critic.

[3] La Roux, ‘Kiss And Not Tell’


It’s only right and proper that Elly Jackson notched up all those No.1 singles in 2014 (and that platinum Mercury-winning album, of course), because she wrote five to six of the best pop songs of the year, and naturally chart triumphs ensue. She couldn’t have done all that without support from Radio 1, so it’s fortunate the Nation’s Favourite was in her corner. And why wouldn’t it be? Trouble In Paradise spoke to its core remit.

Hang on, what did you just say?

“I know it and I love it,” says Junior 3, who’s gained that knowledge from her old man playing the album on repeat because IT’S NOT AS IF ANYONE ELSE DID, is it? “Fun!” says Junior. She and Junior 2 know all the words because obviously you couldn’t move for La Roux on the airwaves this year etc etc.

[4] Miracle Fortress, ‘Here’s To Feeling Good All The Time’


That bassline.

I think we covered all the Miracle Fortress stuff at No.18, but it’s nice that we’re doing our bit, isn’t it? Now go and buy everything.

OK, a few more words. Additional synths on the verse after the first chorus are the killer moment, but it always comes back to the bassline, which the girls actually sing. “Good!” says Junior 3. “Good good!” says Junior 2. “Quite boring,” says Junior, but as the great Meat once said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

[5] The Men, ‘Another Night’

the men 2014

“It sounds like the end of a play,” says Junior, “when they all bow.” That says something for the relentlessness of ‘Another Night’. It’s a five-minute victory lap, a song-long crescendo that must expend huge amounts of energy. Have you ever had an mp3 that sweats?

I guess that’s what happens when a ‘punk’ band goes soul. They pour in their customary drive and hulking lack of subtlety, recapturing the Ready-Brek glow of, say, Otis Redding packed into that tiny suit but without any of the more nuanced tricks like the pull-back and release. It’d all be too exhausting if The Men weren’t also shooting dipping hooks through the song, managing to add the odd shiver to the mayhem, finding a different layer of exhilaration.

[6] Jenny Lewis, ‘Completely Not Me’

jenny lewis 2014

This one’s from the Girls season three soundtrack, features Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij and, to me, sounds tenuously related to the version of ‘Morning Bell’ on Radiohead’s Amnesiac and the school choir rendition of ‘See The Morning Star’ that my brother took the lead on. Chiming instruments dredged from the bottom of the ocean. Its fairylike “ooo-ooo-ooo”s are a hit with my girls, but Junior is irritated when Junior 2 starts repeating them, seemingly forever.

Jenny Lewis says ‘Completely Not Me’ is inspired by Teen Wolf. O the vagaries of the artistic process.

[7] Tove Lo feat. Hippie Sabotage, ‘Stay High’

tove lo 2014

Or whatever the blazes it’s called.

Tove Lo, ‘Stay High (Hippie Sabotage Remix)’
Tove Lo, ‘Stay High (Habits) (Hippie Sabotage Remix)’
Hippie Sabotage, ‘Stay High (Habits Remix) [Tove Lo]’
Tove Lo, ‘Stay High (feat. Hippie Sabotage) [Habits Remix]’

Basically, it’s ‘Habits’ remixed by Hippie Sabotage then given its more radio-friendly chorus-referencing title to realise its hit potential. And it made the top 10 both in real OCC terms and right here, so job done.

It’s a light touch of a remix that turns a blunt-edged power ballad into something crisp and satisfying that sounds a little like James Blake if he found a hook. The swell into the chorus is the moment I wait for, but the girls go for the “Oh-ohs”. Over and over again. Mind you, they know the rest of the words too – this never fails to amaze me because my brain’s never retained lyrics.

“Give it a tick!” demands Junior 2.

[8] Manic Street Preachers, ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’

manics 2014

“DA-DA-DA-DAAA” – it’s a riff you have to sing along to. Juniors 1 and 2 sing along to the riff.

Well, this is timely, seeing as everyone’s talking about the Manic Street Preachers right now. Between you and me, I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to The Holy Bible all the way through, or at least not more than once. I was never invested in the cult of the Manics although I did buy ‘Stay Beautiful’, ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ and ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (and Gold Against The Soul just for the first two singles), and later ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘If You Tolerate This…’. They just didn’t speak to my politics, which were, in essence, can I dance to it? And is Staropramen on tap?

Which makes it all the more surprising to see them here, so long after even their biggest fans would admit was their peak. Except for those fans who think that terrible single with Nina Persson was any good, of course. But this is such a great, punchy single. I always did like ‘Yellow Pearl’. And the false chorus appeals to the pop anarchist in me, as does the mild is-it-isn’t-it about Richey Edwards intrigue. Nicky Wire says it isn’t and you have to trust a man in shades, don’t you?

[9] The War On Drugs, ‘Red Eyes’

war on drugs 2014

I could’ve gone with ‘Under The Pressure’, ‘Burning’, ‘An Ocean Between The Waves’ or any other Mark Kozelek-vexing slab of Springsteen-meets-Knopfler highway rock, but it was the first “Woo!” in ‘Red Eyes’ that really made me feel like I’d chanced upon something special. I was passing through Victoria Station, in a little road movie of my own. Albeit one that just involved trains.

My first exposure to Adam Granduciel was previous album Slave Ambient, although I’d actually forgotten that I’d heard it. When I put on Lost In The Dream I thought I was coming in cold and I was smacked down by how good it was. It’s a comfort blanket of sound but feels vast and spacious too, the sense of charging forth into the desert with just the right clothes on. There’s nothing worse than chasing the American dream in the wrong outfit. ‘Red Eyes’ is the album’s slamming pop song that keeps dipping down into the motorik lowlands before rocketing up again at the very limits of control.

“It’s rather boring,” says Junior.

[10] Shamir, ‘If It Wasn’t True’

shamir 2014

Each beat a little chip out of your skull, fidgety hooks, a slinky wriggly sexy vocal, all of these things make a great dance-pop record in 2014. I decided a few minutes ago that I’d call it ‘post-Disclosure’, in the sense that this has that early 90s Strictly Rhythm house kineticism but still feels ‘now’, but I think there’s some DFAism too – The Juan MacLean, Hercules & Love Affair, you know where I’m at. The insultingly young Shamir Bailey just adds another level, and considering the strength of the whole EP and the more recent ‘On The Regular’, he’s an exciting new proposition altogether.

Those hard, seductive beats get Juniors 1 and 2 robot-dancing around the kitchen table. “Awesome!” says Junior. “I’m imagining myself as a Cyberman.” Me too – even more when Shamir’s playing.