Once again, after a truly exceptional year for independent music, Sound-Revolution have collated a list of must-hear tracks. Although this list is titled the ‘Top 50 Tracks of 2011’, take it with a pinch of salt. This isn’t the definitive list of what’s good or what isn’t, rather a collection of brilliant songs that we believe have shaped the past year. Some of these tracks won’t sound like anything ground-breaking, but are perhaps a welcome slice of nostalgia. Many tracks, on the other hand, are new sounds that have emerged over the past 12 months.

It’s difficult to summarise a year of music in a paragraph, so I won’t attempt that – although it is worth mentioning that 2011 has been a fantastic year for creative pop music, a lot of which is featured. Instead, I’d like to thank everybody that has helped out with Sound-Revolution over the past year. It’s been a brilliant year for progress, so thank you very much too all of our writers, and most importantly you, the reader.

–James Murray (Editor)

50

Young Dreams – Young Dreams

Young Dreams create big music. That being said – as busy as those layered vocals sound, you probably wouldn’t predict that this Norwegian ‘collective’ consist of 12 members. It’s difficult to pin down Young Dreams’ music, you certainly can’t throw comparisons around aimlessly. The best way to describe this euphoric slice of indie pop is somewhere between the experimental sounds of Animal Collective and the Beach Boys. With their debut LP set for a 2012 release on Modular, it’s safe to expect more Young Dreams in the new year from these Nordic experimenters. — James Murray

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49

Dauwd – Ikopol

Dubstep isn’t really new and hip any more, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely passed its sell by date. In both the UK and US charts more and more dubstep artists are becoming prominent. It’s difficult to avoid the term ‘brostep’, but Dauwd is much the opposite. ‘Ikopol’ is an intricately produced slice of chilled electronica. Quite rightly, names such as 2562, Scuba, and various names on the Hotflush label have been subject to acclaim this year – and Dauwd deserves equal appraisal. Not quite as accomplished as some of his musical siblings, Dauwd is an artist that has been overlooking by many, so we’re here to point you into the path of this talented producers manner. — James Murray

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48

We Are Augustines – Book of James

It’s been an impressive year for We Are Augustines. The Brooklyn-based folk rockers got a brilliant exposure opportunity through touring with Glasvegas, and to put the icing on the cake their debut album ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships’ won the iTunes prize for best alternative album. ‘Book of James’ is an emotive affair, a eulogy to lead vocalist Billy McCarthy’s brother who committed suicide in 2009. This is about a deep as music gets lyrically, and few can refuse heartfelt folk that hits home as hard as this. If you’re a fan of anything Sprinsteen-esque, look no further, it’s almost a granted that this two-piece will drive on towards wide success. — James Murray

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47

Tycho – Hours

A late but worthy entry into our top 50 is electronic producer Tycho with ‘Hours’, one of a selection of sublime tracks taken from his latest record ‘Dive’. The beauty of softer, ambient electronica is that it’s easy listening – and as a result is appealing to a wider audience than solely EDM loyalists. The paradoxically named ‘Hours’ is a psychedelic exploration into sound, expressed in a fashion so melancholy that time becomes irrelevant. Building on this tracks remarkable nature is its minimal composition; Tycho certainly proves here that less is more, combining little more than a mish-mash of keys over a straightforward bass line. — James Murray

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46

United Fruit – Go Away, Don’t Leave Me Alone

Switching to something much rawer, here is United Fruit. For those of you that miss Yourcodenameis:milo as much as we do, ‘Go Away, Don’t Leave Me Alone’ is a welcome flashback. These Glaswegian rockers are doing more than just rectifying mid 00s post-hardcore, though – United Fruit create original and electrifying guitar-driven rock music. Their incredible full-length ‘Fault Lines’ was released earlier this year, and for us is the best record created by an unsigned outfit in a long, long time. If you like noisy rock music and were ever fans of Fugazi, Blakfish or At The Drive-In, this is well worth your time.

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45

Polinski – Tangent

In case you didn’t know, Paul Wolinski, programmer of 65daysofstatic has a side project – ingeniously named Polinski. The name aside, this is an incredible composition which proves that while minimalism is working for some, this new-found maximilism is having just as much, if not more of a profound effect on the dance music landscape. In ‘Tangent’ Polinski sets the pace with a deceptive introduction, giving this track an even heftier punch when all of its intricacy is exposed. Polinski creates glitchy, intelligent dance music – but so long as you like your music bursting at the seams with energy, this should hit the spot. — James Murray

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44

Mint Julep – Aviary

Another one for 2012: This husband and wife outfit from Portland know exactly what makes pop music good. Those delicate vocals, delivered so emphatically when combined with harmonious instrumentals encapsulate almost everything that pop music should be. Mint Julep are a welcome injection of optimism. Music so positive, teeming with both colour and romanticism isn’t anywhere near prominent enough, and ‘Aviary’ delivers this in a style that’s both hopeful for pop music and hopeful for the listener. Mint Julep have paved the way for continued success. It won’t be long before people quite rightly jump on this bandwagon. — James Murray

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43

Random Hand – Bones

After a successful year having released one of their best albums yet ‘Seething Is Believing’ and doing an unbelievable amount of touring, Random Hand got nominated for the ‘hardest working band’ award at the AIM Independent Music awards. But before all this they started the year by unleashing the first single from ‘Seething Is Believing’, ‘Bones’ with a great video and an equally impressive fan reaction. ‘Bones’ expresses everything we love about Random Hand, a great mix of heavy and aggressive ska and punk with a captivating chorus. — Chris Fishlock

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42

Childish Gambino – Bonfire

Some love him, some hate him, but there’s one thing for certain – Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino can rap. Okay, some might argue his lyrics aren’t exceptional, but his use of black humour throughout ‘Bonfire’ separates Gambino from other artists. Once you can get over the fact that a lot of ‘Camp’ is over-produced and at times an echo of Kanye and Odd Future productions, you might just realise that this collection of big beats and tongue-in-cheek lyrics is actually quite an enjoyable combination. At times it’s difficult to decide whether to take this seriously or not — after some discretion, it’s easiest just to just soak it all in. — James Murray

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41

Cut Copy – Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution

It was never going to be easy for Cut Copy to write ‘Zonoscope’. With the incredible success of ‘In Ghost Colours’, what should have proved to be a difficult follow-up fortunately proved not that difficult. Packed with contagious synth-hooks and plenty of sing-a-long opportunities, ‘Zonoscope’ proves that Cut Copy know their way around pop music. ‘Blink And You’ll Miss A Revolution’ epitomises ‘Zonoscope’, feel good neon pop, powered by euphoric simplicity. It’s difficult to say whether their next record will be an ironed-out ‘Zonoscope’ or something completely different – let’s just hope it’s not another four year wait. — James Murray

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40

Smokey Bastard – Aspirations, I Have Some

Releasing their second album ‘Tales From The Wasteland’ to great critical acclaim in late October, one of the UK’s finest folk punk outfits, Smokey Bastard included this beast of a song on the album. Featuring a great mix of instruments including banjo and accordion, ‘Aspirations, I Have Some’ rejects the general traditional folk sound of the rest of the album for a song with a more commercial sing along value, and ends up being one of the greatest tracks on an exceptional album. — Chris Fishlock

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39

The Drums – How It Ended

Sometimes critics approach The Drums with needless belligerence. Music doesn’t always have to be completely innovative, thousands of intricate elements placed together or flaunting vocals with incomprehensible dynamics. The Drums know this. They don’t create the most jubilant music you’ll ever listen to, but despite their unbelievably indie, at times deterring image, The Drums are infectious and pretty hard to dislike. Their lyrics are simple, but so were The Smiths’ – ‘How It Ended’ is one of the most memorable album finales of the year. —James Murray

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38

Trash Talk – Awake
Having cemented themselves as one of the most insane and interesting hardcore punk bands of the last few years, Trash Talk came out with their best track to date this year with the incredible ‘Awake’ taken from an EP of the same name. ‘Awake’ is one minute and 20 seconds of the most fast pounding punk rock that has come out all year that unleashes the immense energy of their live shows into a recorded track. — Chris Fishlock

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37

Swimming – Neutron Wireless Crystal

We might as well admit it, if there’s one style of pop music we can’t resist it’s the synth-powered, joyous type. Nottingham’s Swimming deliver just this with ‘Neutron Wireless Crystal’, a busy indie pop track full of whirly vocals and cleverly arranged instrumentals. Once you’ve got this in your head it’ll be some chore to get rid. If you’re the type to stick your iTunes on repeat all day, it’s probably in the best interests of your family/housemates to avoid this one. —James Murray

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36

Girls – Honey Bunny

‘Honey Bunny’, the second track from ‘Father, Son Holy Ghost’ is a fantastic slice of surf-rock. This track gallops through tempo and instrumental changes while retaining a rhythm that will get your head-nodding. ‘Honey Bunny’ sounds like a true rock n’ roll record but without sounding dated – it’s an incredible skill, to assemble everything good about rock music’s past and re-arrange it into something fresh. ‘Honey Bunny’ offers something for every fan of guitar music, whether you thrive off 60’s rock or anything closer to now. —James Murray

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35

Battles – Ice Cream

‘Ice Cream’ is experimental, funky and fun: There’s a certain quirkiness to Battles that makes them irresistible. With the absence of Tyondai Braxton, who in the eyes of many fans played a huge part in making 2007 full-length ‘Mirrored’ such an emphatic debut, the longer-term fans might have been a bit unnerved by the inclusion of Matias Aguayo. Turns out his straightforward vocals fit in pretty well amongst the clutter and intricacy of layered guitars that are prominent throughout the most part of ‘Gloss Drop’, and indeed every Battles production. —James Murray

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34

Friendly Fires – Live Those Dreams Tonight

‘Pala’ established Friendly Fires to carry more than the ‘indie’ mediocrity tag and, much to Ed Macfarlane’s delight of browsing through ageing youtube video slates, album opener ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ takes abounding aim at sticking its buoyant middle finger right up at eye-popping 90’s acid ravers, if you hadn’t already guessed by the tracks lyrics “You claim your history/ is beyond a man like me/ but I’ll live those days tonight”. Vaulting synths and jarring piano pierces over shattering tempo beats, it’s every thing a disco tune could hope for.  —Hugh O’Boyle

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33

Beirut – Santa Fe

Four years on from the Mariachi-styled ‘The Flying Club Cup’ Beirut have finally returned. ‘Santa Fe’ is one of a collection of endearing pop songs present throughout ‘The Rip Tide’. Unlike the choppy, busier sound of Battles, Beirut have produced a record full or tracks that you can embrace and welcome into your audial globe – without any real effort. If you want to take a step back from messy, self-proclaimed avant-garde tracks that seem to crop up here there and everywhere, grab a cocktail and soak in ‘Santa Fe’. Perhaps not quite as relevant now as during summertime, ‘Santa Fe’ is simple and harmonic. Don’t be misled by the artwork, this record is a lot brighter on the inside. —James Murray

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32

St Vincent – Cruel

Annie Clark, under her pseudonym ‘St Vincent’ knows exactly how to draw attention to her music. ‘Cruel’, as suggested, has a dark streak. At times ‘Cruel’ is almost ominous – when Clark experiments with those dreary vocals it can have quite a sinister impact. It’s the contrasts that draw in so much attention, though. Switching to upbeat, melancholic vocals and memorable riffs – ‘Cruel’ is a track that you can’t quite get your hands on. Is it this, is it that? Quite frankly, it’s a bit of everything. Not only has St Vincent released come of the most exciting music of the year – this sense of mystery just makes it all the more tempting. —James Murray

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31

Youth Lagoon – Montana

The first thing that has to be said here is: Why ‘Youth Lagoon’ when your real name is Trevor Powers? Apart from having the coolest name in the music world, Powers’ has formulated a beautiful composition that progressively builds up into a jubilant and warming finale. Of the debut records to grace our ears this year this is well up there with the best. Powers’ distorted vocals sit perfectly with the whirly, minimal instrumentals that power this track forward. It’d be a bit of an amplification to say this is tear-jerking, but it’s not far off. A beautiful track from a very welcome newcomer. —James Murray

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30

Radiohead – Lotus Flower

We’re certainly not alone when we say ‘The King of Limbs’ was a little disappointing – but then again, few records can top ‘In Rainbows’. To get to the point, you shouldn’t let exceptional work overshadow good work . ‘Lotus Flower’ had been circulating both virally and throughout live shows for almost a year beforehand, but the world couldn’t truly appreciate the beauty of Yorke’s vocals until this single was set loose. Music video aside, ‘Lotus Flower’ is yet another example of the magnitude and allure of Thom Yorke. Such calm vocals shouldn’t be so emphatic, but they most certainly are. It’s a shame the rest of the album couldn’t keep up. —James Murray

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29

Yuck – Holing Out

‘Holing Out’ is a little piece of heaven for anyone in favour of the 90’s grunge revival, which seems to have been increasingly dominant in music this year. Dripping with reverb and lead by fuzzy guitars and drawling vocals, it’s a perfect asset to both the grunge and post-punk genres, quite obviously taking influence from bands such as Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies. The whole song is catchy and full of sunshine, making it clear to any music fan why this is the song which meant that Yuck went from being relatively unknown to the much more popular band we know now.–Rebecca Woolston

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28

Dutch Uncles – Cadenza

If you’ve ever been to a Dutch Uncles show you’ll know that the dance moves of Duncan Wallis are giving Jarvis Cocker and Ed Macfarlane a run for their money. It’s fitting, though – of all the new bands to make an impact this year, Dutch Uncles are the one you’d expect to have that…  little bit odd, front-man. Their up-beat, danceable productions are enough to get any foot to stomp and head to nod. ‘Cadenza’ is opened and led by layered piano loops – and when combined with a pulsating bass drum, simple as it sounds, it’s difficult not to become hooked. Dutch Uncles are another fantastic act that have helped shape 2011 as a huge success for pop. —James Murray

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27

Tim Hecker – The Piano Drop

Never has an album been so appropriately and cleverly named. ‘The Piano Drop’ sounds like the apocalypse – delivered in a genre distantly related to that of dance music. Distorted trancey synths almost solely power ‘The Piano Drop’ forward. This is a track that would be easy to shove aside at first, or to label as ‘pretentious hyped nonsense’, but in fact if you really let yourself in there’s a deep and haunting message buried. It’s not a warning, nor a moral – simply an eye-opener and taster of what Tim Hecker believes the doom-impending future will sound like. —James Murray

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26

Tyler, The Creator – Yonkers

Unfortunately for Tyler, his hatred of the music media seems to have backfired a little. There’s rarely a better example where an artist (or collective in this case) has become a victim of the hype machine – and as a result we’ve all starting to think we’ve heard enough. Let’s hope it doesn’t do too much damage, because ‘Yonkers’ isn’t just the most talked about hip-hop track of the year. It’s daring, far-out and compelling. Most of us like artists that push boundaries, and when a hip-hop collective do just that as well as resurrecting our beloved 90s memories there’s no wonder they were the main discussion of early 2011. —James Murray

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25

Four Tet/Burial/Thom Yorke – Ego

Is this the perfect collaboration? When this team-up was announced music lovers couldn’t predict exactly how this would sound – but everyone knew it would be brilliant. They’ve had their cross-overs in the past, with remixes and such, but this 12″ release is by far the biggest to date. The six and a half minute track beings minimally before progressing into a darker and deeper electronic production. The underlying bass is fairly simple, but it’s the little intricacies that make this track special. Chimes, distant synths and special effects backing Thom Yorkes sublime vocals, as one could imagine, fit together majestically. —James Murray

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24

Emmy The Great – A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep

Emma Lee-Moss, better know to us as Emmy The Great, is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking female vocalists around. When ‘A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep’ was released it was impossible not to share some of Emma’s emotion. Her athiest fiancée split up with her after he’d discovered religion, and this is quite candidly expressed throughout her lyrics. Even without getting too tied down to the emotive or sympathetic side of Emmy The Great’s music, her vocal softness and simple acoustic instrumentals are more than admirable.–James Murray

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23

Atari Teenage Riot – Black Flags

After making their live comeback last year the Alec Empire led political digital hardcore legends gave us their first new album since 1999 this year, a powerful album of incredible tracks. For their latest single, ‘Black Flags’ they got in brilliant rapper Boots Riley (of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club) to add his unique brand of hip hop vocals. ‘Black Flags’ is a powerful anthem with what is easily one of the best bass lines on any record this year, it will have you shouting along with your fist in the air. And with the wave of revolution across the globe happening this year, this track and this band are more relevant than ever. —Chris Fishlock

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22

Mastodon – Curl Of The Burl

At the top of our metal charts is Matodon with ‘Curl of the Burl’. Lyrics aside (what does that title even mean) this is a captivating lead single from their brilliant 2011 release ‘The Hunter’. By the standards of Mastodon, ‘The Hunter’ is pretty rock orientated, and we can see its wider appeal. ‘Curl of the Burl’ is powered by riffs and vocals that verge towards that distinctive Dave Grohl sound. This might be targeted at a slightly wider audience than earlier material, but it hasn’t affected quality. ‘Curl of the Burl’ is intense, infectious and very Queens of the Stone Age; and that’s never a bad thing.–James Murray

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21

Soft Metals – Psychic Driving

Nostalgia is a touchy area when it comes to music. There’s a fine line between resurrecting something great and destroying it. Luckily, Soft Metals beautifully re-construct 80s dance with dreamy electronic synths and hazy vocals. That washed-out synth pop style has risen to the surface of the music blogosphere more so than ever this year, and this is just one of many radiant compositions. It’s easy to become submerged in music like this, and such cloudy vocals offer a welcome slice of romanticism. This is atmospheric electro pop at its finest. —James Murray

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20

Kate Bush – Snowflake

If you got an album this Christmas, hopefully it was this. With approximately a dozen years between albums, Kate Bush is not an artist in a hurry – and that is certainly reflected in her music. ‘Snowflake’ is a calming composition, its entire ten minutes little more than hush vocals and simplistic piano chords. Though the market for Christmas music is well and truly saturated by overly-gleeful pop songs, Bush offers a winter soundtrack that re-ignites a spark of Great British magic. Her quintessentially English style is warming and enchanting – Bush herself is an ode to musicianship —James Murray

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19

Real Estate – It’s Real

Despite their image being almost unbearably indie, Real Estate have proven that they mean business. While ‘Days’ was supposed to be that difficult second album, in many ways its better than their acclaimed debut. ‘It’s Real’ is feel-good pop music, no strings attached.  It’s the little things that make this track so enjoyable, Courtney’s “woah” chrous gives the track an injection of warmth. This is clean, straightforward indie, and quite often that’s all people are looking for. If you can keep your music minimal but make it melodic and original, why not? It certainly works here —James Murray

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18

Washed Out – Amor Fati

Sticking with this synth-pop business for one more: It would be unfair to discuss how brilliantly bands execute the ‘washed out’ effect without mentioning ‘Amor Fati’. Now known (in some ways jokingly, but fairly accurately) as ‘chillwave’, the productions of Ernest Greene are perfectly crafted atmospheric music. There’s a lot of this music doing the rounds at the moment, but that doesn’t play in Greene’s favour – he’s done well to rise above the best with this piece of steady but euphoric synth-pop. Perhaps next time round he might have to reshape the waves a bit, though. —James Murray

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17

Ghostpoet – Survive It

If there is one thing you can take away from ‘Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam’, it’d be the nature of an album hopelessly pigeon-holed. Hip-hop and trip-hop samples, dubstep mashes and new wave pop, Ghostpoet leaves no stone unturned, adopting various influences from his Nigerian, Dominican and British childhood – a dejected essence for Streets and Burial audiences alike, resulting in the listening of this LP to be much more striking. The industrialised number ‘Survive It’ acquaints us with his daily efforts to endure the 21st century and probes into unexplored practices of soothing electronica, clouded in urbanized mists of Obaro Ejimiwe’s drug-like melancholy slurs assisted by Fabiana Palladino’s frivolous chorus, “I just wanna live life and survive it”, making this song well deserved of Sound Revolution’s top 20. —Hugh O’Boyle

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16

Burial – Street Halo

Returning with his first solo work since 2007, Burial fans and purists alike have been waiting long enough for this -he’s certainly a quality over quantity musician. ‘Street Halo’ encompasses many of Bevan’s trademark elements: A steady pulsating beat, solid bass and that all-important vinyl crackle.  The workings of Burial are that of a perfectionist; every tiny element that makes ‘Street Halo’ what it is has been sampled, manipulated and crafted with the finest of brushes. This hidden perplexity allows opportunity for indulgence, as Burial’s seemingly simple production lures the listener into the deeper, more emotive picture. —James Murray

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15

The Horrors – Still Life

For rock survivalists around the UK, ‘Skying; was a breath of fresh air. Establishing their musical integrity, it felt as though the release was a step-forward in maturity for the Horrors – and so it was. Assuredly the best track on here is ‘Still Life’ (every song on the album topples over four-minutes long), a wall of swirling euphoria and reverberation; casts of ambient colours playfully splashed across, unnerving synthesizers, arousing bass lines, simple drum patterns and unmistakeably Badwan’s languid clarion-like croaks. It’s the slow, exuding effortlessness that contributes to its psychedelic ecstasy that buries so deep nothing in the world seems to matter apart from that moment. Of course, that’s exactly how The Horrors want you to feel. —Hugh O’Boyle

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14

Other Lives – For 12

Often compared to Radiohead’s ‘How to Disappear Completely’, ‘For 12’ has its similarities, but it’s more than simply a homage to a probable influencer. ‘For 12’ gallops straight into action, with a pulsating drum beat and country-esque strings. In some ways Other Lives sound like an indie/folk crossover act – but it’s the vocals of lead vocalist, Tabish, that bring this record to life. This Oklahoma group know exactly how to write a powerful track, but they’re lucky to have a dynamic voice that can reinforce emotion and melody so emphatically —James Murray

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13

Sepalcure – Pencil Pimp

As time goes on  Travis Stewart and Praveen Sharman seem to make Sepalcure the main focus of their musicianship more and more so. This couldn’t be better news, as ‘Pencil Pimp’, released on their eponymous debut is one of the most interesting electronic tracks of the year. ‘Pencil Pimp’ offers something a little more dancefloor friendly, while maintaining their attention to details with chimes, haunting vocals and an eerie bass line. This is 6 minutes of progressive experimentation; successful experimentation – as Sepalcure have now well and truly embedded their name into the brains of dance music lovers. —James Murray

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12

tUnE-yArDs – Bizness

When ‘W H O K I L L’ was released earlier this year it caused quite a stir. If you can avoid being deterred by the stylised titles, you might just come to terms with what is one of the most successful and daring records of the year. ‘Bizness’ sticks to the typically chaotic tUnE-yArDs approach, as clattering drums, horns and vocals construct a disordered yet somehow melodic final product. What makes ‘Bizness’ such a refreshing record is its outright musical bravery – engineered solely with the use of traditional instrument samples. While in no way should electronic experimentation be condoned, it’s a breath of fresh air to be relieved off synth-heavy productions. —James Murray

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11

AraabMuzik – Streetz Tonight

Some might have their differences with AarabMuzik – okay, ‘Streetz Tonight’ isn’t completely original. Counter-intuitive? Perhaps, but the reality is when you can manipulate a song as well as in this case, with Kaskade’s 4am, and reinvent it into something as refreshing as ‘Streetz Tonight’, it seems harsh to point a finger. AraabMuzik has done something here that so many EDM producers have attempted, and for the most part failed miserably: Create a record that successfully plays through as a completely mixed-genre effort. ‘Streetz Tonight’ succeeds on its hip-hop back bone, concocted with the most vibrant of dance music styles. —James Murray

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10

Metronomy – The Bay

Tiptoeing subtly into our top ten is Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’, Joseph Mount paying deference to his care-free childhood town Torbay and glamorising it above common exotic visits – “because this isn’t Paris/ and this isn’t London/ and it’s not Berlin/ and it’s not Hong Kong/ not Toyko” – the ballad bobs and gambols frivolously along Gbenga’s languorous bass hooks. ‘The Bay’ shapes on various concepts of sun-kissed 70’s Californian rock-eqsue churns with sharp synth stabs, cultivated both archaically and pastorally to say the least. Ever heard the saying “third time lucky”? ‘The English Riviera’ certainly gives it a run for its money. —Hugh O’Boyle

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9

Summer Camp – Better Off Without You

It’s hard to name a break-up song as happy as this. In some ways it’s a bit discomforting – as you sing along to that irresistible pop chorus it’s hard not to feel a little bit guilty. It’s a shame this record was released so late on, because it has to be one of the most vibrant, likeable summer alt-pop songs of the year. Some have argued writing about fictional characters in a fictionally scenario is lazy and impersonal, we think it makes the record much more artistic. ‘Welcome to Condale’ is relatable, nostalgic and unashamedly sappy. Just try resisting that temptation to tap your feet. —James Murray

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8

Azari & III – Reckless (With Your Love)

Innovators and resurrectors of disco, Azari & III, have caused quite a storm this year with the release of their debut album. ‘Reckless With Your Love’ is a daring, upbeat take on classic house music. This Toronto four-piece are creating music that is both nostalgic and bang up to date, and the best thing is that it sounds like they’re just having fun. This track originally surfaced in 09, but already it has gained a sentiment of timelessness that makes ‘Reckless With Your Love’ as relevant as ever. If you think it’s been rinsed, then you’ll probably be happy in accepting there’s a lot of life in it still yet; If you don’t think it has, where have you been? —James Murray

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7

PJ Harvey – The Words That Maketh Murder

PJ Harvey quite rightly won yet another Mercury award this year and her worthiness is most definitely proved by songs such as ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’. Like the whole of her album, ‘Let England Shake’, this song is clearly written to highlight the horrors of war; including the brutal lyrics ‘I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat’. These sort of lyrics contrast to the flirty, jangly guitar riffs and severely danceable rhythms which are created throughout. The song however, ends in a more unsettling manner, with a slide guitar solo accompanying Harvey’s powerful voice. Like all of Harvey’s material, this song is as creative, as it is brilliant.–Rebecca Woolston

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6

Bon Iver – Holocene

The first words which come to mind when describing this song, as with most music by Bon Iver, are ‘truly beautiful.’ Beginning with two gorgeously overlapping guitar arpeggios, ‘Holocene’ slowly takes shape; arguably at its most beautiful when still very simple, the guitars being joined only by soothing vocal harmonies. A sense of melancholy is obvious throughout, although it seems to be broken by the hopefulness of the intertwining guitars.  The whole song is dream-like, making the listener feel almost as if they’re floating; a perfect blissful state, a phrase which is also ideal in describing the song itself.–Rebecca Woolston

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5

Jamie xx – Far Nearer

Whilst Romy Croft and Oliver Sims have spent their previous year of fame dabbling chin-down in puddles, producer and beats-master of The xx, Jamie XX, has spent his time remixing Gil Scott-Heron’s historical mileiu I’m New Here – stripping it bare and digitally re-processing the aches of Scott-Heron’s past into an introspective glance into the urban future. If that wasn’t enough for his street credit, in the latter of the year Smith went on to release his first single. ‘Far Nearer’ is just one of the sublime tracks to be found on it; clothed in steel drums and vocal auto-tune giving the song an ethereal glow, the ballad proves Jamie XX is indeed the new kid on the block. —Hugh O’Boyle

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4

Wild Beasts – Albatross

Who other to write an album about love, lust and sex other than Cumbrian boys Wild Beasts? ‘Smother’ is an exploration of intimate sounds, the previous Mercury Prize nominees continuing with their tangible jangles and Thorpe’s distinguishing grunts, howls and moans. The authenticity of this record shimmers in the devastatingly affectionate ‘Albatross’, embracing Ben Little’s guilt with entangling guitar rhythms and majestic piano caressed in consolidation of uncertainty and amorousness, “the secrets that I should have shared”. The four-piece have succeeded once again in creating something entirely distinctive, seductive and submersing whilst remaining elegantly discrete and modest, making Wild Beasts one of the finest bands to have arisen from the UK.–Hugh O’Boyle

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3

James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream

I wake, but a beaming white light strains me to squint my tired, aching eyes. Slowly and painfully I adjust them to see that I’m poised in a vacuum of foggy mist. What’s happening? Where am I? An easing voice soon comforts me “All that I know is/ I’m falling/ falling/ falling”….whoever these words belong to, they’re true. I’m falling, further and further down. I’m curious, but panicking – still descending into nothingness – I relax, momentarily forgetting my entire existence, and begin to listen. Gut-piercing vocal loops and eerie echoes swirl around and around whilst being attacked by a fuzzing static tension gradually heightening, all fragmenting to grandiose digital arrangement piecing together like a dusty forgotten puzzle. Things start to become too much – I’m struggling to breathe – harder and harder, and then – it stops. I’m back on the ground, 04:37 minutes later, safe. ‘The Wilhelm Scream’. —Hugh O’Boyle

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2

M83 – Midnight City

Anthony Gonzalez has, once again, delivered in style with perhaps his best album and single to date. Active now for over a decade, it seems Gonzalez’ musical creations are only improving with time. From the moment those immense synths kick-start the track into action that feeling of M83 explosion seems imminent. The overwhelmingly energetic ‘Mignight City’ is an adrenaline-pumped slice of frenzied electronica – Gonzalez has taken to the stage and unveiled his evolving talents in theatrical fashion. ‘Midnight City’ is a crossover somewhere between powerful EDM and an incredible daydream; so hectic yet so accessible. This is without mentioning that masterful saxophone solo, an epic finale to the grandiose ‘Midnight City’. —James Murray

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1

The Antlers – I Don’t Want Love

2009’s ‘Hospice’ was never going to be easy to top for The Antlers. Whether ‘Burst Apart’ is a better record is negotiable, but ‘I Don’t Want Love’ is quite easily their most powerful track to date. Fragile and emotional, ‘I Don’t Want Love’ is crafted with the most delicate touch. With his truly exquisite vocals, Silberman manages to simply say the chrous with little melody – yet those four words are executed in a few seconds of vocal solitude; allowing his passion to truly sink in. It’s not just Silberman’s crystalline vocals that make this such a memorising track, the steady drum beat and soothing guitar strumming throughout perfect the heartbreaking sound that The Antlers have quite emphatically created. —James Murray

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