40. Steve Mason – Lonely
Steve Mason is a name familiar with most readers, I’m sure of that. He led the experimental alternative rock revolution in the 90s with The Beta Band, and then ended its status before embarking on a solo career. Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time isn’t far off The Beta Band, with its sixth track “Lonely” being one to remember. It’s as if Mason met with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized, while listening to Primal Scream’s Screamadlica. The outcome is four minutes of mindful bliss with gospel vocals on the chorus, and self-emitting lyrics on the verses.
39. DJ Koze - Marilyn Whirlwind
Germany (the capital Berlin more specifically) may be establishing itself as an architecturally techno hot-spot, but on DJ Koze's fabulous Amygdala, "Marilyn Whirlwind" decided against that same discoverable sleekness in favour of a more hard-edged paradigm to fellow countrymen's efforts. The result was a bold but striking one-two punch of synthesizers encompassing the hypnotic dexterity of dance-floor house and sample-carved instrumetation. And laced with additional sprinkles of springy keyboards and sliding guitars, "Marilyn Whirlwind" may have come off self-initiated and personal, its confidence in repetition was near impossible to tarnish.
38. Lusine - First Call
While some fans may look to Waiting Room's dancepop-like crispness as the defining attribute of Lusine’s 2013 record, "First Call" still proved that even without contributions from guest vocals or predominant phasing effects alike, Jeff McIlwain’s electronic sharpness and focus on patient transitioning, was at its most prevalent. Like fellow patient teasers Boards of Canada, the track delicately nestled between joy and melancholy; between pleasantries and deterrence. And as persistent as his beats were, "First Call" continually managed to strike a truce between steadying the ship above the waves and sinking slowly deeper into the fluidity of analog synthesizers.
37. CHVRCHES - Lies
Even with critics and listeners frollocking in glee to the early offerings of Scottish trio CHVRCHES' EP's, it was good to know that tracks like "Lies" lay comfortably tucked away - awaiting to further push The Bones Of What You Believe closer to the credible end of the hype spectrum. "Lies" dazzling pulse of anthem-sized beats, absorbing production and Lauren Mayberry's part-straining, part-processed commandeering vocals was one of many opportunities to showcase Glasgow as, among many things in 2014, a delectable epicentre for soulful yet gratifyingly energising synthpop.
36. Boards Of Canada - Nothing Is Real
Tomorrow's Harvest produced some interesting return-to-formula continuations from brothers Mike Sandison & Marcus Eoin's infamous BoC identity. Many criticised Harvest's lack of venture and ambition compared to the greats before it, and to an extent this is a viable argument. "Nothing Is Real" however stands proudly as one of Canada's most emotionally freeze-framed of pieces without being either excessively contextual or narrative to the point of narrowness. It was the delicacy and spaciousness in the track's fluttering lead melody and tightening string tones that emphasized the track's ambiguity of position. But with the accustomed translucent production and foggy percussion, for a split second, the feeling was not to contest Canada's direction, but instead to admire it.
35. Low - Amethyst
Low continued their run of form with The Invisible Way this year. An album of pure godly acoustic sounds, where the singer-songwriter takes the stage and the electric guitar sits in the back waiting to be let out. It’s the piano accompaniment on “Amethyst” that makes this track such a remarkable one. It’s like the single “So Blue”, but with a slower tempo, and a much more subtle progression. “Amethyst” is Low at their very best, and The Invisible Way is the platform for Low to achieve more than sadcore’s tears.
34. Ólafur Arnalds - Brim
As a man who established himself for slowly warming to us in gracious, delicate piano and atmospheric structures, "Brim" was by far more an amounted release in Icelandian Ólafur Arnalds' ventures into less withdrawn spatial sound. "Brim" made no hesitation to stress and conflict rather than calm proceedings - grating cellos and pounding synthesizers hammering in successive bars that not until the last dying breath, finally unveiled like some desperately channelling disbelief or tonal awe - shocked at the very scathing intensity of orchestration Arnalds had now unleashed on the listener.
33. Crystal Stilts - Spirit in Front of Me
Crystal Stilts are not afraid to cram a track – that’s exactly what they do on “Spirit in Front of Me”. They manage to make a track dominated by the opening five seconds, in to a four minute album opener. It’s all about the percussion, the deafening bass, and the synthesizer riff aligned to The Doors. There’s something quite special about the hazy vocals, which come across as defining textures on a track rich in vibrancy, and high in purposeful repetition.
32. The Weeknd - The Town
“The Town” is for The Weeknd fan that’s interested in both Aphex Twin and Michael Jackson. One cannot forget The Weeknd’s rendition of Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” on his mixtape Echoes of Silence. The Weeknd doesn’t have his previous level of anonymity, but on his debut album Kiss Land, he takes a step out of the core of sampling, and in to the creation of succulent production and electronica. “The Town” is the second track, and starts with 90 seconds of lust, some of The Weeknd’s best praise yet.
31. Deerhunter – Sleepwalking
Deerhunter’s “Sleepwalking” is a fantastic play on the minds of their audience. It’s not a simple, straight forward Deerhunter track (although they seem to be faultless in that area. The sounds of 2010’s Halycon Digest are mirrored on “Speelwaking” as the rhytmn guitar dominates the right speaker, and Bradford Cox’s vocal distorts his way through the center. It’s a truthful Deerhunter track with a changing structure, with one of the best outros of 2013.