Hark, for it is time to revel in the glorious juncture of list making and ‘Best Of’ rundowns. It is that time of year again, and there has never been more to reflect on. We’ve seen the rebirth of Daft Punk and the regeneration of The Rolling Stones. We’ve witnessed world destroying albums from Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, and Kanye West, and some blistering debuts from Disclosure, London Grammar, Swim Deep, Haim, AlunaGeorge, and Laura Mvula to name but a few. David Bowie and Beyonce broke all record-releasing rules with their surprise packages, and we saw the much anticipated returns of Frank Turner, Laura Marling, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. All of these artists have enjoyed immense success, and deservedly so. Yet there’s still so much more this year has given us!
And that is what this list is for: a call to arms, a shout from the rooftops that our job as listeners is far from complete. There’s only one rule: none of these songs must have entered the UK charts. If you haven’t heard of them, then why not devote yourself to a cheeky listen. Endlessly subjective yet deliciously tasteful, these five corkers from across three continents may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But by Jove, somebody keep this kettle boiling.
1. San Fermin - Sonsick
Every now and again, you stumble upon a song that feels as if you’ve known it forever. After hearing Sonsick for the first time, you’ll be hit with that distinct familiarity. It’s not that you’ve heard anything like it before, but you understand that it’s tapped into a part of you that’s always needed it. Brooklyn songwriter and San Fermin embryo Ellis Ludwig-Leone describes it perfectly: “It’s like a panic attack disguised as a birthday party”. He goes on: ”I realised that the most intense moments are the ones in which conflicting emotional worlds exist inside you, equally, at once.” And you feel it, just like he wrote it. San Fermin are the first band coming in for a Radio 1 session with Huw Stephens in January, and it would be criminal not to have a peek. Their beautifully orchestrated self-entitled debut album is out now, and their Sonsick EP is available as a free download from their website. If you haven’t heard this song, then you must listen to it immediately. And then, listen to it again. There’s a reason why this record is my favourite track of the year so far, and I’d love for you to work it out for yourself.
2. Best Coast - I Don’t Know How
In all likelihood, you’ve heard of Best Coast. They are far from quiet, after all. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno comprise the addictive surf pop-rock duo, and feature as the second band in this Top Five to hail from the sunny climbs of Los Angeles. I Don’t Know How, a track from their latest EP Fade Away, is utterly simple and extremely accessible. Nothing overly sophisticated is taking place here. But if this record was a human being, then I would advise these two to chase a quickie restraining order against me whilst they still could. The whole EP is a collection of simple, catchy hooks and irresistible messages treasured like romantic post-it notes or personalised fridge magnets. I love how Consentino jumps and glides in aimless confusion about her feelings; The Who couldn’t explain it, and the world fell in love with Pete Townshend’s inability to describe it. Whatever ‘it’ is, Best Coast do a fine job of not defining it. And it sounds gorgeous too. Try This Lonely Morning and Who Have I Become, both from the same EP, to get more of the same from a band you’ll want to keep all to yourself.
3. Courtney Barnett - Avant Gardener
Avant Gardener, from Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, is at first look a clearly articulated story about a girl who tackles her garden duties in an attempt to do something with her life, but ends up having a surprise panic attack instead. But with multiple listens, the tale evolves, and becomes almost a musical home-movie. Barnett’s majesty is inherent in her stunning colloquial lyricism, carried effortlessly by a snug sound that warrants multiple plays. For example, take the narrator’s poetic ride in the ambulance: “The paramedic thinks I’m clever cause I play guitar. I think she’s clever cause she stops people dying.” Such moments of brilliance obviously stem from the drawling world that Lou Reed left behind, and Barnett revels in it. If you don’t like her song, she won’t be angry, she’ll just be disappointed. Barnett’s first two EPs are fused into her latest double-offering, A Sea Of Spilt Peas, available as soon as you finish reading the rest of this article. Breathe it in.
4. Honeyblood - Bud
When you first see Shona McVicar and Stina Tweeddale walk on stage, you’re immediately struck by their incredible names. They don’t look like much, and part of you wonders where the rest of the band are. Hiding behind the curtains, perhaps? Still at the bar? Then, they hit you with Bud, their debut single, and you’ve been won over before you even realise that you’ve liked their Facebook page. Honeyblood, a duo from Glasgow, have been around for a year or so, and have already supported acts like Sleigh Bells and Palma Violets. Wonderfully understated but powerfully expressed, their own brand of guitar-led indie rock is warmly infectious. Great songwriting embodies a different meaning for every individual that adores it, and Bud feels like a personally stamped letter that you can pin on your wall and never forget. Expect big things from these girls, because on the evidence of their early songwriting and beyond charming charisma, their voices are getting louder.
5. Holychild - Playboy Girl
From duo Louie Diller and Liz Nistico, Playboy Girl is like hosting every birthday party you’ve ever had, all at once, on a beach in Los Angeles. It perfectly places you in the glitzy dreamland of the West Coast, and invites you to stay for a while. And hey, why the hell not? Whilst everybody else is occupied touring their music, Holychild are too busy dancing to it in their hometown. But let’s hope they keep this party going, because the new kids on a very busy block have already written some corkers. If you like this, then give Watching Waiting and Happy With Me a go. Simply because the brightly clothed, energetic, excitable teenager that still exists inside you does not want to stop drinking Red Bull and rocking out to Playboy Girl.