December means list season - a time when everyone, from magazines and websites to shops, blogs and even you, dear reader, will work out exactly what your album, track or musically themed vegetable of the year really is. Off they’ll go into an ordered rundown; a factual account of what music was the best of the last twelve months.
That’s ace, but we want to do something that better reflects what DIY is. We’re all about music, sure. We happily grade albums with shiny stars, tell you what our tracks of the week are or tip you off to the hottest new thing, but when it comes down to it, it isn’t that simple. See, while we love the raw material they come out with, it removes so much of what we really have a crush on - bands themselves. While a great album makes a great act, it’s the personality, the full thing that really makes us excited.
So, instead of the usual end of year lists for individual types of releases, we’ve thrown it all together into one definitive list of artists. Between 15th and 19th December we’ll be publishing all kinds of features, interviews, retrospectives and archive pieces to explain just why they rank as they do. Albums, tracks, live performances, funny tweets and fierce rants - all count in The List, our definitive run down of who and what made our 2014.
How The List was decided
We think music is about more than just the tracks and albums bands and artists release over the course of twelve months. The List is a combination of everything from DIY writers’ nominations for albums and tracks of the year, through to the best festival performances and tours, amazing attitude and general sassiness.
There’s no points system, no firm statistical ranking - everything is thrown into a hat to result in 100 artists who we think made 2014 brilliant. Let the fighting begin!
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [100 - 91] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [90 - 81] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [80 - 71] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [70 - 61] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [60 - 51] here.
50. Arcade Fire
They played the best shows of their lives, backed by a concept that sometimes lent to the group’s strangest moments.
People on the internet seemed to get resoundingly more antsy about Arcade Fire covering a different song by a famous band on every night of their tour. Maybe the anger was directed less towards the band themselves, and more in the direction of anyone filming it, or indeed writing about it. Each cover became less of an event, but when viewed as a whole, Arcade Fire achieved exactly what they set out to do with the ‘Reflektor’ tour. Except give it a good name - not calling it ‘Reflektour’ is an unforgivable oversight.
With their Glastonbury headline set, they didn’t hit perfection, but they perfectly encapsulated the free-as-a-bird joy and passion of their ‘Funeral’ debut and everything that followed. In between, they headlined London’s Hyde Park, with tickets accidentally being flogged for cheap rates, leading to a more standoffish crowd than anything else on their world tour. They played the best shows of their lives, backed by a concept that sometimes lent to the group’s strangest moments, harder to translate than ever. But by the end of it, out stepped a bigger band, one grappling their underdog status and now-established sense of ambition. It’s often asked if Arcade Fire wound up as one of the world’s biggest acts by default, like there was a throne waiting to be filled - but anything as momentously big-thinking as their 2014 deserves applause. Jamie Milton
49. Cloud Nothings
This year’s follow-up was Cloud Nothings’ coming of age.
If Cloud Nothings’ ‘Attack on Memory’ was them becoming a band – as opposed to Dylan Baldi’s solo project just played with pals – then this year’s follow-up was that band coming of age. ‘Here and Nowhere Else’ was bigger, more expansive, more honed than either its predecessors, and whether thanks to producer John Congleton playing more of a role than notoriously hands-off knob-twiddler Steve Albini or the band themselves becoming more accomplished, it’s definitely one of the year’s winners. Brash, sulky, angsty and perfectly paced, it’s topped only by the trio’s live performances – most notably for us at our Jabberwocky replacement gig alongside Hookworms and Speedy Ortiz at the 100 Club in London. Emma Swann
Hookworms have created an album and ethos defined by their own terms.
Hookworms have recently distanced themselves from the tag, believing that they would be doing a disservice to others by calling themselves completely self-sufficient. Definitions aside, ‘The Hum’ is more of an accessible ride, but the distinction now is that they’re harder and stronger than ever before.
Lead by their frontman and producer MJ, Hookworms (alongside fellow Leeds based Eagulls) have achieved success by staying in tune to their identity, creating an album and ethos defined by their own terms. MJ’s work on the production desk continues to dig up gems too, all amounting to a shared challenge of the norm. Suburban Home, MJ and Hookworms all work to their own accord and in this harmony, it places them at the pillar of an ethos that is becoming increasingly influential to themselves and anyone else joining the ride. Sean Stanley
‘Lizzobangers’: the clue’s in the name as to what’s inside.
Lizzo’s ‘Batches and Cookies’ had already made their way across the Atlantic this time last year, but 2014 saw the Minnesota-based rapper’s debut album ‘Lizzobangers’ (the clue’s in the name as to what’s inside) released properly in the UK. A series of all-conquering festivals and support slots followed, and then came her appearance at the end of Bastille’s ‘Torn Apart’ – easily one of the verses of the year. Emma Swann
Shura’s got something special; a straight-talking, no BS approach to lyricism.
When it comes to concentrated impact, Shura has led the pack this year. ‘Touch’, ‘Just Once’ and ‘Indecision’ are all slices of pop near-perfection that many artists would proudly sling onto their greatest hits album – but in Shura’s particular case, they’re just early statements of intent. Amid all the clatter and white noise of 80s pop revival, Shura’s got something special; a straight-talking, no BS approach to lyricism. Lines like “If you get my name wrong, I won’t get pissed off, ‘cause I wish I was somebody else” and “now when I see you, it’s so bittersweet” don’t need to hide behind dressed up metaphor. Left alone, they strike far closer to home.
And then, there’s Shura herself. Far from being a mysterious figure shrouded in smoke behind her analogue synths, she’s the kind of artist who names her company Bsessi Ltd - “‘my boobs’ in Arabic, which I think is just so fucking funny,” – and finds herself on an “accidental European tour”. Mystery, she told DIY earlier this year, just isn’t her bag. Clearly focused on far more prominent things, and with an album due at some point next year, she’s one of 2015’s most exciting prospects. El Hunt
45. The Wytches
Thrashing grunge, brooding doom and fragile intensity.
The ability to shift between thrashing grunge, brooding doom and fragile intensity on a whim is not one to sniff at – The Wytches used 2014 to show this off with terrifying ease both live and on debut album, ‘Annabel Dream Reader’. One of the year’s finest full-length debuts, it’s as accomplished as it is wilfully naïve, and as contrary as it has curiously infectious hooks. Emma Swann
In 2014 they’re as relevant as ever.
For people of a certain age who just missed the noughties boat (twelve year old fans of ‘One Beat’ are probably few and far between), Sleater-Kinney have always seemed a little bit intangible, mythical, a larger than life band from the legend books. Until now, that is. In October this year, Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss put end to speculation by announcing the band’s return, and – better still – an entire album of new material, their eighth record. ‘No Cities To Love’.
And what an album it’s shaking up to be. ‘Bury Our Friends’ exhumed our Sleater-Kinney shaped idols in one spiky-edged flourish. Second single ‘Surface Envy’s riff tumbles down pounding, agenda-setting staircases. Sleater-Kinney are incapable of writing a duff album, and in 2014 they’re as relevant as ever. This band don’t do reunions. They’d much rather pick up where they left off and re-write their own rulebook all over again. El Hunt
Watch Deers play a live show, it’s impossible to stop smiling.
Watch Deers play a live show - actually, just listen to them - and it’s impossible to stop smiling. Seriously, it’s medically proven, more or less. Originally started up as a two woman feat of multi-instrumentation by Madrilenian pals Ana Garcia Perrote and Carlotta Cosials, the band quickly expanded to welcome their best mate Ade Martin into the fold, and drummer Amber Grimbergen was recruited shortly afterwards when they spotted drums in her profile photo on Facebook.
In the space of a year Deers have briefly renamed themselves Tim, Mark, Brendon and Cole for the ‘Castigados En El Granero’ music video, sold out every EP and show in sight, recovered from the loss of their kazoo at Bestival (Carlotta swallowed a bit of it, apparently) and crowdsurfed with reckless abandon during other bands’ sets at DIY’s London all-dayer festival in November. We’ve never known a band to be so enthusiastic about the prospect of donning gowns, either, nor anybody else that can carry raucous, dangerously yellable, and ever-so-slightly chaotic music along in the same charismatic, hitchless style. A great big bundle of loco, with plenty more in the pipeline, hold tight everyone. It’s gunna be special. El Hunt
42. The National
Millions have fallen for The National’s sense of deadpan drudgery.
By the end of their world tour, The National couldn’t look more in severe need of a shave, hair trim and decent sit down. But at the same time, they were playing The O2, showcasing their unfalteringly morbid music to thousands of tear-soaked faces. It’s a minor miracle, in some ways.
Years back, there stood a band on the brink of calling it a day, watching their contemporaries soar skywards while they kept hitting one dead end after the other. Then they recorded ‘Alligator’, and there began a spiralling process that’s continued as each album’s passed. Few could have predicted the rise to be quite this extensive, though. In ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, too, they had fans flocking to the cinemas to see Matt Berninger fall out with his brother on camera. Millions have fallen for The National’s sense of deadpan drudgery, and it’s hard to imagine this coming to a sudden halt. Jamie Milton
41. The Horrors
In 2014, nobody else sounds remotely like The Horrors.
Within lots of fancy phrases coined by Faris Badwan and co. to describe The Horrors’ latest album ‘Luminous’, one kept cropping up again and again: “clarity”. Four albums in, the band are following custom by discovering themselves at the end of a long stretch. Every song is dense to an extreme, but there’s a simplicity in a track like ‘I See You’, which represents one great, galloping build. That ranks as one of the best numbers they’ve ever written, but beyond the record, they’ve also settled into a brilliant rhythm when playing live. You won’t find as many lasers in a trigger-happy night out in Ibiza - on stage, Badwan’s static while the rest dive in and out of sight, the whole thing coming off as a chaotic but crucial reminder that really, in 2014, nobody else sounds remotely like The Horrors. Jamie Milton