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 DIY 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.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [50 - 41] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [40 - 31] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [30 - 21] here.
Read The List 2014: DIY’s year in music [20 - 11] here.
10. FKA twigs
Uncompromising, FKA Twigs is an artist that crosses over to the mainstream on her own terms.
FKA Twigs first bowled everyone over with her potent, heady artistry two years ago, and after two astoundingly innovative EPs, 2014 was the year that she traded in listicle hat-doffs and industry future-nods for flat out critical acclaim. ‘LP1’, sucked trip-hop, and flat-out experimentalism into its whirlpool, and a fascinating, unwieldy, subversive album emerged. She might’ve been positioned as an Rn’B rule-bender, but FKA Twig’s breathy vocals - stark, complex, and sometimes fragmented - indirectly owe far more to Billy Holiday and Nina Simone than anything else.
A professionally trained dancer, and a highly accomplished producer, too, FKA Twigs has crossed over to the mainstream, entirely on her own terms. Infamous for delivering a visual and sonic barrage everywhere she goes, goodness knows where she will go next. El Hunt
9. Run The Jewels
From cat sounds to social lightning rod, to that verse from Zack de la Rocha - in 2014 Run The Jewels reigned supreme.
In 2014, Run the Jewels successfully achieved the following:
- Made Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha sound like a future rapper from space.
- Deliver the line “You can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” without sounding the slightest bit silly.
- Raised $40,000 from fans to make an album consisting entirely of cat sounds, before giving the proceeds to charity.
‘RTJ2’ also represented a watershed moment in the lives of El-P and Killer Mike. Both hitting dead ends before starting Run the Jewels, together they represent the greatest mid-life crisis of recent times, a joint effort to revive brilliant careers into something colossal. Killer Mike was also one of the most prominent voices in hip-hop to call out the injustices of Ferguson. From on stage to backstage, his conclusions (“who the fuck do we turn to for justice?”) were both heartbreaking and devastatingly on-point. On record they mix serious politics with unlimited fun, and aspects of ‘RTJ2’ are carried out into the pair’s every waking step.
Long may it continue. Work on ‘RTJ3’ begins in January. They play Reading & Leeds. 2015 is theirs for the taking. Jamie Milton
Packing the song of the year, Alvvays’ rise hasn’t stopped yet.
Like every moment on Alvvays’ debut record, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ initially sounds joyous and celebratory, before revealing itself to be a sorry, heartbroken soul. The difference with this one is that it contains a “hey, hey!” to shout from the skies and a chorus to rival them all. It’s a simple rejoice, but those two repeated words lodge themselves in the memory more than any musical snippet in 2014. Try topping this for a wedding proposal.
The rise of Canadian five-piece Alvvays wasn’t unexpected - they’d made a great debut record with Chad VanGaalen at the production desk, nothing could possibly go wrong. But their winning formula wasn’t exactly one that declared from the very beginning that this was the making of a special band. On 2014 went, the shows racking up, the reaction multiplying in turn. Thousands flocked towards songs that soundtracked summer heartbreak like very little else out there. By August, when they headlined the most stuffy of sold out DIY Presents shows at London Birthdays, only then did it begin to sink in that they’d struck gold. Jamie Milton
7. Wolf Alice
Over the past two years Wolf Alice have been building a musical WMD, and it’s about to explode.
At Wolf Alice’s Reading Festival set, a middle-aged man popped his head in to the tent, intrigued by the band’s cover of ‘Wicked Game’, nodded his head, telling his equally middle-aged pal “they’re not bad” and stayed for the remainder of their set. “Not bad” is an understatement, of course, and it’d be silly to suggest every new fan is going to be both forty-plus and male (anyone who’s been to their gigs will attest to pretty much the opposite) – but they’re in the process of winning over just about everyone who crosses their path. There isn’t another band quite like Wolf Alice. EP ‘Creature Songs’ was a masterpiece, balancing that peerless gnarly grunge side of theirs with an ability to flip to soft on a sixpence, it’s almost astonishing to think they’ve not given us a debut full-length just yet. Next year they will. Then, things get really interesting. Emma Swann
6. George Ezra
Yes, he’s sold a tonne of records in 2014, but George Ezra is so much more than the man with that voice.
At the start of the year, George Ezra was a boyish looking guy with a voice beyond his years. He was going to have an amazing twelve months, he’d sell some records, people would like him. One year later he’s the crown prince of Twitter, all over the telly and seemingly permanently placed in the top 10 of the charts - more than just another musician. All because our George has one thing so few others possess - real personality.
With guarded interviews and promotional shills commonplace, Ezra isn’t just likeable, he’s the kind of person who instantly becomes part of the furniture - referenced in conversations like he’s part of your circle of mates. From the antics of Geoff to his #petan life, the in-jokes with Hollywood megastars in music videos to the shelfie; they say you may not get the heroes you need, but the ones you deserve. With George, we get both. Stephen Ackroyd
5. Royal Blood
Naysayers beware, Royal Blood’s two-piece rock behemoth is all about primal instinct. Their rise isn’t over yet.
Rock isn’t dead. Rock never was dead. Rock didn’t need saving - or even given a sticking plaster - but yet in 2014, Royal Blood gave it a shot of adrenaline anyway. While some louder bands strove to become more arena sized, thinning down their riffs and turning ever more Coldplay in order to score their number one albums, this South Coast two piece went the opposite way. Loud, in your face blues driven rock music, delivered at eleven dripping in leather and sweat.
Anyone shocked the masses would go mad for Royal Blood is kidding themselves. Naysayers may claim it’s down to money, or management. A t-shirt worn by an Arctic Monkey is often talked about. Bollocks. It’s the oldest formula in the book, and one of the most effective. Hear ‘Out Of The Black’ or ‘Figure It Out’ in the middle of a daytime radio playlists and you’ll think a bomb just went off. Live, they’ve packed tents and stages wherever they’ve gone. Tour dates sell out in seconds. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but for now their rise continues. Anyone daft enough to stand in their way is roadkill. Stephen Ackroyd
4. Charli XCX
Over the past twelve months, Charli XCX finally became the proper legitimate pop superstar she always threatened to be.
A year ago, DIY shot Charli XCX for a cover of our dearly departed weekly. An artist we’ve always held a soft spot for, she was pushing new single ‘Superlove’, at the time supposedly part of her second album. It charted at ‘62’, and no longer sits on the track listing for ‘Sucker’, but still - it was there that the first flickers of what the next twelve months would hold started to take light. In her interview, she talked about Swedish punk and feminism with genuine passion. Finally, the pop star we’d all been waiting for was starting to take shape.
A few weeks later she dropped a thrashing, screaming Snuffed By The Yakuza cover, ‘Allergic To Love’. At SXSW she appeared refreshed, packing the first flash of gold with ‘Breaking Up’. While her collaboration with Iggy Azalea ‘Fancy’ may only be matched by ‘Boom Clap’ in the Amazing Pop Song stakes, those two tracks are just the cherries on top of a brilliantly brattish cake.
In 2014 Charli XCX worked out who she really was. While others are shiny, pristine objects sat in ivory towers, she’s satisfyingly scuzzy in the best way possible. Rolling with attitude, packing the most shamelessly fun album in years and still finding time to help throw genuine super hits to amazing new artists as she goes - in 2015 she’ll finally taken the throne for herself. Stephen Ackroyd
3. Future Islands
It started with one song, and one dance, but there’s more to Future Islands than that.
Could there be a rise quite like Future Islands’ ever again? It’s difficult to imagine another frontman making such a name for himself in three televised minutes. Then there’s the question of whether this group, having suddenly hit prominence on TV screens, have the back catalogue to boot, or the history of playing unforgettable shows to a cult crowd. There’s nobody quite like this Baltimore outfit, who’ve gone from art school synth charmers to one of the world’s biggest bands with the grown spurt of a hormone-addled adolescent. The stars aligned for this special outfit, one that previously looked destined to remain forever a niche concern. Now they’re touring arenas, and it won’t be long before their universally adored live show begins to headline festivals. At least, that’s the plan unless they suddenly combust under the weight of newfound fame. With Peter Crouch by their side, there’s no way things will come to a halt. Jamie Milton
They want to lick you like a crisp packet, by the arena load.
One of the country’s weirdest bands are also one of the biggest. It’s rare that this actually happens. In 2014, some big-hitters have been accused of being a little dry, too straight-down-the-line. Alt-J are so odd, half the time it sounds like they’re taking the piss out of themselves, as well as everyone else.
On ‘This Is All Yours’, they build on the theme of mother nature, Adam and Eve, and wander off from there down their own twisted paths. Their attempt at recording something ‘saucy’ boils down to equating steamy love sessions with a tasty crisp packet. ‘Left Hand Free’ is a truly disgusting song, when you think about it (a reluctant, brilliant single too, by their reckoning). By staying strange, Alt-J only stood out further. Now they’re selling out The O2, in arguably the most curious and fascinating position to fare a UK band in years. There’s a reason why the word “Radiohead“‘s been whispered round these parts - these three have stuck to their guns, through favour of fault. It takes guts and a sheer lack of sanity to go there, but Alt-J went where few other acts would even consider, in 2014. Jamie Milton
1. St Vincent
The album of the year, and so much more.
Where do you start with Annie Clark? At the end of 2013 she was hardly what you’d call an unknown quantity, and yet over the next twelve months stratospheric wouldn’t even come close. Her self titled fourth full length isn’t just the album of the year, but the butterfly-like unveiling of someone who’s more than just another artist. Delightfully oddball, creative, engaging, funny and charismatic - in 2014 St. Vincent seemed capable of anything.
From her stage draping, quite delightfully mad live performances to that record, packed with not just artistically brilliance but - wait for it - bloody good fun too, any accolade seems to fit perfectly on her imaginary mantlepiece. When called up to front Nirvana, it wasn’t the band’s peers or current chart superstars who seemed perfectly at home, but Clark. Never trying to replace their lost leader, her attitude - even clad in splashes of bright colour, silver hair untamed - just fit. Even Cobain’s legendary chucks felt anything but too big. If anything, they sat a bit snug.
No one element alone makes St. Vincent the artist of the year. Even all of them together fail to quite hit the reason why. It isn’t just what has been achieved, but what might come next. This isn’t just a one year thing - in 2014 a great artist became a legitimate icon, a once in a generation musical superhero with a penchant for the theatrical. From here on in, anything is possible. Stephen Ackroyd