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TOP 200 OF 2014 – 26-50 / 51-100 / 101-150 / 151-200

So much great music, so little time! Apologies as ever for the lateness of this years ‘Greatest‘ list. Almost a decade on from the first Music Like Dirt Top 200* (2005, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13) and the only thing guaranteed – aside from jaw-droppingly good music – is I’ll finish it weeks after everyone else has moved on. *in 2005 it was a top 93 of the year for some reason.

Visit Music Like Dirt on Facebook, Twitter or leave a comment at the bottom to let me know what you think or if you can’t take this list seriously because I included/didn’t include ‘X’.

1. Jonnie Common – Crumbs / Shark

“When was the last time that you held an orange felt tip pen?”

For the follow up to his ‘Master of None’ LP, Jonnie switched from Manchester’s Red Deer Club to the home of esteemed music blogger ‘Song, By Toad’. I briefly met Mr Toad or Matthew as he also answers to at a gathering of influential bloggers to which I’d been accidentally invited. Having followed his blog for many years I thanked him for introducing me to numerous musical delights, foremost of which being the off kilter pop of Jonnie Common. For the sake of dramatisation, I’ll say a tear formed in Matthews eye as he expressed his regret at missing out on signing Jonnie to his own label. I was therefore chuffed to learn he need covert no more as Jonnie’s 2nd album ‘Trapped in Amber‘, was released last October on Song, ByToad Records.

Perhaps as a result of the three year wait for the album I was actually fairly unimpressed on first listen. Thankfully sometimes the things you love most take a while to seep into your system and at some point I switched from dismissing it as a classic difficult second album to my groundhog day commute where I click repeat to listen to one or other track, just that one more time.
Listening just lifts my soul..who knew the restorative powers of a Scottish man singing about swiss army knives, sandwich eating Roman hordes, porcupines or undisclosed favourite positions?

That said I did find myself inexplicably welling up while listening to “Better Man” one morning. It’s not even a sad song! In my defence I was overtired and for whatever reason the lyrics “I bet with your help I could be a better man… so if you love me… you won’t let me stay the way I am” struck a chord with some life-changing news I’d just received. If you are looking for a good blub, listen to “So and So” for a brief but affecting take on Cancer.

‘Shark’ (video below), ‘Crumbs’ and last years ‘Figurehead’ are the singles and shine out some kind of holy trinity of unorthodox pop genius. The wit and playfulness that run through both Jonnie’s lyrics and music shouldn’t mask the depth on display or the songwriting chops involved.

1. Sleaford Mods – Tied Up in Nottz

“The smell of piss is so strong
It smells like decent bacon”

Back in March when posting this track I said “Lyrically the Sleaford Mods aren’t exactly built for airplay on a post John Peel era Radio 1 but they head up the finest songs I stumbled across last month. Perfect if you like the idea of John Cooper Clarke fronting a punk band“.
The Sleaford Mods response – “Airplay is for bands who read Jack Kerouac”.

Of all the tracks I’ve posted over the last 12 months this was the one that received the strongest response. Tweets, and emails literally trickled in to inform me of the tunes visceral brilliance (hey I could lie and say I was flooded but this is an obscure blog not Rolling Stone magazine).

3. FKA twigs – Two Weeks

“Higher than a motherfucker, dreaming of you as my lover
Flying like a streamer thinking of new ways to do each other”

4. Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling Don’t Cry

“Fuckboy Jihad, kill infidels
Allahu Akbar, BOOM from Mike and El”

5. Fingersnap – Blackbirds

“And I would that wings of blackbirds would sing me to my dreams…”

The enchanting falsetto of David McAlmont is responsible for some of the most life affirming, moving music of the last 20 years. The partners in crime change but every decade has at least one classic McAlmont tune. “Yes” (with Bernard Butler) is an undisputed tear jerking 90’s anthem, in the naughties his collaboration with Michael Nyman breathed life into tabloid headlines to spine tingling effect. Now as one half of Fingersnap (with Guy Davies) it’s time for this decade’s masterpiece, “Blackbirds”.

McAlmont describes the record as “an accidental creation” that “emerged from a despairing place“. Sign up to Fingersnaps’ official mailing list on their website.

6. Caribou – Can’t Do Without You

“Can’t Do Without You” was one hell of a calling card for “Our Love” Caribou’s sixth studio album. It takes a while to build but was rightly this summers windows wound down stereo pumping anthem.

7. Malachai – Sweet Flower

“What have I done I took a gun and shot a man dead
I know it’s cold but you don’t know what that man did”

8. Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

“I never miss a beat
I’m lightning on my feet”

Ahhh a guilty pleasure I hear you say? Nope, there’s no guilt to be found here, just an almost perfect pop song.
Following on from 2012’s “Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together“, Swift – aided and abetted by the finest pop producers – continued her knack for turning life’s tribulations into self aware insanely catchy pop nuggets. Her singles “Shake It Off” (with an inspired video by the director of “One Hour Photo“) and “Blank Space” were unavoidable in 2014 and the year was all the finer for it.
To be honest it might’ve been even higher if it wasn’t for irritating sub Toni Basil “Hey Mickey” breakdown in the middle of the tune. But hey perfection would be boring.

Here’s a bonus “Shake It Off” remix by Akira The Don’s new project Midnitemen. The Don also appears at No.26 on this list with his own take on trolling.

9. Kate Tempest – Lonely Daze

“‘Oh and I can see here that you have a degree’
‘Yes,’ says Pete, ‘in International Relations.’
Let’s see if Primark has space for a placement.”

‘Lonely Daze’ was the first taste from poet, playwright and novelist Kate Tempest’s new album on Big Dada. The production really enhances Kate’s typically evocative storytelling.

10. Aidan Moffat – You’ll Be Fine

A song about coping with Eastenders on your own.
Aidan Moffat:
These are the vagrants, begging for change by the side of the superhighway, the abandoned hobos brushing off digital dust and leaping from the virtual shelf … otherwise known as the rarities compilation“.

11. DJ Dodger Stadium – Love Songs

12. OUght – New Calm, Pt. 2

“Who invited Paul Simon”

Ought are like the antidote for the sadness in my heart that never quite accepts that LCD Soundsystem split up. Leaning more to the Talking Head than to the dance floor of James Murphy, ‘New Calm Pt.2’ is nevertheless a post punk panacea. Who did invite Paul Simon?

13. Sage Francis – Vonnegut Busy

“Of all the words of mice and men
The saddest are, ‘it might have been'”

Opening with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut (although he adapted it from Quaker poet John Whittier who referenced Robert Burns, proving poetry like pop has always eaten itself) – ‘Vonnegut Busy’ is typical of Sage Francis’s work in that it’s both fiercely personal and political.
When it feels like you’re going through hell, keep going
In 2010 he took a step back from incessant touring, concentrating on at least trying to achieve a more balanced domestic life. That this didn’t go quite to plan is documented on the “Copper Gone” LP recorded in his studio on the outskirts of Rhode Island. At the same time he also runs the hugely successful “Strange Famous” label of artists, inc Buddy peace, B Dolan, Polyphonic, Scroobius Pip.

For me Vonnegut Busy is the sound of Glastonbury 2014 – well strictly speaking the car journey there. Travelling to Somerset in a Nissan Micra with three Mexican sisters and Vonnegut Busy blaring out of the Heath Robinson tape/iPhone sound system.

14. Anthony Anaxagorou & Karim Kamar – Give Hope

“Give hope to the daughter who’s just left her wet lips on the forehead of her dying father”

15. Leonard Cohen – Almost Like the Blues

“There’s torture, and there’s killing
and there’s all my bad reviews”

Eighty years of age and Cohen is still a million years from the laurel resting tribute tour. “There’s torture, there’s killing, there’s all my bad reviews” intones his rumbling voice on album number 13’s standout track ‘Almost like the Blues’

16. Milo – You are go(o)d to me

“Melancholy men are always witty and I wonder why”

I had Milo’s typically obscure rhyme looping around my head for months as excitement built for his first full length LP “A Toothpaste Suburb”.
“You are Go(o)d to me” is an unconventional love song with milo splish splashing across a burbling backing of watery electronics while promising to “make you breakfast with raspberries and pick out the seeds using nothing but my little fingers“.

17. Fat White Family – Touch The Leather

“Fat white skin on the devastated leather
Touch the leather leather, touch the leather leather”

18. Benjamin Booker – Slow Coming

“To tell you the truth, I ain’t been sleeping to well”

“Slow Coming”, from Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut album out now on ATO Records.

19. Clay – Thinking Aloud

Devised as an art project, the Clay EP and indeed all future Clay releases will only ever have one physical copy. Those that can’t own that one piece of art can count themselves lucky that the soulful sounds of Clay also exist in the digital world.
Read my friend and fellow music obsessive Dominique Lutier’s indepth profile of Clay on the Convozine blog.

20. Leikeli47 – F*ck the summer up

Cruising the street in matching balaclavas like the Brooklyn branch of the Ulster Defence League, Leikeli47 (pronounced “lah-KAY-lee”) and her friend have come to f**k your summer up. Personally they can come and piss on my lawn as much as they like as long as they continue to release low slung hip-hop nuggets as good as this.

21. Raury – God’s Whisper

22. Lethal Dialect – Beast-mode feat. 4Real

“I’m watching them building more prisons than clinics and hospitals”

Last years epic ‘School Dayz Are Over’ featured in my 2013 top 100 and the Lethal Dialect full-length largely delivers on the promise of that track.
‘Beast-Mode’ is one of my standouts, underpinned by a slowed down sample of Layo and Bushwacka’s 2002 hit ‘Love Story’ (which was itself based on Nina Simone and Devo samples). Over this, Paulie Allwright (aka Lethal Dialect) delivers quicker intricate raps bemoaning the plight of the working class, presumedly in his native North Dublin.

23. Fofoulah – Don’t Let Your Mind Unravel, Safe Travels (feat. Ghostpoet)

The Soundcloud page for London-based quintet ‘Fofoulah’ (“it’s there” in the primarily Senegalese language of Wolof) says ‘Don’t let your mind unravel, safe travels’ has been played a tad over a thousand times. Given that about a 100 of those are by me I can’t help but want to tap the play count gauge in with same disbelief I’d give, let’s say a 2001 Nissan Micra with only 20,000 miles on the clock. A track this good can’t have believably had so few plays!!
Fofoulahs music is built upon the rhythms of Sabar drums, but avoids most of the pitfalls or unwieldiness of many world music collaborations. The hazy rap of Ghostpoet melds seamlessly with the drums and the catchy West African guitar riff. Not only are they not strangers, they’re feet up on the couch, pass another beer buddies, there’s an effortless charm about the track that belies its status as a ‘fusion’.

24. Nikki Lane – You Can’t Talk To Me Like That

“You can’t talk to me like that
It makes me wanna be your baby”

25. Universal Cave – Riding

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