The A List: 15th January

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Introducing The A List: my favourite 10 tracks at the moment.

Every Sunday I’ll be posting a new A List, and it’ll give you an insight into what I’m loving right now. I’ve implemented a couple of rules (at the bottom, if you’re interested), but this is mostly a chance for me to take stock of what tracks are working for me – and why.

Early January is often a pretty quiet time for new music, but with new albums from You Me At Six and The XX, and new singles from London Grammar, Ed Sheeran and others, there’s been plenty to listen to.

Here is this week’s A List:

1. Army of Bones – Don’t Be Long

An unexpected indie treat. The lead singer in AoB was in the Christian rock band Delirious? and Don’t Be Long is obviously from musicians with a fine idea of what makes a good track. Strong pulsing guitars and a polished melody makes this a fine January listen.

2. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You 

First Friday of January and Ed Sheeran re-stakes his claim to be pop’s number one man. He released two singles that have broken all sorts of streaming and sales records, taken numbers 1 and 2 in the UK charts and helped to shake off the January blues. Shape of You was easily my favourite of the two singles; it’s a straight up pop banger with the same confident swagger that Bieber, Major Lazer and others have recently demonstrated (often with Sheeran-penned songs). That it was originally meant for Rihanna only makes me like it more.

3. Code Orange – Bleeding in the Blur

A nice chunk of dirty rock and roll, with waves of feedback and a dark, menacing vibe. This is my first introduction to Code Orange, but I look forward to hearing more of their stuff.

4. Julien Baker – Funeral Pyre 

A desperately sad track that revolves around drinking gasoline and the impact that has on relationships. It’s a little haunting – especially her beautiful vocals – and seems to sit in that rather marvellous spot in between country, folk and acoustic rock.

5. Kiesza – Dearly Beloved 

I was a massive fan of Kiesza’s 2014 single Hideaway and the accompanying one-take video, so it’s great to have her back. Dearly Beloved is a cheesy cocktail with a small slice of funk thrown in. It walks the tightrope of ‘too cheesy/brilliant’ a little brashly, but it’s working for me at the moment.

6. VANT – DO YOU KNOW ME? 

A welcome re-release of DO YOU KNOW ME? A protest record in support of young people today. “I’m down, I’m tired, I’m broke, I wanted something more” they sing, and it’s clear from their Radio 1 plays that they’re striking a note with younger fans. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing VANT a few times in recent years – full disclosure, I was at the Scala gig that they filmed the DO YOU KNOW ME? video at – and they’ve really grown as a live band. Their debut album comes out in February and I fully expect them to be massive by the end of the year.

7. London Grammar – Rooting for You 

A rather beautiful and minimalist single marks the return of London Grammar. This track is all about the vocals; they soar in parts but betray a vulnerability matched with inner strength in the quieter moments. I went to see London Grammar a couple of years ago at Brixton Academy and it fell very flat, but hopefully with more songs – and some more experience of being on stage – they’ll be back bigger and better this time around.

8. You Me At Six – Spell It Out  

I’m going to write a longer piece on YMAS’s recent album later this week, but in my opinion Spell It Out is the record’s highlight, capturing a darker edge to the band and growing throughout. There’s some nice guitar work throughout and the transformation into Audioslave at the 2.30 mark is rather good fun.

9. Kehlani – Undercover 

I’ve gone back and forth on this track a few times. Part of me loves the slick r’n’b meets pop feel, a well-trodden path to the charts. But part of me dislikes the obviousness of the track, particularly the chorus. At the moment the first part of me is winning…

10. The XX – Say Something Loving

The XX are one of the very few bands I can think of that have yet to put a foot wrong. If you haven’t read it, you should check out the brilliant Pitchfork cover piece on the band and their new album, which you can find here

You can listen to all ten tracks here:

I’ve given myself a couple of rules:

  • I have to really like these tracks already. That usually means I’ll have given them 4 or 5 plays before they make it this far. If there is a lag between me posting a song and it appearing on here, that’s probably why.
  • Tracks can stay on the A List for a maximum of 4 weeks. I have a habit of overplaying records and then liking them less, and if I keep something in circulation for more than 4 weeks, that happens more regularly.

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