It’s the time of year where journalists and bloggers get all retrospective and reflect on a year in music. As a humble B&W employee, with a vested interested in music that all sounds good, I have compiled a list of ten tracks that sound great to me personally, and I would hope to anyone with a good sound system. Ofcourse, this neatly bypasses the argument of albums against single tracks, but that’s something we will talk about in the future!
It would be great to have feedback from B&W lovers on what songs they have really enjoyed listening to this year. My basic set up, it should be added, is a pair of B&W XT2 speakers, PV1 subwoofer, Rotel amps, while personal ipod listening came through a pair of noise-reduction Sennheiser PXC 250 headphones.
In no particular order… actually most definitely in order going down
10. Vampire Weekend – Walcott
A joyous romp that sounds like it should come from a beach on the Caribbean, but actually comes from the US East Coast. The ‘chopsticks’ piano gives this song a life of its own.
9. The Verve – Sit and Wonder
An underwhelming comeback from the Wigan band had two glorious tracks that relived the Northern Soul and Urban Hymns glory days. This opener had all the classic Verve sound, and sounded all the more powerful through my system for it.
8. Elbow – Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
One of the most heartening stories of the year was the final public recognition of this marvellous band, who have been forebearers in sound quality for years and were part of the Turn Me Up campaign, and previously recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios. This soaring track, about how ambition can drive you from those you love, is heartbreaking.
7. Bon Iver – Re: Stacks
How life affirming that this artist hid himself away and created such wonderful folky gems pining for a lost love. For all its quiet allure, the music sounds richer with each listen.
6. Laura Marling – Ghosts
An 18-year old from Reading in Britain’s own ‘Silicon Valley’ came out of nowhere and released this wonderful single. Not all of her album’s sound quality stands up on repeated listening but there is no denying the quality of her songwriting.
5. TV on the Radio – Halfway Home
From what will probably be the critics’ favourite album of the year (including Billboard), this opening track encapsulates all the wonders they have currently been doing with guitars, and shows all the influences from rock, electronica, psychedelia, you name it.
4. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Come On Over, Turn Me On
I recently watched these two in the Union Chapel in London, a venue that swells with sound and clarity. This song from Sunday at Devil Dirt was the standout. Mark Lanegan’s deep baritone grumbling offsets Isobel Campbell’s fey whispery voice. His voice alone almost manages to physically move the PV1 subwoofer – a feat in itself
3. Nick Cave – Dig Lazarus Dig!!!
Nick Cave has always sounded wonderful through his chameleon career, and this tale of the depraved Lazarus’ travels around the States is storytelling through music at its best.
2. Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
There are beautiful harmonies in this song, so reminiscent of Beach Boys, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, especially in the second half. And this track was not even on their eponymous album, which included many equally beautiful acoustic gems.
1. Portishead – The Rip
The reason why this is track of the year to me is that it encapsulates what music this year has been about, mixing genres, away from the moribund and stagnating guitar rock. What starts out as a lilting acoustic number with Beth Gibbon’s forlorn vocals is essentially repeated chorus and verse but again in an electronic version that vibrates with passion. And both ‘versions’ sound excellent through speakers and headphones.
There we have it, you may agree, you may disagree, but this is just the personal viewpoint of someone who is passionate about sound, who would love to hear other top 10s that hopefully other B&W lovers will seek out to listen to.