Couple of disclaimers, I only considered albums released in 2014 as opposed to several that I encountered for the first time this year and fell head over heels in giddy appreciation of (The Besnard Lakes, you can stop looking coy, yes that would be you, with Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO). I am limiting this shortlist to a top 20 to make it a pleasant brief encounter rather than a heaven's gate of self indulgence and I have tried to illustrate each artist's manuscript with a video clip for the curious at heart.
Number 20: Number 10: Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
The Soundtrack to: If they remade Nebraska with Karen Black in Brooklyn.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Écoutez et Répetez - all songs that get under the skin and the more you listen the more you dig deeper and find yourself sliding from humming to howling along.
Number 19: Hercules and Love Affair - The Feast of the Broken Heart
The Soundtrack to: A quirky French comedy featuring speeded up black and white shots of traffic going around the Arc de Triomphe.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Dancy Days, a blend of house and power pop that your gay hairdresser friend gave you for a weekend road trip to LA.
Number 18: Fear of Men – Loom
The Soundtrack to: An indie comedy featuring a smart dark haired girl called Jess working in a cafe in Brighton while writing the Great Novel, she is nothing like Lena Dunham.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Attagirl! guitar led rock gems with harmony driven tales of love and lust, bit shoe-gazey, bit woozy, gets played a lot when doing boring shit around the house like laundry.
Number 17: Caribou – Our Love
The Soundtrack to: a documentary about a Canadian mathematician pushing at the door of what is possible with repetition and harmony.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Trust Me - the product of smart folks locked away with their Macs and Pro-tools. Caribou is in great company with Mount Kimbie, The Field, The Range, Monster Rally, Jon Hopkins doing the same thing yet all doing it differently, and of course Trust. Nuance me baby!
Number 16: Chet Faker – Built on Glass
The Soundtrack to: An urban comedy of errors called Cigarettes and Loneliness set in Melbourne, where the hero never gets the girl but that does not stop him trying.
Number 15: Dry The River - Alarms in the Heart
The Soundtrack to: A moody period drama set in a hospital in Wisconsin in the 1940's, sweeping vistas of the lakes lap up the lovers and everyone smokes.
Number 14: The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
Number 13: Grumbling Fur - Preternaturals
The Soundtrack to: Spring time in the Welsh Borders, staying for the weekend on a friend's farm, lashings of local lamb, great beer and walks over Wenlock Edge. A man enjoys the rural bliss and forgets the stresses and strains of his stockbroker City struggles.
Number 12: Hospitality - Trouble
The Soundtrack to: A remake of the Graduate with Amber Pampini's plaintive voice instead of Simon and Garfunkel, bookended by the guitars and drums to be a rockier and dirtier sound to reflect our dismay with today's career options having moved from a future in plastics to a future in start-ups.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Rockets and Jets - the bass drives us to speed up, windows down, the wind blowing summer heat through the car, driving while squinting as the sun sets on another glorious June day.
Number 11: EMA – The Future’s Void
The Soundtrack to: A jerky direct-to-video 'found footage' horror flick where the heroine is stranded on landlocked deserted grey ship in North Dakota.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: So Blonde - catchy but edgy collection that skirts the edge of noise and embraces guitars. Music for Sunday mornings when cobwebs need to blown away and the first Bloody Mary is beckoning.
Number 10: Wye Oak – Shriek
The Soundtrack to: A soap opera set in Baltimore featuring a couple of artists who go through a break up but then produce their best work of their careers.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: The Tower - a paean to days spent worshipping at the altar that was Tower Records, dreamy bass, drums, more drums, loops and that girl's voice that wont stop.
Number 9: Røyksopp and Robin – Do It Again
The Soundtrack to: A brooding cop drama featuring a Swedish female detective with personality disorder bordering on autism. Repetitive beats and fat, fat keyboard loops frame the story's many loops and twists.
Number 8: Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Living with the Black Dog - you have a soft spot for plaintive female vocals and smart guitar but have played Laura Marling and Daughter to death. Churchill drank brandy and had an affair with Jane Mansfield, according to Derek and Clive to relieve his depression, this mix tape is much more effective and less injurious to your health.
Number 7: The Moon Rang Like Bell – Hundred Waters
The Soundtrack to: An animation by Guillermo del Toro set in 19th century Germany featuring a girl looking to show love and avoid ugliness and apathy.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Seven White Horses - songs that gallop along with whisps of words sung sweetly down a track and a double track, riding rough shod over the ghosts of Laurie Anderson and Lykke Li.
Number 6: K.Flay – Life As A Dog
The Soundtrack to: An urban exploitation movie featuring a tomboy girl from the midwest who works her way through Stanford degree in Psychology and Sociology by rapping and becoming a world class female MC in the process.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Blingity Blang Blang - hip hop stylings with an alternative singer songwriter approach, play it while trying out different bourbons, be careful with the Jim Beam bottle though.
Number 5: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Days of Abandon
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Massokissed - the clean harmonies and love songs that share similar genetic code with the Shins, Swiss Family Robinson, Lemonheads and Belle and Sebastian.
Number 4: Liars – Mess
The Soundtrack to: A crazy mashup of 3 guys doing an art meets skate boarding documentary film that appears only late at night on IFC or at some minor film festival.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Use My Socks - beaty, big and bouncy that has me jumping up and down shouting desperately out of tune "eat my face off", this is the perfect cure for hangovers.
Number 3: Yellow Ostrich – Cosmos
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: How Do You Do It? guitars, guitars and the terrors in your eyes. Songs that a short, sharp and shock the sensibilities. Play it late in the afternoon in headphones when you have way more work to do than energy left to give and it will caffeine your mind when all about are losing theirs.
Number 2: Wussy - Attica
The Soundtrack to: A mixed media and dance installation piece at the local Center for the Arts trying to show its more 'real', edgy and relevant than the over endowed Art Museum up the road, exploring issues like gender, race and environmental concerns.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Teenage Wasteland - rock songs big enough to make you dig out old Who albums, buy plaid shirts and strap on the air guitar. The heads will be a nodding, its what white folks do!
Number 1: Wild Beasts – Present Tense
The Soundtrack to: a Polish modern dance version of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde, two distinct voices each telling a different story, violence under the false foppery.
If this was featured on a mix-tape it would be this one: Wanderlust - the mix that you take on the long flight to Europe, that rocks gently on the train winding through valleys and across fertile plains, that drives in rhythm to the rental car. A bit of England amongst the global gloss.