The Best of British 2013 is our unofficial countdown of the top ten UK a cappella tracks of the past year. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas period, we will be counting down, from ten to one, what we believe have been the best tracks on show this year, ranging from awesome arrangements, sensational solos, marvellous mash-ups, punny parodies and everything in between.
In order to determine which tracks were to be considered for this accolade, we decided to restrict our selections to songs that fell under ONE or BOTH of the following categories:
a) A song that made its live OR competitive debut since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
b) A song that was featured on an album released since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
c) No tracks considered for last year’s countdown are eligible this year.
For example, although The Other Guys‘ Christmas was released in 2012, last year’s countdown started before the release of the album, so all the tracks on the album were eligible. On the flip side, although The Oxford Alternotives wowed with their rendition of Regina Spektor’s Samson at this year’s VF-UK, because it was released in album form in 2012, it was considered last year and therefore was ineligible this year.
We made a list of all the eligible songs from all the eligible groups, and then picked the top three tracks from each group, where possible. We then narrowed this shortlist down to 25, before picking our 10 favourite tracks. Opinions were divided, scores were combined, and in the end there was only one winner. But who will it be?
The countdown continues:
7. The Oxford Alternotives – Lovely Day
In at number seven is a late entry into proceedings – The Oxford Alternotives‘ version of Lovely Day only really came into existence after March’s Voice Festival UK and the Alts’ successful run to the final of the competition. Beating out their covers of Knights of Cydonia and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You into our top 10, Lovely Day was arranged by friend of the group and UACUK contributor Nick Barstow, who even ended up joining the group as the song débuted at August’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Ex-OOTB member Barstow was drafted in to arrange after the group had tried in vain to incorporate some so-called “Barstow Chords” into some of their own arrangements. Departing group member Heather Young describes how they coaxed him into getting involved: “With a few puppy dog eyes and some batting of eyelids we got him to write an arrangement for us!” Indeed, Young claims the arrangement, and the way it enhanced the group’s togetherness, was part of the reason for the success of the number. “All the individual lines were nice to sing in isolation which I think is difficult to achieve in arranging, but is very rewarding to perform! This is definitely a song where we were working really closely as a group, with everyone being linked, quite intuitively, into what everyone else was doing.”
The arrangement, combined with the feel-good nature of the song, made it one of the group’s favourites by the end of the year, despite its relatively short life as part of their set. “The song itself is very sunny and it’s impossible not to be in a good mood when singing it! Combined with Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams mash up in the middle and you’re on to an absolute winner!” However, the irony of singing the song on the grey and rainy Royal Mile was not lost on the group, nor on the spectators: “We particularly enjoyed singing it on the mile, although the crowds seemed to quite enjoy the irony when it was bucketing it down with rain!”
The song garnered the most successful reviews from Fringe for its soloists, Barstow and Niamh Furey, both of which Young describes as “amazing.” Indeed, despite the intricate and clever arrangement, no song is complete without an excellent soloist (or, in this case, two!) However, it was the laid-back nature of the song which Young believes was the real source behind the popularity of the track. “The arrangement manages to really capture that kind of chilled out, lying-in-the-sunshine vibe which I think is quite hard to find in a cappella; usually the songs chosen are either slap-you-in-the-face-til-you-smile happy or sad and brooding, so I think this arrangement was both refreshing for us to sing and for others to hear.”
So, The Oxford Alternotives make our countdown for the first time at Number 7. There are still two more débutantes on our countdown to come. Any guesses? Stay tuned.