2013 has already been a big year for music, but so far the headlines have been grabbed by shock comebacks (David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Fall Out Boy) and huge live moments (The Rolling Stones and Mumford & Sons at Glasto, JT and Jay-Z at Wireless) rather than by, you know, the actual music.
Thankfully, there have been moments where the quality and excitement surrounding new music has pushed its way into the headlines: Daft Punk’s big return and the “Get Lucky” phenomenon, Kanye West insane anti-promotion of Yeezus and his ensuing friendly rivalry with J Cole, and Black Sabbath topping the charts and confirming their national treasure status.
Here at Strictly we still care passionately about the music and we’ve asked our writers to pick out their highlights of the year so far – turns out, we don’t agree all that often:
Keir Smith (5 Things Columnist)
5. Scholars – Always Lead, Never Follow
I have a bit of a personal pick here, but this band definitely deserves to be on the list. This album displays their talents as a horrendously underrated British indie/punk band that has traces of the also horrendously underrated Reuben. Hopefully they won’t go the same way. Basically GO BUY THIS ALBUM.
Tracks you need to hear: ‘Blinda Data’, ‘Fractures’, ‘More Medicine’.
4. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll
Did they save rock and roll? Well no not really, at all. But this doesn’t matter, obviously the claim was made very much in tongue and cheek, but there are still some sizzling summer songs here that could provide the perfect BBQ soundtrack.
Tracks you need to hear: ‘Where Did The Part Go?’, ‘Young Volcanoes’, and ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark’
3. The Computers – Love Triangles, Hate Squares
Ever wondered what would happen if Elvis had sex with the Clash? (Haven’t we all?) Well this is the result. This album is half fast paced punk rock and half oozingly slick melodic fun time music that needs to be heard live to be fully appreciated. Also their suits are sublime.
Tracks you need to hear: ‘Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster, ‘Mr Saturday Night’ and ‘Disco Sucks’.
2. Alkaline Trio – My Shame Is True
This may not be their finest work but everyone needs some Alkaline Trio in their lives and this latest offering provides your necessary dose. You know what you’re going to get with an Alkaline trio album and I’m certain that they will be up there with the best performers at Reading festival this year.
Tracks you need to hear: ‘I, Pessimist, ‘I Wanna Be A Warhol’ and ‘She Lied To The FBI’.
1. Paramore – Paramore
Whether you love or hate them, you have to admit they’ve been through quite a bit. Just as a binge drinker might purge by spewing up their insides Hayley and co released their own catharsis through this album, with much more pleasant results. Some of their best songs are found on their self-titled album and scientists have discovered that it’s pretty much impossible to listen to ‘Ain’t it fun’ without clapping and singing like you’re in a gospel choir.
Tracks you need to hear- ‘Ain’t It Fun’, ‘Still Into You’ and ‘Grow Up’.
Simone F (Indie Reporter/Columnist)
5. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
I have touched on Howlin before as not being a nail breaking LP, but having said that, it’s an album filled with feel good vibes. The Sydney duo took on the role of this year’s Mad-chester music scene revivalists – baggy and acid house psychedelia meet Ian Brown on a cloudy day. Baggy stoned beats being swirled in a pot of melodies and unimportant lyrics. Howlin is not going to leave its stamp on music history, but it is a ambitious in here and now. It’s one debut album that I am happy to have beat boxing its rhythms in my ear.
4. Peace – In Love
After what felt like ages, B-Town Kings Peace finally released their debut LP in the face of a huge amount of buzz around the industry. Peace wormed their way into music blogger’s hearts with their overly math-rock disrobed guitars riffs and lyrics surrounding the theme love. The band firmly put the haters back in their boxes. Songs like ‘Follow Baby’, ‘Lovesick’ and ‘California Daze’ are enough to have the indie followers believing Peace are the Britpop revival of the 00’s.
3. Savages – Silence Yourself
I always finds myself wondering: Are Savages a cult band? Are they too dark and dead serious to be an actual moving forward band? Of course, but who cares? Savages bring something fresh to the early 80’s post punk era. Live everything is done with a straight screw you face. Savages’ songs build up into little frenetic head throttles, with Jehnny Beth stabbing her way into your ears. Silence Yourself is my favourite darker, rough, albums of the year, so far.
2. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds
‘Field of Reeds’ is the third album from These New Puritans. It builds on Beat Pyramid, which was glooming in post-punk, and second LP Hidden, which was layered in gothic destructive beats. Now on their third album Field of Reeds follows suit and once again remains a completely different album from the band, this album is more pure and mysterious, less aggressive than the second album Hidden. All in all, Field of Reeds is a striking album slaying away in deep bass, strings, choir and woodwork, live I can imagine this being quite the show of wowness. Field of Reeds is my current album obsession, hence the high placement, who knows where it will stand in the next five months?
1. Foals – Holy Fire
Somewhat predictably, my number one album of the year so far, I know, but Holy Fire has landed Foals in the mouths of those who doubted their somewhat downer of a second album. Holy Fire is just filled with beautiful sad songs caught in the throat of a beatbox riff. Their third album feels effortless; finding time to hammer down their signature riffs while Yannis found himself lyrically.
William Sorenson (Album Reviewer/Columnist)
5. Biffy Clyro – Opposites
Today, British Rock Music is led by two types of bands. The Goliath Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian with friends in big places and a lucky start up in the MySpace scene, and then there are the Davids – Biffy Clyro. Working their way toward this mammoth double album, Biffy explore soaring hooks, gorgeous melodies and stadium filling singalongs set against jarring rhythms, strange lyrical concepts (I’ll turn YOUR baby into Lemonade, Simon) and tangents not too dissimilar to their sophomore album Infinity Land.
4. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
How could this album live up to the hype? It’s been in progress since before I was born. Yet, Shields and co managed to live up to the anticipation and blow out all the (now decrepit and non existing) competition out of the water. A focused, attentive, and experimental shoegaze album; the perfect successor to the seminal Loveless. The album we all deserved.
3. Paramore – Paramore
I mince no words with my appreciation of this record – I love the self titled fourth effort from Tennessee’s pop rock royalty. In my review I was extremely favourable of the album, and it’s only got better with time. From ukelele twiddles to the expansive, lush fields of post rock guitars, Paramore really stretch themselves artistically on this album and point very promisingly toward a new future.
2. Kanye West – Yeezus
Admission time; I never truly ‘got’ My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It all seemed very blasé at times. Huge, garish synth lines. Choruses. Guests. It all seemed very much money over music. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned to love some tracks. But nothing, absolutely nothing on that album prepared me for this. Yeezus sees Ye ascend to godliness through nothing but angst, aggression, and artistic merit. Heavy, heavy production, distortion, lyrics spat like hot fire – Yeezus can’t blast the competition cause nothing sounds like it. Not enough. Too poppy for Death Grips fans, too Electronic for Dälek comparisons. But in the end, Ye has no rivals because no one in the game is quite like him.
1. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
I firmly believe that this will be in top 5s of pretty much all our contributors, and I’m sure a few of them will have given the same placing to it. Queens Of The Stone Age make a triumphant return to form with … Like Clockwork and reinvigorate their sound with the melancholy of Homme’s downtempo and newly found emotional side. Juxtaposing harsh realities against bouncing structures, weird insecurities against cool bravado, the band don’t let up their facade but let you delve deep into a fractured psyche. And it sounds so damn good.
David Hayter (Editor)
5. Rhye – Woman
Picking a fifth album was really tricky because, in truth, 2013 has produced a lot of really strong, well made, intelligent music, but very little that’s made me fall in love with music all over again. Woman by Rhye nearly slipped through the cracks, but then I put it on briefly this morning and I was stunned. Other records might be more upbeat and enjoyable, but Rhye’s crippling serene vocals have a devastating clarity. This record and its obsession with acceptance and sorrow is targeted directly at my tear ducts and heartstrings.
4. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Before Kanye dropped Yeezus and blew the competition out of the water, Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap was the one album I was bumping more than any other. Unlike J Cole who also recalls Kanye’s early production style, Chance The Rapper is determined to make the old new with drug fuelled infusions and a wealth of charisma. Every line and every note of this mixtape is exuberant, you can practically hear Chance smiling, and that makes it all the more devastating when he decides to drop some macabre social commentary.
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
It’s strange, has a band ever released two such critically acclaimed and publicly loved albums as Vampire Weekend, only to find the press constantly talking about how they have no future. Apparently they were supposed to be a hipster gimmick, but the wonderfully deep, truly heartfelt and bloody catchy Modern Vampires Of The City proves that Vampire Weekend are not only here to stay, but they might be the one band capable of pushing Indie forward. Lots of bands try to sound like Vampire Weekend, but no one can seems capable of pre-empting their next step. Modern Vampires Of The City is the work of leaders, not followers.
2. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park
This is where Top 5’s always get tricky. Do should I pick the albums I think are the best musically or the albums I love the most? Well I’m being honest and picking my favourite records, and that means Kacey Musgraves nabs second place (rather than 4th). Same Trailer, Different Park is a brilliant record in its own right. A masterclass in modern feminist-weed-smoking country, but make no mistake, this isn’t alt-country or weird-folk, this is good ol’fashioned FM radio pop. Kacey has a delicate delivery, a mastery of melody, and the ability to turn any track into a hit. This is the perfect summer record.
Plus tell me honestly, has any rapper come up with a better diss than: “Still hasn’t lost that baby weight, and that baby’s about to graduate from college”.
1. Kanye West – Yeezus
After the initial love it or hate it shock of its release, Yeezus still stands on its own merits. In fact, a month on, I am convinced that Kanye West is the only real rock star left in the world (possible exaggeration).
Yeezus is the sound of an artist doing whatever the fuck he wants. It’s a mental breakdown on eve of fatherhood. It’s the sound of a man embracing and rejecting his own vile hedonism and misogyny. Yeezus is so refreshing, because this isn’t a record made by a man concerned with branding, record sales, advertising revenue, his fan base, his new family, or anything else on his mind. Yeezus is a monument to impetuousness. Ye is tearing hip hop to shreds, mutilating his signature sound, and lashing out in every possible direction. He will do anything in the name of expression.
The beauty of Yeezus is that after Kanye has kicked and screamed in every possible direction, he returns, on “Bound 2”, to the crux of the matter: this horrible, disgusting, self-loathing egotist is falling in love and settling down – and that scares the hell out of him.
Joe Hill (Album Reviewer)
5. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
In a word? Demanding. Karin and Olof Dreijer have been busy – Olof did an entire degree in gender politics and Karin borrowed his reading list; she also made the soundtrack to a collection of feminist porn films and together they co-wrote an opera about Charles Darwin. I doubt I’m the only one who thinks this backstory sounds like Spinal Tap Goes To Art College, but this level of “taking yourself too seriously” pays off with records like this. While it seems so intimidating, epic, aggressive (and, yes, overblown) on the surface, pushing past the shock value of Shaking The Habitual reveals a strangely human and passionate record. Both the lyrics and artwork are steeped in political agendas, while the music itself varies from thrilling to eerie to pretty and all of the above. It took me several listens to properly dig deep into this thing, but now I can’t seem to turn away from it. Demanding? Sure. Rewarding? Definitely.
4. Deerhunter – Monomania
Me trying to write about this band is like a devout Muslim trying to write about Mohammed so I’ll try to keep this short. Just as a guideline, since The Knife’s last album, Deerhunter have managed to cram in three LPs and two EPs, alongside five individual solo albums between the two frontmen. Being prolific, however, comes at a price – frontman Bradford Cox started to notice how his bandmates were getting married and were generally doing well for themselves. All he was doing was making music, obsessively and relentlessly, and it’s this mind-set that bleeds through ‘Monomania’. The band’s more ethereal dreampop influences are almost completely binned here in favour of a grimy ramshackle garage rock. From the furious analogue screech of ‘Leather Jacket II’ to the Television-ish almost-pop of ‘Back To The Middle’, ‘Monomania’ is a record proud to wear its influences on its sleeve somewhat, but having said that, it’s a record only Deerhunter could have made.
3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Good memories came pre-packaged with Tomorrow’s Harvest. Being the drooling gawkish fans we are, my flatmate and I refused to go near any online streams so we could listen to the vinyl on the best speakers we could find. More often than not, a Boards Of Canada record takes some breaking in – few people seem to take to them on the first play – but even we were surprised at how instantly loveable Tomorrow’s Harvest was and still is. The paranoid beats and eerie synths are all still paranoid and eerie, but this time the outright gorgeous bits are doubly gorgeous. And while it’s the band’s most immediate record yet, it still has the depth of their best work, revealing more and more on each play, and is as suited to sound-tracking blinding sunshine as it is to Biblical deluges of rain.
2. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile was my least favourite gig of last year. In the packed Kentish Town Forum which I had travelled 2 ½ hours to get to, the band played to the rudest audience I’ve ever seen, talking so loudly I actually had to strain my ears to try and filter it out. After being stuck next to a woman who only ever stopped talking to her boyfriend about her job to shout “Oh I know this oooonnnnneee!!” at the start of every other song, I left. I’m pretty glad I went to that gig though, because in thirty years time, someone will say to me “No way, you saw Kurt Vile in 2012?!” “That’s right,” I would smugly reply, “and you know what, hardly anyone was even listening.” Right now I feel like he’s on track to being one of those American icons alongside Jack White (though sounding nothing like Jack White). The songs on Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze are warm, often thoughtful, often fun, often really bloody long, but consistently great. It sounds ear-friendly and pretty on first play, but cuts deeper with each listen, and whether he’s talking about growing old, giving up smoking, paranoia, or that old chestnut “love”, he does so with an honesty, humility and humour possessed by very few.
1. The Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz Vol. 2
Gimmickry alone can never make a record good, but it can lure you in long enough to listen properly. I doubt I would have listened to The Pictish Trail if I hadn’t heard of the ridiculous concept of ‘In Rooms’, consisting fifty 30-second songs recorded in 100 days. Even so, when I actually bought it on a whim, I found just how much emotion, silliness and brains a great songwriter like Johnny Lynch can pack into such small packets and I listened to it on shuffle/repeat, over and over in different combinations. The first (also great) album was called ‘Secret Soundz vol.1’, the second was ‘In Rooms’, and finally, five years after the first instalment, ‘Secret Soundz vol.2’ outstrips them all. This record occupies a weird no-man’s-land between the modern Scottish folk of King Creosote and the sparky electro-pop of Hot Chip. Some sounds have gotten noisier, dirtier, but elsewhere it’s more lush and fluid than ever – the songs themselves are often cryptic, but there’s always raw sentiment that shows through. I find something heartbreaking in the way Lynch sings “Good morning, I don’t care” in The Handstand Crowd, just as I find something completely joyous in the way he sings “You’re so completely now” in Long In The Tooth – I still don’t know what either song means. Maybe my opinion will change, but ‘Secret Soundz vol.2’ continues to grow and grow on me and I can honestly say there has been no record released this year that I have enjoyed more than this one.
Lewis Lowe (Reviewer/Hip Hop Expert)
5. Disclosure ft AlunaGeorge- White Noise
A clever collaboration between two groups penned for great success in 2013 resulted in the fantastic ‘White Noise’. The idea shouldn’t work, the duos joined together at a time when they where they were both upcoming to create a buzz off both fan bases. It should sound forced but credit to all involved, the record sounds effortless. The bassline and synths from Disclosure compliment Alunas vocals perfectly making the track an instant club classic.
4. Chance The Rapper- Chain Smoking
Chicago native Chance The Rapper has really made his mark in 2013, collecting critical acclaim for the mixtapes he has released this year. Taken from ‘Acid Rap’ the infectious ‘Chain Smoking’ is the best of the bunch. Combining a thumping drum beat, swirling high octave backing vocals on loop and Chances unconventional rap style, makes this a must hear track.
3. The Weeknd- John Carpenter
I have been thoroughly impressed with The Weeknd in 2013 and the stand out track for me has been ‘John Carpenter’. The track details a hectic tale of drug taking and alcohol to combat the pressures of being a music artist, all of course in The Weeknds laid back vocals. The track itself is drifting and distorted, complimenting the themes of the record.
2. Kurt Vile- KV Crimes
You could easily choose any track from this years album ‘Walking On A Pretty Daze’, it’s a fantastic record. ‘KV Crimes’ sums up Kurt Vile, moody, stretched out vocals accompanied by a lo-fi guitar riff. The song is effortlessly cool and just perfect for kicking back, chilling with an ice cold beer in the sun.
1. Daft Punk ft Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams- Get Lucky
With a some help from soul, funk legend Nile Rodgers and smooth R n B heart throb Pharrell Williams, Daft Punk released a behemoth of a track in April this year. Combining a tale of instant sexual chemistry, a disco rhythm whilst also keeping a modern sound, the band really announced they were back in style. The last time the Parisian duo released anything it inspired a wave of copy cats, this time I’d like to see them try.
Kyle Prangnell (Columnist)
5. Frighten Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Pedestrian Verse is Frightened Rabbit’s fourth album, and their most mature so far. It seems that lead singer Scott Hutchison has moved passed his heartbreak that fuelled the cult favourite Midnight Organ Fight, and its follow up, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Looking to move away from what they’ve become accustomed to may have led Frightened Rabbit down the wrong path, but when the falsetto of Acts of Man comes in and paints a much broader picture of other lives around him, with some still quite dark themes, you realise that his song writing ability is not limited to writing about himself.
However, that’s not to say that there are no personal songs. In fact they all seem to come from personal experience, but no longer do the themes seem limited. Instead themes such as religion, which has previously been seen in their music (see: Head’s Roll Off) are given more time to be explored. Holy talks of the ‘fake benevolence’ claimed by the religious, and asks to be left alone; a use of his exhaustion with religion that could also be seen to be a metaphor reflecting his tiredness with relationships. This song also has the benefit of being the most immediate song on the album, in the same vein as Nothing Like You on their previous record.
Instrumentally this album has a true ‘band’ feeling as opposed to a singer songwriter with a few touring musicians. It certainly shows a far more grown up band, and whilst it will probably never overtake Midnight Organ Fight in my favourite Frightened Rabbit albums, it has certainly shown an evolution in the band, and something that is well worth a listen.
4. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
What can I say about My Bloody Valentine and mbv that hasn’t already been said? The follow up to the ultra classic Loveless was always going to be quite anticipated to say the very least. So to leave it 22 years gives a lot of waiting time. I can’t quite explain the anticipation surrounding this album; I wasn’t even born when Loveless was released, but it certainly gave My Bloody Valentine something gargantuan to live up, which was completely unfair. This album is certainly not a huge 22 year step, but that’s not what anyone should have expected.
She Found Now is the way the band choose to restart, and how poignant an opener it is. The dreamy vocals over the heavy distortion of the droning guitars epitomises My Bloody Valentine’s sound. Even with 22 years in between the releases, you can tell at an instant that you are listening to them, and that is an absolute testament to the band that such a thing is possible. Shoegaze has gone in many different directions, in some absolutely brilliant ways, but this particular sound has never been bested, and it’s taken My Bloody Valentine to come back after all these years to give us another taste of it.
The pace does step up at points, such as in New You, but beyond the steady beat and far less fuzzier guitar, it still feels absolutely dreamy, and floats along with the beauty that has come to be expected in the gorgeous vocals. Wonder 2 closes the album and is perhaps the highlight for me. On my first listen I remember feeling like too much was going on; the whirring sound that continues throughout the song feels like a plane of infinite length flying just about your head, which accompanied by what sounds almost like a slowed down warning siren, all whilst the erratic drums provide a background beat to something that feels like it has absolutely no restraint. The dreamy vocals still flow through it, without feeling like they are the top layer, but just letting everything overcome them.
This album, like most of the music My Bloody Valentine make took me some time to really get my head around, but once I did it was an absolute treat.
3. Savages – Silence Yourself
Savages are a post-punk revival band from London. Their debut album Silence Yourself was a much awaited LP after the double A side Flying to Berlin and Husbands was released. Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees inspirations are more than obvious in this album, but that is certainly not something to take away from them; these influences have been used to full effect, and in fact the joys of this album come from the fact that they can take influence from some of the best in the business.
Starting with a spoken word intro on opening track Shut Up, you’re given just a bit of time to prepare for the near 40 minute plus onslaught that is about to occur. The second half of I Am Here shows just how hard and heavy this album can go. The drums drive the band through the track, the vocals echo and float in such a sinister way, and then the track completely explodes. It speeds up more and more and more to a huge climax that hits you full on in the face and that’s after just two songs. An absolute highlight for me, which shows all of the best parts of Savages’ sound is Hit Me. It lasts less than two minutes in perfect punk fashion, and shows the pounding drums, the distorted, shrieking guitar, and the incredibly potent vocals all turned up to 11. The album is completely brutal from the beginning; the energy is explosive.
The album finally ends on a beautiful song that helps the listener reflect on what they’ve just experienced. It’s a perfect ending that’s pulled off spectacularly, and is the best way to catch your breath after jumping, screaming, and flailing for over half an hour beforehand.
2. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
The Knife were a synthpop band hailing from Stockholm. However, it’s difficult to still put them under such a bracket now, as with each release they’ve become darker and more experimental, making synthpop quite an inaccurate description. Their sound has always been distinctive, yet they’ve never been afraid to evolve, and Shaking The Habitual shows off their experimental prowess perfectly. Tracks such as A Cherry On Top take the darkness of Brian Eno’s gloomier ambience, seen in Ambient 4, and filling it with rattling noise. There are no vocals, but just an incredible avant-garde atmosphere that journeys for nearly nine minutes. This is a song that has so much going on it’s impossible to take it all in at once. In fact that’s a description that can be used for the whole album.
Without You My Life Would Be Boring shows the side of the band that fans of The Knife would perhaps be more used to; it jumps along, with bouncing synths, accompanied by background screams, and vocals containing some wonderfully strange lyrics which include the album title ‘Shaking The Habitual’, which are possibly the three words I’d use to describe this album if I was limited to that. This album is nothing close to regular. Other highlights include the upbeat, dancey, electronic Full Of Fire, which is full of energy. Contrast this with Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized, which is a 19 minute ambient piece that appears in the middle of the album. This is perhaps something that I wouldn’t have expected to come from The Knife but it fits perfectly, splitting the album in two.
There is too much to be said about this album in such a short space so a small summary is that it’s experimental, innovating, intriguing, confusing, deep, and I still haven’t nearly got my head around it. There are many levels to be explored within the music and the themes, and I hope to even scrape the surface of all of this soon.
1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Trouble Will Find Me is The National’s sixth album and more evidence that they can do no wrong. To anyone who knows me the inclusion of this album in my list will come as no surprise, and I’m unsure whether my adoration for it is a testament to the band or something to ignore as I’d probably enjoy Matt Berninger reading Mein Kampf. Despite this, Trouble Will Find Me is still a gorgeous record deserving of all the praise that the rest of their records have gained. The band has found a wonderful way of having their own sound without being formulaic.
I Should Live In Salt sets the scene of the album with a simple acoustic guitar guiding Berninger’s lyrics describing a relationship between two people that seem to have nothing in common, but having an unconditional love for each other(specifically about his relationship with his brother). With the release of the documentary about the band it becomes more obvious the sorrow that Matt feels in leaving his brother behind, especially with the rest of the band being made up of brothers. Without the context of the film, the lyrics felt like they could have been about any relationship, brotherly or otherwise, which is the beauty I have always found in The National’s songs; the lyrics are beautiful and poignant, yet vague and mysterious enough to let you put your own meaning in and explore them yourself.
I could spend this entire section analysing the lyrics to every song on this album, but to save the time they are indisputably good. Whilst the past five albums also showed off Berninger’s way with words, Trouble Will Find Me perhaps shows him at his best, and the rest of the band certainly bring their game up with him. Bryan Devendorf’s drumming as usual bring some incredibly interesting patterns to help the band keep their sound beyond a standard indie rock formula.
Overall this album does exactly what you’d expect from The National, but that’s certainly a compliment. They’ve become a band that are famed for their reliability, and to do so without becoming boring is no mean feat.
Adam Grylls (Live Reviewer/Columist)
Adam’s choices are listed in order of release.
5. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
How do you follow an album as perfect as 1991’s masterpiece, Loveless? In the case of Kevin Shields and co, you disappear, leave fans confused, tour minimally, and surprise-release a new album twenty-two years later. Upon its arrival on Feb 2nd, My Bloody Valentine broke the internet as rabid fans and confused onlookers scrambled for info. The album plays as another timeless masterstroke that’s captivating and breathtaking. Bridging the intense shoegaze of the past with modern production techniques. This record is one to get lost in, its expansive noise and sonic palette make it an album you can really crawl into and inhabit for it’s entire 46.37 minute run time.
4. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
Throughout his career one always suspected Mason was one step from creating an absolute masterpiece, and if this isn’t it then we must be very close. This albums plays like montage of evocative trinkets and vignettes, flowing with a dreamlike fluidity with the intension to make the listener both fall into the album, as well as internalize the themes being presented. It’s an album so engrained in social justice that it could be a Condition-of-England audiobook. Not only is Mason a brilliant songwriter, but he’s a proven and brilliant producer. The electronic production allows his haunting delivery to sweep over the listener and carry them through the journey of this album. No album this year has quite such heart, passion, and enlightening delivery as this.
3. Peace – In Love
They often say that trends and influences can be felt around two decades after the death of a movement. 90’s revivalists Peace are living proof that this is the case. However defining ‘In Love’ simply as ‘90’s revival’ is doing it an incredible injustice. Blending Britpop, Shoegaze and madchester and dosing it up with modern day flare, Peace have managed to create the most interesting and endearing Indie album of the year. The Birmingham quartet have created a glistening, danceable, and at times emotional debut, that ranks up with the best debuts in recent memory. It’s not just a glossy amalgam of the past, at times it really does feel like the modern rejuvenation of an entire genre.
2. Savages – Silence Yourself
The mesmerizing live show Savages produce is really something to behold, and Silence Yourself is no different. It’s a unique debut, in the sense that before you’ve even played a track, the title has already bluntly demanded you ‘shut up’. At times brutal, jarring and confrontational the album grabs you by the face and demands your unbridle attention. Its stark representation of post-punk (the punishing power of the rhythm section and the vocal and physical theatrics of the front-woman) is delivered in such a way that you simply have to relinquish all power to them. Although it’s best to see them in their natural habitat on the stage, it’s really worthwhile experiencing this raucous debut.
1. Ghostpoet – Some Say I So I Say Light
In his previous album, Ghostpoet conveyed a melancholy demeanor and flow but there was always a current of hope running throughout its entirety. However this time round, Ghostpoet goes downright nihilistic and surreal. The final track exemplifies this as it transcends the audience from a bleak and nihilistic rock-bottom, full of depression and personal decay into a scrabbling, pseudo-safe-haven. By the end your left ravaged, it’s only the last few seconds that the listening is rewarded (maybe somewhat naively) with the faintest glimmer of hope. Ghostpoet’s mumbled declarations of urban dread are set to a backdrop of vast and absorbing midnight landscapes. With ‘Dorsel Morsel’ being a unique and delicately moving cut. An eloquent and somewhat avant-garde exploration of an all-too-familiar, but ever-so-indefinable aura present in midnight urban landscapes.