Essentials: January’s Best Releases

Welcome to 2013. I’ve tried to put together a succinct list of the best releases of the month, bearing in mind a) I haven’t heard them all so I’ve probably missed some really good ones (you could let me know by commenting at the bottom) and b) I just haven’t got round to listening to some of them all the way through, so I’ve probably missed some really good ones (you could let me……oh hang on I’ve already done that)

As it is I had to shorten the list or it would’ve taken me all day to write this post, and it’s still 15 albums long. I know. Huge. It seems to me that a lot of bands that probably had records done and dusted have waited till the new year to release them. So….here goes

Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio (Warp Records)

broadcast berberian sound studioBroadcast have always made music that sounds almost antique when listened to, but always modern as well. Taking as much as they have from library music, film music and psychedelia as they have, they were probably the obvious choices to soundtrack his very odd film. Set set in the early 70s, a sound engineer descends into madness after stopping working on natural history documentaries and starts on  Italian horror films instead. Probably not a first date film, or a valentines album either with its dark kitsch sound. It somehow feels kind of empty, probably due to the absence of Trish Keenans vocals, after her tragic death from Pneumonia last year.

Broadcast – The Equestrian Vortex

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools/What’s Your Rupture?)

parquet courts - light up goldNew York has always seemed like a wondrously cool and happening place to me, and when I’ve been there, it’s lived up to it. This fantastic collection of songs from the said cities  Parquet Courts surely has to break them into your average Joe’s awareness. Its bold, sort of garage-indie maybe, but with inventive lyrics largely about personal and political issues, it is smart, cool, and incredibly catchy

Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving

Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts

I am Kloot – Let it all in (Shepherd Moon)

i am kloot - let it all inI don’t think I’ll ever understand why I am Kloot aren’t as big as Elbow. Surely Guy Garvey and Craig Potter must wonder the same, after all they took production duties on this, their sixth album. I can only suppose that it’s because I am Kloot are a bit more earthy, a bit more downbeat than them. Certainly you might not get that uplifting release that Elbow are masterful at, but what you do get is perfectly crafted songs and stories that live long in the memory (I always wanted to put live long in the memory in a review, its so…..reviewish)

I am Kloot – Hold back the night

Everything-Everything-ArcEverything Everything – Arc (RCA)

In their second record, Everything Everything have kept up the experimenting, and the quirkyness, and the almost cut-up nature of their indie-math-rock-funk sort of thing, but the record does also nod towards some daytime radio play. And why shouldn’t we want to hear things as good as this alongside Cowell peddled nonsense or whatever other rubbish they play on there at the moment. If the progress of this band were a journey from Sheffield to London, we’d just about be passing Luton now.

Everything Everything – Kemosabe

Widowspeak – Almanac (Captured Tracks)

widowapeak - almanacIs it Folk? Is it just folky-dreamy-haze-pop? Ah, know knows, or cares. It washes over you, and Molly Hamilton’s voice is just mesmerizing. This Brooklyn band tell tales and stories that let you think as well as listen, and it’s captivating for that very reason. Think Espers, or shoegaze, or maybe Best Coast if they were incredibly introspective. I don’t know, but as much as I’m confused by the description, I enamoured by the music. Check it out.

Widowspeak – Almanac

Nightlands – Oak Island (Secretly Canadian)

oakislandoption22.11183This is an album of irresistible Pop, with a large slice of nostalgia thrown in as NIghtlands a.k.a. Dave Hartley sings of his youth and his hopes and life. If Jeff Lynne were only 20, this is the sort of music he would be making, and I mean that in about as good a way as I can. The whole album is enjoyable, catchy and warm. Next time there’s one of those barmy evenings, when the sky is red and hazy (clearly some way off, looking out of the window) make sure you’ve got a copy of this record, and go out for a drive with it.

Nightlands – So far so long

Nightlands

Nightlands

Mountains – Centralia (Thrill Jockey)

mountains - centraliaIf Brian Eno was in Mogwai, this would probably be the result. It’s satisfying ambient, almost post-rock, that while heavy on the drone still retains an electronic sheen that gives it this icy beauty. At points this metaphoric ice melts, and we get this warm gloss that nuzzles up to you while you’re not really expecting it and licks for face. Again, thankfully, metaphorically. It’s unfair to describe this as music to do other things to, as it demands so much more than that.

Mountains – Living Lens

Mountains

Mountains

Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (Atlantic)

joy formidable - wolf's lawI loved r the Joy Formidable’s first album, which was one of the first records to turn back towards the Shoegaze that I had loved so much in my more youthful days, but who produced such thrillingly catchy tunes, you just couldn’t resist them. Well, here’s their follow-up, and there’s good news. They’ve produced an album with all the elements I liked before, but with the experience of the first album behind them, they have widened their scope, to produce an ambitiously brilliant record.

Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

Local Natives – Hummingbird (French Kiss)

local natives - hummingbirdYeah, In know we’re going down the Indie route quite a lot this month, but bear with me, we’ll get to some different stuff soon. This si once again, high quality tune-laden indie -rock, complete with harmonies, interesting instrumentation, hand claps (I love hand claps) and an engaging quality that sends one of those little rushes through your body, which turns into a smile.

Local Natives – Breakers

Local Natives

Local Natives

Villagers – (Awayland) (Domino) 

villagers-awaylandBecoming a Jackal, Villagers last album, was a mix of deft songwriting and complex -folky math-rock. With (Awayland) they have sidestepped into the world of electronica, alongside their usual tricks and brass plays its part as well. Wordy songsmith/frontman Conor O’Brien has produced an album of such sumptuous orchestration and delightful observations its impossible not to like it.

Villagers – Passing a message

Serafina Steer – The Moths are real (Stolen)

The-Moths-Are-RealThis is an incredible sounding album. I’ve always been sort of fascinated by the harp, and Steer uses the instrument,her instrument to great effect of this album of interweaving yet pretty folk songs. Its produced by Jarvis Cocker, who also appears on the album, along with fellow Pulp member  by Steve Mackey, vocal harmony group The Boxettes, Polar Bear’s Seb Rochford, The Flying Lizards’ keyboard wizard David Cunningham, and Benge and Kohhei Matsuda of Bo Ningen. With good reason too. Who wouldn’t want to be on an album of this quality.

Serafina Steer – Night before mutiny

Young Fathers – Tape One (Anticon)

TAPE+ONE+coverThe sound of scottish Hip-hop at the moment comes from Young Fathers, consisting of Alloysious Massaquoi, originally from Liberia. Kayus Bankole  who has Nigerian parents. and ‘G’ Hastings is from the Drylaw “scheme” in north Edinburgh. They have created an album which reflects all of their heritages, with African beats and chanting appearing alongs side synths, afrobeat and Reggae. All three can sing as well, and if they’re reaching for the stars with their rhymes at the moment, it’s certainly not long before they’re going to grab hold of them.

Young Fathers – Sister

Younf Fathers

Young Fathers

Jose James – No beginning no end (Blue Note)

jose james no beginnings no endJose James has taken his fusion of Soul, Funk, Hip-hop and Jazz over to the most famous label of all, Blue Note for his latest release. Maybe not so electronic laden as his previous album, he shows plenty of soul, and soul-searching on these more acoustic sounding songs. His voice is still the same though whatever label he’s on; strong, soulful and distinctive.

[yotube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpygNPUxjKM] Jose James – Make it right

Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador)

yo la tengo - fadeYo La Tengo must have been looking at their children, you know Grizzly Bear, Real Estate and the like running amok amongst record shops the world over with some quiet pride. So much so in fact, they’ve gone and made their 14th album, with which they have put their arms around said children, gave them well done kiss, and showed them how it should really be done.

Fade album preview

Dutch Uncles - Out of touch in the wild (Memphis Industries)

dutchuncles-620x620Should you ever read this blog on more than an occasional basis, you will know that I have a deep affection for the Dutch Uncles. They’re like the really bright kids at school, who do something so brainy its impossible not to like them. They’re engaging math-rock twists and turns with more than a nod in thi, their third album, to minimalist classical music, especially the use of marimba and xylophone.

Dutch Uncles – Flexxin

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