Albums of the Year 2013

IN THE festive run-up to the end of the year, it’s a time for tradition – and it’s traditional for me, as a music fan and also a big fan of making lists of things, to sit down with some headphones and a pad of paper and beat myself up royally about which 10 albums from the year I like best.
This year is no different – I’ve been compiling potential contenders since January, the first ones in the running being Everything Everything, Dutch Uncles and Bay Blue.
And now I’ve whittled it down to my favourites. These are, in alphabetical order…
Bonobo – The North Borders
A masterclass in crafting an intelligent, emotive electronica LP which grows better each spin from one of my all-time favourites. Bonobo, real name Simon Green, just never disappoints.
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Channelling the spirit of disco, the mysterious French duo remided the world how to have fun on a dancefloor, and also put out this year’s most irresistible pop tracks in Get Lucky to boot. Believe the hype, this album’s release was the musical event of the year.
Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost
This unlikely pairing produced for me the Album of the Year, a sparsely funky LP which mixes hip hop beats with old school ska cool.
Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
A droning, pulsating, invigorating album which envelops the listener in a blanket of fuzzy rock.
Intronaut – Habitual Levitations
In what was hardly a vintage year for metal music, Intronaut’s prog-metal album was head and shoulders above its peers.
Jamie Lenman – Muscle Memory
A surprise return from former Reuben frontman Lenman saw a double-disc hard-soft approach – one half was hardcore math-metal and throat-shredding vocals, the other mixes folk, country, swing, a capella and any other genre he fancied experimenting with.
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Black Pudding
Deliciously raw, low volume alt-country from the foprmer Screming Trees frontman and his finger-picking accomplice.
Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down
A thrilling melting pot of jazz, world music, pop, funk and avant guard from a supergroup made up of musicians from the likes of Acoustic Ladyland, The Heliocentrics, Transglobal Underground, Mulatu Atstake and more.
These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds
A band determined not to travel the obvious routes, eschewing guitars and song structures from meandering brass and piano, Field Of Reeds is a subtle work of brilliance.
White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade
Another fizzing selection of experimental jam rock laced with a twist of blues, punk, prog, soul, jazz and more from White Denim.
To hear a track from each selection on Spotify click here, and cast a vote for your favourite below.
Of course, if you don’t agree, leave a shout in the comments suggesting your top albums of 2013!

Which is the best Album of the Year 2013


From the archives: Cool Kid

kid koala carpal.jpg
IT SAYS something that classic turntablist album Carpal Tunnel Syndrome comes with a free comic book and computer game.
Now that’s value for money – clearly Kid Koala, real name Eric San, is a DJ bulging with ideas.
And never content to just drop a beat and sit back, from start to finish this album is a lesson in DJ-ing technically as well as creatively.
And clearly the leg work has been done beforehand as well – there’s no Eric B or James Brown sampling here, in fact nothing obvious at all.
From the ‘wakey wakey, eggs and bakey’ of Music For Morning People through the meandering Drunk Trumpet to the clucking bizarre Like Irregular Chickens, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is some of the most original, skilled and entertaining music to come out of two turntables.

Review: Balkan brass sideshow is a blast

boban and marko markovic orchestra.jpg
IF YOU’RE looking for some music that’s exciting, energetic and just a little bit bonkers, then I suggest you get on board the Gipsy Balkan Caravan of the Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra.
This Gipsy Manifesto LP is the group’s first album in four years, and you imagine they have been doing nothing but touring around performing their raucous, joyous Balkan brass in the interim – they clearly enjoy what they’re doing.
This collection starts off at a blistering pace with Caje Sukarije, which mixes brass with beats and a boing boing noise, and each and every track up until 2/3rds through either matches this pace or puts the foot even further on the gas.
It’s full on, and fun – but at 16 tracks long it is exhausting, like being around a host who’s trying a bit too hard to entertain. I think my three-year-old maybe enjoyed it more than me, perhaps as it sounds like tuning in to a crazy, confusing foreign kids TV show at times.
So while an upbeat diversion, perhaps this Orchestra is best suited to being a fun sideshow than a main attraction.

From the archives: Divine Grace

jeff buckley.jpg
IN THE pantheon of musicians who died before their time, up there with greats such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, should be Jeff Buckley.
If you’ve heard Jeff Buckley’s golden voice you know what I’m talking about. Sadly, most people haven’t as Jeff, son of folk great Tim, died in 1997 while working on a follow-up to 1994’s Grace, his only completed album.
This is an album that touches people that hear it, that cannot fail to bring a tear to the eye and a shiver to the spine.
Although Jeff drowned before completing the sophomore Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, his music continues to grow in cult status through word of mouth and influence, which can be heard in countless critically-acclaimed artists luckily still around today, such as Radiohead, Chris Cornell, PJ Harvey, Muse, Rufus Wainwright, Our Lady Peace, John Legend, Badly Drawn Boy, Aimee Mann, Jason Mraz, the list goes on and on.

Haiku Reviews

SLAP on the wrist, I’ve been struggling to keep up with the volume of review requests I’ve had through recently and haven’t managed to review all the albums I should have done.
So to make it up to any acts who’ve slipped through the net in recent weeks, I’ve penned a haiku review of some of them.
Here they are –
Saint Max And The Fanatics – Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead
Derivative rock,
Made much less derivative,
With inventive horns.
Fighting Fiction – The Long And Short Of It
Rabble rousing band,
With political insight,
Distracted by girls.
HAIM – Days Are Gone
Eighties tinted pop,
Perfect for the summertime,
Released in Autumn?
Deaf Havana – Old Souls
Wanted to review,
Postman delivered the case,
With no CD in.

Review: Samuel is a rising star

INTRODUCTORY EP Falling Star showcases someone who’s sure to be a rising star, even if he’s not quite at his heavenly best yet.
Samuel’s short and sweet iniation is a production of electronic bleeps and bass which although serving a purpose, are only a launchpad for the artist’s vocal.
Because in the crowded constellation of soulful electronic artists, where the likes of Jamie Woon and James Blake shine bright, the raw yearning tone of Samuel’s voice should set him apart.
His pipes are rich and emotional, but with an unusual edge – at times he sounds like Frank Ocean, at others he finds unusual sounds, like the hints of Ezra Koenig I detect on Death Star Wonder.
Samuel should be a rising star, and this is a decent launchpad for him – he needs to add fuel to this with his full offering now.