Category: Top Ten

Records Of The Year 2016

Here it is, my list.  make of it what you will.  2016 has been a strange kind of year but one thing it hasn’t lacked is a soundtrack.

 

LPs

Japanese Breakfast – Psychopomp
Michelle Zauner (also of Little Big League) impresses with an emotive album of beautifully crafted pop songs dedicated to the memory of her mother.  Her vocals are sugary sweet bubbles carrying track after track of excellent, joyful melodies. At times the record can be difficult to process without tears threatening to come, and the line between celebration and melancholic reflection is finely balanced.

 

Touché Amoré – Stage Four
Painful subject matter is balanced with great melodies, memorable riffs and moments of raw emotion on this fantastic album, (another record sadly dedicated to Mother), the band bring a new twist to their sound here with tunes leading the way and screaming sometimes giving way to sung or spoken vocals letting the listener experience the impactful lyrics in full.

 

Witching Waves – Crystal Cafe
Crystal Cafe draws on the late 80s goth-punk, post-punk sound; the tunes are injected with heavy doses of melody and darkness in equal measure so the comforting past is given a modern edgy twist.  The melodies are bitter sweet and the guitars are suitably scuzzy, but the production rounds all the edges, giving the pop tunes a chance to shine through.

 

Taman Shud – Oracle War
The record has a dream-like quality, repetitive, distorted, droning loops of riffage and vocal chants lend the atmosphere a ritualistic quality, and you feel yourself lost in their world of smoggy, doom laden, psychedelic licks, meanderings, over the top vocal effects and satanic crooning; Taman Shud really are an entity all their own.

 


John Congleton and the Nighty Night – Until The Horror Goes

In another incarnation John Congleton produced some of my favourite albums, ever, The Paperchase is unfortunately no more, however this album is an interesting transition into a more slick, electro style for him, still with a slightly disturbing lyrical content and packed with great melodies.

 


Svin – Missionær

Quite a chilled, low-key release fom Svin this time, a little less bombastic and epic sounding than I’m used to from them and with a dark, cold tone, this record is as experimental as ever though and has some sweet moments which have had me coming back for more.

 


Towanda – Plaything

All girl punk from Canada, attitude and tunes rule here in equal measure; they featured on my list last ear with the cracking EP Black Sheep and proving they have plenty more offer, this full length really hits the spot.  I just love their brand of distorted, rockin’ punk tunes.

 


Belgrado – Obraz

Dark post-punk from Barcelona in true 80s style but with a modern, experimental twist, Belgrado are consistently solid and this album delivers on atmosphere and tunes.

 

 


VHS – Gift Of Life
The Seattle Punks are consistently solid.  This album hasn’t been off my playlist this year; with a minimal lo-fi sound, class riffs, great vocals and some really memorable tunes its a winner.

 


Télédétente 666 – Karen

An intriguing album of industrial-electro, noise-punk; the riffs are what keep you coming back to the record, fantastic distorted and melodic scuzz, darkly moody but super rockin’ stuff.  Love it.

 

 


Behaviour – 375 Images of Angels
This record, released through Iron Lung, reminds me, at the back of my mind of many things but none that I can pinpoint successfully.  It is an off kilter, dramatic (at times), minimal (at times), darkly droney and very addictive punk (ish) album.

 

 

Also in the running were:

Acid Fast – Last Night on Earth
La Luna – Always Ready
Deftones – Gore
Planes Mistaken For Stars – Prey
Make – Pilgrimage of Loathing
Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

 

EPs

Neurotic Fiction – Demo
A demo from Livi of Hell Money and Twisted, this is great – Livi’s voice is fantastic, and this low-key, low-fi release really suits her style.  Its not as loud and heady as the other bands I’ve seen her perform with but it works really well here.  I’m hoping this demo leads to much more.

 

 


Solids – Else
Canadian guitar rock with heart.  Solids have the knack that all great duos have; their sound is much bigger than it sould be, the guitar distortion and dual vocals fill every moment with lovely noise.

 

 


Tough Tits – Hairless EP
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne all girl punk trio;  lo-fi production, shrill vocals, uncomplicated drums.  What this lacks in scope it more than makes up for with energy and attitude.

 

 

Grieving – Demonstrations
There is something really charming about this EP from the Cambridge four piece.  I get Reuben and Million Dead vibes at times and then more of an indie feel with some sweet riffs; it is in essence very British, with a strong 00’s thing going on. I like that it’s minimal with an emphasis on some great melodic moments and a lovely clear guitar sound.

 

Terrible Love – Change Nothing EP
Quality HC which interested me initially as the band boasts former members of Goodtime Boys, Bastions and Grappler.  The sound here is meaty and tuneful with a raw edge, and their experience shines through, but they’ve also managed to keep things sounding fresh.

 

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Records of the Year 2015

2015 was a year. This is some of the music that got me through it.

 

Albums

Svalbard album cover
Svalbard –
One Day All This Will End
Svalbard produced the album I’d been hoping they would – richly layered and addictive, it holds moments of post-rock beauty, hardcore strength and pure melodies.  A positive, uplifting record and the clear winner this year for me.

 

 

Twisted Utopia
Twisted – Utopia
This album is so good, a close second on the list. It was released in January but I came to it later on. Again this one has great melodies, something I’m a total sucker for, it’s catchy and fun with strong female vocals and punchy punk attitude oozing through on every track.

 

Nervosas st
Nervosas – Nervosas
A more frantic and aggressive sounding release from the Ohio Punks but still with the dark edge and melodies I loved from their last record, the vocals are as goth as always with fantastic female backing, and their sound is as immediate and addictive as ever.

 

all dogs
All Dogs
Kicking Every Day
I love this band. Girl fronted high energy poppy punk tunes, they really know how to put together a great tune with edge and keep you hooked.

 

 

Brother Ghost buried coverBrother/Ghost – Buried
Cinematic, multi layered, genre challenging record, cleverly redefining the sound of this band.  Hints of psych, blues, indie and post-rock, make for an anthemic, rousing listen – it all hangs together so well too, never feeling disjointed or overly complex.  There is so much here to discover and keep you coming back, it’s a real gem.

 

Taman ShudTaman ShudViper Smoke
Viper Smoke creates its own space; an all encompassing spacey zone: the production, epic yet almost claustrophobic at the same time, the distorted vocals, twin bass and gothic atmosphere, create a place you don’t want to step out of, a space away from the banal and mundane, something all the best records manage.

 

 

EnvyEnvyAthiest’s Cornea
Envy are one of my all time favourite bands, so its always a huge treat to get my hands on a new album from them. This record is, dare I say it, more accessible than I’ve heard from them in the past – shorter tracks, very melodic, some actual singing rather than all screams or spoken word, however, none of these are negative observations, this is as huge and dreamy as they’ve ever been.

 

 

ParisoParisoPariso
Pariso’s final record unfortunately – it’s unashamedly shouty male hc, they batter you with noise, but have some great moments of technical finesse, which, along with the heady nastiness is what drew me to them in the first place. The tracks are dark and meaty but with an underlying core of something more dreamy; some of the riffs really soar. Really solid, a fitting end.

 


Hag face rip

Hag Face
R.I.P.
New Hag Face is never a bad hing, The Candadian all girl punk band don’t mess about.  Attitude and a clear message combine with memorable vocals and some great tuneful touches, good stuff.

 

 

drug church hit your headDrug Church – Hit Your Head
The first of two appearances on this list for Drug Church.  The EP below made my list early on and this full length was released in October; so the band managed to bookend my year nicely.  Drug Church are so easy to listen to – melodic, gruff and full of class riffs, but thematically and lyrically they stay pleasingly off centre, giving them nicely rough edges.  Love them.

 

flesh world
Flesh World –
All The Wild Animals In My Life
I consider this a grower compared to their 2013 record, but after a few play-throughs I’m now fully on board.  Abrasive yet melodic post-punk gems, dark and scuzzy yet also quite accessible in its own way

 

 

fist city
Fist City – Everything Is A Mess

This is a very accessible and immediately memorable sophomore album from the Canadian indie-punk four piece. Melodic songs, with excellent off-kilter clipped vocals, are backed by sometimes jangly, sometimes fast and spiky guitars and hypnotic rhythms; the combination is just perfect for rocking out to.

 


steve von till album cover

Steve Von Till –
A Life Unto Itself
Steve Von Till‘s fourth solo outing is a beautiful journey into Americana with his distinctively gruff vocal delivery leading the way along with sparse acoustic guitar sounds.   It is a powerful record, a warm and comforting set of songs.

 

 

Make album cover
Make –
The Golden Veil
Its great to hear an album that plays out as a whole experience, something I seem to come across less and less – this is old school post-rock, taking me back to the days of early Godspeed, Envy, Pelican – a no nonsense, moody record full of all encompassing tunes; huge, heady and powerful, it’s easy to get lost in.

 

the good life
The Good Life –
Everybody’s Coming Down
I’m a total sucker for anything by Tim Kasher, no secret there, this is a great album though despite my predisposition.  Pretty minimal but sporting plenty of fuzzy off-kilter guitars; it doesn’t go as far as dischordant but certainly skirts around it and the guitars ride over some nice melodic touches.

 

Hell Money
Hell Money
Discography
Hell Money are a local Punk/Hardcore band, this was their final offering as a band and It’s a great collection.  The band featured Livi, front woman of Twisted and Leigh from Goodtime Boys, so as you can imagine, it’s scuzzy punk of the highest order. 

 

Employed to ServeEmployed To Serve – Greyer Than You Remember
Greyer Than You Remember is a dark ride; quirky, technical, hardcore with metallic riffage which thunders and squeals under Justine’s powerful screams.  The sound is meaty and often verging on dischordant, not an easy listen then, but this isn’t pop music so you get what you signed up for, on balance it’s nasty and powerful but also full of surprises (in a good way).

 

Asunder Sweet and other Distress
Godspeed You! Black Emperor –
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
Not their most spectacular album but still very beautiful and worthy of a place on this list.  Godspeed have been constant companions of mine for so long I can’t imagine not getting excited about new material from them. I’ve played this album many times since its release and wouldn’t be without it.

 

 

EPs

Octaves Caravels Split EP
Octaves/Caravels Split
A cracking split, released early in the year.  Caravels have now gone their separate ways but they certainly went out on a high and this is the best I’ve heard from Octaves in a while. 

 

 

Swell-drug-church-520x520Drug ChurchSwell
This EP continues on where the last album finished and seagues comfortably into the new one – husky vocals, playful lyrics, great melodies, heavy hit drums and rich well-rounded guitars; the whole record is a great package of memorable and addictive tunes with no duds.

 

 

Maths EP Cover ImageMathsThe Fires Courting The Sea
It’s been 4 years since we’ve heard from Maths and this return sees them in great form with a solid release; new EP The Fires Courting The Sea is 6 tracks in just 11 minutes, a fast trip through their brand of screamo/hardcore. It may pass quickly but the journey is a satisfying one – tuneful tracks with great vocal interplay, stop/start rhythms and off kilter riffage.

 

Kindling
Kindling
Galaxies
I love me a bit of scuzzy, dreamy shoegaze and this is top notch stuff from No Idea Records. I feel like I’ve warped back to the 90s and the time of Slowdive et al.

 

 

Alright EPAlrightS/T
Poppy, female-fronted indie punks, Alright, hail from Charlotte, NC and feature members of Late Bloomer and It Looks Sad.  Truthfully it was the Late Bloomer connection that drew me in, in the first place but this self-titled EP is a really sweet release with light fuzz on the guitars, simple yet catchy melodies and a breezy feel.

 

Towanda EP
TowandaBlack Sheep
The super crunchy guitar sound on this EP is brilliant, along with the bratty female vocals, I’m into this.   I thought I’d heard enough of this kind of thing recently but the Montreal trio have really got to me.

 

 

Fleabite cover smallFleabiteTTYL
Jagged yet melodic girl fronted punky pop tunes from Fleabite who are one of my new favourite bands. They have top tunes and this new record is, if anything, even more melodic than their last. Fleabite always have a layer of harsh blown-out fuzz over everything but on this new EP their sound is richer, a little easier on the ears and has a lovely surf-rock quality. Love this.

 

Telepathic coverTelepathicPowers Of Ten
The new 6 track EP from the Bleeding Rainbow folks.   This is not a million miles from their old rockin’ shoegaze sound, if you were a fan of the old band you’ll likely be in to this too.  The EP has great melodies and is nicely heavy on the guitars.

 

 

Rakta em Transe
Rakta Em Transe EP

A bit of a mash up between Rakta and Cadaver em Transe expect dark, dreamy post-punk, with danceable beats and great melodies. Two great bands do their thing.

 

Records Of The Year 2014

Records of the year 2014
It’s almost the end of the year again, time to share with you some of the records I’ve enjoyed in 2014. I’ve tried to keep it short and sweet, only including those records that I still have on regular rotation; I could also have included albums I enjoyed reviewing – Dikembe’s Mediumship, Hoax Hunters’ Comfort and Safety and numerous others, but I’d be here all next year putting that list together, so I give you my top (random number of) albums with a few bonus EPs and singles to check out – enjoy.

RainGoodtime Boys – Rain
The first full length from this UK hardcore band realised the potential of their previous EPs and singles and expanded their sound, refining the raw heady hardcore into something melodic, well rounded but still with plenty of bite. The album manages to be instant and easy to listen to but doesn’t scrimp on the meaty riffage. Easily makes my best of the year list.

 

acid fast cover imageAcid Fast – Rabid Moon
Released early in 2014 this was an immediate addition to my best of the year list and didn’t get forgotten in the shuffle. The lasting appeal of the album comes from a core of excellent melodies and a backing of solidly hooky bass lines and sing along vocals rounding things out. There is a strong 90s influence, which is reminiscent of bands like Jawbreaker, Superchunk and, to a certain extent, The Breeders, making the album sound like it was released an age ago and has just been discovered in a dusty attic somewhere; never a bad thing in my opinion.

 

Late Bloomer Cover ImageLate Bloomer –  Things Change
Knowing nothing about this band and having no expectations, apart from liking the great cover art, I put this record on, and was instantly drawn in.  North Carolina trio Late Bloomer make me reminisce – bringing back memories of albums I loved in the 90s by Dinosaur Jr. and Galaxie 500 amongst others.  Things Change successfully melds the fuzz and distortion of a classic indie/shoegaze outfit with the melodies, riffs and vocals you’d expect to find in catchy indie-rock.  However, it must be said, that the joy of the record comes not from the nostalgic feelings created, but the way the band have brought these sounds bang up to date, by mixing in many other things; from warm gruff punkish vocals, to new wave emo and hardcore, there is nothing they’re not afraid to blend in but it’s all constructed in a sympathetic way making many of the tunes here instantly likeable.

 

Cayetana coverCayetana – Nervous Like Me
I’ve made no secret on this blog that all girl Philly trio Cayetana became one of my new favourite bands as soon as I heard their Demo back in January 2013, so it’s probably no surprise that their debut full length album features high in this list.  In the simplest terms, Cayetana write songs that make me feel glad to be alive and I’ve come back to this album over and over again since its release  and it never fails to lift my sprits with its raw edged but instantly likeable melodies.

 
SolidsSolids – Blame Confusion
This Emo duo from Montreal use plenty of fuzz and rock pretty hard on their debut full length; they’re one of those bands that leaves you wondering how two people can make so much noise. Their sound recalls 90s indie-rock and perfectly straddles the line between shoegaze and punk, but they also lace each tune with a hooky, melodic edge which makes for an addictive album overall – it’s certainly had me coming back for more.

 

Pariso Svalbard splitPariso Svalbard Split LP
It’s not a huge surprise to see these two great bands coming together to make a split album – they’ve toured together many times  and musically its clear they are on a similar wavelength, but even for a split record, Pariso and Svalbard have produced a truly collaborative effort here – going one step futher than most and writing and performing two of the tracks as one band; like a gnarly supergroup of sorts.  All three vocalists from the two bands play a part and there is a healthy amount of the heavy duty power you’d expect from these two, with meaty riffage a feature of course, but there are also some nice lighter touches throughout balancing the sound well.

 

Flesh World cover imageFlesh World – MLP
I read many great reviews for this record this year and quickly found out that all were well deserved – this is a fantastic album.  Post-punk with memorable melodies, wrapped in warm fuzz; it’s dark and moody but also catchy and infectious and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it throughout 2014 and no doubt through the year to come.

 

 

Hag Face, Rag Face Cover ImageHag Face – Rag Face
All girl Canadian punk band Hag Face released this great record in April – it’s only $2 on Bandcamp so no excuses. I’ve been totally won over by their raw edged charm – melodies hide under blown out riffs, feedback squeals and screams.  I love the angsty energy, fantastic vocals and rock and roll rhythms – it all hooks you in so easily, making this a totally addictive record.

 

Bleeding Rainbow Interrupt Album Cover
Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt
Classy shoegaze from this Philadelphia mob; hooky, melodic and memorable tunes pepper an album with no filler. This band has been around for ages (previously under the Reading Rainbow moniker) but only just made it on to my radar, for shame.

 

The Good Wife Cover Image
The Good Wife –  Love Songs

This is available for free via Bandcamp in an unmastered format as unfortunately The Good Wife is no more.  Apparently the band split up shortly after recording this album but even in its unfinished form it holds some monstrous tracks and serves as a reminder of how great this Brit noise-rock band were.

 

Svin album coverSvin – S/T
Another great record from the Danish avant-garde instrumentalists. This one feels more robust due to some meaty riffage and heavier duty drumming than I’ve heard from them recently.  Less of an emphasis on melody gives the record a more hypnotic, psychadelic feel, with a hint of the industrial in the drum patterns.  They haven’t lost their delicate touch however, the minimal track Alt is heartbreakingly beautiful.

 

Brain F#
Brain F# – Empty Set
Fast, bratty punk from Carolina with great vocals; this is fun and catchy stuff you can dance to. Not entirely sure it has the staying power of a classic album but it’s been a blast to listen to this year – sometimes all you want to do is rock out.

 

 

 Generacion Suicida Todo Termina
Generacion Suicida – Todo Termina
Hardcore punk from Los Angeles with Spanish lyrics. This is an addictive record, the tunes are super catchy and the riffs get you moving. It reminds me of that fantasic Neon Piss album from a couple of years ago – punchy, snappy tunes with heart and melody. So good.

 
Up River - UndertowUp River – Undertow
The first thing you notice about this new record from Brighton post-hardcore four piece Up River is the excellent production, it brings out every nuance, making for a crunchy and raw sound but it also makes the record sound huge rather than minimal – it’s spot on.  Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cover art, but as soon as you put the album on you are hit with the rich guitars pumping out hooky riffage and emotive yet controlled vocal screams – this is hardcore done very well and it makes you remember what you love about it.

 
Iceage album coverIceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love
This new third album from Iceage sees a change of style for the band – the scuzzy punk seems to have taken a back seat to more indie experimentalism, with a darker, inward looking mood taking over.  While it feels like a band throwing open the doors musically to new avenues and stepping outside their comfort zone to bend those ideas into something different, there has been a backlash of bile from existing fans, accusing the new album of being being a Nick Cave clone.  I’m not in agreement with this pointless name calling and would recommend the record.  It is a change of direction, yes, but the melodies are very much Iceage, the vocal delivery and lyrics are not much altered and above all this is a collection of great tunes that deserve to be heard.

 

EPs and Singles
Broncho – It’s On 7″
Hysterics – Can’t I Live EP
Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?
Everyone Goes To Space – Demo
Gag – Locker Room 7″
Primetime – S/T EP
Rakta – S/T 7″

Records Of The Year 2013

Compared to 2012’s bumper crop of releases, this year has been slim pickings (in my opinion) so I’ve cropped my list down to a modest 6 albums and 5 EPs.
There have been lots of good releases, just not many that have blown me away, The Coltranes new album for example was one I was really looking forward to and while I’ve enjoyed listening to it, it didn’t excite me like their last one did.  In fact, many of the records I’ve loved this year have been older releases – Swearin’s 2012 release is a real corker and Make Wave’s 2011 album is an utterly charming slice of indie-surf and was the soundtrack of my summer.   Albeit it’s shorter than I’d intended, but for what it’s worth, here is my best of 2013 list, if you don’t agree let me know what I should have been listening to!


Drug Church CoverDrug Church – Paul Walker

The New York punk-rock five piece released this belter of an album in July, i knew at the time it would make my end of year ‘best of’ list and compared them to Fucked Up, Blacklisters and Slices in my review for Room Thirteen.
Read full review


pariso cover imagePariso – Consanguinity

After catching Pariso a couple of years ago at Swn Festival in Cardiff (and being impressed by them) I’ve been checking back on the UK five piece regularly and was pleased to discover they were releasing this full-length album in the Summer. I had this to say about it: The album is never just nasty however, right from the start you have the finesse of the slow, doomy (and dare I say melodic) sections of The Separation to lead you in to the sound of the record and many of the other tracks are peppered with interest.
Read full review

 

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Records Of The Year – 2012

This year has seen releases from some big names (Billy Talent, Cancer Bats, Deftones, Every Time I Die et al) and also from some of my favourite artists (Cursive, Latitudes), but for me it has also been a year for discovering great new music so there was so much to choose from it became a really difficult task to pick favourites. In the end though, after much deliberation, I did actually manage to whittle it down to this top ten album list.

Albums
Cursive – I Am Gemini
A new Cursive record is always going to be a big release for me and this album really delivered – again (how do they keep doing it). It’s an ambitious concept record carried by nicely meaty riffage, spectacular tunes and some of the band’s most complex song constructions to date. Tim Kasher’s lyrics are fantastic as always and here he focuses again on preoccupations with spirituality and good & evil which have often been an undercurrent in his writing. Just brilliant.      

Everyone Everywhere – 2012
Everyone Everywhere’s second self-titled album is a grower, not as instant as their debut but, as I’ve discovered, with repeated listens you’ll find it delivers as much on melody and hooks as the former. read more

Annabel – Youth In Youth
Annabel deal in the kind of tunes that make your heart soar; uplifting sing-along melodies, gang vocals, intense and rich guitar sounds and marching drum beats that make you want to move. They walk the line somewhere between indie and emo, a kind of jangly, emotional rock base with some nicely anthemic song structures and the odd twiddly guitar part thrown in for good measure. read more

Goodtime Boys – What’s Left To Let Go
This isn’t just a straightforward, in your face scream fest, Goodtime Boys hook you in with strong lyrical content, layered and atmospheric slow burns and technical proficiency, giving you plenty past the initial rush to keep you coming back to the album. read more

Neon Piss – Neon Piss
This one came out of the blue –  a really interesting punk-rock record, injecting some great tunes into a scuzzy backing, pretty full on but has you singing along after only a couple of listens. This one got some great coverage from Maximum Rocknroll this year too which piqued my interest in the first place but it far outlived all my expectations when I got my hands on it – thoroughly addictive. Check out their bandcamp for more.  

Slices – Still Cruising
Read about this album in MRR too and really liked the sound of it. I spent a couple of weeks listening to the album stream on their label’s Bandcamp before thinking sod it and ordering the vinyl. It’s H/C with a Fucked Up type sound and oh so listenable.

Blacklisters – BLKLSTRS
Blacklisters are superbly nasty; jagged riffs and intense untamed vocals, all underlined by the most compulsively danceable, distorted and rumbling bass lines and heavy hitting drums, OK perhaps not danceable but twitchable at the very least, this is a record that commands your attention from the opening bars and relentlessly batters you but it’s never just a wall of noise there is such a lot more going on underneath that scuzzy, hard exterior. read more

Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Not sure if this really nedds too much of a write up as its Deftones but I think this one deserves a mention in the top ten list. In my opinion this album is more well rounded than their last – a good mix of heavy and dreamy and it feels, finally, that they’re getting their groove back. Since Che’s been out of action there’s been a kind of desperate melancholic tone to their records but this one feels more relaxed and organic than they have in a while.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
A new Godspeed record was something I didn’t actually think would happen but here it is and it’s superb. A really epic sound and some great little snatches of melody – powerful and emotive. A great return.  

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
Cleveland based Cloud Nothings new Wichita released album (produced by Steve Albini) is a tuneful ride of jangly noise and melody with beautifully raw vocals; moments of post-rock, post-punk along with surf, garage and indie amongst others all feature (if we must label) – whatever, when it’s this engaging, who cares what you call it, all you really need to know is that it’s charming and memorable and addictive. read more

Read more

Top Ten… Records of the Year (so far)

So far this year for me hasn’t been one for big name albums, but that hasn’t stopped it being a great year for music. With so many cracking records released it’s been difficult to whittle it down to these 10, (and with three months to go there may be others that take over). It’s always hard to remember what actually came out in the year and some that I wanted to include like Recitation by Envy and Everyone Everywhere’s self titled record came out last year. There are also some records I’ve wanted to hear (Touche Amore, Mastodon) and haven’t, yet, and some I was fully expecting to be on this list but haven’t met my expectations (City And Colour). Generally, if it’s on this list it’s not because it’s technically brilliant but because it’s affected me in an emotional way and has become a constant companion.   (All extracts taken from RoomThirteen.com except Fucked Up).

 

*shelsPlains Of The Purple Buffalo

It’s been four years in the making for *shels sophomore full length, has it been worth the wait? The answer has to be a resounding yes.
The record, although very cohesive feels less rigidly structured than the tracks on debut Sea Of The Dying Dhow where the ‘start slow and build to a huge climax’ was the most common structure. The odd sprinkling of chunky, ear burstingly heavy guitar remains of course but this new record seems to be more playful, still just as intense but in more subtle ways; it’s very dreamy, cinematic in scope and has moments of real fragility. One mention should be Mehdi Safa’s vocals which feel more relaxed here; he uses his huge, often impressive range to the full and it’s slotted into the mix perfectly.
The album drops some really sublime moments; Plains Of The Purple Buffalo Part 2 is one such track and with some great brass, uplifting vocal lines and intense layers you can really lose yourself; the murmuring, muffled background hum of Waking after the intensity of The Spirit Horse is like a warm summer breeze; the crashing wall of sound on incredible closer Leaving The Plains is huge and expansive. The list goes on with too many moments to mention. This is a brilliant sophomore record and a more than worthy successor to “Sea…” , fans can breathe a sigh of relief, the wait is over.

 

Fucked UpDavid Comes To Life

Any worries that this new Fucked Up record wouldn’t live up to the expectations of The Chemistry Of Common Life were blown away in the first few minutes. This proved to be a more than worty successor; full of even more melodic and sing along tracks but still packing some heavy duty, punchy moments it’s like the Fucked Up sound has been condensed and bottled. 

 

EsmerineLa Lechuza

It has been six years since the release of Esmerine’s last album and on this record, percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Beckie Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion) are joined by harpist Sarah Page and percussionist Andrew Barr.
This really is a beautiful album; the cello and harp bring a melancholic atmosphere and the sensitive percussion along with dreamy vocals on some tracks add to the gentle fairy tale-like mood. Last Waltz is very evocative, making you imagine cinematic moments that haven’t been written yet. As does the sublime yet playful Trampolin and Snow Day For Lhasa tugs at you so fiercely it may induce, at the very least, shivers, if not tears.
A beautiful and understated record, but one that is full of emotionally powerful tracks. Like a poem of sound, not a note is out of place, some moments use just one or two instruments but it’s enough to fill the room. When the full arsenal is used, opener A Dog River for example, where horns, violin and full percussion join in the result is an intense and densely layered experience.

 

Cloud MouthThat Ghost Is Always With Me

With dense guitar distortion, screams, intense drums and a core of melody woven throughout, Cloud Mouth have an EP that really works its claws into you and won’t let go. Guitars lead the charge, high up in the mix so you can hear every melodic riff and distorted strum, vocals gruffly scream in the background, half drowned in those warm waves of noise, this approach works so well for the Cloud Mouth sound, because as you half strain to catch those vocals you pick up so much more going on.
Underneath all the fuzz these tunes have such a catchy base, take opener Waves which has a dark, nasty bass and eerie little electro noises, but at the same time the guitar delivers the tuneful riffs and cleverly paced drums pound out rhythms you can move to, it’s an addictive combination and gets you bobbing your head immediately.
The EP brings to mind some of the heavier Dischord bands at times; there is a raw reckless energy here that draws emotional shivers. .

 

MonumentGoes Canoeing

I listened to this album about 6 or 7 times before putting finger to keyboard, not because I had to, but because I enjoyed the record so much I kept getting distracted by listening to it too much to write the review.
Finally I type, listening to said record, which at its core is old school emo meets Discord; however, the raw, emotive and oh so melodic is backed by jagged guitars, odd time signatures and complex progressions. The tunes just grab you by the heart and drag you in to a distorted, fuzz-laden sing along world of goosebumps and screamed-raw throats and punched fists; it’s just gloriously euphoric from start to finish.

 

OctavesGreener Pastures

Octaves hardcore sound effortlessly mixes the jagged dissonance of math-core guitars with killer melodies and emotionally raw screams for a beautifully angry record. Immediately bringing to mind the manic math-core of Dillinger Escape Plan and the melodic weight of (You Come Before You era) Poison The Well, Greener Pastures is a passionate call to angsty arms backed by technically skilled off kilter, jagged guitars and a host of interesting riffs.
The Baltimore mob are a talented lot and they’ve pulled together a record that should be a sure fire winner with hardcore fans Greener Pastures is aggressive with inventive guitar work, subtle, fractured melodies and powerful vocals, it has a combination of nasty and interesting that keeps it fresh and they make the whole thing seem so easy.

 

 Laughing In The Face OfThe Lubrication Of Social Anxiety

A fantastic slab of skate punk from Laughing in the Face Of, formed 8 years ago they are only just releasing their debut full length record, but obviously all that time and experience spent touring has been time well spent because the record sounds assured and comfortable. The Lubrication Of Social Anxiety keeps up a swift pace throughout, solid, chunky riffs and great melodies impress. It’s a heady mix of urgent drums and hard guitars with the chugging punctuated by some nice off kilter twiddling; the addition of gang vocals and strong input from the front man ensure the vocal lines are memorable, not quite catchy but getting there.
If you haven’t checked out this band, do it now. Good British skate punk is in the few and far between category these days and Laughing In The Face Of get it all right on this record.

 

Efrim Manuel MenuckPlays High Gospel

On new album, co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion member (amongst other things) Efrim Manuel Menuck uses his years of experience and knowledge to create an emotive and very personal affair; distorted guitar, echoes, ambient noises and some very lovely melodies create a wash of soundscapes with a dreamy quality to compliment some very personal lyrics; death and birth among them.
Album opener, the quirkily titled Our Lady Of Parc Extension And Her Munificent Sorrows has a psychedelic feel with wavering distortion on the layered vocals and guitar and squidgy little noises in the background; it meanders expansively, beautifully.  A 12 Pt. Program For Keep On Keeping On begins with what sounds like cricket noises, a gentle ambient outdoor sound , this track however, despite it’s unassuming start, quickly develops into a mesh of intense beats and slightly unnerving electro noises and vocal samples.
Plays High Gospel is an inspiring record, at times almost painfully beautiful and packed with raw emotion, it soars and meanders but also has plenty of melodic moments to reign you back in.

 

AnnabelHere We Are Tomorrow

The Ohio four piece have drawn comparisons to Surfer Blood, Superchunk, and Nada Surf, all of which are very fitting reference points; Annabel’s Here We Are Tomorrow 7″ is gloriously, sweetly catchy, drawing on the best aspects of power-pop, jagged alt-rock and old school emo. Opener, The Forgetting Of Names And Faces (available to hear on their myspace) is a case in point; a deliciously immediate melody, layers of distorted noise fizz away warmly in the background and the vocal line is memorable and begs to be repeated.
The tunes on this release brim with breezy melodies, layer on the scuzzy guitar and delight with off kilter riffs resulting in five songs you crave to hear over an over, (undoubtedly singing along at the top of your voice) and they make you feel glad to be alive. An absolute delight.

 

Hhymn In The Depths

Hhymn’s debut full length album delivers on the promise of the two fantastic, previously released singles Land Of Souls and These HandsIn The Depths is a joyous record but also has moments of haunting beauty, often full of blissful, soaring melodies, sometimes melancholic but always sweetly so and backed by emotive vocals with a huge range and diversity of style able to turn themselves to any mood.
Nottingham five piece Hymn bring a distinctly British slant to alt-folk with a stark emotional core at the heart of the record, but musically their ability to turn from gentle dreaminess to swirling and infectious tunes in the blink of an eye means they call to mind acts from Bon Iver to Arcade Fire; with trumpet, organ and glockenspiel added to the solid guitar, bass and drums they are able to create some beautiful layers of sound that make you melt.
As well as the two brilliant singles, In The Depths has a host of other stand out moments; the wonderfully dreamy Wolves which brings to mind Radiohead at their most thoughtful with slow trumpet adding an inspired sweetener; Girl Of Mind is melodic and catchy with danceable beats and a hint of the theatrical and album closer On My Mind is a belting end to the record, bringing together memorable riffs, sing along vocal lines and soaring trumpet to leave you on a high and longing to listen again.