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).
*shels – Plains 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 Up – David 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.
Esmerine – La 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 Mouth – That 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. .
Monument – Goes 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.
Octaves – Greener 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 Of – The 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 Menuck – Plays 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.
Annabel – Here 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 Hands . In 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.