Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in brief

Sweeping The Nation's top 50 albums of 2012

50 Tigercats - Isle Of Dogs
49 Moscow Youth Cult - Happiness Machines
48 Threatmantics - Kid McCoy
47 The Rosie Taylor Project - Twin Beds
46 Sean Rowe - The Salesman And The Shark
45 The Cornshed Sisters - Tell Tales
44 First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
43 Liars - WIXIW
42 Jo Mango - Murmuration
41 The Sound Of The Ladies - The City Of Gold And Lead
40 Meursault - Something For The Weakened
39 Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
38 Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
37 Ghosting Season - The Very Last Of The Saints
36 Golden Fable - Star Map
35 The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth
34 The Wave Pictures - Long Black Cars
33 Felix - Oh Holy Molar
32 Gravenhurst - The Ghost In Daylight
31 Evans The Death - Evans The Death
30 Her Parents - Physical Release
29 Clinic - Free Reign
28 Beach House - Bloom
27 Minotaur Shock - Orchard
26 Andrew Paul Regan - The Signal And The Noise
25 Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery
24 Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Light
23 David Byrne & St Vincent - Love This Giant
22 Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
21 Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It
20 Why? - Mumps etc.
19 Islet - Illuminated People
18 Shearwater - Animal Joy
17 Mission Of Burma - Unsound
16 Dexys - One Day I'm Going To Soar
15 Field Music - Plumb
14 Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament - The Violence
13 Internet Forever - Internet Forever
12 Tindersticks - The Something Rain
11 Saint Etienne - Words And Music By Saint Etienne
10 Toy - Toy
9 Beth Jeans Houghton - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
8 Lone Wolf - The Lovers
7 Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
6 Cat Power - Sun
5 Tall Ships - Everything Touching
4 This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends
3 Allo Darlin' - Europe
2 Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
1 Grizzly Bear - Shields

Other tracks of the year

Everything above collected into one Spotify playlist

Sunday, December 30, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 1

1 Grizzly Bear - Shields
The odd thing about Shields is it feels more like a follow-up to Yellow House, albeit with more confidence in a certain amount of grounded forcefulness, than to Veckatimest, a step back from immediate approachability. Not that Shields is difficult, but it wears its psychedelic heart on its sleeve greater, crossthreading tempos upon each other and force-feeding pastoral arrangements into layers of collapsing drums, little solo runs and skyscraper crescendos, not always at the end. The little details are key, the best songs feeling like a careful patchwork arrangement where the bits that might not seem consistent if separated come together in one beauteous, panoramic soundscape that plays with dynamic tension and pulls its subject far away from the pitalls of serenity with well timed guitar squalls, percussive rolls or something arriving from a completely different angle, effects that seem to float in mid-air or help crash the teetering tower onto the rocks. Over the top of it all while still fitting like a particularly oblique but still fitting jigsaw piece, a basic melody as cover that neither cleaves to modern folk nor weird Americana but, like a ProTools Van Dyke Parks, digs out brand new fallow, wholly organic ground in the middle. There's nothing as immediate as past triumphs here but taken as a whole and over time, soaring and surging over craggy baroque grounds, a mesh of uncertain emotions unlock themselves and, merging together as a record with this much care put into it should, emerge as something far greater than the sum of its parts, which where these four are concerned is a great deal indeed.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Saturday, December 29, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 2

2 Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
Beyond record sales, leakers etc. does Andy Falkous really have anything to prove any more? After a decade's service at the coalface of proving satirical snark and post-hardcore attack could work together without tipping into too much lightness you'd think not, but the first album of the rejigged lineup sounded like he had. While the things broadly learned from American post-hardcore of a Big Black/Shellac foundation are still there – angry low end, roaring guitar sounds, left turns that sound like the whole band breaking the sound barrier at once – they seem much more so. Slithering sea floor bass, percussive feedback, occasional evil keyboard sounds and jackhammering riffs set on levelling cities pervade while Falkous non-smug-smirkingly rails against modern culture perspective and societal complacency, taking minutiae to task as part of the bigger problem. And sometimes it chances on a neo-pop melody underneath, as if by accident-on-purpose. There's always something to pin you to the wall through sonic ferocity, always the promise of something angular suddenly making its distorted presence felt, always something incisive and intriguing in the sentiments, always righteous ire and splenetic, often absurd acerbity within intrinsic intensity. This is what they, and Falco, have always done much better than anyone else in their field.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Friday, December 28, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 3

3 Allo Darlin' - Europe
Less specific both in place and genre than their debut, this second album pivots on two broad topics: the uncertain feeling of separation from a loved one and the redemptive power of music, preferably relating the latter to the memory of the former. In both parts it feels entirely believable as a result of the more nuanced detail that's developed into Elizabeth Morris' lyric writing, harnessing the experiences gained while touring that first record into a persona that's prone to vulnerability but at heart believes in love over all, at least two songs synthesising the idea of being separated by geography. Musically for the most part it feels beefier (except for the ukelele-only touchingly personal centrepiece Tallulah), not at all a reaction against but a suggestion of pushing on from the scene they came from. A romantic crust to a core of bittersweet thoughts eventually giving way to optimism settled in an ideal world.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 4

4 This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends
Every year, it seems, someone comes along with the sort of debut that leaves rigid critique as essentially meaningless, so much does it carry one along with its excitable rush of youth. In its scratchy indiepop jangle and Richard Brooke's Morrisseyesque drawl TMBs are almost timeless before they've begun but they have the key to efficient three minute guitar-pop song writing as a nap hand, cramming propulsive hooks and dryly smart lines into every nook, production buffed short of a shine. TMBs are people to whom their record collections mean everything but who are old enough to realise that shouldn't be everything. Instant music for indie discos that aren't Propaganda.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 5

5 Tall Ships - Everything Touching
The Falmouth trio's math-anthem combination is highly difficult to get right. Essentially the album is in two parts, one the pure rush of a well tooled machine built on looped percussion, awkward repetitive riffs and the odd skyscraping synth combined with emotively tender lyrics and big choral breakdowns, big anthems with barely a proper chorus. The other half is ambitious and widescreen but not straightforward with more than enough little touches and inventive ideas about build and release, throwing in ambient drift, post-rock panoramas and concepts of love as science. Taking dynamic shifts and ideas long pored over and turning them inside out they seem entirely fresh and compelling.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The rest of the best 2012

Before the top five, just time for a late, and hefty, Christmas present, the annual carpet bomb collection of tracks from top 50 of the year near misses and other stuff that attracted our special attention this year. 125 of them ahead...

Ace Bushy Striptease - Long-Term Relationship In Durham... [Bandcamp]
Admiral Fallow - The Paper Trench [YouTube]
Advance Base - Summer Music [Soundcloud]
Affair - Finger Tight [Soundcloud]
Amanda Mair - Said And Done [Spotify]
Amateur Historians - These Cities Are Stealing My Soul [Soundcloud]
The Blanche Hudson Weekend - Consume Me [Bandcamp]
Bob Mould - Briefest Moment [Spotify]
Breton - Interference [YouTube]
Burning Buildings - Feet (Razbliuto) [Bandcamp]
Calories - Summer's Not [Soundcloud]
Cantaloupe - Hubbub [Bandcamp]
Carousels - Sweet Honey [Soundcloud]
The Cast Of Cheers - Animals [YouTube]
Cats On Fire - My Sense Of Pride [Soundcloud]
Chad Valley - Fathering/Mothering [Spotify]
The Chap - Hands Free [Spotify]
Cheatahs - The Swan [Soundcloud]
Cheerleaders - Puzzles [Soundcloud]
City Yelps - Lawns [YouTube]
Clock Opera - White Noise [Spotify (album version)]
Concrete Knives - Wallpaper [YouTube]
Corin Tucker Band - Neskowin [YouTube]
Daughter - Smother [YouTube]
Diagrams - Tall Buildings [Vimeo]
Dinosaur Jr - Pierce The Morning Rain [Soundcloud]
DZ Deathrays - No Sleep [YouTube]
The Embassy - Roundkick [Soundcloud]
El Perro Del Mar - Hold Off The Dawn [Soundcloud]
Erika Spring - Hidden [Soundcloud]
Euros Childs - Be Be High [live YouTube]
Everyone Everywhere - Wild Life [Bandcamp]
Everything Everything - Cough Cough [Soundcloud]
Farewell J.R - A Thought, A Mind
Fashoda Crisis - He's Got Gills [Bandcamp]
Fear Of Men - Green Sea [Soundcloud]
Fever Fever - The Chair [Soundcloud]
Fire Island Pines - Rickie Lee Jones [Bandcamp]
Free Swim - Records In The Basement [Soundcloud]
Gabriel Bruce - Perfect Weather [Soundcloud]
Gaggle - Army Of Birds [YouTube]
Gallops - Crutches [Bandcamp]
Girl Band - In My Head [Bandcamp]
Guided By Voices - She Lives In An Airport [Soundcloud]
Gulp - Game Love [Soundcloud]
Heavy Petting Zoo - Hunger [Soundcloud]
Her Name Is Calla - Ragman Roll [Bandcamp]
Hey Sholay - Burning [Soundcloud]
Hooded Fang - ESP [Bandcamp]
The Hundredth Anniversary - Caroline [Soundcloud]
Ice, Sea, Dead People - You Could Be A Model [Soundcloud]
The Invisible - Protection [Soundcloud]
Jack Hayter - The Shackleton [Bandcamp]
Jack White - Freedom At 21 [YouTube]
Jesca Hoop - Born To [YouTube]
Joanna Gruesome - Sweater [Soundcloud]
Joe Gideon & The Shark - Higher Power/Where Have All The Good Times Gone [Soundcloud]
Johnny Foreigner - 3 Hearts [Soundcloud]
Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra - Keep Kicking & Screaming [Soundcloud]
Kleine Schweine - The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Husak [Soundcloud]
Knickers - My Baby's Just A Baby [YouTube]
Lambchop - Buttons [YouTube]
Last Days Of 1984 - River's Edge [Soundcloud]
Let's Buy Happiness - Works Better On Paper [Soundcloud]
Liechtenstein - Strange Ideas [Soundcloud]
Local Sports Team - A Million Key Messages [Bandcamp]
LookiMakeMusic - Michigan, Massachusetts, Leeds, Leeds, Leeds [Soundcloud]
Lord Huron - Time To Run [Soundcloud]
Los Campesinos! - To The Boneyard
The Lovely Eggs - I Just Want Someone To Fall In Love With [Soundcloud]
M Ward - Clean Slate [Soundcloud]
Mammal Club - Toward You With Lust [Soundcloud]
Melody's Echo Chamber - Some Time Alone, Alone [YouTube]
Micachu & The Shapes - Never [YouTube]
The Monochrome Set - Hip Kitten Spinning Chrome [Spotify]
Mowbird - Auflauden! Auflauden! [Soundcloud]
Nature Set - I Am A Planet [Soundcloud]
Niki & The Dove - The Fox [Soundcloud]
Novella - Don't Believe Ayn Rand [Soundcloud]
Owl And Mouse - Finsbury Park [Bandcamp]
Pale Lights - Boy Of Your Dreams [Soundcloud]
PAWS - Miss America Bookworm [Soundcloud]
Peaking Lights - Live Love [Soundcloud]
Piano Magic - The Slightest Of Threads [Soundcloud]
PINS - LuvU4Lyf [Vimeo]
Post War Glamour Girls - Tremor [Bandcamp]
Public Service Broadcasting - Spitfire [Vimeo]
Race Horses - Mates [Soundcloud]
Ralegh Long - Briganza Street [Soundcloud]
Rhosyn - Birds [Soundcloud]
Rose Elinor Dougall - The Night [YouTube]
Runaround Kids - You'd Feel The Same [Soundcloud]
Savages - Husbands [Soundcloud]
The School - Never Thought I'd See The Day [YouTube]
Shrag - Chasing Consummations [Soundcloud]
Shy And The Fight - All That We See Or Seem [Soundcloud]
Slow Skies - Walk Me Home [Soundcloud]
Smoke Fairies - The Three Of Us [Soundcloud]
Snøskred - We Are [Soundcloud]
The Son(s) - Half Lived [Bandcamp]
Spectral Park - The Thief's Journal
Splashh - All I Wanna Do [Soundcloud]
Standard Fare - Girlfriend [Soundcloud]
Story Books - Peregrine [Soundcloud]
Summer Camp - Always [Soundcloud]
T E Morris - Survivor Guilt [Bandcamp]
Taken By Trees - In Other Words [Spotify]
Tell It Slant - Break Your Bread
Tender Trap - Love Is Hard Enough [Soundcloud]
Tessera Skies - Soliloquy Of An Astronaut [Soundcloud]
Thomas White - I've Seen The Sunrise [Soundcloud]
Totem Terrors - Unkind [Bandcamp]
T.O.Y.S - Fun Time For The Love Shy [Soundcloud]
Trev Gibb - Are You Tryin' To Fall In Love [Bandcamp]
Twin Shadow - Five Seconds [Soundcloud]
Veronica Falls - My Heart Beats [Soundcloud]
Wake The President - Bill Drummond [Soundcloud]
The Walkmen - The Love You Love [YouTube]
The Weeknd - House Of Balloons/Glass Table Girls [Spotify]
White Arrows - Fireworks Of The Sea [Soundcloud]
Willy Mason - Restless Fugitive [Soundcloud]
Withered Hand - Heart Heart [Soundcloud]
Woodpigeon - For Paolo [Bandcamp]
The XX - Chained [YouTube]
Young British Artists - Salad Days [Soundcloud]

STN Albums Of The Year 7-6

7 Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
van Etten refers to her songwriting as "self-therapy", which usually (and indeed before this album) means close-miked confessional. There's still a little of that but a new expansiveness works for the cause just as well, her tremulous, often drawling, more than likely emotionally cracked voice almost having to both fight back the anguish, anger and resignation and fight against its musical containment. It has evident peers - Tanya Donelly, mid-period PJ Harvey - in its headspace red mist-tinted confusion without letting herself off the hook, but Tramp really represents the flowering of a great individual voice, one that uses oppressiveness and anxiety as public sounding boards.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

6 Cat Power - Sun
Memphis adventure done, Sun finds Chan Marshall in the middle ground between the self-laceration of yore and the cleaned up neo-commercial singer of the last two albums. Able to make bright, optimistic music alongside questioning of the id and not sound forced, it's an evolving of her ever troubled musical persona that never quite settles on anything, veering from roots rock to synths while making them sound like different parts of the same idiosyncratic outlook. Eventually you pick up that Marshall's poison this time is positivism, the idea that she's not worse off than most, acting as the light at the end of a very irregularly built tunnel.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Monday, December 24, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 10-8

10 Toy - Toy
Are Toy shoegaze revivalists? If so they do some very interesting things with it, taking direct from the manicured noise MBV source rather than mere airy dreampop and throwing in a range of similarly psychedelically sourced influences - insistent motorik beats, forcefully swirling countermelodic synth, primal urge noisenik crescendos. They've already overtaken proteges the Horrors in that regard, throwing themselves headlong into the rainbow kaleidoscope of portentous effects pedal noise, spacey/doomy drones and soaring atmospheric waves at length, some of which build and build while barely seeming to ever resolve. It's not even really po-faced, merely seeing what can be wrought out of aural prisms of psych-attack.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

9 Beth Jeans Houghton - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
Houghton was filed among the folk revivalists on arrival but it's clear now her scope, in both influence and projected sonic field, is far wider, more ethereal and eclectic. Houghton's voice can soar operatically or settle into matter-of-factness against a symphonic gallop that often heads over the top without going OTT, an angelic eschewing of mainstream kook that packs out songs without overdoing it so it feels more like plaintiveness with the edges brightly coloured in, feeling ultimately effortless for all the detail worked in. That this is her debut and was written three years ago bodes for a potentially special career staying one step ahead of comparatively staid trends.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

8 Lone Wolf - The Lovers
It's too easy to call Paul Marshall the yang to former tourmates Wild Beasts' yin, but they share strands of DNA - the aim to put as much heightened emotion and varispeeded propulsion into each track from as little overdrive or melodrama because he understands the importance of the silences, the influence of Peter Gabriel and Talk Talk's latter albums, the undertow of delicately harsh electonics. Marshall's warmly bruised voice tells tales of internalised pain and the confused psyche amid clockwork percussion and delicate guitar picking, providing plenty to get lost in and just as much to pick out upon repeat. A stylishly detailed and impressive change of tack.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 13-11

13 Internet Forever - Internet Forever
The sound of indiepop being spun round so rapidly it might not be sure who or what it is any more, Internet Forever have turned into a synth-indie concoction that manages to be sleek and quite lo-fi ragged simultaneously, not quite buffed to a shine but retaining the belief that fuzzy quasi-shoegaze guitars can coexist with a miniature wall of sound of keyboard patterns, drones and all manner of instrumentation around the edges. That homespun approach refracted through the studio means it retains a DIY aura, lyrically navigating the minefield of the modern ways of (im)personal relationships and all over before it can delve too deeply into itself.

[Bandcamp] [iTunes] [Spotify]

12 Tindersticks - The Something Rain
While not totally surprising given recent improving form, that Tindersticks suddenly produced their best album in a decade and a half is a heartening development, especially given their choosing a nine minute spoken word story with twist ending as opener. They're as much soul as chamber now, looser, more stretched out and working to its own terms, Stuart Staples' infamous baritone fitting in better than it has in ages as redolent of hope and despair as equal partners. The arrangements are still king, more playful, committed and capable of switching from strutting beautiousness to casting itself adrift. Confidence restored, they sound again like only their own people.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

11 Saint Etienne - Words And Music By Saint Etienne
Finally, inevitably, Bob, Pete and Sarah have made their music-about-music album. Or at least their record about how we grow up with, relate to and harness the redemptive power of music. Mostly couched in the musical language of current/recent synthpop in the way only Saint Etienne these days seem able to make it work just for themselves there's a jubilance at heart to match the lyrical wide-eyed joy at being granted admittance to the inner circle ("join our club", indeed) representing the inherent fascination in going to gigs, finding likeminded souls or just getting lost in your own sound world, pop-cultural touchstones as part of everyday life. Best album cover of 2012 too.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 16-14

16 Dexys - One Day I'm Going To Soar
This is not the Dexys Midnight Runners you became accustomed to, but then you probably expected that. Muscle Shoals soul, more restrainedly folk/countrified than of yore, is the common musical thread around which spin the grandstanding, the vaudeville and above most other things the constant self-examination and soul-baring confessional. Much of this is filtered through Rowland's (relatively) latter-day preoccupation with examining his Irish heritage, a rootless soul searching for a consistent explanatory identity, with a side order narrative of love in a mentally cold climate, by the end resigning himself to loneliness, as if he knows he can take his open emotions no further.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

15 Field Music - Plumb
Finally the Brewis brothers let their inner George Martins (possibly Jeff Lynnes, maybe Todd Rundgrens) free. In no way at all an immediate listen, the shortish - two thirds of its 15 tracks are under three minutes - collage of chamber pop, pastoral psychedelia, production-led maxi-pop, odd funk influences and Beatleisms runs together as almost an extended suite and shifts impermeably through the gears, rooted in a very English suburbanism and disenchantment, placed in whatever obtuse melodies we can call the existing Field Music aesthetic. New highlights emerge with every listen but it's far from a slog, more a showing off of the brothers' consstructivist ideas.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

14 Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament - The Violence
There were at least four concept albums about 16th century witch trials released this year but the increasingly ploughing his own furrow Hayman's double album was the most consistent with the greatest eye for detail and characterisation, delicately coloured in gorgeous often slo-mo melodies with brass and strings in an elaborate chamber-folk setting. It helps the shaded allegorical sketches emerge from themes about suspicion, religious dogma, witch hunts and community bogeymen, the sort of ongoing ideas that lend themselves to first person narratives that while unsparing find levels of personal identification, told dreams and strange beauty in a very dark subject and a foreboding landscape.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Friday, December 21, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 20-17

20 Why? - Mumps etc.
Most of Yoni Wolf's career has been built on the processes of TMI, but now he's even more self-absorbed, a bout of illness giving him maybe just too much time to reflect on his own fate, health and general upkeep. Returning to the lazy hip-hop beats of before Eskimo Snow but with more organically produced textural depth beneath with choirs and strings, Yoni reaches into his own depression and mortal thoughts and comes out with a take on his endlessly Tumblr-quotable arrythmic crossword clue flow which finds graphic poetry in the dark nights of the soul and comes out with a curious semi-hidden optimism.

[Amazon] [iTunes]

19 Islet - Illuminated People
Their full-length debut couldn't match up to their all-action live shows - and frankly nothing really could - but recorded at length they made an intriguing, playfully experimental and ambitious sonic collage of everything they hold dear. That is to say, groove-laden drumming underpinning cranky constructs that alternately shimmer and batter, moments of serenity giving immediate way to squalls of madness. Fizzing, coiling guitars, squelching bass and vocals that dart from languid to urgent yelp add to the impression that everyone is basically leading each other on, a proggier end of krautrock band stuck in the bodies of discordant psychedelic clique inhabiting a drum circle.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

18 Shearwater - Animal Joy
Dedicated to wildlife and the coast, the adventurous spirit of Jonathan Meiburg's post-Talk Talk chamber-pop may never before have touched so many bases and certainly hasn't as sounded as encompassingly huge in its production scope to the point of Springsteen-stadium, if this sort of thing could ever be sold that big. More direct and rhythmic, the foreboding in Meiburg's tone and imagery are contradicted by what seems a more open, even celebratory musical pack, often coming to a crashing climax with more guitar effects then they've pulled out before. As big as it may sound, though, the subject matter and ambition still keep it squarely in Shearwater country.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

17 Mission Of Burma - Unsound
Four albums into what once seemed an unlikely second wind, the Boston trio have settled into their own groove of hyperitchy staccato post-hardcore where taut riffs scurry about and ping off each other, bass levels plunge into the red and Roger Miller and Clint Conley are in friendly competition as to who can sound the most bug-eyed. As such it quite often seems like they're challenging each other to go further within their self-set parameters. The jagged edges have if anything been roughed up from last time out, sounding as if things would fall into a help if someone gave out first. Still mightily relevant.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 25-21

25 Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery
Bearing in mind this is cassette-recorded, a demo collection in all but name, the recent past has produced few more fascinating characters than Beal, a head-turning backstory as nothing compared to music that's sometimes Alan Lomax field recording blues hollerer, sometimes Tom Waits clanking busker from hell, sometimes post-Jandek late night agoraphobic self-critical folkie. A couple of times he's pretty much rapping. Its imperfections are what make it, the lo-fi recording and often playing giving the impression of a layer of cerebrum erased. You can almost certainly assume he'll never replicate it, but as an individualist curio it more than justifies its place.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

24 Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Light
Despite the band’s talk of textural and electronic overhauls, their second album is evolution rather than revolution. Featuring far fewer of Reservoir's folkish leanings and with the Arcade Fire dial moved forward to The Suburbs' charging sense of purpose, it's not an immediate hook-laden rush, which turns out to be to its strength. For all the underlying additions of synths and electronics they haven't lost touch with what they do best: a slightness of touch with melody and restraint with production and arrangement, rather than just dumping a load on top of everything. The early charges turn into contemplative internalised musing, sometimes earnest but never apocalyptic.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Fanfarlo - "Deconstruction" from stereogum on Vimeo.

23 David Byrne & St Vincent - Love This Giant
I don't know what we thought this combination might sound like, but the underscoring by a full funk brass section probably wasn't it. It fits in ways other than just standing aside from their usual discographies, though, Byrne harnessing his art schooled dilettante stream of consciousness through old themes and new observant poetry, while Annie Clark's hesitant outsider anxieties gets taken for a ride, from ice queen to electrified kookstress. The pair inform and engage each other even if they don't duet that often, suggesting a certain passing of the torch between generations of obtusely eclectic songwriters with presicent thoughts and quixotic delivery. it feels like fun.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

22 Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
Having taken a lick of paint off the mainstream with Merriweather Post Pavilion, the returned to four-strong AnCo delved back into the morass of busy sampledelica (including a Johnnie Walker radio jingle) and warping electronics. Nowadays there's a central structure to their freeform investigations - however much sparking and whirring clutter the songs throw out, there's more than likely a vocal melody and a series of ideas that never quite get round to falling over into a massive heap. Freak-folk, weird Americana, odd electronica and purest polyrhythmic spontaneity make for a sensory overload that at core makes a kind of sense, if only to the committed.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

21 Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It
If Mike Hadreas' first set of uncomfortably close confessionals felt like autobiography, moving slightly on to more emotively driven narratives proved a way of dealing with wider personal issues at one remove, couching scenes set amid heartbreak, family and self-loathing in that cracked, heart on sleeve voice usually within frail minimalism, the piano sounding as bruised as the basic emotion. The production heightens everything around it, knowing when to peel back to pin-drop quiet and when to layer in effects and extra instrumentation. Nothing Hadreas is involved in is ever likely to be easy, casual listening, but maybe nobody has approached difficult subjects with such lyrical openness.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 30-26

30 Her Parents - Physical Release
Punk pathetique, they used to call it. Coming in at under seventeen minutes, the conglomeration of one of Dananananaykroyd, one of Internet Forever, the one of Stairs To Korea and one other blast through a set of songs that on top of a rush of obtuse hardcore punk quasi-thrash pull in some remarkable lyrical conceits. Silly as you like, then, but there's a malevolence about some of those concepts and some of the riffola, hell for leather with no sense of wanting a career out of this. Plus, a tribute to Justin Vernon's achievements incorporating "he autotuned an owl!"

[Bandcamp] [iTunes] [Spotify]

29 Clinic - Free Reign
Clinic literally let the masks slip on Bubblegum; this time around it's a slight return, not as far as wired garage nuggets but into a dronier area. There's still some typically Clinician signifiers - vocal reverb, clarinet, fuzz pedal - but the wild-eyed thrashes have been replaced by a greater reliance on heightened tension, meandering spacey explorations and deceptively simple underpinning melodies as textured, ethereal while still sonically open rhythms glide just under the surface. Sinister and shivery, full of unresolved tension, it's the sound of a band who've finally realised the sonic map they've created for themselves and want to really test the boundaries.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

28 Beach House - Bloom
Some say Bloom saw Alex and Victoria evolve rather than... revolve. That's as maybe, but when you've created a persona so exact yet flexible you're entitled to dwell for as long as you can pinprick at the surface. For all the extra details inherent they're still minimal constructors at heart, pre-programmed percussion existing beneath guitars and synths that alternately, sometimes simultaneously, drift over blissful dreampop fields and force the pace so it feels fuller, Victoria Legrand doing the dusky spadework in helping the heightened emotiveness properly take flight. Music to drift away to as long as you're prepared not to be too comfortable.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

27 Minotaur Shock - Orchard
David Edwards' project has been riding along under cover of folktronica for a good decade but it's never been as fully realised as this. It's an album that takes influence from English pastoral eccentricity and then attempts to glitch it up, armed with an armoury of woody instruments and effects in an attempt to craft a pastoral motorik, electronic grooves overlaid with acoustic picking and Eastern string arrangements, ambient textures treated with underlying jazz-influenced tuned percussion and found sounds. The journey it takes through organic fields and bassy club beats treated just the same or as something to mix between is kaleidoscopic.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

26 Andrew Paul Regan - The Signal And The Noise
He may have relinquished his Pagan Wanderer Lu soubriquet but Regan's command of forcing the pint pot of intelligent, barbed singer-songwriting into the quart of laptop electronica remains undiminished. Songs about destroying a chess playing computer, fractious meetings with a step-sister and being the voice behind a number station recording are not typical fare but they go towards a bigger picture of the nature of free will (and should we read much into all the references to babies and families?), set to a palette ranging from electro-swing to glitch to Beatles anthemry. A particular talent deviates in a new direction and keeps picking at particular nits.

[Bandcamp] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 35-31

35 The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth
Would it be going too far to call Transcendental Youth the best full-band Mountain Goats album? Perhaps, but it seems their most consistent for a while. John Darnielle's literate gaze seems to fall on people struggling to find a way out, a darkness of the soul as much as of the optimism levels, finding the small detail in and around a cast of low-lifes, junkies and the generally lost. Around him things feel that little bit more settled in and dynamic while still second fiddle to these stories sketched out with shade and colour, plus not a little empathy to coincide with the band's increasing warmth.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

34 The Wave Pictures - Long Black Cars
This far down the line, especially with their work ethic, it's no use pretending you don't know largely what you're going to get from a Wave Pictures album. It'll sound like a Richman-via-Hefner shuffle, Dave Tattersall will toss off straight talking, cultural references and lovelorn imagery as equal value and then he'll launch into a coruscating guitar solo. A kitchen sink kind of band, magnifying the minor and always sounding like they're being recorded one take and eye to eye in a rehearsal studio with two mikes. It's that after so much work and with such a strong collection these already sound like bedroom indie standards.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

33 Felix - Oh Holy Molar
If Felix's debut You Are The One I Pick felt like half awake stream of consciousness Oh Holy Molar is a set of word association daydreams. The songs remain brittle compositions, chamber pop with the excess sonic field stripped away and every piano strike echoing off old stone walls. The silences make many of these songs as much as what's there does, all led by Lucinda Chua's crystal voice dripping in ultimate regret, bold statement and delicate wonder alike. While not quite as intimate as their first stirring you still get the sense we're digging into Chua's deepest private thought processes, matched by the starkness around.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

32 Gravenhurst - The Ghost In Daylight
As much as it's subtly shifted over the years, Nick Talbot's work as Gravenhurst has always focused on the smaller, most intimate parts and let everything else take care of itself. This time he focused on his sparse acoustic folky side, bathing acoustic picking in waves of ambient fog and subtle accoutrements at the crescendo, whether heroic strings, ominous feedback or field recordings, suggesting these dispatches from a blackened mind are in some way haunted, a feeling exacerbated by Talbot's close-miked whisper telling of evil, shadows and isolation. By turning down the all-out washes that pervaded his last couple of albums the unsettling effect becomes more pronounced.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

31 Evans The Death - Evans The Death
Some said Evans The Death weren't so much indiepop's then-latest great white hopes as much as a throwback to when the Primitives and Darling Buds could knock on the door of the singles chart. Actually they're more an invocation of the energy rush of youth and enthrallment even as the lyrics dig deeper concerns. Fizzy nervous energy-fuelled guitar pop songs with reflective moments and self-questioning turns of phrase, Katherine Whitaker's voice speaking of bruised adolescent anxiety with a semi-hidden intelligence, sense of humour and rocket fuelled distortion. This is what debut albums by young bands are supposed to be, and this is better than most of those.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Monday, December 17, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 40-36

40 Meursault - Something For The Weakened
A shifted lineup brought a shifted sound on Meursault's third album, largely jettisoning the electronic undertow in favour of strings, a fully fleshed out band and the sort of post-Frightened Rabbit smoother crescendoing slow burn bombast. None of this has made Neil Pennycook any surface happier or any less likely to unleash his tectonic plate shifting bellow. There's always been an internal struggle between the spare folkishness and the epic, the real change this time is Pennycook's emotions being as laid bare as the voice to the greater extent, tenderised to the point of venting at the mistrustful world. It suits him.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

39 Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
For the newbie David Longstreth and co's latest sonic exploratory fleet must have come across as a lot more approachable than the weird Afro-garde of yore, the melodies more linear and less likely to head off at wild tangents, the harmonies less exotic, the arrangement less packed. These songs still aren't strictly straightforward but they still feel like they're attempting to stretch beyond themselves, stretching out the imaginative interplay and the little effects round the edge like elastic. Nothing is done for no reason, just the reason is now usually because it pushes the song on to the limits of self-imposed boundaries.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

38 Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
Having shipped out to Australia only to have his heart broken, Lekman came back to strip himself of the faux-radio-friendly misfit placed upon him and deal in something more emotionally raw and direct while still making a smooth job of the production, now largely piano-led and shorn of samples. It's an album not of guilt or revenge but of remembering the little details even as he tries to wash the imprint off himself. Maybe we miss the light ranconteur Lekman, but his willingness to express former love without making the listener feel dirty, and ultimately keep a sense of perspective, keeps his uber-particular songwriting touch alive.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

37 Ghosting Season - The Very Last Of The Saints
The Manchester duo, once worriedaboutsatan, start their sort-of-debut with a track called Ghost Drift, which is nearly there by itself. This is ambient texturalisation built on metronomic, insistent pulses, disquieting samples and much the same late night rainy bus window vista dubstep was originally known for. Not that this is a bassy medium, instead sketching out horizons extending out far beyond them, music that might have once been found coming out of club speakers but somehow got detached and solidified their unsteady, jittery electronic waves into curious shapes. As these great textural eddies continue to coast in, the devil is in the detail.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

36 Golden Fable - Star Map
The North Wales duo's debut did a better job than most who've ever tried it of bridging the gap between skittering, glitchy electronics and delicate folk melodies. It helps that Rebecca Palin has the sort of crystalline voice that helps the songs head towards the airy stratosphere, a la Liz Fraser, complemented by the sort of gorgeously realised glacial textures it deserves. Not that it's all post-rock textural - a few tracks betray the influence of New Order and Broadcast, but at the same time most could easily be stripped back into acoustic laments. A dreamlike mastery of an often elusive form.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Advertising feature

Thank you for your continued support for Sweeping The Nation - rest assured there's plans afoot for next year. Just while we have this moment together before the countdown continues, a couple of things:

Doesn't Your Balloon Ever Land?, the 25-track compilation STN released in August, is available at pay-what-you-like until the end of the year. All money raised goes to Macmillan Cancer Support.

Meanwhile, don't overlook Sweeping The Nation Christmas Special, six all-new volumes of festive songs to make any Christmas party come to a stop.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 45-41

45 The Cornshed Sisters - Tell Tales
If the Unthanks developed a modern arena for north-eastern female close harmony folk singing, the non-familial Cornshed Sisters are the more playful, less retrospectively minded end. For all that, their debut never shies away from foregrounding its depths, the four-part harmonies pitch perfect, what should by rights be well trodden subject matter seem fresh by approaching them from an odd angle, homely seeming but not afraid to wrongfoot the listener by heading down more disturbing paths deceptively lightly. If nothing else there were few less likely joyous moments this year than the three-part harmony on "good job on the gravy".

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

44 First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
The Söderberg sisters, having done their musical growing up in semi-public, worked with Mike Mogis on their second album and came back more confident for the experience. Mogis' countrified expansive production suits the filling out of both the songs, a shuffling modern Nashville romanticism a la Gram Parsons, and Klara and Johanna's dead-on harmonies, their voices richer and more fulfilling. They haven't transcended their influences yet but there's clear chemistry and ability here that mean that will likely come with time. For now, it more than gets by on the ability to juggle heartbreak and perhaps surprising dustcloud darkness in such an elegaic way.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

43 Liars - WIXIW
So drums are dead. Never willing to go back through whatever they did last time, Liars re-emerged as almost a completely different type of band, channelling their dark hearts into electronic boxes, synths and samples. Skittering rather than clattering, any intention to overwhelm is superceded by ground-up dark, uncertain depths, coldly efficient in its shimmering and pulsing amid underlying fragility, leaning as much towards freak-folk's full frontal soundscapes as Kid A's learn-as-we-go experiments. Such depths and hidden colours and crannies, whether left to drift alone in hostile waters or pressed up against the glass, are what make it of a piece with their approach after all.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

42 Jo Mango - Murmuration
Glaswegian Mango possesses a voice of absolute close-miked crystalline beauty, which on this second album she gives the sort of sentiments that sound simple but are in reality vexed by the nature of life and the haunting of past love and memory. Poetically both abstract and achingly personal, her fingerpicked folk guitar is accompanied by clever production courtesy of Adem Ilhan which decorates the edges around Mango's front focused almost stage whisper of a delivery with a variety of embossed instrumentation which, without being minimal as such, never comes near challenging the central attraction, that thoughtful, seductive late night beauty.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

41 The Sound Of The Ladies - The City Of Gold And Lead
As many other hats - quantum physicist, university lecturer, popular podcast soundman - as Martin Austwick wears, there's nothing thrown out there about The Sound Of The Ladies. His second full-length develops the sound while sharpening the storytelling to a more consistent degree, invegilating ideas, images and sometimes uncomfortable poetic notions into an alt-folk framework that lands somewhere close to a very English equivalent of Elliott Smith's close-up sensitivity, if one who doesn't foreground personal ailments as much as existential loss and painted stories of love going awry. It's also likely to be 2012's only album to reference Joseph Bazalgette, creator of the London sewer network.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

STN Albums Of The Year 50-46

50 Tigercats - Isle Of Dogs
Tigercats aren't quite an indiepop band template, but then they're not quite not either. Duncan Barrett's mewling vocal places the lyrics squarely around their titular location and their hooks in the hammeringly infectious bracket. Their infectious love of making music recalls a less frenzied early Los Campesinos! with an odd nod to indie-Afrobeat, lyrically built on pop culture references and love stories located in specific places and emotional states, while their shuffling, determined interplay is more accomplished then they'd let on. They want to be a band the indie kids can believe in, and building on these foundations they might yet manage it.
[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

49 Moscow Youth Cult - Happiness Machines
The Nottingham duo aren't alone in giving a warped, colour over-saturated VHS effect or a sci-fi soundtrack effect to electronic textures but few envelope the listener in sonic effects so effectively. Some of it comes across as chillwave being beaten to within an inch of its life by marauding robots, elsewhere modern machines being imbued with the spirit of the northern electronic experimentalists of the early 80s, shaping circulating noise into slightly less harsh shapes and calling it a melody. Simultaneously retro and forward thinking, it's made for disco floors if only they were caught in the middle of a Commodore 64 loading screen.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

48 Threatmantics - Kid McCoy
A revised line-up since their 2008 debut and a departure from Domino have brought about a change of scope in the Cardiff band, a guitar now vying for lead role with a vaguely threatening viola but now with both greater focus and a more jagged, punchier approach to folk-punk art-angularity. Surf rock riffs clash with soaring epiphanies and existential musings, balls-out rock'n'roll deliberately steers down a wrong turning, the result feeling more direct and more willing to take the melodic road less travelled. They resolutely refuse to be stylistically pinned down, neither revivalists nor too outre but willing to tightrope walk the choppy seas between.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

47 The Rosie Taylor Project - Twin Beds
Hiring Wild Beasts producer Richard Formby was just the step the Leeds sextet required to make the crucial step forward from merely indie-folk shufflers into expansive maxi-pop arrangements, opening up the spaces and turning kitchen sink reminiscence into swaying melancholia with a hopeful lining. The debt to Belle & Sebastian is still there but the tremble in Jonny Davis' voice, the sumptuousness of the interplay between acoustic guitars and lilting trumpet lifts, the romantic notions underpinning the lyrical daydream escape attempts... it all works itself into a concoction that floats not through weightlessness but through lying back and thinking itself into the air.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

46 Sean Rowe - The Salesman And The Shark
Rowe's rumbling, sonorous baritone first came to attention last year, adding resonance to some detailed after hours storytelling. A year on it's even later, even more soused in last drinks of the night and his soul sounds stripped right down to sinew and bone while mostly filling out the sound around him with largely countrified string arrangements and pedal steel. His actual sound can't be truly contained, drifting from spare lament to Tindersticks baroque, though inevitably a Waits/Cohen dialogue pervades. Overall, like The Low Anthem, it's a sound that can't be totally pinned down but imbues a classic set of influences with rarefied grace and an open heart.

[Amazon] [iTunes] [Spotify]

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thirteen for '13

Before the look back at 2012 starts, like so many others, a quick look forward to 2013, thirteen artists who we reckon are set fair for big years, maybe not commercially but almost definitely qualitatively.

Amateur Historians
The Belfast trio are named after a Johnny Foreigner lyric and cite Pavement and Los Campesinos! as main influences. So yes of course we were going to listen to them, but mere listed influences aren't despite appearances enough per se. What makes them such are their tightly wound ping-ponging riffs, angular interplay constantly seeming on the verge of collapse and tightly drilled variously wordily personal and call and response vocals.

Burning Buildings
The Mancunian trio have put out a couple of small scale over the last two years expanding on a branch of melodic, wiry post-punk which lulls the listener in with chiming guitars and harmonies before pulling its component parts right over each other, powerlifted by fractured post-hardcore riffs like Mission Of Burma taking on Tall Ships. An EP is due very shortly.

Fair to say the Cambridge originally-duo-now-quintet take their time over things, having taken fifteen months to follow up their first set of demos, coinciding with a tour alongside new band tip of lesser mortals Peace. Worth the wait, though, as while their sound is indubitably shoegaze it's one that tries to break down the doors rather than lean on them and wait, obliterative guitar runs and crashing drums, reverbing and warping in on itself amid sweet vocal harmonies.

Farewell J.R
Already showing a genuine breadth of ideas within a much covered framework, Farewell J.R is one man from Cambridge whose sparse, reverbed and self-harmonised itinerant airy folk may bring Bon Iver comparisons to mind but has the comfortable capacity to expand the sonic field into gloriously pained crescendo while maintaining space and intrinsic mystique.

Fear Of Men
The Brighton band started off on a swoonsome lo-fi tip, aided by the lovelorn vocals of Jessica Weiss, but over time they've become a more unsettling prospect, dreampop with warmth and classic wistful melody but with something a little bit off-centre at its heart, guitars building mini-sonic cathedrals amid daydreaming wooziness. Their early vinyl releases are being gathered into a compilation for release 12th January.

Free Swim
Not to be confused with Swim Deep or Wild Swim, Free Swim is essentially the project of Paul Coltofeanu, specialist in wordy, darkly elliptical rushes that often bridge the gap between post-Flaming Lips US psychedelia and oft whimsical British art schooled pop. Having released four full EPs in the last two years we never seem to be too far away from new, stylistically progressive material.

Joanna Gruesome
Lo-fi with its waves of feedback, tape hiss and half-buried slacker vocals isn't something we've wanted for much of late, but Cardiff-based youths JoGru do do it better than most, valuing the sort of excitable controlled noise prime Sonic Youth hacked a passage through, melodies lurking somewhere underneath the scuzz. 90s college rock indebted, true, but with a full-on spirit and undeniable verve.

The Wrexham outfit describe themselves as 'surf-punk' but that's not quite the whole story. Recent EP The Quiet Despair Of The Starship Enterprise unveiled a range that encompasses micro-psychedelia, Nuggets garage and lo-fi scuzz, pushing slackercore influences beyond the red limiter. After an impending split 7" it seems an album is the next move.

Not that they've been short of press in the eleven months or so since their live debut, but strip away the hype and observe the serrated John McGeoch-like guitars that occasionally roar into tidal waves of noise, the taut wire melodic basslines and Jehnny Beth's severe, disturbed voice from the verge. They're currently squirreled away on album recording duty.

Shy And The Fight
The Chester/North Wales septet are the sort of multi-handed indie-folk outfit who could hold their own among the Fence Collective or as a full band version of a cult American backwoods singer-songwriter. Their emotively centrifugal work pulls off better than most the quiet-to-rousing progression without tipping into the Mumfordian, knowing the value of a mass vocal hook crescendo and intensive release.

Slow Skies
The work of Dublin singer Karen Sheridan, alongside producer Conal Herron, Slow Skies follows the example of the previously STN-feted Daughter not only in being a singer-with-others pseudonym but in creating languidly chiming, dreamlike atmospherics around which a female voice, an intriguing flutter with shades of Emiliana Torrini, tells stories of honest intimacy, lulling sailors onto the rocks.

Spectral Park
Luke Donovan takes the 60s beat boom as his starting point, or at least the psychedelic end (Barrett, Zombies), in fidelity as much as sensibility. Then he makes things warped, spectral keyboards and Radiophonic effects burbling away and pulling the melodies apart. Expect to see Donovan emerge blinking into the live sunlight with a band in the new year, with an album to follow.

Tessera Skies
The Newcastle trio may only have released one track but it's so rare that a band emerge so fully formed in such entangled wonderment with so short a lead time. Electronics and strings bubble underneath and form tangible shapes and textures in their own shimmering, surging slow burning ambience. As well as some proper recording sessions, rather remarkably they've been working with Nick Mason on a track for the Roundhouse's 30/30 initiative set for February release. Wonder if they bagsied a lift in one of his supercars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Her Name Is Calla - Ragman Roll

The itinerant post-rock dramatists have stood back from a conveyor belt of solo side project releases, had a bit of a lineup rearrangement including picking up a passing Maybeshewillist, have been working on a new album for next year and, going on its first single, aren't any less shy about laying on the melodrama, underlaid this time by rolling piano under Tom Morris' pained vocal, sounding equal parts Thom Yorke and that one by Martin Grech, part of an extended build which rather than explodes coasts across the waves on feedback and delicate strings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas presence

Pins - Kiss Me Quickly (It's Christmas)
In which the wiry Mancunians calm it down a little for the season and buy some sleigh bells. A little Nancy Sinatran, a little Glasvegan (especially the festive angle), a little drowsy.

Benjamin Shaw & Fighting Kites - This Christmas (I Just Want To Be Left Alone)
Idiosyncratic lo-fi folkie miserablist and surf-post-rockers team up for expectedly introverted slowcore from the house of Audio Antihero. Pay what you like on Bandcamp, all proceeds to Shelter.

Nature Set - Edward
Not strictly about Christmas apart from some fake snow in the video and a little bit at the end, but that never held Stop The Cavalry back. For the most part it's a sultry stomp with plenty of dank depth from the increasingly intriguing Sheffield outfit. John Steed stars in the video.

MJ Hibbett & The Validators - The Flashing Santa
The traditional Vlads yuletide greeting, in which this year the modern malaise of the fancy lighting decorated house exterior is considered.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Concrete Knives/Bastardgeist/GUMS!

Concrete Knives - Wallpaper

From Normandy and with an album due on 18th February through Bella Union, Concrete Knives arrive at the very point where youthful exuberance becomes maturing self-realisation, chant vocals over insistent percussion and intricate hooks with hints of early Talking Heads.

Bastardgeist - Coast

Chicago's Joel Midden made a minor STN impact in 2011 with his startling blend of polyrhythmic percussion, kalimba and processed vocal. This early taste of second album Even Out begins like a stuck Tom Waits experimental record and is gradually taken over by harmonies and electronics, finding inner beauty amongst the droning and clanging.

GUMS! - New Year

A nearly festive offering from a Glasgow collaborative we've written about before and who have an album promised for next year, wherein Teenage Fanclub power-pop melodies rub up against Aidan Moffatt-channelling sour reflections.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Sweeping The Nation Christmas Special

I know you may have downloaded it anyway in the last few days, but we thought it was time to phase out A Very Sweeping Christmas and replace it with a freshly compiled set of quality festive tunes, all freely downloadable - follow the link and then find the download button top right - and round about an hour and a half long apiece:

The Covers

Joseph Spence - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
The Wedding Present - Step Into Christmas
Slow Club - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Blondie - We Three Kings
Cocteau Twins - Frosty The Snowman
Six By Seven - I Believe In Father Christmas
Bright Eyes - God Red Ye Merry Gentlemen
She & Him - Sleigh Ride
Summer Camp - Christmas Wrapping
Peter Broggs - Twelve Days Of Christmas
Booker T & The MGs - Winter Wonderland
Idlewild - Mistletoe And Wine
James Dean Bradfield - Last Christmas
El Perro Del Mar - Auld Lang Syne
Lauren Laverne - In the Bleak Midwinter
REM - Good King Wenceslas
Belle & Sebastian - O Come, All Ye Faithful
Camera Obscura - Little Donkey
Allo Darlin' - Baby, It's Cold Outside
Josh T Pearson - O Holy Night
The Bandana Splits - Wonderful Christmas Time
The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Jingle Bell Rock
Lucky Soul - Lonely This Christmas
The Pipettes - White Christmas
The Kills - Silent Night
Karine Polwart - Merry Xmas Everybody

The LOLy Spirit - rotten title, I know. Novelties, oddities and obtuse approaches to Christmas songs

TBC Poundsystem - Losing My Sledge
Beck - Little Drum Machine Boy
Hot Uncles - The Joy Of Giving (Dan Michaelson and Broken Family Band/Singing Adams' Steven Adams)
The Black Arts - Christmas Number One (Black Box Recorder and Eddie Argos)
Fountains of Wayne - I Want An Alien For Christmas
They Might Be Giants - Santa's Beard
Ben Folds - Bizarre Christmas Incident
The Hives & Cyndi Lauper - A Christmas Duel
Eartha Kitt - I'm Gettin Nuttin For Christmas
Grandaddy - Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland
Barenaked Ladies - Deck The Stills
Gruff Rhys - Slashed Wrists This Christmas
Chris T-T - 100,000 Turkeys
MJ Hibbett & The Validators - The Advent Calendar Of FACT
Shrag - Stop The Revelry
Half Man Half Biscuit - It's Clichéd To Be Cynical At Christmas
Spitting Image - The Christmas Singles

Unsilent Night

Reuben - Christmas Is Awesome
The Vandals - Oi To The World
The Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
The Damned - There Ain't No Sanity Claus
The Greedies - A Merry Jingle (three of Thin Lizzy and two Sex Pistols)
Weezer - Christmas Celebration
Shonen Knife - Space Christmas
Eels - Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas
The Bellrays - Mary Christmas
Billy Childish & The Musicians of the British Empire - Santa Claus
The Sonics - Don't Believe In Christmas
The Futureheads - Christmas Was Better In The 80s
Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler - Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)
Glam Chops - Countdown To Christmas
T. Rex - Christmas Bop
The Kinks - Father Christmas
Crystal Antlers - 10,000 Watts
The Smithereens - Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)
The White Stripes - Candy Cane Children
Elastica - I Wanna Be a King of Orient Aah
Nosferatu D2 - It's Christmas Time (For God's Sake)

Selection Box 1 - unordered, unthemed, quality controlled

30 Pounds of Bone - You Can't Break Up At Christmas (So Let's Get It Over With)
Acid House Kings - Christmas
The Beach Boys - Little Saint Nick
Beach House - I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun
Bob Dylan - Must Be Santa
The Boy Least Likely To - Christmas Isn't Christmas
Darlene Love - All Alone On Christmas
Darren Hayman - The Christmas Wars
De La Soul - Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa
Dennis Wilson - Morning Christmas
The Emotions - What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas
Foxes! - Christmas Songs
Girls Aloud - Not Tonight Santa
Harvey Danger - Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas (Sometimes)
His Clancyness - This Xmas No Trees Just Soul
James Brown - Go Power At Christmas Time
John Cale - Child's Christmas In Wales
Kate Bush - Home For Christmas
The Lucksmiths - The Thought That Counts
Luna - Egg Nog
Seasick Steve and the Level Devils - Xmas Prison Blues
Summer Fiction - Christmas Eve for Two
Throwing Muses - Santa Claus
Velocity Girl - Merry Christmas, I Love You
Yo La Tengo - It's Christmas Time

Selection Box 2

Blur - The Wassailing Song
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Cold White Christmas
Denim - I Will Cry At Christmas
Donny Hathaway - This Christmas
Hello Saferide - iPod Christmas
James White - Christmas With Satan
Joy Zipper - Christmas Song
Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin'
Low - Just Like Christmas
The Magnetic Fields - Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree
My Morning Jacket - When the Bells Start Ringing (Feat. The Head and the Heart)
Noah And The Whale - To Cyril At Crunkmas
Of Montreal - Christmas Isn't Safe For Animals
The Raveonettes - The Christmas Song
Rufus Wainwright - Spotlight on Christmas
Saint Etienne - I Was Born On Christmas Day
Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - Christmas Everyday
Standard Fare - Tinsel Politics
The Staple Singers - Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas
Stevie Wonder - One Little Christmas Tree
The Supremes - Won't Be Long Before Christmas
Trembling Blue Stars - Christmas And Train Trips And Things

Selection Box 3

The Beatles - Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Boca Chica - Snow Angels
Boyracer - Every Day Is Christmas With You
Damien Jurado - Christmas Time Is Here
Isaac Hayes - The Mistletoe And Me
Johnny Cash - The Gifts They Gave
The Long Blondes - Christmas Is Cancelled
The Maytals - Happy Christmas (The Christmas Song)
Mew - She Came Home For Christmas
Poly Styrene - Black Christmas
Red Shoe Diaries - San Francisco Snowglobe
Rilo Kiley - Xmas Cake
Ron Sexsmith - Maybe This Christmas
The School - Let Me Be The Fairy On Your Christmas Tree Tonight
Smashing Pumpkins - Christmastime
Squeeze - Christmas Day
Stina Nordenstam - Soon After Christmas
Sufjan Stevens - Come On! Let's Boogey To The Elf Dance!
The Temptations - Love Comes With Christmas
The Three Wise Men (XTC) - Thanks For Christmas
The Walkmen - Christmas Party