Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: the album checklist

Albums there are dates for

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wigout At Jagbags (6th January)
Broken Bells – After The Disco (13th January)
East India Youth - Total Strife Forever (13th January)
I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro (20th January)
Mogwai - Rave Tapes (20th January)
Warpaint - Warpaint (20th January)
The Hidden Cameras - Age (27th January)
Peggy Sue - Choir Of Echoes (27th January)
Maximo Park - Too Much Information (3rd February)
Cheatahs - Cheatahs (10th February)
Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct (10th February)
Let's Wrestle - Let's Wrestle (10th February)
Mowbird - Islander (10th February)
We Three And The Death Rattle - W.T.A.T.D.R (10th February)
Guided By Voices - Motivational Jumpsuit (17th February)
St Vincent - St Vincent (24th February)
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - A Million Ways To Make Gold (24th February)
Withered Hand - New Gods (24th February)
Blood Red Shoes - Blood Red Shoes (3rd March)
Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures - Gin (3rd March)
Elbow - All At Once (title TBC) (10th March)
Joan As Police Woman - The Classic (10th March)
Jimi Goodwin - Odludek (24th March)

Those that only STN cares about
Ace Bushy Striptease
The Acorn
Adebisi Shank
Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place
Archie Bronson Outfit
Beth Jeans Houghton
Emmy The Great
Evans The Death
Fashoda Crisis
Fear Of Men
Her Name Is Calla - Navigator
Holy Fuck
Johnny Foreigner
Let's Buy Happiness
Napoleon IIIrd
Rose Elinor Dougall
Still Corners
Three Trapped Tigers

Amber Coffman/Nat Baldwin (Dirty Projectors solo projects)
The Avalanches (yeah, right)
Bat For Lashes
Beck - Morning Phase (and possibly a second album)
Belle And Sebastian
Blonde Redhead
Cat Power
Damon Albarn
Fleet Foxes
Gnarls Barkley
Hamilton Leithauser (Walkmen frontman goes solo)
The Hold Steady
The Horrors
Lykke Li
Manic Street Preachers - Futurology
Modest Mouse
The New Pornographers
Other Lives
Owen Pallett - In Conflict
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Parquet Courts
Perfume Genius
Pulled Apart By Horses
The Rentals
School Of Language
Sisyphus (Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux and Serengeti)
Slow Club
TV On The Radio
Wild Beasts
The Wrens (OK...)

Monday, December 30, 2013

And as for the rest of the year...

To round off reminiscences of things just past, a sprint through another 75 tracks that we loved this year that didn't appear on one of our top 50 albums. All that are there of these, plus a track from each of that top 50 that are streaming on there, are in this Spotify playlist.

65daysofstatic - Unmake The Wild Light
A Little Orchestra feat. Model Village - Josefina
And So I Watch You From Afar - Big Thinks Do Remarkable
The Android Angel - Her Shoulders
Archie Bronson Outfit - I Was A Dead Duck
Beaty Heart - Lekka Freakout
Benin City - My Love
Blessa - Between Times
Boxed In - All Your Love Is Gone
British Sea Power - Machineries Of Joy
Calories - The Curse/Daylight
Camera Obscura - Troublemaker
Cate Le Bon feat. Perfume Genius - I Think I Knew
Cheatahs - Kenworth
Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs - Things We Be
Daft Punk feat. Panda Bear - Doin' It Right
David Bowie - Where Are We Now?
Dent May - Let Them Talk
Drenge - Bloodsports
Elizabeth Morris - Optimism
Empty Pools - Televised
EXPENSIVE - Always Want Us To
Fanfarlo - A Distance
Farewell J.R - A Thought, A Mind
Fire Island Pines - 1915
The Flaming Lips - Look...The Sun Is Rising
Frankie & The Heartstrings - That Girl, That Scene
Fuck Buttons - Brainfreeze
Ghost Outfit - Killuhs
Girl One And The Grease Guns - (Here Come The) Catastrophe Machines
Girls Names - Hypnotic Regression
The Graphite Set - These Streets
Heavy Petting Zoo - Broken Bone
Her Parents - Lithuanian Mercedes
Hooded Fang - Ode To Subterrania
Hookworms - Radio Tokyo
I Am Kloot - Bullets
Ides - Crybaby
John Grant - Glacier
Jungle - The Heat
The Julie Ruin - Cookie Road
Lanterns On The Lake - Another Tale From Another English Town
Marika Hackman - Bath Is Black
Mary Epworth - September
Maximo Park - Brain Cells
Mowbird - Happy Active Horse Organ
The National - Don't Swallow The Cap
PINS - Lost Lost Lost
Pixies - Bagboy
Plastic Animals - Pizarnik
Post War Glamour Girls - Jazz Funerals
R.Seiliog - Ostisho
Rachel Zeffira - Here On In
Radstewart - Beer Swindlers
Rose Elinor Dougall - Strange Warnings
Seazoo - Dog Hotel
Shhh...Apes! - Painkiller
Slow Skies - Close
Spotlight Kid - Budge Up
Stagecoach - Threequel
Still Corners - All I Know
Swearin' - Dust In The Gold Sack
Telegram - Follow
Tessera Skies - Milieu
The Thermals - Born To Kill
These Monsters - When The Going Gets Weird
Thirty Pounds Of Bone - The Snow In Kiel
Trust Fund - The Coolest Guy
Vienna Ditto - Liar Liar
Wire - Doubles & Trebles
The Witch Hunt - Crawl
Without Feathers - Red Little Heart
The Wytches - Beehive Queen
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Sacrilege
Youth Lagoon - Dropla

Friday, December 27, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 1

1 Future Of The Left - How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
They were always bound to make an STN album of the year one day, but in the rest of the land FOTL seem to have become so much more famous for Andy Falkous' extra-curricularisms - that piracy blog, that Pitchfork retort, his interviews and between-song comments generally - that it increasingly seemed their music is going unrewarded. Their fourth album appears to have noticed and summarily turned up the dials, ramped up the abrasion and transformed into a jackhammer. The usual motifs are all there - the scalpel-sharp gritted teeth humour, the collective musical drill to the senses - but with Jimmy Watkins now thoroughly inducted into the newly rejigged line-up - Julia Ruzicka's rolling basslines have found a way of ramping up the approaching menace even further - the acidic guitars are meatier and spikier than they have been for a while, rolling with the punches, coiling before unloading the tension with a post-hardcore zeal. If Falco's lyrics are still the real USP his vocals are becoming more adaptable to fit, channelling his demons into something that wouldn't qualify for restraint in most. And while most songs head direct for the cerebral cortex, the always present temptation/risk to extend beyond the self-imposed boundaries into whatever comes to hand is more prevalent without sacrificing the overall image. There's an eccentrically satirical four and a half minutes of barely hinged laser precision vituperation voiced in an approximation of RP. There's a sub-two minute Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues-like assault with a kazoo chorus. There's a couple of songs that are virtually slow-paced. There are, of course, lines that don't appear anywhere else in rock's lexicon, simultaneously funny (Falco cites Half Man Half Biscuit as a key influence) and brutal, sarcastic and relatable, as suits the target. As social satire bludgeons with post-Albini guitars set to maim they've always been out there on their own; now they've reset their goals, reset their targets and fired themselves into the sun.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 2

2 Los Campesinos! - No Blues
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
The only way was up. Having put Hello Sadness' protracted breakup pains behind him - and how pointedly against that period the notably capitalised NO BLUES title seems - Gareth and the rest haven't yet put death and exes behind him/them, and with his hyperliterate self-examination existentialism it's increasingly a band in his image whatever's going on behind him, but this seems a trimmer album in more ways than a renumbering of personnel. The dynamic shifts have moved slightly sideways, prominent keyboards returning, wild riffs toned down in favour of charges and textures. The melodies are simultaneously more confident and less easy to grasp hold of, the choruses stand out more but are less willing to grab and throw the listener into the centre of the chanting circle (despite an actual cheerleading troupe's employment on Avocado, Baby) Similarly Gareth still yelps and pleads his words but having come through what might be the worst his surface confidence is restored for the first time since he was a post-grad ATP kid. The revenge fantasy imagery and football references aren't there for the sake of it but to link and express greater truths and feelings, still with tongue comfortably in cheek. If every LC! album is a new diary year this is the mid-20s post-breakdown point at which it's realised there's still plenty of time to grab hold of your destiny despite yourself. Moreover, this is the first time they've properly sustained a grower, new references, emotional shifts and ornate musical patterns and hooks emerging all the time, being about developing momentum rather than exuberance. Many still want them to be the band they were in 2008 but this is if not cutting off their earlier selves then putting in a dotted line that differentiates what now seem two clear eras. They're now wry dramatists who consider the many deaths while sounding like being alive.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 4-3

4 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
After the extended midlife freakout of Grinderman and Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, Cave and his slowly reformatting Bad Seeds took time to look at where they personally are in relation to what they'd just done. What that means is their most subtle record in some time, with Mick Harvey long gone Warren Ellis' relationship with atmospherics and spaciousness takes more of the centre stage. Against the vaunting bleakness Cave for his own part has largely dialled back from fire eyed bellowing to a a considerate timbre as befits the elliptical, liturgially minded spectator, undercutting emotions and voyeuristic descriptions and ideas with the knowledge that this increasingly belongs to other people. And then he went and did this.

3 Bill Callahan - Dream River
[iTunes] [Amazon]
The best thing Callahan has released since he retired the Smog soubriquet, it's also the thing he's done under his own name that sounds most like Smog. That is to say, music that loops and circles around his ever more Scotch-warmed honeyed voice and its metaphor heavy, narrative suggestive story-songs rather than, as late, finds its groove and sticks there. Resonant allusions - flight, spring, wind and water - recur, guitar, flute and hand percussion are used to colour in the lyrical landscapes, a Lambchop-type country-soul feel is evoked and everything and everyone seems more content and meditative with and around their situation, observing nature take its course. For one he's enjoying living, even romance. If this is Callahan at his most content, he's somehow found a way not to let it dull down his style.

Monday, December 23, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 6-5

6 Sky Larkin - Motto
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
If Sky Larkin, now three albums and three lineups down, have sometimes seemed a little like the band that got left behind, this is the album where they reared up and kicked out. Raised on nervous tension and nervous energy alike, the addition of a second guitar beefed up the punch and spiked tautness of their sound while bringing out the best of the pair that were there all along, Nestor Matthews kicking seven shades out of his kit while Katie Harkin's lyrics play with phonetic sounds and meanings while retaining a personal truth and standpoint at their core, unafraid to bring out the dark, sung like she still feels the emotional strain. They feel that much bigger for the experiences, charging for their lives.

5 Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Every year this list includes an album like this perhaps surprisingly high up - a record that's not groundbreakingly original or interestingly developed but roars with the passion of youth, the "sort of band you'd want to be in" gambit. Weird Sister, a record that straps rocket boosters to fuzzbomb janglepop, is just such an album. It's because they've got the knack of building a dreamy lo-fi melody - and there are strong melodies, hooks, choruses, all that - and then letting a distorted, spiky riff slash it apart from the centre outwards while Alanna McArdle (un)comfortably handles both dispassionate sweetness and feral screaming. It's not big, though it can be clever, but right here and now it seems impossibly exciting.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 8-7

8 Haiku Salut - Tricolore
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
"Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or-Other", the Derbyshire multi-instrumentalist trio call this sound, which does this bit out of a job. You might also add a twisted about version of post-rock's use of slow build, repetition and instrumental flourishes, deployed here so seemingly clashing parts - a fingerpicked acoustic, an accordion, an 8-bit electronic sample - gradually coalesce into form fitted shape, complex layers developing layers ande depth that can be as much floating and euphoric as pinpricks in existing melodic structure. Often incapable of sitting still, the loops and flourishes serve to both develop its baroque nature and then pull it apart. It's an album that knows its touchstones, whether Yann Tiersen, Haruki Murakami or Wes Anderson, but really sounds like nobody else.

7 Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
The hi-life records may have been put away but Vampire Weekend's third album is just as studded with borrowed moves: R&B and gospel, pastoral synths and torch song languidness. This is their real world album, still any number of too-clever-by-half allusions but deployed not as self-aware signifiers but as collateral in the process of maturing. Death and its eventual inevitability without prior achievement is a semi-regular visitor. The studio becomes another instrument, as befits a band who now know how to use space and when to actually flood the aural spectrum, and if Rostam Batmanglij still too readily goes for the harpsichord setting it's less novelty, more scene-setting. This is VW's New York post-grad album, what happens when the socialites have to set up home for themselves.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 10-9

10 Public Service Broadcasting - Inform - Educate - Entertain
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
From Steinski to the Books vocal sampling has been reworked and repurposed to greater ends, but it's surprising nobody really thought of taking it in PSB's chosen direction before. Even without the public information films, newsreel stock and documentary film voiceovers it'd be a fascinating expedition, based on post-rock's eddying drones and slow build surges while taking in charging kosmiche and Neu!-flavoured Krautrock, bubbling layers of synth and beats, Eno-esque repetition, hauntology's fear of the dark and the odd run of bluegrass banjo. If the underlying sentiments are unashamedly nostalgic, evoking the spirit of invention and the adventurers of the age, the outcome skews danceable rhythms into fluid shapes and is ultimately, mightily euphoric.

9 Jetplane Landing - Don't Try
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
In a year short on great post-hardcore records, some old stagers returned with a blitzkrieg. Picking up from the records before the last album Backlash Cop, itself now six years old, might seem a retrogressive move and Andrew Ferris' return to his native Derry may inform at least a couple of tracks but time isn't mellowing either the knife-fight power of the riffage that twists in on itself before racing towards the cliff or the speed, determination and linguistic athleticism of Ferris' delivery. There's a few pop melodies that don't seem commercial, huge crashing buzzsaw guitar hooks, chantalong bits and the angriest track is about lost Beat poet Gregory Corso. Standard JPL, then, but so much more than standardisation really.

Friday, December 20, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 12-11

12 Nadine Shah - Love Your Dum And Mad
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Not to take away from Shah's own vision, but after Beth Jeans Houghton last year Ben Hillier seems to have sorted the art of producing singular female singer-songwriters who inhabit their own slow-burning headspace (both Geordies, too) Shah's soaringly emotive, velvety jazz-trained vocals bring a power to songs of darkness and betrayal that inhabit a place where escape is possible but lessons still have to be learned on what it is to fall out of love/favour/care. While never feelingl sorry for itself or coasting on wallowing, that atmosphere and the brooding backing with odd little touches heightens Shah's confessional, fearless feel.

11 Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
The four-song suite that opens the album finds Marling in flux, attempting to resolve how emotional instability can ever triumph, finding strength in adversity. Her most unashamed Joni/Bob-like sounding record yet, it's an occasionally uncomfortably lengthy recce through the rubble of a past of personal relationships, trading what wasn't even before now a fulsome sound for a more directly close-miked confessional aura, an intensity bordering on deliberately trained catharsis that acknowledges naivety but in denial, trusting in love even when she knows she shouldn't, developing into vengeance before insecurity rears its head. In further understanding herself, Marling's command of her lyrically driven id is making her more and more accomplished.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 14-13

14 Daughter - If You Leave
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Cathartically heavy, gloomy atmospherically inclined female fronted bands seem two-a-penny these days; what Elena Tonra (and her two bandmates) have is a desperation and desolation really as two sides of the same coin. Tonra's adaptable vocals, leaning between angelically underplayed and stratospheric appealling to the fates and occasionally cracking under the strain, practically show off the emotional bruising. Beneath her guitars ripple across the icy atmosphere, the rushes of post-rock meeting shards of treated, broken riff before next time dropping into rhythmic folky fingerpicking. The listener might just feel emptied out themselves by the end, such is the detail implicit in the self-loathing that follows long dark nights of the romantic soul.

13 The Superman Revenge Squad Band - There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passage Of Time
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Most don't realise it yet, but Ben Parker might be Britain's most acute sadsack of a lyricist. Delivery hanging on for dear life to the tune, Parker cuts a self-reflexive figure feeling lost amid the rush of modern life, hanging on to past pop culture, worked through metaphor and self-deprecation like life aids. Reworking some of his previous solo recordings and a few new songs with a full band, including his brother and Nosferatu D2 drumming octoped Adam, an oddly shaped broader palette that manages to be awkward and lush simultaneously brings out the longing and determination behind these extraordinarily rendered tales of bittersweet break-ups and personal disenfranchisement.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 17-15

17 Summer Camp - Summer Camp
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Having put Condale-ish things aside, Elizabeth and Jeremy decided it was time to check where they were ultimately up to. Much as it's still centred on the Instagram synths and slightly askew melodic sense we're already used to, the sound branches out into well trodden paths - pulsing electro, retro disco, R&B and hip-hop production tricks, James Murphy half-inching - and seem more personal in their dealings with what love means and hope for something better while still sounding like this area the duo have already set up for themselves, one of easy warmth and Sankey's soaring vocals. It's an unashamed modern pop record, but not as straightforward as that.

16 Julia Holter - Loud City Song
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
The scale and opacity of a song-cycle for the novella/film Gigi - not that not knowing about it precludes liking the record - might overcome lesser talents, but by placing her ambitions high Holter lands in a place that's coated with visualisations of high society opulence being led astray, subsumed in so much slow motion orchestration and soluble electroncs it feels like it has its own gravitational field. Some songs are more pastoral mini-symphonies than songs in the pop music idiom, others cleave to nothing but their own jumpiness, an individualist (if post-Kate Bush via Talk Talk) take on widescreen dramatics within its own internal narrative.

15 Savages - Silence Yourself
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
See, everyone, this is *also* what post-punk was. The Siouxsie & The Banshees comparison could be easily thrown about, what with Jehnny Beth's stentorian presence over the kind of stereoscopic guitar sound that was John McGeogh's domain, but to transcend such influences requires a level of self-belief and tightness disguised as looseness to complement the dead-eye focus. They sound like a band rushing to keep up with each other, which is what all the best all-out post-punk bands did - if we're talking easy influences there's easily as much Wire and Peter Hook in there - mastering palpably taut tension and spectacular release. And then it ends with an uneasy jazz piece.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 20-18

20 Low - The Invisible Way
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Low haven't been slowcore as such for a while now, but their raw delicacy still requires taking the time and effort to lose yourself in. This tenth album, for its occasional nods at gospel and the Velvets, is still full of empty space and carefully arranged instrumentation around the room's edges but it's the most intricately layered and beauteous work they've produced for a good while. It invokes a stillness in time and the winds within its textures, while Alan and Mimi harmonise beautifully, making both their phrasing and the shades underneath mean that much more as they spin stories of personal heartbreak, redemption and a kind of eventual joyousness.

19 Islet - Released By The Movement
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
The perpetual motion machine that is live Islet hasn't always suited being placed in perpetuity onto tape, so this time they decided to record as-live in various bedrooms. As always there's something straining to escape between the arrythmic marches, synth drones and the vocal exchange of cryptic oaths, introducing discordant quasi-tropicalia overheatedness to blindingly technicolour psychedelia and letting them fight it out to the death. It's a complete single work, floating ambient mood passages between the popping motorik frenzies and invention of space-indie. Tripping over itself with ideas, woozy with both possibilities and a metaphorical version of the bends, it needs to lie down in a darkened room.

18 Kiran Leonard - Bowler Hat Soup
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Clearly some kind of savant, the sixteen tracks on the then 17 year old uber-multi-instrumentalist's first properly released album hop joyfully between genres like a Todd Rundgren for the bedroom pop set. His type of troubled singer-songwriters are Harry Nilsson and Tom Waits rather than Barrett or Walker, but Van Dyke Parks is a more common through road of an influence for someone equally comfortable with music hall Kinksisms, baroquely orchestrated cracked balladry, fuzzy power-pop that falls into its own black hole and piano-led prog-pop ambitions, often employing the richest of developing croons, you feel post-folkish tags don't so much fail to constrain him as tell so little of the tale.

Monday, December 16, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: 25-21

25 Widowspeak - Almanac
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Having emerged as spaghetti western dreamers their second album headed further into the misty woods, forgoeing the twang in favour of wood crafted floating American gothic, finding a decaying heart in the pastoral, aided by Molly Hamilton's vocal similarities to the Hope Sandoval/Margo Timmins archetype. But that's not all, as inscrutable uncoling guitars of a Warpaint bent merge with charging rhythms and the odd heroic solo. It can handle a cinematic grandeur, but it can also sound like FM classic rock getting lost in the haunted forest well after dark. More relatable and romantic than before, the fog of emotions suits them well.

24 The River Cry - The River Cry
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
If she'll forgive me for opening like this, who knew the bassist out of JJ72 had this in her? Having retreated to the Irish coast, Hilary Woods took to the piano and in her own time crafted a record of haunting lushness, looking out to sea and seeing lands lost and hope where once there was actuality. The reverb laden minimal instrumentation gives an extra spacious feel to the desolation, a trembling filmic reach that evokes coastal place and autumnal time just as well as the similarly piano-led PJ Harvey's White Chalk, marinaded in long dried tears and the sweat cost chasing lost causes.

23 Trips And Falls - The Inevitable Consequences Of Your Stupid Behavior
[iTunes] [Spotify] [direct]
The third UK-released album by the Montreal collective is just as jagged around the edges and tricky to pin down to simplistic terms as the first two, but there's been a paradigm shift from ornateness into the ramshackle. Songs turn from tentative to charging in a heartbeat, overlays folkified vocal stylings as likely with circling, itchy electrics as hushed acoustics, occasionally straining for the anthemic only to plunge an icy dagger through its own Psychedelic Furs in a blender ambitions. Amid all of this it still retains a heartfelt core, tying its jumping bean ambitions and its attendant noise and collapsing structures together with frayed heartstrings.

22 His Clancyness - Vicious
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
Having progressed through the ornate bite of A Classic Education and the drifting quasi-chillwave of his early solo material, Jonathan Clancy morphed into something akin to the psychedelia revival-of-sorts, still with hints of drifting, dreaming dreampop but rooted in something fuzzier and earthier, starting in lo-fi bedroom pop range but firing off in all directions, semi-acoustic fragility one minute, retro synth patterns the next, glossy technicolour or rough edged, making sure it always maintains a similar grounding wherever the quixotic arrangement impulses pull and push. Never taking the simple route, always questioning what and where its narrative point is, there's potential to grow within its questing confidence.

21 Spectral Park - Spectral Park
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
If this was the year neo-psychedelia started swallowing itself whole, at least it's given people like Luke Donovan full reign to try and reshape their peculiar overflow of ideas and crates of offbeat samples into pop songs. In his case the influence is in the mono joy of confusion stemming from the Zombies and early Pink Floyd, recorded in just short of full fidelity as hooks, scraps of melodies and bits of something intangible fall on top of each other to create actively teetering monuments of exotica-flavoured fantasias, bubblegum melodies for choruses attempting to sit atop a mania on the edge of motion sickness.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2013: the bottom half

50 Buke & Gase - General Dome
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: General Dome

49 Alessi's Ark - The Still Life
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: The Rain

48 The Electric Soft Parade - Idiots
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone

47 The Wave Pictures - City Forgiveness
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Lisbon

46 Just Handshakes - Say It
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Bandcamp]
RIYL: London Bound

45 Woodpigeon - Thumbtacks And Glue
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Red Rover, Red Rover

44 Georgia Ruth - Week Of Pines
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Week Of Pines

43 Local Natives - Hummingbird
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Heavy Feet

42 Totem Terrors - Repeat Play Torrent Rar
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Bandcamp]
RIYL: Weather Controller

41 Ice, Sea, Dead People - If It’s Broken, Break It More
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: You Could Be A Model

40 Andrew Paul Regan - Dinas Powys
RIYL: Time Crisis, 1982

39 Laura J Martin - Dazzle Days
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Red Flag

38 Mat Riviere - Not Even Doom Music
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Bandcamp]
RIYL: Wool

37 Euros Childs - Situation Comedy
[direct download] [Amazon]
RIYL: Tête à Tête

36 The Crimea - Square Moon
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Last Plane Out Of Saigon

35 Cloud - Comfort Songs
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Cars & It's Autumn

34 Ghostpoet - Some Say I So I Say Light
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Them Waters

33 Shopping - Consumer Complaints
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: In Other Words

32 Mazzy Star - Seasons Of Your Day
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: In The Kingdom

31 Cloud Boat - Book Of Hours
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Wanderlust

30 Everything Everything - Arc
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Cough Cough

29 My Bloody Valentine - m b v
[direct purchase] [Amazon]
RIYL: In Another Way

28 Arcade Fire - Reflektor
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: Reflektor

27 Sweet Baboo - Ships
[iTunes] [Spotify] [Amazon]
RIYL: If I Died

26 Rick Redbeard - No Selfish Heart
[iTunes] [Amazon]
RIYL: Now We're Dancing

Monday, December 09, 2013

Mowbird - Brompton/Happy Active Horse Organ

One track you'll have seen on our Tumblr (but therefore not on Hype Machine, which is why it's cravenly being reposted), one new out today, both from one of our favourite new British guitar bands of the very recent past's debut album Islander, out 10th February on Shape Records. Both constitute fuzzily frayed slacker garage, as much 13th Floor Elevators and Guided By Voices as Thee Oh Sees, an appeallingly spooked ramshackle charge.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Fourteen For '14: part two

Marika Hackman

There's been talk, with her Marlingish folk bent and fashion world credentials, that the 21 year old singer-songwriter could become something big, but we reckon she (and us) would be happier with the kind of music career trajectory her sometime producer Johnny Flynn has had, much admired by critics but too sharp and slippery for the post-Mumfords chart palette. In fact if she recalls anyone it's those troubled late 90s Cat Power albums, her self-taught guitar plucking adding a rickety terrain to lyrics that seem fogged and mildly cryptic even as the darkly desired emotion cuts to the bone.


The duo behind Jungle have revealed little about themselves, going merely by the handles T and J. The temptation to call upon our usual rule of thumb - if you're being deliberately mysterious about a new musical project, we'll assume you're Chris de Burgh and move on - is great, but that's without hearing the music. They have the capacity to become London's own TV On The Radio in more than just a very Tunde Adebimpe-like falsetto, transmitting deep soul grooves and croons through a gauze of synth layers that are part chillgaze, part Ghostpoet/Invisible-like floorshaking heavy atmospherics.

We Three And The Death Rattle

Perhaps the most cumbersomely acronymed band of recent times, Leicester's WTATDR have been attracting attention for a while now but an album is ready to go come 10th February. In that time their Boss Hog/Gun Club dark blues vindictiveness has percolated and gone metallic (but not metal). Singer and occasional theremin...ist? Amy Cooper suggests an attitude you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of, not least as most of the time it seems seconds away from ordering someone be taken out, dealing in a dysfunctional love life mirrored in the guitar-and-drums sludge hyperventilating behind her.


If it carries on much longer there'll have to be a special section for hirsute psych-motorik bands produced by Dan Carey on iTunes. Telegram, though, might end up the pick of them, their noisily committed, hair-flinging live show complemented by the tripped out rush of urgent crafted noise that is debut single Follow, like they've just stepped out of a late 70s New York club, through a glam wardrobe and into the Rollercoaster tour, anthemic without all that now implies, energetically punchy and aiming stratospheric like a midpoint between early Roxy Music and Toy's record box.

Ralegh Long

As with some others in this selection we've had a decent length association with Ralegh - we premiered one of his videos last year - but he's never featured before in one of these lists and the spring should see the release of his debut album, featuring members of Toy, Hefner and A Little Orchestra. A proper reminder, then, of his sophisticated songsmithery, detailed as much in melody as lyric, the same sort of reconfigurating the DNA of jazz bar MOR-tainted classic pop moves into something less tangible that Robyn Hitchcock or Paddy McAloon once thrived upon.


Given you'd imagine every conceivable arrangement of three snappy chord power-pop had been long raked over, Martha have in their EP and single's worth of back catalogue somehow found a new punk-scented way of delivering an enthralling ride. It's not just the Durham outfit's way with earworm hooks that refreshingly lack in radio-ready obviousness or the rush of Buzzcocks harmonics that marks them out but their lightly worn lyrical intelligence, social, political and historical - this track below is a fictionalized account of the last days of poet Audre Lorde, and you can invade a stage to it.

Trust Fund

Trust Fund is Ellis Jones of Bristol, sometime confidante of Joanna Gruesome and so forth, whose Don't Let Them Begin EP wears its starkest lo-fi roots as a badge of honour and its heart squarely on its sleeve. Like Lou Barlow or Elliott Smith and through to Jeff Magnum, Ellis only seemingly wants to express the darkest parts of his psyche, developing an honesty about the path most taken that's as awkward as his playing, which could be close-miked confessional or grunge-inflected full band exorcism. You get the feeling he's an ace away from producing something fully realised as greatness.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Fourteen For '14: part one

The first of two runs through this year's tips list. The usual caveats - anyone who's had a full length album out or been featured on an STN year in preview list before is disqualified, and these are not our tips for big things but those who we think are likely to do really good things over the forthcoming twelve months. This is how last year's thirteen fared, including three bands that have subsequently split up; may god have mercy on this selection's souls.

Heavy Petting Zoo

The Swansea outfit have a clear live focal point of their in-house dancer Jon, whose freeform flailings may make him the 10s equivalent of Wojtek from the Blue Aeroplanes. Behind him, and very much up front on record, is an equally compelling presence, singer Amy Zachariah, whose lustily fulsome commanding complements a raggedly direct surf-inflected garage attack. Having stormed their set at Swn festival - Huw Stephens, Jen Long and NME's Laura Snapes among those spreading its word - they self-released a single in October and should hopefully play their first proper gigs outside Wales soon.


Primarily known as half of back bedroom folk-popsters the Middle Ones, Grace Denton's latest incarnation (with Pete Shadbolt and Matthew Cheney) takes the electro-pop and R&B production tropes and squirrels them away in a dark corner. Their take on electronic melody seems hand crafted, densely layered with arrythmically subtle beats and not being averse to taking the rutted path less travelled, attempting to keep hold of its melodic agility while flowering from tense development into something air-filled and colourful, Denton's vocals equally capable of dreaminess and rawness alike.

Secrets in the Moss from EXPENSIVE on Vimeo.


If you can tell a band by the company they keep, that Blessa's recent single Between Times was produced by MJ of Hookworms should give you a fair idea. Not that they share the shoegaze blur of many of the bands he associates with, the Sheffield quintet crafting a cleaner sound where reverberating guitars are present but only a subtle part of a sophisticated jigsaw pattern built around finding the space between such strident elements as searching basslines, insistent beats and Olivia Neller's skylarking vocals, pitched somewhere between Veronica Falls' scuzzy melodies and Howling Bells' lost highway intransigence.


They don't sound like that name suggests, nor like the previous Cardiff scene associations of frontman and creative fulcrum Mark Foley (of Manchasm fame). Their EP The Shape Of Apes To Come instead paints delicate landscapes of ambient folk and Americana-influenced subtleties that stretch out and evolve into shivering emotiveness, achieved through delicate multi-instrumental layering, outreaching vocal harmonies and ebbing electronics. Low fans will find much to admire in its cinematic qualities that lift, coast and find new depths to explore on every listen. And if that's just for the introductory six track EP they could be heading somewhere special.

Plastic Animals

Another Edinburgh band brought to our attention by the indefatigable Song, By Toad label, Plastic Animals describe themselves as "atmospheric punk sludge rock" which makes them sound like the Melvins, ie not like what they do sound like. What they've developed into over three EPs over the last two and a bit years is electronically embellished, carefully layered hypnagogic pop shape formers that's been bundled into a helicopter travelling across a misty landscape, Deerhunter-style dreampop with the tremelo arm taped down, melodically lucid in creating far seeing atmospherics out of chiming lo-fi hypnosis.

Beaty Heart

The Peckham trio have been around for a while - we first wrote about them in May 2011 - but their development into the level of confidence in pulling off their sort of deluxe arrangements has been notable, culminating around March when their Dave Eringa-overseen debut album Mixed Blessings is released. They may touch on the hi-life fad of a few years ago but their stock in trade is percussive, harmonic overlapping post-freak-folk of a Panda Bear stripe, yearning sounding vocals rubbing like sandpaper against hallucinatory warped psychedelia loaded high with arrythmic drumming of various indigenous types.

Fire Island Pines

You don't really get a lot of luxuriousness in modern indie-pop, whether that refers to the delicately literate jangle of a Felt or Animals That Swim or the crumbling Victorian halls melodramatic splendour in decay of Jack or Gallon Drunk. Cornwall sextet Fire Island Pines are the best candidates we've heard for a while, their swooningly languid melodies and detailed trumpet laced lushness almost betraying Anton Rothschild's less than confident, clouds in front of the warm sunshine sensitivity lurking behind such budget sophistication, if his half-murmured half-crooned delivery hasn't suggested such already. An impending album is promised.

Seven more tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Miss us?

What? Oh. Anyway, that's quite long enough to have been away from this place, and so STN is back to full working order just in time for the end of year festivities to commence on Saturday with the start of the slow reveal, long after everyone else's quick reveals, of our 14 For '14, followed by the usual top 50 albums of the year.