I always have a good moan about end of year lists that profess to give the definitive ‘BEST’ albums. A ridiculous amount of good music has been released this year and one person can’t know it all. So instead, here are some albums that I love from this year in alphabetical order. Tucked away is my album of the year which I’ve based on what I think I’ve played most and, in this case, played loudest as well!
Cat Temper – Digital Soul
Being quite shallow I was first drawn to this album because of the amazing cover art. When someone pours everything into their work and leaves no aspect of it wanting its worth listening up. The blurb on Bandcamp describes Digital Soul ‘as an imaginary soundtrack of man vs machine… with a nod towards late 70s early 80s synth scores’ this sums it up absolutely perfectly. The tracks rarely pass the 2 minute mark which adds to incidental music brief and it results in some concise arrangements completely shorn of any unnecessary fat. The synth work has an amazing depth and Cat Temper is an absolute master of the genre. Sounds amazing though headphones.
GOATS – Far Out
This is one long psychedelic journey into the unhinged minds of Alan Morse Davies, Declan Owen and Jorge Mario Zuleta. It has the lot, throat singing, straight up noise, found sounds, drones, what appears to be a family singing around a camp fire, car horns, some nice noodly organ work, and plenty of squalling guitar feedback. Lyrically sparse its easy for the repetition of ‘Gravity has lost its hold on me’ to stand out, no wonder when sounds like they’ve taken all the drugs in the world before recording the album. It’s further out that Harmony Rockets – Paralyzed Mind Of The Archangel Void, pretty far out.
Kemys Inferior – Four Branches Of The Mabinogi
This is lo-fi techno from South Wales. The whole thing is covered in a warm analogue fuzz and the attention to detail is super. Whether it’s the chopped breaks of Lonely White Man, the pained vocal on Adhesive or the machine music of Third Branch that dissolves into pulsing waves of noise, there are textures in depth everywhere and a lot to love.
Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work
A rock n roll band without pretensions who channel their love of the genre into their work with pure punk energy. Huge riffs with cathartic lyrics, isn’t that what rock is all about when you boil it down? This is how you draw on your influences and make a racket that is all your own. By rights Lower Slaughter should be all over the radio playlists and be massive.
See also: Show Review – Lower Slaughter / Henry Blacker / Pohl at The Old England Bristol
See also: Interview with Lower Slaughter
Malibu Ken – S/T
Malibu Ken is a match made in heaven, a collaboration between Aesop Rock and Tobacco. Lyrically the record is incredibly dense and there seems nothing that isn’t ripe for the picking, be it Diane Arbus, Bob Ross, or The Four Horsemen no one escapes. Partnered up with the Tobacco’s trademark analogue beats and synths its prefect.
Marissa Nadler and Stephen Brodsky – Droneflower
I’ve been a long-time fan of Marissa Nadler and immediately pulled this from the rack while record shopping. It’s as beautiful as it is sparse, with the Marissa’s vocal drifting over the tracks from beyond the veil. Working with Stephen Brodsky has added a different dynamic to the arrangements, complimenting Marissa Nadler perfectly rather than taking things off in a completely new direction.
Moon Duo – Stars Are The Light
I’ll confess that much like with Acid Mothers Temple I sort of checked out of buying Moon Duo releases a couple of years ago. While their work is always good, I thought there is only so much any one person needs, until now. This album is a revelation, far more laid back, more blissful and with far greater depth to the arrangements. The sonic palette and production on the album are stellar, everything sparkles and it feels like you are inside the songs. By shifting down tempo they have opened everything up. It’s simply wonderful. I’m gutted I missed them on this tour.
Purple Mountains – S/T
After hearing of David Berman passing, I couldn’t listen to this album for months. The lyrics just too painful, too close for comfort. It’s incredibly beautiful though. This should be in every record collection.
Rainbow Grave – No You
My album of the year, Rainbow Grave call it ‘Low Rent Caveman Hate Music’ and they grind out their world view over 6 tracks of bile ridden sludge. Playing Ten Million Tons Of Shit I find it easy to imagine middle class, middle aged, middle of the road types coasting through their entitled superficial existence while the rest of us struggle on, I’m pretty sure they could also apply the song to us as well mind so don’t get cocky.
Skyjelly – We Pull The Stars Over Our Heads Like Covers
I’d considered whether I was allowed to include this as it’s on the I Heart Noise label. I love it though so it’s in. This is ecstatic lo-fi with psychedelic twist. I’d thought lo-fi long dead but I’m happy to be proved wrong. In part like the love child of Jim Shepard, Muslimgauze and the Velvet Underground, my only complaint is it needs to be longer.
Stereocilia – The Silence That Follows
Time and time again this year, showing up for the support band has paid off. I had no idea what to expect when I saw them and was immediately won over. Stereocilia make shoegaze / drone rock / space rock (call it what you will) on a cosmic scale, layer upon layer of treated guitars, processed sounds and synths envelop you from start to finish.
The Utopia Strong – S/T
Again, being shallow I bought this on spec when I saw the packaging. There has been endless online comment about the heritage of this act and it does seem an unlikely combination of people for sure. Put that to one side though and transport yourself back to the 1970’s and soak in the krautrock influenced sounds. Rewards repeat listens!
USA / Mexico – Matamoros
The first time I put this on I had to get back up off the sofa to check my stylus, I thought it was chocked in dust or just completely fucked. Can there be any greater endorsement for a noise rock album? Nothing ends up sounding like this by accident though and I’m sure it sounds exactly as it’s meant to. Everything about it is over the top from maniacal vocals, the ultra-sludge guitar or the slow death decay into oblivion of the 17 minute epic Anxious Whitey finale.