Thursday, 12 December 2013

2013: Albums Of The Year - Top 30

Now then, folks. Once again, we find ourselves at the pointy end of the year; the pointy end where geeks such as myself spend the preceding 11 months deliberating over lists such as the one below. From a personal standpoint, I wouldn't have it any other way. Without further ado, friends; my top 30 albums. Enjoy.
Artist: The Field
Album: Cupid's Head
Label: Kompakt
Cupid’s Head continues the trend of brilliance Axl Willner has produced under his moniker, The Field. I did have my doubts during the early stages of listening to Cupid’s Head. It’s not an album that you can consume at any given time and more of an experience for a particular moment. Whether this is the finest work Axl Willner has released is hard to confirm and is something akin to splitting hairs. Out of all The Field long players, this one takes the longest to absorb and as a result, may end with the greatest rewards. Cupid’s Head is a journey of darkness and easily The Field’s darkest to date. He continues to penetrate in tight spaces with repetitious beats but the feeling this time around is far heavier and forlorn than his previous works.
Favourite Tracks: Black Sea, Cupid's Head.

Artist: Pan-American
Album: Cloud Room, Glass Room
Label: Kranky
Labradford mastermind, Mark Nelson, continues his pleasant journey under his Pan-American moniker with Cloud Room Glass Room. This continues the run of good form on the back of 2011's White Bird Release. Although still ensconced in minimalism, Cloud... is arguably Nelson's biggest departure from the project's initial framework. Rather than chamber music, an association Nelson only knows too well with Labradford and throughout the Pan-American realm, CRGR adopts a more varied range of minimalism. The chamber elements still pulsate throughout, but the inclusion of elements such as deep techno (look no further than 'Fifth Avenue 1960') is the biggest indication that CRGR is Nelson's departure record. Those looking for an alternative to the likes of Tim Hecker should look no further than this record. For me, it's a far more rewarding proposition.
Favourite Tracks: Fifth Avenue 1960, Glass Room at the Airport.

Artist: Kylesa
Album: Ultraviolet
Label: Season of Mist
Kylesa were always a little too dry for my blood. Something just didn’t stick with me for some reason, give or take a few tracks. With Ultraviolet¸ however, Kylesa release their broadest array of sounds and their biggest departure from the bare bones sludge rock they are renown for providing. Ultraviolet is an ode to sludge, metal, psychedelic and even science fiction. It’s a canyon of influences thrown into the melting plot. Sure, ‘We’re Taking This’ has all the brawn that Kylsea aficionados are used to hearing. However, tracks such as this aren’t foiled with more of the same. Slower tracks such as ‘Steady Breakdown’ meander and seem almost contemplative. Laura Pleasant and Philip Cope haven’t written a more beautiful song than the stunning ‘Low Tide’. Closing track, ‘Drifting’, almost sounds like something the Bowery Electric could’ve written during their existence, as strange as that sounds. Ultraviolet is new chapter for the Savannah collective. It’s also a welcome one.
Favourite Tracks: Steady Breakdown, Low Tide, Drifting.

Artist: Okkervil River
Album: The Silver Gymnasium
Label: ATO

Okkervil River has always been a solid collective simmering below the surface of scenes, trends and various other ploys the indie masses engage in. Frontman, Will Sheff, is one of the great modern songwriters, with an uncanny ability to tell a story. His songwriting is dark, poignant and engaging. The Silver Gymnasium is a concept album based in Sheff’s hometown of Maiden, New Hampshire. It’s feels like a dark reflection of the past, however throughout there are moments that are truly uplifting for the listener. Although a lot may disagree, it’s Okkervil River’s best album since Black Sheep Boy, for mine. Its consistency holds a candle up to anything the band has done whilst still maintaining the high standards that Sheff has always set as a songwriter.

Favourite Tracks: On A Balcony, Lido Pier Suicide Car, Black Nemo.

Artist: Iceage
Album: You're Nothing
Label: Matador Records

It took a good five or six listens to determine whether Copenhagen, Denmark’s Iceage were just another disposable entity or the real deal. Thankfully, the latter prevailed with their sophomore album, You’re Nothing. Iceage’s punk pastiche is coupled with a raw exuberance, which results in fist pumping ditties. From front to back, You’re Nothing is an album which leaves you coming up to the surface gasping for air. Its short bursts of chaos are relentless, raw and anthemic. Post punk snorting copious amounts of speed, Iceage have found their feet the second time around. More of the same would be more than acceptable.
Favourite Tracks: Burning Hand, Wounded Hearts.

Artist: Daughn Gibson
Album: Me Moan
Label: Sub Pop

Daughn Gibson’s 2012 debut, All Hell, passed me by until earlier this year. It sounded like a product from a man fleeing a Southern religious cult, with its eerie and dark undercurrents, which cut bone deep. Gibson’s second opus, Me Moan, takes a slightly different turn from the creepy soundscapes of All Hell, but is still ensconced in the crate digging meanderings which Gibson (real name, Josh Martin) has seemingly made his own. Me Moan really does sound like Gibson getting his Elvis Presley tombstone blues on. The melodies are somewhat freer and less stark than what he produced on All Hell, however his lyrical themes still remain matted in the darkness which made All Hell so great. Gibson is showing early signs of breaking his own boundaries with each release, which is always a good sign for a forward thinking artist.
Favourite Tracks: Phantom Rider, Franco, The Right Signs.
Artist: Kvelertak
Album: Meir
Label: Roadrunner Records
Norway's Kvelertak returned this year with a sophomore album that places them toward the top of their genre. After seeing them live, however, I'm not too sure what exactly their genre is. Live, songs like 'U...penbaring' and 'Spring Fra Livet' sound like this monolithic shoegaze stomp that can't be heard on record, which make this band even more of a greater proposition. The fact that frontman, Erlend Hjelvik, howls the lyrics in his mother's tongue is no deterrent and in fact renders a stronger framework for the band. Meir is full of foot stomping riff-a-rolla that feels like the perfect soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy (particularly the track 'Evig Vandrar’). 'Tordenbrak' and 'Kvelertak' is arguably the year's best one two punch to finish an album and arguably the two best tracks on the album.

Favourite Tracks: U...penbaring, Tordenbrak, Kvelertak.

Artist: Deerhunter
Album: Monomania
Label: 4AD

I was one of the few who believed Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest was tremendously underwhelming; and guess what? I still do. From this viewpoint, I was worried where Deerhunter would go with next their record. I’m pleased to say that Monomania is a vast expansion and indeed a welcome return to form. Bradford Cox has orchestrated a solid front to back no nonsense outing. In fact he has received a much welcomed helping hand from the underrated member who has appeared in the backdrop for most of Deerhunter’s existence; Lockett Pundt. Look no further than ‘The Missing’, which is Pundt’s watershed and indeed the album’s, too (granted, ‘Back to the Middle’ and the title track give it a good run). Cox states that this album is the archetypal American album. Whether you believe that or not (my good lady happily points out vibes pertaining to The Beatles White Album era, which on closer listening is on the money), Monomania is an album that sits closer to the top of Deerhunter’s discography.

Favourite Tracks: The Missing, Back to the Middle, Monomania.

Artist: Califone
Album: Stitches
Label: Dead Oceans

Chicago's Califone is an eclectic proposition. They ignore all the scenes around them and go about their own business with aplomb. Their new album, Stitches, once again captures the off-kilter Americana hybrid which we have all associated with this band. Tim Rutili creates a unique cinematic aura which has you drifting off into a dreamy haze. Stitches could easily be the soundtrack to one driving through the Midwest of America. It’s an album that fills in the gaps, with its wrought emotion and graceful musicianship. One’s music collection would feel bare without it.

Favourite Tracks: Stitches, Bells Break Arms, A Thin Skin of Bullfight Dust.

Artist: Darkstar
Album: News from Nowhere
Label: Warp

Darkstar has always been a slow burner for me. North had its moments but on the whole didn't really hit me with any brawn. News from Nowhere, however, comes at you from a different angle and certainly a welcoming one. NFN sees the three piece hone in on the bleakest soundscapes they've ever created, which essentially expands on their initial body of sound. People will say they rub shoulders closely with the likes of the Animal Collective, but the vibe is a total contrast; there's more of a subdued skeletal landscape with Darkstar. Associated acts such as Mount Kimbie and James Blake have shifted their own respective goal posts with new albums and so have Darkstar with NRN. It's one the year's rough diamonds and an essential to accompany a bleak day where the rain drips against the lounge room window.

Favourite Tracks: Light Body Clock Starter, You Don't Need a Weatherman, Hold Me Down.

Artist: Pelican
Album: Forever Becoming
Label: Southern Lord

After the departure of integral figure, Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, many - including myself - thought it was the beginning of the end for Pelican. Thankfully, the inclusion of The Swan King's Dallas Thomas has not only stabilised the band, it's reinvigorated it; the result is Forever Becoming. It's not the instant ear gouging beast we are used to receiving from the band, however like all slow burners, it builds nicely and once you're there, the rest is history. 'Terminal' is indicative of this, as its Mogwai vibes simmer on the surface nicely, laying a strong foundation for what's to come. 'Immutable Dust' is an elusive number that hits with Pelican-esque vigour, while 'Perpetual Dawn' is quite possibly the best song Pelican has written since the likes of 'Red Ran Amber' had all of us post-metal tragics bleating into our beers in rapture. The future looks brighter for having the likes of Pelican around.

Favourite Tracks: Terminal, Immutable Dust, Perpetual Dawn.

Artist: Moderat
Album: II
Label: Mute

Moderat is collaboration between Apparat (aka Sascha Ring), and Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary). Their sophomore album, II, showcases Moderat spreading their wings and really penetrating the sonic landscape in which they created with their debut opus.
There’s some jaw dropping moments throughout this eclectic journey (look no further than the glitch infested ‘Milk’). Moderat combine all the good elements in electronic and pop music and in doing this, they’ve made their finest album in II. Those of you whom deal in ‘foil’ albums would be best served holding this next to Jon Hopkins’ Immunity. The two respective albums certainly work extremely well in conjunction.

Favourite Tracks: Bad Kingdom, Milk, Ilona.

Artist: Palms
Album: Palms
Label: Ipecac Records

It’s fair to say that most Isis fans salivated over the Deftones in their teens, so it was no surprise when Chino Moreno, Aaron Harris, Jeff Caxide and Bryant Clifford Meyers joined forces that many a progressive metal fan had the proverbial third leg. Palms' debut self-titled affair conveys these respective artists at the top of their game. Moreno’s melodic charm remains prevalent from the outset with the brilliant ‘Future Warrior’, while his trademark shrieks are ever-present on the album’s finest track, ‘Mission Sunset’. Aaron Harris – often the overshadowed member of the behemoth otherwise known as Isis – heads a subtle shift in sound, as the bludgeoning distortion which made most us weep into our beer glasses during the Panopticon and Oceanic days is replaced with more angular and intricate moments throughout. It’s a welcome departure, if only subtly, which provides the listener for a captivating experience.

Favourite Tracks: Future Warrior, Mission Sunset, Antarctic Handshake.

Artist: The Icarus Line
Album: Slave Vows
Label: Agitated Records

Joe Cardamone is an angry chap. Since the venerable Penance Soiree, I seemed to forget as such and it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one. That’s until now. The Icarus Line’s fifth long player, Slave Vows, recaptures everything that makes The Icarus Line so good. Jagged guitars that howl with feedback and white noise coupled with Cardamone’s shrieks of anguish that would make Iggy Pop proud. By and large, the danger has been missing in guitar music leading into this new era. Just when I thought The Icarus Line had also sunk into the bowels of mediocrity, Cardamone has dragged it out of the fire with Slave Vows; undoubtedly an LP which holds some of the band’s finest work to date. The fury is back and by Christ are we thankful for it. Slave Vows is rock n’ roll circa 2013.

Favourite Tracks: Don't Let Me Save Your Soul, Laying Down For the Man, Rats Ass.

Artist: William Tyler
Album: Impossible Truth
Label: Merge Records

In recent years, not too many artists have made the perfect morning record. William Tyler has probably gone the closest with his sophomore effort, Impossible Truth. While his debut effort, Behold the Spirit, presented a more lamenting undercurrent (look no further than ‘Signal Mountain’), this feels more like an album of hope. You can almost picture yourself walking into the rising sun listening to gems such as ‘Cadillac Desert’ and ‘Hotel Catatonia’. Although singling out these two tracks, one track really bleeds into another from front to back. It’s a tour-de-force of emotional beauty. Tyler is a finger-smith and although there is many a finger smith plying similar trades at the moment, William Tyler’s ability to present emotion and virtuosity sees him at the summit of the genre. Impossible Truth is the perfect representation of grandeur and musicianship.

Favourite Tracks: Cadillac Desert, A Portrait of Sarah, Hotel Catatonia.

Artist: Willis Earl Beal
Album: Nobody Knows
Label: XL Recordings

Willis Earl Beal is probably the most interesting artist to surface from the music scene in the last couple of years. His debut, Acoustic Sorcery, was a record 29 years in the making (his words, not mine). Nobody Knows is a sophomore that seems to tighten the screws, edging toward the spirit of what Beal is trying to achieve. The man is bona fide. In a industry full of fa├žade and various other cringe worthy traits, Willis Earl Beal is rough and tumble authentic. Nobody Knows is a bit all over the place, but that's what makes it so formidable and in surmising, is the whole point. It encapsulates the bona fide nature in which Beal pours out to his audience. He's pouring his honesty out to all and sundry. Tracks such as 'Burning Bridges' and closing track, 'The Flow' are beautiful representations of soul while the tracks 'Hole in the Roof' and 'Blue Escape' are almost a mirror of Tom Waits circa Heart Attack and Vine. I can't wait to see where Willis Earl Beal takes us next.

Favourite Tracks: Burning Bridges, Hole in the Roof, Blue Escape, The Flow.

Artist: The Drones
Album: I See Seaweed
Label: Independent

Australian music doesn't possess another polemicist like Gareth Liddiard and as things stand, it probably never will. I firmly believe he'll go down in history to be as successful as Nick Cave and with The Drones' fifth LP, I See Seaweed, this does nothing to quell such notions of the lofty heights this band, and Liddiard himself, can reach. ...Seaweed is a damning admission to the world's current issues, politically ('The Grey Leader') and environmentally (the title track). The manic musicianship all Drones devotees have grown to love is at its monolithic finest, while Liddiard's song writing continues to grow into a force that very few can match. The evidence all lies in the closing track, 'Why Write A Letter You'll Never Send'. A track that will go down in Australian music history as one of the finest to ever have been produced on our shores.

Favourite Tracks: I See Seaweed, A Moat You Can Stand In, Why Write A Letter You'll Never Send.

Artist: Kurt Vile
Album: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Label: Matador Records

I've always been in the camp of reluctance when it comes to Kurt Vile. I knew he was special but his albums always seemed to lack the killer blow. Wakin on a Pretty Daze has thankfully failed to meet my prior concerns, with Vile cobbling together his greatest and most complete work yet. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a better Sunday afternoon record. 'Girl Called Alex' feels like a song Vile was always capable of writing yet always seemed to fall short of the mark. The vibe of this great track spreads throughout this opus making it a great listen from start to finish with very little fat to trim. A fantastic achievement from one of the world's finest new crop of song-smiths and one that will be hard to match when Vile decides to release his next record.

Favourite Tracks: Wakin on a Pretty Day, Girl Called Alex, Too Hard, Gold Tone.

Artist: The National
Album: Trouble Will Find Me
Label: 4AD

The National continue aiming up to their lofty standards with Trouble Will Find Me. High Violet had something missing for me, and Boxer appeared quite patchy despite the two releases catapulting the band into a different stratosphere from humble beginnings to mass audience. Trouble Will Find Me is The National’s best album since the stunning Alligator and with time may even better it, in my opinion. Frontman, Matt Berninger’s lyrical themes continue a misery-laden journey for us pick apart at the seams and determine whether he’s taking the piss or really needs help: or, in fact, both. It’s an intricately devised album that also renders stimulating undercurrents of plucky guitars and shimmering drums, which provide the perfect foil for Berninger to do his thing.

Favourite Tracks: Demons, Sea of Love, Graceless, Humiliation.

Artist: Julianna Barwick
Album: Nepenthe
Label: Dead Oceans

The music Julianna Barwick creates is otherworldly. It transcends, taking you to a place where you don’t often venture. Following on from her brilliant, The Magic Place, Nepenthe continues her hauntingly beautiful collages of sound. Recorded in Iceland, Nepenthe feels very much like an 'Icelandic' album. You can just feel the music pulling you through the cold icy streets of Reykjavik. It’s an album that fills in the blanks of Sigur Ros’ () despite that particular opus leaving very few gaps to fill. People may say that this is a problem with Nepenthe (SRs' Jonsi also features throughout Nepenthe) and how it may rub a little too close, however I take the stance of embracing such a notion. The world can afford something this good sitting in close proximity to (). Nepenthe is an unearthly journey and should be welcomed into a world that consistently fails to produce, indeed, journeys of the unearthly variety.

Favourite Tracks: Offing, Look Into Your Own Mind, Pyrrhic, Crystal Lake.

Artist: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Album: Push the Sky Away
Label: Bad Seeds Ltd.

On the back of their looser frolics with Grinderman, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds return with perhaps their most telling work since The Boatman’s Call in Push the Sky Away. Its predecessor, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, had the fabric of Cave’s Grinderman project etched throughout, however Push the Sky Away abandons any notion of balls to the wall rock and instead represents the poetic darkness we’re used to hearing in band's ‘90s works; most notably, The Good Son. It’s a weighty affair, is PTSA. ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ and the title track could easily stand on a best of collection. It will be intriguing to see where Nick and the Bad Seeds go to next. This almost seems like a bridge toward something bolder and more grandiose, kind of similar to the effect of Nocturama and Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus.

Favourite Tracks: Wild Lovely Eyes, Jubilee Street, Higgs Boson Blues, Push the Sky Away.

Artist: Jesu
Album: Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came
Label: Avalanche Recordings

Justin Broadrick’s latest Jesu opus isn’t as instant as previous releases. In fact, Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came is almost a reflection album of sorts. Broadrick has experienced some major life changes; becoming a father for the first time being the major one, and this album seems to points toward these changes. As a ‘songwriters’ album, this is as close as you’ll find in the wide array of Justin Broadrick’s discography. ‘Homesick’ sees Broadrick’s vocals at their finest point throughout his long career. Toward the end of lynch pin track, ‘The Great Leveller’, again, Justin hasn’t sounded so stronger in terms of his vocal delivery. EDIGCTTLFWIC is the most exiled Jesu release, trading punishing low end chord assaults for something that could be described as emo drone. As strange as that sounds, it feels like a great transition for now.

Favourite Tracks: Homesick, Every Day I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came, The Great Leveller.

Artist: The Men
Album: New Moon
Label: Sacred Bones Records

I still can't fathom why The Men's New Moon received the downers it has this year. Sure, it's a departure from last year's breakthrough opus, Open You Heart, but that's the whole point about music, right? Continuing to break your own boundaries? I guess you can't please everybody. New Moon is a barn rock wig out from front to back. Definitely vibes of The Band ring throughout this epic jaunt not to mention head nods to the likes of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jnr. 'I Saw Her Face' could quite possibly be the best track the band's penned to date while the track itself is accompanied by 11 other gems that aren't too far from its excellence. In a year that people have spruiked about Parquet Courts, I got to say this. The Men own this territory right now. Personally, I couldn't have hoped for more with New Moon.

Favourite Tracks: Open the Door, Without a Face, I Saw Her Face, Supermoon.

Artist: The Flaming Lips
Album: The Terror
Label: Warner Bros./Bella Union

Just when you thought Wayne Coyne, Steve Drozd and the gang were getting so weird that they were sliding into a world of non-pertinence, they only go and release the  cathartic brilliance that is The Terror. This is the type of album The Flaming Lips won't write again. It's deep and very personal, and something akin to Beck's Sea Change. You can feel the pain throughout 'Try to Explain' and the title track; both head and shoulders above the remaining tracks on this affair. The Pink Floyd influence is prevalent throughout, however regardless of that, for band to create something like The Terror after their recent track record into the new weird world of uncertainty is something almost unprecedented in modern music and perhaps, in the band's history.

Favourite Tracks: Look...The Sun is Rising, Try to Explain, The Terror.

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Album: Hesitation Marks
Label: Columbia

After shelving this project for the past six years, Trent Reznor has resurrected Nine Inch Nails in the finest fashion possible. Dabbling in the world of soundtracks – not to mention his other side project with his wife and OST. collaborator, Atticus Ross, How To Destroy Angels - has broadened the scope of the Nine Inch Nails pantheon. Hesitation Marks is a collage of ideas. ‘Copy of A’ is something akin to twenty first century homage to Kraftwerk. Album highlight, ‘Came Back Haunted’, rumbles with minimalist industrial-scapes and could arguably be touted as one of the most user friendly songs Reznor has produced. 'Everything' portrays shoegaze rock that you could imagine to be ear-splitting in the live arena. ‘Running’ feels like listening to something Vladislav Delay would create. It’s a melting pot of music ideology and something you feel Reznor has been working up to. It’s had its naysayers, but for me Hesitation Marks is a timely return for someone who tackles music and the convoluted industry from a vastly different angle than most, and doing it with aplomb.

Favourite Tracks: Came Back Haunted, Find My Way, Various Methods of Escape, Running.

Artist: Deafheaven
Album: Sunbather
Label: Deathwish

When I first listened to Deafheavan’s Sunbather I didn’t dig it. Not because of the reasons most may find nauseating with this album. I actually thought it was a bit of a slap in the face to the likes of other Black Metal/shoegazers pioneers such as Wolves in the Throne; like Deafheaven were riding in on their coattails. After further investigation, though, it appears I was acting the precious fuckwit and will happily hold my hand up in shame. In short, this is art. From the artwork, up until the first two minutes of sensational opener, ‘Dream House’ right through to the monumental closer in ‘The Pecan Tree’. The musical pattern shifts throughout Sunbather are something extremely rare in music circa 2013. It’s actually a band cobbling together as many ideas as humanly possible. Very rarely do the same chord/riff sequence return once presented. The last time such an important record with similar sentiments reached our ears was The Icarus Line’s Mono. There’s so much for all and sundry in these seven tracks. Even if you don’t like frontman George Clarke’s voice, the music is enough for someone to engage in the colossal framework that is Sunbather. Personally, I like George’s vocal pipes.

Favourite Tracks: Dream House, Sunbather, The Pecan Tree.

Artist: Polvo
Album: Siberia
Label: Merge Records

For me, there are not too many better guitar bands that have walked the earth in the last 25 years than Polvo. Yes, you read correct. Ash Bowie and David Brylawski took tandem guitar shredding to a whole new level, basically bastardising any notion George Harrison used to have of Ravi Shankar all those moons ago. Chapel Hill's much lauded quartet returned in 2009 after a 12 year hiatus with the mesmerising In Prism. Siberia certainly continues the brilliance. In some respects, Siberia is somewhat of a sister album, if you will. Polvo has always had a tendency to blow its audience to smithereens from the get go and with 'Total Immersion' things are no different. The guitar interplay completely frazzles your mind, as the low end bass sounds like something Bob Weston would muster. 'Water Wheel' and the pop infused 'Some Songs' are few of the many highlights Polvo manage to conjure with Siberia. One of the most criminally underrated acts of our time, Polvo create music that appears simple on the surface. However, when you scratch that surface, there's a dark beauty that fucks your mind and gives you hours and hours of listening pleasure. It's their shtick and in fact a unique art form that they've perfected since their inception.

Favourite Tracks: Total Immersion, Water Wheel, Old Maps, Some Songs.


Artist: Bill Ryder-Jones
Album: A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart
Label: Domino

I’m more than partial to a song-smith. Sure, today’s climate is clogged full of guys and girls hitting the lonesome road with acoustic in hand, but when it’s done right it can’t be argued that the results are enriching. Former Coral guitarist, Bill Ryder-Jones, has produced an album full of gorgeous Northern ditties and falls under the above notion. A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart penetrates every nook and cranny in your listening space, filling it with splendor. It holds a sparse sound, which captures the perfect essence of how a song-smith should ply his trade. Subtle guitar tweaks at the right moments intertwine around the dry humored anecdotes Jones delivers throughout this 11 track journey. No doubt criminally overlooked in the present, I feel that this very album could be one of the lost gems 20 years from now: that’s how strong it is. The last two tracks are stunning and indeed some of the best singer-songwriter material I’ve held an ear to since Elliot Smith was around and monopolizing the singer-songwriters’ union. Reveling in bleakness, ABWBIMH is flawless and one of the best albums to come out of Merseyside in years.

Favourite Tracks: Hanging Song, By Morning, He Took You In His Arms, A Wind Blows In My Heart Part 2.

Artist: Jon Hopkins
Album: Immunity
Label: Domino

Ambient, abstract, glitch, house; Jon Hopkins has pieced together a collage of immersive textural splendour with Immunity. There’s no doubt the influence of his mentor, Brian Eno, shines through; however the beauty and sophistication this album captures is all Hopkins’ own making. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful, dehumanizing journeys you’ll stumble across all year and for me personally, is one of the most stunning I’ve ever experienced in electronic music. It evokes many emotions; from penetrating - ‘Open Eye Signal’ - to sombre - ‘Abandon Window’- to downright enchanting -‘Immunity’. Electronic music has experienced many highlights this year; I believe the peerless aural gold that is Immunity is the without doubt the genre’s highest point.

Favourite Tracks: Open Eye Signal, Collider, Abandon Window, Immunity.

Artist: Pissed Jeans
Album: Honeys
Label: Sub Pop

Waxing revulsion to stickmen families plastered on the back of cars, not to mention giving the two finger salute to systematic health plans, Pissed Jeans has created their finest work yet with Honeys. The raw, ruthless, bludgeoning essence Pissed Jeans' fourth album conveys holds them at the apex of all things musical and all things aggressive. Frontman, Matt Korvette, reaps good mileage out of the commonplace meanderings of day to day life and transforms it into an visceral art form. Pissed Jeans has been consistently great throughout their last three albums but with Honeys, they’ve reached a whole new level and not in some chic scenster bullshit sort of way. Pissed Jeans possess something that is seemingly rarer as each day passes; soul. It hits like the first beer the bearded chain-smoking blue collar worker sinks after enduring a day of carting scrap metal or the like. Ironically, Pissed Jeans has probably already written about that very dude. Honeys is a flawless piece of work and with that my album of the year. Thank you, Pissed Jeans.

Favourite Tracks: Bathroom Laughter, Chain Worker, Cafeteria Food, Romanticise Me, Male Gaze, Health Plan.

By Simon K.