Toward the end of last year I was tweeting excitedly about how many great albums 2013 had given and what a wonderfully hard time I was having putting them into any kind of ‘Best of…’ list.
As well as the usual discussions about what was in and out on individual’s respective lists there was also a few comments along the lines of ‘I don’t listen to enough music these days, recommend me something a bit <insert preferred genre here>’.
So, partly to help jog my memory when it comes to compiling the 2014 end of year list but also to maybe to help a few people discover something new I thought I would start compiling a blog post at the end of each month about what I’ve been listening to.
This then is my Month in Music for January 2014.
January was a bit of an odd one for me on the music writing front. Always packed full of releases I’ve managed far more writing in one month than I did in the last quarter of 2013. And they’ve all been amazing with nothing hitting lower than an 8/10.
On top of this I was honoured that Deja Vega asked me to give first listen to their early demos on Louder Than War and John Wills from Loop asked me to break the news of him leaving the band for other projects.
My recommendations and reviews for this month are:
Ed Harcourt – Time of Dust (mini album)
Mini album. EP. Whatever. This new release from Ed Harcourt was a delicious dark release to start 2014.
I said: “Time of Dust is mature songwriting of the very best – a skilful structure of light and dark, melodic and lyrical surprises to confound and delight. It’s filled with his trademark dusky melancholia and the wonderfully building orchestration just adds to the potency of his take on pop. But there is also the simplicity of lyric, the human condition laid bare; an articulation of love and life gleaming and breathtakingly sharp.”
Read my review on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/ed-harcourt-time-of-dust-album-review/
Patterns – Waking Lines (album)
There’s a lot of this nu-gaze / psych / dream pop stuff around at the moment and I slowly fell in love with this debut from Manchester band Patterns.
I said: “Waking Lines is blinding spots of light diffused by mist; an album that soaks you through to the bone. The longer you stand and let it wash over you, the more a part of you it becomes. An accomplished debut, if a little repetitive in parts, this remains a beautiful soft dream from a band with much ambition.”
Read my review on Louder Than War at http://louderthanwar.com/patterns-waking-lines-album-review/
Hospitality – Trouble (album)
There was one line from this album that got stuck in my head, through dreams, for most of January. Great dreamy pop from Brooklyn band.
I said: “As a sophomore album Trouble is a richer collection of songs, from a band still evolving their sound. It’s a great mix of post-punk space and expansive prog rock with a garage pop edge. There’s certainly something special here, catchy but gentle. An need embedded in your brain, returning to you in dreams, that mean you waking self will crave the sounds; an album that keeps you coming back for more.”
Read my review on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/hospitality-trouble-album-review/
Blank Realm – Grassed Inn (album)
Still in love with the sound of the Australian underground.
I said: “This is the experimental end of the wonky pop spectrum but by god it sounds great. You get a real sense on this record that this is a band that asks ‘what noise can we make with that?’ more often than not. The answer, of course, being ‘a bloody great one’.”
Read my review on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/blank-realm-grassed-inn-album-review/
Gold Codes (single)
Gold Codes are a great new band emerging from the Derby scene. With a few live dates under their belt they’ve made their first single Feverfew available for download here – http://goldcodes.bandcamp.com/
I love Prizefighter, a brilliant anti-folk band from Derby. The first time I heard Museum Island live I cried – the mark of great songwriting and emotionally-heavy performance. They’ve now released their first EP, Songs of Love and Death, available here – https://prizefighteruk.bandcamp.com/.
Mint Royale – Ring (single)
Great new track from Mint Royale featuring none other than Willem Dafoe. A great song to kick off the new year with. Listen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C91XWV8XMk8
Mode Modern – Occult Delight (album)
Reviewed on Louder Than War by Rob McNamara I’ve also been listening to this a lot.
He said: “This album will speak to forlorn youth but will also reawaken the outsider in the older listener and repatriate them to their awkward teenage years – before revealing how gloriously underrated it all was. Mode Moderne aren’t a revival act, there influences are clear, but what is old becomes new when it lies dormant for so long. They’ve dug up a body of work and utilised it for their own means. The results are as fresh as you’ll find in guitar music.” You can read his review in full on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/mode-moderne-occult-delight-album-review/
Wax Fang – The Astronaut (album)
I’ve also been reading a lot of dystopian fiction this month. It’s one of my favourite genres so I started 2014 with a read I’d been repeatedly recommended by a former colleague but not got round to, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood.
I then read the Wool trilogy by Hugh Howey before falling into a binge on young adult fiction with The Mortal Instrument series (Cassandra Clare) and Divergent trilogy (Veronica Roth). Finishing this last one fairly late last night had me sobbing over my Kindle as Wax Fang’s space rock opera in three parts poured from the stereo.
It’s a shame that I’ve not had time to write about the Astronaut album but it’s definitely worth your time to listen to. And if you decide to go down the Divergent route then steel yourself, hearts that fall in love are so easily broken even if the characters you’re involved with are fictional.
Peggy Sue – Choir of Echoes (album)
A great album celebrating voice and melody that falls somewhere between indiepop, doowop and folk.
I said: “Choir of Echoes is an album of love, sweetly sung and mixing the best melodies of folk, indie and choral pop. An album to shine a summer’s light into the depths of winter; a gorgeous lush offering from a band growing better by the album.”
Read my review on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/peggy-sue-choir-of-echoes-album-review/
Deja Vega – Untitled New Song (demo)
Deja Vega used to be Deadbeat Echoes. They were great. So great, John Robb released their debut single on the Louder Than War imprint. In this new format they’re just starting to release early demos and they might be even mightier this time round.
A bit more about them and a great demo track on Louder Than War here – http://louderthanwar.com/first-listen-deja-vega-unveil-new-track-on-louder-than-war/
Other people have been raving about Mogwai and East India Youth but I haven’t had a chance to listen to those releases yet. What have you been listening to?
I’m already deep into February releases from Keel Her, Hatcham Social, Vulkano, Coil remixes of Nine Inch Nails, Mark Morris and Lakefield. More on those next month I guess!
You can read my reviews, interviews and features over on Louder Than War or leave me a comment / send me a tweet and let’s talk about music (or dystopian fiction, I don’t mind).