Albums of the Year 2017

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Dave’s Albums of The Year 2017

There’s never going to be enough time to discover and listen to all the wonderful music that already exists. And then people keep making more of it. What can you do?

Well I reckon that you can listen to all the music you can, as much as you can, whenever you can. The number of people my age (clue: not that young) who tell me that there just isn’t any good music around these days is depressing. There’s loads, there’s never been more, it’s everywhere and it’s dead easy to find. The golden age of music? You’re bloody living in it! Whatever kind of music you like there’s thousands of people out there making it right now and all you need to do is have a quick search on your computer to find it.

So, before I get into a rant about how I had to tape stuff off of John Peel back in the day I’ll just roll out the best albums I discovered this year. I loved all of this, I hope there’s some stuff you like here too, that’s why I do this.

Numbered lists get a bit silly when you’re deciding on the relative merits of totally different types of music (and, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered ranking everything) so what we have here is a top ten of what I thought was absolutely knock-yer-socks off brilliant this year and another 70 or so records that were just extremely marvellous.

Feedback’s great so you’re welcome to mail me at with any suggestions, comments, whatever.

Here we go.


1) The Heliocentrics – A World of Masks

I might have to go on a bit here. See, this record absolutely blew me away. I’ve never really heard anything quite like it. I guess if you took the swooning, sultry delights of the track “Sly” from Massive Attack’s Protection and just went off and imagined a whole world based on it you’d have a start at getting the feel of this brilliant album.

You know when every track flows on and it seems like the only possible music you could listen to between the track before and the track after – this is like that. This is all about mystery and secrecy and you never quite know what’s going on.

Heliocentrics have made great music before but never anything as engrossing and all-encompassing as this. The Slovakian singer Barbora Patkova is a marvellous choice, her strong yet plaintive style is just perfect for the strange world conjured up with such brilliance by this album.

So there you go, album of the year*

* Full disclosure: it’s Jazz. Moral of the story is never say never!


2) Run The Jewels – RTJ3

El-P and Killer Mike started Run The Jewels for a laugh (check out their Meow the Jewels) and then realised that they worked amazingly well together. By their third album they sound completely seamless, riffing off one another’s lines in a dizzying flow of furious wordcraft. The beats are ironclad as you’d expect from El-P’s production wizardry and Zac De La Rocha puts in a great guest appearance. This is a fierce and angry call to action and a proper sign of the times.

Download here for free –


3) Ulrika Spacek – Modern English Decoration

Something of a sleeper this one in that you play it and it sounds good but then it reveals it’s excellence on repeat listens. It isn’t wildly innovative slotting firmly into independent English guitar rock, but it is very good indeed.

4) Vanishing Twin – Choose Your Own Adventure

More mystery. Vanishing Twin are named after the syndrome of the same name where one twin is absorbed by the other during their development in the womb. A strange syndrome that has produced the inspiration for some beautiful and strange music. There’s gorgeous vocals from singer Cathy Lucas and her own vanished twin provides the subject matter of the album. Every track seems to be plucked from a different musical style but all of it meshes together into… loveliness.

5) Venn – Runes

The debut album by Manchester’s Venn is deeply rooted in 80’s era electronic independent music. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound absolutely contemporary, it does. There’s more groove and funk underpinning their sound than with their obvious Manchester antecedents and catchy tunes propel themselves forward with compulsion and furious energy. They’ll go far this lot.


6) James Holden and the Spirit Animals – The Animal Spirits

This is one of those moments when an artist you like just nails it and you can tell they’ve finally achieved what they have been working towards. Electronic musician James Holden has previously experimented with producing a synthesis of tribal, natural music and rhythm and his vintage swirling electronic sounds. Here he gets a bunch of virtuoso musicians together in a room with him and lets everyone go wild. It is totally exhilarating stuff and not much like anything else you’ll hear anywhere. Wonderful.


7) Jane Weaver – Modern Cosmology

Jane Weaver found her sound with last year’s excellent The Silver Globe. She kept the folkiness of previous releases but turned up the dial a bit and brought in some psych rock mystery and a welter of fine tunes. And, she’s done it again. Not much messing with that formula since it reallt didn’t need to be messed with. This is just a great album.

8) The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Don’t Get Lost

Anton Newcombe’s late-era purple patch continues with this terrific album. The reworking, with Tess Parks on vocals, of “Dropping Bombs on the Sun”  from one of his earlier albums is the best track I heard this year, blissed out and beautiful.


9) Julie’s Haircut – Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin

There’s so much great music out there that you just can’t hope to know about all the stuff that’s around. The plus side of that is that every so often you discover a brilliant band who have been around for years and have a huge, varied and wonderful history of releases. Enter Italy’s Julie’s Haircut. Starting in the late 90’s with a kind of new wave sound a gradually morphing into a more exploratory and experimental sound. By now they’re at the very top of their game and this is a rewarding album of adventurous psychedelic music.

10) Moonlandingz- Interplanetary Class Classics

This err, “supergroup” is comprised of members of Fat White Family and the Eccentronic Research Council. The band was originally designed as a concept act for the Eccentronic Research Council’s fifth album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist and Music Machine…I’m Your Biggest Fan. But the band continued to play and tour together and this album was eventually made, I guess, because they realised how absolutely fabulous they sound. The music is a kind of gutter rockabilly with some deeply silly and seedy lyrics andeveryone hamming it up bigtime. But it works incredibly well. You won’t here a funner or more catchy album this year.


…and, in alphabetical order (mainly so I don’t put anything in twice) here’s loads more for you.


Adult – Detroit House Guests

Moody, chanty electronic mantras. Genuinely eerie and spooky.



All Them Witches – Sleeping Through The War

All Them Witches cherry-pick the best bits from a number of different musical genres. There’s a bit of blues rock, a bit of stoner rock, even traces of meandering Grateful Deadery. Sounds weird but they’ve crafted a distinctive sound for themselves and this album swaggers with confidence and, more importantly, with excellent tunes.


Balmorhea – Clear Language

Classical Americana? Something like that I suppose. Over the course of their career Balmorhea have become gradually more confident in their ability to achieve more with less and so this istrumental album is elegant and restrained but still stirring.

Ben Frost – The Center Cannot Hold

You’ll need some decent bass speakers for this. That’s the first thing you realise about 5 seconds into “Theshold of Faith” when the first sonic depth charge implodes. This is probably Frost’s most brutal work since “By The Throat”. It’s an uncomfortable, edgy and extremely rewarding electronic album. A Steve Albini production.

Big:Brave – Ardor

Primal, almost primitive music spread over three lengthy tracks. These Canadians lay the raw, emotive and quite unique vocals of Robin Wattie over skeletal extended guitar wails and thudding drums. Hypnotic and compelling.


Brainwaltzera – Aescoba EP / Outdives EP

This is a delightful revisit to early 80’s acid house sounds that are used to create gentle ear fillers rather than belting floor fillers. The tunes are excellent and you’ll have it on repeat before you know it.


The Bug and Earth – Concrete Desert

A mighty mighty collaboration. Dylan Carson’s glacial guitar drones were just made for the rugged programmed soundscapes of The Bug. This huge album is packed with brutal evocations of industrial growrth and decay. It’s ferocious and overwhelming and totally absorbing.


Causa Sui – Vibraciones Doradas

Musical virtuosity and adventurous compositions are the keystones of this Danish psych outfit.



Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – Dreaming in the Non-Dream

Chris Forsyth is an accomplished guitarist whose work evokes 70’s radio and long freeway drives, tumbleweeds and all of that.


Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

What a dreadful, dreadful, band name. So bad you could be forgiven for not even bothering to listen, as I nearly did. After all, if you name your band that then you can’t have any taste in music, or can you? Actually, yes, as it turns out.
This is an album of simple and pretty lovelorn songs in the vein of Galaxie 500. And it’s done extremely well indeed.


Circuit Des Yeux – Reaching for Indigo

Hayley Fohr has a simply amazing voice which she can employ across loads of octaves in loads of registers from a whisper to an almighty howl. She can also compose some of the most complex arrangements and subtle to brutal shifts that you can imagine. On this album she exercises restraint to wonderful effect and the whole album gradually invites you into her wonderful and frightening world.


Circle – Terminal

You just can’t dislike these Finnish lunatics. They dress like crazy glam rockers. They’ve made about a million albums – at least one of which was by another band that they leased their name out to for a laugh. Clearly they have a refreshing lack of self-importance.
But, perhaps surprisingly, their music is very good indeed. This is a belter of a psych-rock album with more than a hint of the progressive rock leanings of European innovators like Goblin. You’ll love ’em.

The Clientele – Music For The Age of Miracles

The Clientele are finally getting the recognition their meticulously-crafted music deserves. This is wistful and erudite pop perfection.


Cloakroom – Time Well
Lots of shoegaze around this year. Stupidest genre name ever? This is a good example though. Crunchy off-key guitars, murky bass, whispery vocals and very good songs.


Colin Stetson – All This I do For Glory

Colin Stetson is the Conan the Barbarian of the saxaphone. Not for him your smooth and sexy Baker Street style solos. He wrestles notes out of his sax like he’s trying to fell a bear. He has this continuous breathing thing going on and he makes his own percussion by slapping, wailing and wringing every bit of sound out of the thing. At least part of the appeal is in knowing that all the sounds on here were created by one person and one instrument without any fancy stuff but the musical compositions themselves rise above this and reward repeated listens as all kinds of subtelties emerge. If you like this then check out his Ex Eye collaboration also released this year – tougher than tough .

The Cosmic Dead – Psych is Dead

Scotland’s Cosmic Dead are consummate psych-jam wizards and this is a fine example of just that.
They don’t really think psych is dead, they’re just messing with ya.

Dalek – Endangered Phiosophies

OK I’ll admit that Dalek are too clever for me. Those umlauts above the “A” mean that their name is pronounced “Dialek”. Clever eh? Not surprising really since their rhyming flow has a linguistic complexity that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. And the words flow over a murky wreckage of broken beats and industrial noise. So if you’re looking for mainstream hip-hop you’ll  be disappointed but if you want thoughtful, compelling wordsmithery then give ’em a whirl.



Dead Sea Apes – Sixth Side of The Pentagon

It’s great when bands ignore genre conventions and just make what the hell kind of music they want. This is, I suppose, a deep dub reggae album made by these Mancunian psychedelic explorers.

Do Make Say Think – Stubborn Persistent Illusions

Perhaps, like me, you feel your spirit to live being eroded by the standard “Post Rock” album. There’s just so much of it around and so little of it is different from anything else. All that grandiose, po-faced, quiet, loud stuff sucks the marrow from my bones. Which is why I found this album so refreshing. The music is fun, fresh and not at all formulaic. It’s like a bunch of good musicians got together and jammed out some music, saw where it was going and turned it all into some really rewarding songs.

Ecstatic Vision – Raw Rock Fury

I think Ecstatic Vision are extremely keen to impress on you that they are rock musicians and that this is a rock album. Thankfully they are quite right. They are, and it is. And  a very good one at that. It’s all overdriven 70’s style hard psychedelic rock that grabs you and shakes you around a bit.

Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

Well, well; another great band discovery of the year. Elder started out as a fairly standard stoner/doom band but I think after a while they realised that they were really, really good at playing the guitar and making epic sprawling rock songs. That’s what’s on here. I mean, it’s almost prog rock but doesn’t go off on one into little interlude bits that annoy the piss out of you. A ten minute Elder song is all killer and no filler and features a dizzying array of compelling guitar riffs and styles that all mesh in seamlessly. If you love guitar rock I urge you to give this a go.

Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard

Doom behemoths Electric Wizard don’t break the Sabbath formula much on this one. I thank that’s their point actually. Where, in the past, they have taken the form to all kinds of wild and gory extremes here they grind out six (relatively) concise doom dirges strung around slow hypnotic riffs. Isn’t it about time to give them MBE’s?


Forest Swords – Compassion

A welcome return to the strange off-kilter programmed world of Forest Swords. Hushed and lovely,  mournful and orchestral – this doesn’t sound like anything else but itself.

Four Tet – New Energy

Anything new by Kieran Hebden is a major event. You never know what the ever-shifting electronic maestro will come up with next.  This isn’t his most experimental work but it’s still pretty fine.

Gary Newman – Savage (Songs From a Broken World)

In the video old Gary appears to be losing a battle with a flock of backpacker’s money belts, or is it back support braces? in the Sahara!
But he’s a rugged veteran and I’m sure he got his face free in the end.

This album, the third in his celebrated career resurgence, is very good. The sound, pleasingly, continues in the industrial electronic style of the last two and there’s some good tunes on here.


Gnoomes – Tschak!

Russia’s Gnoomes deserve a big hug for gracing us with this delightful and inventive album. It’s too effervescent to stick a badge or label on other than to say that it’s a thoroughly modern and hugely varied album that you should listen to right now.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

Godspeed.. are producing new stuff at a dizzying rate by their previous standards. Given the state of the world then I’m sure they feel that they need to. What is interesting is that this is their most optimistic and generous album ever. I read at Norman Records and then couldn’t get out of my head that album centre “Bosses Hang” sounds like a post rock version of “With a little help from my friends”. It does, in a marvellously good way. They should make an album a year for ever, or until the end of the world, whichever comes first.

Goldfrapp – Silver Eye

Goldfrapp are always up for trying new sounds out and I’ve lots of time for experimentation and not resting on your laurels. Having said that it was very nice to hear that on this album they’ve gone back to the electro-funk-pop sound they do so very well. It goes without saying that they slot back into it perfectly and there are some belters on here.


Here Lies Man – Here Lies Man

This is a chunky and distinctive album by a band who base their sound on 70’s Afro-funk with a healthy stir of psych.


Hey Colossus – The Guillotine

Noise-rock stalwarts Hey Colossus continue to invade post-punk territory with this splendid spiky little beast of an album. England’s finest band at the moment? I reckon so. The best commentary on Brexit you’ll ever hear is “Englishman”.

The Horrors – V

I have a soft spot for The Horrors. Sure, they take themselves a bit seriously and that but they make jolly 80’s infuenced gothy stuff that’s very easy on the ear.



Hotel Wrecking City Traders – Passage to Agartha

Terrific name for a band. Melbourne’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders are almost certainly not city traders, since this is a driving album of propulsive psych jams played to perfection.


Husker Du – Savage Young Du

If you’re unfortunate enough to have never encountered the mighty Husker Du then maybe don’t start here, check out their later stuff from New Day Rising onwards. But if, like me, you recognise them as the primary source of The Pixies and Grunge and a whole slew of subsequent alternative music driven by melody and great songs then this huge anthology of unreleased early material is a real treasure trove. Conventional wisdom has it that they started out with just hardcore noise and then gradually discovered songcraft. This album proves, with little gems scattered throughout, that Bob Mould and the recently departed, much lamented genius, Grant Hart, were brilliant songsmiths from the word go.



Ibibio Sound Machine – Uyai

Splendid poppy African band, release another excellent album.


John Richardson – The Fold

This is a strangely beguiling piece of work from this Swedish singer/songwriter. On first play it doesn’t seem like there’s much to it, but the songs are pretty special and it’s a real grower.


Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Simultonality

Ooh this is lovely. A bit of Jazz, a bit of kosmiche and a bit of Nyman/Gass all melded together to wonderful effect.


Juana Molina – Halo

How can I have missed out on Argentina’s Juana Molina for over two decades!? She makes wonderful off kilter pop music.


JuJu – Our Mother Was A Plant

Intense instrumental Italian psych rock based around an urgent rhythmic core.


Menace Beach – Lemon Memory

Brash shouty alt-pop from Leeds. This is even more in-your-face than their first album. They have a very distinctive sound and they’re willing to try new stuff. Fresh and vital.


The Myrrors – Hasta La Victoria

Repetition, repetition, repetition. The Myrrors want to lull you into a strange state with their intense cycling music.  Let them in.



The National – Sleep Well Beast

Professional sadsacks the National are the world heavyweight champions of poignant songs of the loves and losses of everyday man. On this album they introduce electronic instrumentation for the first time and… don’t really sound different at all. You know what you’re getting, it’s sad, but it’s good for you. Now take the medicine.



LCD Sound System – American Dream

He wasn’t going to make any more music. Then he did. And, almost inevitably, it’s excellent.



Les Amazones D’Afrique – Republique Amazon

A proper modern African album featuring the astonishing voices of a bunch of the best female singers on the continent. The Voodoo Ray referencing first track is great.



Lorde – Melodrama

No really, this is great. It’s easy to forget that chart-topping R&B influenced pop doesn’t have to be crap. Lorde is a sharp one and she’s produced something pretty special here.



PC Worship – Buried Wish

This New York mob make a messy and shambling Surfers and Pavement influenced racket.


Penguin Cafe – The Imperfect Sea

Penguin Cafe leader Arthur Jeffes carries on the peerless work of his father Arthur’s Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This is splendid modern classical music that focuses on elegance and accessibilty, expanding the form by popularisation rather than by wild experimentation. Lovely calming stuff.


Pigs Pigs PIgs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Feed The Rats

What a silly name! These Newcastle sludge monsters have spawned a dirty great mess of a raucous din. There are two huge, slow, messy dins with a four minute Sabbath doom reprieve called Sweet Relief in the middle. All in all it’s a right tasty sandwich.


Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Remember how much fun thrash metal used to be? Me too. Play this.


Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

I’ll be honest, I passed over this one the first time I heard about it. I mean, it’s a concept album about the decline and fall of the Welsh coal industry. But then I got round to listening to it and, it’s really good. Speeches, recordings and guest vocals are weaved together by some lovely tunes that suddenly get big on you. A bold premise carried off so well that even the presence of James Dean Bradfield can’t spoil it.


PWR BTTM – Pageant

Bright and shiny hook-laden dance pop.


The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

If you’ve read any of these reviews before you’ll have noticed that anything by New Pornographers gets on here. That’s because they have been consistently the best writers of hook laden pop gems for, I don’t know, decades. They have never, ever, made a bad album and they’ve managed to evolve whilst staying the same.



Pumarosa – The Witch

No year would be complete without a new indie-rock saviour bursting onto the scene all laden with hooks and hormones. So let’s welcome the excellent Pumarosa.



Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

QOTSA aren’t what they used to be. But then who is? The menace and swagger of their first couple of albums really isn’t something anyone could hope to keep up and survive.
In their current incarnation they make spare and precise, almost mainstream, rock music that happens to be very good.


The Radiation Flowers – Summer Loop

The poppy end of the shoegaze spectrum gets a good working over on this excellent album.

REZN – Let it Burn

Pop sludge stoner doom – if you need a category it has to be that I’m afraid. Female vocals really suit this style of music I reckon and the singer has a great voice. This stands out from the syrupy morass of other wannabe slow-coaches.

Sasquatch – Maneuvers

A straight up driving hard rock album. Think of Soundgarden, QOTSA, Audioslave. Nothing new here – just a great example of how great this stuff is when it’s done well.

Sherwood and Pitch – Man vs. Sofa

Adriane Sherwood has pursued a singular path through the murky margins of modern music seemingly forever. His wildly innovative and influential lable On U Sound created new musical genres like it weren’t no thing. This collaboration with Dubstep maestro Rob Ellis takes vast slabs of dub and runs them through all kinds of industrial transformations to produce a warped and novel futuristic throb.

The Shins – Heartworms

A welcome return from these pop gem craftsmen. Whilst this isn’t quite up there with Chutes Too Narrow there’s still some great tunes.


Shit and Shine – Total Shit

Off the wall, filthy, ultra-repetitive dance music tapping into a well of deep strangeness. And if this isn’t twisted enough for you then try this psychotic collaboration of theirs with King Coffey.


Slowdive – Slowdive

Newton’s fourth law states that every band will eventually reform, survival permitting. The latest is 90’s shoegazers Slowdive. You have to wonder what they’ve been doing in the meantime because this is a hugely accomplished return.

Soft Power – In a Brown Study

Calm, strange, Finnish avant jazz. This is an understated and unique album that slowly gets a grip on you.

Spectres – Condition

Spectres build a wall of noise like few others these days but you know there are some great songs lurking beneath the wailing wall of feedback.

St Vincent – Masseduction

Oof. This is a heady, sexy swirl of lust and power, confession and self-assertion. Annie Clarke comes over all Prince at times on this bold and often thrilling album. I haven’t been convinced by St. Vincent in the past but this is great stuff.


The Swan and the Lake – Clouds Over

This is ambient music that comes from boiling down house music until there’s almost nothing left but euphoria. It’s very sparse in terms of sound and every little bit of it has been placed with meticulous care. It’s calming, positive, lovely stuff.
This is music for the party after the party after the after party.


This is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze

Highly distinctive album from Bristol’s Kate Stables. Quirky folk-pop nuggets abound.



Throwing Snow – Embers

Super inventive leftfield dance music. Probably the best electronic album of the year.


Trans Am – California Hotel

Another band sounding fresh and inventive some 20 years into their career. Trans Am’s brand of instrumental music effortlessly grabs an emotional response. This one’s kind of sad and angry and with just eight tracks it gets in, does it’s thing and leaves.


Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Mogwai, Gustavo Santaolalla- Before The Flood

Trent Reznor’s electronic music thrives when it’s pared back from the seething boil of Nine Inch Nails to the level of restraint required of a Movie soundtrack. Mogwai also are becoming specialists in soundtracks, last year’s Atomic was excellent. This is the soundtrack to a documentary about global warming and does a great job of conveying the sadness and horror of our predicament.


Ufomammut – 8

Italy’s Ufomammut have cropped up on a few of these lists now with their blend of looming psych and blasting rock. On 8 (yes, you guessed, it’s their 8th album) there’s no filler just lots and lots of right meaty rock noise.


Widowspeak – Expect the Best

Folky, country torch songs. It would  be lazy and reductive to mention Mazzy Star – so I won’t.


Wire – Silver/Lead

Wire can do no wrong. This is extremely accomplished modern music and they continue to refine the paramaters of their current incarnation. I expect them to throw all that away and try something wildly new soon though.



Yagow – Yagow

Swirly downtuned shoegazy psych that’s catchy as hell. You know when you start playing an album whilst you’re still trying to decide what to play? It’s one of those ones.

So there you have it. If you enjoyed this do me a favour annd let me know about something I missed so I can give it a listen. Cheers!

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Albums of the Year 2016

Posted on by in Music Comments Off on Albums of the Year 2016

Albums of the Year 2016

Here we go again – the distillation of a year’s worth of listening to new music. And thankfully another year of excellent music.
It’s all listed in number order but to be honest putting anything in order is pretty arbitrary (and I got fed up with moving them around) – it’s all good – or at least I think so.
Hope you find something you like – if you do then please buy it and support the artists.

And do feel free to message me with any comments or listening suggestions 🙂

1- Oranssi Pazuzu – Varahtelija

Far as I’m concerned this lot are the most innovative and experimental metal band at the moment. Doomy, psychedlic, dark, scary and loud.
This is their best album yet and even if you don’t think you’ll like it you should give it a go, it just might creep up behind you.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.

2 – The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum

None of the critics seemed to think much of this. Stuff ’em, it’s brilliant. Five albums into their existence the Besnard Lakes know their craft instinctively. They make a kind of intricate and enveloping music that you can’t avoid throwing adjectives like shimmering and woozy and gorgeous at. Led by the falsetto vocals of Jace Lasek their songs never forget pop sensibilities but always seem to expand through all kinds of chord changes. Nothing more lovely has been released this year than the track “Necronomicon”.
More info at their label here.


3 – Death in Vegas – Transmission

He’s often worked with guest musicians but this time Richard Fearless uses only the vocals of artist and ex-porn star Sasha Grey for a seamy and seedy late night  tale. It’s got some club-friendly tracks like “Transmission” and then lots of bleary neon-stained slower stuff. Best thing he’s done in a very long time indeed.


4 – Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial

Just confirming what we already knew from last year’s “Teens of Style”. This kid is the business. This huge album is stuffed with wise and knowing songs about growing up and stuff. There’s so much in here that it grows and grows and kind of takes over.
Ric Ocasek of the Cars delayed the album’s release by threatening to sue after complaining about one track’s genius segue into “I don’t want you coming round”. I reckon he just knew this kid’s way more talented than he ever was.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

5 – Anohni – Hopelessness

If ever a year needed an album like this it was this one. There’s been really dreadful hate-filled stuff everywhere hasn’t there? Anohni thinks so too. This collection of tear-jerker ballads aren’t about love lost as they might sound on first listen but about drone bombing and environmental destruction and all the legion of other dreadful stuff going on that tear-jerkers really should be written about. Depressing and somehow redemptive.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

6 – Wire – Nocturnal Koreans

Every year that Wire release a record then it will be in here. It ain’t a charity it just seems impossible for them to do anything bad. This continues to explore the possibilities of their current direction of inventive and offbeat but relatively restrained and fiercely self-aware music.


7 – Desert Mountain Tribe – Either That or The Moon

This German-English psych-rock band should be headlining Glastonbury. You know when a band sounds perfect? The songs are great, the production is great, the singer’s great and everything is perfectly in place for this lot to be massive. There’s nothing too scary. I do hope they get the recognition they deserve, then I can whine about how they sold out in a couple of years.


8 – Josefin Ohrn & the Liberation – Mirage

OK so there’s a lot of Psych Rock in here. There’s two reasons for that. First  there’s a lot of it around at the moment. Secondly I like it. So there.

Sweden’s Josefin Ohrn and The Liberation brought out a promising, if uneven, debut last year. But they’ve nailed it on this one. Great songs, good experimentation with sound, and all the tracks are sequenced and play off each other extremely well. Bravo!
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


9 – Steve Mason – Meet The Humans

Steve Mason knows what he wants to sound like now. You won’t find the more maverick experiments of The Beta Band here, but underneath that were great songs. And there’s lot’s of them here.


10 – Prince Rama – Xtreme Now

Prince Rama are taking the piss. We know this by now. For their last album they created 10 different tracks as ten different  imaginary bands for “Top 10 Hits For The End of The World”. Prior to that they were making like members of some freakish cult. This time they go all out hi-energy, saccharine disco pop. You’ll be glad they did. Sweet.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


11 – Conrad Keely – Original Machines

This solo album from “…And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead’s” frontman has loads of brief songs and song-experiments. There’s some great stuff on here and the just ok stuff never hangs around long enough to weigh it down and stop it being en excellent and inventive collection.


12 – Pinegrove – Cardinal

A great new talent. There aren’t any new trails blazed but Pinegrove has the songs and the tunes to breath new life into his alt-indie-dountry-folky genre.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


13 – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

The last few years have seen a real resurgence in this old warhorse’s career and creative output. He’s remembered that urgent buzzing guitar pop is what he does best and this is at least as good as anything he did with Sugar. Carry on old lad.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


14 – Prins Thomas – Principe Del Norte

I love the sound perfected by Prins Tomas and his frequent collaborator Lindstrom. It’s a kind of lush, mechanised, robot house. No risks are taken really, it’s just smooth and, dare I say it, easy listening. But in a very good way.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


15 – Nonkeen – The Gamble & Fragments of The Gamble

The Nonkeen made a belter of an album in the gamble an dthen promptly released another album of fragments that was just as good.
Hard to describe what it is. It’s a kind of sub-dance electronic music made by super-talent Nils Frahm and his merry band.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


16 – Underworld – Barbara, Barbara, We Face a Shining Future

This represents a return to some degree of form. It’s the best thing that they’ve done since Darren Emerson left in 2000. Without his gift for making sounds that don’t work together fit they still lack a little something but there’s still some great moments on here.


17 – A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here…. Thank you for your Service

A terrific finale from one of the greatest ever hip-hop acts has all their trademarks and they still sound as fresh as a daisy. A delight.


18 – William Tyler – Modern Country

The best guitarist out there keeps up the good work with this fabulous collection of emotive instrumental Americana. We’re definitely in Texas, not far from Paris you know.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


19 – Solar Bears – Advancement

They must hate it but it’s very hard to describe Ireland’s Solar Bears with mentioning Boards of Canada. That isn’t to say that they are totally derivative but their brand of woozy electronica comes from the same sort of alternate world as the Boards. And this is the best thing they’ve done.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


20 – Helen Money – Become Zero

Helen Money is Alison Chesley. She’s a Cellist. She plugs it in and makes some lush and haunting music for a bit and then cranks it up and makes it sound like a comet hitting the earth. One of the finds of the year.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


21 – All Them Witches – Lightning at the Door

OK it’s a re-release of their 2013 album, but I missed it then and it’s great. All Them Witches play a loose bluesy style of rock that references early ZZ Top but gets a lot heavier and doomier than that.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


22 – Comet Control – Center of the Maze

Canada’s Comet Control make a lovely sort of heavy psychedelic stoner rock.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


23 – The Cult of Dom Keller – Goodbye to the Light

Nottingham’s Cult of Dom Keller make a dense kind of indie rock that sits somewhere between Joy Division and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Chewy, gnarly and quite addictive.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


24 – The Early Years – II

I never heard their first album 10 years ago but I’m glad they got off their arses and made another becuase this is an excellent album. Despite massive Krautrock influences this lot sound very English, very Mancunian in fact, even though they are from London. They remind me of bands like The Chameleons and Spacemen 3 and New FADs.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


25 – Wight – Love is not Only What You Know

Wow. This is different. Ragged, denim-clad, funk rock. It’s easy to forget that funk and rock are perfect partners. Garbage such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers might have put us off but this exuberant and dirty celebration of an album drags us back to the 70’s with a lopsided grin.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


26 – Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Oh god, he’s using autotune. Hang on, it’s alright, it makes him sound like Laurie Anderson. Poor lad Bon Iver cursed himself by making an all-time-classic heartbreak album. What do you do after that? Something crap it turned out. But that cleared the way for this and this very good indeed.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


27 – School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

Their last album had to be a sad affair following the death of Benjamin Curtis. It’s a fitting tribute though.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


28 – Let’s Eat Grandma – I Gemini

Splendidly weird and sinister debut from this teenage duo. Childish voices tell slightly wrong fairy-tale stories like a modern-day Sisters Grimm. Forgive them a couple of mis-steps because they’re trying stuff on here that’s never been done before. Good on ’em.


29 – Mitski – Puberty 2

Terrific mainstream Indie rock (is that a genre or a contradiction?)

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


30 – Kandodo/McBain – Lost Chants/Last Chance

There’s 10 tracks on this mammoth album/s. But it’s the same 5 tracks repeated. There are long “45” versions of them all and then massively long “33” versions of the same tracks. The music is splendid imellow instrumental psych. The musicians play off each other brilliantly and what initially sounds hugely self-indulgent turns out to be a a complete vindication and celebration of their vision and faith in their own abilities.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


31 – Mogwai – Atomic

Mogwai. Scottish post-rock heroes. Best track namers you can think of. Stadium fillers (in Scotland). Good band but not quite that amazing in my book but there you go. Their soundtrack stuff is fantastic however. Restrained and subtle but with clever stuff emerging every new time you play it this is a gem of a soundtrack.


32 – Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Burn the Witch is a an absolute belter of a tune. Inventive, original and brilliant it reminds you of what Radiohead are capable of when they remove their heads from their orifices. there’s some other very good stuff on here as well before the self-loathing inevitably seeps in.


33 – Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs

Blues-heavy mellow country with bells on. Sunday morning waking up music.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


34 – Subrosa – For This We Fought The Battle of the Ages

Sub Rosa describe their music as “Experimental sludge-doom” and that’s about right.
What really sets them apart from their peers is the use of two electronic violins to bring in an eerie folky wierdness to their sound.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


35 – True Widow – Avvolgere

Nothing happens fast in the world of True Widow. Their dense guitar rock moves slow and builds a fierce gravitational pull that eventually drags you in one way or another.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


36 – Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

At least old Leonard left us with this. Wry and knowing, always self-aware and self-depracating Cohen’s rumbling baritone contemplates his own demise and somehow makes us feel better about our own.


37 – Xaum Duo – Xam Duo

Two Hookworms bring out a splendid electronic mellow psych monster.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


38 – Stephen Steinbrink – Anagrams

FIND! Steinbrink is another of these album-a-year wunderkinds who seem to be falling out of the woodwork at the moment. Super songs, well played and sung. No messing. Think The Clientele or Real Estate. He’s that good.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


39 – Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

The lead singer has a cracking falsetto voice and this is a spledid album of catchy summery guitar pop. Guaranteed smiles.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp



Indulgent “live” album with major studio refit from ex black metallers turned spacey bit-of-everything noodlers. The letters are all the bleedin’ star signs FFS! Imagine my surprise then to find then that it’s actually really good.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


41 – Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity of Experience

Excellent instrumental rock that again harks back 30 or even 40 years but still manages to sound modern.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


42 – Adam Torres – Pearls to Swine

Gorgeous falsetto vocals, lovely songs. Hair on the back of your neck stuff.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


43 – Holy Grove – Holy Grove

This lot know that unapologetic old-school heavy metal is a great thing when done well and with conviction.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


44 – Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

Either something has happened to hip-hop or something’s happened to me. I just don’t hear much that I like. I suspect this means I just don’t know enough about where to find the good stuff. Oh well.
I like this a lot though. An astonishing vocabulary and a rare ability to rub  words together until they ignite are what raises Aesop Rock above the pack. Great beats too.
Listen/Buy at Bandcamp.


45- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Super-sad back story of the death of Cave’s son. An absolutely harrowing album that is still beautful. It’s a triumph of restraint and nothing is on here that doesn’t need to be. I’ve always preferred Cave at his hellfire and brimstone best but his rare ability with sucking the marrow and wringing real meaning from even the most mundane words and sounds can be compared to no modern artist.


46 – Aleksi Perala – The Colundi Sequence Level 16Lunacy.

The album isn’t – it’s a really nice mellow electronic album using a specially developed musical scale known as The Colundi Sequence. He’s churning out music at an alarming rate using this scale and it sounds terrific.
But it seems he’s actually started worshipping this scale. Now it’s a nice scale and all but that’s taking it a little far perhaps?

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


47 – Ulrika Spacek – The Album Paranoia

Murky guitar rock. There’s plenty of Joy Division in here but hang on…  there are some great tunes as well and this is a real grower of an album.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


48 – Whyte Horses – Pop or Not

Pop. Definitely.


49 – Beth Orton – Kidsticks

OK I’ll be honest. I’d forgotten all about Beth Orton. I loved Central Reservation but that was a long long time ago. This is a real return to form though. She plays around with a new electronic sound and the album was produced by Andrew Hung of the mighty Fuck Buttons. Exuberant.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


50 – Roly Porter – Third Law

Porter explores similar sonic territory to Ben Frost with this album that takes mechanical sounds and builds them into huge slabs of music.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


51 – Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Y Proffwyd Dwyll

A fine name for these mighty Welsh doomsters. Sticky as treacle, huge riffage, songs in Welsh.


52 – Flotus – Lambchop

Old dogs – new tricks. Alt-country verans Lambchop embrace electronics and it suits them just dandy.


53 – Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve – The Soft Bounce

A producer’s album. Romps through all kinds of electronic styles in an extremely jolly way.


54 – Loscil – Monument Builders

Much livelier in places than last year’s Sea Island. Sometimes pulsing and sometimes ambient.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


55 – Bolzer – Hero

Swiss black/death metallers Bolzer can’t help writing great tunes. I wonder if their knack for songwriting annoys them?
I imagine their fury at trying to make the angriest sound ever and just coming up with something catchy as hell instead.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


56 – Steve Haushildt – Strands

More lush and less busy than his usual stuff. This is calm and serene electronic music to calm the soul.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


57 – Jherek Bischoff – Cistern

This is a very peculiar string-heavy modern classical album that sounds totally different every time I play it. Sometimes it’s awful, sometimes totally bewitching. Never dull though.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


Pixies – Head Carrier

I tried. I really did. Listen to Pod by the Breeders again. That’s what’s missing from Pixies now. Kim Deal. There’s some OK songs and a couple of good ones. But it lacks space and timing and menace.

Swans – The Glowing Man

They bowed out one album too late.

Tobacco – Sweatbox Dynasty

I love the idea of Tabbacco – seedy squelchy analogue synth stuff. It’s just if you leave it out in the sun too long it goes stale.


You can’t catch everything first time it came out can you? Here are some of my major finds over the last year.

Necro Deathmort – Martian Cartography (2014)

Necro Deathmort live in a strange place between techno and extreme metal. I love all their stuff. Often they make dark and scary electronic nightmare stuff but on this album they go full on industrial techno with splendid results.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp


Kasai Allstars – Beware the Fetish (2015), In the 7th Moon, the Chief Turned Into a Swimming Fish and Ate the Head of His Enemy by Magic (2008)

They’re from Kinshasa and there’s 25 of them. They play a loose and massively hypnotic music and revel in the use of a buzzy instrument that sounds like that thing you used to do with a bit of paper on a comb.


The Blue Aeroplanes – Swagger (1990)

Hadn’t heard this in twenty odd years – really I’d forgotten how marvellous it was. If you haven’t then do. A forgotten classic. Poetic spoken-word vocals and just fabulous songs.


Gary Lee Connor (2014) – The Microdot Gnome

I really loved the Screaming Trees. They were the best band by a mile. I still play “Sweet Oblivion” and “Uncle Anesthesia” a lot. Mark Lanegan went on to do a lot, a real lot. But it turns out Garly Lee Connor was the greatest part of the band’s sound. I found this solo album he released in 2014 and it’s superb. On first listen it’s a massive homage to the most hippyish sounds of the ’60’s. Then the songs emerge and the chord sequences and structures and tunes are exactly the brilliant sort of thing the Trees did. A screaming triumph of an album.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

OK that’s yer lot. Thoughts, comments, listening suggestions? (I like those!). Drop me a message below.



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Albums of the Year 2015

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Dave’s Albums of the Year 2015

That time of year again. It’s good fun sifting back through the best of the new stuff that was released in 2015. These are some of the albums that I really enjoyed – I reckon there’s some crackers. Hope there’s something in here that will appeal to you. I’ve linked to most of the albums through bandcamp etc. so you can listen more easily – if you like ’em buy ’em and support the artists. I haven’t bothered with a 1 to 50 ranking – pick ‘n mix.

Blank Realm  –  Illegals in Heaven
It’s easy to underestimate Brisbane’s Blank Realm. The first time you hear this album it kind of slips past pleasantly enough. It is spiky and energetic post-punk/new wavy stuff and certainly doeasn’t reinvent the wheel. But here’s the thing, the songs are really excellent and a couple of plays later when the hooks are in they stay in. This is a better album than last year’s Grassed In – also a slow-grower and you get the feeling that they are a band really hitting their stride.


Bop English  –  Constant Bop
Bop English is the (fairly poor) name for this solo project of James Petralli, frontman of the excellent White Denim. That band can be a bit experimental – usually successfully mind you. This isn’t though. it’s just a collection of really excellent breezy pop rock. No slow growing here, play it once and you’re in. I listend to this one a lot all year.


Bully  –  Feels Like
Ah, impetuous youth. Bully are a young band. Their endearingly shouty female lead singer sings about breaking her sister’s arm, and about having periods and everything. The music is excellent punky alt rock.

Car Seat Headrest  –  Teens  of Style

Another ridiculous band name. What next? Bathroom toothbrush holder? Again though don’t be put off. Will Toledo – the prodigy behind the car seat – can write a cracking tune. He’s one of these lo-fi kids who knocks out 20 albums in their bedroom before they’re 12. Anyway this is a proper recording of all his best songs to date in a real proper album and it’s really rather special. From the opening line “I hadn’t looked at the sun for so long I’d forgotten how much it hurt to”  you’re in. Not a duff track on it (well, one). Mark my words, this kid’s gonna go far.


Circuit Des Yeux  –  In Plain Speech

A late addition. This mysterious and increasingly epic record hasn’t quite finished unfurling its charms. It sounds different every time I play it. Sweeping operatic vocals, lush orchestration and the setting to tune of that “For the want of a nail” nursery rhyme under the title “A Story of this World”. One thing’s for sure Circuit Des Yeax’s world is a strange and alluring place indeed.

Circle  –  Pharaoh Overlord

Hmmm. I’d never heard of this lot. Apparently they are from Finland and have been knocking round since 1991. This is album number 31 according to Wikipedia so they’ve kept themselves busy. No idea what the other stuff is like – in fact I can guess – but this is rather special. There are 5 tracks ranging between 6 and 12 minutes in length. Atmospheric repetitive riffs, weird horns and chanting that sounds like it came from a Sergio Leone Western soundtrack. Then someone starts shouting and primal screaming and generally carrying on. Play. Repeat. Play. Repeat. I want to dig up all their other stuff but I’m a bit frightened what might happen to me.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett likes words. She packs her songs with them. She favours that song-speech delivery that works so well for Craig Finn, Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman and despite having some terrifric songs it is all about her and her brilliant lyrics. She makes mini-epics of the everyday and gets you to look atthings in a different way as a result. This is a terrific debut from the young Australian. Expect greatness.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah

Some  people don’t have to pay any attention at all to what anyone else is doing, just trusting their own vision and instinct. That’s what D’Angelo has done here, crafting something unique and timeless. The recordings sound almost off-the-cuff and songs kind of drift into life then lock in and eventually soar. Reminds me of Prince, not so much musically, but in his commitment to his own sound. He waits 14 years between albums doesn’t care less about what’s current and up-to-date in R&B, and knocks out a gem of a record. Respect.


Death and Vanilla  –  To Where the Wild Things Are

Death and Vanilla are all about vintage equipment. Vibraphones, mellotron, I bet there’s even a Theremin knocking around somewhere. They use these to make catchy but spooky music that’s a bit like 1970 children’s TV crossed with Hammer Horror. Outwardly sweet but you know there’s a pin going into a doll somewhere in the background.


Domovoyd  –  Domovoyd

Epic, massive riffage. huge long-building metal opuses. There’s even a spoken word piece that sounds like some sort of spell or ode to the devil. But since it’s not in English it might just be someone reading out their shopping list. Whatever, it’s huge, it’s heavy, it’s Domovoyd.


Ecstatic Vision  –  Sonic Praise
Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision are here to remind you that Lemmy was in Hawkwind before Motorhead. No airy fairy stuff for this lot. A happy stew of hard psychedilic rock. Play loud.


Ekoplekz – Reflekzionz

More off-kilter electronics from the excellent Ekoplekz..A more chilled out affair than last year’s Unfinity but intricate and involving nontheless. Go here to have a listen.









Follakzoid  –  III
When I was praising Follakzoid’s last album (it was called II amazingly) I said they came from Sweden. Turns out it’s Chile they hail from. they are at the vanguard of the Chilean psych scene – apparently. I’m just happy that Chile has a psyche scene. This is brilliant and one of the best things I heard this year. Instrumental, not too heavy, hypnotic.


Godspeed You! Black Emperor  –  Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

Fierce emotionally involving instrumental post-rock. Godspeed You! Black emperor wrote the book on it. Their flame has never dimmed and this is them doing what they do best. Their sound seems more Eastern influenced, to me at least, with each new release.


Grasscut  –  Everyone Was a Bird

One of my discoveries of the year. Grasscut use an electronic palette to paint a music richly evocative of place and environment. An absolute belter of an album. Their two previoues albums one inch/1/2 mile and Unearth are well worth a go too. Intriguingly there’s a little bit of Chameleons in there.

Guy Garvey  –  Courting the Squall

Old Guy Garvey doesn’t seem to have been changed or mellowed by the success of his main band Elbow. He’s still wryly self-aware and writing arch and poignant lyrics. He effortlessly rises above the trudging masses of po-faced British bands trying to make exactly this kind of stuff and failing. Good lad.



Gwenno  –  Y Dydd Olaf

Wales. Must be something in the water. Gwenno writes cherrily off-kilter poppy tunes. Remind you of Cate Le Bon? Remind you of Super Furry Animals? That’s not to say that this is derivative, it is just a sunny and compelling summery album. It’s in Welsh, but who cares?


Haiku Salut  –  Etch and Etch Deep

This Derbyshire three piece mix classical, electronica, folk and a bunch of other stuff into a pleasing instrumental whole.


Henry Blacker  –  Summer Tombs

Dirty, greasy rock music. Henry Blacker are a British trio who owe influence to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and even ZZ Top. But they chew up and spit out these influences into something pleasingly feral. The bit in the middle of “Shit Magus” where the lead singer stops and just mutters “fuck’s sake” is the best ever definition of the term Rock ‘n Roll.


Hey Colossus  –  In Black and Gold

Hey Colossus continue to emerge from the underground with not one, but two albums this year. They state that they have a responsibility to their fans to continue making and releasing new music. You have to love that. This, their first 2015 album, is less extreme than some of their earlier stuff and demonstrates their increasing mastery of restraint as a weapon. There are a couple of instrumentals where not much happens, eerily, and of course some riff-heavy beasts like Black and Gold. For me it’s the better of the two.


Hey Colossus  –  Radio Static High

The second 2015 Hey Colossus release is almost pop by their standards (if maybe not everyone else’s). There’s even songs on there for goodness sake.


Holy Sons  –  Fall of Man

Holy Sons is the work of Emil Amos, member of the mighty Grails and Om. To say his solo work is different from those bands is understating the case considerably. It creates a weary washed-out 70’s singer-songwriter influenced sound – the nearest recent comparative has to be the excellent Relayted by Gayngs . This is a complete success, rising well above pastiche into a compelling and distinctive record.


Joanna Newsome  –  Divers

Everyone loves Joanna Newsome. An incredibly gifted harp-player with an astonishing voice who makes album after album of intricate folk-epics with words you have to look up the meaning of. Attractive, popular and now also a Hollywood star. Am I making you feel nauseous? The thing is, she is really good. This is a really good album – can’t fault it. What can I say – I’m a fan.


Julia Holter  –  Have You in My Wilderness
There are some lovely songs here, intricate arrangements – and it all sounds effortless. That’s what gifted folk do I think. A delightful album.


Kagoule  –  Urth
Nottingham’s Kagoule make fierce stop-start 90’s influenced alt rock. I really like fierce stop-start 90’s influenced alt rock. I really like this band and this album. Thing is, you have to sound like something, so who cares if you use a musical style that has been successful before – if it works do it. Why try and reinvent the wheel? – the wheel works. One of the best of the year this one.


La Luz  –  Weirdo Shrine
La Luz are a Californian all girl band who make dreamy surf rock. Not the sort of thing I usually care for but this is a sneaky little album that creates a little universe of its own. There’s the vague sense that there’s more going on than meets the eye and this uncertainty creates a delightfuly macabre background to what should just be breezy pop. Nice trick.


Low  –  Ones and Sixes
A testament to perseverance. Slowcore pioneers Low have for twenty-odd years stuck to the same aesthetic of slow, earnest semi-heartbroken music. Their great success has been to constantly evolve and explore every possible area of their chosen musical form. Every couple of years an album arrives. 2011’s C’mon was real return to form and 2013’s The Invisible Way, was just very good.

But this brilliant album is the best thing they have ever done. It’s nice to know that that can happen to a band after 22 years. The main difference to their sound for this album is the use of a drum machine.  It works a treat, the rigid base gives a framework for their hypnotic songs to develop and build. And the songs are cracking – listen to “The Innocents”.


Mark McGuire  –  Beyond Belief

Ex-Emeralds electronic musician Mark McGuire is a prolific guy. Last year’s along the way was excellent but Beyond Belief sees him venturing into more vocal-driven, song-based music. It suits him well, his shimmering electronics marry up well with guitars and take him into M83 territory. this isn’t a bad place to be at all.


Mbongwana Star  –  From Kinshasa

Boldly incorporating electronics and hip-hop beats into their sound works a treat for this Democratic Republic of Congo band. An infectious, forward looking African album.


Menace Beach  –  Ratworld
Gleeful alt rock from Leeds. Produced by a Hookworm. Catchy as hell with boy/girl vocals working a treat. It’s got feedback bits, guitars, great hooks, wicked choruses and is terrific fun. Go on, click below, you’ll thank me.


Midday Veil  –  This Wilderness
Spacey electronic folk rock with lovely female vocal harmonies. The closest forebears are Jane Weaver and School of Seven Bells.


Mikal Cronin  –  MCIII
Just carries on from where last year’s MCII left off. Crisp, breezy, catchy songs. What more could you ask for?


Monolord  –  Vaenir
Sweden’s Monolord make massive treacly doom metal. It’s great.


Nathaniel Rateliffe & The Night Sweats  –  Self Titled

Now then. White boys do R&B. Shades of Dexys? No. More Blues Brothers if anything. You can’t not like this stuff. Old Nathaniel has that huge cigarettes and alcohol voice that you need for this stuff and he has the songs too. All the family liked this, and I can’t say that about much on here.


Nest Egg  –  Respectable
North Caolina band nest egg do a good job with this album of krautrock influenced psychedelia. Takes a couple of spins to get into then things begin to reveal themselves.


No Spill Blood  –  Heavy Electricty
Ireland’s No Spill Blood make a just about accessible form of power electronics. They remind me a bit of 90’s alt rockers Girls Against Boys, probably because there’s a definite groove that channels their chaos.

Rival Consoles –  Howl
A really nice electronic album that harks back to the early days of Testone whilst bringing those single note synths into a warm and modern setting. Morning Vox is a brilliant track.


Sexwitch  –  Sexwitch
This was a nice surprise. I didn’t hold out much hope for this collaboration between Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes and members of Toy. But it is excellent, all Eastern instrumentation and chanting and spookiness. They should all give up their day jobs.


Speedy Ortiz  –  Foil Deer
Speedy Ortiz’ second album carries on from their excellent debut delivering more fuzzy catchy pop-punk.


Sufjan Stevens  –  Carrie and Lowell
This is quite brilliant. A stripped back, almost unbearably honest album about Stevens’s relationship with his mother and stepfather. Simple. But the kind of simple you need to hone your skills for many years to achieve. His best album, and that’s saying something.


Suuns and Jerusalem in My Heart  –  Suuns and Jerusalem in My Heart
This is a very interesting collaboration between two very different sounding Canadian label mates (on the nicely-named “Secretly Canadian” label). Turns out the stylised angular rock of Suuns is a great fit for the Eastern experimentalism of Jersualem in My Heart.


Sunn 0))) – Kannon
Huge. Primal. Turn up loud and watch your fillings drop out. After the experimentation of last album “Monoliths and Dimensions” Sunn 0))) go back to creating stonehenge-like slabs of towering noise. Good for them.


Swervedriver  –  I Wasn’t Born To Lose You
I never really got into the ’90’s Swervedriver.  Not sure why because this is excellent. Melodic shoegazy rock with some great songs.


Teeth of the Sea  –  Highly Deadly Black Tarantula
This was never going to be as good as the defining statement of their last album “Master”. It’s still really good though and sounds like nobody else. Atmospheric electronic industrial post-punk. Kind of.


The Body and Krieg  –  The Body and Krieg
Not content with just the tools of black metal to paint their scenes of horror and despair The Body have in the past collaborated with fellow misanthrope Haxan Cloak to bleak effect. This time they work with Krieg to create a really hideous and disturbing racket. Recommended for clearing bookshops at closing time.

Listen Here


The Clientele  –  Alone and Unreal
This best of compilation draws deserved attention to a band that has until now been criminally neglected.

Listen Here.


The Decembrists  –  What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
It doesn’t always work for Decembrists – who are at least brave enough to keep changing and expirimenting. Not everything on here is great but the first and last tracks are epic, and there’s some stand out moments in between.


Tiny Fingers  –  The Fall
Israel’s Tiny Fingers work in that middle ground where electronics and guitars mesh together. And they’ve achieved a very distinctive fusion. the bass is more to the ‘fore than the guitar in their instrumental rock-tronica and this is an individual and characterful album.


Torche  –  Restarter
Before Torche existed most people wouldn’t have thought there was a happy ground in the middle of guitar pop and sludge and doom metal. But thankfully there is, and it is where Torche live. They have a great ear for a tune and their catchy, speedy music is a hell of a lot of fun.


White Hills  –  Walks For Motorists

New York psych-rock duo White Hills are prolific. Too prolific. They run at an album a year. But every album since 2010’s magnificent “White Hills” has had a few little hiccups between some admittedly great moments. Not this one though. This is a belter. They have incorporated fierce electronics into their guitar driven rock with excellent effect. Driving opener “No Will” sets the tone and there’s no let up. Great title too. The accompanying “Drives for Pedestrians” EP is very good too.


Wire  –  Wire
Wire can do no wrong, OK? This is (yet) another excellent album. Now well into the third stage of their career. They exude this wonderful world-weary wisdom. So they were the most essential band in England in 1977 and in 2015. Some achievement. the fact that this album is their first self-titled one tells you all you need to know. Wire are where they want to be.


Wolf Alice  –  My Love is Cool
A young Indie-pop band that make super-catchy indie-pop. Suspend your cynicism and give it a listen, it’s good.


Young Fathers  –  White Men are Black Men Too
“You live your life like a bubble-wrapped egg”, Young fathers inform us. Line of the year. Typical of the very individual style of these low-fi Scottish DIY hip-hoppers. I wasn’t really sure what to make of their debut but this second album is unique, funny and a complete breath of fresh air.

So there you go. Hope you found something new to listen to.

Albums of the Year – 2014

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Albums of the Year 2014

Okay here’s another 50 albums from this year that I thought were rather excellent. It could easily have been 100 since it’s been another great year for new music, but life’s too short. The number order is very rough – except for no.1. Hope you find something in here that you like.

1 – Hookworms – The Hum
This Leeds 5-piece more than fulfill on the promise of last year’s excellent “Pearl Mystic” with this gem of an album. Belting psyched-out barnstormers are linked by gentler instrumental drifts. The pacing is superb and there is absolutely no filler or a single note out of place. “Radio Tokyo” has to be the most exhilirating track of the year, and “On Leaving” the most enduring. They are not just the best band in the U.K. at the moment – they are streets ahead. Now all we have to do is pray that no-one screws things up by giving them something like a crappy Mercury Music Prize.

best-of-year-2014-072 – Amen Dunes – Love
Any other year this grower of an album would have been album of the year. Amen Dunes is singer songwriter Damon McMahon. He’s been releasing (at least) an album a year for the last four or five years and gradually expanding his sound from a stripped-back low-fi beginning to this much more carefully recorded and orchestrated work. The songs are still deceptively simple with guitar, voice and a minimum of percussion – but he has the uncanny knack of generating a kind of rhythmic propulsion that carries the whole thing along. It took a while to work its spell on me then I couldn’t stop playing it. Can’t wait for his next.

real-estate-atlas3 – Real Estate – Atlas
I love bands like Real Estate. They write great songs which they perform simply and with a minimum of fuss, knowing that their music is strong enough to speak for itself. They remind me a little of overlooked UK band “The Clientele”. It’s quite a brave move in  a music industry desperate for new sounds and innovation. There’s nothing new here – there doesn’t need to be.

electric-wizard-time-to-die4 – Electric Wizard – Time to Die
Electric Wizard are the crown princes of Doom Metal. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre then expect hugely loud, slow guitars, distorted and twisted by effects pedals. The subject matter is so unremittingly dark that you’d expect it to be tongue in cheek. But if they are hamming it up it’s very hard to tell. Anyway it turns out that all this bleakness is rather marvellous fun. In their 20 odd years the band have made some great albums and some distinctly ordinary ones. Their last album (called “Black Masses” of course) was ordinary but this is thankfully a real return to form. Play loud.


ekoplekz-unfidelity5 – Ekoplekz – Unfidelity
This almost ambient electronic album sounds a bit like a you’re in some kind of weird factory at night. Ghostly clicks and squelches and machine sounds are everywhere and then unexpected tunes emerge from the shadows. Ekoplekz is Nick Edwards and his music is hard to compare with any other electronic music around at the moment. In a year when people swooned for joy over the release of Aphex Twin’s distinctly average and almost traditional-sounding “Syro” it’s refreshing to hear something this interesting and original. Apparently there’s all kinds of other Echoplex stuff out there under the usual variety of aliases and limited runs. The hunt begins!

east-india-youth-total-strife-forever6 – East India Youth – Total Strife Forever
A really good electronic/dance album. With a horrid cover. This is a remarkably assured debut from young Englishman William Doyle. It’s not particularly cutting edge but he makes a small area of slightly mournful dance music his own and the album slots together very well as a unified piece of work.

best-of-year-2014-227 – Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – Someday World
Old Brian Eno likes a collaboration doesn’t he? He’s done great work with David Byrne in the classic “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, as well as with a bewildering list of other artists. So his collaboration with Underworld’s Karl Hyde was an intriguing prospect, especially because it is such a long time since Underworld’s creative peak. Clearly they inspired each other though because this album is a treat from start to finish. Hyde actually sings these days rather than his Underworld stream-of-thought vocalising. And it works. The songs are rewarding and veer off in unexpected directions often finishing up a long way from where they began. The collaboration produced a second good album “High Life” also released this year – but this is the better of the two.

best-of-year-2014-248 – TV on the Radio – Seeds
They’re a great band are TV on the Radio. “Dear Science” was one of my favourite albums of the last ten years. This is their first release since the death of the band’s bassist Gerrard Smith and is a return to form after the slightly disappointing “Nine Types of Light”. Whilst not everything on the album works and the production is so pristine as to feel a little over-polished in places it has some absolute killer songs, “Ride” and “Lazerray” being standouts.

ty-segall-manipulator9 – Ty Segall – Manipulator
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite share the music industry’s head-over-heels love affair with Ty Segall. Thought it was a bit Emperor’s New Clothes over what was basically a bit of low-fi grunge. But on this album he’s taken the time to up the production levels to great effect. Hell, he might even have had a shower. So what emerges is a bunch of well-written catchy rock songs that breeze by without any excess scuzz or overembellishment. It reminds me a little of Mikal Cronin’s excellent “MCII” album from last year. A breath of fresh air.

the-new-pornographers-brill-bruisers10 – The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
The best power pop band of all time came back after a couple of uncharacteristically morose albums with this upbeat belter. At their best these Canadians make helium filled pop songs with ridiculously catchy melodies and harmonies that bely a complexity in composition and arrangement that reward many, many, repeat listens. Nobody even comes close to being able to do what they can do.

best-of-year-2014-1411 – …And You Will Know us by the Trail of Dead – IX
This great rock band could release almost anything and I’d like it. Last year’s “Lost Songs” was a relatively modest album by their standards but still sounded great. I like them best in their multi-minute magnum opus mode. This is a more conventional rock album than some of their recent stuff but still takes off for the stars in the second half. It’s pleasing that a band can still sound this fresh nine albums into their career.



swans-to-be-kind12 – Swans – To Be Kind
I can’t say I was really convinced by the first two albums in this second career phase of these 80/90’s noise rock experimentalists. I wasn’t too keen on their early stuff either. I don’t think many were but you’d never know that given the glittering praise being heaped on them now. This is an uncompromising double album – featuring some extravagantly long tracks – but it is also a surprisingly accessible and rewarding listen. Repetition is the whole point here and songs build slowly and gradually – sometimes into towering crescendos of discord and sometimes to almost pretty codas. This is a year where I’ve repeatedly found things to like in the work of artists I wasn’t sure about before and I’d definitely recommend “To Be Kind”.

the-hold-steady-teeth-dreams13 – The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams
The Hold Steady are the fourth great band to come from Minneapolis. Prince, The Replacements and Husker Du being the others. They are most like The Replacements in spirit, if not in sound. They are a rock band. They make anthemic heart-warming songs based on real-life stories and situations and by holding up the everyday for consideration they’re able to turn it into magic. Again their last couple of records had felt a little tired and formulaic. I don’t know what changed but there’s a real feeling of rejuvenation in this excellent album. If you’ve never heard them before I’d still suggest “Boys and Girls in America” or “Separation Sunday” as their best work but this albums definitely stands up there with them.

angel-olsen-burn-your-fire-for-no-witness14 – Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For no Witness
I’ll be honest, I tread warily when I hear about a new folk-influenced female singer/songwriter since so many of them are, well, crap. Angel Olsen isn’t though. This, her first full band release, is a cracking indie rock album. I guess you have to mention the usual comparatives like early P.J. Harvey. Cate LeBon is also doing good stuff in a similar vein. But nevertheless this is a well written and distinctive album that’s well worthy of your time.



cheatahs-cheatahs15 – Cheatahs – Cheatahs
Cheatahs come from London in 2014 but would have nestled right in to the Manchester Rave scene of the early 90’s. Much as the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses they have crafted a dance/rock hybrid that will please lovers of both genres. So whilst they aren’t especially innovative they have made an album that is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. And that is a good thing isn’t it?

delta-spirit-into-the-wide16 – Delta Spirit – Into the Wide
Delta Spirit have carved out a niche for themselves making passionate, folk-influenced rock. I really can’t see why they aren’t massive already. Their music is certainly far from left-field and album by album their sound moves closer to a something that would comfortably fill a stadium. But not at the expense of quality. This is a fine, passionate album with some great tunes on it that and Delta Spirit are a band that definitely deserves a greater level of recognition.

earth-primitive-and-deadly17 – Earth – Primitive and Deadly
Drone rock stalwarts Earth made the shift a few years ago from uncompromising experimental drone metal to a kind of attenuated bluesy Americana. And they made it seem simple and kind of obvious. Now, after any number of instrumental albums they finally have songs with vocals. It only took them twenty years! Everyman Mark Lanegan crops up to good effect – his gravelly croon slotting straight in to the rich rolling Earth sound. But “From the Zodiacal Light”, featuring a female vocalist – is the pick of the bunch. A shimmering, woozy and immersive album.

spoon-they-want-my-soul18 – Spoon – They Want My Soul
Austin, Texas’s Spoon make meticulously crafted, perfectly-performed indie rock. I’d say no-one does it better. Over a series of classic albums including “Ga ga ga ga ga”, “Gimme Fiction” and “Girls Can Tell”, they have managed to vary their sound just enough to remain interesting whilst remaining consistent to their basic premise of concision and economy. And they write brilliant tunes. Thankfully this album represents them at their best and comes highly recommended.

best-of-year-2014-0119 – Eat Lights Become Lights – Into Forever
Eat Light Become Lights is the alias of London resident Neil Rudd. A clue as to what you’re getting comes from the fact that he is one of the house acts at a regular night called Club Motorik. And that basically is what you get here. Top drawer electronic music based on a driving Motorik beat. It sounds easy to do but it ain’t. the trick is to get enough variety and experimentation in to keep listeners returning and discovering new things. And that definitely happens here even though this album is actually comparatively downtempo compared to the frenzy of some of Eat Lights earlier work such as 2012’s “Heavy Electrics”.

best-of-year-2014-2120 – First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
Great back story to this one. Two Swedish Sisters develop a shared love of Country Music and make a country-influenced album. It could of all gone horribly wrong of course but said sisters have angelic voices and a sing beautiful harmonies together. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year but I played this again and again without tiring of it. it’s a terrific album and I can’t wait for their next one.

goat-commune21 – Goat – Commune
The second album from wild Swedish psychedelists Goat was a marginal disappointment. Their debut “World Music” was a funky, exuberant, absolute treat of a listen. This one is just a very good album when I half-expected it to stop the world spinning. The songs are still freaked out funky feasts but the vocals are very deep in the mix and I’m not sure that this helps. But there are still some great tracks and Goat remain the one band in this list I would most like to see live.

best-of-year-2014-2022 – Run The Jewels – RTJ2
Run The Jewels is the meeting of underground rap heroes Killer Mike and El-P. This is their second album and it is very good indeed. It’s more direct and less left field than El-P’s solo work but still far more inventive and lyrically streets ahead of the hideous tedium of mainstream rap. I don’t pretend to be a great expert on hip-hop and there may well be loads of other new stuff out there to like outside the tedious rap mainstream. But I like this a lot and recommend it highly.

doc077.11439v223 – Mark McGuire – Along The Way
Over the last decade Mark McGuire’s Emeralds have carved out a distinctive niche in atmospheric electronic music, with ever-improving albums of shimmering and evocative minimalism. This solo effort from McGuire definitely treads a similar path and, if anything, further refines and enhances his sound.

best-of-year-2014-1124 – Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours
I didn’t see this one coming. The lead singer of the marvellous Walkmen (now, alas, on long term hold) decides he’s Frank Sinatra and releases an album of sophisticated crooning ballads. And it works very well indeed. Leithauser’s voice, whilst not quite on a par with old Frank, is rich and distinctive and is a good vehicle for articulating these knowing world-weary songs.



blank-realm-grassed-in25 – Blank Realm – Grassed In
A low-fi indie-rock album with some excellent songs that do their thing and don’t outstay their welcome. Any number of bands are attempting similar things at the moment but they lack the breeziness and most importantly the tunes that Blank Realm have in spades. “Bulldozer Love” is a standout. An album that’s almost guaranteed to slap a smile on yer chops.

bob-mould-beauty-and-ruin26 – Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin
Good old Bob Mould. He just keeps on going. Obviously I’m biased because of my love for his mercurial Husker Du But this is a great collection of songs, more reminiscent of Mould’s poppier Sugar of the early nineties. At the end of the day he just knows how to write a good hook-laden song, pick up his guitar and smash it out. Long may he carry on doing it.

best-of-year-2014-0227 – Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe
Liverpool’s Jane Weaver departs from her folky roots with this huge sounding album of very English sounding spacey-folk-rock. It’s a compliment to say that this music could have been made any time in the last forty years. That just means that it stands outside time and fashion and inhabits its own little world. Imagine if Kate Bush joined Hawkwind and told them to just calm down a bit.

the-future-sound-of-london-environment-five28 – The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
These days Gary Cobain and Brian Dougans enjoy the status of godfathers of UK electronic music. Recording as Future Sound of London (FSOL), Amorphous Androgynous and a host of other aliases their music has had an enormous influence on a host of other artists since the early 1990’s. Along with The Orb and The KLF, FSOL fused dance music with field recordings and ambience and fused sounds to create something fresh and mysterious. This album is their first new material (despite huge archival remastering and releasing) for many years. The interim saw them experimenting with the more psychedelic-sounding Amorphous Androgynous, releasing four excellent albums and the wildly eclectic “A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind” series of compilations of incredibly diverse yet cohesive music.
This album is very much back to the more minimal electronic landscapes of their early work and is an object lesson on how to produce meticulously crafted sparse music that is always a dextrous shift in direction away from ambience.

best-of-year-2014-1529 – Kelis – Food
Mainstream soul pop is not usually top of my listening list but again there’s an exception that proves the rule. This excellent and diverse album shows what you can do within the genre. Production is a big factor (excellent work by Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio – see above), and Kelis has a huge, cracked soul diva voice that’s made for this material. This was up at the top of this year’s car playlist, not least because my wife actually liked some music I put on for once.

best-of-year-2014-0330 – Koen Holtcamp – Motion
Last year’s Centralia by Mountains was a fantastic example of how minimal electronic music could evoke a sense of place and build atmosphere and tension. This solo album by Mountains’ Koen Holtcamp occupies similar musical territory and features a series of long, building compositions that gradually build, ebb and flow around you.



lawrence-english-wilderness-of-mirrors31 – Lawrence English – Wilderness of Mirrors
This unique instrumental electronic album is all about atmosphere, in this case a dense and forbidding one. Organ-like drones are left to build for minutes at a time whilst spare and haunting sounds fade in and out around them. It’s spooky and unsettling music, but also curiously soothing on repeated listens. This is an earthy and captivating music that feels like it comes from somewhere else entirely.

best-of-year-2014-1732 – Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Mac DeMarco is a smart-mouth. This is an album of lazy, off the cuff, slacker-pop. Of course this can’t-be-bothered approach is just a facade, you’d hope. You sort of want to slap him for being a wise-ass but then, in his defence, he’s funny, the songs are catchy and there’s a lightness of touch that suggests that he’s a long way from taking himself too seriously. Top drawer Summer music.

best-of-year-2014-0433 – Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra – Fuck off get Free We Pour Light on Everything
Heart-on-the-sleeve instrumental post-rock from Quebec. Sound familiar? Yes, The Silver Mount Zion share band members with the mighty “Godspeed You Black Emperor”. A short voice recording of a little girl sets the stall for this powerfully engaging, politically questioning and often uplifting album. You can do all of that without vocals? They can.

best-of-year-2014-1834 – Melvins – Hold it in
I have to say that I like the idea of Melvins a lot more than I usually like their music. They are American underground rock royalty these days and have released a seemingly endless stream of albums that explore all kinds of sounds and they aren’t at all afraid to experiment wildly. But their best album was 1991’s Bullhead and some of their subsequent quantity has come, in my view, at the expense of quality. The beauty though is that they really don’t give a shit – and you have to like that. This year’s album is a collaboration with ex-Butthole Surfers Jeff Pinkus and Paul Leary. This is therefore a supergroup of experimental rock veterans and the album itself comes off terrifically well. This time the sludgy Melvins guitar rock is paired admirably with the freako psychedelic weirdness of the surfers and it is the best thing to come from any of these artists in a long long while.

the-history-of-apple-pie-feel-something35 – The History of Apple Pie – Feel Something
This is an excellent album of shoegazy Indie-pop with nice tunes and a good female vocalist. It doesn’t reach for the starts but is a well-made and rewarding effort.

pc-worship-social-rust36 – PC Worship – Social Rust
PC Worship are part of the loose New York indie scene that currently has Parquet Courts as the best known act. They share only a slightly loose DIY aesthetic with that band though. You need to hark back to the mighty Butthole Surfers (see above) for a closer musical antecedent. PC Worship plough a similar furrow through the twisted remains of punk, funk and bloated stadium rock and forge something of grimy beauty from the wreckage. This is their first widely available album but there’s apparently loads of rare small release stuff around. I’m hunting.

best-of-year-2014-1937 – Pixies – Indie Cindy
Pitchfork’s review of this album made me foam with anger. Some jumped up little shit who probably wasn’t even born before the Pixies heyday slated this, the band’s first album of their second spell, suggesting it wasn’t even fit to wipe the boots of their earlier work and implying that they were just cashing in.
The problem is that this is a really good album that more than bears repeated listens. It sounds instantly like a Pixies album to me, particularly like their later stuff that injected a tinge of melancholy to their fire. Some of the songs on the album, particularly the belting “Bagboy”, stand up with anything they’ve ever done and given that the album is just two EP’s spliced together it is pleasingly cohesive and well-paced. Sadly Kim Deal has since left the band again but the simple fact that any semblance of The Pixies are continuing to produce new music in 2014 is a reason to rejoice.

best-of-year-2014-1638 – The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
This is definitely The War on Drugs’ best album. In the past their dense modern Americana, whilst pretty, seemed to me to be lacking a little in the way of stand out tunes. This is a better-written, better-sounding collection of songs and has rightly won them wide acclaim.

best-of-year-2014-0539 – Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
A splendid, self-knowingly cheesy album of super-polished throwback disco and loungey house from this Norwegian DJ and producer. Impossible to listen to without grinning.




the-brian-jonestown-massacre-revelation40 – The Brian Jonestown  Massacre – Revelation
It takes commitment to keep doing largely the same thing for twenty years without any major acclaim or reward. But TBJM have been releasing album after album of Beatles-y music since the early 90’s. This year’s model is perhaps their best yet. They write tunes that stick in your head and there’s plenty of them to enjoy on Revelation. Recommended.

the-horrors-luminous41 – The Horrors – Luminous
I couldn’t really understand why everyone went on about the Horrors. I thought their previous, critically acclaimed albums to be derivative and rather tedious. So I went into this without any particular expectation or desire to like it. I do though. It was one of those records I kept finding myself listening to. Musically it’s basically looking back to a gothy sort of Cure-era synth pop. But the songs are good, some very good. So there – against my better wishes – I like it.



grumbling-fur-preturnaturals42 – Grumbling Fur – Preturnaturals
This is the second album from the folk-avant-garde-metal members of Grumbling Fur masquerading as a pop band. Whilst not quite as marvellous as last year’s “Glynnaestra” it still works very well as pop music and only repeated listening reveals the deep strangeness that lurks below.


the-woodentops-granular-tales43 – The Woodentops – Granular Tales
Twenty odd years since their late 80’s heyday The Woodentops are the latest band to reform and attempt new material. It is always fascinating to see who will pull it off and who will end up wishing they’d never bothered. The Woodentops have succeeded by carrying on as if they never gave up. They always made a spiky, dancy kind of Indie music driven by powerful percussion and nothing has changed. Music this upbeat and exuberant never sounds stale.

fka-twigs-lp144 – FKA Twigs – LP1
I don’t have much time for the minimal over-produced sound of “new soul” music or whatever you want to call it. There’s always an exception though and where other acts sound like they’re just trying to fit in with the latest fad this album just works. Great videos too.

best-of-year-2014-1345 – Tinariwen – Emmar
When you read about Tinariwen there’s always something about them being Tuareg from the Sahara, about how their music reflects their barren homelands and all that. Thing is, it’s true. This album sees them adapting their characteristic desert sound to incorporate a little bluesy country as well. It’s a natural fit and this is a cracking album.



wolves-in-the-throne-room-celestite46 – Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite
Black Metal heroes Wolves in the Throne Room are unlikely to have done themselves any favours with this album in a field where accusations of selling out are never far away. Is it a sell-out? Dunno, can’t say much black metal does anything for me so I’m not qualified to pass judgement. Here WITR have discarded pretty much all the growling and chaos typical of their genre and produced something far more ethereal and unsettling. It’s close in feel to the music electronic artists like Haxan Cloak and Demdike Stare are making. Critics hated it – I didn’t.

best-of-year-2014-0647 – Total Control – Typical System
Australian band Total Control are obviously influenced by previous music, everyone is. They are pretty unique at the moment though by drawing from the great post-punk and new wave acts like Wire, Gang of Four for their inspiration. This means that they are knocking out a stuttering kind of adventurous rock music that once again sounds unique in the present day.

best-of-year-2014-1248 – Untold – Black Light Spiral
Well at the experimental end of Dance music – Black Light Spiral is an intense, sometimes uncomfortable but always compelling listen. It’s stuttering beats, clangs and sirens sound great on headphones. God know what they’d be like unleashed in a club.

best-of-year-2014-1049 – Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
There’s uncompromising underground music and then there’s William Bennett’s Whitehouse. These creators of sick, extreme “power electronics” aren’t for me at all – but you have to have some respect for the sheer bloody-mindedness needed to make that kind of racket for thirty years.
Bennett’s new project, Cut Hands, Is a whole different thing though. This music involves synthesising repetitive African-influenced drums and percussion to make sparse, compelling, beat-driven tracks. This is the third and best Cut Hands record and is a great example of the rewards of exploring new musical territory.


Volume-X50 – Trans Am – Volume X
A throwback name for a throwback sound. Trans Am, who I only discovered this year, have been around since the mid-90’s making a varied sort of 70’s and 80’s influenced computer music. There have been loads of albums, quality varied. 2007’s “Sex Change” is the pick of the bunch. Sometimes they are as angular as Kraftwerk, but they cycle and mash together a variety of genres seemingly on a whim. Volume X is one of their most mixed offering to date and a good introduction to their sound. I swear there’s a thrash metal track on there. Frenetic tongue-in-cheek fun.

So there you go. Hope that there’s something on there you haven’t heard that you might now. Did I get everything? Of course not. Please feel free to get in touch with comments and suggestions, there’s a form below.

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Desert Island Discs

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Desert Island Discs
Some friends asked me to put a Desert Island Discs collection together. So I did. This isn’t a list of what I think the best albums of all time are. Maybe it should be. But instead I’ve gone for the albums that I find myself coming back to year after year. Surely the records you’d want on your island are the ones that you play most? So there’s nothing here made within the last twenty years – not because there hasn’t been anything good – far from it – just that they haven’t been round long enough to have passed the long term listening test. There are many, many other worthy contenders out there but these are the records that for a thousand reasons of time and place I couldn’t bear to be without.

desert-island-disks-08 Pixies – Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim
It’s hard to recall now just how exciting the first releases by the Pixies were. Enigmatic, amazingly packaged ferocious music coming seemingly from nowhere. Scything guitars, lyrics that made you go back and check if they really just sang that and a sense of dynamics and restraint that is insulted by the stupid muso term ‘quiet loud’. Whilst all music owes a debt somewhere along the way this mini-album/album was about as original as it’s possible to be and stood head and shoulders above anything else around at the time. It still does.

desert-island-disks-04Michael Nyman – Drowning By Numbers OST
This is much more than the soundtrack to a brilliantly lunatic Peter Greenaway film. I bet I’ve played this once or twice every week since I first got it in 1988. Admittedly this is partly because it’s the perfect thing to throw on to start your day’s listening when you’re feeling a bit, well, delicate. But Nyman’s rich and joyful form of modern classical music, whilst intricate and deep, is far more welcoming and friendly than that of more celebrated artists like Phillip Glass and Steve Reich.

desert-island-disks-05Siouxsie & The Banshees – join Hands
The Banshees second album was panned by critics. And the band itself never got the acclaim they deserved as one of the very best bands in the punk/new wave revolution. Let’s get this straight, they weren’t goths. That was just a group of lesser bands who wanted to be Siouxsie and The Banshees. I love Join Hands for the high-pitched, wailing, guitar sound, for the madness of their wildly sacrilegious version of The Lord’s Prayer, for their total lack of fear to experiment and explore new sounds. That’s punk that is.

desert-island-disks-09The Stranglers – The Raven
So’s this. From the incomparable instrumental opener “Longships” you know you’re in for something rather special. The battling inventiveness of Hugh Cornwell and Jean-Jacques Brunel means there are more ideas strewn around here than most bands create in a whole career. Songs about Vikings, heroin, The Shah – what else could you possibly need?

desert-island-disks-07Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – From Her to Eternity
I think Nick Cave was at his best on the first couple of albums after the implosion of the mad, bad Birthday Party. I nearly picked his covers album “Kicking Against the Pricks” which is exceptional but instead chose this brooding album inspired by Elvis and Mark Twain and the deep south of America. “Saint Huck” still makes the hairs on the back of my head stand up. Can’t say fairer than that.

desert-island-disks-02Tom Waits – Mule Variations
Tom Waits had a vision of a grizzled old bar room crooner and turned himself into one. If this sounds manufactured then it’s an oversimplification. He just realised what he is. His deep rattling voice is a triumph rather than an impediment and this album sums up everything he does better than everyone else. His deceptively simple songs bury themselves inside of you somewhere and you’re never the same again.

desert-island-disks-11Underworld – Second Toughest in the Infants
No band made the transition from indie rock to dance music more effortlessly than Underworld. Dubnobasswithmyheadman was an exceptional album but Second Toughest I think is even better. It has strange half-sung, half-spoken stream-of-consciousness lyrics from Karl Hyde, sitting over complex but never undanceable beats and jittery, captivating sounds. And all of the songs are named after greyhounds.

desert-island-disks-10The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional
Australia’s best ever band (sorry AC) is hardly even heard of over there since they were based in London. Their songs were tragic, deeply romantic epics spread over lush instrumentation. Their cover of What Goes On by the Velvet Underground was my all time favourite live music moment. And I’ve probably played this album more than any other. Epic, wonderful stuff.

desert-island-disks-03Smashing Pumpkins  – Siamese Dream
The best rock album ever. Pompous, passionate, overblown and utterly involving – everything rock should be. No song is out of place and there’s no filler. This album represented the moment when the stars aligned for Billy Corgan’s songwriting and his band’s huge sound – guitars layered on guitars on guitars. Lovely.

desert-island-disks-01Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician
The Butthole Surfers saved me. In the mid 80’s when British music was in the process of vanishing up its New Romantic arse this lot came along and turned me on to the wild, vibrant,  inventive music that was being made in the states. Unlike other experimental artists of the 80’s the Surfers realised that extreme music didn’t have to be humourless. A crazy, sleazy, wild and gleeful listen. A shame no band has ever run with some of their ideas, but because they haven’t this still sounds fresh (in a stale kind of way) and utterly unique.

…and here’s some more that might well make the cut on another day

desert-island-disks-06MC 900 Foot Jesus – Welcome to my Dream
This uncategorisable Texan artist sat between the hip-hop, industrial and electronic genres. His edgy songs are of urban angst and pyromania. You’ll have heard “The City Sleeps” on an ad or show somewhere but there’s far more to this album than that. The tragedy? He got sick of the corporate greed of the music industry and gave up making music altogether. Our loss.

Minutemen – 3 way tie for last
Their last album before the tragic death of D. Boone. Passionate, spiky, political jazz punk.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Blood and Chocolate
When Elvis was good he was amazing. This is his best album. Intelligent and fierce.

Earth – II Special Low Frequency Version
This pretty much invented drone music. Huge, ponderously-slow guitars that take over your brain.

Electric Wizard – Dopethrone
This is heavy metal. None heavier. Turn to 11 and bask in the epic rumble.

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
A million bands have been inspired by this timeless album of total genius. In my opinion more of them should have used electric violas.

The Jesus Lizard – Liar
The best live band I ever saw – even though my right knee has never been the same. Wild, savage gutter blues.

The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
Abba would have killed for the ability to make pop songs as immediate and complex as this group of Canadian geniuses. And Nico Case is the best female vocalist I’ve ever heard.

Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club
That an album so wildly popular still sounds fresh says it all. Amazing musicians, amazing music. The moment when the main theme comes back in four minutes and twenty seconds into the fourth track is maybe the finest moment in recorded music.

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual
A decent band making an utterly extraordinarily album. Teetering on the verge of collapse this expansive, monumental rock album represents a band hitting a level that almost seems impossible. I bet even they don’t know what they were on.

Liquid Swords – Genius/GZA
This is Wu Tang Clan’s finest hour and probably the finest ever hip-hop album. The use of Martial Arts movie samples is inspired, as is the gritty subject matter and exceptional delivery.

The Violent Femmes – The Blind Leading the Naked
Another band with an utterly unique sound. Not part of any movement the Femmes subverted traditional American music to their own ends to spectacular effect.

Cypress Hill – III Temples of Boom
It seems a strange thing to say about a band at the forefront of the tougher-than-tough gangster rap movement but there’s almost no music that puts a grin on my face faster than Cypress Hill.

Camper Van Beethoven – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
Criminally underrated California band whose use of Eastern European instruments gave them a distinctive sound. Their early work is a bit erratic but by the time of this album they were sweeping all before them. Life is Grand.

The Who – Who’s Next
The Who and the Stones – what can you say? The Who were a better album band and “Who’s Next” is their finest hour. Pioneering use of synthesisers and just bloody cracking songs.

The Fall – Grotesque
Northern music. Say no more.

Albums of the Year – 2013

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This was an absolutely belting year for new music. There’s some brilliant stuff here. Great new bands, career highlights of existing bands. There was defintely something in the water in 2013.

1 – Teeth of The Sea – Master
MasterThis is the soundtrack to the best sci-fi horror movie never made. An uncompromising record that only really works in its entirety. It blends thumping beats, harsh guitars and snippets of spoken word to ratchet up atmosphere and tension right until the thrilling last track “Responder”.

Phosphorescent - Muchacho2 – Phosphorescent – Muchacho
This is a country music style break-up album. Honestly. It is also absolutely brilliant. An album of terrific songs with gold-plated hooks and meticulous production and musicianship. Phosphorescent is the alias of singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, although he plays so many instruments he often sounds like an orchestra.

MCII3 – Mikal Cronin – MCII
The magic of this album is that Mikal Cronin makes it all seem so easy. Bright and breezy pop songs, played well and recorded well. This is how you do it.

pearl4 – Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
Who says nothing good comes out of Leeds? Well, me normally but an exception needs to made for this confident and powerful debut album. Hookworms produce a wide-canvas psych rock that has some parallels with 80’s bands like Spacemen 3 & Loop. But ultimately they don’t sound like anything but themselves.

Arcana5 – Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Speedy Ortiz are definitely students of The Pixies. But importantly they aren’t copyists. They have taken the template and simply used it as the vehicle that transports their spiky and powerful songs.

ElectricLady6 – Janelle Monae- The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae thinks she can turn her hand to any form of music. She’s probably right. And she models herself as an android. Unsurprising then that the mighty Prince guests on this massive and hugely rewarding mix of soul, funk, R&B and anything else that you can you think of.

Trouble7 – The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National don’t make a big fuss about things. They quietly produce a kind of brooding and melancholy music that accompanies dense tales of everyday lives – usually sad ones. Doesn’t sound too promising does it? The thing is they creep up on you and I found myself coming back to this again and again over the year. Deceptively complicated song arrangements emerge and the rumbling vocals of Matt Berninger convey a kind of redemptive world-weariness.

umojacketv18 – The Besnard Lakes – Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Canadians The Besnard Lakes probably take the prize for weirdest album tittle of the year. But forgive them for they take their signature woozy, harmony-led guitar rock to another level on this slowly-revealing and eventually enveloping album.

Follakzoid9 – Follakzoid – II
This is a strange and satisfying album of pulsing psychedilia. The best driving record of the year

Inheritors10 – Holden – The Inheritors
This standout electronic album of the year was delivered by James Holden who fulfilled on the promise of earlier work such as the wonderfully titled “The Idiots are Winning”. Opener Rannoch Dawn is all tribal drums and sounds squeezed from vintage synths. Stone age techno.

Centralia11 – Mountains – Centralia
This enthralling ambient album carefully builds texture and atmosphere until the wonderful wash of guitar of the final track. It builds a tremendous sense of space and movement.

Seasons12 – Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day
This is the Mazzy Star who in the 1990’s made three excellent albums of haunting, stripped down yet intricate country blues. Vocalist Hope Sandoval has one of the most evocative voices going. Wisely, and perhaps serving as an good example to some other bands, they stick to their winning formula and this album stands with their previous work without being altered or affected by any outside influence.

Glynn13 – Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra
On “The Ballad of Roy Batty” the lyrics are taken from the dialogue of an android in teh key scene of Blade Runner. The album is named after some spirit or deity the band apparently channelled. This band are clearly a little strange. But in Glynnaestra they have made an approachable, even catchy collection of “normal” songs. Wolves in sheeps clothing.

Immunity14 – Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Jon Hopkins was half of the excellent Diamond Mine project. His movie soundtrack work is excellent too – “Monsters” for example. On this album he’s pulled it all together and forged his own style of danceable yet intelligent and personal electronic music.

Focus15 – Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Yes, Fuck Buttons were included in the Olympic opening ceremony. Yes, they have the word fuck in their name. Moving on. I thought the sampled-to-death snarls and cavernous pits of white noise on their debut, “Street Horsssing” were their finest hour. Since then they’ve moved away from this ferocious humanity to a kind of mechanized menace. The production on this album is superb and the deliberate machinery of their music is ironically it’s greatest draw.

High-frontier16 – Lumerians – The High Frontier
U.S. psych this time. Where bands like Wooden Shjips seem to be drifting away from the genre Lumerians find all kinds of variations on a fuzzed-out motorik template to create this diverse and fun album.

Nepenthe17 – Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
On first play there might not seem to be much to this album. It may seem fragile and restrained but slowly Julianna Barwick’s complicated arrangements and breathy vocals shine through and create a euphoria that makes groups like Sigur Ros and even Cocteau Twins seem, well, loud.

Changes Becomes Us18 – Wire – Change Becomes Us
The greatest new wave band are tireless and thirty-odd years after “Pink Flag” they continue to work ideas to their artistic conclusion. “Change Becomes Us”, consists of reworkings of songs that didn’t quite make it to album stage in the early 1980’s. A long wait, but well worth it.

HC Front19 – Hey Colossus – Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo
A pleasing mixture of sludge metal and experimental noise rock. Opener Hot Grave is one the best tracks of the year and this lot are becoming the British noise-rock standard bearers. Loud, sweaty and splendid.

Suuns - Images Du Futur20 – Suuns – Images Du Futur
Suuns want to freak you out. And they do. This follow-up to the excellent Zeroes QC is well executed taut and threatening guitar rock.

MBV21 – My Bloody Valentine – mbv
22 years between albums. Blah blah. Get past the fact that everyone worships them like gods and you’ll find an excellent album that sticks to the model of the, admittedly wonderful, “Loveless”. Kevin Shields can still make a really big noise.

LightupGold22 – Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Cheeky and knowing indie-rock. This lot think they’re clever. They’re right. Great lyricsand great songs in a low-fi Pavement sort of vein.

Low - The Invisible Way23 Low – The Invisible Way
The band that became famous – in the midst of grunge – for playing quietly. they stay true to form on this mature and very rewarding album of well-crafted contemplative songs..

howlin24 – Jagwar Ma – Howlin’
Much has been made of this Australian bands Madchester influenced music. And that’s probably about right. This is a danceable and friendly blend of rock and dance genres.

rplusseven25 – Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
This needs a few listens. Elaborate and seemingly fragmented electronics and samples skitter around in your head until everything drops into place and you realise it’s very clever and all rather lovely.

Tomorrows26 – Boards of Canada – Tommorrow’s Harvest
First album in ages for this revered Scottish duo sticks to their distant dubby electronic template with odd sampled vocals floating in and out. Dreamy, man.

nightmare27 – Eluvium – Nightmare Ending
This is excellent ambient electronica that manages the clever trick of being both minimal and tremendously emotional. Background music that leaps up from time to time and grabs you.

Champagne28 – Fat White Family – Champagne Holocaust
Filthy, lewd and dirty music using the template of The Fall and The Monks. London’s Fat White Family are a refreshing blast of stale air. Unwashed and loutish, unapologetically foul. This is Rock Music.

Engravings29 Forest Swords – Engravings
Forest Swords return with an excellent follow up to their debut. This is spare and haunting electronic music of tremendous isolation and atmosphere.

Vidde30 – Atlanter – Vidde
Not like anything else and very hard to describe. Scandinavians Atlanter have made an album of a slightly off-centre kind of party folk music with interesting harmonies.

Splinter31 – Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind)
The elder statesman of electronica emerges from the shadows to drop the best industrial electronic album of the year. Nine Inch Nails take note – this is how it is done.

skyaway32 – Nick Cave – Push the Sky Away
After the lewd gutter blues of his Grinderman work and the driving dark humour of Dig Lazarus Dig you can forgive Nick Cave for taking a bit of a breather. And Push the Sky Away is much more understated than his other recent work. But this is Nick Cave remember so it’s still ace.

monkey-minds33 – Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time
Ex Beta Bander Steve Mason’s second solo album is delightful. Even his hip hop experiment works and he leaps from style to style without losing track.

12_Inch_Vinyl_Outer_Sleeve_3_mm_Spine_NEW34 – Dethscalator – Racial Golf Course No Bitches
A right racket. A messy mixture of Butthole Surfers weirdness and metal. Lots of fun.

Silence Yourself35 – Savages – Silence Yourself
An all woman band hyped to death by the music press. They sound very like Siouxsie and the Banshees with a bunch of other 80’s influences thrown in. The album cover contains an uncompromising declaration of intent. You can imagine how much I wanted to hate this. But actually it’s very good.

Excavation36 – The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
A dark and frankly frightening album of sparse electronica loaded with dread – all about death. Play it at your new year party.

passion37 – The Asphodells – Ruled By Passion, Destroyed by Lust
Andy Weatherall’s latest collaboration is a winner. The vocals fronting the electronica start out by grating but after a few listens mesh into the whole thing. Intelligent Dance Music indeed.

Modular38 – Eat Lights Become Lights – Modular Living
Eat Light wears his Krautrok influences on his sleeve and this excellent album is in a more restrained vein than last year’s banging Heavy Electrics.

more-light39 – Primal Scream – More Light
Their last album wasn’t up to much but this is a return to form of sorts. The Primals have darted off in so many creative directions over the years that it is almost a surprise to see them set up shop securely in the middle of their sound as they do on this album. So nothing new then, but some well crafted, well executed songs.

PaleGreen40 – John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
John Grant takes a major detour from his Midlake collaboration, “Queen of Denmark”. This album has stark electronica, lush ballads and brutally self-searching and bitingly funny lyrics – all delivered in Grant’s amazing voice. “Greatest MF” is one of teh tracks of the year.

Specter41 – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast
Nothing new here really but I like BRMC. This is a strong and accomplished rock album.

purgatory42 Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise
The first album in ten years for these 80’s 4AD label stalwarts is remarkably inventive and playful for a band so far into their careers. Songs are split into pieces and familiar bits crop up all over the place. Their best stuff is their most restrained and the whole album eventually pulls together into a powerful whole.

constant43 – Subrosa – More Constant Than The Gods
Salt Lake City’s Subrosa make super heavy doom metal. If you happen to like the genre then this bold album is well worth a listen.

argument44 – Grant Hart – The Argument
Drummer and songwriter with ’80’s noise legends Husker Du releases a double concept album about the fall of Lucifer based on Paradise Lost. It could have been a right mess but as it turns out he pulls it off very well indeed. Rattling through styles this is a unique and enetrtaining album.

Yeezus45 – Kanye West – Yeezus
He may have pilfered a few ideas from the noise-rap of Death Grips but this is still an excellent hip-hop album.

revenants46 – Mogwai – Les Revenants
This soundtrack to a spooky French series sees Mogwai all restrained and all the better for it.

…and here’s a few from 2012 that I missed last year that are well worth a listen.

worship-doom47 – Bongripper – Hail Satan Worship Doom
Sludgy, chewy, doom metal. Four massive tracks. Heavy.

Red-Kross-Researching-the-Blues48 – Redd Kross – Researching the Blues
Thirty years into their career and fifteen years since albums Redd Kross make the best thing they’ve ever done. Massive power pop albums with great hooks. A cracking album.

world-music49 – Goat – World Music
Swedish psychedelic pop. Tribal rhythms, chants, and loads of energy. One of tyhose records that sounds like it was a joy to make.

king-tuff50 – King Tuff – King Tuff
Great hooks, great pop songs. King Tuff is King.