I hope you found the first part of the annual list interesting and hopefully it contained a few albums you were not aware of that have tempted you to find out more. If not, maybe this next batch of twenty will. Let’s crack on shall we?
METZ – METZ
Toronto’s METZ are signed to the legendary Sub-Pop label and their sound is not a million miles away from early output of certain bands who made the label famous (*cough*Nirvana*cough*). Their scuzzy lo-fi guitar squall flies in the face of the ever present doom-mongers of guitar music’s future, sounding a bit like DFA 1979 without the groove, they stand shoulder to shoulder with bands such as Pissed Jeans or The Icarus Line in annoying your neighbours and not playing nice!
MONO – For My Parents
The Japanese post-rock quartet have morphed over the years into almost modern classical, moving away from the increasingly cliched quiet/loud guitar dynamics to include strings and more orchestral arrangements. On previous album Hymn To The Immortal Wind this approach did not work for me and I found the album, frankly, pretty boring, but on For My Parents they have brought back more of the soaring guitar sections alongside the more orchestral dynamics and have created a rather beautiful album that swells and ebbs and they have now crafted a rather unique sound. Not a bad thing to try and stand out now the post-rock genre is looked on with a fair amount of derision from certain quarters.
My Sleeping Karma – Soma
Proving that it is always worth catching the support act at gigs, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma have managed to sneak their new album into my favourite fifty mere weeks after seeing/hearing them for the very first time in Manchester when they supported Monster Magnet on their Spine of God twentieth anniversary shows. In a similar vein to bands such as Russian Circles, Pelican, Karma To Burn and others of their ilk, they know how to craft instrumental music that has you headbanging one minute and closing your eyes and drifting away the next! Their eastern influences remind me of a heavier Grails but with more hypnotic riffing over the top. Lovely stuff. I cannot find this streaming anywhere but their previous album TRI is on Spotify here.
Orbital – Wonky
Eight years after the slightly limp Blue Album, the Hartnoll brothers returned in April with Wonky and as a lover of their albums prior to the aforementioned Blue Album I was naturally apprehensive as to whether they should have just left their keyboards in the attic! The only new material they had produced in the eight years between albums was the Don’t Stop Me/The Gun Is Good double A side in 2010 which showed they still had stuff to give and thankfully Wonky proved to be a bit of a hands in the air, dancing like you just don’t care treat! Good to have you back lads!
Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love
Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses released this, their second album, way back in January. It displays a marked progression from their self titled debut of 2010, the songs all sound more cohesive and, dare I say it, better, but still retain the fury and urgency of the former album. As one of the best live bands out there at the moment (not quite up there with Blacklisters but it’s close!) I was hoping to catch the new material at their show in Leeds in November but unfortunately it was cancelled.
School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
SVIIB’s third album was released in February and the first without founding sister Claudia Deheza who left in 2010, leaving the band as effectively a two piece, Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis (once of nu-prog band Secret Machines). This is an album of electronic, anthemic pop tunes, sometimes straying into shoegaze territory that proved rather addictive earlier in the year. I had initially discounted it as their previous two albums had never really grabbed me but after reading the effusive praise heaped onto it by Drowned in Sound (a website that, in the past, has lead me to many great discoveries, so I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt) I gave it a listen and was rather glad I did.
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
The singer songwriter genre is not one that tends to get a huge amount written about it on here, but now and again I will hear something that really strikes a chord (pun not intended!) and the third album from Brooklyn singer Sharon Van Etten was such an album this year. Written at a tough period in her life (check the 9/10 DrownedinSound review for more details) the songs here are not happy ones and it seems to me that when a singer songwriter does get to me they are always unhappy artists or themes eg. Elliot Smith or Lone Wolf (on The Devil & I), or maybe it’s that anguish produces more heartfelt, beautiful music, after all that’s how the blues were born! To quote the closing line from the DiS review “It’s a wonderful record, a colossal achievement, and features some of the most breathtaking, moving and downright beautiful music you’ll hear all year.”
Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods
The third album from LA’s Silversun Pickups was released in May. Following on from 2009′s Swoon, an album that, although pretty well received, was slightly weighed down by its high production values and the overt grandiosity of a lot of the tracks. It had lost some of the charm of the band’s 2006 debut Carnavas. However, Neck of the Woods, drops some of the anthemic leanings of its predecessor and the songs seem a bit more heartfelt, and although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of their debut, and still wears its arena ambitions proudly on its sleeve, it’s still a very enjoyable slice of unchallenging, radio friendly rock.
Stumbleine – Spiderwebbed
Another late entry to the list. Stumbleine is a producer from Bristol (home to the more familiar, yet still relatively mysterious Burial) but Spiderwebbed is no urban dubstep banger, but a gentle, dreamy, indie fused comedown album. What I know about the whole urban, dubstep scene could be written on the back of a postage stamp and have space left over, but I know my dreamy shoegaze and this seems a nice mixture of the two. It’s not an album that demands much of the listener, it washes over you very pleasantly and you’re unlikely to find yourself whistling any of the tunes in the shower in the morning, but as a headphone experience it can be extremely nice.
The Men – Open Your Heart
Brooklyn band The Men’s third album Open Your Heart is a real mixed bag of styles, the first two tracks on it will lead you into thinking it will be an album full of straight up punk rock, then third track Country Song throws a curve ball with it’s slow build of slide guitar, then next track Oscillation sends you on a seven minute krautrock journey with no vocals appearing until the five minute mark! As one review put it, this is a band doing what they want, this record’s not for you it’s for them, and as such is an unpredictable 45 minutes that shouldn’t work but does!
The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
John Darnielle’s The Mountain Goats released their fourteenth (yes, 14th!) album in July and if you know anything of their/his prodigious output this is more of the same folk tinged indie with Mr Darnielle’s unmistakeable voice. Fourteen albums, mainly written by the one band member, The Mountain Goats are like the Guided By Voices of folk rock! Although he’s got some way to go to match Robert Pollard’s insane level of output (GBV have released three full studio albums during 2012, plus two Robert Pollard solo albums!!)
The Sea and Cake – Runner
A band I was hitherto unaware of, The Sea and Cake’s ninth album (which means I have some catching up to do) Runner, is a lovely album of quite gentle indie pop. An album that suits being put on early in the morning when you’re not yet ready for anything harsher, maybe to sooth a hangover or just as an alternative to annoyingly chirpy radio DJs! Fans of bands such as Buffalo Tom should find something to love here.
The Soft Moon – Zeros
The Soft Moon is Luis Vasquez from San Francisco, Zeros is the follow up to 2010′s self titled debut. Like the debut it is a album of dark, gothy, fuzzed up, synth-driven post-punk, with barely there vocals invoking comparisons with early material by The Cure or Joy Division. I caught them live a few weeks ago in Leeds, wreathed in fog at the Brudenell and although they drew a rather small crowd, they were suitably excellent.
The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
Third album proper from none-more Scottish indie kids The Twilight Sad, and it shows a huge stylistic shift away from the guitars to a much more electronic, krautrock inspired sound. As a big fan of their impressive wall of sound approach (especially live) I was initially sceptical but one listen to No One Can Ever Know convinced me that this new direction is a very positive thing. They’ve not cheered up though, the songs here do not paint happy pictures!
The Wedding Present – Valentina
After twenty seven years and around ten albums, David Gedge and co are still coming up with the goods! Although they may have lost a lot of the acerbic wit and lo-fi aggression of albums such as Bizarro or George Best, and although the last couple of albums have sounded a lot more like Gedge’s Cinerama side project than The Wedding Present of old, new album Valentina manages to span the two. The last minute or so of “The Girl from the DDR” are pure Weddoes!
Tindersticks – The Something Rain
Stuart Staples and co return with album number nine and it’s a real cracker, with some reviews saying it is their best in many a year! 2010′s Falling Down A Mountain never fully grabbed me all the way through and predecessor, 2008′s The Hungry Saw had a lot of good tracks but it felt a bit “light”, The Something Rain however feels like a complete experience with the nine minute spoken word opener Chocolate leading us into the songs proper.
Torche – Harmonicraft
Sludge-pop is not a genre crammed with bands, in fact it may have been made up solely for Miami’s Torche. They returned in May with their third full length, Harmonicraft, the cover of which, with its cutesy cartoon animals vomiting rainbows across the firmament, gives a fair representation of the music contained within, prettiness mixed with oodles of uurrgghh! Aggressive yet pleasant, heavy yet groovy, dirty yet polished, and plenty of other pleasing contradictions!
Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment
Norway’s self styled Death Punks Turbonegro return with their eighth album plus a new vocalist, brit Tony Sylvester taking over from Hank von Helvete. His rawer vocals give a much needed edge to their unique brand of sleazy punk rock. Their tongue is still placed firmly in their cheek, evidenced by lead single I Got A Knife with the marvellous lyric “he’ll euthenize you, he’ll eunuchize you” and the charmingly titled Shake Your Shit Machine. They seem to have reigned back on the more directly sexual(ly ambiguous) songs (I Got Erection or Rendezvous With Anus anyone?) but there is still plenty of sleaze contained here, you may be bouncing round your living room to tunes such as Mister Sister but when it’s all over you’ll still feel the need for a good wash! 🙂
VCMG – SSSS
This album is a collaboration between Vince Clark (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yazoo) and Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore. Reuniting for the first time since Clark’s departure from the ‘Mode in 1981 and despite having over 100 hit singles between them, this is no attempt at chart success but an album of meaty European techno made for themselves, pass me that bottle of water and smiley face t-shirt and let’s go!
Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph
Finally in the list of forty we have the UK’s black metal stalwarts Winterfylleth’s new album The Threnody of Triumph. Anyone who has heard these guys before will know what to expect, longer than average tracks, copious blastbeats, shrieked/growled vocals and fast tremolo picked guitars. Initially an imposing wall of sound, the ear gradually picks up the hidden melodies and when I’m in the right mood I can just get lost in this stuff.