Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top 10 albums of 2013

10. Cloud Control - Dream Cave
Following on from the success of their 2011 record, Bliss Release, Cloud Control have returned with another glorious pop album. Released in September, the album was the perfect soundtrack to late summer, with hazy guitars and synths. Although the sound is much the same as their first album, it's a formula that works - vibrant but laid-back music that is distinctly 'Cloud Control'.

9. Foals - Holy Fire
 With a much heavier and richer guitar sound than many of the albums on the list, Holy Fire is easily one of the most gritty albums of the year, making for an exciting sound - a progression from their earlier albums with catchier melodies, whilst still retaining a rawness that has become their trademark.

8. Dutch Uncles - Out Of Touch in The Wild
 The dancing in the music video for Flexxin should give a clue to the pulsing rhythms that drive the songs on the album. Hailing from Manchester, the band has branched out from the guitar rock with which the city has become so associated, instead creating a niche for themselves - violins intertwine with xylophones in unusual time signatures.

7. John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts
 Recorded in Reykjavik with Icelandic electronic musician, Birgir Þórarinsson, John Grant's second  album has a melancholic vibe to it. Grant's voice is beautifully melodic, seeming to sincerely believes every word he sings. With wonderful string sections the album sounds hugely atmospheric - one can hear the influence the Icelandic landscape has had on him, particularly on Glacier.


6. Sweet Baboo - Ships
 The fourth album from Sweet Baboo (AKA Stephen Black), Ships is a charming record with simple,  catchy melodies. With jangling guitars and trumpets, it's a triumphant sounding album that has been a firm favourite throughout the summer months. Despite the morbid title of If I Died..., it's a wonderfully quirky tune with a sense of fun that is carried across the whole album.

5. Owiny Sigoma Band - Power Punch
 A joint collaboration between musicians from London and Nairobi, Power Punch has a sound that encompasses the best of British pop and rhythmic Kenyan beats. The brainchild of musicians in electronic hip-hop collective, Elmore Judd, it's clear that electronic music has very much remained an influence in the album. The fusion of the two cultures brings refreshing sounds to the album, and sets the group out to be one to watch in 2014. 

4. Villagers - {Awayland}
Villagers’ second album, {Awayland}, is a clear progression from their debut. Although some critics disliked the fact they’ve departed from their acoustic roots, there’s definitely a grittier edge to the album which makes them seem wiser – perhaps the result of months on the road, touring. Stand-out track, Nothing Arrived, sounds fresh amongst the more electronic tracks on the album, with bluesy piano chords wonderfully contrasting with the crisp clarity of lead singer Conor O’Brien’s voice.

3. The Epstein - Murmurations
Alongside the line-up changing, The Epstein's original country vibe has also greatly evolved over the past few years, and in Murmurations, has found a new sense of sophistication. The tracks are refined whilst still retaining a slight rock'n'roll edge, showing that the band have truly found a niche for their music.

2. Stornoway - Tales From Terra Firma
 Sonically, Tales From Terra Firma is far removed from Beachomber's Windowsill, with a more poppish sound, but, much like their first, the album is full of maritime imagery – ironic for a band from Oxford, one of the furthest points from the sea in Britain. Recorded in old churches and a garage, Tales From Terra Firma is wonderfully rustic, with little quirks throughout that showcase the band’s extraordinary musical talent – a spoon solo features in Knock Me On The Head.

1. Everything Everything - Arc
 The explosive second album from Everything Everything is one of the most vibrant to hit the Mancunian music scene in a long time. With its pulsing drum beats and jangling basslines, the album is an exhilarating listen, and the almost chant like quality to the vocals provides a unique sound which makes Everything Everything one of the most exciting bands of the year. 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Top 10 Singles of 2013

10. Peace - Vieux Farka Touré 

9. So Good At Being In Trouble - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

8. 22 - Night Beds

7. Calling Out Your Name - The Epstein

6. Harpoon Land - Owiny Sigoma Band 

5. Knock Me On The Head - Stornoway

4. Song For Zula- Phosphorescent

3. Flexxin - Dutch Uncles 

2. Don't Try - Everything Everything

1. Reflektor - Arcade Fire 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: For Folk's Sake Christmas Compilation

For Folk's Sake It's Christmas 2013 cover art

It’s  now just over a week until Christmas day, but December has already brought many treats - the smell of mince pies and mulled wine, the need for a roaring log fire, and the annual For Folk’s Sake Christmas compilation. Of course, the world is not short of festive tunes, and I’m the first to admit that when it comes to Christmas, my music taste tends to deteriorate – a tinsel length of Wham never hurt anyone. Despite this confession, I’m still able to know good music when I hear it, and this compilation includes much of just that. 

A mixture of covers and original songs, the album is a whole stocking worth of treats, with an eclectic range of sounds from the dulcet piano melodies of Howard Carter’s Adagio from Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, to Emperor Yes’ ‘Time Frog 4000’, a bizarre track, which sounds like it’s been composed by a psychedelic Santa after one too many.  

Sophie Jamieson’s version of ‘The First Noel’ has a Beth Jeans Houghton vibe to it, with aptly angelic vocals. Laish’s rendition of ‘Silent Night’ gives a more pessimistic view of the Christmas season with the lyrics, ‘Bitter winter has taken your cheer, tiresome company spoilt your beer’. One of my favourite carols, ‘Coventry Carol’ has been beautifully reinterpreted by Inti Rowland to have an almost Hispanic feel to it, accompanied by a simple but powerful guitar. 

As for original songs, Dark Dark Dark’s ‘Winter Coat’ is a haunting number with its piano accordion accompaniment, and intertwining male and female vocals. Much like Jens Lekman, Joe Innes & the Cavalcade have the perfect dose of whimsical lyrics and catchy melodies in ‘Santa Says Relax’, before slipping into a short rendition of ‘Santa Baby’. 

All the very best Christmas songs contain sumptuous vocal harmonies and twinkling piano riffs, and ‘Christmas All The Time’ by Pollyanna Band ticks all the boxes, sounding like it should be on the Love Actually soundtrack - no bad thing in my book.  Stornoway’s ‘Gondwanaland’ seems less overtly Christmassy than the other tracks, but with references to ‘silent snow’ and an ‘icy street’ it just about passes the wintry weather test, and nonetheless its gentle melody provides the perfect winter evening accompaniment. 

With profits from the album going to Medecins Sans Frontières, this compilation is the perfect gift for this Christmas. You can buy it now here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...