Albums I Liked Last Year

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We’re far enough into the new year now that no one cares what happened in 2013, aren’t we? A music blog isn’t a music blog without some form of list making exercise around December/January though, so you’re getting something along those lines whether you like it or not.

Hey, no one forced you to come here and look.

This won’t be a proper list, there’s no numbers or anything, it’s just a big heap of music I enjoyed last year enough to think it deserves flagged up to the five folk that will read this.
This edition will be albums, if I can put in a bit of effort there’ll be another for singles, EPs and the like.

There’s going to be lots of embeds, so I’ll stick in a break so as not to slow down the front page of the site.

Still with me? Grand.

Last year was not a vintage year for me in terms of new music discovery, or even for keeping up with things I already liked. For large swathes of the year I paid very little attention to what was happening, what was out, who was hot and who was not, so I no doubt missed out on lots of gems. A death in the family will affect your focus somewhat.

The likes of Eels, David Bowie and Nick Cave don’t need me telling you that they released fab albums last year, so I’ll mention quickly just now that they all did, and move on to less popular more underground things. In no particular order…

Albums! Clicking the artist name should take you to somewhere about the artist, the album name to somewhere to buy the album.

You aren’t really meant to include compilations in these things, but screw you Mr. Rules Guy stop clamping down on my freedom.

The PlimptonsThe Life and Death of Colonel Plimp

The Plimptons had the nerve to go and split up this year. Outrageous behaviour, I think you’ll agree. They did leave us with a parting gift though, The Life and Death of Colonel Plimp, an album packed with their best bits and a handful of new songs. Goodbye Plimps, it was always fun.

Colin’s GodsonGreatest Hits

Sticking with the best of albums, Colin’s Godson put one together, along with a comic, for the Aye Tunes/Peenko/Scottish Fiction gig they did with me. It might be cheating to include it, but since this isn’t any kind of formal Best of 2013 list it’s going in anyway, cause Colin’s Godson are blooming great.

Black BooksBlack Books / Aquarena

A double entry for my favourite Texans, Black Books. We got an EP and their debut album from them this year, and since there’s very little overlap between the two they both get mentioned here. Dreamy, floaty, a bit shoegazy and fuzzy, Black Books have been caressing my ears for a few years now, ever since their debut EP in 2010, so getting more from them was very welcome and very pleasing indeed.

Le Thug / Magic Eye / Plastic Animals / Zed PenguinBeer Vs. Records

Just one of many excellent things to come from Song, by Toads Records last year, Beer Vs. Records took the form of a 12″ split EP, and a four pack of beer, each with two different songs from the four bands involved. Quite excellent bands at that. I’ve blethered on to anyone who will listen, and many who won’t, about Plastic Animals & Le Thug in particular, and they’ve done a couple of gigs for me each too, but Magic Eye and Zed Penguin didn’t slouch on this release either, it was all good stuff. Believe it not though, I still haven’t drank the beers.

Hey! Hello!Hey! Hello!

If Ginger Wildheart releases something, it will end up on my end of year list. Given how many projects he tends to have on the go at any one time he’ll be making these lists for quite a while yet. Hey! Hello! was just one of four albums to come from the Ginger camp last year, but I’m not going to count Albion, since that won’t get a proper release until this year. So check back in December when I include Albion on that list, most likely. Hey! Hello! won out over the Mutation double album for me, because I bloody love good pop music, and Ginger and Victoria Liedtke delivered a fantastic pop record with this.

Eureka MachinesRemain In Hope

See what I said above about Ginger? It seems to apply to Eureka Machines too. This is their third album, and the third time I’ve shoved them into one of these write up things. Power Pop Rock with more hooks than a tired cliche about fisherman, Eureka Machines are never dull.

RM HubbertBreaks & Bone

This will be on most Scottish end of year lists, but I really had to think hard about including it on mine. Not because it’s not good, it’s a beautiful album, with Hubby lending his own voice to the songs where required instead of getting his pals in to do it this time round. I thought about leaving it off because I’ve barely listened to it on record. The problem – that’s not the right word, but it’ll do – with loving Hubby’s music and going to see him live whenever I can is that you learn the stories behind the songs, and most of those stories aren’t terribly happy. With the death of my Dad this year, knowing the ins and outs of a lot of these songs ended up with me connecting with them more than I normally would, and for that reason it’s been a little bit tough to settle down, relax, and stick on the album. It’s a cracking album though, so in it goes.

The Big NowhereDon’t Burn the Fortune

Initially promised to be released in 2011, The Big Nowhere took their sweet time in eventually delivering Don’t Burn the Fortune, their second album. Not a Chinese Democracy style wait, but long enough to make me wonder if the eventually announced release date of April 1st would be some kind of cruel trolling. It wasn’t though, and the album duly arrived, complete with lush packaging featuring sketches from special guests, like Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Amanda Palmer’s Neil Gaiman. I attempted to celebrate the release of the album by meeting up with Simon from the band for a professional type interview. Six hours later we had a tape which can only be released if we both want to burn all our bridges in Scottish music, and I never did transcribe the suitable for public consumption bits. There are the odd wee bits on Don’t Burn the Fortune where if I’m not in the right mood I admire the craft rather than get right into it, mostly the sections where the tempo slows, preferring instead the louder, messier parts. There’s more than enough here that I love whatever my mood to recommend it happily though.

eagleowlThis Silent Year

Speaking off long awaited albums, 2013 was the year we got an LP from eagleowl. And lo, it was lovely. Quiet and slow and gentle and all the things you’d expect from eagleowl. Excellent then.

Thirty Pounds of BoneI Cannot Sing You Here But For Songs Of Where

Y’know, as I’m going through what I liked to write this list up I’m remembering how many ace albums there were last year, and being very happy that I’m not trying to rank them. Ever since being introduced to the music of Thirty Pounds of Bone I’ve been hooked, so a new album was always going to be welcome. Said album was a luscious slice of aural bliss too, not unexpected, but also very pleasing. Consistently interesting, Thirty Pounds of Bone records are always, always something to be treasured round here.

Wet Nuns – Wet Nuns

Wet Nuns split up pretty much immediately after releasing their debut album, which was a tad annoying as I really liked that album. Big, noisy, riffy rock by a two piece, that’s several of my boxes ticked right there. Nothing particularly new or unique, but great fun.

Kimmy YeahYan Tan Tethera

More big riffs, lots of shouty bits. Get in my ears you delicious noisy bugger.

BirdheadPleasure Centre

If I was ranking this thing, Birdhead’s debut album would be placed very high up the list. Despite having been a fan for ages Birdhead’s Krauty/punky/synthy/riffy/shouty assault managed to be even better than I expected, which was quite something considering what I expected. Also much better than the horrible way I just described it.

mi myeSometimes Life’s Cool

Not Wakefield’s most well known band, but my favourite one. Sometimes you want a right good indie pop album, Sometimes Life’s Cool is a right good indie pop album.

Cars Can Be BlueTrace the Tension

After being introduced to, and loving, Tunabunny last year – whose last album I was tempted to include in this, but it came out too early – HHBTM Records moved up my list of “hey, pay attention when these people get in touch” email people. I’m very glad of that, because I’d have hated to miss out on Cars Can Be Blue. A very rare occasion of a press release actually making me eager to hear something too. Sample quote “…we are old, and too ugly to be making this kind of racket and be even remotely serious about it”. After the build up I was a little worried that the album wouldn’t be as fun as the press release, but over the just over one minute of album opener You Gave Me all fears evaporated. The song even had handclaps, my one weakness. Having my first listen to the album on the bus home from work did prove slightly awkward when I hit I Am a Slut though, with my body torn between fits of laughter or singing along, either of which would have drawn glares of contempt from my follow passengers. Particularly singing along, those lyrics are very not fit for public transport. Trace the Tension is an album with tongue planted firmly in cheek, songs short enough to never run any risk of outstaying their welcome, but lodge themselves in your head for later. Yeah, Trace the Tension and Cars Can Be Blue pretty rapidly became my new favourite thing really.

By ToutatisThe Songs We Sang to Death

Moving away from the big riffs and silly fun for a minute for something a bit darker and dramatic. I can’t explain why, but there’s something in By Toutatis that reminds me of Tindersticks, though they sound nothing alike. I don’t know, maybe it’s the baritone, but it’s not a bad thing. Anyway, fine album, and bonus points for an Asterix derived name and a song called Rebecca.

We’re Only Afraid of NYCPatterns

One of the first bands I started to follow when I set up Aye Tunes properly, it’s been interesting to watch We’re Only Afraid of NYC develop. Over umpteen gigs and four EPs I’ve seen and heard them find their feet more, and focus themselves on what works for them. Patterns would be the result of all that time spent on stage and in studios. A few songs reappear from the previous EPs, but in updated forms that remove any lingering feeling that you’ve just bought an album that you already owned a chunk of. The addition of a sly Twin Peaks reference to the lyrics of It’s Tidal particularly pleased me. The end results was a fine wee album. I still say they should retrieve Superpop Allstars from the bin though.

Now Wakes the SeaGod’s Light Withdrawn

With just six songs on it God’s Light Withdrawn, and one of those a cover, should possibly be on an EP list if I do one, but it’s getting put in here for a couple of reasons. Reason number one is obviously because it’s fab. Reason number two is I still have a feeling of lingering guilt at not writing up an albums of 2012 post last year, which if it has appeared would have had the Now Wakes the Sea album Fluoxetine Morning in the top 5. That album got a reissue late in 2013 and is still very much something I suggest going and listening to though.

Still with me, or have you long since thought tl;dr? I’ve saved really, really good stuff for this far down, so I hope someone is still reading.

Adam Stafford – Imaginary Walls Collapse

Unsurprising album inclusion #1. If you’ve paid any attention at all to me over the past few years, either here, on Facebook, Twitter, or the gigs I’ve done, you’ll most likely have assumed that this album would be one of my favourites of the year, and you’d be right. I bloody love Adam, adore his songs and performing, and Imaginary Walls Collapse was no different. A mixture of the offbeat, the menacing and the “I want to live in a World where this is correctly a #1 single” pop songs, just like Build a Harbour Immediately was. Yet, somehow, Walls was even better than the excellent Harbour. An album – and artist – that I can’t sing the praises of highly enough, loudly enough, or often enough, but I’ll keep on trying anyway.

The Spook SchoolDress Up

Unsurprising album inclusion #2. Another band I’ve stalked followed for what feels like forever, and another album that no one is going to be shocked ranks as one of my favourites of the year. Wait, I wrote them a love letter, stalked was the correct term to use back there. I firmly believe that if you leave a Spook School gig without having enjoyed yourself you’ve done it wrong, and I apply the same belief to Dress Up, their debut album. Dress Up showed what The Spook School can do when shoved into a proper studio rather than a bedroom to record, with levels of fuzz and distortion that boot the twee label right up the arse. The loud, raucous bits are balanced nicely by more tender moments, with the closing duo being a nice summation, with  a hundred mile an hour tear through History followed by Who You Gonna Call? Goat Buster! – a title that might trick you into expecting something nonsensical but fun – one of the album’s most gentle, fragile and touching moments. Well, right up until halfway through, when the song explodes in a blaze of confetti and glitter, before slowing off again and giving you a sweet wee goodbye kiss on the forehead. Really, Dress Up is just a brilliant album from one of my most dearly loved bands.

Also, here’s Spook Scholars Adam and Anna with the little dolls my far-more-talented-than-I girlfriend made them as a present for their album launch.

Spooks

Algernon DollCitalo-pop

Something of a revelation to me, this album. I’d enjoyed Camomile, the first Algernon Doll album, but never quite managed to fall in love with it. Citalo-pop got hooks into me right away and refused to let go. As with Camomile there’s more than a hint of Elliott Smith, but this time round it’s the meatier, beefier sounding stuff. The hardly cheery lyrics of much of the album don’t discourage the Smith comparison, but I’m underselling the strength of the album’s own merits if I talk too much about Elliott. Reminding me of one of my favourite songwriters isn’t a bad thing, but Algernon Doll and Citalo-pop are much better than a homage or pastiche. Not only did I love this album, but when I returned to Camomile I developed a much stronger attachment to that too. Ace. I call records and bands ace a lot, don’t I? Well, this is ace. Ace ace ace.

If you really forced me to choose, then those last three would be right up the top of some kind of numbered list, but depending on what day you forced me to choose they would be in different positions. Just like everything else I’ve nodded at here.

There’s probably loads more records that I could or should have included here, but that’s loads already. If I start adding more I’ll get accused of loving everything again, and one more attack on my artistic credibility might make me retire from public life. If you want starting points, go look at everything released by Armellodie, Chemikal Underground, Olive Grove and Song,by Toad and you’ll find more good stuff I’ve not had space to include.

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