Albums of the year? Go on then
Everyone else is doing it. Not that my mum would have that for an excuse.
Digressing already… Albums. Yes. I have a problem with albums and that is my DJing. I listen to a lot of individual tracks, often not giving them more than a few seconds before deciding whether it’s worth adding to a show, let alone further investigating the album. I know, I’m a terrible person. Besides, one of my favourite artists, the seminal Lesbian Horse, holds no truck with such fripperies.
But that also means that when I do give an album the time, I’m probably bang into it. Anyway, here they are. There are
22 23, quite accidentally, and aren’t in any order.
Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
Do you need to know these are still the most important band around right now? Surely you were already aware. State of the nation stuff with a unique delivery and a visceral quality.
Standout track: Live Tonight
Fold – Fold
Experimental hip-hop/funk from Leeds. Inventive samples, heavy bass, bit of brass. There’s a movement here that needs a couple of others to jump on board to kick it off.
Standout track: Detroit Red
Gang Of Four – What Happens Next
It’s been a year of old bands putting out new stuff. In this case, just one of the original gang remains, Andy Gill, and is here accompanied by a cast of guest vocalists. As such, it doesn’t feel like a Gang Of Four album, but I still like it.
Standout track: England’s In My Bones
The Chap – The Show Must Go
Their most radical album yet. It’s a diatribe on the absolute certainty that rock music has not and will never ever change the world. Angry and relentless.
Standout track: Guitar Messiah
Drenge – Undertow
Difficult second album? Not a bit of it. They’ve added a bass which lends a more rounded, more mature feel to things but without losing the raw viscerality that made their debut album so appealing.
Standout track: Running Wild
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
About as indie as it gets and with a vocal style that greatly appeals, as anyone who has seen the seminal John Thomas in action can attest to. Call it slacker-rock if you like, but there’s a lyrical intelligence there that belies the laid-back vibe. Great title too.
Standout track: Pedestrian At Best
Therapy? – Disquiet
I’ve been a fan from the start, though the middle period avant-gardism left me cold. This, then, represents a return to familiar ground. 21 years after Troublegum, it’s the logical follow-up.
Standout track: Tides
I, Ludicrous – Dull Is The New Interesting
Another bunch of oldies back with new gear. Their first in ten years picks up exactly where they left off, subtly skewering the world of man-bag carrying hipsters arrogantly pushing their way through the highways and byways of the country while they fart around with an iPad, daft celebrity culture, dull workplaces, daytime TV and Billy Liar-type dreamers.
Standout track: Cheer Up
Squarepusher – Damogen Furies
A first solo LP in three years, so not the absentee that others on this list are. More immediately accessible than previous releases, but still sounding like absolutely nothing and nobody else.
Standout track: Baltang Ort
The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD
Four tracks, about an hour long. Brilliant. You’re in classic Orb territory here, their best since U.F.Orb really.
Standout track: Moonscapes 2703 BC
Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space
After the first LP, I was worried that the concept wouldn’t stretch much further, but making this more of a concept album dodged that particular bullet with some grace. Electronic story-telling of the most magnificent kind.
Standout track: The Other Side
Sauna Youth – Distractions
This is fucking brilliant and if you don’t own it, you are doing things wrong. It’s punk, it’s noisy, it’s great.
Standout track: Transmitters
The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie
They’ll see your hiatus and raise you. It’s 35 years since their last. Unlike Gang Of Four, this is instantly recognisable as The Pop Group. It’s good to have them back.
Standout track: Mad Truth
Outfit – Slowness
More dirt in the face of the second-album deniers. This is gorgeous. From start to finish, it washes over you and rubs you with a warm, soapy chamois leather. Perhaps not as instantly catchy as their debut a couple of years ago, but all the more rewarding for it.
Standout track: New Air
Ashley Reaks and Joe Hakim – Cultural Thrift
Hakim’s Hull lilt offsets Reaks’s often-challenging music and creates something quite unique. Inventive poetry with equally novel sounds beneath it. Again, there’s a movement here if anyone wants to kick it on.
Standout track: Nature Poem
Django Django – Born Under Saturn
Do I like it as much as their first? No. Do I like it? Yes. And enough to include on a list such as this. Evolution, not revolution. Still love them. One of the best live bands around too.
Standout track: First Light
Slug – Ripe
Jerky, nervy, awkward and hugely entertaining. It almost feels like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Musically and lyrically hugely intelligent.
Standout track: Running To Get Past Your Heart
The Go! Team – The Scene Between
It’s The Go! Team and it sounds like The Go! Team. The aim was, apparently, to create “delicious, curvy, undeniable, sunshiny songs”. Job done.
Standout track: The Scene Between
Girls Names – Arms Around A Vision
Splendid pop with an edge and then it ends with a discordant six-minuter completely at odds with what’s gone before. This is a brilliant thing to do.
Standout track: A Hunger Artist
Christian Fitness – Love Letters In The Age Of Steam
It’s Andy Falkous, so you know it’s going to be good. His occasional side-project (not solo) returns with the follow-up to I Hate Everything That Isn’t Me. It’s not Future Of The Left – that comes next year – but neither is it far away.
Standout track: The Harder It Hits
Flies On You – etcetera
Completely DIY stuff from the Leeds post-punks. Angry, cutting and witty. Recorded on a budget of nowt, you really should buy it from them if only to encourage them to make more.
And while I’ve picked out a different track as the standout, everyone must hear this:
Standout track: Action Stations!
Nightingales – Mind Over Matter
Another bunch of aging post-punkers with new material. Again, it’s the lyricism that draws you in. Knowing, meta, lots of other words. You know what you’re getting from Nightingales. This is among their best.
Standout track: Gales Doc
Heavyball – Black Eye Diaries
My wife pointed out that I’d missed one, so here it is as a late addendum. I don’t know how I forgot it as it was in the car all summer. Ska-infused indie pop. Genius.
Standout track: Black Eye Friday
I apologise for the lack of female voices on here – it honestly wasn’t deliberate. And apologies to all the ace people who also made ace albums that I didn’t listen to right the way through or didn’t include here before getting bored and ending it. I’m capricious like that sometimes.
Top 50 tracks (that are on Spotify) coming soon.