most honourable mentions – 2013

so, might i let my final entry in this years musical reflections be dedicated to some most honourable mentions; the releases that i was forced to agonisingly remove from my final short-list of exceptional works that saw the light of day across the last twelve months.

in some cases i found the releases to be slightly flawed, or perhaps a little too patchy, when forced to be over-critical, but for the most part it was simply a case of forcing myself to strip back the final list to the absolute bare essentials. either way, the selection reads thusly.

ancient mith – and the dead shall lie there


always a pleasure to get to audition a new long-player from the perennially captivating ancient mith. how he is more than capable of  delivering a full albums’ worth of texts without once losing sight of the cohesive whole or growing tedious… and here’s to the next eu-tour!

david lynch – the big dream

anything new from david lynch will always be a notable moment, since my teenage fascination with his creative world, and how intruiged i am to see him release a new album so soon since the previous outing. more confounding, infuriating, mesmerising, captivating material to be sure.

soso – not for nothing

how i have long been partial to the works of the mighty soso, and how this latest outing is immediately captivating and remains so for its short duration. i am always struck by the sheer craft that he employs with each of his releases, giving them always the necessary gravitas to enthrall.

nosunnofood – nosunnofood

edison has been one of my ‘all-time-favourite’ producers for a long time now and how any outing from his musical realm is surely guaranteed to captivate, enthrall, entertain, sooth and stimulate. a perfect excursion back into his sonic landscapes between official solo releases.

james p honey – dIv_ØØNYgHN

the young captain honey murdering his way through half-an-hour of barbed materials. for my money always more visceral and captivating when stripped-down, these songs are further proof of his magnificent artistic path over the last few years.

earl sweatshirt – doris

probably the most ‘hyped’ release on this small list and how it was a curiously-intriguing item indeed. there can be no denying his incredibly powerful voice, nor his excellent flow, and how the lyrics and, for the most part beats, were able to generate a consistent journey though his world.

prodigy & alchemist – albert einstein


an unexpected treat to be sure. i cannot begin to explain how much i listened to the early mobb deep records as a teenager, nor how bemused i was by their plunging descent into utter dross. so, what a delight to hear prodigy offering bar after bar of gold, over a full-albums’ worth of solid beats.

action bronson & harry fraud – saab stories

scarcely able to bring myself to allow this release art onto this blog, but i cannot deny how many times i listened to ‘alligator’ and ‘seven series triplets’ this year; only two out of the six songs on offer, but just so compelling as to carry the weight of the release onto this list.

tesk – nerves

an absolutely stunning debut release from the masterful tesk. how it probably would have been in the short-list had it not arrived so late in the year, only giving me the chance to begin to be blown away by all that lays within. a full tape of shimmering magical hues. utter bliss.

home – word


how little could be more welcome that a further release from the always-masterful home. how this new set of ten songs carried me forward through this year on buoyant wings, always offering a keen and clear eye on the reasons why we are indeed moving forward. truly wonderful.

so, there we have it, my humble take on the musical facts in the case of 2013. i sincerely hope that you found a few enjoyable moments within, have managed to discover some new treats for your own archives, or simply enjoyed the shared understanding of mutual tastes, and how i sincerely hope that we are all still here this time next year to celebrate once again.
in final parting, i would also like to reference a number of artists that didn’t make it onto any of these lists, simply by way of my having not had the chance to audition their works over the last twelve months. i am keenly looking forward to hearing the latest releases from the following:

jesu, boards of canada, carcass, odd nosdam, the haxan cloak, arcade fire, low, billy woods & blockhead, cathedral, burial, bill callahan, dakota, tim hecker and many more …the tale is ongoing indeed…

top ten releases of 2013

as promised, i have managed to allow myself enough time to rifle through this last years’ archives in an attempt to isolate what i consider to be the best musical releases of the last twelve months. in truth, it proved to be quite a difficult task and so, following this list shall be another containing ‘most honourable mentions’, just to satisfy my completist tendencies.
still, after much agonising, i have managed to pare the list down to ten releases, spanning a wealth of styles and genres, from big-names to underground-heroes, from whistfully soothing to outrageously heavy; a splendid bunch indeed. so, might i request that you take a moment to put your feet up and have yourself a little perusal of the treats i have collected herein.
swordplay & pierre the motionless – tap water
despite some outrageously stiff competition, i would argue that this was my ‘most anticipated’ release of 2013, and would also probably have secured itself the top-spot, should i have buckled and reduced myself to listing them in my own order of greatness. not surprisingly ‘tap water’ has been featured on a lot of end-of-year lists and has received a good deal of press throughout the year and for good reason. for my own part, i was equally blown away by both swordplay and pierre the motionless from the first time i heard their sounds, and knew that this album would be something very, very special indeed. still, how they managed to outdo all of my expectations, bringing to the table a collection of impeccably crafted songs that come together to form a cohesive album in the most truest sense. in a modern age of rushed-releases, low quality albums and cobbled-together mixtapes, this release really highlights what can be accomplished artistically when truest craftsmen allow themselves the time to get it right. five stars, five mics, five cups of black tea. utterly essential.
koko blue – crosses and planks
the debut album from koko blue took me completely unexpectedly and had me absolutely fall in love with it almost directly. i had luckily managed to stumble upon news of the release and secured myself one of the most generous ‘free downloads’, found myself listening to it religiously and then was even more delighted to discover a limited edition cd version being released soonafter, which i naturally had to scoop up directly. the release coincided with the warmest weeks of the summer in the old world and how it soon became my soundtrack for days of riding to the lake by bicycle, gazing out over the shimmering waters, or relaxing in the soothing warmth of the evening, gentle breezes blowing through the window. thirteen songs so perfectly realised and not short of a few killer ‘singles’ too; the whole release a beautifully cohesive whole, wonderfully soothing, yet filled with a very real gravitas by way of the seemingly effortlessly penned texts relating tales of truly heartfelt moments. an utterly magical spell-binding album that i shall be sure to keep near me at all times as the years continue to race by. investigate immediately.
opium lord – the calendrical cycle – prologue : the healer
the horror. the outrage. i somehow very gladly managed to stumble upon the sounds of opium lord around the time of the promotional release of this two-track monster whilst in the ruhrgebiet working with dyxz on the beginnings of the dyxz.born.rndr extension of the throne burner project. somehow lurking on some dark metal blog these two songs absolutely exploded in my headphones and had me immediately pestering dyxz to audition them over the speakers. i can still vividly recall the looks on our faces as we were visibly shaken by the near-impossible magnificence of these utterly ruthless compositions. i have been a keen follower of the heaviest of sounds for more than twenty-years now, but the devastation of ‘heroin swirls’ and ‘street labs’ really did instill in me the kind of excitement i felt when first hearing ‘seasons in the abyss’ echo from within my sisters bedroom as a very young man. still, how a lovely sense of nostalgic pride washed over me to discover that they are a young set of gentlemen hailing from birmingham, uk; the birthplace of all that is metal; a fitting fact indeed. i hear tell that the debut album shall soon be upon us and how i’m honestly not sure that i have anticipated a metal release quite so heavily. if you like your death / doom / sludge / grind, then you need this. you really need this.
laska – laska
how very warming a feeling to be able to include a decorative stamp release on this list indeed, and what a majestic one too. i had been privy to the goings-on at the newly-formed laska camp and was keen to learn that their debut release was nearing completion and simply had to find myself asking very nicely if we could release it in conjunction with the stamp, and how graciously they did agree. three songs that hint at such vast worlds beyond, all shimmering with such a warm beauty; the perfect melodic work of rhys and amy, their magical twin-voices working in perfect unison and the whole being so effortless shaped together by the unbeatable treatments of the mighty beatoven. how the whole release gives me such a strong sense of some kind of identity that could be prescribed to modern electronic music hailing from the united kingdom, but which resonates with a tone of borderless understanding. of course, the always-staggering lyrics of rhys never fail to add the needed gravitas to such a release, and how their accents sure are pretty, but it is the way that the trio operate together, each displaying their greatest strengths that secures this outing a place in this list. wonderfully soothing, perfectly brooding, effortlessly hypnotic; magical indeed.
ghostface killah – twelve reasons to die
this year of our lord 2013 did indeed mark the twentieth anniversary release of the ’36 chambers’ and thusly marked my twentieth anniversary of being an undying fan of the ghostface killah, and what better way to be able to cherish this fact than revel in what quickly became one of my absolute favourite solo releases from the god himself. whilst the rest of the clan steadily let themselves descend into painful mediocrity i have always found myself to be very keen to hear what is to emerge next from ghostface and how ‘twelve reasons to die’ was a real treat indeed. forgiving the slightly hackneyed plot of this ‘concept album’, which is not so overbearing to detract from the whole, the release flows with such energy and gusto that one simply cannot help but be swept up in this new set of street tales which he unfolds. a great part of the credit must of course be given to one adrian younge for serving up some utterly staggering production that has the album hang together as the perfect foundation for ghostface to do his thing, made even more powerful by what appear to be genuinely enthused guest-spots from other members of the clan. still further, there is a wonderfully experimental nature to the release with some passages sounding truly bizarre; another welcome addition to the overall work. not world-changing, by wonderfully entertaining, and easily securing itself a place on this list.
run the jewels – run the jewels
i did find myself just a little late to the run the jewels party, but clearly needed to make my way there in my own time. as much as a few songs from the last el-p album really blew me away, i wasn’t feeling the whole release quite enough to get so very excited, and how i regrettably slept on killer mike’s ‘r.a.p music’, a fact which i have very gladly managed to remedy, which finally lead me full-circle onto this stunning release. now that the curious-surprise of el-p and killer mike joining forces is quite some ways behind us, all that is left is to marvel at how magical a combination they are together indeed. i am, of course, one of many graduates from the school of ‘funcrusher plus’ and have been a keen el-p listener since my late-teens and am always ready to hear his latest musical developments, and how this release is yet another fascinating excursion further into his steadily-evolving sound; always captivating and setting a masterful stage for raps that need to be very high quality to maintain the balance. gladly both gentlemen really do offer us some wonderfully captivating wordplay that does indeed keep the attention-level high at all times. this is the kind of quality that we should be able to expect from such hard-working artists and how reassuring and enjoyable that they should indeed deliver on such a scale.
the knife – shaking the habitual
a new album from the knife is always going to be a big deal, and how they are always guaranteed to confound, to mesmerise and to push boundaries as far as their immense reputation will allow. from the arc of their releases thusfar it would have been fair to predict that this latest album would be the ‘darkest’ and ‘weirdest’ yet and, to that end they certainly don’t dissapoint, but could any of us have been prepared for just quite how dark and weird it really is? one could even perhaps be forgiven for thinking that they really are just messing with us, given the utterly appalling album artwork, the audacious running-time and the bizarre juxtaposition of sounds, melodies and texts that make up this powerful collection. but, once allowing oneself to slowly soak up this immense body of work, the initial doubt, confusion and turmoil gives way to something incredible powerful, emotive and beautiful; masterstrokes indeed. i would be very willing to admit that this is quite easily the ‘most-challenging’ release on this list and really does demand a lot from the listener, but how wonderfully paradoxical that the most cerebral, most dense, most demanding release on this list is the only one that might find itself filed in the ‘dance’ section. joy.
my bloody valentine – mbv
any new release from my bloody valentine would surely guarantee its place on absolutely all end-of-year lists, even if it was only for the sake of hip-journalists trying desperately to cover their backs, but how they did indeed manage to unveil a ‘new’ collection of songs which does only serve to cement their reputation at the undisputed and much-imitated masters of shoegaze. the fact that the lions share of the material was written and perhaps even recorded but a few years after ‘bloody kisses’ can only be seen as a strong feature of this release. how the sound of their much-hallowed second album was so distinctive that the only way to perhaps satisfy listeners with a sequel would be to return directly to that source and continue to mine the depths therein, and how this release does exactly that; and somewhat effortlessly, it seems. mbv gets it exactly right, it is the perfect continuation of what we have all loved about the band for so long now, and only branches out a little into newer territory, enough to feel there has been a little development upon the path, but not too much to allow us to sense that they have wandered off in some direction influenced by the myriad on imitators that have taken their place in the intervening years. like stepping into the past, but through a new lens, somehow seeing everything splendid and anew.
dale cooper & the dictaphones – quatorze pièces de menace
another keenly anticipated release for this year, and one that did not disappoint. having been tuned onto the sounds of dale cooper & the dictaphones many years ago by the mighty fbcfabric, i have always been quick to reach for their music on frequent occasion and was thus over-the-moon to hear of fresh material on the horizon in the form of this new, sprawling release. once again we return to that effortlessly uneasy nocturnal world in which they invoke, and once again they slowly managed to expand the reach of their musical-magics by way of steadily drawing in more and more styles and feelings whilst still maintaining their own signature variant of the dark-jazz sound, as perfected by the masterful angelo badalamenti those long years ago now. still, here as with all their releases, it is the crisp and calculating electronic edge that pushes the whole in its own identifiable direction, and with such an ambitious running-time there is opportunity aplenty for them to explore their ever-altering whole to oftentimes mesmerising effect. how i sincerely hope that they may indeed be able to extend their listenership wider-still with this highly-polished release, that many more folk will be able to discover the delights of this powerful group of musicians.
walter gross – rotorcraft
utter, unspeakable devastation, always. walter gross is a name synonymous with monolithic noise terror, and rightly-so. anyone even vaguely interested in the possibities of sonic devastation within a beat context really ought accept that he has, by now, become a true master of the art indeed. how fortunate i found myself to be back in the spring to be able to play a show alongside the man himself at the legendary djazz in duisburg, north-west germany, and was treated to an utterly-relentless assault of a live performance which included cuts from this mighty release, and did indeed gratefully receive a copy of the release itself as a kind gift, for which i shall be eternally-grateful. ‘rotorcraft’ is an absolute bloody-mess of a release, spewing its gnarled and twisted guts all over the soundstage in horrific display after horrific display or sprawling noise-terror and frightening audio-threats, as if some kind of surreal nightmare with an all-too-real blackened core ready to burrow its way out into the waking day with each new distorted vocal-tone. this is scarcely music, more like some biologic-weaponry developed with the intent of purging sanity from fragile minds. one for anyone brave, or adept enough to travel to the darkest of regions.
so, there we have it. another wonderfully-mixed bag indeed; a little something for everyone perhaps. still, might i heartily recommend you investigate anything that tickles your fancy, as i will wholeheartedly stand by my opinion that each of the above releases is of the absolute highest quality indeed and without a doubt worth a good deal of your listening time.
again, thank you muchly for your time and attention, and how i do trust you might be finding yourself inspired to do a little investigation or re-celebrating from your own archives of the last year, and do expect a final list of ‘honourable mentions’ to follow; celebrating just a few more releases that i had to force myself to strip away from this short-list selection.

top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2013

so, as another year draws to a close, one finds oneself reflecting on this most-recent set of twelve moons now passed and all they have come to embody. as time permits, i am trying to allow myself the necessary moments to look back upon all that has transpired and to word a few of my own facts in the case, much for my own interest as well as your own reading pleasure.

how so much has transpired indeed, and how there is much to reflect on, to be sure. so, might i boldly begin with the jovial task of finding myself in a position to discover and indeed reveal my own top-ten ‘most-listened-to artists’ of 2013. calculated using the magic of my account, whilst factoring in my vinyl listening habits into the equation, the list reads thusly.

no. 10 : songs: ohia

a perennial top-ten artist for the last ten consecutive years; a fact that needs little explanation to the adept among us. but this year the entry swathed in impossible sadness. i can scarcely relate my own personal desperation at the knowledge of the passing of jason molina this year. if there was ever any one artist who so deftly captured the tortured pain of depression and the majestic beauty of efforts to fight its cruel embrace for my own personal voyage, then it would be he. listening to songs: ohia is, for me, a willingness to accept the unbearable weight of sadness, but to display a willingness to fight; to try to press on, ‘step by step through the black’, but how the understanding that he lost his own battle this year is a weight so hard to bare. may he finally be at peace, and may his songs stay with us until we reach our own inevitable end.
no. 09 : glenn miller

another perennial favourite, since my early childhood, when i first had the chance to audition my fathers’ vinyl edition of the jimmy stewart movie soundtrack of the glenn miller story. on to when my father and i would frequent the fairfield halls in croydon to take in the touring big bands still operating to this day. it is hard for me to step back and really assess the music of this, the most-celebrated of the big bands, for it is so intrinsically linked with my early childhood memories, my teenage years and onwards. often emerging from unlikely sources to always remind me of its power, ‘made cool’ again by david lynch with his movies and twin peaks successes, embelished with the nostalgic weight and significance of the war-time period, not least with the death in action of its leader. songs from an earlier time and place, made more innocent with the downward spiral we have witnessed since.
no. 08 : yo la tengo

another truly-perennial entry. yo la tengo is the band that i often cite as being my ‘favourite of all time’, a statement i can only logically prescribe to for the simple fact that their repertoire contains songs for almost every musical mood i can find myself in. from the most beautiful soothing ethereal pieces through to dark and a heavy dirges, by way of jazzy escapades, folksy moments of intimacy, waves of fuzzy shoegaze, country leanings and moments of sheer whimsy. i had the privilege of being introduced to their work by the near-legendary fbcfabric as our friendship was first beginning to blossom and how we have celebrated their work together ever since. still, for my own part, yo la tengo music is spring-time music, and how the binge beginning sometime when the light starts creeping into the month of march is always sure to secure a top-spot in my listening list for any given year.

no. 07 : helen forrest

surely a new entry into my ‘most-listened’ list, although it was early last year when i first began to procure myself rare 78 recordings from this most enchanting vocalist. her repertoire was vast indeed and how there are so many standards so effortlessly presented by her in collaboration with all of the big names of the swing-era, but for my own part, how the lions share of my listening has been taken up with just one recording; her rendition of ‘moon ray’ with artie shaw & his orchestra. i can scarcely imagine that there is anyone in the western lands who is unfamiliar with this piece, perhaps vitally or perhaps in a whistful dream of a childhood memory, but how i can only wholeheartedly recommend repeating listenings with a view to exploring more of her recorded catalogue; there are so many beautiful moments of time captured with early recording techniques for our own ongoing pleasure.
no. 06 : koko blue

the only entirely new entry on the list for 2013 and indeed the only music to actually have been released these past twelve moons. i had the distinct pleasure of getting to meet the enchanting miss koko bonapart in guelph, ontario whilst being on the ‘our accents sure are pretty’ tour back in the spring of 2009 and was quickly prompted of her songwriting prowess, but how it took my patient waiting until she unveiled the ‘crosses and planks’ album this year, and how it still managed to exceed all expectations. to say that i fell deeply in love with all of the songs contained therein would be the only way to do justice to my feelings for these wonderfully crafted pieces. the beautifully clear and simplistic production, the perfectly soothing melodies and then this impossibly rich and mesmerising voice. how my long summer months were spent bathed in the radiance of these hypnotically soothing sounds, and given such deeper resonance with the weight of the finely-crafted words therein.
no. 05 : philip glass

philip glass seems like a name i have been familiar with my whole life, but i imagine the first chance i had to sit and listen to his music was at age sixteen, when a copy of his ‘low symphony’ fell into my hands, or perhaps dare i mention when i watched ‘candyman’ for the first time. the scenes are a little blurred now, but they were enough for me to show great enthusiasm when fbcfabric mentioned his name for the first time and kindly shared with me a few more of his masterful works. still, as much as i am always ready to audition any number of his works it is still always his work on ‘the hours’ soundtrack that ensures his continued presence in my ‘most-listened’ list. it really is one of those rare recordings that i can listen to on repeat all day and all night. his immediately indentifiable style presented in such a warm and powerful fashion, cascading pianos and strings forever altering and changing their collective shape, a constant undulating set of waves to lull and stir in equal measure. hypnotic, mesmerising, soothing and rousing; absolute perfection indeed.
no. 04 : ornette coleman

most-likely a new-entry for this years’ list, but an artist that has been on my periphery vision for many long years now. how i must have first been drawn to his exceptional talent as a boy of fourteen or fifteen watching david cronenbergs film adaptation of william s burroughs’ ‘naked lunch’ and being immediately struck by the wildly-disorientating tones and patterns. of course i understood that it was ‘jazz’ at the time, perhaps even ‘free-jazz’, but it seemed like such a revelation to me; a revelation that has wonderfully haunted me since. still, my path back to his work has been slower than i would have imagined until it finally began to blossom these few years past til it finally reached full-bloom as the spring became the summer this year now passed. but what can be written about such a legendary figure? should you be adept then you will understand immediately, but should the moment still not be upon you, then do allow yourself the chance to let the music start to soak in; there is impossible magical waiting in the strange half-light.

no 03 : the andrews sisters

of all the great vocal-jazz groups of the swing-era, the andrews sisters must surely be the most well-reknowned, and with good reason indeed. three sisters; laverne, patty and maxine, operating alongside the glenn miller orchestra and a wealth of other big-band greats, performed unrivaled concerts and recorded an absolute wealth of vintage recordings during their fantastically successful career, and how we are to this day so lucky to be able to still cherish these magical slices of history and time for our own listening pleasure and musical journeys. there can be no denying that their music is from a different time, a different world indeed, but one that still resonates so strongly into this modern, meaningless world, and one that offers such timeless themes wrapped within a wonderfully sweet and charming whole. for my own listening pleasures, the ‘chesterfield broadcasts’ with the glenn miller orchestra are the truest delight to be found within their catalogue and the lions’ share of listenings that have them featured so highly in this list.

no. 02 : the boswell sisters

surely the only vocal-jazz group worthy of ranking a place above the andrews sisters can only be reserved for the true originals; new orleans’ very own boswell sisters. beginning their highly-celebrated recorded careers at tender ages in the early 1930’s after already successful performance careers from the very youngest of ages in their native city, the three sisters essentially invented what could be done with their art and at the same time re-wrote every rule for their own creative ends. they were the only vocal-group who were allowed to manipulate the standards in their own desired style and how the results are bewitching to say the least. should you simply be a music scholar wishing to study melodic technique, phrasing, timing and the like, or should you simply wish to be swept up in the magic of their catalogue, one cannot fail to marvel at their impeccable resume. yet still, the fact that absolute legends such as ella fitzgerald spoke of their massive influence can only reveal the facts in the case of their status to be irrefutable.

no. 01 : howard shore & ornette coleman

this combination of artists can only mean one thing; the soundtrack to david cronenberg’s 1991 film adaptation of ‘naked lunch’ by the omnipotent william s burroughs. i can confess, after repeated viewings over many years, to being rather partial to the movie, although certain elements, most-notably the last ten minutes, always disappoints me bitterly; but the soundtrack is something completely different again. from my first listenings via the film itself from that young age and across the subsequent years, to finally being able to procure a copy of the soundtrack itself, i have been utterly mesmerised by the sounds therein. this fascinatingly harmonious union of two absolute masters of their craft, coming together to create something that really does raise their own individual arts to even greater height is a magical event that could indeed only have come about due to the needs of this film adaptation by one great of yet another. still, harmonious unison could surely be much better predicted in this meeting of musical minds than the failed experiment that is cronenberg sourcing burroughs untouchable masterpieces. let us put the film aside, press play on the disc and enter our own personal interzone for a brief tenure of emotive exploration.

so, there we have it. a nicely curious collection of artists, and how i can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend you taking some time to explore any and all on this list for your own personal experience, or perhaps i might simply have been able to nudge you into revisiting some of these treasures from your own archives. how there can be little greater pleasure to be had within the musical arts than to spend some time auditioning some of the very best quality music at ones disposal indeed… and here’s to the constant state of ongoing exploration into further depths of artistry and creative odyssey.
might i briefly take a moment to thank you for your interest, and how i shall boldly also hint that i am currently compiling a list of my ‘top releases of 2013’ for your amusement and delectation too. how there has been a wealth of staggering new music this year, and how i very much intend to take a moment to celebrate some of this young material that has emerge since last we cast our thoughts back across the long moons. so, please do stay tuned, and here’s to the ongoing, to the onwards and upwards. sending all the love.