Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 1. Midget Ninjas

1.  Soviet Bass - Midget Ninjas (Self-Released)

A remarkable album on several fronts, taking various elements from Russian and Soviet history, pairing them with intoxicating beats and setting the whole thing loose, picking up collaborations with the likes of Baauer and Major Lazer along the way.  Its triumph is in remaining aloof from mere gimmickry and in fusing such elements together so that the whole thing works brilliantly whether you're alive to the historical references and ironies or not.  Also remarkable is that the whole collection is available as a free download from here.  

Season's greetings and remember you can hear the first broadcast of the Festive Fifty from midnight tonight (UK time) on Dandelion Radio.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 2. Fuck Buttons

2. Slow Focus - Fuck Buttons (ATP)

My last.fm page tells me that my seven most listened to tracks of the year were the seven tracks from this album.  I suppose you might conclude from that that it ought to be my number one of the year, but it just got edged out by an album that regular listeners to my show won't be surprised to see at number one - but more of that later.

Both of the earlier Fuck Buttons albums were great favourites but this one managed to be even better, taking that glorious electronic fuzz, meticulously placed rhythms and beguiling changes to such heights that you really wonder where this incredible duo might take us in the future.  For now, they have their particular field to themselves.  They also produced the best live performance I witnessed in 2013, with their set at the Green Man Festival.  If you're wondering how two blokes standing behind computers can generate such a spectacle, I advise you to go and see them without delay.

The album, needless to say, is easily available, but can be got here among other places.

I suppose I ought to start reminding you now that you can hear the first broadcast of the 2013 Festive Fifty from twelve midnight on 24/25 December here.  Join us for an hour before midnight where some of us Dandelion DJs will also be playing some of our favourites of the year.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 3. CRAWANDER

3. Cartoon Core - CRAWANDER (Sacrifarce)

The debut album from Croatia's finest took so long to emerge I was worried in case they'd done something stupid like split up or had a terrible accident or something.  Thankfully, neither of those scenarios occurred and, in September, 2013, Cartoon Core saw the light of day and was everything we hoped it would be, and more.

Our anticipation had already been well and truly moistened by frenzied gems like 'Pro Bono Vox', 'Prophit' and the pizza-fuelled anger of 'No Problem Like My Problem' but we really had no right to expect that the brilliance encapsulated in these glimpses into the crazy world of Crawander should be replicated so wonderfully across sixteen tracks.  In the event, there isn't a bad one on the album and, remarkably, it's available purely as NYOP from here.  I'd advise you give generously - this is an album that will keep you dangerous and unpredictable company for the rest of your life.  

Monday, 16 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 4. Anata Wa Sukari Tsukarete Shimai

4. The Lost Charles Underscore - Anata Wa Sukari Tsukarete Shimai (Bearsuit)

Astonishing stuff from the excellent Bearsuit label, who put out many good things during 2013 but excelled themselves with this album of brilliantly twisted psychedelic-punk-pop-noise strangeness that crams so much into itself that, at the end, you feel you've digested an entire year's worth of brilliant music rather than a mere twelve tracks.  When the preview track 'Doll' pummeled my lugholes I didn't dare hope that the rest of the collection would be equal to it in magnificence, but it was and the proof is here.  

Mark Barton is The Sunday Experience said it 'belches along a grizzled dust racked highway once frequented by a youthful Tom Waits channelling the spirit of Beefheart', but he was only talking about a single track.  Utterly spellbinding.

Get it here

Friday, 13 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 5. Dissolved

5.  Surge of the Lucid - Dissolved (Daddy Tank)

While there are many labels that deserve a massive pat on the back for their support for great music and constant capacity to surprise, Daddy Tank deserves particular appreciation for its consistent ability to stay ahead of this very strong pack.  Every time you think the label's gone about as far as it can, another release comes out that cranks the quality level up another notch and sets the standard that others must be judged by.

No Daddy Tank release since that Twiggy & The K-Mesons album a couple of years ago has achieved this quite so spectacularly as this.  If we felt our love for Dissolved's work could not increase in intensity, Surge of the Lucid came along to push us to insane emotional depths.  It's an extraordinary nine-track panorama of experimental electronic wizardly, the technology barely concealing a playful touch that, at all the right moments, unleashes a very human intensity too often absent from the work of those who treat their electric toys as if they were an end in themselves.  In Dissolved's hands, they are a means to something very different, something that's much more difficult to define but, whatever it is, Surge of the Lucid is its most astonishing manifestation yet.

Download it from the Dissolved bandcamp page here or get it on CD from Daddy Tank here.  

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 6. JD Meatyard

6. Northern Songs - JD Meatyard (Probe Plus)

No other collection in the vast discography of John Donaldson showcases the extraordinary breadth of his vision like this.  The former Levellers 5/Calvin Party main man is currently making the best music of his long career as JD Meatyard and Northern Songs is its finest outpouring thus far.  Teasingly, though, he opens so many different possibilities in this album that you sense the future might see him plundering still richer artistic territory.  We'll see.

For now, this'll do just fine.  It takes us from the fervent, uncompromising political comment of 'Jesse James' and 'A Political Song (Blow It Out Yr Arse) all the way through to the intensely personal emotions of 'Sweet Wine' and 'Jesus Call' and every stop on the way reveals yet another masterfully crafted layer and suggests those reservoirs of rich possibilities still to come.

Get it directly from Probe Plus here.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 7. Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno

7. Doobie Wonderland - Acid Mothers Temple & The Cosmic Inferno (Parallax Sounds)

Always an amazing thing when a band that's been going for quite some time, making music that's of a recognisably high standard, suddenly cranks up the quality to levels you hadn't imagined were possible.  Such was the case this year with Acid Mothers Temple, whose album managed to fuse elements of krautrock, acid rock, Parliament/Funkadelic and god knows what else and not only avoid being a conceptual nightmare, but turn out to be one of the releases of the year.

Five tracks here, all of which offer lengthy journeys into a hedonistic musical soul that inhabits a den of inquity where the best drugs share elbow room with glitterballs and Can's Tago Mago and where frenzied, open jams transport you to otherworldly spaced-out climes you didn't know existed, but hoped in earnest that they would.

This may be the best release yet from the marvellous Parallax Sounds label, which is saying something in itself.  Get it on CD here.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 8. Nac/Hut Report

8.  Angel-Like Contraction Reverse - Nac/Hut Report (Double Hallucinative)

Stunning release from this Polish/Italian duo who take guitars, loops and various other noises and channel them brilliantly into nine raucous yet strangely melodic tracks.  Overlaid with Brigitte Roussel's bewitching vocals, each raw slab of noise mutates into something discernible as a song, the layers of meticulously placed sound ensuring you're not easily able to identify where it ends and a dark sonic wilderness begins.  

As I suggested when I reviewed it earlier this year, this isn't something you can put on and do the ironing too - unless you want to run the risk of self-mutilation.  It demands your attention: give it.

Get it here.  

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 9. Cloud

9. Comfort Songs - Cloud (Audio Antihero)

The Audio Antihero label probably had its most productive year yet and the crowning achievement (in a close race with the rest of that Jack Hayter series) was this, an album of delicate brilliance that you could line up against Mercury Rev's Deserter Songs and The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin and it'd win without breaking sweat.  

The songs in this collection get soaked up by your consciousness and become part of you: you find them popping into your head at odd times and it takes you a while to remember where you heard them, then you get used to it and you know straight away.  There can be no better antidote to a 'mainstream' music industry more obsessed than ever with the transient and insubstantial.

Deservedly, it got a lot of great reviews including this one from Contact Music: "Comfort Songs holds a strong claim as one of best albums under the ill-defined umbrella of 'indie-rock' that has been released in the last decade or so - 10/10."  

Get it on CD or download here.  

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Best Albums of 2013: 10. P.F.A.

10.  Less Talk More Oi! - P.F.A. (Self-Released)

Of all the great things that came out of Hungary in 2013 - and there were many - my favourite was this, a masterpiece of curt punk diatribes from this Veszprem band who manage to cram 26 songs into 28 minutes, leave you breathless, panting, wanting more and in no doubt that the shit that goes down in their country has a distasteful universal resonance and that they've nailed it perfectly.

Titles like 'Closet SS' and 'Carnivore Punks Fuck Off' give you the general idea, while 'Piss Puddles of Hell' probably deserves to be recognised as the best song title of the year - and the content doesn't disappoint either.   There are two one second tracks here too: in fact, they come in as only a fraction of a second which is why bandcamp lists them as 00:00.  The whole thing is an angry melee of some of the best raw punk I've heard in years.  

NYOP here.