We try and get reviews up of all the best albums over yer, but sometimes we miss them on release, or just don’t get time to give them a review. Here is a small selection of albums released earlier this year that deserve a mention and a place in your record collection.
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Texan band move to New York and make a classic sounding New York punk album, probably my favourite album of the year so far.
Alongside a sound that is equally in thrall to Sonic Youth and The Modern Lovers is a smattering of Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed. This is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. This is actually the band’s second album, the first a cassette only release, but it sounds fresh like a debut album and features such an invigorating sound that the somewhat banal lyrics on some songs don’t matter at all.
Guided By Voices – The English Little League
It was inevitable that I’d fall behind on the many releases of Robert Pollard, and several others have come out or been announced since this latest Guided By Voices set hit the shelves.
The shine has worn off the GBV reunion a little bit with four albums coming out in less than two years. That makes it hard to tell if this album isn’t quite as good, or if I’ve just had a little bit too much of a good thing. The thing is, even a not-quite-as-good GBV album is pretty great, and there are few bands around doing this kind of thing as well. The sound is a little harsher this time round, Wire spring to mind on occasion, and it is lighter on the whimsical side of Pollard on this occasion. Tobin Sprout is on excellent form and his three songs are, as always, a great counter-balance to his better known bandleader.
Fear of Men – Early Fragments
Early Fragments is a collection of singles and cassette releases by the Brighton based band, but manages to have a very cohesive feel.
Then band’s sound, sitting somewhere between early 90s shoegaze and the jangle pop of The Sundays isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but they do this stuff so well that I can forgive the obvious reference points. This isn’t a lyrically light and breezy album, singer Jess Weiss is laying here feelings on the line here. Musically it counters the rather morose lyrics with some bright and chiming guitars and lovely melodies. ‘Ritual Confession’ is a case in point and is a strong contender for prettiest song of the year.
Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk
This is Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album.
Country or not, this set of 17 songs in 30 minutes is one of his best releases in years, and definitely his most consistent (even more so than the recent Guided By Voices releases). It is a great album from start to finish, but Pollard saves the best until the end of the record with a run of four songs that are as good as anything he has released in many years. He has several more albums on release this year, but I’d be surprised if any of them better this.
Cloud – Comfort Songs
Originality is an overrated virtue and the fact that I can hear a multitude of influences on Comfort Songs doesn’t make me like Cloud any less.
Imagine Conor Oberst and Avi Buffalo jamming with the Flaming Lips and you’ll get some of the flavour of this very enjoyable album by the young Long Island band, Clouds. It sounds great, and there is no shortage of musical invention on show here and no shortage of instruments being played across the eleven songs. It is a long album, made up of long songs, and a little bit of editing might have helped but this is a very enjoyable recording. You can pick this up from Audio Antihero here.
Mogwai – Les Revenants
Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding.
The listener already knows bad things are going to happen from album opener and series theme tune Hungry Face onwards. But the music also shows that this is no ordinary zombie plot. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. Considering the soundtrack was devised after Mogwai had only read a brief sysnopsis it shows how much series and soundtrack influenced each other.
Reviews by Dorian Rogers (except Les Revenants by Joe Lepper)