Firstly, as in 2013, there wasn't really a hell of a lot that surfaced in the EOY lists that really stood out, other than 'The Proctors', who released their first album in 18 years. I wonder what they've been doing over that time?
2014 promises to see new releases from a number of my favourite bands. So far albums from 'The War On Drugs', and 'Real Estate' are copping a hiding in my rotations, and appear very good...especially Real Estate.
I'm also looking forward to hearing from 'Allo' Darlin', 'First Aid Kit', 'Cashier No. 9', and 'The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart', however I have to say that I'm a bit shattered to hear that Peggy Wang has left The Pains to concentrate on her work with Buzzfeed. Their new album sounds excellent so far, but it will be strange to think of the band without her and her beautiful smile and backing vocals.
Anyway, here are some albums....
Lucius - Wildewoman: (Reasonable, but nothing that kept drawing me back to it)
The ACB's - Little Leaves: (Still got this in rotation, and a few tracks are starting to register)
Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond: (Fairly dull)
Arctic Monkeys - AM: (The only reason these guys can be so popular is that chicks love them. It's not horrible, but it pushes no boundaries, and has no innovation. They're just getting rich and milking their fan base)
Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister: (Fuzzy and a hard punk-ish edge, it's got some good tracks, but most of it is just a bit too heavy for me)
Of Monsters And Men - Live From Vatnagarðar: (I love this band, but this is absolute shit. Recorded in a studio, they have actually managed to fuck 'Little Talks' up which is extraordinary. Stay away)
The Tealeaves - No More Can You Be Here: (Absolute ripper to open the album, but unfortunately everything else sounds the same. It's not horrible, but it's just a bit dull)
Birdy - Fire Within: (This one is still growing on me.....she has a lovely voice, and the musical arrangements are quite nice)
Jim James - Regions Of Light And Sound Of God: (It's definitely interesting, but it really doesn't have enough to hold your attention)
Track 2 'Into The Sun' provided another highlight as the lovely voice of Margaret Calleja immediately adds another dimension to the band, and she and Gavin shared the vocal duties well and in tandem for the remainder of the album.....there are excellent harmonies throughout.
The other standout tracks here are 'Wishing Well', 'Seasons Change' 'Fun Sunday', and album closer 'Ember Days', while 'Yesterday's Boy', 'Fall Down With You' and 'Ambulance' are also 3 star tracks. I'm absolutely stoked that I've gotten onto this band, and even more so that I've just seen a new EP on their Bandcamp page that I'll be getting as soon as I finish writing this!
As much as I almost always like guitars that sound like this, the particular clear sound that The Proctors get on this album is like nothing I've quite heard before, if I had to make a band comparison I'd probably say they remind me a little of 'The Go-Betweens', mainly due to the similarity in male/female vocals, which is a fair compliment to The Proctors. Hopefully they're going to stay together and continue to release more of the same. Great stuff! 8.5/10.
Almost on cue, this explodes into 'Come Saturday' complete with Kip Berman's fuzzy guitar and lovely 'wooo-oooh-oooh' harmonies from Peggy Wang. This is still one of my 5 very favourite Pains tracks, and if I had to choose 1 track to represent the album, it would probably be this one as it really seems to capture what The Pains are all about at this point in time. For the most part it races along with catchy riffs, a singalong 'we're gonna stay in!' chorus (that goes OFF at the live shows) that gives you only a slight reprieve in the verses, and all the while, the guitar almost statically rumbles in the background
'Young Adult Friction', which is about shagging in a library btw, changes up the sound a little with a noticeable addition of almost chiming keyboards, along with a slightly janglier guitar, however the pace is still on the frenetic side with the opening, and continual, underlying beat one of those that kind makes you want to jump up and down. The verses here contrast with the chorus a little more, there is also more of a change-up in tempo toward the end, and once again Peggy's harmonising really adds so much for what in reality is so simple….this is another one that is in my top 5 Pains tracks.
If I was a lyrics man the 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' would have probably concerned me a little……however there was a lot of water under the bridge before I wondered "hmmmm.....is he singing about his sister here?" This question was eventually answered by the band themselves when I saw them at the Hi-Fi Bar in 2012 and the opening words of the night from Kip were "This is a song about incest.....". Fair enough I suppose…..it's a very good song regardless of the subject matter, with fast and fuzzy guitars along the lines of 'Come Saturday'
The next 3 tracks, 'The Tenure Itch', 'Stay Alive' and 'Everything With You', take the pace down a notch or two, and you can take a bit of a breath and appreciate that as well as the almost raw guitar sounds of the earlier tracks, there really are some good melodies here as well. That's not to say the previous tracks haven't had melody, or that these ones don't have that same underlying fuzzy guitar, but it's a noticeable reduction in tempo. These 3 may not be standout tracks on this amazing album, but I would rate them all as good to very good.
Into the final stretch, we get an absolute gem here with 'A Teenager In Love', which (for now) is my favourite ever Pains track. Even when I listen to it these days (for probably the thousandth plus time) from the very first burst of jangly guitar & chiming keyboard this song has me in its spell tapping whatever fingers and toes are in a position to hit something. The verses are all punctured a simple little 80's style 5 note keyboard burst, while the chorus is catchy, with a beautiful harmony….everybody should love this song!
'Hey Paul' is a harder more shoegaze-y number with periods of staccato style drums throughout, and an almost anthemic chorus, while 'Gentle Sons' is a slower almost lingering number that pretty much says ‘we’re winding this album up now”, and in much the same way that ‘Contender’ was the introduction….this is the end. This would really be one of the great debut albums…..even 5 years later, I play it fairly regularly.
Broken Bells - After The Disco: (A decent album with a couple of songs actually sounding like the Bee Gees, which is interesting.)
Dum Dum Girls - Too True: (Initially, this album is very disappointing. A real change of direction for a band that really hasn't put a foot wrong so far. I'll revisit this again in a month or so, just to make sure I give it every chance)
Painted Palms - Forever:
Patterns - Walking Lines:
September Girls - Cursing The Sea:
Hospitality - Trouble:
Real Estate - Atlas: (Excellent album, these guys can really find a great hook)
Temples - Sun Structures:
Axxa/Abraxas - Axxa/Abraxas:
The Casket Girls - True Love Kills The Fairy Tale:
Eternal Summers - The Drop Beneath:
Fanfarlo - Let's Go Extinct: (A bit of a grower this one, some annoying fluff....but just scratching the surface to date)
Morgan Delt - Morgan Delt:
The War On Drugs - Lost In The Dream: (A more polished effort for LP #2, it goes for too long but it's nice to listen to. Red Eye's is a contender for song of the year....awesome shit!)
Wild Beasts - Present Tense:
Future Islands - Singles:
Arthur Beatrice - Working Out: (This one might well kick on, it's just struggling to put itself into a regular rotation for now....I'll be sticking with it.)
Foster The People - Supermodel:
Wye Oak - Shriek: (Run away...any band that consciously decides to ditch guitars for synths, can get stuffed)
The Horrors - Luminous: (Good reviews early.....haven't got much out of it to date, but it's still early)
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Days Of Abandon: (Trying not to get carried away too early here, but this could be something special)
Fear Of Men - Loom: (Really good reviews, but also very underwhelming on first few listens)