Jacco Gardner - Cabinet of Curiosities
This has been generating a bit of buzz. Wonderfully stuck in the late 60s, the Dutchman has come up with a brilliant string and harpsichord infused throwback that will confuse even your dad. At times it is delicately constructed, the single Clear The Air has an undernourished quality, but Gardner does employ modern methods, The Riddle sounds like The Beatles but I’d say there is a bit of Fruity Loops in there. Gardner's voice is unspectacular in the way that Liam Gallagher's is, yet it has an inherent ethereal quality that lends a lovely weight and colour to each track. Summer's Game he sounds almost as though he is singing down from above the clouds, creating a mysterious but warm atmosphere. My pick for most underrated record of 2013 so far.
Best: Clear The Air, Lullaby
Sounds Like: Nothing new! Late 60s. Yellow Submarine
Ron Sexsmith - Forever Endeavour
Old fashioned singer/songwriter continues to dabble in folk/pop, and continues to succeed. It’s Bill Callahan with added intelligence and attitude removed. Back Of My Hand is the best track, a lovely sweet romp through a smartly sorted pop melody that has Sexsmith sounding like those mid 60s early 70s artists he channels. Me Myself and Wine.. Well I think we can all relate.
Best Tracks: Back Of My Hand, Sneak Out The Back Door
Soundes Like: Nick Drake, Bill Callahan, Ryan Adams
Sonny Smith - 100 Records Vol. 3
The short story master is back minus The Sunsets to deliver another record centred in country and 60s and 70s surf soft rock. Smith, as always, allows his influences to run wild, and this record reflects his multitude of them, but always with his smooth if slightly under-powered vocals to breathe life in to every groove. Fruitcakes could’ve been written by The Monkees, The Beachboys and The Ramones in a room together. Year Of The Cock sounds like Neil Young singing over a Cash riff. It’s delightful.
Best Tracks: Fruitcakes, Life Ain’t Clear
Sounds Like: The modern interpretation of 30 years of music. There’s some Best Coast, Beach Fossils, Ramones, Beach Boys, even some Pixies in there.
Wave Machines - Pollen
Washed Out or Neon Indian with infused pop prowess. Although none of these tracks stand out as radio hits, the attempts are endearing and make for an interesting electro listen. The odd element of funk provides a welcome release. I Hold Loneliness is the best offering, a short romp through a How To Dress Well-esque vocal display centred in R&B with an element of disco funk fleetingly introduced. More electro than Ra Ra Riot, more alternative than Neon Indian, Pollen sits comfortably within the electro genre. It's a calming release, another member of the '4am' school, the post-party hit of valium to mellow even the hardest of coke crunchers and provide makeshift lovers with a soundtrack for regrettable activities.
Best Tracks: I Hold Loneliness, Ill Fit
Sounds Like: All the artists I mentioned!
Tomahawk - Oddfellows
Tomahawk live up to their name. They don’t caress your ears. Their energy is only slightly restrained, and only occasionally, on tracks like I.O.U. On others, like The Quiet Few, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic vibe is generated brilliantly as your heart rate races through the ceiling. They manage to create atmosphere whilst still blasting your ears off. Think early Anathema without the organisation. It's not a careless release, Rise Up Dirty Waters for example is a masterful low-end funk that starts slow and builds in to a machine gun style splattering, then descends back in to it's element. Waratorium revives that infectious 90s funk/rock that RHCP turned household, propelled by a throbbing bass and Mike Patton's familiar yet deadly tone.
Best Tracks: I Can Almost See Them, Waratorium
Sounds Like: A mix of the heavier post-rock explosion from the early 00s (Mogwai, 65daysofstatic), bass-driven rock from the 90s, and Faith No More.
Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Critically acclaimed, as most punk resurrectors are these days, but they deliver on the hype. Get past the boring Master Of My Craft and tuck in to Borrowed Time, the first single and a lovely melody opens the track up, head bopping is impossible to resist. The rest of the record is scatter-brain. There is no rhythm, it jolts and jerks you around every few minutes but it’s a loveable quality. They’re chasing every idea that pops in their head and it’s endearing.
Best Tracks: Borrowed Time, Stoned and Starving
Sounds Like: Anyone remember Secret Machines Alone Jealous and Stoned? Take your pick of punk revivers.
PVT - Homosapien
The Aussies are back with a dark, minimalistic affair. Rather than break open the EDM and tap in to the craze the trio has rounded the edges of a traditional electronic release to provide an extremely well sorted record. It bursts in to relative life in the second half with the brilliant Nightfall, the down-trodded Vertigo and the dirty Homosapien. The Presets on Valium. Lots of Valium..
Best Tracks: Nightfall, Homosapien
Sounds Like: How To Dress Well
Eels - Wonderful, Glorious
Back again with their 10th studio album, Eels provide a slightly menacing, slightly heavier release with frontman Everett growling over some cool grooves and some misguided dead ends. There’s an aggression we haven’t seen often from the band and it is maintained throughout the record, Bomb’s Away sets the tone with some bold statements, whilst the brilliant single Peach Blossom fuses STRONG drums with a tough talking Everett, man’s man. On The Ropes is another brilliant track, endearing in his honesty Everett touched me with his story and his plight, but also his attitude and optimism, ‘I’m not knocked out but I’m on the ropes’.
Best Tracks: On The Ropes, Peach Blossom
Sounds Like: Eels with a bee in their bonnet. A big bee. That stings them sometimes.
Dawn Richard - Goldenheart
My love of modern R&B knows no bounds. Dawn Richard serenades me. A toned down Santigold, with no less gift or talent. The whole album surges along with an inherent energy that Richard provides at all times. Return Of A Queen, Riot, Warfare. This is a woman engaging in the fight of her life. It’s all about love, but this is no Taylor Swift/Adele croon along. She rarely sounds vulnerable, her voice oozes strength. I don’t want to tussle with this woman. Then she flips the entire script on closer Goldenheart. It has her desperately remembering the past, an urgent need to be there. It’s instantly relatable, and the use of Clair de lune by Debussey perfectly complements her rose-tinted view of the past she longs for. Brilliant closer.
Best Tracks: Goldenheart, Riot
Sounds Like: Santigold, Solange, Kelly Rowland