Sorry for the delays, I’ll try and have this one done as soon as possible.
After two albums with her loyal backing band the Endless Sea, Jen Cloher reached dry land and hit the ground running. A truly independent project, In Blood Memory wiped the slate clean and saw the former folk-rocker kicking her boots into some wandering Crazy Horse jams, some Velvet Underground stomps and some classic Cloher tenderness. All across the course of just seven songs. It’s an impressive feat, and it serves as both a welcome return for longtime fans and a fitting introduction to those that weren’t paying attention the first time around.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Hold My Hand, Toothless Tiger, Name in Lights.
On their third album, Buffalo’s sweethearts take listeners through a world of looking in from the outside – whether it’s getting lost in a different state, hiding true feelings in intimate moments or simply losing perspective of who you once were. It may be occasionally obtuse from a lyrical standpoint, but in a way that’s what gives The Distance is So Big such a large portion of its charm – once you’ve unlocked the song’s greater meaning, it grows in quality. It is an album that takes time to process, but is ultimately an album that confirms a Lemuria hat trick.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Oahu, Hawaii, Brilliant Dancer, Bluffing Statistics.
Five years in the wilderness saw the Drones return with a new member – keyboardist Stevie Hesketh – and a solo album under the belt for both frontman Gareth Liddiard and drummer Mike Noga. Still, the more things change, the more they stay the same: Seaweed, the band’s sixth LP, is a strict continuation of the sprawling, agonized ventures through indie rock, alt-country and shattering noise that has come to define what the Drones are all about. Rather than being a re-hash, it feels as fresh as it ever did; and we are richer for having heard it.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Laika, I See Seaweed, Nine Eyes.
Exactly how the year’s most talked-about metal album came from such a specific point in left-field remains a true conundrum. Perhaps it was the fact that it was such a unique approach to the genre, tessellating the incessant fervour and melodrama of proto-black metal with the atmosphere and volatility of shoegaze. Furthermore, it pushed into spectrums that are normally untoward within the confines of either genre; resulting in an album that is endlessly fascinating. This is an album to obssess over the details of – and the best part is that you get out exactly what you put in.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Vertigo, Dream House, The Pecan Tree.
“Now we’re getting closer,” sings Wes Miles with jubilation on the title track to his band’s third studio album. Ra Ra Riot are heading in the right direction on this album, embracing their poppier side with a flourish of keyboards and heavens-high falsetto. Although critical reception was sadly tepid, there was a confidence in Beta Love that could not be shaken – it’s the sound of a band refusing to take the loss of a key member (in this instance, cellist Alexandra Lawn) hinder their growth. The show must go on. With Beta Love, you’ll be grateful that it did.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Is it Too Much, Binary Mind, Dance with Me.
The gruff vocals of Polar Bear Club’s Jimmy Stadt occasionally provoked joking suggestions that he should clear his throat. Death Chorus is strange, then, in that it shows what they sound like with the aforementioned throat cleared. Vocal issues resulted in Stadt dramatically shifting his range and style, and pairing this with the introduction of three new members gave the band an entirely new lease on life. The album is an emotional strike-force that offered up boisterous energy and new-found conviction across a batch of ten punchy, forthright songs. What could have ended disastrously has instead given us the band’s best LP to date.
THREE TOP TRACKS: For Show, Blood Balloon, Upstate Mosquito.
2013: The year of our Lorde. The introverted pop starlet may not have been the obvious choice to start some kind of musical revolution this year, but what gratitude that it fell to her. A quietly defiant and brassy voice of a disaffected, often apathetic youth, Lorde certainly knows how to make boredom sound utterly thrilling as she coos, cries and whispers over whirring synth and clattering drum patterns. Artists twice her age are still yet to attain the kind of left-of-centre pop precision that is found on Pure Heroine. That alone may be the scariest thing about this album – it’s merely the beginning.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Buzzcut Season, Tennis Court, A World Alone.
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written My House shall be called a House of prayer but you make it a den of robbers.’” – Matthew 21:12-16
In 2013, Kanye West overturned the tables. Not since his earliest, hungriest days has he sounded this furious at the world around him. On his sixth album, he takes down organised religion, institutionalised racism and struggles with alcoholism. It’s not a pretty sight, but you’ve already got Graduation for that. Also of note: One of the final things Lou Reed did before his passing was give this album his seal of approval. Take from that what you will.
THREE TOP TRACKS: I am a God, Black Skinhead, New Slaves.
Too post-hardcore for the alt-rock crowd and too alt-rock for the post-hardcore crowd, Doylestown’s Balance and Composure have often been left in somewhat of a grey area from a musical perspective. What they display on their second studio album, The Things We Think We’re Missing, is that it is space worth exploring: like some bastard child of War All the Time and The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, the album takes the loud-quiet-loud dynamic and applies it liberally to pedal-stomping angst and lovelorn brooding. A fresh, striking and shining example of what modern rock is capable of.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Back of Your Head, Tiny Raindrop, Parachutes.
How’s this for a puzzling prospect: A side-project-cum-full-band, based entirely around a single conceptual storyline, manages to make their absolute best record to date with a collection of non-canon songs. Ironic? Maybe. Whatever the case, Migrant was an album that was nothing short of majestic; matching the ambition of previous albums and veering it into breathtaking new territory. Each song is full to the brim with remarkable melodies, flourishing arrangements and a spirited warmth. With Migrant, the door has been kicked wide open for Casey Crescenzo and co. Who knows where it may take them next?
THREE TOP TRACKS: The Kiss of Life, Whisper, An Escape.