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Where Are We Now? Album Roundup, January-March '13

Posted on Thursday, 21 March 2013 | No Comments

In fitting with Endless Window's cutthroat capitalist program of expanded acquisition, external-faced capital thrusts and drive-by qualitative takeovers, please find enclosed our first list of recommended albums from the first quarter of Our Year of Hopelessness 2013. (Or, here's some albums you should check out, in no order other than alphabetical.)

Atoms For Peace - AMOK

 Even if it may have fallen slightly short of Thom Yorke's usual impossible standards, by any other measurement AMOK was a delight - an intelligent, expertly crafted slice of alternative dance that draws inspiration from across the board but assimilates it into a sound that could only have come from this man. At its finest, we had the first Radiohead related product one could actually throw on at a party and expect people to enjoy, an exuberant corrective to the hermetically sealed The King of Limbs.

Broadcast - Berberian Sound Studio OST

The loss of Trish Keenan is still one that hurts, three years after: one of British music's greatest voices and minds, taken from us far too soon. Whilst Broadcast are now effectively defunct, us fans got something new to savour in the form of their soundtrack to the brilliant horror movie tribute/examination Berberian Sound Studio, recorded before her death. Mixing themes from giallo cinema into their woozy electronica and furthering the cut-up collages of their collaboration with The Focus Group, Witch Cults of the Radio Age, it's an ideal match of sound and vision, and a very different addition to their canon.

David Bowie - The Next Day

2013 has already acquired something of a reputation as the year of the comeback: every old popper and rocker cashing in their chips in these end days of the music industry. No other comeback though can have been more surprising or more welcome than that of David Bowie: thankfully then, for his first album in a decade, David Bowie made sure it was worth the wait. The days of sonic innovation might be behind him, but as previously reported, it's a formidably strong set of material whose full-blooded lyrics and guitars and sense of urgency make it the closest he's come since to the pure art-rock vision of Scary Monsters. A total bloody delight.

Iceage - You're Nothing 

Iceage were already a thrilling proposition on New Brigade: on You're Nothing, they've just tightened up their sound even further. Their fast and furious take on punk tradition acts as an undeniable adrenaline rush, but beneath the manic buzz of each short song lies a sophisticated craft and knack for hooks that belies the band's youth. The sound itself might not be so pioneering, but the passion and the quality of what they produce vaultsa them far over today's punk morass. Genuinely one of the most exciting bands out there right now.

Key Track: Ecstasy

John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts

Having a normally acoustic act decide to upgrade things a bit with some synth work is hardly a new idea these days. Going from lush soft-rock singer-songwriter arrangements to hiring a respected house producer and pouring buzzing dance rhythms all over your new material is, however, a slightly less common route. Not just for pulling off this move, but for pulling it off with such style and ease, John Grant deserves a real round of appause - and as detailed before on here, Pale Green Ghosts is every bit as confessional, haunting and powerful as his previous work. A formidable achivement.

My Bloody Valentine - m b v

Well, any reader of this blog must have already known how overjoyed Endless Window was with this record. It's a delight to say though that even divorced of the record's tortured backstory, or the surprise and joy of its eventual release, m b v stands up as a truly remarkable album. No matter how many people have tried over the years, only My Bloody Valentine have ever really mastered these waters, and finally Kevin Shields and his band are back in action. There's subdued melodicism, quiet experimentation and crazed electronic noise: twenty-two years on, and My Bloody Valentine remain the sound of tomorrow.

Key Track: In Another Way

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away 

What do you do when you're a middle aged rock god, and you've already played the 'mid life crisis' card to full effect? Coming off the back of the raucous Grinderman project and the Bad Seeds' full throttle previous effort Dig! Lazarus Dig!, Nick Cave returned to the slower, more sombre sound last heard on Nocturama, but with studio constructions and arrangements that subverted the notion of the classic Nick Cave piano ballad. Reviewed previously on Endless Window, Push The Sky Away saw Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, fifteen albums in, still manage to cover new territory.

Key Track: Push The Sky Away
Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory - Elements Of Light

As far as unexpected collaborations, minimal house producer plus loads of loads of bells has got to be fairly high up on the list. But for his follow-up to 2010's breakout Black Noise, Hendrik Weber enlisted the assistance of The Bell Laboratory to lend his airy, fragile sound a new sonic depth. The resulting album Elements Of Light is a sublime combination of the organic and the digital, a forty-five minute work that draws on dancefloor moves and classic composition equally to powerful effect. A wonderfully idiosyncratic work.

Key Track: Particle

Suede - Bloodsports

When we last saw them on 2002's A New Morning, Suede were a beaten up wreck: the path of Dionysian excess that had fuelled their remarkable purple patchbetween 1992 and 1996 (three stunning studio albums, an astonishing weight of brilliant singles and B-sides, and a live act renowned for its force) had led them first into crack-driven insanity on 1999's seriously patchy Head Music, and then into utter tedium when they finally sobered up. On their comeback album Bloodsports however, the new older and wiser band manage to recover their previous decadent spirit without actually having to do the decadence itself: from arena-ready opener Barriers, fierce rockers like Snowblind and Hit Me through to glorious, bleak ballads like Sometimes I Feel I'll Float Away and Always, it's a delightful distillation of their unique (now non-chemical) chemistry.

Key Track: Snowblind
Yo La Tengo - Fade

When you've been going as long as Yo La Tengo out, and been as consistently rewarding as they have been, it's easy to get overlooked in the hype and frenzy that surrounds newer acts, even when you're releasing material at the very least bit their equal in quality. Fade, however, has received far more attention than any of their records have since 2001's subdued classic And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out - this perhaps being for the simple reason it's the best album they've put out since then. Recruiting post-rock icon John McEntire on production duties and keeping things to an unusually trim ten songs, Fade's sweeping melodicism and subtly expansive scope prove why we can't let a band this great be taken for granted. 

Key Track: Stupid Things

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