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Birds Of Passage ‘This Kindly Slumber’ (Denovali)
Released on January 24th 2014 by the wonderful Berlin-based label Denovali Records, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ is the much-anticipated return of New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Her latest Birds Of Passage album, ‘This Kindly Slumber’ — and follow-up to the sublime ‘Winter Lady’ — is a deeply engaging and truly moving affair. The album’s seven songs reveal a haunting darkness and stark honesty throughout, perpetuated by moments of light, hope, intimacy and revelation. The album showcases Merz’s impressive songwriting talents (‘Stranger’), a heightened atmosphere in drone and ambient textures (‘Ashes To Ashes’) and masterful songs combining innocence and vulnerability with darkness and fear to spellbinding effect (‘And All Of Your Dreams’). ‘This Kindly Slumber’ confirms Merz as one of the most special souls making music today.
‘This Kindly Slumber’ is available on 24 January on Denovali Records.

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Marissa Nadler ‘July’ (Sacred Bones/Bella Union)
Boston-based musician Marissa Nadler has been consistently (and quietly) making some of the most intricately written and movingly delivered songs over the last decade or so. ‘July’ further confirms Nadler as a wholly unique and visionary songwriter, where songs such as ‘Dead City Emily’ and ‘Nothing In My Heart’ recalling the gothic noir tales of Gillian Welch or the timelessness of Leonard Cohen or Van Zandt’s respective songbooks. Poetic, starkly beautiful, and always straight from the heart. ‘July’ will be released on Sacred Bones on 4 February (US) and Bella Union on 10 February (EU).

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The Gloaming ‘The Gloaming’ (Real World Records)
This January marks the long-awaited arrival of much-heralded The Gloaming’s glorious self-titled debut album by Real World Records. The Gloaming are a five-piece of supreme talent, comprising some of the finest musicians Ireland has to offer: Iarla Ó Lionaird, Thomas Bartlett, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill. West Meath in early 2011 provided the setting and time for the collective’s first meeting together. The following, as described by The Gloaming’s website, perfectly surmises the band’s unique, utterly contemporary sound: “The Gloaming carves new paths connecting the rich Irish folk tradition and the New York contemporary music scene. From haunting sean-nós songs to rousing instrumental medleys, they make music that is both ancient and utterly new.”
‘The Gloaming’ is available now on Real World Records.

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Tara Jane O’Neil ‘Where Shine New Lights’ (Kranky)
Musician and visual artist Tara Jane O’Neil provides Chicago-based independent label Kranky with their first offering of 2014. O’Neil has a richly diverse musical background to date, ranging from collaborative works (including Mount Eerie and Papa M), commissioned pieces, improvisations and founding numerous bands, including Rodan. O’Neil is also an internationally recognized visual artist who has had four monographs published on her work to date. ‘Where Shine New Lights’ features a gloriously mystery-laden, atmospheric set of songs (typified by the stunning closer ‘New Lights For A Sky’) recalling the likes of Félicia Atkinson and Grouper’s Liz Harris.
‘Where Shine New Lights’ will be released on 27 January by Kranky.

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Hydras Dream ‘The Little Match Girl’ (Denovali)
Hydras Dream is the new collaborative project of the Swedish musicians Anna Von Hausswolff and Matti Bye. Hydras Dream’s debut ‘The Little Match Girl’ will be released in March 2014 by Berlin-based Denovali Records (Greg Haines, Birds Of Passage, Dale Cooper Quartet).
Anna Von Hausswolff was responsible for one of the singularly breathtaking albums of 2013, with her solo album ‘Ceremony’, showcasing Von Hausswolff’s immaculate talents as a lyricist and composer. ‘The Little Match Girl’ is set to be one of the year’s most precious albums.

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Damien Jurado ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ (Secretly Canadian)
Damien Jurado’s ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’, available now on Secretly Canadian, confirms Jurado as one of the finest songsmiths of today. ‘Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son’ reunites Jurado with friend and producer Richard Swift after previously working together on Jurado’s last full length, ‘Maraqopa’ in 2012.

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Juan Wauters ‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ (Captured Tracks)
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is one of the finest debut records for quite some time, heralding this unique and hugely impressive talent of Alberto Wauters (born in Uruguay, now based in Queens, New York). Wauters’ own back-story is told perfectly here:
“In 2000, Alberto Wauters left Uruguay to live in a basement in Queens. Two years later he called his son, Juan, to join him. Juan Wauters crossed the threshold into manhood when he arrived in New York. Working at a factory, the father and son pooled their money to bring their family to the borough of opportunity. With no friends to speak of, Juan turned to music to take control of the loneliness of his isolation. Juan was inspired by his new neighborhood of Jackson Heights and delighted to find that his library card gave him access to an abundance of new music.”
‘N.A.P. – North American Poetry’ is out 4 February 2014 on Captured Tracks.

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The War On Drugs ‘Lost In The Dream’ (Secretly Canadian)
‘Lost In The Dream’ is the third studio album (and follow-up to the wonderful ‘Slave Ambient’ LP) by Philadelphia’s finest The War On Drugs. Including the album’s lead single ‘Red Eyes’, ‘Lost In The Dream’ is an album showcasing Adam Granduciel’s songwriting prowess while revealing a darker and more vulnerable underbelly than previous material. The beautiful ‘Suffering’ and ‘Eyes To The Wind’ reveal a more intimate and ‘Americana’-leaning sound recalling such bands as Whiskeytown, Richmond Fontaine or The Replacements. “I can see the darkness coming my way” sings Granduciel on ‘Red Eyes’, while the album’s ten immaculate tracks see Granduciel navigate his way out of the darkness, producing a modern-day ‘Born To Run’ in the process.
‘Lost In The Dream’ is out on 18 March 2014 on Secretly Canadian.

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The Notwist ‘Close To The Glass’ (City Slang/Sub Pop)
‘Close To The Glass’ is German indie giants The Notwist first studio album since 2008’s ‘The Devil, You + Me’. Since then the band have scored a soundtrack for ‘Storm’ (2009) and have been running their own label, the wonderful Alien Transistor. Best known for their classic 2002 album ‘Neon Golden’ — which fused the indie-rock and lyricism of brothers Acher with the electronic wizardry of Console’s Martin Gretschmann to stunning effect — it’s follow-up ‘The Devil, You + Me’ showcased a more leaner and accessible sound. ‘Kong’ is the first taste of The Notwist’s long overdue eighth album. This February City Slang will issue ‘Close To The Glass’ in Europe (their label since ‘Neon Golden’) while Sub Pop will release to American audiences on 25 February 2014.

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Lambchop ‘Nixon’ (Reissue) (Merge)
To celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary, Merge will be reissuing classic albums from their back catalog each month throughout 2014. First up will be the reissue of Nashville’s beloved Lambchop’s classic fifth studio album ‘Nixon’, first released in 2000. The album was a significant breakthrough for the band, both commercially and critically acclaimed across both sides of the Atlantic, marking the band’s reluctant rise to the overground. The album sees a shift in the Lambchop sound as Wagner and co. sought to fuse country, soul, gospel and funk into their own unmistakable sound to wondrous effect. Featuring such gems as ‘You Masculine You’, ‘Up With People’ and ‘The Book I Haven’t Read’. The reissue also features a bonus disc, ‘White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power’, a remastered live solo session featuring five songs Kurt Wagner recorded in 1998 (both Wagner and Cat Power were doing back-to-back promo sessions that day).
The reissue of Lambchop’s classic 2000 album ‘Nixon’ is released on 28 January by Merge Records.

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Mick Turner “Don’t Tell The Driver” (Drag City)
The latest work by the ever-prolific Melbourne-based artist and Dirty Three guitarist Mick Turner is a magnificently sprawling affair – comprising an expansive cast of musicians – and is perhaps his most accessible work to date. Equally renowned for his worldwide status as an internationally renowned painter as well as musician, Turner is best known as being one-third member (alongside drummer Jim White and violinist Warren Ellis) of the cult Australian trio Dirty Three. As well as Dirty Three’s considerable output (culminating in last year’s sublime “Toward The Low Sun”), Turner has also released records under the Tren Brothers guise (effectively Turner and White recording as a duo), as well as “solo” works (‘Don’t Tell The Driver’ is Turner’s fourth such record). The record – released by Chicago’s Drag City – is arguably Turner’s most expansive yet, featuring french horn, trumpets, piano, melodica, bass and the vocals (lyrics by Turner) are beautifully sung by Caroline Kennedy McCracken.

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Tim Hecker “Virgins” (Kranky)
One of the year’s most eagerly awaited albums came from the Montreal-based composer and sound artist Tim Hecker. “Virgins”, released by Chicago-based independent label Kranky, is yet another masterful recording by the Canadian musician, producing an album of staggering scope and beauty. Hecker’s work has been described as: “focused on exploring the intersection of noise, dissonance and melody, fostering an approach to songcraft which is both physical and emotive.” One of the finest of todays modern composers, Hecker is here joined by an impressive cast of musicians from the Icelandic-based Bedroom Community label; Valgeir Sigurðsson performs and mixes (alongside Hecker) and Paul Corley takes part in the performing and engineering, while the album was recorded at Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavík (as well as Avast, Seattle and Empac Concert Hall, Troy).

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Moonface “Julia with Blue Jeans On” (Jagjaguwar)
Spencer Krug’s fourth album under the Moonface moniker, “Julia With Blue Jeans On” is a highly personal, quietly affecting and truly moving album which will prove to be one of the year’s most masterful hidden gems. The album’s genesis came from Krug’s time creating 2012’s “Heartbreaking Bravery” – a despair-laden album written after a difficult break-up – while in Helsinki and recording with Finnish band Siinai. During the same period, the highly prolific Krug set off on another creative journey, inspired by “a rediscovery of love and a reconsideration of the Moonface persona he’d created for himself.”

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Laurel Halo “Chance Of Rain” (Hyperdub)
Released at the end of October on the Hyperdub label, “Chance of Rain” is the striking and sublime second album by American electronic musician Laurel Halo (aka Ina Cube) and follow-up to her debut 2012 LP “Quarantine”. The nine tracks which comprise “Chance Of Rain” showcases Halo (who is a classically trained musician)’s wonderful talents as both composer and producer where a breathtaking spectrum of sounds – industrial, electronic, techno, club, house – effortlessly form a cohesive and organic whole, producing a wholly unique and compelling album in the process. An album as striking and engrossing (much due to the breathtaking vocals as well as the distinctive production) as the grimly evocative sleeve cover art (by Halo’s father, the artist Arthur Chartow).

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Wooden Shjips “Back to Land” (Thrill Jockey)
The Ripley Johnson-led psychedelic quartet Wooden Shjips’ follow-up to their 2011 “West” LP is their most immersive and engrossing work yet. Recorded in Portland, Oregon in May 2013 over a period of an 11-day session at Jackpot! Recording Studio, ‘Back To Land’ mark’s the band’s first record to be conceived outside of their native San Francisco. From the opening title-track, a blissful, wonderfully melodic guitar-led song to the stunningly forlorn album closer (recalling Beck’s “Sea Change”), the engrossing soundscapes of Wooden Shjips are a joy to journey through (bands such as Pavement, Sonic Youth, Crazy Horse and Spacemen 3 come to mind). Album art (with multiple circular die-cuts) by Oliver Hibert (and layout by the wonderful Sheila Sachs) ensures the vinyl edition is a must have.

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Ghost Maps The Ocean From The River “S/T” (Casino Gravity)
Released on November 15th, Ghost Maps The Ocean From The River’s self-titled debut album comprises the new musical chapter in Jeff Martin (Halfset)’s hugely impressive career to date. The album features legendary multi-instrumentalist and indie-giant John McEntire (Tortoise/The Sea and Cake) as well as a special contribution by the immensely gifted pianist Tony Crow, long-term player in the legendary Kurt Wagner-led Nashville-based collective Lambchop. From the opening gorgeous minute-long piano and violin “Intro”, we are treated to a stunning meandering journey across oceans of heavenly sounds and unknown beauty. Current personal highlight is the majestic instrumental opus “If I knew Where I Was I’d Be There”, a piece that could belong on Lambchop’s Double LP “Aw C’mon / No You C’mon” or Efterklang’s “Piramida”.

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Omar Souleyman “Wenu Wenu” (Ribbon Music)
One of the most surprising albums of the year thus far came courtesy of “Wenu Wenu” (meaning “Where Is She?”) – aided by Kieran Hebdan’s production prowess – via the latest record by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman. Prior to his homeland’s civil war crisis hit, Souleyman crossed the Syrian border into Turkey. Souleyman was formerly a wedding singer in his native Syria, a position – as described in an interview with NPR – as “important for experimenting in different kinds of music. In the region where I’m from, weddings have been really important in mixing different kinds of musical heritage.” Souleyman has released a plethora of material – mainly comprising live recordings of his wedding performances and spanning hundreds of cassette tapes – and his stature only grew when he collaborated with Bjork and subsequently appeared in numerous festivals in both the US and Europe.

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Dean Wareham “Emancipated Hearts” (Sonic Cathedral)
Dean Wareham (ex Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman) released his debut solo record “Emancipated Hearts” via Sonic Cathedral earlier this month. The resultant mini-album (the record contains six tracks) is a treasure of a record, produced by Papercuts’ Jason Quever and features a beautifully fragile and understated set of songs, including five original Wareham compositions (featuring the politically-charged “The Deadliest Day Since The Invasion Began” and “The Ticking Is The Bomb”) plus a cover of “Air” by The Incredible String Band. Also available on gorgeous limited edition orange 10″ vinyl.

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Recondite “Hinterland” (Ghostly International)
Berlin-based producer Recondite’s first album for Ghostly International is the gorgeous “Hinterland”, an album inspired by Recondite’s homeland of Lower Bavaria (indeed, much field recordings spanning various times of the year are included across the album’s ten tracks). Like the poetic tree-lined and light-filled monochromatic landscape photograph depicted on the cover, “Hinterland” proves a lush, near-spiritual listening experience and proves a landmark release for the hugely talented producer. As Recondite has said of “Hinterland”: “I tried to capture the area’s mentality and natural environment within the album. Particularly the moods that behold the emotions of the four seasons, which differ a lot in this region.”

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The Velvet Underground “Loaded” (Cotillion/Atlantic)
“I found a reason to keep living / Oh and the reason, dear, is you / I found a reason to keep singing / Oh and the reason, dear, is you” sings Lou Reed on “I Found A Reason”, taken from The Velvet Underground’s fourth album, “Loaded”, released in 1970 on Atlantic Records’ subsidiary label, Cotillion. The song, like any one from Reed’s considerable output – both as a solo artist and as principal songwriter with The Velvet Underground – confirms Reed as one of the finest and most gifted (and certainly most influential) songwriters of the last fifty years. Despite The Velvet Underground’s modest commercial success during their all-too-brief lifespan – from the late sixties until the early seventies – the band’s influence on new generations of musicians is as strong today as it ever was. Brian Eno’s famous and much-repeated quote (in reference to The Velvet Underground’s beloved, classic 1967 debut “The Velvet Underground And Nico” only selling a mere 30,000 copies) stated: “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

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Howe Gelb ‘The Coincidentalist’ (New West)
“The Coincidentalist is someone who can read the coincidences but who doesn’t try to figure out their meaning. For if one tries to figure out the meaning it will be lost. The coincidences aren’t there to figure out but to point the way.” (Howe Gelb)
Since last year’s excellent Giant Giant Sand LP ‘Tucson’ – where Gelb draws from his beloved hometown for inspiration – legendary Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb will return this November with has latest solo work ‘The Coincidentalist’. The album is Gelb’s first release for New West Records. Over the last three decades Gelb has produced a mightily sprawling body of work – whether as Giant Sand or under his “solo” guise – and has peerlessly fused myriad genres and traditions into his own dusty, earthy trademark sound. Highlights are too numerous to list but personal favorites include Giant Sand’s ‘Center of the Universe’, ‘Glum’ and ‘Chore of Enchantment’, as well as Gelb’s ‘The Listener’ and ‘Sno Angel Like You’. ‘The Coincidentalist’ proves to be yet another career peak for Gelb, and is available on 5 November via New West Records. 

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Rachel’s ‘Systems/Layers’ (Quarterstick)
Rachel’s wonderful “System/Layers” sounds as immaculate today as it did a decade ago on its release on US independent label Quarterstick Records. Recently, Rachel’s – formed in Louisville, Kentucky in 1991 – can be heard on the soundtrack to the visually immaculate Paolo Sorrentino film “The Great Beauty”, a film set in present-day Rome. The song used by Sorrentino is ‘Water From The Same Source’, a heavenly ballad and a timeless piece of music. Rachel’s are responsible for some of the most breathtaking and ambitious music over the last couple of decades. Tragically, founding member Jason Noble passed away in 2012 but has left behind a truly remarkable musical legacy in the form of Rachel’s beloved chamber music output. Also essential is the fabulous ‘The Sea And The Bells’. For all information on Rachel’s please see here.

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Zola Jesus ‘Versions’ (Sacred Bones)
Nika Roza Danilova returned this year with ‘Versions’, her fourth Zola Jesus studio album, released at the end of August by the Brooklyn-based independent label Sacred Bones Records. The album’s genesis began when Danilova was asked to perform at New York’s Guggenheim and, on accepting the invitation, she requested her wish to work with a classical composer who could arrange her songs for a quartet. The pioneering and versatile JG Thirlwell (Foetus) who is best known in industrial music circles, was recruited for this purpose and to fulfill Danilova’s artistic vision. According to Danilova: “Versions is about the bone of the music; taking approximations from past records and turning them inside out. With all framework exposed, the songs are given a new medium in which to evolve and bloom into their own tiny worlds.”

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Lucrecia Dalt ‘Syzygy’ (Human Ear Music)
Hugely talented Colombian-born artist Lucrecia Dalt – now based in Berlin – returns this year with the mesmerizing ‘Syzygy’, the much-anticipated follow-up to her second full length ‘Commotus.’ The record took shape quite by accident. When Dalt moved to a new place located in close proximity to a metro station, she soon discovered that the magnetic field of the metro affected the sound of the bass. Whereas her previous album ‘Commotus’ was largely centered on bass-driven melodies, ‘Syzygy’ sees a shift to a more dreamy, ambient-textured palette, as Dalt could only record the songs in the dead of the night, as she recounts: “I could only record at 4:30 am when the metro wasn’t working. So I love these kinds of accidents. I’m not sure if the new record would have shaped the way it did if I wan’t under that circumstance.” ‘Syzygy’ is available now on Human Ear Music.

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Chequerboard ‘The Unfolding’ (Lazybird)
Chequerboard is the moniker for Dublin-based composer John Lambert who released ‘The Unfolding’ – Lambert’s third LP – this year on independent label Lazybird Records. It has been five years since Chequerboard’s previous album, ‘Penny Black’, and ‘The Unfolding’ sees Lambert expanding on a more complex and panoramic sound than before. Collaborations on the record feature Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy and Crash Ensemble’s Kate Ellis (both on cello) as well as guest vocals from Eileen Carpio. Much like the beautifully textured and multi-layered sonic palette of Thrill Jockey’s Mountains, Chequerboard’s music is stunningly complex, mixing soft focus ambient vignettes with highly detailed, intricate guitar patterns. An album which reveals more upon every listen, ‘The Unfolding’ is a true delight.

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Lisa O’Neill ‘Same Cloth Or Not’
‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is Lisa O’Neill’s second album and follow-up to her 2009 debut ‘Has An Album.’ ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ confirms County Cavan-born O’Neill as one of Ireland’s finest and most unique young songwriters and was recorded with Dublin-based songwriter (and occasional Tindersticks contributor) David Kitt as producer with Karl Oldum on engineering duties. In the past O’Neill’s name has become better known with support slots with the likes of David Gray and Glen Hansard. A tour with the wonderful Scottish musician James Yorkston this November should be particularly special occasion for music audiences across the UK. O’Neill supports Glen Hansard on his solo Irish tour this October. ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is released on 18th October.

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Joni Mitchell ‘The Studio Albums 1968 – 1979’ (Warner Music / Reprise / Asylum)
Since last year’s Joni Mitchell boxset release – comprising Mitchell’s studio albums from her most prolific and creative period of the late sixties and seventies – the astonishing music and artistry of Mitchell’s can be explored by a whole new generation of music-lovers. The set contains Mitchell’s best-loved and most revered albums including the timeless string of albums at the turn of the seventies – 1971’s ‘Blue’, ’74’s ‘Court and Spark’ and ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ from 1975. The set also features such slightly less known gems as ‘Hejira’, ‘Ladies Of The Canyon’ and ‘Mingus’, Mitchell’s beautiful Asylum Records album from 1979 dedicated to the life and memory of Charles Mingus who passed away in January of the same year.

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Peter Jefferies ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ (De Stijl)
Originally released on tape cassette by Xpressway, a label based in Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990, the mystery and allure surrounding Jefferies’ debut solo album has only grown since. Hence, this year’s reissue of the New Zealander’s ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ via De Stijl Records (the first time that the vinyl has been repressed since the LP version of the album on Chicago’s Ajax label was out of print some twenty years ago). The collection itself is an engrossing set of songs highlighting the raw talents of Jefferies as a songwriter whose songs reveal much pain, sadness and indifference to a world which seems at complete odds to it’s author, while ultimately the album conveys a sense of fragile hope and soft light which diffuses Jefferies’ stark shadows with soft edges. A redeeming and life-affirming record.

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Kwes ‘ilp.’ (Warp)
‘ilp.’ is the debut album by Warp’s hugely talented London-based producer Kwesi Sey (who has worked with the likes of Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn in the past). The album’s ten tracks cut through every conceivable genre and style so effortlessly, fusing pop, electronic, hip hop, found sounds and ambient traditions to a mesmerizing effect (at times recalling Warp’s Bibio at his most expansive). The album’s hallmark is Sey’s vocal work, adding heart and soul to the beguiling, multilayered soundscapes beneath. Sey’s journey in music began when he was given a present of a keyboard from his grandmother (an instrument he still uses), and from the evidence of the hugely promising ‘ilp.’ expect a very bright future indeed for Kwes.

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Pharaoh Sanders ‘Elevation’ (Soul Jazz, Re-Issue 2013)
Soul Jazz Records’ Universal Sound recently re-issued Pharaoh Sanders’ classic ‘Elevation’ which was originally released on Impulse Records back in 1973. This was a golden era for Impulse when such jazz greats as Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Sam Rivers and Marion Brown were making records for the label. Sanders was one of the greatest saxophonists of all time, and worked with both John Coltrane in the sixties as well as Alice Coltrane in the following decade. Beginning with the album’s majestic title-track, ‘Elevation’ is a key cornerstone to the spiritual jazz genre and highlights Sanders as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists there ever was.

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Chantal Acda ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ (Gizeh)
Dutch-born songwriter Chantal Acda will release the gorgeous ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ this November on Gizeh Records. The Belgium-based artist has formerly recorded under the Sleepingdog moniker, making three critically acclaimed albums culminating with 2010’s ‘With Our Heads in the Clouds and Our Hearts in the Fields’, a collaboration between Acda and Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid, A Winged Victory For The Sullen). ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ is effectively Acda’s first solo album, and features the sublime talents of Nils Frahm (Erased Tapes), Peter Broderick (Erased Tapes, Type, Bella Union), Múm’s cellist Gyda Valtysdottir and Shahzad Ismaily. With Frahm on production duties, Acda’s songs are kept beautifully vulnerable, yet maintain a certain magical spark throughout, reminiscent of ‘Wonders’, Frahm’s beautifully understated collaborative EP with Peter Broderick. ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ is out on November 11th 2013 on Gizeh Records.

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Clark ‘Feast/Beast’ (Warp)
Few artists can boast such an impressive array of genuinely inspiring remix work than Warp’s Chris Clark. The English electronic musician has remixed a myriad of various artists over recent years – including Bibio, Nathan Fake, Amon Tobin, Massive Attack, Battles and Letherette – and this substantial body of work is now beautifully collected by Warp in a double-album for the first time. Whereas first half “Feast” comprises the more melodic and shape-shifting material (typified by Clark’s stunning remix of Nils Frahm’s ‘Peter’), the second half set of “Beast” comprises the more hardcore and techno material. Also features exclusive original remixes by Bibio and Nathan Fake.

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Agnes Obel ‘Aventine’ (PIAS)
The much-anticipated arrival of Danish composer Agnes Obel’s follow-up to the internationally-acclaimed debut ‘Philarmonics’ comes in the form of the glorious ‘Aventine’. The album is officially released on 30th September and is currently streaming in full here. Currently based in Berlin, Obel will make her eagerly-awaited live return this October on her European tour which features appearances at London’s Union Chapel and Dublin’s Vicar Street. (All tour dates here). ‘Aventine’ is an utterly compelling, hauntingly beautiful set of songs that confirms Obel as one of the most impressive young musical artists making music.

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The Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’ (Denovali)
Named after David Lynch’s lead detective in cult TV series “Twin Peaks”, Dale Cooper & The Dictaphones are the cult French Dark Jazz collective whose fusion of 50’s Jazz, dark ambience and ghostly sound recordings provides for an unforgettable listening experience. Recorded in Brest in Britanny, France, ‘Quatorze Pièces De Menace’ is released on Denovali, Berlin’s wonderful experimental label. The album features an inspired set of guest vocalists including New Zealand’s Alicia Merz (Birds Of Passage), Ronan Mac Erlaine and Gaëlle Kerrien (Yann Tiersen).

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V/A ‘Music and Migration III’ (Second Language)
‘Music & Migration III’ is the final installment of the Music & Migration series which “congratulates BirdLife International on their 20th Anniversary and particularly celebrates their important global work for migratory birds.” Featured here are thirteen tracks compiled specifically for the series for London-based independent label Second Language. Standout moments include the charming and graceful compositions by ISAN, Colleen, Mark Fry and Glen Johnson. Also included with M&MIII is a free bonus disc, Mizieb EP, by The Home Current which features remixes by a number of artists including The Boats.

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V/A ‘Live At Caffè Lena : Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013’ (Tompkins Square)
San Francisco’s Tompkins Square have been quietly releasing some of the most breathtaking music – both new material and lovingly assembled gems from the past – over the past decade or so. Perhaps what typifies the heartbeat of the label is this latest gem; a triple album featuring a poignant chronicle of New York’s Caffè Lena, the oldest continuously operating folk music coffeehouse in the US. As stated by the lovingly written sleeve notes, the heartbeat of the set – amidst the array of stars such as Kate McGarrigle, Rick Danko, Pete and Mike Seeger – is Lena Spencer herself: “She would graciously house wayward artists, sometimes for months at a time. But she was not merely a host. She championed artists, from Bob Dylan as early as 1961 all the way through the 80s until her passing. Her passion for identifying and promoting talent is evident throughout this 3-CD set. That Caffè Lena is still open for business tonight is a testament to her legacy.” Essential. Available Worldwide on Tompkins Square, September 24, 2013.

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Grizzly Bear ‘Shields: Expanded’ (Warp)
Indie greats Grizzly Bear re-release their wonderful ‘Shields’ album this November in a newly expanded edition. While such quick re-releases are generally fairly shallow affairs and often prove nothing more than blatant marketing exercises, this double-album features exclusive ‘Shields’ sessions, demos, and remixes (highlights being Lindstrom’s reinterpretation of ‘Gun-Shy’ and Nicolas Jaar’s re-working of ‘Sleeping Ute’). Double-album ‘Shields: Expanded’ will be available on Warp on November 12th.

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CocoRosie ‘Tales of a GrassWidow’ (City Slang)
This year saw the much-anticipated return of sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady, who have been making some of the most vibrant and compelling music of the last decade since their stunning debut ‘La Maison de Mon Rêve’ back in 2004. Current album ‘Tales of a GrassWidow’ (City Slang) was produced in collaboration with Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson (Bedroom Community) who gives the songs a lush and cinematic feel, while Antony Hegarty (Antony & The Johnsons) features on guest vocals. As always, the American sisters don’t shy away from the big topics, subjects here include child abuse, the mistreatment of children, and the destruction of the natural environment. CocoRosie make their eagerly-awaited return to Irish shores when they perform at The Button Factory, Dublin on Wednesday October 2nd.

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Nils Frahm ‘Spaces’ (Erased Tapes)
Since the upload of the ‘Spaces’ official album trailer a couple months back – and, indeed, since the release of his previous album ‘Screws’ last year on Erased Tapes – Frahm has been prolific as ever. As well as performing live across Europe and America, Frahm has also found the time to collaborate on a number of albums (as performer and producer) including Sarah Neufeld’s wonderful ‘Hero Brother’ (Constellation) and Chantal Acda’s ‘Let Your Hands Be My Guide’ (Gizeh). ‘Spaces’ is mastered by the gifted Mandy Parnell and will be released on November 18 on Erased Tapes. It will be the first release under the new Erased Tapes America imprint, out November 19 in North America, preceded by a string of West Coast shows in late September and celebrated with a special album release concert in New York City on November 25. American dates feature guests including Hauschka, Peter Broderick and Ólafur Arnalds.

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Sidi Touré ‘Alafia’ (Thrill Jockey)
Malian songwriter and guitarist Sidi Touré returns this September with the wonderful ‘Alafia’, an album Touré recorded in Nantes, France and Bamako, Mali. It’s Touré’s third for Chicago’s Thrill Jockey label and comprises his most complete and fully-realized album yet. Comparisons to the pioneering output of fellow Malian and predecessor Ali Farka Touré can still be made, where the blues-influenced guitar playing and plaintive vocal melisma of Songhaï folk music can be heard throughout. As stated by Thrill Jockey: “Touré deals with the strife and political instability plaguing his home region using the effortlessly broad musical language he’s internalized since his youth. Regional styles, including takamba, holley, and abarbarba (the butcher’s dance), along with his longtime interest in international music, form the underpinning to Touré’s lyrical ode to his country.”

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Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle “Perils From The Sea” (Caldo Verde)
“Perils From The Sea” is yet another hauntingly beautiful collection written by the legendary American songsmith Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon). Here, Kozelek is joined by The Album Leaf’s Jimmy LaValle who provides the music to Kozelek’s words. The musical arrangements are kept wonderfully sparse, where LaValle’s use of electronics, drum beats and swirling synth presets provide the perfect platform for Kozelek’s deeply affecting and moving narrative songs. Some of Kozelek’s finest moments are matched here, like the gorgeous “From The Time That I Awoke”:
“I wrote poetry throughout my teens / And I far exceeded my childhood dreams / Teachers told me I couldn’t write / That I’d never make a living or touch anyone’s life / People told me I couldn’t sing / That I’d never amount to much of anything”

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Forest Swords “Engravings” (Tri Angle)
Forest Swords is the pseudonym for Liverpool producer Matthew Barnes, who releases his hotly anticipated debut album “Engravings” this August on the Tri Angle label. Thus far Forest Swords has released the critically acclaimed debut “Dagger Paths” EP in 2010, and has recently made the tracks “Thor’s Stone” and “The Weight Of Gold” available online, the latter confirming the hype and acclaim is fully merited for this hugely talented artist. “Engravings” will be released on Tri Angle on 26 August 2013.

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Letherette “Letherette” (Ninja Tune)
This year saw the Wolverhampton based electronic duo Letherette – consisting of childhood friends Richard Roberts and Andy Harber – release their self-titled debut album on the pioneering Ninjatune label. The album showcases the talents of the pair while also highlighting the broad range of influences that have seeped into their record collections over the years. According to Roberts, their ultimate aim is “to be in a position where they make great albums playing to great people.” “While Harber has said: ‘We always want to be in touch with what’s good and to make music we’re proud of and never go stale. If that ever happened, in my ears, we’d call it a day.”

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Sarah Neufeld “Hero Brother” (Constellation)
Best known as band-member to Arcade Fire and a founding member of the acclaimed contemporary instrumental ensemble Bell Orchestre, Sarah Neufeld’s breathtaking violin talents can be witnessed in her solo LP “Hero Brother”. Written and composed by Neufeld, the album was mixed and produced by Berlin-based Nils Frahm who also adds harmonium and piano to the album. According to Neufeld, “Hero Brother is a gathering of characters in our collective mythology- the strong and weak; the secrets buried underground, played by one instrument, echoed by my own voice as plaintive companion.”

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Hidden Highways “Old Hearts Reborn” (Out On A Limb)
Hidden Highways’ much-anticipated debut album will be released this September on Limerick-based independent label Out On A Limb Records. Comprising the duo of Carol Anne McGowan and Tim V Smith, Hidden Highways create stunning, immersive folk songs recalling the likes of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. McGowan’s vocals are stunning throughout, her harmonies with Smith recall the spirit of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. Last year the band issued their self-titled EP – proving to be one of the year’s quietly unassuming, hidden treasures – which included a heart-stopping rendition of the Jeff Alexander-penned classic “Come Wander With Me”. “Old Hearts Reborn” will be released on Out On A Limb Records on 13 September 2013.

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Promised Land Sound “Promised Land Sound” (Paradise Of Bachelors)
The self-titled debut album by Promised Land Sound (named after a Chuck Berry jam) is destined to become one of the year’s most talked about albums. The Nashville-based band shot to the attention of many when Jack White (also a Nashville native) released a live 7″ recording of the band on his Third Man Records Label. The band’s hugely impressive sonic palette recalls a wide array of artists including Link Wray, The Band, The Stones, Gene Clark and Gram Parsons. The self titled debut was co-produced by Nashville guitarist (and Lambchop, Hiss Golden Messenger and Silver Jews contributor) William Tyler and Jem Cohen of the Ettes and the Parting Gifts. “Promised Land Sound” will be released by the North Carolina-based label Paradise Of Bachelors on 24 September.

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Erased Tapes V Boxset (Erased Tapes)
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the hugely influential record label Erased Tapes. It is amazing to think that in such a short space of time the label have released some of the finest music of recent times, with recordings by artists such as Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
Fittingly, on their anniversary year, the label released “Corollaries”, the new album by legendary pianist Lubomyr Menlnyk, whose pioneering Continous Music has inspired a generation of musicians. The box set features exclusive, previously unreleased recordings made by the label’s incredible roster of artists. What makes it all the more exclusive is the fact that a the compilation won’t become digitally available until the end of the year. A must have for music-lovers everywhere.

While Nils Frahm’s “Juno” is not included, the much sought-after vinyl has been reissued (in beautiful turquoise) after the initial pressing sold out. The material (“For” and “Peter”, written for friend and colleague Peter Broderick) is exclusively made with the Juno synthesizer, showcasing Frahm’s incredible talents as one of the most inspiring of contemporary composers.

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Bill Callahan “Dream River” (Drag City)
One of the modern greats, Bill Callahan, releases his new album “Dream River” and eagerly awaited follow-up to his immaculate “Apocalypse” this Autumn, on Drag City. Since dropping his Smog moniker, beginning in 2007 with the release of “Woke On A Whaleheart” Callahan has produced a string of stunning albums, confirming his status as one of the finest artists around. According to Drag City: “Ol’ man Eagle is back, floatin’ Apocalyptically on a Whaleheart down the Dream River. Eight gentle percolations fire the pressure-cooker of life, dialing us into the Callahanian mind- and soul-set. Deep like aqua, soulful like man and animal alike.” “Dream River” will be released by Drag City on 17 September 2013.

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White Hills “In Your Room” (Thrill Jockey)
This year Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey have been releasing a raft of sublime albums (last month alone saw records by New York trio White Hills, kandodo, and the long-awaited re-pressing of Mountains’ debut LP “Mountains Mountains Mountains”) showcasing some of the most exciting bands making music today. “So You Are…So You’ll Be” is White Hills’ seventh studio album and was recorded with Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Swans) at BC Studios where White Hills also recorded 2012’s “Frying On This Rock”. According to Dave W: “Heavy psychedelic music can deliver the thinking mind through a door to the greater universe. I want people to find a space for meditation. We all are constantly barraged and beaten down with a lot of bullshit today. Personally, I find that spaced-out extreme music transports me to a very tranquil place. I hope, more than anything, our music brings others to that place of enlightenment and ecstasy.”

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Rodigon G.A. “The Lost Tapes” (Strut)
Released at the end of May, “The Lost Tapes” comprises the first ever commercially released album of Rodion G.A.’s music. The material has been unheard and unreleased for over thirty years and was issued by London-based label Strut in association with Future Nuggets and Ambassador’s Reception. Rodion Rosca composed and recorded much of the music on a primitive makeshift set-up of early drum machines, Tesla reel to reels, and live instruments. The collection is simply a gleaming treasure and one which every music collector should proudly own.

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Laura Veirs “Warp and Weft” (Bella Union)
Laura Veirs has firmly established herself as one of the finest songwriters making music today. Even despite her unwavering consistency, it is nonetheless a remarkable achievement to consider this is Veirs’ ninth studio album. “Warp and Weft” (a weaving term), can be seen to sum up her music perfectly as her output has been beautifully nuanced and lovingly crafted since her self-titled debut back in 1999. Renowned producer (and husband to Veirs) Tucker Martine is on board once again. The album is a darker and denser set of songs and is another stunning achievement from Veirs that draws much inspiration from the landscape, motherhood, love and violence (the latter in the form of suicide, war and gun crime). Featuring a host of contributors including Jim James, kd lang, Neko Case and members of The Decemberists, the album sees Veirs at her beautiful, brilliant best. According to Neko Case herself, “It’s masterful; as a listener, it makes me feel loved. As a musician it makes me feel challenged and engaged.” “Warp and Weft” will be released 19th August 2013 on Bella Union.

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Various Artists “Rare Cajun Recordings” (Tompkins Square)
Some of the finest compilations this year has come courtesy of the incredible San Francisco-based Tompkins Square label and their ongoing Long Gone Sound series (whose goal is “to create a catalyst for musical and cultural transformation.”) My personal highlight has been “Let Me Play This For You”, a collection of rare Cajun recordings made between 1929-1930. The tracks are by Babineaux & Guidry, Angelas LeJeune and Blind Uncle Gaspard. As the sleevenotes state: “Most of the performances on this collection have not been heard since they were original recorded on 78 rpm disc and yet they serve as a discrete Rosetta Stone for the traditional Cajun and Creole repertoire that exists today.” Also essential is “Turn Me Loose : Outsiders oF ‘Old-time’ Music”, a collection of 78 rpm records curated by Frank Fairfield, also available now on Tompkins Square.

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RocketNumberNine “MeYouWeYou” (Smalltown Supersound)
London-based RocketNumberNine comprise the brothers Tom and Ben Page who have toured extensively with a hugely impressive number of acts, including Radiohead, Four Tet, Caribou, Nathan Fake and James Holden. In fact it was Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden who released RocketNumberNine’s first material, courtesy of the 12″ “Matthew & Toby” (released on Hebden’s own Text imprint) which closes “MeYouWeYou”, their debut album, available now on the wonderful Oslo-based independent label Smalltown Supersound (the incredible sleeve is courtesy of the impeccable talents of multi-disciplinary artist Kim Hiorthøy).

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Laurie Anderson “Homeland” (Nonesuch)
Have been revisiting Anderson’s songbook since Colleen’s Influences mix for Second Language to coincide with Colleen’s new album “The Weighing Of The Heart” which includes Laurie Anderson’s “Big Science” (from 1982’s “Big Science” LP, Anderson’s first part in her extensive portrait of the United States). Also essential in Anderson’s considerable output is “Homeland”, released in 2010 on Nonesuch, her first album in a decade. Features the haunting sounds of Anderson’s singular violin playing, as Anderson says in the sleevenotes: “Homeland” is built on groove electronics and new string sounds for the violin. I spend a lot of time inventing new ways for the violin to sound. The string filters created melodies that turned into songs.”

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Marsen Jules Trio “Presence Acousmatique” (Oktaf)
Marsen Jules has long been responsible for some of the most quietly breathtaking and tenderly beautiful music released over the last decade or so. Albums such as “Herbstlaub”, “Les Fleurs” and “Golden” have established Dortmund-based Jules as one of the finest composers making music today. As the Marsen Jules Trio, Jules is joined by twin brothers Anwar Alam and Jan-Philipp Alam on violin and piano. Across the six pieces on “Presence Acousmatique” Jules and brothers Alam create heavenly music featuring abstract ambient spaces and textured passages of impeccable musicianship.

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Waxahatchee “Cerulean Salt” (Don Giovanni)
Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project began with 2012’s debut LP “American Weekend”. This year saw the release of follow-up “Cerulean Salt” (also on New Jersey independent label Don Giovanni Records). The former P.S. Eliot singer Katie Crutchfield establishes herself as one of the most promising American songwriters where her introspective, personal songs are set to wonderfully crafted guitar-based songs. For the set of songs on “Cerulean Salt” much inspiration is drawn from her family and Alabama upbringing.

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fieldhead “a correction” (Gizeh Records)
fieldhead is the moniker for Leeds-born ambient/electronic composer Paul Elam who will be joining Kranky’s Loscil in Spring of next year for his European tour. As well as making his own compelling and hugely immersive ambient material, Elam is also the full-time member of Hood side project The Declining Winter and a part-time member of Glissando’s Fleeting Glimpse Ensemble. Elam’s fieldhead soundscapes are beautifully augmented by the wonderful talents of violinists Elaine Reynolds (The Boats, The Declining Winter) and Sarah Kemp (Lanterns on the Lake, The Declining Winter). Since 2010 Elam relocated to Vancouver, Canada, and has two full length studio albums to date, a host of EP’s, as well as an impressive number of remix work.

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White Denim “Corsicana Lemonade” (Downtown Records/MapleMusic Recordings)
“It has taken five records to make one that sounds the way we do on stage” is how White Denim’s James Petralli describes the band’s forthcoming album “Corsicana Lemonade”. The Austin outfit will be touring with Tame Impala in October, while “Corsicana Lemonade” has been produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy (whose production duties has included recent albums by both Low and Mavis Staples). LP due 28 October 2013.

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Suuns “Images Du Futur” (Secretly Canadian)
Currently, Montreal’s Suuns are performing live across Europe in support of their current LP “Images Du Futur”, released earlier in the year by Secretly Canadian. Lately, the band’s profile increased with the inclusion of the track “2020” for the UK trailer to Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” where Ryan Gosling reunites with Refn for the first time since 2011’s “Drive”. “Images Du Futur” features a tight, visceral set of songs where the influences of Wire, Clinic and Radiohead can be heard.

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Julia Holter “Loud City Song” (Domino)
One of the most anticipated albums of the year comes from Los Angeles-based artist Julia Holter whose previous two albums – debut “Tragedy” and follow-up “Ekstasis” – elevated Holter’s status to being hailed as one of music’s modern greats. “Loud City Song” is Holter’s first album for the Domino label (who she signed to after previous “Ekstasis” album was released on RVNG INTL) and again displays Holter’s truly individual and captivating artistry where divine musical arrangements are combined with enriching and emotionally charged songs. In fact, the origins of this set of songs predates Holter’s 2011 debut “Tragedy”, and were worked on in late 2012. Holter has expressed inspiration from Collette’s 1944 novella Gigi, the music of Joni Mitchell and the poetry of Frank O’ Hara. “Loud City Song” is released by Domino on August 19th, 2013.

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Steve Gunn “Time Off” (Paradise Of Bachelors)
Yet another defining masterpiece courtesy of the peerless North Carolina record label Paradise Of Bachelors. Previously, in April, the label issued Hiss Golden Messenger’s sublime “Haw” LP, while this summer heralds the release of yet another milestone in Steve Gunn’s incredible “Time Off”. New York-based Gunn is also behind the acclaimed Gunn-Truscinski Duo (Three Lobed Recordings) where Gunn – on guitar – is joined by legendary drummer and percussionist John Truscinski (X.0.4, GHQ). Over the years, Gunn has also added his guitar talents to Kurt Vile’s band The Violators. “Time Off” features the trio of Gunn (guitars, vocals), John Truscinski (drums, percussion) and Justin Tripp (bass). Gunn’s guitar playing draws from the songbooks of Fahey, Basho, Bull, Harper and Chapman, while his vocals are reminiscent of early Wilco and Califone’s Tim Rutili. “Time Off” sees Gunn create some of the most vital music of recent times.

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R.E.M. “Reckoning” (I.R.S.)
As part of our Calexico contributions – where each member has been choosing their most prized album – R.E.M.’s 1984 classic second LP “Reckoning” was chosen by Calexico frontman Joey Burns. Follow-up to “Murmer”, “Reckoning” would embody the live sound of the band – who had toured extensively the year previously – and is characterized by Michael Stipe’s darker subject matter in his lyrics. As Joey Burns himself said, “They captured a mood and energy that was compelling. Peter Buck’s drone guitar style resonated with my style as well as the foggy vocals of Michael Stipe. There was a mystique and depth with the layers of their instrumentation and vocals that I appreciated.”

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Postiljonen ‘Skyer’ (Best Fit Recordings)
Stockholm-based trio Postiljonen (Daniel Sjörs, Joel Nyström Holm, and Mia Bøe) released their stunning debut “Skyer” (translates to “Clouds”) this year to widespread critical acclaim. The band showcase a wonderful pop sensibility throughout the album’s ten tracks, creating gorgeous gleaming pop songs in the process. The album can be listened in full here. 

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Pure Bathing Culture ‘Moon Tides’ (Memphis Industries)
Portland Oregon-based duo Pure Bathing Culture comprises of Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille who had previously played with Andy Cabic’s folk band Vetiver. The duo have thus far released their debut self-titled EP on Father/Daughter Records, and have also exclusively covered “Dreams” for a special Fleetwood Mac edition of Mojo magazine. The band have recorded with songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Richard Swift at his National Freedom studio. “Moon Tides” will be released on 19th August on Memphis Industries.

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DJ Koze “Amygdala” (Pampa)
When the end-of-year lists are being compiled, the wonderful “Amygdala” LP by DJ Koze is sure to find its way to the top of many’s favourite album for 2013. DJ Koze is German producer Stefan Kozella, and “Amygdala” is Koze’s first new solo material for almost a decade. Featuring a number of special guest vocalists (Caribou and Daphni’s Dan Snaith, Matthew Dear and Apparat’s Sascha Ring) the real star is Kozella whose genre-defying soundscapes and incredible lyrics make “Amygdala” the compelling gem that it truly is. As album opener “Track ID Anyone?” says: “We need to eat and we need to sleep and we need music.” The album can be streamed in full here.

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Forrests “Wilder” (Blast First Petite)
Dublin-based electronic duo Forrests’ incredible “Wilder” EP is amongst the finest electronic material out there, recalling Hebden’s Four Tet, Bristol’s Fuck Buttons and fellow-Dublin electronic duo White Collar Boy. Released on the Blast First Petite label on July 8th of this month, the EP consists of a stunning array of hypnotic beats, irresistible grooves and an impressively wide range of sonic textures. Forrests are as adept with the creation of gorgeously subtle, ambient shape-shifting sounds (the two-minute “Symmetries” and closer “Latitude” recalling Ulrich Schnauss’s “Far Away Trains” LP) as well as more hypnotic and immediate tracks such as the dreamy, rhythmic “Tarifa”. The EP can be streamed here.

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After Dark 2 (Italians Do It Better)
Johnny Jewel’s “After Dark” series of compilations features the impressive Italians Do It Better label and is – as always – a wonderful showcase of the artists on the label. Featuring Glass Candy, Desire, Chromatics, Symmetry and Mike Simonetti, the tracks are slick, timeless and (unquestionably) über-cool. Personal favorites on the label are “Night Drive” and “Kill For Love” by Chromatics and “Themes For An Imaginary Film” by Desire.
The “After Dark 2” set can be heard in full here.

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borngräber & strüver “Clouds” (m=minimal)
Berlin duo borngräber & strüver have established themselves as one of the most compelling and impressive of electronic/ambient artists working today. “Clouds” comprises tracks written over a period of over a decade (2000 to 2012) and features chamber music compositions merging with an array of influences such as minimal, classic, baroque and pop. Also essential are borngräber & strüver’s “urlaub” and “In G” albums, now being issued by Berlin label m=minimal in one set.

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Greg Haines “Where We Were” (Denovali)
This May marked Berlin-based Greg Haines’s most innovative album yet. “Where We Were” signals a departure in Haines’s previous works, markedly in his use of tape-worn synthesizers (and subsequent omission of strings). Much like friend and composer Frahm’s recent recordings (“Juno” EP on Erased Tapes) Haines seeks to create blissful and rhythmically driven pieces. The album is an ode to the handmade where the world of analogue sounds replaces digital technologies. Gripping, enriching and meticulous in execution and delivery.

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Fuck Buttons “Slow Focus” (ATP)
Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung make their hugely anticipated return since 2009’s Andrew Weatherall produced “Tarot Sport”. “Slow Focus”, the Bristol-based band’s third studio album, is self-produced and it’s seven tracks feature an unforgettable array of sonic textures and an endless amount of hidden realms. Not only the band’s best album, but one of the finest albums this year has produced.

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