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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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Glenn Jones “My Garden State” (Thrill Jockey)
One of the hidden gems of the year so far came courtesy of the forever dependable Thrill Jockey Label; Glenn Jones’s “My Garden State”, an album of understated and fragile beauty. The album was written in Jones’s family home in Northern Jersey prior to the sale of the house due to his mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. A strong spirit of memory and nostalgia are evoked throughout. Glenn Jones’s guitar playing prowess is (as ever) on full display where a deep sense of warm intimacy and a myriad of feelings are captured effortlessly. The album features sisters Laura and Meg Baird on accompaniment and was recorded in the home studio of Les and Laura Baird in New Jersey, keeping with the album’s Garden State theme.

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John Murry “Miss Magdalena” (Forthcoming LP)
“The Graceless Age”, John Murry’s debut solo LP, was a deeply moving and a life-affirming experience. Written after Murry had overdosed on heroin and was left clinically dead, “The Graceless Age” is an album of pain and suffering, while – ultimately – one that exudes a moving spirit of redemption and hope while Murry’s soul is laid bare. “Miss Magdalena” would see the light of day while Murry – and band – toured extensively this spring and summer in both Europe and the US. The song will be released on forthcoming LP and follow-up to the internationally-acclaimed “The Graceless Age”. John is currently recording the follow-up and has appealed for funding on his kickstarter initiative (ONLY 36 HOURS TO GO!) with many special prizes on offer: All details on Kickstarter here.

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Daniel Bachman “Seven Pines” (Tompkins Square)
My first time discovering Virginia-born Daniel Bachman came courtesy of an intimate performance at Cork’s Gulpd Cafe courtesy of Plugd Records where Bachman showcased material from his current Tompkins Square LP “Seven Pines”. Bachman’s guitar playing is astonishing to witness and all the more astonishing to behold in a live setting. The album was written over a 12 month period while living in Philadelphia and shares the same spirit of William Tyler’s “Behold The Spirit” as well as such guitar luminaries as Roy Harper and John Fahey. At only 22 years of age, Daniel Bachman has the world at his feet.

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Torres “Torres” (Self-Released)
Released at the beginning of the year, Mackenzie Scott’s Torres’ self titled album is one of the year’s outstanding achievements. Mackenzie hails from Nashville, Tennessee and – like Bachman – is only 22 years of age. The album’s ten songs are direct and stark and continue to linger long after repeated listens. The album recalls Sharon Van Etten’s personal and affecting songs – where folk, indie and rock traditions merge wonderfully with Mackenzie’s stunning voice.

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Charles Bradley “Victim Of Love” (Dunham Records)
Few albums have garnered such wide cross-over appeal as soul maverick Bradley’s stunning “Victim Of Love” LP. Released on Dunham – a label belonging to the legendary Daptone Records label – “Victim Of Love” is a modern-day soul masterpiece. Bradley’s amazing “success” story (and, indeed, remarkable backstory) has kindled a spark in many a music fan’s heart over the last year or two (similar in some respects to last year’s celebration of the legendary Sixto Rodriguez) and has captured the imaginations of people across musical genres – and generations. As Bradley writes in the album’s inlay: “To all of you with God’s love. Thank you. I love you always. Charles Bradley. P.S. See you soon.”

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KÖLSCH “1977” (Kompakt)
I only recently came across the incredible talents of Copenhagen’s KÖLSCH (via the wonderful musical institution that is Galway-based An Taobh Tuathail) and “1977” has provided a constant source of headphone listening for the small hours ever since. KÖLSCH is Rune Reilly Kölsch, a renowned producer who has been responsible for a whole host of records under various monikers over the last fifteen years, most notably the internationally successful dancefloor hit “Calabria” from 2003. Kölsch ran his own monthly Club Smile parties at VEGA Natklub in Copenhagen, while also running bimonthly parties at legendary Culture box.

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Tree “Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out” (Creative Control)
My first introduction to the incredible “Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out” LP came courtesy of Pitchfork’s Overlooked Records list for 2013. Tree is the alias for Chicago rapper/producer Tremaine “Tree” Johnson. The album is a hip hop tour-de-force featuring a myriad of inspired samples including Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Fallin In Love” (as Johnson says on the intro to “The King”, “I had to go get The King for this one”). The sheer range of sounds serves to recall those wonderful “mixtape” vibes from DJ Shadow’s seminal “The Private Press” LP. Lyrically, the album is as powerful as they can come, featuring tracks of raw power delivered straight from the soul of Johnson.

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Karen Gwyer “Needs Continuum” (No Pain In Pop)
From the incredible drum/bass/synth opening of “Sugar Tots”, the nine tracks on “Needs Continuum” showcases the wonderful talents and breathtaking sounds of London-based Karen Gwyer. Released this year on the wonderfully eclectic and ever-reliable “polystylistic” independent label No Pain In Pop, also based in London. My current favourite is “Lentil” which begins with softly textured vocal layers before gradually building to a stunning, ethereal and multi-layered climax. Also available is a remix EP of Gwyer’s “Needs Continuum” featuring Toronto’s Doom Squad, Not Not Fun’s Samantha Glass and Australian Neon Pulse.

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Sorcha Richardson “Sleep Will Set Me Free” (Self-Released)
I first crossed paths with Sorcha Richardson courtesy of the Irish Times’ “The Ticket”. Delving into Richardson’s stunning songbook has proved an unforgettable experience. The Dublin-born composer – now based in New York – has recorded a number of E.P’s to date (including the mesmerizing “Sleep Will Set Me Free” EP), containing fragile folk treasures recalling such spirits as Karen Dalton, David Pajo, Vashti Bunyan and Lisa Germano. Whether featuring arrangements of guitar or piano, it is Richardson’s poetic and truly captivating lyrics and breathtaking vocal delivery that casts such a deeply affecting spell on the listener, one which will never be broken.

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Minutemen “Double Nickels On The Dime” (SST)
An album that proved a key catalyst for Calexico’s Joey Burns on his musical journey (the band often cover both “Corona” and “Jesus and Tequila” live), Minutemen’s “Double Nickels On The Dime” album was released on the legendary Californian independent label SST in 1984 and continues to inspire new generations of musicians. The double album, containing a stunning 45 songs, was the third studio LP released by the band who consisted of D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley. Tragically, in December of 1985, Boon was killed in a van accident. However, Boon’s legacy and Minutemen’s songbook will live on forever.

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