Speakers Push Air

Single Of The Year
December 30, 2013, 6:11 pm
Filed under: 2013 Albums Of The Year | Tags: ,

I don’t really keep up with singles any more – I don’t listen to much radio, don’t buy many singles unless they’re scratchy old soul 7 inches. But this tune wormed into my head early in the year and never shifted and it’s the undisputed, uncontested Single Of The Year.

I’m also a sucker for fantastic pop songs about how powerful and healing fantastic pop music can be (see also Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Speakers Push Air)

Serafina Steer – Disco Compilation (Stolen)

2013-12-30 18.05.58

Albums Of The Year: 15-11
December 30, 2013, 3:35 pm
Filed under: 2013 Albums Of The Year | Tags: , , , ,

15. Mogwai – Les Revenants (Rock Action)

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After Zidane, this was a natural step somehow. The TV series was an impossibly French and totally compelling watch, gently chilling and beautifully shot. The music worked perfectly, Mogwai at their most meditative and understated.

14. Parquet Courts -Light Up Gold (What’s Your Rapture?)

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I kicked back against this album, resisted its charms because it is just so fucking retro, a slacker karaoke act. But it wore me down, because it’s just SO good. And if you’re going to be slavishly imitative, it might as well be Pavement, Archers of Loaf and the like that you’re slavishly imitating

13. Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra (Thrill Jockey)

2013-12-30 12.23.54I’m going to defer to the occasionally marvelous, occasionally wretched Quietus magazine review for this one, because the writer nails it.

Grumbling Fur make me want to take drugs. And I don’t mean drugs like a few puffs on a spliff before bedtime or on a lazy Saturday afternoon, or a cheeky dabble at a rave to keep the energy flowing – I mean proper, don’t-eat-for-18-hours-beforehand, make-sure-you’ve-got-a-couple-of-good-people-around-you, psychically prepared voyaging, preferably on a warm and sunny but slightly overcast afternoon in a field somewhere in the West Country, or in a friend’s house cluttered to the rafters with fascinating and peculiar objects. On their second album Glynnaestra, the duo of Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan conjure up a wonderfully evocative and distinctly British kitchen sink psychedelia, an intimate shared space where the whistle of a kettle and the clatter of pots and pans can sit seamlessly alongside heavily reverbed 80s pop synths, expansive rural landscapes, delectably ludicrous choruses and invocations to imaginary deities.” – Rory Gibb, The Quietus.

Yeh, that. And how nobody ever thought to do this before is a mystery:

12. Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds – Haunted Head (In The Red)

2013-12-30 12.22.21Signed copy, bitches…

Kid Congo Powers was in The Cramps, The Bad Seeds and The Gun Club. He’s cooler than you, or pretty much anybody else. Even if this album was a crock, he’d STILL be cooler than you. But it’s not – of course it’s not. It’s a killer collection of dumbass garage rock, trogolodyte punk, funky go go soul grooves and steamy Latino lounge. Some songs are barely more than a riff, a drumbeat and a whispered vocal. But WHAT a riff, and WHAT a drumbeat. This is the Kid’s fourth album with his Pink Monkey Birds and it might well be the best. Like ‘Let’s Go’ says, this is music for “the cholos and the weirdos and the creeps”. Hell Yeah! 5/5

11. The Handsome Family – Wilderness (Carrot Top / Loose)

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“Press release descriptions tend to be simultaneously florid and content-free, but I’ll make an exception for the press sheet accompanying the new Handsome Family album, which describes “a world where David Attenborough meets David Lynch in a Honky-Tonk bar at midnight”. That does a fair job of summoning up the weird and fecund mood of Wilderness, the husband and wife duo’s ninth album, on which the magical realism of previous albums (full of lonely magnets and poodles who want to be cowboys and ghosts trapped in airports) goes a stage further by adding a visual element – a book, also called Wilderness, which features Rennie Sparks’ gorgeous artwork alongside essays, writings and ephemera. Rennie has long had a parallel ‘career’ as an artist and writer (check their website to see more) and this seems a logical step. To call Rennie’s work ‘outsider art’ might not do it justice, but there is something luminous and strange, perhaps a little mid-period Louis Wain, about how she captures the essence of animals.” - my Narc interview, May 

Packaging Of The Year

New levels of nerdgasm abound as I introduce the inaugural (and very short) Packaging Of The Year Chart

03. Sleaford Mods – Jobseeker (Kraak)

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It’s the combination of the cheap photocopied sleeve (with arch knob Gallagher being a knob on the front) and the none-more-crustpunk accompanying cloth patch. I wish I had a studded, painted, filthy leather jacket to sew this onto.

The Jobseeker cover was designed by the chaps from Kraak, I suppose they took on board the attitude we have about Noel. He took the money and he ran and the people hate the bastard. The people that made him rich have been abandoned by him fully and Money has become his music. When the man who wrote Supersonic claims that Kasabian are brilliant you know in your heart he is not to be trusted anymore. Noels dead mate.” - from my Sleaford Mods interview in Narc

02. Spectrum / Spacemen Three / MGMT
(Great Pop Supplement)

GPS releases are always beautiful artefacts but this is extra special. That said, I’ve never managed to put it back together properly since the day I first opened it.



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01. The Handsome Family – Wilderness
(Carrot Top Records)

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Okay, it wasn’t cheap but sometimes it’s worth spending that bit more. Inside a chunky box there’s the album and lyric sheet, a poster, a set of six postcards and a book of art and essays. All using the words, pictures and lyrics of Rennie Sparks.

Albums Of The Year: 20-16

20. Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)

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Keener ears than mine picked up on sonic shifts and new production styles on this. To me, it just sounded like another Boards Of Canada album – perhaps more Geogaddi than Campfire Headphase – but unlike with the My Bloody Valentine album, more of the same suited me just fine here.

19. CTMF – All Our Forts Are With You (Damaged Goods)

2013-12-30 12.21.24

Another year, another outfit, and CTMF is Wild Billy Chyldish’s best since The Buff Medways. It’s business as usual, I guess, but with more snap and some great organ.

And those up-to-the-minute references. Standard

“the musical rogues and the Kylie Minogues, the musical knaves and the Nicholas Caves”

18. Los Campesinos – No Blues (Turnstile)


Continuing a process started with Romance Is Boring,  No Blues has even less rough edges than before. The scrappy kids of Hold On Now Youngster have largely gone (along with half the original members) and the sound is now kinda HUGE, but this time out the songs are pretty huge too. Not their best but marvelous anyhow

17. Hacker Farm – UHF (Exotic Pylon)


“They were preceded by a stunning performance from Yeovil agridustrialists Hacker Farm – the sound of 8bit milkchurns and military-industrial carboot tech in a crippled rave style.” – my Narc review of their Tusk Festival performance

Wonky, off kilter, twisted and glorious, the west country warlocks ended up on the mighty Exotic Pylon, which is perfect.

Instead of a youtube link to an album track with just a picture, have this instead – some of the visuals used at Tusk

16. Forest Swords – Engravings (Tri Angle)

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The first ‘proper’ album apparently, mixed in the wilds of the Wirral, this is a wonderful record, with one foot in the Ghostbox / Caretaker world and the other in the haunted dubstep / post rave scene. Careful, detailed, textured, brilliant

Albums Of The Year: Unfortunate Omissions
December 30, 2013, 10:37 am
Filed under: 2013 Albums Of The Year | Tags: , , ,

Course, you start working on your end of year list before the end of the year and you miss stuff and if you’re an OCD motherfucker like me this bothers you unduly. So you have to have a post like this which mentions four records that you’ve grown to love in the last few weeks and would have been in your chart somewhere if you’d noticed them before.

Oddly, they do overlap to some extent, in that each is sparse and flinty and acoustic to some extent. They are:

Robbie Fulks – Gone Away Backward (Bloodshot Records)


If you only know Fulks for shitkicking country like She Took A Lot Of Pills & Died this album is a revelation – acoustic, small band bluegrass with genuinely remarkable songwriting.

Cian Nugent & The Cosmos – Born With The Caul (No Quarter Records)


A gorgeous, slow blend of Fahey guitar and expansive backing. Imagine a folky Tortoise or something.

Charlie Parr – Barnswallow (Tin Angel Records)


We discuss our mutual love for a fellow Duluth musician, Charlie Parr, who Low have worked with in the past. “Charlie Parr really is one of the few people who can do it, he really is in that music… It’s not a study, not a nostalgia thing or to add weight to something. When we recorded with Charlie it was effortless, it was just us sat in a circle playing the tunes. I feel like a lot of my checks and balances are dictated by how I view him and his integrity and what it means to make music.” – my interview with Alan Sparhawk from Low, Narc

Phil Tyler – We Sunk The Ship To Get Rid Of The Rats (Tor Press)


A limited CDr release from local hero Phil Tyler (without his wife and regular collaborator Cath) that’s almost entirely solo banjo, with a smattering of acoustic guitar and vocals. Sparse, live, like being in the back room of the Cumberland Arms as he plays.

Gigs of 2013 – The Best

Having listed all the gigs I went to this year, I thought I’d prove that my OCD listiness knows no bound by picking a top 5.

01. Oren Ambarchi, Neil Campbell & Mick Flower – Tusk Festival, Newcastle, October 12th

Ambarchi, Campbell, Flower

Ambarchi, Campbell, Flower

“Kenney & Kang brought a gorgeous, meditative calm to bear on a crowd still reeling from the Oren Ambarchi / Neil Campbell / Mick Flower collaboration, which may well be the greatest performance I’ve seen this year. They took the point of sheer euphoria where most bands peak as their starting point and rode waves of utter joy to a rapt crowd. Hard to explain, impossible to ignore.” – my review, Narc

02. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Glastonbury Festival, June 30th


I’ve seen Nick and his band of groovy uncles twice the year. The Edinburgh gig was as good as I’ve ever seen him – the incredible sound, the lovely venue and his seeming willingness to just keep playing helped.

But Glastonbury? That was something else. Playing to a crowd split equally between passionate converts and hoo-ray fucking gap year Mumfords fan waiting for the Waitrose Waterboys to headline (and this isn’t lazy stereotyping: words were exchanged, an actual punch thrown, although not by me), Cave  came out angry (the TV cameras bothered him, I think) and ready to win Glastonbury. And he fucking did. The band were on fire, although Barry Adamson would never show it, and Cave was teetering on the crash barriers within one song (the night after ending up in hospital after falling from the very same). This would already have been one of the very greatest Cave gigs. But then this happened.


I was a matter of yards away (I’m in the footage if you look closely) but I was getting texts from people back home. “Are you SEEING this?”. Yes. Yes I was. Out of the crowd rises this astonishing girl, all in white, free of mud and certainly not looking like she’d spent 3 days in a field. Cave took her hand and sang at her. Not to her. At her. The look on her face – equal parts utter lustfulness and a sterling determination not to burst into tears – and everybody’s confusion (Cave’s included) when it went on… just… that… little… bit… too… long, that’s something I’ve never seen before. Utterly exhilarating.

03. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – The Borderline, May 19th


I saw Slim Cessna’s Auto Club twice this year too. The show in Vermont was great but the Sunday night crowd was sparse and the band seemed a little tired. The Borderline show was the one: they’d only played the UK once before, the previous year in the Barfly. A small gig but enough to prove they might be able to get away with UK shows. The Borderline sealed it. It was rammed, the band worked hard, Slim and Munly’s chemistry was in full effect. They finished the gig looking like they knew they’d proved something.

04. Caitlin Rose – Leeds Brudenell,  February 28th / Brixton Windmill, March 3rd


Just to ramp things up, I saw Caitlin Rose THREE times this year.

It’s a cunning trick: stuff your band with crack musicians and songwriters and let them be your support acts. Keeps it cheap and simple and hopefully a lot more entertaining than having a series of badly-picked local nonentities clutter things up. And so the bill opens with Andrew Combs, Caitlin Rose’s rhythm guitarist, who specialises in a brooding, heartbreak country that calls to mind Townes Van Zandt. What his performance lacks in originality it makes up for in intensity (and the ladies love him). Other members of the band then join him for a couple of properly shitkicking country rock numbers. Things get deeply peculiar with the middle slot: Steelism are led by the astonishing pedal steel playing of London-born giant Spencer Cullum, and they specialise in really quite daft cover versions, some (Sleepwalk by Santo & Johnny, for example) played much straighter than others (the James Bond theme). Three of the things this writer hates most in music are The Beatles, vocoders and cod reggae, so when Steelism close with a cod reggae version of Something – vocoder and all – I wasn’t sure whether to grin or rush the stage and crack heads.

Caitlin Rose was in Grazia last week apparently, which surely means megastardom beckons and we won’t see her in venues this small again, which is a shame, because making the crowd feel like they’re sharing something really up close and personal is one of her many qualities. She’s also only 5’4” so her stadium gigs are going to suck. Anyhoo, tonight saw a beefed up sound with a 5-piece band to do justice to the bigger sounding material from her new, amazing album The Stand In. which isn’t to say any subtlety was lost – songs like For The Rabbits and Sinful Wishing Well still depend on a sympatico backing to her frankly astonishing voice. She reminds me a bit of Kirsty McColl in the way she uses her voice to hit the note, pure and simple, with no need for flash or warbling. During the songs she seems distant – shy, even – but her between song patter is witty and warm and pottymouthed as all hell. She even does a Buck Owens song just to remind us that she is at heart a proper country girl. She seems genuinely surprised and maybe even a little abashed by the reaction she gets, which adds to sense of being at one of ‘those’ gigs. A total fucking delight – my Narc review

The Windmill gig was different – more scrappy (in a good way), intimate, homely (Rose had played the Windmill a lot, these were her people). At one point she told us her grandma had just died, and she sang an acapella You Are My Sunshine as a tribute. The electric melancholy of that moment still hits me as I type this.

05. Rocket From The Crypt, Newcastle Cluny, December 2nd


At least 15 years since I last saw them, they were back and they fucking killed it. That’s all.

(Proper review in Narc next month)

Gigs of 2013
December 19, 2013, 11:42 am
Filed under: Bands, Gigs!, Uncategorized

This is a fairly long list and yet it feels shorter than it should be, paradoxically. I definitely can’t remember all the bands I saw at festivals, some of the stuff I saw isn’t in my diary or on Songkick, or reviewed in Narc, but I expect this is mostly correct. Bands in bold I saw twice or more, and the rubbish photos are all mine

The 59ers

Ambarchi, Campbell & Flower

Andrew Combs

The Baghdaddies

Basic House

Beans On Toast

Bill Kirchin

Bill Kirchin

Bill Kirchin

Billy Bragg


Blackphone 666

Blackphone 666

Bo Ningen

Bo Ningen

Bo Ningen

Bob Log III

Bombay Royale


Brendan Croker

Brennen Leigh &  Noel McKay

Bridie Jackson & The Arbor

The Buffalo Skinners


Caitlin Rose

Caitlin Rose

Captain Hotknives

Chain & The Gang

Chain & The Gang

Chain & The Gang

Chase & Status




The Congos


The David Wax Museum

Dead End Street Band

Deaf Club

Dinosaur Jr

DJ Badly

Dub Dada

Endless Boogie


English Heretic

First Aid Kit

Future Of The Left

Future Of The Left

Frontier Ruckus

Future Of The Left

General Hi Fi

Girl Sweat


Hacker Farm

Hacker Farm

Hacker Farm


Holy Moly & The Crackers

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Jar Moff

jd McPherson

Jimmy Cliff

John Shuttleworth

Jon Langford

Jon Langford

Jon Langford

Eyvind Kang & Jessica Kenney

Kid Congo Powers

Kid Congo Powers

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds

King Bees


Laura Veirs

Leeds City Stompers





Mama Rosin

Mama Rosin

Mama Rosin


Matthew E Wright

Meat Puppets


Midnight Doctors

Mika Vainio

Monkey Junk

Moon Duo

Moon Duo

Moon Duo

Mountain Of Love



Mungo's Hi Fi

Mungo’s Hi Fi

Mungo’s Hi Fi

New York Brass Band

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Noize Choir

Paddy Steer

Paddy Steer

Paddy Steer



Phil Lee

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs


Polly & The Billets Doux

Prince Fatty

Psychogeographical Commission

Public Enemy

The Rainbow Girls


The Residents

Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson and Rhoddri Davis

Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra

Rocket From The Crypt

Rocket From The Crypt

Rocket From The Crypt

The Rolling bloody Stones

The Rolling bloody Stones

The Rolling Stones



Sleaford Mods

Slim Cessna's Auto Club

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club

The Specials

Stewart Lee

Temple Of Sekhmet

Tom Russell


Warm Digits

White Hills




The Zimmer Frames (sort of)

The Zimmer Frames (sort of)

The Zimmer Frames


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