Speakers Push Air

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)

2013-12-30 14.20.42

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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2013-12-30 14.19.10

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

2013-12-30 12.25.24

2013-12-30 12.27.08-1

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)

2013-12-30 13.41.32

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)

2013-12-30 12.21.50

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

Albums Of The Year: 25-21

25. Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Blood Drums (Grautag)


A seemingly very low profile, German-only release from Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth off of out of Stereolab. 4 sides of instrumental rinky dink electro-motorik-retro-futurism. One idea stretched to breaking point, and often patchy but when it’s good – like on Acid Death Picnic – it’s absolutely amazing.

24. White Hills – So You Are, So You’ll Be (Thrill Jockey)


White Hills were a revelation. Tapping into psych in all its forms – 60s garage to 70s space rock to stoner metal, with nods to krautrock and punk along the way, they sounded like Death Valley ’69-era Sonic Youth might have done if they’d spent more time at peyote ceremonies in the desert than East Village art shows. Looking elegantly wasted and clearly loving it, the trio powered through a frazzled, fucked up set, heavy on last year’s Frying On The Rock album and heavy on the FX pedals. This was genuinely thrilling, uplifting stuff – glorious fucked up noise of the best kind – my review, Narc May

23. Matmos – The Marriage Of True Minds (Thrill Jockey)


Accompanied by some hokum about recording the album using telepathic techniques, this was the MOST Matmos album yet: the most melodic, the most bizarre, the most complete. A masterpiece of glitchy, twisted electronics but with real soul, somehow. And there’s even a Buzzcocks cover.

22. Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths Of The New Blues (Fire)


“In his myriad incarnations, James ‘Wooden Wand’ Toth has created one of the most uneven back catalogues to come out of the whole freakfolk / weird America scene, but this album sees him at the very top of his game. It’s a rich, expansive collection of songs, some little more than sketches, some – like the incredible No Bed For Beatle Wand – pushing 12 minutes with no sense of indulgence. You’d file this somewhere between Crazy Horse and Micah P Hinson, literate and haunting country rock, warm and laid back without ever being soporofic. But Toth’s lyrics are what takes this album to what I believe we’re supposed to call the next level and mark him out as a true original” – my review, Narc December / January

21. My Bloody Valentine – mbv (mbv)


There was no way this album was ever going to be worth the hype, the wait, the frustration, the gossip. It’s really really REALLY good – as good as Loveless in its own way – but it’s taken so long to come out, the rest of the world has caught up with, or even overtaken, Shields’ vision. You know what it sounds like, you probably knew if you liked it before you ever heard it. It would have been a wonderful thing 20 years ago; in 2013, it’s just a really good album, which maybe isn’t enough.

Albums Of The Year: 30-26

30. Midnight Doctors – Midnight Doctors (alt.vinyl)


“Written and recorded over a whole year and eventually involving 27 Tyneside musicians, the self-titled album from The Midnight Doctors could conceivably have ended up an overblown mess. The fact that it didn’t – and is instead a wonderful, coherent, atmospheric gem – is predominantly down to Phil Begg – also of Hapsburg Braganza – who’s incredible commitment and attention to detail shines through in our conversation” – my interview, Narc Magazine October 2013

Full interview here

29. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus (All Tomorrow’s Parties)


If the whole of this album had been as banging as opener Brainfreeze or as Orbital-epic as the last two tracks, this would have been a top 10 album. But it’s still very good indeed, and it makes me happy somehow that Bob Weston mastered it. Because I’m a geek.

28. Emptyset – Recur (Raster Noton)


I’ve been listening to a lot of grindy, droney, staticky noise and soundscapes this year and while it’s generally individual tracks that grab me, this whole album – nasty, brutish and short – makes my arm hairs vibrate and my teeth hurt. In the best way.

27. Dethscalator – Racial Golf Course No Bitches (Riot Season)


From the fantastically provocative title to the pink vinyl to the awful / brilliant artwork, this album is a winner before you even put it on. The fact that it’s a brilliantly sloppy piece of daft noise just seals it. In a rare moment of unpretension, the Quietus described it as ‘a wonderful hybrid of artificially-selected noise-rock pigfuckery, with extra black pudding.’, which works for me. Dethscalator have gone now. I never saw them. That sucks.

26. Warm Digits – Interchange (Distraction)


Like Kraftwerk before them, Warm Digits have realised that electronic music is folk music too, so Interchange, their audio-visual excavation of the construction of the Newcastle Metro system, captures the spirit of the age just as effectively as any number of hey-nonny folksongs. In an almost non-stop set, the seemingly tireless duo portrayed the white heat of seventies technology and optimism with propulsive motorik drumming, shards of guitar and plenty of cowbell, while onscreen heavily moustachioed men in industrial buckets pointed at things under a riot of coloured blueprints. It was an exhilarating set and a fitting end to a fascinating project. -  my live review, Narc June 2013


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