Top 50 albums of 2019: 10-6

10: Little Simz – GREY Area

An uplifting and powerful rap album. Little Simz manages to find optimism among hardship, while calling out some of the stereotypes found in rap culture.

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9: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Shockingly good first half of a two-part album by a band truly comfortable in their own skin. A masterful display of how to build up songs. A crying shame that part 2 wasn’t up to the same standard.

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8: JOHN – Out Here on the Fringes

Brash, boisterous guitar noise that’s just too much fun to ignore.

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7: Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

An fantastically bonkers blend of dance, psych, post-punk and avent garde that almost always hits the spot.

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6: The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears

A brilliant post-punk debut album with an occasional whiff of early U2 to it, only let down on occasion by a slightly strained vocal.

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Honourable mention: Viagra Boys – Street Worms

This album from the Swedish post-punk outfit was released late in 2018, so doesn’t officially make it into my list, but as I missed it at the back end of last year I wanted to give it a shout out for its brilliantly dirty grooves. Had it been released in 2019, it would most certainly have earned a place somewhere on this page.

 

And we’re down to the final five

The best albums of March 2019

1: FEWS – Into Red

Rating: 9/10 – Read full review

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2: Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1

Rating: 8.5/10 – Read full review

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3: Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

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4: The Comet Is Coming – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery

Rating: 8/10 – Read full review

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5: Lower Slaughter – Some Things Take Work

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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6: Flight Of The Conchords – Live In London

Rating: 8/10Read full review

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7: These New Puritans– Inside The Rose

Rating: 7.5/10 – Read full review

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8: Little Simz – GREY Area

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

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9: The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

More classy emotive and enveloping soundtracks from these damn-fine purveyors of blissful grooves and soundscapes.

Rating: 7.5/10

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10: Zefur Wolves – Truth Is In The Stars

Droning, drawly alt-indie rock with some pop undertones. A satisfyingly languid assault on your senses.

Rating: 7.5/10

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01 March releases – Reviewed and rated

As hoped, this week turned out to contain some fantastic releases, though there were some disappointments on show too. FEWS managed to scoop the highest rating of the year so far, but kudos also to Snapped Ankles and Little Simz for some highly impressive albums.

FEWS – Into Red

A superb sophomore from the post-punk noise rockers that should see them move from a band with promise to broader acceptance.

Rating: 9/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

An fantastically bonkers blend of dance, psych, post-punk and avent garde that almost always hits the spot.

Rating: 8/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

Little Simz  – GREY Area

An uplifting and powerful rap album. Little Simz manages to find optimism among hardship, while calling out some of the stereotypes found in rap culture.

Rating: 7.5/10Read full review

Listen on Spotify

Octo Octa – For Lovers (EP)

Three highly competent house tracks that are a treat for both your mind and your feet.

Rating: 7/10Read full review

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While She Sleeps – SO WHAT?

Classic metalcore from the Sheffield band. Nothing new here but it is exceptionally well executed.

Rating: 7/10

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Lonesome Shack – Desert Dreams

Edgy country blues and urban folk rock that is a lot better on the ear than you might expect from that description.

Rating: 7/10

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn

More interesting than normal Doom Metal, thanks to the female-led harmonics keyboards and occassional strings on show. Ultimately, it lacks enough variety in its bread and butter guitar riffs to be a great album.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Sebastian Plano – Verve

Some very delicate and emotive tunes on show in this neoclassical work, but there’s a lack of balance to the album as a whole. It feels like it needs something else to lift it to another level.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Mansionair – Shadowboxer

High production values on this debut from the Aussie indie-electro group. A bit too poppy and polished but some good moments.

Rating: 6/10

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Test Dept – Disturbance

In theory this should be right up my alley as classic industro-rock, but perhaps it’s a bit too earnest for its own good.

Rating: 6/10

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Sundara Karma – Ulfilas’ Alphabet

Some evidence of Arcade Fire and The Killers on this pop friendly album. Quite an enjoyable experience but not hugely memorable.

Rating: 6/10

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The Japanese House – Good at Falling

Etherial pop from solo artist Amber Bain. Inoffensive and occassionally pleasant, but unlikely to leave a massive impression on you.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Tom Walker – What a Time to Be Alive

What you’d find if you went looking for Rag n’ Bone man or Ed Sheeran in the centre ailse at Aldi. Can’t believe he beat IDLES to a Brit.

Rating: 5/10

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Pond – Tasmania

The eighth studio album from Australain psych-rocker fails to raise even an eybrow of interest. Tame, familiar and done better elsewhere. Yawn.

Rating: 4.5/10

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Weezer  – (Black Album)

Weezer invoke the spirit of Spinal Tap with their own black album. And this pretty insipid effort prompts me to quote one of the ‘Tap’s most famous reviews… ‘Shit sandwich’.

Rating: 4/10

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Here’s a playlist of all of the above should you wish to take a deeper dive.

New Music Friday 01 March – What to listen to

This week could turn out to be an absolute stonker with two bands who produced some of our favourite music from 2017 back with new material. Expect Snapped Ankles and Fews to feature very prominently in the best from this week. There’s also releases from Weezer and the fabulously-named Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard that we’ll be casting our ears over, along with a whole host of other potential goodies as March kicks of in characteristically busy fashion.

Snapped Ankles – Stunning Luxury

Listen on Spotify

FEWS – Into Red

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Tom Walker – What a Time to Be Alive

Listen on Spotify

Weezer  – (Black Album)

Listen on Spotify

Mansionair – Shadowboxer

Listen on Spotify

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Yn Ol I Annwn

Listen on Spotify

Little Simz  – GREY Area

Listen on Spotify

Octo Octa – For Lovers (EP)

Listen on Spotify

While She Sleeps – SO WHAT?

Listen on Spotify

The Japanese House – Good at Falling

Listen on Spotify

Test Dept – Disturbance

Listen on Spotify

Sebastian Plano – Verve

Listen on Spotify

Lonesome Shack – Desert Dreams

Listen on Spotify

Pond – Tasmania

Listen on Spotify

Sundara Karma – Ulfilas’ Alphabet

Listen on Spotify

Here’s a playlist of all of the above should you wish to take a deep dive into this week’s new releases.

The (unofficial) Mutations 2019 festival awards

On 23rd February in a conference centre on an industrial estate just off a very sunny Portslade High Street, we witnessed the coming together of some of the most promising alternative music acts around.

The Mutations 2019 festival provided a feast for the ears and sometimes the eyes. Despite some issues with being able to provide enough beer to the thirsty masses, it largely went off without a hitch and provided a huge amount of pleasure to those in attendance.

With that in mind, I present my completely unofficial Mutations 2019 festival awards.

The consummate professional award

Winner: White Denim

White Denim doing what they do best

Headliners White Denim showed why they deserved to be topping the bill, with a incredibly tight performance and a huge sound that could fill any size of venue. They had to deal with a backdrop that had been glitchy all day but finally gave up the ghost completely at the start of their performance. However, such was the immensity of their stage presence that you hardly noticed.

The audience immersion award

Winner: Snapped Ankles

Snapped Ankles, or possibly a shamanic yeti

As soon as Snapped Ankles emerged onto the stage in their modified ghillie suits, looking somewhat like shamanisitc yetis, you knew you were in for an unusual performance.

From the opening bars of ‘I Want My Minutes Back’ you were glued to what was happening on stage. So much so that you hardly noticed the gradual invasion of other ghillie suited performers into the audience. One set up shop right next to me banging on a snare drum in perfect synchronicity to the goings-on up front, while others bounded through the audience flailing their arms as if held in a maddening trance by the sounds emanating from the stage.

The Snapped Ankles set was actually quite short, which may have left the audience wanting more but was probably a huge relief for those in the stifling costumes, given the amount of energy they were expending throughout.

Longest sound check award

Winner: Goat Girl

Goat Girl, once they finally got going

It’s not often you see a band standing around on stage sound checking for longer than the actual performance, but that’s exactly what it felt like when Goat Girl took to the stage as second top billing act.

They were clearly having some issues with feedback but spent far too long trying it sort it out and eventually the audience got a little impatient.

As a result – whether it was nerves from having stood on stage so long waiting to start, the sound adjustments made, that this new act are still a finding their feet, or a combination of all these things – but the performance was flat. As was the reaction from the audience. A massive shame, as I had really enjoyed their eponymous debut album and had been looking forward to their set for some time.

The ‘Audience in the palm of our hands’ award

Winner: Flamingods

Flamingods, possibly on fire

Flamingods have been playing their unique brand of exotic psych rock since 2010, and that experience showed as the audience lapped up their performance.

Their full-on set, coupled with some perfectly complementary visuals, made for an, at times transcendental experience that the crowd couldn’t get enough of.

My first experience of this band, hopefully not the last.

The international discovery award

Winner: Ohmme (USA)

Ohmme post gig

This Chicago group managed to meld complex harmonic vocal arrangements with some seriously noisy guitars to create a unique sound that was entrancing and explosive. They could perhaps do with a bass player to pack even more punch, but it’s well worth catching up with their (currently) small back catalogue. They told us after the gig they were straight off to Wales to record their next album. I’ll be reviewing their older tracks in anticipation of that release.

Notable mention: Joesfin Öhrn & The Liberation (Sweden)

And now for the big one…

Best set

Winner: TVAM

TVAM – they are there somewhere

Truth be told, this was the band I was most looking forward to seeing after the triumphant release of debut album Psychic Data last year (which made the top 20 of my Top 50 albums of 2018 list).

Fortunately they did not disappoint. It was a sparse setup for a group billing second on the second stage. Just a guitar and small keyboard between the two performers and an old CRT television displaying images and lyrics to the group’s songs. But the overall impression conveyed was incredible. The sounds they achieved with such minimal machinery completely drew you in and left your head swirling.

Hopefully they will be returning soon so that we can experience a full-on full set.

Hopefully Mutations will also be returning soon, though next time they might need to stock up on more beer.