THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 1.

THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 1.

On the last day of the year, I always publish my list of the best albums I’ve reviewed during 2013. This year, I’ve expanded it to my top thirty albums. That’s a reflection of the quality of music released during 2013. What follows is an eclectic selection of music. It’s far from predictable. There’s a reason for that. I’ve dug deeper than most bloggers in my quest for the best music being released. What follows is the creme de la creme of music released during 2013.

ARP-MORE.

Three years after the release of his sophomore album The Soft Wave, ARP returned with More, which was released in 16th September 2013 on Smalltown Supersound. During the last three years, much has changed for Alexis Georgopoulis a.k.a. ARP. Having toured The Soft Wave, he decided to take a break from touring. Instead, he wanted to concentrate on a much wider range of projects. For Alexis, this opened up a whole new world of opportunities. 

Ever since his days as a member of Tussle, the first group Alexis Georgopoulis joined, he’s always been a leading light in the American art scene. He’s an innovator, whose determined to push boundaries and challenge norms. That’s been the story of Alexis’ career and a reason why he’s been commissioned for cutting-edge projects. Just as cutting edge, was More his third album.

More is Alexis Georgopoulis best album so far. A genre-sprawling album, More draws inspiration from everything from ambient, art-rock, avant-garde, baroque, blues, classical, dub, gospel, jazz, Krautrock, pop, post-punk, psychedelia, punk, rock and rock ‘n’ roll. Then there’s influences that include Al Stewart, the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Pink Floyd, Robyn Hitchcock, Roxy Music and The Beatles. Influenced by a myriad of genres and influences, ARP’s music evokes a variety of emotions. 

Veering between atmospheric and evocative to beautiful and ethereal, the twelve soundscapes on ARP’s More can also be describes as melancholy and wistful. Ranging from understated right through to dramatic, the music on More is intriguing, eclectic and mesmeric. It’s also music that’s bewitching and beautiful. The reason for that is Alexis’ different approach to making music.

Having forsaken his trusty analog synths, Alexis has found both his voice, plus a much more eclectic selection of instruments. Alexis’ voice bristles with emotion, but can just as easily have an ethereal quality. Other times, it has a wonderful worldweary, lived-in sound. Reminiscent of Bryan Ferry, Roger Waters and Robyn Hitchcock, Alexis’ newly found voice is his hidden weapon. Then there a bass, guitars, harmonies, harpsichord, horns and keyboards, plus a myriad of samples. All this and More, much, much, More went into the making of ARP’s third album, More, which is one of the finest albums I’ve heard this 2013. 

ARVE HENRIKSEN-PLACES OF WORSHIP.

Ever since his career began, Norwegian jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen has been on a mission to reinvent the jazz trumpet. Arve’s raison d’etre has been to push musical boundaries and challenge musical norms. He’s taken the jazz trumpet to destinations its previously never dared visit. That’s why twenty-two years after his first featured on Bjorn Alterhaug’s Constellations, Arve has established a reputation as a world class and innovative trumpeter. That’s why he’s the go-to-guy for anyone looking for an inventive, imaginative and innovative trumpeter. That’s apparent on his fourth album Places Of Worship

Although ostensibly a jazz album, Places Of Worship is much more than that. Arve Henriksen fuses contemporary jazz with classical, ambient and electronic music. Samples, synths and drum machines are every bit as important as what most people would consider “jazz instruments.” Without the synths, samples and drum machines, the double bass and Arve’s trumpet wouldn’t get the opportunity to shine. On Places Of Worship, Arve Henriksen combines the old and new. In doing so, he creates the music of the future. 

Having called Places Of Worship the music of the future, it’s not futuristic. No.Despite that, it’s inventive, innovative and imaginative. It’s also understated, subtle and thoughtful. Melancholy and wistful, Places Of Worship is very much cerebral, mood music. The ten tracks are a thoughtful musical journey. You think about the music and what it means. Pictures are painted and you can imagine the pictures Arve Henriksen is painting. They’re variously calm, minimalistic, pastoral, ethereal, bleak and beautiful. This has allowed Arve Henriksen to continue on his journey to make inventive, imaginative and innovative music. 

The ten tone poems and mood pieces on Places Of Worship are of the quality of music we’ve come to expect from Arve Henriksen. He’s not just one of the top trumpeters in Norway, but the world. A world class and innovative musician, Arve Henriksen’s raison d’etre is to push musical boundaries and challenge musical norms. He’s done that on Places Of Worship…and much more. So much so, that on Places Of Worship Arve Henriksen takes jazz music to destinations its previously never dared visit before. 

ASTRO SONIC-COME CLOSER AND I’LL TELL YOU.

The sonic landscape that is Astro Sonic’s debut album Come Closer and I’ll Tell You, isn’t like most other albums. Far from it. Recorded during these three days at the Svenska Grammofon Studios in Gothenburg, Sweden, Astro Sonic use their musical palette to push musical boundaries. Seamlessly, musical genres melt into eleven sonic landscapes. Mostly improvised, Astro Sonic look to the past to create the music of the future. Drawing inspiration from ambient, avant-garde, electronica, Krautrock, synth impro and free jazz, seamlessly, musical genres unite during eleven sonic landscapes. These sonic soundscapes paint evocative pictures.

Astro Sonic sound as if they’ve sought inspiration for Come Closer and I’ll Tell You from the rugged Scandanavian landscape. Close your eyes, and you head off on a musical journey. Ethereal beauty becomes haunting, broody, moody and magnificent. Sometimes, Come Closer and I’ll Tell You is spellbinding and breathtaking. Always, it’s compelling and has you spellbound. Considering Come Closer and I’ll Tell You is Astro Sonic’s debut album, which was released in December 2013, on Hubro Music, that’s quite remarkable.

As debut albums go, Astro Sonic’s Come Closer and I’ll Tell You is one of the best I’ve heard in the last few years. Over eleven soundscapes, Astro Sonic use their musical palette to create one of the most ambitious and groundbreaking albums of 2013. To do this, they’ve drawn inspiration from a whole host of musical influences. Everything from ambient, avant-garde, EDM, electronica, free jazz, industrial, jazz, Krautrock, postindustrial, post-rock, prog rock, psychedelia and synth wave play their part in Come Closer and I’ll Tell You. When all this is combined, the result is an album that’s a cinematic musical adventure.

Cinematic is the best way to describe Come Closer and I’ll Tell You. It conjurs up pictures and scenarios. Haunting, atmospheric and evocative, many of the tracks have a futuristic, sci-fi sound. Instantly, you’re transported into this space-age, 21st Century world. Other tracks are understated, eerie, moody and broody, while others are melancholy, wistful and pensive. That adds to Come Closer and I’ll Tell You cinematic quality. Sometimes, moderne describes the music on Come Closer and I’ll Tell You. Dance music and rock are added to the mix as Astro Sonic create tomorrow’s music today. That’s the perfect way to describe such ambitious, 

Ambitious, moody, broody and pensive, plus dramatic, melodramatic, melancholy and beautiful. These are just some of the words that describe Come Closer and I’ll Tell You. It’s an album that variously, washes over you, embraces you, challenges you and forces you to think, as it paints pictures in your mind’s eye. Come Closer and I’ll Tell You is best described as the soundtrack to a film that’s yet to be made. With Astro Sonic supplying the music, all you need to do, is supply the pictures to Come Closer and I’ll Tell You, one of the most evocative, atmospheric and cinematic albums of 2013.

BILAL-A LOVE SURREAL.

Born in 1979, and raised in Philly, Bilal Oliver Sayeed’s career began when he was just twenty. Having left Philly, Bilal moved a hundred miles to New York, where he began to become a familiar face within the city’s music scene. Soon, he knew artists across the hip and Nu-Soul scene, including Common, Erykah Badu and The Roots. Then when he was taking part in an after-school jam session, Bilal was discovered by Aaron Comess of the Spin Doctors. Aaron arranged for Bilal to record a demo, which was shopped to record labels. Eventually, Bilal signed to Inerscope Records, where he released his debut album 1st Born Second in 2001. Since then, much has happened to Bilal. He’s released two further albums, 2006s Love For Sale and 2010s Airtight’s Revenge, and at one time, was considering quitting music. Now, three years after 2010s Airtight’s Revenge, comes his fourth album A Love Surreal. Inspired by the art of legendary surrealist painter Salvador Dail, A Love Surreal is Bilal’s most ambitious and innovative project to date. 

Three years after the release of Bilal’s previous album, Airtight’s Revenge, where he started reinventing himself and his music, this continues on A Love Surreal. During the fourteen tracks on A Love Surreal, Bilal fuses musical genres and influences. There’s everything from soul, funk and jazz, through hip hop, country, sixties psychedlia and rock, including West Coast rock on A Love Surreal. The result is an album that’s a genre-sprawling, innovative album, inspired by surrealism. 

Bilal was inspired by the paintings of Salvador Dail. So, he set about creating his most ambitious album to date. He set about creating an album that was “an audio art gallery or musical museum.” This was A Love Surreal, a suite of music that reflected Dali’s paintings. The other side of A Love Surreal was to investigate the many nuances of love. This was quite an ambitious challenge, but one that Bilal succeeded in. He created his “audio art gallery or musical museum.” The fourteen tracks on A Love Surreal create the backdrop for a surrealist film that’s yet to be made. Instead, the music on A Love Surreal conjurs up images in your mind’s eye. A Love Surreal is an evocative, emotive and innovative album, where Bilal takes you on a surrealist journey via soul, funk and jazz, through hip hop, country, sixties psychedlia and rock. In March 2013, BBE Music released A Love Surreal, where Bilal continues to reinvent himself and his music, with an  innovative, genre-sprawling, homage to Salvador Daii. 

CAMERA OBSCURA-DESIRE LINES.

There aren’t many bands who announce on their website that they’re on maternity leave. Camera Obscura do. They’re another Scottish band who do things their way. So far, that’s worked well. They’ve released five albums since they were formed in Glasgow in 1996. Their most recent album, was Desire Lines, which recently released on 4AD. Desire Lines saw Camera Obscura change direction musically. 

For two albums, Camera Obscura had worked with Swedish producer, Jari Haapalainen of The Bear Company. He’d produced their third album, 2006s Let’s Get Out Of This Country, then the followup, 2009s My Maudlin Career. Despite My Maudlin Career being Camera Obscura’s most successful album, Jari was replaced as producer. Camera Obscura decided to move their music forward. They’d been accused of sticking with the same formula. Certain critics accused My Maudlin Career of sounding like Let’s Get Out Of This Country. That must have stung. So Camera Obscura headed to Portland, Oregon, where Tucker Marine produced Desire Lines. Making guest appearances, were Neko Case and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. This was a brave move for Camera Obscura. After all, they’d enjoyed the most successful album of their career with My Maudlin Career. 

Camera Obscura’s decision to change producer was a risk worth taking. From an artistic point of view, Desire Lines surpasses everything that’s gone before. Sadly, it didn’t quite replicate the commercial success of My Maudlin Career. Released to critical acclaim, it still gave the band a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Another chapter in Camera Obscura’s seventeen year musical story was finished. It was the best of their career. Desire Line featured Camera Obscura at their cerebral, literate and intelligent best. Witty, quirky, but full of hurt, heartbreak and regret, Desire Lines is ethereal, elegant and beautiful. Hook-laden, slick, slices of pop perfection, Desire Lines is pop music at its best.

CHVRCHES-THE BONES OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

One of the most highly anticipated albums of recent years is Chvrches’ The Bones Of What You Believe. What makes the rise and rise of Chvrches so remarkable, is Chvrches were founded just two years ago in 2011. Everything has happened so quickly for Lauren Mayberry, Ian Cook and Martin Doherty. They’ve spent the last two years touring the world converting people to their unique brand of shimmering electro-pop. Britain, Europe, Canada and America gave been conquered by Chvrches. Somehow, Chvrches have also found the time to release a four singles and a trio of E.Ps, including the recently released Gun E.P. These singles were a tantalising taste of the main event, Chvrches highly anticipated debut album The Bones Of What You Believe, which was released in September 2013 on Virgin. 

Released to critical acclaim, The Bones Of What You Believe is a taste of what Chvrches are capable of. One of the most highly anticipated albums of recent years, The Bones Of What You Believe, not only lived up to expectations, but surpassed them. The Bones Of What You Believe features innovative, inventive music. It’s pioneering electro-pop, full of shimmering synths and the ethereal beauty of Lauren Mayberry’s vocal. Her vocal is reminiscent of Liz Fraser of The Cocteau Twins. Along with Ian Cook and Martin Doherty, Chvrches fuse electro pop, house, synth pop, Euro Disco, indie rock and soul. Dance-floor friendly, anthemic, soulful and full of slick poppy hooks, The Bones Of What You Believe is pop perfection. That’s why Chvrches will be Scotland’s next big musical export. Many have been contenders for the title, now it looks like Chvrches with their unique sound, will claim it as their own.

Chvrches have restored my faith in modern music. I’m pleased that still, there are a group capable of making the perfect pop song. That’s what The Bones Of What You Believe is. It’s a reminder of what a classic pop song sounds like. For everyone who says pop music is dead, play them The Bones Of What You Believe. That’ll prove them wrong. Pop music is alive and kicking, and Chvrches’ debut album The Bones Of What You Believe is the future and salvation of pop music.

DOM LA NENA-ELA.

Not many people are willing to devote their life to music. No. It takes a very special person to make the sacrifices that are needed to master an instrument. Most people are unwilling to make the commitment that’s required. This wasn’t the case for Dom La Nena. From the moment the Brazilian born chanteuse first discovered the cello, it was literally love at first sight. Since then, the Brazilian born cellist and vocalist’s life has revolved around music. That was the first step in a musical journey that lead to the release Dom La Nena’s debut album Ela. It was released in October 2013, on the Six Degrees label and marked the debut of a hugely talented artist.

Ela, is a beautiful, but melancholy album. It’s a poignant and powerful window into the world of Dom La Nena. The thirteen songs feature mostly understated, acoustic arrangements. This allows Dom’s vocal to take centre-stage. You’re spellbound by each of her vocals. She’s a natural storyteller, whose worldweary, wistful voice brings the lyrics to life. Despite being sung in Portuguese and Spanish, you can feel, share and empathize with her pain and anguish. Dom sounds a complex character, whose music is a reflection of her childhood.

First of all, Dom and her family moved from Brazil to Paris. Aged just eight, she left behind her friends and had to travel across the world. She had meet new friends and make a new life. Then there was the language barrier. This couldn’t have been easy. Then five years later, she moved from France back to Brazil. Then came the biggest decision of her life. Aged just thirteen, Dom left home and headed to Buenos Aries. Leaving behind friends and family, she followed her dream of becoming a professional musician. In doing this, she sacrificed so much, maybe too much? Some would say she sacrificed her childhood? Traveling to Argentina she spent five years there. From her songs, they weren’t always happy times. Bittersweet times they were. From Argentina, Dom headed back to France. Living a nomadic existence, she never puts roots down. That’s what makes No Meu Pais autobiographical. 

Indeed, many of the songs on Ela are autobiographical. Featuring articulate, intelligent lyrics, Ela is an emotional roller coaster journey that many people can relate to. After all, many people have made sacrifices that later, they wonder whether were worthwhile? In Dom’s case, it’s a journey full of highs and lows. Sadly, it seems the lows outnumber the highs. That’s why one song epitomises Dom La Nena’s music. That song is Saudade. It’s a Brazilian word that describes a deep-rooted sense of loss or longing. To me, that describes much of Dom’s music. That’s also why Dom’s music is so moving, poignant and powerful. 

As an outsider looking in, Ela was an opportunity for Dom La Nena to reflect on her unorthodox life so far. I wonder whether she thinks that the sacrifices she made were worthwhile? Listening to the songs on Ela, melancholia is almost a constant companion for Dom. So often, her voice sounds melancholy, wistful and distant. It’s as if the songs bring back memories, some she’d rather forget. Maybe, Ela will prove cathartic for Dom La Nena, and this outpouring of emotion and memories will help her to move on and enjoy the next chapters in what I’m sure will be a long and successful musical journey?

DONSO-DEFILA.

The story of how Donso’s debut album Defila, which was recently released by Comet Records, begins back in 2008. That was when French electro producer and owner of Ed Banger Records, Pierre Antoine Grison met Thomas Guillaume. Pierre was sitting in his Paris flat when he heard his neighbor playing a musical instrument he’d never heard before. Intrigued and more that a little curious, he decided to find out what this instrument was? 

When Pierre met Thomas, he discovered he’d been hearing a donso n’goni. It was the sacred instrument of The Hunters, a West African brotherhood. They’re famed for their mystical abilities and their powerful, spiritual music, donso trance. Thomas had been traveling between France and Southern Mali, learning not just to play the donso n’goni, but to master it. The donso n’goti was an instrument you didn’t just learn but mastered. For Thomas, it was akin to learning a craft. That’s what he been doing before he met Pierre. Soon, Thomas introduced Pierre to donso trance, which was the start of a friendship that resulted in them forming Donso and eventually, releasing Defila.

Defila is best described as a compelling and hypnotic album. An emotional musical journey, Donso are musical pioneers. On Defila, they fuse the ancient, sacred sounds of donso trance with 21st Century electronic music. Here, religious and secular sit happily side by side. The sacred sound of donso trance is fused with electro, rock, psychedelia, dub, techno and dubstep. This proves to be compelling combination of musical genres and influences. Best described as joyous, spiritual, uplifting, hypnotic and mesmeric, Defila’s eclectic music veers between moody and broody to ethereal and beautiful. Defila is all this and more. It’s also an introduction to the multitalented Donso and their equally talented friends, who are responsible for Defila, a truly genre-melting album.

HUNTSVILLE-PAST INCREASING, FUTURE RECEDING.

A mausoleum sounds an unlikely place to record an album. Even unlikelier is a mausoleum whose walls are covered with frescos painted by one of the greatest Norwegian artists of the nineteenth century. However unlikely this sounds, Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum is proving a popular, but unlikely place both for Norwegian musicians. Over the past few years, the Mausoleum has been transformed into both a concert hall and recording studio. Why? The reason to this simple, its acoustics. 

A truly atmospheric, double-barrelled room, daylight never finds its way into the Mausoleum. In many ways, its the antithesis of the modern recording studio. Nowadays, recording studios are light, airy places, full of the latest recording equipment. That doesn’t necessary make them a good place to record an album. That requires good acoustics, and the Mausoleum has that. This includes Huntsville’s Past Increasing, Future Receding which was released in 7th October 2013 on Hubro Music.

Past increasing, Future Receding picks up where they left off with Flowers, Cars and Merry Wars. A trio of atmospheric and evocative soundscapes, it’s minimalist music that paints pictures. Bold, brave and inventive, it’s innovative and imaginative music. I’d also describe Past increasing, Future Receding as cerebral cinematic soundscapes. Sometimes, it’s full of futuristic, sci-fi sounds, that pique your imagination. That’s why it’s articulate and intelligent music. Other times, it’s moody and broody, but can just as easily become crystalline and ethereal, as influences and genres melt into one.

Past increasing, Future Receding is an eclectic melting pot of influences and genres. Listen carefully and you’ll hear Brian Eno, Can, Neu, the Cocteau Twins, Robin Guthrie, Harold Budd and Mind Over Midi. Everything from ambient music, free jazz, Flamenco, folk and Krautrock melt magically in Huntsville’s musical melting pot. These influences and genres play their part in what’s the best album of Huntsville’s career, Past increasing, Future Receding.

Recorded in June 2012, at Emanuel Vigeland’s Mausoleum, Past increasing, Future Receding which will be released on 7th October 2013 on Hubro Music was Huntsville’s fourth album. Past increasing, Future Receding is also Huntsville’s best album. It surpasses even the critically acclaimed For Flowers, Cars and Merry Wars. That was Huntsville’s Magnus Opus. Not any more. It’s been surpassed by Past increasing, Future Receding, an innovative, inventive and atmospheric album.

ISRAEL NASH GRIPKA-ISRAEL NASH’S RAIN PLAINS.

One of music’s best kept secrets is Israel Nash Gripka, who recently released his third album Israel Nash’s Rain Plains on Loose Music. A fusion of classic rock, psychedelia, alt country and folk, Israel Nash’s Rain Plains is a musical coming of age for Israel Nash Gripka. Israel Nash’s Rain Plains surpasses his two previous albums, 2009s New York Town and 2011s Barn Doors and Concrete Floors. As albums go, Israel Nash’s Rain Plains should be a game changer. 

During the last seven years, Israel has concentrated on honing his sound and building a fan-base.  To do this, Israel’s spent much of the last seven years on the road. So much so, that Israel is familiar with many small and medium-sized venues throughout Europe. Surely, after Israel Nash’s Rain Plans the venues will be getting bigger, as will Israel’s record sales? That should be the case. After all, Israel Nash Gripka is a talented singer, songwriter, musician and now producer. The only thing that can derail the rise and rise of Israel’s career are accusations that his music isn’t new. With its undeniable vintage sound and similarities to Neil Young, some people have wondered are we hearing the real Israel Nash Gripka? 

Granted there are similarities with Neil Young on Israel Nash’s Rain Plans and Israel sounds as if he’s been influenced by the music of the late-sixties and early-seventies. That’s no bad thing though, given how much important music was recorded then, Israel is neither the first nor the last person to be influenced by this era. However, there’s much more to his music than that. There’s the Atl Country of the nineties, plus traditional country music, Americana, blues, folk, sixties-psychedelia and rock. He’s taken this eclectic selection of influences and genres, then given them his own twist. The result is Israel Nash’s Rain Plans, a refreshingly eclectic album where each track offers something different and new. 

As musical journeys go, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans is one I can recommend. It’s a journey you’ll relish and revel in. Twists, turns and surprises aplenty await the unwary on Israel Nash’s Rain Plans. Each time you play Israel Nash Gripka, you’re guaranteed to hear something new. Some subtlety or nuance reveals itself. That’s no surprise though. Israel Nash’s Rain Plans is best described as a musical tapestry of influences and genres, and  should be the album that transforms Israel Nash Gripka’s career.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: