THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 2.

THE BEST NEW ALBUMS OF 2013-PART 2.

JUANA MOLINA-WED 21.

Previously, Argentinian singer-songwriter Juana Molina has been described as a musical visionary. Comparisons have been drawn to legendary Beach Boy. These comparisons aren’t hype. No. Far from it. Juana Molina is an alternative to bland, anodyne music. This is cerebral, intelligent music of substance. Variously described as melodic, minimalist and mesmeric, Juana Molina’s songs are compelling sonic explorations and experiments. Delivered with emotion, Juana’s song veer between melancholy, joyous, evocative and thoughtful. Whether it’s impassioned pleas or pensive, poignant songs full of pathos, Juana Molina brings her lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning and emotion into her songs. She’s been doing that since 1996, when she released her debut album Rara. Now seventeen years later, Juana Molina is about to release her sixth album, Wed 21, which will be released in October 2013 on the Crammed Discs label.

Five years have passed since Juana Molina released her fifth album Un Dia. They’ve been five years well spent. Juana Molina decided to reinvent herself on Wed 21 which will be released on  Crammed Discs on 28th October 2013. Previously, her music was a fusion of acoustic folk, ambient, electronica, Latin and indie. To that compelling combination of influences, everything from avant garde, postindustrial, post-indie, pop and rock. There’s even a nod to psychedelia, Krautrock and Acid House, thanks to the myriad of beeps and squeaks that come courtesy of the Roland Corporation. Backed by a band of tight, talented and versatile musicians, who come armed with a supply of effects and loops, Juana Molina has recorded what’s her most ambitious, innovative and groundbreaking album. 

To do that, Juana Molina took the rulebook, tore in up, then rewrote it. This became her template. It was not just a case of rule nothing in, but rule nothing out. Boundaries were there to be pushed, rules to be broken and ground to be broken. Relying on twenty years of experience, Juana Molina penned eleven new tracks. Best described as genre-sprawling, Wed 21 sees musical influences and genres melt into one. Listen carefully, and you’ll hear not just an eclectic selection of genres, but the musicians that have influenced Juana. This includes any number of eighties artists. Then there’s Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Smiths, Nirvana, Sigur Ros, Bjork, Brian Eno, Can and David Byrne. That’s not forgetting the ethereal beauty of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins and Scotland’s very own Astrid Williamson. Indeed, the ethereal, fragile beauty of Juana Molina’s vocal is crucial to the beauty and success of Wed 21, which should surpass the success of her five previous albums. Wed 21 should also introduce a new generation to Juana Molina’s music.

Why? Well, the eleven tracks on Juana Molina’s sixth album Wed 21 are the alternative to bland, anodyne music. This is cerebral, intelligent music of substance.  Wed 21 features eleven compelling sonic explorations and experiments. Delivered with emotion, Juana’s song veer between melancholy, joyous, evocative and thoughtful. Whether it’s impassioned pleas or pensive, poignant songs full of pathos, Juana Molina brings her lyrics to life, breathing life, meaning and emotion into her songs. Wed 21 vindicates Juana Molina’s decision to turn her back on comedy. Comedy’s loss was music’s gain. One listen to Juana Molina’s Wed 21, and you’ll discover an absorbing, ambitious and cerebral genre-sprawling album where musical boundaries are pushed to their limits and beyond.

JULIEN DYNE-DECEMBER.

One of the most anticipated albums of recent months has been Julien Dyne’s third album December. It was released on BBE Music, and sees Julien pick up where he left off on his sophomore album Glimpse. On Glimpse we saw a tantalising glimpse of the direction Julien Dyne’s music was heading. This was in the direction of futuristic, innovative, genre-melting 21st Century soundscapes. Julien pushed boundaries, drawing inspiration from his debut album Pins and Digits and the followup, Glimpse. However, Julien was determined to take his music to the next level on December.

Two years in the making, December features fourteen futuristic soundscapes. They feature glistening melodies, pulsating rhythms and a myriad of percussive delights. It’s no exaggeration to say that Julien has pushed musical boundaries to their limits. In doing so, Julien has drawn inspiration from an eclectic selection of musical influences and genres. All these influences and genres have gone into the making of December Julien Dyne’s third album. 

Julien Dyne has surpassed everything that’s gone before. December is a musical coming of age for him. Good as Pins and Digits and the followup, Glimpse were, December which was recently released by BBE Music, is the best album of his career so far. We heard glimpses of December on Glimpse. It showed the direction Julien’s music was heading. With the help of a few friends, he produced an album that saw his music evolve.

Playing their part in December, were a whole host of guest artists. Among them are Parks, Mara TK of Electric Wire Hustle and Dalziel of Dear Time’s Wast. They play a part in the musical success story that’s December, an album Julien Dyne should be proud of. The reason for that is, Julien’s music evolves on December. There was never any chance this would be Glimpse 2. No chance. Julien Dyne isn’t like that. He’s ambitious and innovative and as a result, produces exciting, groundbreaking and genre-melting music.

That’s why December is an album I’d recommend thoroughly. Especially, if you’ve yet to discover Julien Dyne’s music. The perfect starting point is December. After that, explore the twin delights of Pins and Digits and Glimpse. You’ll hear a talented, innovative artist, who seems determined to reinvent himself musically. Julien does this, by combining an eclectic selection of musical genres and influences. Everything from ambient, dub, electronica, experimental, funk, hip hop, pop, post-industrial and soul are thrown into the melting pot. It’s the given a stir, and the result is December, the best album of Julien Dyne’s career.

KON-ON MY WAY.

Kon’s lifelong love of music started when he was just four. This life-changing event happened when he first heard Electric Light Orchestra’s 1974 album Eldorado. The drama and theatre of Eldorado, with its cinematic strings, well crafted songs and poppy hooks had Kon hooked. After this, Kon went in search of more music. Helping fuel this interest in music was his was father. He was a drummer. Soon, Kon was looking for the perfect break. As for music, it was a case of the funkier the better. Two of his favorite compilation series were the Off Track and On Track series. They’d also influence his future career as a remixer and producer, which saw Kon hook up with some of his musical friends, old and new and record his debut album, On My Way.

It seems that Kon’s experience as a DJ, then editing and remixing tracks has been put to good use. This taught him what type of music fills a dance-floor. Knowing that, put him one step ahead of other producers. He wasn’t going to make the musical mistakes they did. No. Instead, he was going to create music that was soulful, funky and guaranteed to fill any dance-floor. With its uplifting, summery sound, On My Way is guaranteed to do that. However, there’s more to On My Way than just dance music.

By that, I mean the three musical sketches. There’s the enigmatic Day Dream, the slow, moody but melodic 808 State and the soulful, dramatic and vampish Yeah, Yeah. Less than four minutes long, these tracks have a cinematic quality. They’re reminiscent of Nightmares On Wax’s two ambient Magnus Opus’ Smoker’s Delight and Car Book Soul. What this trio of tracks also demonstrate, is that Kon, as a producer, is versatile and is no one trick pony. Quite the opposite. 

Considering how versatile Kon is as a producer, it’ll be interesting to see what direction is career heads. Given his background as a DJ, then editing and remixing tracks, the smart money would be on Kon continuing to create albums that are dance-floor friendly. This would mean more music like that On On My Way. That’s no bad thing. Far from it. After all, Kon’s debut album On My Way soulful, funky, dance-floor friendly and full of poppy hooks. What better way is there to start Kon’s career as a producer. Kon can safely say that he’s On My Way.

 

MESSAGE FROM SOULVILLE-PRODUCED BY MARC MAC.

It doesn’t seem long since I was choosing my twenty best new releases of 2012. That wasn’t an easy job, given how many albums I review each year. However, there were some albums that undoubtably, were going to be on that list. One of them was Visioneers’ Hipology, released on BBE Music. Quite simply, Hipology was a musical masterpiece, fusing musical genres, influences, breaks, beats and samples aplenty. On Hipology’s second disc, Marc Mac, the man behind the Visioneers, compiled an old school mix-tape. That wasn’t just an added bonus, but a reminder of what a mix tape used to sound like. Seven months later, Marc Mac was back, with another mix-tape, Message From Soulville-Produced By Marc Mac. 

Over fifty-two minutes and twenty-two tracks, Message From Soulville-Produced By Marc Mac, brings to life the story of these men and women. Each of them, had to fly halfway around the world, risking their lives to fight in a war many neither understood nor believed in. When they returned, many of them were never the same. Instead they were mere shells of their former selfs, never the same and forever changed and affected by the horrors and tragedy they endured and experienced. Message From Soulville, which was released by Omniverse Records in January 2013 is a compelling, captivating album, where the story of black-Americans who fought in the Vietnam War is set to music. Marc Mac has payed homage to them, telling their story by fusing musical genres and influences. He fuses civil rights era dialogue with jazz, funk and soul infused hip hop instrumentals. For anyone who wants to hear Message From Soulville, they’d better be quick, as there are only 500 copies available. Believe me, Message From Soulville is one of the most powerful, moving and poignant albums you’ll hear this year. Enjoy the journey and the musical Message From Soulville.

OTTI ALBIETZ-BUBBY TONE II.

Otti Albietz, whose sophomore album Bubby Tone II will be released on 8th April 2013 is best described as a modern day minstrel. It was when strolling through the streets of his hometown of Malaga, in Spain, that Otti first found inspiration for his songs. Whether epic, intimate or filled with tragedy, Otti’s songs are infused with beauty, emotion and heartache. Further inspiration came from Otti’s travels through Spain, Morocco and mainland Europe with his family. During his travails and adventures, Ottis met larger than life, colorful characters. He came across everyone from bohemians to smugglers. Having listening to their tales, Otti told their story through the medium of song. Using shipyards, scrapyards, rivers and motorways as backdrop for these stories, Otti’s talent as a storyteller brings their recollections to life. Humor, hurt, heartache, farce and tragi-comedy, Otti Albietz’s song have all these things and much more. However, Otti Albietz is much more that a songwriter. He’s part-poet, philosopher, minstrel and storyteller on Bubby Tone II.

Innovative. That’s the best way to descibe Otti Albietz’s sophomore album Bubby Tone II which will be released by BBE Music on 8th April 2013. It’s very different album from anything that’s been recently released. No wonder. Otti Albietz is very different to other singer-songwriters. He’s part-poet, philosopher, minstrel and storyteller. The music is lo-fi and understated. There’s just Otti and his trusty guitar. There are no lavish arrangements. Instead, it’s a case of less is more. This allows Otti’s vocal to take centre-stage and become the focus of your attention. Indeed, nothing whatsoever gets in the way of Otti Albietz’s vocal and his lyrics. His songs are filled with humor, hurt, heartache, farce and tragi-comedy. Each of the twelve tracks has a strong narrative, and paint vivid pictures in your mind’s eye. Intense, emotive, powerful, moving, rich in imagery and filled with gritty realism describes Bubby Tone II perfectly.

PETE MACLEOD-ROLLING STONE.

It was seventeen years ago, that Pete MacLeod made his professional debut. That night, in 1996, Pete walked on stage and sang two of his own songs. It gave Pete his first taste of the music industry. He was hooked, and wanted more of it. For the next eight years, Pete travelled up and down the country honing his sound. As thestar69 Pete paid his dues. This lead to Pete playing at Scotland’s biggest music festival T In The Park in 2004. Shortly after that, Pete enjoyed his first hit single. It was only a matter of time before Pete released his debut album. He released This Is Modern Soul in 2005. Critics predicted a successful future for Pete MacLeod. Surely, Pete would be signed by a record company and become Scotland’s latest successful musical export? 

Sadly, things didn’t quite pan out like that for Pete MacLeod. Despite a whole host of fans within the music industry, including Alan McGhee, Jim Kerr, Dave Grohl and Steve Cradock, that record contract eluded Pete MacLeod. That was until earlier this year when Alan McGhee, the man behind the long, lamented Creation Records, decided to make a comeback. He founded a new label 359 Music. Among the signings to his new label was Pete MacLeod. This was no surprise, as Alan had long championed Pete’s music. Now that Alan was back in the music business, he was going to help spread the word about Pete McLeod. So, in July 2013, Pete MacLeod signed to Alan McGhee’s new label 359 Music and released his sophomore album Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone describes the career of Pete MacLeod. Since making his professional debut, he’s seen the other side of the music business, the side most people forget about. Pete’s spent years traveling the length and breadth of Britain. Then there’s trips to Europe and to Pete’s adopted home of Los Angeles. All the time, Pete’s playing smaller venues, venues which are filled with a small, loyal and adoring fan-base. They attend every concert Pete plays, but sadly, word hasn’t spread about Glasgow’s troubled troubadour Pete MacLeod. Instead, he’s remained one of music’s best kept secrets. Pete however, deserves a better fate than that.

For whatever the reason, Pete MacLead hasn’t had the breaks. Commercial success and critical acclaim have eluded Pete. Despite that, he’s certainly not short of talent. A talented singer-songwriter, Pete MacLeod should be filling larger venues and have a string of critically acclaimed albums to his name. Sadly, that’s not the case. Thankfully, time is still on his side. Maybe Rolling Stone, Pete MacLeod’s sophomore album will mark a change in Pete’s fortunes? Given the quality of music on Rolling Stone, commercial success and critical acclaim might just be coming Pete MacLeod’s way. A fusion of folk, rock and pop, Rolling Stone showcases Pete MacLeod’s versatility and talent. Eight years after his debut album This Is Modern Soul, Scotland’s veteran Rolling Stone Pete MacLeod looks like making up for lost time with his hook-laden, heartfelt, soul-baring opus, Rolling Stone.

QUICKBEAM-QUICKBEAM.

Atmospheric, cinematic and ethereal are just some of the words that describe the music on Quickbeam’s debut album Quickbeam. So too does sparse, minimalist, flamboyant and luscious. Intriguing and compelling, the twelve soundscapes have been influenced by a myriad of eclectic influences. This includes ambient, classical, indie rock, jazz and soul. Comprising twelve soundscapes, quivering, classically influenced strings sit side-by-side with fuzzy guitars, braying horns and harmonium.  Add to this fragile, tender vocal and soothing harmonies. Everything from Bartok, Blue Nile, Boards of Canada, Cocteau Twins and Jesus and Mary Chain have influenced Quickbeam. When all these musical influences are combined, the result is one of the most intriguing and eclectic albums of 2013.

I described Quickbeam’s debut album Quickbeam as atmospheric, cinematic and ethereal. I could just as easily have described Quickbeam as sparse, minimalist and flamboyant. Quickbeam is an enigmatic album. Twelve songs lasting fifty-one minutes, featuring instruments you wouldn’t normally find on a indie, pop or rock album. Cellos, harmonium and horns are added to the rhythm section, piano and organ. Mind you, Quickbeam isn’t an indie, pop or rock album. No. It’s a fusion of ambient, classical, indie rock, jazz, pop and soulful vocals. The artists that have influenced Quickbeam are just as varied. Listen carefully and you’ll hear Astrid Williamson, Bartok, Blue Nile, Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, Clannad, Cocteau Twins, Deacon Blue, Jerry Burns, Jesus and Mary Chain and Kate Bush. Such a diverse and eclectic range of influences make for an album that’s intriguing and compelling.

Indeed, from the opening bars of Remember to the closing One To Hold, Quickbeam have you spellbound. Layer upon layer of multi-textured, genre-sprawling music toys with your emotions.  Intrigued, as one track ends, you wonder where Quickbeam are taking you? It’s like a musical journey, where a series of cinematic soundscapes unfold. Monika is the narrator of stories full of hurt, heartbreak and mystery. Longing and loneliness are often present in songs that are designed to tug at your heartstrings. Veering between ethereal and beautiful, to dramatic and dark, Quickbeam’s debut album is not just one of the best Scottish albums of 2013, but one of the best British albums of 2013. One listen to Quickbeam, and you’ll realise this too.

 

R.M. HUBBERT-BREAKS AND BONE.

For R.M. Hubbert, 2013 has been the best year of his long musical career. A veteran, and some might say, unsung hero, of Glasgow’s music scene, Hubby won the Scottish Album Of The Year Award in June 2013, with his sophomore album, Thirteen Lost and Found. Considering the competition Hubby was up against, this was quite a feat. Paul Buchanan, Lau, Calvin Harris and Emile Sande were among the nominees. However, Hubby triumphed. Thirteen Lost and Found won the Scottish Album Of The Year Award. This was result of a musical journey that started back in 1991. Having savoured the moment, it was straight back to work for Hubby. 

No wonder. Hubby was in the midst of recording his third album Breaks and Bone. It was recorded in seven short, intensive sessions during a one-year period. Featuring  ten tracks, which were produced by Paul Savage at his Chem 19 studios. Two themes run through Breaks and Bone, letting go and acceptance. They’re the threads that ran through Hubby’s first two albums. That’s hardly surprising. Hubby’s had to contend with the loss of both parents and a five year battle with depression. For Hubby and many listeners, Breaks and Bone, will prove a cathartic experience. 

Breaks and Bone is not just most captivating albums of 2013, but an album that’s cerebral and inspirational. The last part in the Ampersand trilogy, Breaks and Bone has you spellbound from the opening track. Despite being an instrumental, Son Of Princess, Brother of Rambo is something of a roller coaster journey. Listen to the track with an open mind, and thoughts, memories and ideas will cascade past your mind’s eye. From there, the music veers between becomes dark, bleak and nihilistic on Bolt, through to thoughtful, melancholy, emotive, joyous and uplifting. Often it’s introspective and seeking answers. That’s no bad thing. Hubby like so many other people, is looking for answers to problems that have haunted him. This includes loss and depression.

Many other people, like Hubby, have lost loved ones and are still grieving. It’s an ongoing process that needs worked through. For Hubby, music proves cathartic. He lost both parents a few years ago. Like many people, music is a way of finding answers to questions. Part of his trying to come to terms with this loss, is the Ampersand trilogy. Breaks and Bone is the final chapter in this trilogy. Let’s hope it’s helped Hubby to come to terms with his loss. I hope it’s helped Hubby in another struggle.

Another theme explored during Breaks and Bone, was depression. Like many people, Hubby has suffered from depression. He’s fought chronic depression for five years. Music to Hubby, has proved therapeutic and cathartic. Part of his healing process was the Ampersand trilogy, including Breaks and Bone. Let’s hope it’s helped Hubby to come to terms with what is a truly debilitating and heartbreaking illness. Certainly, some of the music on Breaks and Bone is much more uplifting. 

Several things haven’t changed from Thirteen Lost and Found. Breaks and Bone which was released on Chemical Underground Records. It’s  another eclectic and emotional musical journey. It draws inspiration from disparate musical influences and genres. Folk, country, flamenco, Celtic, indie and Americana were thrown into the mix. Then there’s some of Scotland’s top musicians who played a part in the making of Breaks and Bone. Among them are Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock and producer Paul Savage. Each of these musicians wanted to help one of the nicest men in Scottish music bring this very personal project to a close. Breaks and Bone, like the two previous chapters, is a highly personal, cerebral and emotive exploration of loss and depression. 

Seeking answers, R.M. Hubbert embarked upon the Ampersand trilogy. Now this musical journey is over. Hubby has kept the best until last. Breaks and Bone is the result of a two year musical journey. We can only hope R.M. Hubbert found the journey that was Ampersand trilogy both therapeutic and cathartic.

RANDOLPH’S LEAP-REAL ANYMORE.

Randolph’s Leap who recently released their mini-album Real Anymore on Olive Grove Records, aren’t like any other band. Not all. After how many bands describe themselves as a “Glasgow-based figment of your imagination?” Well, Randolph’s Leap do. This adds an air of mystery to the Glasgow-octet. It also hints at a band who don’t take themselves to seriously. Another description of Randolph’s Leap are purveyors of pop perfection. 

Ever since 2008, Randolph’s Leap have been winning friends and influencing people with their unique fusion of indie pop and folk. Spreading hooks and happiness in equal measure, Randolph’s Leap are part of the this new generation of Scottish bands. Randolph’s Leap are just the latest keeper of Scottish pop’s flame. They’re no ordinary band though.

Don’t expect banal, bubblegum pop from Randolph’s Leap. No. Instead, their music is witty, acerbic, intelligent and articulate. That describes the music on Real Anymore, Randolph’s Leap’s debut mini-album. Real Anymore, features seven songs, which are the perfect introduction to Randolph’s Leap.

Just seven songs and twenty-five minutes long, Real Anymore, the latest mini-album from Randolph’s Leap features a band more than ready to make the next step. Indeed, Randolph’s Leap are a band with a big future. Randolph’s Leap are more than ready. They’ve spent five years honing their sound and have established a reputation as a tight, talented band. To do this, they’ve played concerts and festivals up and down the country. However, Randolph’s Leap don’t seem in a hurry to make the next step, which is signing for one of the bigger indie labels. Randolph’s Leap seem determined to do things their way. That’s no bad thing. Bands like Belle and Sebastian, The Blue Nile, Teenage Fanclub and The Pastels have done things their way, and enjoyed a successful career. These bands demonstrate that this is possible. No longer do bands have to head to London to make the next step. Far from it. Glasgow’s music scene is truly thriving. Randolph’s Leap are just the latest keeper of Scottish’s pop music’s flame.

No wonder. The Glasgow-based octet are purveyors of pop perfection. Their unique fusion of indie pop and folk has winning friends and influencing people for five years. For anyone that’s heard the latest offering from Randolph’s Leap, their mini-album Real Anymore, that’ll come as no surprise. The lyrics on Real Anymore are variously witty, acerbic, articulate, cutting and descriptive. Featuring a plentiful supply of slick, poppy, hooks, Real Anymore features Randolph’s Leap at their poppy best. With tales of telephone psychics, a paean to nature, the cutting Indie King, joyous Nature and rousing Technology, this is the perfect introduction to Randolph’s Leap are no ordinary band. No. Randolph’s Leap are “a Glasgow-based figment of your imagination” who strive and succeed in their quest for hook-laden,  pop perfection on Real Anymore. 

 

 

RICK REDBEARD-NO SELFISH HEART.

Despite all this and more being wrong with music, very occasionally, along comes an album that restores my faith in music. It makes up for everything I’ve described. At last, the musical Gods are smiling on me. When this happens, the constant search for quality music becomes worthwhile. This was the case when I came across Rick Redbeard’s latest album No Selfish Heart. It was released on Glasgow’s premier label, Chemikal Underground in January 2013. A long time in the making, at long last, Rick Redbeard’s debut album No Selfish Heart was out.  Full of subtleties, nuances and melancholy delights of No Selfish Heart, was worth the eight years it took to make.

Although the ten songs on No Selfish Heart took eight years to record, they were well worth the wait. This was the same with The Blue Nile. They were far from a prolific group. Like The Blue Nile, Rick’s music is the polar opposite to so much modern music. Rather than being instant and disposable, it’s intelligent, evocative, expressive, poetic and thoughtful. Rick Redbeard sings of hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, life and death. Poignancy gives way to pathos, while there’s a sense of melancholia and wistfulness on several tracks. Indeed, several tracks are like a coming of age for Rick. There’s a realization that no longer he’s immortal. That’s something that comes with age, experience and maturity. Other songs, they’re akin to an outpouring of grief and loss. Rick’s vocal is at the heart of these songs, while the mostly acoustic arrangements are understated and subtle. Despite this, the songs are intricate and multilayered. Subtleties, surprises and nuances await discovery. 

Rick Redbeard’s No Selfish Heart is similar to Paul Buchanan’s debut solo album Mid Air. Like Paul Buchanan, Rick has a lived-in, world-weary sound. Both albums feature music that’s moody, broody, but sometimes hopeful. The music is also introspective, poignant and wistful music. That’s what I’d expect from Scotland’s latest troubled troubadours. Maudlin but beautiful, heartbreaking but hopeful and always heartfelt, Rick Redbeard’s No Selfish Heart, is well worth discovering. Indeed, Rick Redbeard’s No Selfish Heart, like Mid Air, is pensive and reflective music, that’s perfect for late-night listening.

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