5 Albums You Might Have Missed This Year.

NPR's no 1 choice.

NPR’s no 1 choice.

A few weeks ago the good people on NPR’s mandatory All Songs Considered podcast, reviewed earlier here, ran a 50 Best Albums, Songs, Bands and Surprises of the year so far set of lists, here. Here are 5 from that list that I’d missed and that, happily, I’ve now caught up on.

5. Say Yes To Love, by Perfect Pussy.

This was the one album that they all had at the top of their lists. 23 minutes of un-sanitised, triumphantly aggressive, raw post punk, that somehow manages to be significantly more nuanced that it has any right to be. You can hear Big Stars here.

4. High Life, by Brian Eno & Karl Hyde.

Earlier this year Eno and Underworld’s Karl Hyde got together to record Someday World, reviewed earlier here. After they’d finished that more formal album, they recorded a number of tracks live, where each would respond to what the other was doing as they were doing it. With Hyde on guitar and Eno on assorted synths, this is a far more organic sounding album, and is a propulsive echo of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the album Eno made with David Byrne in 1981. You can hear DBF here.

The debut album from the Family Crest.

The debut album from the The Family Crest.

3. Sylvan Esso, by Sylvan Esso.

This is the sort of mellifluous, melody heavy indietronica we used to hear from Valerie Trebeljahr with Lali Puna, or The Notwist back in the day – and the latter’s most recent, more poppy album was another of their recommendations. Structured minimalism to digital beats softened and quietly transformed by the female lead vocal that gently leads the melody. Here’s their video for Coffee.

2. Beneath The Brine, by The Family Crest.

These classically trained, multi instrumentalist art rockers from San Francisco are as happy referencing jazz, swing or Weill as they are Bowie of Boland. This is the sort of quietly sophisticated, gloriously epic sound that we had hoped the Arcade Fire would one day produce. Here’s the video for Love Don’t Go.

Dominic Palermo's heady nihilism.

Dominic Palermo’s heady nihilism.

1. Guilty Of Everything, by Nothing.

Sent to jail for two years for stabbing a man, former Horror Show front man Dominic Palermo (yes, that is his real name) discovered Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky there whilst evidently listening to My Bloody Valentine and the 4AD Records back catalogue. This is the debut album form the new band he’s formed. Industrial, post-apocalyptic noise becalmed by breathy vocals. Majestic. You can see the video for Bent Nail here.

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Brian Eno teams up with Underworld’s Karl Hyde for “Someday World”.

Eno, left in  Roxy Music.

Eno (left) with Bryan Ferry (centre) in Roxy Music.

In 1979, Brian Eno sat down with a can of fizzy pop and a packet of Hula Hoops to idly watch an episode of Mork and Mindy. It was the last uncreative thing he ever did. Since then, he’s been forever doing something.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.

My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.

After leaving Roxy Music and inventing ambient music, he worked on Bowie’s seminal Berlin trilogy, produced three of Talking Heads’ best albums, all of the best U2 albums, and pioneered sampling with David Byrne with My Life in The Bush Of Ghosts back in 1981.

He’s worked on soundtracks, installations and albums with Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, Daniel Lanois, Robert Fripp, John Cale, Laurie Anderson, Robert Wyatt and James Blake, as well as Dido, Coldplay and Microsoft. Despite the fact that he only works on a Mac.

In other words, he’s both intimidatingly prolific, and consciously catholic in his choice of collaborators. His last two albums are happily more of the same.

His latest offering is Someday World, which he produced with Underworld’s Karl Hyde. It’s an infectiously upbeat, anthemic album that will provide the perfect backdrop for your next trip in a car or on a train. But truth be told, even though it’s a little bit better than the 6.2 it gets from Pitchfork  here, it is just a little underwhelming.

Bowie, Bono and Eno in '02.

Bowie, Bono and Eno in ’02.

Much more satisfying is his 2012 offering, Lux. Harking back to his earlier, purely ambient work such as Music for Airports in 1978, or Apollo, the piece he did with his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois in 1983, Lux as its title suggests is both calm and intimate, yet warm and expansive. Somehow, even monumental.

It is yet another remarkable addition to a staggering back catalogue. You can hear a sample from Lux here.

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Thom Yorke’s Far From Solo Project an Impressive Hit.

atoms_amok_packshot_5Atoms For Peace is the group that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke put together in 2009 so that he could tour his recently released solo album Erasure. And their debut album, AMOK, is basically a follow-up to that.

Atoms For Peace are made up of long time Radiohead producer and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Godrich, Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and drummers Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco.

The latter is a Brazilian musician who has toured for years with David Byrne, and he became one of the pioneers of what came to be known as World Music when he set up his record label Luaka Bop in 1990.

The subsequent arrival into our living rooms of the sounds of Latin America, Africa and Asia was one of the happier offshoots of globalization. And it’s that sound and his presence that reverberate, happily, throughout this album.

AMOK is basically the slightly more melodic sounding album that we expected to get with Erasure but didn’t. Most of the more recent Radiohead albums have been driven by the conflict between confrontational, twitchy digital beats and the seductive delivery of Yorke’s melodies. But all of that takes on a completely different feel here as each of the tracks are governed by a commanding afrobeat.

brian enoIndeed, from the moment that the first track kicks in, it’s impossible not to hear in the twang of the lead guitar the sounds of west Africa, and specifically those of Fela Kuti. And the album that follows is a wonderful mixture of nerdy indie introspection filtered through infectious and uninhibited global rhythms.

Yorke has said that it was the impressionistic song writing of Byrne that inspired (and slightly intimidated) him on this album. But what you hear here more than anything else is echoes of the collaboration that Byrne and Eno produced in the 1980s with My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts. And AMOK is a gentle companion piece to that, without in any way being overtly deferential.

It gets a slightly grudging 6.9 from the boys from Pitchfork here. Which isn’t bad. But doesn’t really do justice to quite how enjoyable the album is. Understated, yes. But memorably so.

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