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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