8 Albums You Might Have Missed in 2013.

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra.

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra.


8. More Is Than Isn’t, RJD2.

When Deadringer came out in 2002 RJD2 was hailed as the natural partner in crime  to DJ Shadow. He lost his way ever so slightly in the interim, but this his 6th solo effort is a decided return to form.

Borrowed beats and riffs fused with hiphop and RnB, effortlessly balanced and blended. It gets a 7.7 from Pitchfork here.

7. Psychic, Darkside.

Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington teamed up as Darkside for this impressively cinematic slice of indietronica, reviewed by me earlier here. It gets an impressed 9.0 from Pitchfork here.

Daft Punk.

Daft Punk.

 6. Random Access Memories, Daft Punk.

Just in case you somehow missed this, album of the year, reviewed earlier by by me here. Majestic.


5. Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves.
Alt country has yet another improbably young, old before her time star to sit beside the likes of Caitlin Rose, who’s 2010 debut Own Side Now I reviewed earlier here.

Pristine melodies tell tales of woe and wasted lives, and are served up by a voice that would melt and break hearts.

4. AMOK, Atoms For Peace.

The debut album form the indie supergroup melds Tom Yorke’s vocals with Brazilian beats, and sets them against a twitchy indietronica backdrop. Reviewed by my earlier here.

Julianna-Barwick3. Nepenthe, Julianna Barwick.
The second album proper from her after her breakthrough The Magic Place in 2011, reviewed by me earlier here.

Recorded with Alex Somers, the Sigur Ros collaborator and the string quartet Amiina in Iceland, it has the haunting, ethereal feel of peek era 4AD Records, when The Cocteau Twins, TMC and Dead Can Dance fused bliss with grunge. It gets an 8.5 from Pitchfork here.



2. The Jazz Age, The Bryan Ferry Orchestra.

20s jazz cuts of classic Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry tracks, it was reviewed by me earlier here. It will either leave you utterly perplexed, or be the most obviously brilliant idea for an album imaginable.

BEELD21. The Essential Mix 2011, Nicolas Jaar.

Two years old at this stage, but if you’ve yet to download this, do so here and now. Its two hour length means that Jaar has the luxury of, when he wishes, playing the whole track. As he does with the Brothers Four’s 1960 classic “Greenfields”, which melds 50s doo wop with 60s folk, the Latino sounds of Los Angeles’ Negroes’ “Tu y tu Mirar”, or the typically delicate Keith Jarrett track, “Encore”.

In between, you get snatches of the Aphex Twin, snippets of Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood and, best of all, Angelo Badalamenti talking us through the theme tune to Twin Peaks. Sublime.

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Hypnotic Debut Album ”Psychic” from Nicolas Jaar and his Darkside.

Darkside's Psychic.

Darkside’s Psychic.

Nicolas Jaar first rose to official prominence when he won the annual BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix of the Year joust in 2011. Moving effortlessly from Bill Callahan, the Aphex Twin and Keith Jarrett to Marvin Gaye, Beyoncé, NSYNC(!) and back again, you can see the full track listing here. And you can download it – minus the annoying BBC idents – via the small grey download under the blue Play button here.

For the last year or two he’s been touring with fellow DJ hipster Dave Harrington as Darkside and Psychic is their debut album, after their eccentric and ever so slightly academic remixing of Random Access Memories (reviewed by me earlier here) which they called Daftside.

The women of Twin Peaks.

The women of Twin Peaks.

And yes I know, remixing and sampling the archetypal musical magpies produces a resplendent po-mo moebius strip that’s delightfully clever, but it doesn’t make the results any more danceable.

Psychic is a much more robust affair. As you’d expect after hearing the regal Essential Mix, which kicks off with Angelo Badalementi talking us through the composing of the Twin Peaks’ theme, this is indietronica filtered through the prism of widescreen cinemascope.

The best way into the album really is via the Essential Mix. Everything that is deftly hinted at and explored in Psychic, from dubstep and disco to prog rock psychedelia, free jazz and Enoesque minimalism is aired and touched on there.

This is what Jaar feeds off of, where he sources his ingredients from. But the album that results when it’s all reduced down to a single 45 minute record is its own beast entirely. And yet beneath the surface, all those elements can clearly be savoured.

Psychic  is both moody and menacing, yet rhythmically driven, deftly straddling the divide between electronic ambiance and the dancefloor. Where just enough is suggested by the breathy, falsettoed vocals without ever being fully explained.

This is what Donal Dineen means when he uses the term “headphones” as a genre description. Ian Cohen gives it a 9.0 and a more fulsome description in Pitchfork here. And Jim Carroll has an interview with Dave Harrington in the Irish Times here. It get the album of the week from Nialler 9, the best Irish music blog here.  And you can hear Paper Trails from the album performed live here. Get the album and the Essential Mix. It’s not the sound of the future. It’s the sound of now.

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Daft Punk’s Plush New Album “Random Access Memories”.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories.

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories.

Despite the fact that their debut Homework came out in 1997, Random Access Memories is only the fourth album proper from French duo Daft Punk. It’s both a summation of everything they’re about, and comfortably their best album to date.

Superficially, you get the same sense that some people have when looking at a Neo-Classical building. It seems to be nothing more than a mix and match of other peoples’ greatest hits. But the more you listen to it, the more substantial it becomes. And apart from anything else, it’s absolutely sumptuous.

As the boys form Pitchfork noted in their review of it, where they gave it an 8.8, it’s a paean to the kinds of expansive, monumental albums that just don’t get made any more.

Paul Williams in Phantom of the Paradise.

Paul Williams in Phantom of the Paradise.

Recorded oh so expensively in analogue, gone on all but one of the tracks are the samples you normally associate with them. And in come a host of guest singers and actual instrumentalists.

Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, The Strokes’ front man Julian Casablancas, and 70’s muso Paul Williams, who scored and starred in Brian de Palma’s cult classic Phantom of the Paradise (’74), which was such a seminal influence on the pair. And, happily, most prominently of all, Nile Rodgers backed up by Pharrell Williams on vocals.

But the album’s highlight is Giorgio by Moroder, a wonderful drive thru celebratory synthesis of electronic music over its first few decades.

Have a look at the brief clip of Girl Talk’s mashup on Flavorwire. And you can see the official video for their ubiquitous single Get Lucky here.

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