Every year there’s a few albums which standout not for being great, but for not achieving the acclaim and success of fellow albums. And though some of these will make it on to our Top 50 Albums list, and other lists – they may have been missed / ignored / received satisfactory by the general press. The whole point of this list is to champion music we think deserves the listen, and deserves to be held in a higher regard that what is the general consensus. This is another list without a numerical value, so the followoing are listed in alphabetical order...
|Black Onassis - Desensitized|
My Leicester comrade Chris Karloff sounds a mile apart from the poppy neo-psychedelia path Kasabian have taken since Karloff’s departure in 2006. Black Onassis is the collaboration between Karloff and multi-instrumentalist Nick Forde, based in New York City. Desensitized masks in the high tempo electronic rock sound Kasabian may have leaned towards if Karloff didn’t depart. It’s a loud 50 minutes, but 50 minutes of industrious abrasive electronic music more akin to the sounds of Oneohtrix Point Never than Kasabian. From Leicestershire to New York City, the differences can be heard on Desensitized, which is why it’s such an achievement for Karloff, and the Black Onassis name.
|The Men - New Moon|
Sacred Bones Records have no excuses when it comes to how quickly they operate, because The Men are just 12 months ahead of them every time it comes to an album. New Moon is The Men’s fourth studio album, taking a softer approach to the punk rock style from 2012’s Open Your Heart. And as I write this, I discover The Men have planned, recorded, and ready to release their fifth album in 2014 – they never stop, but they also never stop pleasing, so why not? New Moon is the album Bob Dylan would have released in the 90s if he had worked with Kurt Cobain. It’s got blues all over it, punk all over it, and folk in places where you expect noise. Where The Men are being criticised for being too flimsy, I disagree completely and point towards New Moon as the changing sound of a Brooklyn quintet experimenting with what they’ve got.
|Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away|
There’s no Mick Harvey (who spearheaded our best album of 2011, PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake,) but what Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds loose in an original member, they make up for in gaining an old – Barry Adamson. But of course, it’s Cave’s Cohen poetry and Warren Ellis’ violin contributions that set Push the Sky Away on its course. This has been the longest gap between Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds albums, and it pays off here. The minimalistic percussion and subtle bass add up to a dreary autumn / winter aesthetic closer to Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow than their previous album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! Push the Sky Away entered the fray in the year of the Australian releases, and Nick Cave’s hard work on finding a distinctive sound in 2013 has pulled him away from the fading, and aging musicians of post-punk’s past.
Steve Mason - Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time
Steve Mason sings: “You get up, fight them back. A fist, a boot, and a baseball bat,” on Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time’s 18th track “Fight Them Back”. It’s a bold statement, an attacking swing at rioting, and not at all promotion. Mason’s second solo album is riddled with socio-political lyricism built on strong genres blending hip-hop with alternative rock, reggae with funk, and pop with gospel. It’s very much a reflective album based around modern life is rubbish, including the effects of capitalism and anarchism and their rumbling fall from grace in the public sector, and the arts. Monkey Minds in the Devil's Time is a clear frontrunner for the 2013 (June 2014) Scottish Album of the Year Award – an accolade worth winning, and not sponsored by the all mighty dollar like the Mercury Prize.
|Ty Segall - Sleeper|
I’ve never been one to judge on first listens, but when Ty Segall’s Sleeper was drowning out the sounds of the neighbours, it was obvious that Sleeper wasn’t just background music. Segall’s seventh album respectively takes a slowed down, acoustic sound compared to the abrasive fuzz sound of Segall’s past. It’s as if Sleeper has transported Segall back to the 60s to release a psychedelic folk album, that’s not only influenced by the era, but belongs in the era. It hasn’t been missed by critics, but my god does Sleeper deserve the folk credit it so needlessly deserves.