As the year turns, Charles Martel, Musicemissions’ resident eighth century Frankish monarch, takes a look at his personal favourite albums of the last twelve months.
1. Girls Names – A New Life
Belfast based post-punks come up with an excellent album which reconstructs the sound of their debut in a more solid and powerful format. The title track is probably also the track of the year in my view. Bass-driven melodies with reverb-laden guitars and often eerie vocals dominate.
2. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
A return to true form from this Glasgow outfit, this album sees Frightened Rabbit once again lace their songs with some of the cleverest and most imaginative lyrics you will find anywhere. The album focuses on the dreary and often hopeless lives of the underclass yet does so in a non-judgemental way which is refreshing.
3. Veronica Falls – Waiting for Something to Happen
Another album which focuses on the largely humdrum lives of those who exist out of the limelight and at the margins of life. Veronica Falls have managed to combine the concerns and tribulations of youth in a nowhere environment with some clever pop hooks.
4. House of Love – She Paints Words in Red
After an eight-year gap, the House of Love return with a wistful look back at the way things were. The acrimony between Bickers and Chadwick has gone, and only the memory of it remains. Nostalgic though this may be, it is in no way retro in the feel of the album. More mellow now than 25 years ago, “She Paints Words in Red” confirms, in case anyone doubted, the combined genius of Bickers and Chadwick.
5. History of Apple Pie – Out of View
Forget the stupid name, this is twee pop crashing into shoegaze. Charming melodies, layered guitar sounds and lyrics which speak of innocence and ingenuousness, this is the way pop music should sound in London.
6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
Nick Cave abandons the seedy dirty old man persona of Grinderman and returns to the more familiar territory of the hungover has-been, a role he plays so well. This is Leonard Cohen meets Tom Waits in a smoky bar to write blues-inspired rock numbers about the age-old conflict between the sexes over sexuality.
7. Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan II
Swedish noise rock juniors deserve a mention here with a second album which cements their cult status in Scandinavia. Bitter yet empowering lyrics fill the album. Dynamic bass-lines, swirling synthesisers and distorted guitars comprise the music. This is cathartic anger bottled and sold to you in 33 minute long packages
8. No Joy – Wait to Pleasure
Canadian female duo add a permanent drummer for their second album and the result is a vast improvement with a much more anchored sound. Layers of distorted guitars create a modern-day wall of sound which is reminiscent of the late eighties and early nineties without being overtly copyist.
9. Savages – Silence Yourself
A gritty post-punk sound from this all-female act, Savages strip down the post-punk sound to its core elements and them use these to drive a sound which fits in well with their name. Feminist in a socio-political sense, this is the closest any band has come this year to making an effective statement of beliefs which their precursors in the eighties would have taken as a matter of course.
10. Foals – Holy Fire
Despite my earlier doubts about this album, I have to admit that it improves with repeated listens. This album deserves its place in this list as it demonstrates a band which has achieved a place in the world and is intent on holding onto it. They have perfected their sound and reached a state of personal musical nirvana in their approach to music.