With online publications such as this, it’s all about the moving parts. To some extent it’s about constantly putting out the fires that creep towards the house of cards.
Checking emails, reviews, lining up interviews, real life jobs, self care. Those of you who have families, well… a massive kudos to you – I’m not sure how you do it.
This is not us moaning, by the way. As Milan Kundera once said, “the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air… his movements as free as they are insignificant.“
Very true indeed.
The point is, with all of the above factors, it’s difficult to keep up with new music. As regular readers will know, we try our best, but as each Friday rolls around and with a swathe of new releases, we barely get time to hold an ear to everything let alone give these sounds a chance to swim around in our minds to muster up a review about them.
So… the moving parts. Ruminations. Ideas. We thought we would try and plug that ever-widening gap with 13 artists and albums whom we haven’t covered on Sun 13 since the turn of the year.
These aren’t lengthy indulgences – more just a verbalisation of what has been on the decks and, if you will, a stream of conscious take.
We’ll be back here in three months with more goodness, that’s for sure.
In the meantime, like always, we hope you discover something new within the below list.
The Weather Station: Ignorance
Whilst succeeding in the live arena with full backing band in tow, Tamara Lindemann takes this idea into the studio and the results are immense, culminating in what is her finest record yet as The Weather Station.
Inspired by climate change, Ignorance is filled with water-tight rhythms and sparkling production in what is one of the most forward-thinking folk-rock albums not only this year, but for the past decade, as well.
With the song Atlantic, I’d wager that one won’t find a better rhythm section performance in 2021. Ignorance is one of those records, filled with prime moments like this.
Cloud Nothings: The Shadow I Remember
Following their Bandcamp exclusive, The Black Hole Understands, which was released in lockdown last year, Dylan Baldi and the Cloud Nothings return with The Shadow I Remember.
Reconvening with Steve Albini at the famous Electrical Audio studio, The Shadow I Remember feels more like a ‘songwriters’ record as opposed the snarling mess of Cloud Nothings‘ most underrated album, Last Building Burning and the landmark Attack on Memory (the latter also recorded with Albini).
That’s not to say that The Shadow I Remember is a disappointment. Cloud Nothings have always flitted between the quiet/loud and melodic/ aggressive dynamics and here, Baldi‘s songwriting shapes up as some of the best work he has produced yet.
Venus Ex Machina: Lux
The term conceptronica is the kind of term that makes us recoil here at Sun 13. I mean, if an artist deals in dishing out bangers then perhaps it’s just best to say so, rather than use these new world buzz terms such as ‘conceptronica’ or ‘multidisciplinary artist’.
Maybe we’re being too cynical here. In any case, one thing is for certain when holding an ear to Venus Ex Machina‘s debut album, Lux. It’s jam-packed with glorious bangers.
If you’re looking for a soundtrack to a Friday night on the couch with a William Gibson novel then Lux might just be your poison, as Venus Ex Machina immerses herself in post-apocalyptic decay with hard-nosed industrial beats and laser beam drones. It’s the first great electronic release of 2021.
The Hold Steady: Open Door Policy
Positive Jams/Thirsty Tigers
Everyone’s favourite bar rock band, The Hold Steady, return strongly with their best album since 2008’s Stay Positive in Open Door Policy.
Band leader, Craig Finn, has been on a stellar run of form with his last three solo albums and coupled with the return of The Hold Steady‘s not-so-secret weapon, Franz Nicolay, the band reveal some of their darkest, most alluring stories yet.
Produced by Josh Kaufman (Muzz, Cassandra Jenkins), Open Door Policy may take a few listens, but once you’re there these songs sink into the bones. It’s a welcomed return to form and it’s great having The Hold Steady back at the top of their game.
Yasmin Williams: Urban Driftwood
Woodbridge, Virginia’s Yasmin Williams returns with her second album, Urban Driftwood, and basically turns the idea of acoustic guitar inside out.
Inspired by hip-hop, on Urban Driftwood, Williams employs the kora and djembe – West African instrumentation that reveals new dimensions to her unique brand of acoustic finger-picking. The end result is something that we would associate in the world of William Tyler and Chuck Johnson.
It’s a humble journey, full of beautiful abstracts and woodsy finesse. If you’re looking for a companion on a morning walk through the park, then Urban Driftwood is a certain go-to.
The Notwist: Vertigo Days
In January, The Notwist returned with their ninth album, Vertigo Days.
The German collective play between the lines of so many genres to the point where there really isn’t any other band on earth like them, dispensing a twisted brand influenced by indie-pop, kraut-rock and electronica.
It’s not twee and it’s not rock. On Vertigo Days, The Notwist employ something like a cinematic version of the rural psychedelia Hood became so prolific at producing. Here, The Notwist freshen things up in one of the most underrated releases in 2021, thus far.
Indigo Sparke: Echo
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Indigo Sparke creates a gorgeous world with her debut album, Echo.
Co-produced by Big Thief‘s Adrianne Lenker, Sparke‘s gentle atmospheric folk splendour is one of the finest debuts released so far this year and it will take something quite astonishing to better it.
Echoes is full of tender tales accompanied by Sparke‘s gentle, feathery brushes across the acoustic guitar. Fans waiting for a Julie Byrne record, look no further. You may have just found your remedy.
Mogwai: As the Love Continues
With Mogwai’s As the Love Continues taking out the number one album spot two weeks after its release, whether you actually care about such things or not, the Scottish post-rock behemoth’s status in the ‘charts’ was a good win for indie music regardless.
As for the album itself, well… it’s a belter indeed, as Scotland’s pride once again shapeshift with the times, strengthening their stature as one of the greatest post-rock bands on the planet.
Where does As the Love Continues sit within their much coveted discography? To us at this point, it feels like their finest release since Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will.
Jane Weaver: Flock
There’s always something different in the air around these parts when Jane Weaver releases new music and with her latest album, Flock, this is pop music that wrestles against the fatigue of the current lockdown
Mixing quirky pop with cosmic experimental kraut rock bliss, it may just be Weaver‘s most accessible album yet, not to mention one of her finest. At the very least it continues the brilliant run of form on the back of The Silver Globe and Modern Kosmology.
With Stereolab unleashing their latest splendid odds-and-ends compilation from the vaults, Jane Weaver’s Flock subconsciously acts as a strong foil to it.
Emeka Ogboth: Beyond the Yellow Haze
Lagos’ Emeke Obgoh moved to Berlin midway through last decade and since has been working up to this – his debut record, Beyond the Yellow Haze.
The electronic producer has fused together field recordings captured in the Nigerian city, not limited to cars horns, street chatter and heavy raindrops, with luscious ambient soundscapes and pulsating beats influenced by the world of tech-house.
With Beyond the Yellow Haze, Obgoth instils civic vitality with technical proficiency and by doing this has executed his ideas perfectly. This will probably be one of the most progressive electronic albums released in 2021.
Trouble In Mind
In many ways, bands like Nightshift are a writer’s worst nightmare. The kind of band that produces something that takes an age to pin down. If at all…
On their debut album, Zöe, the Glasgow collective create something that slips the net of many scenes, genres and pigeon-holes.
It’s a concoction of everything. Psychedelia, indie-pop, pure indie-rock, and West African rhythms. Zöe is an incongruous affair sown together by a collective of musicians all bringing something different to the table. Essentially the way music should be.
Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark
Arab Strap are back! Whilst Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat have spent the best part of the 15 years flitting in and out of solo projects and collaborations, these endeavours have barely held a candle to their alliance as Arab Strap and on As Days Get Dark, this presents even more evidence of that.
Something like Another Clockwork Day has never fitted into the remit of the pair’s solo practices. This track alone makes this reformation worth it.
As Days Get Dark may not be their best record, despite the critics’ flitting their eyes towards the pair claiming such things. Make no mistake, though, it’s great to have them back.
Plankton Wat: Future Times
Eternal Tapestries‘ Dewey Mahoo has been making music under the Plankton Wat moniker for over the past decade and with Future Times, his latest oeuvre, he may have produced his finest yet.
Underpinned by a lo-fi aesthetic, Future Times brims with sunny psychedelia reminiscent of West Coast escapism. Mahood‘s techniques of hazy reverb and ambience also give the relevant nod to kraut rock but with the space in which Future Times operates, there is also a fresh soundtrack quality to it.
With summer on its way, this is one to lay in an empty field to and watch the clouds drift by.