Two months into the year, and it’s already shaping up as another jam-packed one for new music.
February, in particular, was a gold rush for new releases, and as the nights pull out and it’s becoming just that little bit easier to climb out of bed and go about our day, looking at the release schedule over the next couple of months, and that gold rush is set to continue into the warmer months.
Truth be told, it’s the new releases that evade such schedules that get us excited the most. Those hidden gems, which provide the beauty that makes an operation like Sun 13 completely worthwhile.
While you can appreciate artists that have enjoyed more exposure throughout their time, equally it’s the artists that bubble underneath the surface; the likes of Rabbit Hash and Michael Plater who this year have produced records that have wowed. With their wonderful releases, not only do they compliment the Piles and BIG|BRAVEs of this world: they provide vital chapters to the overall story which we are trying to tell within these pages.
And there’s more of that, of course. In addition to the above mentioned artists that we have covered so far in 2023, alongside several overlooked releases of 2022, below is what we have found hard to shift off the decks. We hope you find a similar problem.
Young Fathers: Heavy Heavy
Five years is a long time if you ask Young Fathers fans. In truth, despite the chaos of the last three years, 2018’s Cocoa Sugar feels like it was only released yesterday. That’s the kind of effect Young Fathers’ music has, and with Heavy Heavy, that narcotic effect completely takes hold.
Built more on the framework of pop, Young Fathers find ridiculously innovative ways to present their cacophony of noise and rhythms in what is their defining moment caught between the studio walls. The anger, the tenderness, the euphoria. Yes, Heavy Heavy has it all in what is an epic blast of emotion splayed across the creative canvass.
If we didn’t know it already, then we do now. Young Fathers are the finest act to come out of Glasgow in years. True originals, and if they never make a record as good as this, then so be it: Heavy Heavy is all we need. If the gatekeepers ever dared to look beyond the M25 and award it to a non-London-based artist (provided their entry fee is paid), then Young Fathers are a shoo-in for this year’s Mercury Music Prize.
Big Break: Angel’s Piss
Wrong Speed Records
“Working day’s a crock of shit” shouts Big Break’s Joseph Armstrong. It’s one of the many amusing vignettes that comprise of the Sheffield band’s debut LP, Angel’s Piss.
This is like a tour through the years of punk. The raw proto echo of Television and the gnarly swells of Fugazi, to the wild crackle of The Chats and Oh Sees (or whatever the fuck they are called these days), this an uncompromising, non-showy representation of punk circa-2023.
Just look at the album’s title. It’s not going to be anything other than awesome, is it? So too the artwork, and alongside these songs, the whole package is simply something that you don’t want to let slide.
Billy Nomates: Cacti
With her self-titled debut LP, Tor Maries – better known to us as Billy Nomates – gave us a little bit of hope through the mire of lockdown, with her unabashed post-punk vignettes we once associated with Sleaford Mods. (Incidentally the two have since collaborated.)
The Bristol-based artists returns with Cacti. A seamless progression where Billy Nomates takes post-punk to the fringes of the dance floor. We never get there, of course, as Maries is too busy spitting invective across the mezzanine (“Don’t you act like I ain’t the fucking man” – Spite) and dabbling in self-sabotage (“Things are going well and so I better put a stop to it – Saboteur Forcefield).
To a degree, for what it is, Cacti has flown under the radar so far. But with the summer soon approaching, there’s a possibility that Billy Nomates could provide the soundtrack to it.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre: The Future Is Your Past
Following last year’s Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees, The Brian Jonestown Massacre make it a quick turnaround with The Future Is Your Past.
Over the past five years, it’s been difficult to gauge BJM records. In their own ways, they’ve all been good and what we’ve come to expect from a band who rarely missteps. But with The Future Is Your Past, it really does feel like a important leap over their recent works, with some of the band’s finest songs in years.
With a mountainous discography that only the real hardcore fans will put under the microscope and judge inch by inch, for those who roll their eyes at the news of another Brian Jonestown Massacre record: don’t sleep on The Future Is Your Past. Perhaps their best record since 2012’s Aufheben, and one to stick it at the top of the queue.
The Bad Ends: The Power and the Glory
New West Records
What happens when Athens guitar-shop owner, Dave Domizi, Bill Berry (R.E.M), Mike Mantione (Five Eight), Christian Lopez (Curley Maple), Geoff Melkonian (Josh Joplin Group) all get in a room and thrash out some tunes? The Bad Ends; or more specifically, their debut LP, The Power and the Glory.
There’s talk of Jason Isbell, Wilco and Elliott Smith, however this is an unadulterated homage to Crazy Horse, and if we ever imagined them to team up with the late David Berman and Alex Chilton, well… it may have sounded something like this.
As far straight-up rock records in 2023 go, you’re probably not going to come across a better one than The Power and the Glory. Clocking in at 36 minutes, the only problem here is that there isn’t another 36 minutes to follow.
The Church: The Hypnogogue
The Brian Jonestown Massacre probably wouldn’t exist without The Church. Within two weeks of the former’s aforementioned release, the Australian neo-psych veterans return with their much anticipated eighteen record, The Hypnogogue.
And it’s worth the way. Once again, Steve Kilbey goes beyond creating something that goes beyond the standard fare of 10 tracks/40 minutes. After all, it’s not 13 tracks at over an hour, is it really a Church record?
Kilbey has always been about creating that listener experience and demanding your undivided attention. It’s never hard of course, simply because The Church are immune from making bad records. Their output since the turn of the century has been one of the finest across the sphere of guitar-based music, and The Hypnogogue is yet another of those moments.
Katie Gerardine O’Neill Interview: “I’ve finally tied together a lot of my processes with this album”
CIVIC: Taken By Force
If ever there was a band to shake the frost, it’s CIVIC. Following the 2018 raw assault of New Vietnam and 2021’s Future Forecast, somehow the Melbourne collective better both with Taken By Force.
An album that snivels, snarls and bristles with contempt, this is essentially the sound of nihilism. Sonically, the sinewy rhythms are reminiscent of the greatest Australian band that ever walked this earth (Radio Birdman). Did we also mention the boulder rumbling rhythm sections inspired by Mission of Burma? Yes, Taken By Force is the best version of proto-punk you’re going to hear all year.
CIVIC create the kind of maelstrom that vaporises foul moods, and tailor-made for dingy pubs and loud volumes, Taken By Force is the soundtrack to usher in the apocalypse.
Cold Comfort: All Power, No Sour
Cold Comfort is the project of Northwich, Cheshire-based Ben Forrester. Following three EPs and various shows alongside underground luminaries, Big Lad, Deliluh et al, the noise-rock purveyor unleashes his debut LP, All Power, No Sour.
With paranoid slabs of noise and Wire-inspired post-punk (particularly on A Very Sudden Surge and All Change), Forrester picks the shards out of the window panes from the broad-church of noise-rock.
Fans of London-based fellow miscreant, cowman will take great delight in All Power, No Sour. A howling blast into the abyss. Just ponder over the project’s moniker and the album title: from there, just take the ride and don’t worry about the consequences.
En Attendant Ana: Principia
Trouble In Mind
On their third album, Trouble In Mind mainstays, En Attendant Ana, offer their finest collection of songs with Principia.
With equal doses of Camera Obscura homage and Stereolab reverence, the Parisian collective give us a fresh new outlook with jagged pop puzzles that hit like the morning sun. Black Morning is the throwback pop number of the year, while Wonder sees En Attendant Ana bringing us back to the now. There’s no need to look for a better pop tune in 2023, for it is right here.
Principia is a lovely coalescing of sweetness and brawn. En Attendant Ana have put their best foot forward in what is an album that will be greeted very warmly indeed.
Eugene Dubon: Finish Line
Cruel Nature Records
Since the turn of the year, Seattle ex-pat Eugene Dubon’s debut LP, Finish Line, has been the circuit breaker to turn shit days into half-decent ones.
With skinny beats and dark wave riffs, Finish Line is an uncompromising affair that sees Dubon wrestling with the ghosts of Slint, with songs that play out like scene from of B-grade horror film.
Take the on-two combo of Cruising and State. Tracks that are like listening to Big Black at quarter speed. And that’s the thing about Finish Line. It intersects the ideas of post-hardcore and post-punk with something immediate, dark, and surprisingly catchy. Make no mistake, Finish Line is a compelling encounter, and here’s hoping it’s the first of many from Dubon.
Fucked Up: One Day
Following 2018’s punk rock opera, Dose Your Dreams, Fucked Up still find ways to meld aggression and anthemic with their latest offering, One Day.
All told, the Canadian veterans haven’t sounded so direct since their game-changing 2008 record, The Chemistry of Common Life. They’ve always been capable of course, but this isn’t your average punk bank, forever influenced by experimentation and ideas that cross the threshold into other sound worlds.
One Day is back to basics, and it’s no bad thing. Particularly when a band is so accomplished at it, and once again Fucked Up prove this with a set of songs that would rival anything within their thrilling body of work.
Hieronymus Harry: The River of Doom
In the year that was 2022, this was one that begrudgingly slipped through the cracks. It shouldn’t have, given that the excellent Mr. Joy are no strangers around these parts, and Hieronymus Harry is a vital part of their wild, psychedelic patchwork.
On The River of Doom, the multi-instrumentalist ups the weirdness, with a series of ditties that put a sinister spin on folk. Think haunted versions of Nick Drake numbers – the kind to scare the kids instead of putting them to sleep. It’s great!
Every so often with all the acoustic wielding would-be troubadours floating around, folk music needs a kick up the arse, and the likes of Hieronymus Harry’s The River of Doom is exactly the kind of album to do it.
Ryan James Mawbey: four walls
Waxing Crescent Records
Burton-on-Trent producer, Ryan James Mawbey, is one of the many underground voices across the U.K.’s experimental landscape that shifts the needle with every release.
On his Waxing Crescent debut, four walls, Mawbey takes the remnants of his early works (Archival Recordings and Slow Wave of Long Comfort), and concocts a slow churning deep listening tour-de-force. At times, it’s almost like an experimental rock band deconstructing their sound after spending a year or so listening to La Monte Young recordings.
It might not make sense at first, but the more time spent in its company, you’ll soon realise that four walls is an elusive beast. It’s yet another vital cog in the Waxing Crescent machine, and as for Mawbey himself, well, who knows where he’ll take us next?
H.C. McEntire: Every Acre
North Carolina artist, H.C. McEntire, has always promised the goods, but – to these ears at least – has come up short more often than not. Sometimes it just works that way with a particular artist and listener.
However, on her latest offering, Every Acre, those thoughts abate quite considerably. On this record, everything fits like a glove. McEntire’s voice drifts through a series of beautiful, sparse arrangements with the kind of ease all good songwriters possess. It’s effortless from start to finish.
If you’re after a breezy country record to fill in the gaps of a lazy Sunday morning, then Every Acre is very much the answer. This is a record that will not only be hard to shift from the turntable platter, it’s also McEntire’s finest offering yet.
Pale Sketcher: Golden Skin
Justin Broadrick’s releases should never go under the radar, but his latest Pale Sketcher offering did just that (our bad).
It’s been a while since we’ve heard Pale Sketcher in album mode, but with Golden Skin it’s worth the wait. Eight cuts that contain the kind of techno/ rave euphoria of his defining 2011 EP, Seventh Heaven, Golden Skin is for the jubilant times as much as it is for those moments when you’re feeling on the downer.
Yet another avenue Broadrick pursues in a career that has thrived on left-field turns, Pale Sketcher is one of the Godflesh leader’s most underrated projects. As they say, no one can survive on riffs alone, and Golden Skin is a perfect example of that.
Rozi Plain: Prize
One of the great things about Rozi Plain’s music is that it’s so hard to define. Forever chasing our tales, the Bristol artist has always crossed thresholds, blending quirky soundscapes with lo-fi pop and electro minimalism.
And with Prize, whilst perhaps more streamlined in sound, Plain produces the kind of record that all aspiring bedroom pop artists could only dream to make. It’s not bedroom pop, though. Plain’s endeavours are too subtle and intricate for the immediacy of a genre that’s anything but.
Meandering, motorik, majestic. All things that aren’t usually associated, but in Rozi Plain’s case they are. While Prize will no doubt inspire many would-be artists, there’s only one Rozi Plain, and that’s what makes her so compelling. And Prize is the latest proof.
Screaming Females: Desire Pathway
Don Giovanni Records
Over the past two decades, New Jersey’s Screaming Females have covered every blade of grass across the terrains of guitar music. Punk, grunge, post-punk, alt-rock, you name it, Screaming Females have provided the kind of sound waves that hit in all the right places.
It continues on their latest record, Desire Pathway – their first in five years. This is freewheeling Screaming Females, doing their thing with an album that is fit for open roads with the windows down and the volume up.
For those who are slave to the riff, Desire Pathway fills in a lot of gaps. That’s exactly why it’s yet another record that is necessary for your collection.
Sweet Williams: Sweet Williams
Wrong Speed Records
Since the late ’00s, Thomas House has been one of key components in the new weird Britain movement. A purveyor in unearthing underground gems, most recently his appearance on Haress’ Ghosts was one of the shining points of 2022.
He returns with the latest Sweet Williams instalment, which follows 2021’s What’s Wrong With You. Sweet Williams is slowcore sliced out of the belly of solitude. Or an abandoned outhouse, as guitars creak and whine in something that sits between Low and Alan Sparhawk’s Retribution Gospel Choir project.
Sweet Williams is a wonderful addition, not only to the Sweet Williams canon, but to the Wrong Speed stable. A label that simply doesn’t deal in filler.
Tofujuice: Who Am I When I’ve Lost My Place in the World?
East Cape Calling
Under the Tofujuice moniker, New Zealand artist, Winter Kneale (Marrowspawn, Nameless Grave) has created three gorgeous long-form compositions on their debut LP, Who Am I When I’ve Lost My Place in the World?
In Kneale’s own words, this was created from “the unique pain and bliss of the death and rebirth of the self.” You can feel the emotional depth from these pieces, too, with the kind of hymnal quality that provides a womb-like warmth.
There were several records that teetered on the brink of making our Top 50 Albums of 2022, and Who Am I When I’ve Lost My Place in the World? was certainly in the mix, in what is perhaps one of the most crucially overlooked ambient records of last year.
Middleman Interview: “An album is definitely the next goal we’re working towards”
The Tubs: The Tubs
Trouble In Mind
Comprising of members from the now defunct Joanna Gruesome, The Tubs make astute, no-nonsense indie rock. With regularly does of jangle thrown in, on their debut LP, Dead Meat, The Tubs make music the equivalent of a sugar rush.
With themes that we can all relate to at one point or another, The Tubs cleverly unveil subjects that blur the generational lines. The young indie crowd will instantly catch a spark off these songs; so too the older heads, who will equally appreciate these tales, which provide an odd form of hazy nostalgia.
If Lou Barlow and Dry Cleaning ever shacked up in a holiday home over the summer in Europe, well, it might just sound like something The Tubs have created with Dead Meat.
Yo La Tengo: This Stupid World
Yo La Tengo have always been like the super glue that sticks you back together. Whether it was when you were a rebellious teen, a confused young adult or damaged by life in later years, Yo La Tengo have bypassed generational gaps in providing that comfort blanket during the dark times; few bands have that ability, but Yo La Tengo have a habit of speaking directly to the fragile, and their latest LP, This Stupid World, will have a similar effect on some.
While some have suggested This Stupid World is their nosiest record in years, it’s not strictly true. It’s a little more dense than 2018’s There’s A Riot Going On, but still has those staple tender moments that find their way straight to your heart.
Lists, favourites and the like just fly out the window where YLT’s discography is concerned. Just sit back and enjoy them while they are still around. Particularly This Stupid World. Yet another hit.
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