Sunday, January 07, 2018

Best Albums of 2017 : 10-1

10. Kelly Lee Owens - s/t

Electronic albums these days act as a form of escapism for me, a capsule world into which I can disappear via a pair of headphones for a bit of quiet contemplation. It took me a couple of listens before I got my head round the debut from London's Kelly Lee Owens before but since then I've been coming back to this one on a regular basis for another dose of medicinal Techno minimalism. Her neat Biosphere/Cocteau Twins hybrid gives ample breathing room for the carefully selected electronic elements to shine through like bubbles rising from the ocean floor. The girl's got game.

9. Corridor - Supermercado

Another one straight outta leftfield, Corridor are a Montreal-based four piece playing angular indie artwave somewhere in the region of British Sea Power filtered through French goth pop icons Indochine. There's a litany of reverb-laced hooks here that wouldn't have sounded out of place in the soft-focus indie scene of ten years back - think Two Door Cinema Club or late period Phoenix - but as with most Quebecois releases this seems to exist in its own parallel reality where such passing trends barely register. If so then it's fertile creative turf and 'Supermercado' is the sound of a scene still thriving.

8. Slowdive - s/t

The new Ride and Mary Chain records were enjoyable nostalgia trips for shoegaze fanatics but Slowdive's comeback record takes its cues from the genre's glory days whilst charting a course firmly focussed on the ground yet to cover. The clarity of thought afforded by advancing age has seen them tighten their grip and really play to their strengths to lay down their most engaging material yet. This new record delivers on the promise of a series of rapturously received live dates that saw them beef up their old stuff to stunning effect and might just be the dawn of a new golden age.

7. Kedr Livanskiy - Ariadna

The emergence of indie platforms like Bandcamp and Emusic has allowed punters like myself to fish freely over recent years and unearth some real gems from far afield. One of the year's surprise discoveries was this intriguing electro fairytale from Moscow's Kedr Livanskiy which uses basic components to conjure up a haunting soundtrack for the wee small hours. Built upon DIY coldwave elements and lyrics sung entirely in Russian, 'Ariadna' lands somewhere between Ladytron and Burzum - it's a frosty listen but there's a warm heart beating in there nonetheless. Spellbinding stuff.

6. Primitive Man - Caustic

Jaysus this is heavy. Denver's aptly-named Primitive Man sound like they just crawled out of the primordial ooze, unable to communicate beyond guttural snarls and volleys of frenzied brutality. This is beyond 'Heavy Metal', there's sounds on here I can scarcely believe were of human creation - the vocals in particular sound like an irate Balrog who's just woken up to find out some kids from the estate have keyed his car. 'Caustic' may be relentlessly punishing but the band are savvy enough to vary the pace and map out a whole new world of pain to explore. Hideous but essential.

5. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

This one came out in January so I've had ample opportunity to wear it out but 'Nothing Feels Natural' has enough on it to withstand repeated visits. The DC foursome draw on their hometown's angst political punk history as a starting point but  their forays into unchartered territory are their strongest suit, yowling their way through piano-led bar rock, L.A. new wave and even touches of soul. Think X with another 35 years of music to draw on and you're somewhere close. And if that isn't enough check out their 'Early Recordings' comp from April for a rougher, raspier take on the formula.

4. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun

Having begun the decade as a gloomy indie curiosity Chelsea Wolfe has gone on to conquer Goth, Indie and Metal to equal effect and emerge as the creative prophet for our times. Where others might have seen their vision diluted by such a trajectory hers has only grown stronger and 'Hiss Spun' doubles down on the punishing hardcore influences courtesy of Kurt Ballou's production. Her trademark desolate croon is still there but this time round it's backed by crushing low end and volatile distortion to staggering effect. Her best one yet, and as a long term fan that's saying something.

3. Moon Duo - Occult Architecture Vol 1/2

You remember fun don't you? That thing we used to have in music before it felt like the sky was going to fall on our heads? Well good news - it's back! Moon Duo are a pair of Portland Space Cadets whose reaction to the encroaching apocalypse has been to put the finishing touches to that spaceship they've been building in the yard and then stay up all night laying down not one but two fantastic albums of acid-fried space rock to soundtrack the journey to another dimension. They factor in Hawkwind, Spiritualized and a robust dose of Monster Magnet's bonged-out riff worship to fill out the corners of both sets ensuring that even the lengthier tracks don't get bogged down in navel-gazing noodling. The psych rock mothership will be sailing on confidently into 2018 with these two at the helm as its King and Queen.

2. Couch Slut - Contempt

Brooklyn's Couch Slut would've been a worthy winner any other year with this bilious torrent of noise but they just lost out in the end, which is probably fitting for a band that sound like they hate waking up every morning. 'Contempt' mixes Riot Grrl, Noise Rock and an absolute avalanche of depraved hardcore shitblast topped off by vocalist Megan Osztrosits who sounds like she's one step away from spontaneous combustion. There's equal parts Mary Chain and Napalm Death here laced with random blasts of sax, sleigh bells and who knows what else. Unhinged but utterly essential.

1. Myrkur - Mareridt

I was not expecting this. Amalie Bruun's debut two years back was an intriguing tangent into Black Metal that grew on me over the intervening period but even that pales in comparison with the colossal menace of the follow-up. 'Mareridt' (or 'nightmare' in Danish) is an exploration of sleep paralysis and night terrors that brings every eerie detail to light with chilling precision. The folk elements of her debut are more central here but she's widened her palette to factor in drone, cold wave and punishing post hardcore. Jarboe, Nick Cave, Kate Bush, Neurosis, Mazzy Star, even fellow Dane King Diamond - they're all here buried in the backyard but this is her own dark masterpiece. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Best Albums of 2017 : 20-11

20. Flat Worms - s/t

US indie rock seems to be flourishing underground these days and Flat Worms are another welcome addition to the party. Energy levels are high throughout this cracking debut which is rooted somewhere between Scottish power pop and North-American garage grot - check out PAWS' majestic 'Cokefloat' album from 2012 for a similar example. The hooks hit the ceiling on every track and you can picture the band banging out these tunes with big smiles on their faces. There might not be any cash in making music like this any more but you'll be making people very happy if you're this good at it.

19. Alestorm - No Grave But The Sea

It seems to have been universally acknowledged that the only appropriate soundtrack 2017 is angst-ridden introversion. In which case Alestorm's preposterous pirate metal is about as far out of synch with the times as you can get, and all the better off for it in my view. 'No Grave But The Sea' is another giddy platter of keytar-led party tunes bolstered by huge choruses, massive riffs and a refreshingly silly sense of humour. There's shades of The Darkness here but these guys know their metal well enough to avoid descending into self parody. If you're anything like me this will make your year.

18. Clap Clap - A Thousand Skies

Cristiano Crisci aka Clap Clap is based in Italy but his musical inspiration is straight out of Afrika-ka-kaa. 'A Thousand Skies' eschews straightforward sampling and instead incorporates the colour and spirit of its source material into a spicy blend of global influences that Gilles Peterson would go wild for. There's a skill in filtering these ingredients in to sit side by side with your own influences and Crisci's spot on with his execution here - I hate to talk about 'fusion' but you know what I mean. This is intriguing, complex and above all hugely danceable. Even Paul Simon likes it!

17. Adieu Gary Cooper - Outsiders

Switzerland's Adieu Gary Cooper sound like they'd be perfectly at home on French mainstream radio but there's a knack for writing crafty pop hooks and an embrace of melody that should see them win fans in a much wider sphere. Bands singing in French can often view their choice of language as a barrier to overseas success but these guys aren't afraid to let their mother tongue define their sound and lead them through ten monstrous potential singles that'll stay in your head all day regardless of whether you understand the lyrics. 'Outsider's delivers maximum enjoyment for minimum effort.

16. Fjaak - s/t

Fancy a Fjaak? You will when you hear this! These boys are a trio of Berlin-bred studio boffins who over five years of experimental noodling have finally settled on a signature sound that owes as much to their hometown's cold Techno clunk and Eastern-bloc analogue stylings as it does to the slow building festival epics of the Chemical Brothers and Underworld. They travel between 3am anaesthetic bleep ('Snow') to full on capture and release bangers ('Fast Food', 'Against The Clock') with the grace of seasoned craftsmen so for a debut release this is a startlingly accomplished package.

15. Akercocke - Renaissance In Extremis

Akercocke breathed new life into the British Death Metal scene at the turn of the millennium with a string of elegantly ferocious albums before calling it quits ten years ago. The thrills served up by their newer projects always threatened to lead them back to another collective trip to the underworld and this stonking comeback completes the circle. Their Satanic bombast remains as unsettling as ever but the boys' musical chops have gotten even slicker and the new stuff flows like late period Chuck Shuldiner or Megadeth at their most labyrinthine. They still have the devil in their fingers.

14. Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai

The interface of Africa's vast musical landscape with Western stylings is often reduced to self-consciously eclectic hybrids but you'll need no background knowledge to get into this one. Ibibio Sound Machine have one foot in London and the other in Nigeria and play to the strengths of both sides with the smooth UK studio production allowing the West African funk influences and buoyant delivery to hit home from the first note. There's shades of Sly Stone, 80's funk and even 'Thriller' era MJ in here and vocalist Eno Williams is surely one break away from global superstardom. Groovy stuff.

13. Bicep - s/t

Based purely on the title of the band/album I was expecting a deafening barrage of militaristic steroid Techno here and whilst the end product is lean and drilled to perfection the execution is more graceful bob and weave than full frontal assault. Bicep are two barry blokes from Belfast with expansive musical imaginations and a refreshingly short attention span - they cover a lot of ground here whilst maintaining a tight turning circle as they switch lanes between jarring breakbeat, sub-bass shudder and mid-90s Glastotechno. Dextrous, emphatic and fresh as it comes.

12. Night Jewel - Real High

Last year's 'Liquid Cool' struck a perfect balance between late 80s R'n'B and modern day dream pop so when LA's Ramona Gonzalez dropped the follow up just over a year later I was bracing myself for mild disappointment. Thankfully she's kept her lens clean and if anything the cuts here are sweeter and smoother this time round. 'Real High' rubs up even closer to the loved-up glow of classic Strictly Rhythm soul - my missus thinks it sounds like Toni Braxton and she's not far wrong. If 'Liquid Cool' was your soundtrack to the wee small hours then cue this one up for the long glorious lie-in afterwards.

11. Godflesh - Post Self

I follow Justin Broadrick's musical output closely not just for musical reasons but for an insight into how to approach life. His spectrum for expression takes in everything from violent nihilism to serene introspection with disarming precision and each record is the soundtrack to a new era. His decision to reanimate the Godflesh project a couple of years back tallies neatly with technology's resurgent role as source of modern day anxiety and 'Post Self' gives way to greater use of electronics in its exploration of humanity's friction with the digital world. His input remains as vital as ever.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Best Albums of 2017 : 30-21

30. Xosar - Xymeria

I call it the rave trigger, the part of my brain tickled by sounds that whisk me back to 1992 and a parallel digital underworld mapped out by Megadrive games and Kaos Theory compilation tapes. Nostalgia for how it felt. Xosar is the latest wizkid to map out that territory in new and wonderful ways, here conjuring up an entire alternative dimension based around a dystopian future set in 2051 comparable to the Flashback saga and complete with its own period soundtrack. 'Xymeria' is the stuff of childhood dreams, a voyage through every imagination stimulant of my formative years. Top notch.

29. Nightwatchers - Who's To Blame?

Pink city Punk from Toulouse, Nightwatchers blend frantic early 80s US Hardcore (Husker Du, Mission of Burma) with the more hummable NYC branch of punk rock (Ramones, Misfits) all revved up and spat out over six blistering tracks. There's a pretty dynamic punk scene taking shape across Southern France right now - I'd have included Marseille's Tommy and the Cougars in this list if they'd released anything in 2017 - and this is another welcome addition to the club.

28. The Soap Opera - Ready To Hatch

There's something in the water over in Rennes that seems to bring out the creative genius in the locals. Whatever it is there's no shortage of talent and more importantly a massive range of different styles to enjoy ranging from the uncompromisingly savage to the improbably leisurely. The Soap Opera fall toward the latter end of the spectrum, their melodic psych edging toward the weird and wonderful class of 2003 (Fiery Furnaces, My Morning Jacket, British Sea Power). They're more interested in expanding their minds than playing to the gallery and it suits them just fine. 

27. Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters - When Are You Going To Give Up On Me So I Can Give Up On Myself?

The more I learn about the DIY Aussie scene the more I like it, the raucous local sense of humour coupled with the road-tested haggardness of putting in the time and distance to get noticed yielding some real gems. JRB gives it to you rough, honest and full of piss and vinegar in the same vein as NYC's The Men - this is like listening to indie bootcamp, voice and instruments being ruthlessly drilled to within an inch of their lives before they are sent into battle. If you find yourself searching for the soul of today's indie guitar music, here it is. 

26. Solstafir - Berdreyminn

If there's one thing you can't fake in metal it's location, that special something in the soil that gives the music a unique twist and hooks in listeners from elsewhere in the world. Iceland's Solstafir come off like their prog-leaning Scandinavian cousins Opeth/Enslaved mired in geographical isolation - these guys sound like they've spent a nine-month winter stranded in a log cabin listening to Rush LPs and drawing straws on which member they eat first when the food runs out. This is a band not so much strung out as resigned to its fate, the serene acceptance of encroaching oblivion. 

25. Lali Puna - Two Windows

Puna's been doing the rounds for two decades now but I confess she only showed up on my radar this year and revealed how much I'd missed. 'Two Windows' is her first LP in seven years and sounds like the work of a steady hand with enough time to get every detail just right. Think chillwave era indie (Suuns, School of Seven Bells) with extra breathing room, the less is more approach winning again. There's a mesmeric cover of Kings of Leon's 'The Bucket' plus some of the year's best singles for my money although they're probably too understated to get noticed. Their loss, our gain. 

24. Bootchy Temple - Childish Bazar

Mellow, laidback, catchy - that's the Bootchy philosophy and I'm not about to argue with it. Much like the Soap Opera LP above, 'Childish Bazar' is the work of musical minds left to wile away the hours in their own private universe soaking up the sunshine and raiding their parent's vinyl collection. This is a streamlined dose of revivalist flower power, a bit like the slower tracks from the early Vines albums (minus the bipolar stage antics). They kick it up in places such as the anthemic 'Space Bubble' but overall it's in cruise control where they shine the brightest. This is 2017's soundtrack to sleeping late.

23. Blondes - Warmth

If I was scoring these albums simply on how often I played them in 2017 then this one would be much higher. It's been four years since Blondes' previous record 'Swisher' gently blew my mind and the aptly-titled 'Warmth' further distills the vibe of its predecessor to gorgeous effect. This sounds like falling backwards through clouds of electronic light, movement slowed down so that each texture can pored over whilst the momentum guides you onwards. I could listen to this a thousand times and still find new things about it to love. If you need a record to take the edge off this'll do the trick. 

22. Blanck Mass - World Eater

When Danny Boyle shone a light on Brighton's Fuck Buttons by including them in the 2012 Olympic ceremony it felt like the rock they'd gestated under had been abruptly lifted to send their most mischievous elements scurrying for cover. Fragmenting into separate projects has rolled back on some of that invasive exposure and co-parent John Power is back to his old ways here although he's moved past the contrary sense-battering of their early years and picked up where 2009's acclaimed 'Tarot Sport' left off and 'World Eater' is another series of intriguing orbits at the fringes of the galaxy.

21. Omni - Multi Task

We all lead busy lives these days so indie guitar music has to grab any opportunity to muscle its way in and win our hearts. Omni know how to sing for their supper and 'Multi-Task' is the kind of album ideally suited to a half hour commute or a spot of breakfast, anthemic enough to grab your attention but over before you get bored. Think angular indie a la Parquet Courts with a hint of early 80s US New Wave and nary a second wasted along the way. The eleven tracks here get off the marks quickly to leave a hook and a riff in your head for the rest of the day. Slick, catchy and disarmingly fit for purpose.

Best Albums of 2017 : 40-31

40. Gingerlys - s/t

Another one to cut through 2017's static, Gingerlys tick all the Brooklyn Dream Pop boxes early on here but there's strength in depth to these tunes that give them a nice little edge over the competition. As ever it's all about feeling with this sort of music and they pitch it clear, concise and with just enough fluff to air out the room without choking you on fairy dust. There's shades of Asobi Seksu, early Wild Nothing and all the wide eyed late 80s indie stalwarts in abundance. Take this as a companion piece to the Alvvays album from earlier in this list and you've got the year's perkiest playlist.

39. Perturbator - New Model

Another infectious dose of Parisian Cyberpunk from James Kent to follow last year's impressive 'The Uncanny Valley' LP, this time spreading the retro synthwave menace across six longer segments that shift between moods like you're weaving your way through different rooms in the same UV-flecked underground nightclub. This is more suited to headphones than the dancefloor but there's hidden dimensions waiting there to be discovered if you're willing to dim the lights and clear your schedule.

38. Enslaved - E

Norway's Enslaved have earned the right to experiment over upwards of twenty years in the biz and this new platter sees them spread their wings to fly through a range of stylistic stormclouds without ever losing sight of land. If you need an introduction then rack up 2003's 'Below The Lights' before working your way through the ensuing decade to experience Black Metal's answer to Pink Floyd's 1970s learning curve, although if you're pressed for time then this is as good a starting point as anything they've released.

37. Os Noctambulos - The Devils

Last year's 'Stranger' album saw these Paris scene stalwarts bang out some of the year's most loveable lo-fi garage rock in the Fugs/Sonics vein but they've moved from '66 to '67 with this new EP and gone full on flower power. The move suits them well with singer Nick Wheeldon's vocals given more room and the channels clearer for their sweet psychedelic rush to hit home with added precision. They've always been able to pen a catchy tune but there's an attention to detail here that hints at a learning curve tipping sharply skywards.

36. Gomme - Hiss

Austerity means doing more with less and Paris-based Riot Grrl trio Gomme lock into formation here with simple tools before sinking through multiple sublevels of warped sonic perversion. Babes in Toyland loom large as an influence but they never let venom steer the boat and there are flickers of early Sonic Youth as the record progresses and they start to hit their stride. Line these gals up with fellow Parisiennes Mary Bell and Lyon's equally relentless LITIGE and you've got a promising frontline to lead the French Riot Grrl Rampage into 2018. 

35. Sicarius - Serenade of Slitting Throats

These Californian nutters turned up the nasty on their full length debut to stunning effect here with an infectious blend of the sinister and the savage. The boys know how to build tension before giving you both barrels and Anaal Nathrakh's Mick Kenney steps in on production duties to trim away the flab and blast the whole thing into orbit. Couple that with an intriguing blade fixation and some of the most morbidly fascinating cover art I've seen in ages and you have possibly the year's most potent cocktail of Black Metal menace.

34. Le Mamooth - Brest Baywatch

I was travelling back from Britanny in a car share earlier in 2017 and asked the driver whether Brest merited a visit. He told me that it was a bit of a shithole but if that's the case it's proven decent enough inspiration for a cracking punk scene and local lads Le Mamooth are the ideal introduction. 'Brest Baywatch' is a frantic froth of blood, booze and cathartic pleasure with a notable touch of good old fashioned fun. FIDLAR are an obvious influence with their 'Cocaine' getting the cover treatment with a local twist here and everything on this stonking debut fizzes with energy and imagination. 

33. Wire - Silver/Lead

I know we don't pay out pensions these days but keeping these guys on the treadmill well into their sixties has thrown out some of the best material of their career. Jumping straight to the fact that their debut 'Pink Flag' just turned 40 overlooks just how solid a creative streak they've been on over the last decade and 'Silver/Lead' is their fourth killer album in five years. Their legacy has long since been preserved for eternity but don't get too wrapped up in the past or you'll miss out on what might be their golden years happening right now.

32. Karen Gwyer - Rembo

In today's overcrowded Techno scene you've gotta hook 'em in quickly and show off your tools to keep them interested which London's Karen Gwyer does to admirable effect with this nifty little set. The eight tracks on 'Rembo' are titled in intriguing Question/Answer format which hints that there's some overarching concept at work here - if so I'm way too stupid to figure out what it is but the soundtrack is worth the detour nonetheless. Her calculated construction reminds me of oft overlooked 90's wizard Dave Clark with even a touch of Aphex Twin glacial melancholy. Dazzling stuff.

31. Fragrance - Dust and Disorders

Paris keeps throwing up new and intriguing twists on the synthwave palette and Fragrance added their name to the honours list in January with this splendid little EP. Icicle-cool pop hooks pull things skyward but there's a deep, warm lower end to anchor everything on the dancefloor and you've got five potential singles to choose from here. It's been good to see the local bands embrace shorter formats recently with single track video releases filling out a burgeoning seam of creative talent in the Paris underground and these kids deserve to spearhead the scene into the new year.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Best Albums of 2017 : 50-41

Hello folks,

Here's my pick of the best albums of 2017 in reverse order. Hope you enjoy ;)


50. Paradise Lost - Medusa

The onset of middle aged grouchiness can turn some bands into caricatures of themselves but Yorkshire metal veterans Paradise Lost were miserable bastards when they started out in the early 1990s so it looks like they're entering their strongest phase fifteen albums into their career. 'Medusa' sounds like it's been marinading in a moss-covered crypt for decades prior to being dusted off for public consumption, a heady blend of wailing riffs, stone troll percussion and Nick Holmes' gruff vocals that sounds like the irate bark of a Lovecraftian hell hound woken from a decade long power nap. Having moved beyond youthful nihilism into a more studied yet equally dour worldview they've hit a late period career peak and have never sounded stronger.

49. Nathan Fake - Providence

More bleep and boink from those reliable folk at Ninja Tune, Norfolk knob-twiddler Nathan Fake's 4th LP channels the sun-just-coming-up serenity of the post rave era but mixes in a dollop of modern day melancholic anxiety to anchor this in the present. Very much a mood piece, 'Providence' nevertheless resists the temptation to go full-on introversion of us and Fake's fractured headspace gives way to some genuinely infectious cold locker techno, most notably when he ropes in fellow electronic misery wizard Prurient for a well-timed guest appearance. Picture 'Tubular Bells' crossed with 'Endtroducing' and Underworld's less bangin' passages and you'll have an idea of the sort of sonic thrills on offer here.

48. A Giant Dog - Toy

Austin, Texas sounds like the sort of place to bring out the freak in the most straightlaced of individuals, all clear headed finesse inevitably giving way to splunderous volume catharsis and giddy enthusiasm. 'Toy' sounds like a mid 70s power pop album that's been left on the radiator and then chewed up by the family's pet poodle, a slew of anthemic hooks and yowled choruses jostling for centre stage on every track. I have no idea what this band look like but my mental image is of some lost Hanna Barbera troup of hairy cartoon canines who traipse mud on the carpet and knock over every ornament in the house yet somehow get away with it through sheer charm. A ramshackle masterpiece.

47. White Poppy - The Pink Haze Of Love

I've been a huge fan of Vancouver's White Poppy since their self-titled 2013 debut swept awake the competition in a crowded dream pop market so I was pretty excited to hear what their new stuff sounded like. I wasn't an immediate convert to their new direction which dials down the sedative cloudwave in favour of a clearer, cooler vein of soft-focus withdrawl similar to Liz Harris' Grouper project but repeated listens won me over and this might just the album that gets them the long overdue recognition beyond the Bandcamp fringes. Often drowned in reverb on her previous efforts, it turns out that Crystal Dorval is a pretty great songwriter when you clear away the clutter and this is a welcome update on their formula that bodes well for future releases.

46. Alvvays - Antisocialites

Canada again, Toronto this time for the hotly anticipated return of Alvvays whose 2014 debut was a guilt free run of 4AD hairclip indie crowned with some of the year's best singles. How to top that? Simple - just stick to your guns and double down on what made people love your earlier stuff. 'Antisocialites' doesn't shy away from turning up the fluff and the results are almost defiantly perky, a giddy mix of anthemic indie cuteness suffused with nods to the queens of 80s underground indie - Talulah Gosh, Pastels, Beat Happening and even Throwing Muses when they pick up a lil' steam. This is the sort of album that'll drag you out of your chair for one of those jump-all-over-the-place dancing sessions whether you like it or not - timed correctly it might just make your year.

45. Fellwarden - Oathbearer

I'm growing quite partial to all this 'North Face Jacket Black Metal', the soundtrack to defiantly thrashing your way across the savage terrain of the British Isles as the wind and rain threaten to batter you senseless. Fellwarden is a side project of the more established British BM project Fen who has been blasting this sort of stuff for some time and the six tracks on offer here take in cavernous depths, tremelo-slashed heights and tidal waves of mournful majesty. As the harsh Nordic winters have left their imprint on Scandinavia's metal output the battle with British elements feeds into the music from our darker corners and 'Oathbearer' is an evocative tribute to the harsher characteristics of untamed Albion in all its savage splendour.

44. Buscabulla - EP2

Puerto Rico via Brooklyn now for one of the year's most promising short form releases. I'm always on the lookout for stuff like this when I'm gearing up for my summer holiday - sleek, sexy and preferably sung in Spanish. This four track EP lands somewhere between 'Volta' era Bjork, Grimes at her less grating and early 80s disco funk a la Loose Ends, all topped off with Raquel Berrios' distinctive electro mermaid coo. The duo apparently started off strictly business but romance soon blossomed once they began working together and that lends the project that early in-the-relationship bounce that makes it sound so good. Let's hope it lasts and that they can take things to the next level as this is a very promising start.

43. Hante - Between Hope And Danger

One half of Parisian synth queens Minuit Machine, Helene de Thoury runs a couple of solo projects in her spare time and she resurfaced with this dark, polished gem earlier in the year to keep the buzz going. Another one for driving around in the middle of the night, 'Between Hope and Danger' carries over the Blade Runner melancholy of her previous material but jacks up the pace for a few more dancefloor friendly moments and edges her closer to the cold sophistication of Gary Numan or the Human League's 'Dare'. It may be forever 1981 in her sonic universe but this isn't just a nostalgia trip and her knack for a melodic hook sees her through another solid set that will give all you night owls another staple set.

42. Serpent Column - Ornuthi Thalassa

Spartan Black Metal? I'm not sure exactly what's going on here but I like it. Serpent Column are a US Bandcamp-based BM project with some impressive musical chops and a taste for epic soundscapes. Their presumably limited budget hasn't prevented them from achieving widescreen thrills and spills here and this six track EP is based around one long poem in Ancient Greek chronicling the rise and fall of kingdoms capped by the oceans rising and swamping the whole lot. Picture that if you will - or let the evocative cover art do it for you - and then let these guys provide the soundtrack. This is almost bafflingly well executed for a debut release so Lord only knows what these lads would do with a symphony orchestra. Let's hope we get to find out.

41. Heaters - Matterhorn

Feels like psychedelia came back in a big way this year - or probably more accurately that it never went away and I just started paying more attention. Naming your album after a mountain is always going to indicate a taste for expansive sounds and Michigan's Heaters don't disappoint, riffs pinging off faraway surfaces as the band lock into an orbit for a dazzling display of neo-psych thrills and spills. The sound edges toward the effects pedal hipsterism of around five years back - Pond, DIIV, Tame Impala - but anchors the influence in multi-part epics like the two part 'Thanksgiving' and the result has enough legs on it to exist in its own musical netherworld. I didn't know I was looking for a record like this until I found it so consider 'Matterhorn' one of the year's more pleasant intrusions.