Time for a little self-indulgence. Here then are the thirty (mostly psych) albums from 2013 that I have played the most. It has been a very, very good year.
The best album of the year would have been the five best tracks each from Diane Coffee/Jonathan Rado’s solo albums aka Foxygen’s third album. But they both chose to go it alone.
Anyhow here are some videos and a Spotify playlist of most of the bands. No Hidden Masters tho (!?).
1 The Hidden Masters – Of This And Other Worlds
Genius British pop psych that plunders the Chocolate Soup/Rubble songbook in an extraordinary way. Startlingly unique and utterly addictive. Review.
2 The Magic Theatre – The Long Way Home
Sublime Europop influenced easy listening. Even better their magnificent fiirst album. Review
3 Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century…
The band of the year whose members have no fewer than three albums in the top ten. Self belief, swagger and impishly stunning tunes by the bucketload. Review
4 Robyn Hitchcock – Love From London
Another mature collection from the godfather of quirky English indie. Contains at least a couple of the best Hitchcock songs in a decade. Review
5 Diane Coffee – My Friend Fish
Foxygen’s drummer makes the best solo album by a drummer since this one. A wonderful stew of gospel, doowop and psych.
6 Mondo JetSet – Provincial Drama Club
Another very fine collection of quirky English ditties from a band who deserve to be much much better known. Review
7 Suede – Bloodsports
A very worthwhile reunion. More than hints at their 90s glories. Review.
8 The Sufis – Inventions
A huge leap on from their debut, contains some of the best psych pop tunes of 2013. Review
9 Beaulieu Porch – We Are Beautiful
Not quite as consistent as the band’s incendiary debut, but still a rather thrilling albums of quirky Brit psych pop. Review.
10 Jonathan Rado – Law And Order
The other Foxygen solo album. Inspired in places unlistenable in others.
11 The Sudden Death Of Stars – Getting Up, Going Down
Very classy 60s psych from Brittany, via Stoke Newington.
12 Jacco Gardner – Cabinet Of Curiosities
Stunning Baroque Pop from the Dutch fella. Review
13 The Shadow Kabinet – Nostalgia For The Future
Another superb album from Steve Somerset, a very smart mix of Beatley pop and 70s rock. Review
14 Neil’s Children – Dimly Lit
Glorious mix of noisy psych pop and Kraut Rock.
15 Rotifer – The Cavalry Never Showed Up
His best album so far Rotifer. Lots of edgy Jam-esque pop. Great lyrics.
16 Nev Cottee – Stations
Very fine debut from the Lee Hazlewood-influenced Mancunian singer songwriter
17 Mazzy Star – Seasons Of Your Day
Not quite in the same league as their earlier albums, and a bit too much of a Zeppelin influence for these ears, but at times it is sublime.
18 Bill Ryder Jones – A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart
The ex-Coral man’s album of emotionally charged ballads that recalls Elliot Smith at his best.
19 Parlour Flames
Sparkling collection of folky pop sings (reminds me of The Lilac Time) from Vinny Peculiar and Bonehead from Oasis.
20 Papernut Cambridge – Cambridge Nutflake
Weird, edgy but always fun twisted folk with psychy and electronic undertones from new Gare Du Nord band
21 Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II
The Kiwi/Brooklyn Tame Impala impress again with their strange brand of psychedelic soul
22 Adam Green and Binki Shapriro
Lovely Nancy and Lee-isms from the very talented duo. Review
23 Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy – You Are Everything
The Church fella teams up again with multi-instrumentalist. Superb in places.
24 Jagwar Ma – Howlin
Baggy revival Aussie style
25 The Asteroid #4
Another fine album from the BJM-influenced SF band.
26 Kosmischer Laufer – Volume One
East German Kraut Rock from the 70s (sort of). Review
27 Crystal Jacqueline – Sun Arise
Spacey psych prog from the west country chanteuse.
28 Ulysses – Kill You Again
Stomping glammy garage pop.
29 The Solar System – Spectrums
Ambitious, but entertaining lo-fi psych with proggy interludes from Detroit’s Chris Oliver
30 Schnauser – Where Business Meets Fashion
Like Yes playing The Beatles. Many strong tunes.
Some rather sad news. Wiltshire’s premier psych combo have apparently decided to call it a day. I noticed that Simon Berry, who basically is BP, has been warning people that his records and CDs were selling out and wouldn’t be repackaged and now we know why.
The band have left behind two corking albums which took 67 era psychedelia as a starting point and them jumped into all kids of other areas too. In some ways the band were among the first to pull influences from a host of 80s bands, something that a lot of their rivals have picked up on.
If you haven’t bought/heard the albums both are excellent and well worth a bit of your cash.
As for the future Simon says on his blog
Also coming in the New Year is ASTRABELLA. Not gonna say too much about this. You’ll have to wait. It WILL be worth it…
Well, expect more spectral sounds only this time with a female vocalist.
In the meantime you can still download the BP tracks here.
Personally I am with Jarvis Cocker, who takes the view that 80s were quite possibly the worst decade to be young in post war Britain. AIDS, Thatcherism, looming nuclear apocalypse, Stock, Aitken and Waterman – boy did we suffer.
Still there was some great music made in the 80s and almost none of it made by fellas in frilly shirts, angular haircuts and synthesisers. Well in my opinion anyway.
And if you always prefered The Psychedelic Furs and The Bunnymen to A Flock of Seagulls and Erasure you’ll probably really enjoy Wivenhoe Park, the debut ‘novel’ by American writer and record label supremo Ben Vendetta.
I place novel deliberately in speech marks, because this is clearly the autobiography of an anglophile American who in the middle of his University career swapped Detroit for the delights of, umm Colchester.
During the 80s I met quite a few exchange students from across the pond.Most tended to be ultra conservative types decked out in crisply ironed chinos and pastel Ralph Lauren shirts, who mainly frequented the library rather than the bar as they were saving money for the big end of term blitz in Paris or Rome.
There were however a few who didn’t fit the template, and these tended to be serious students of British indie music, whose passion for Psychocandy and Wilder had propelled them across the Atlantic to provincial British towns like Reading and in my instance, Lancaster. They were lovely people too and I regret the fact that I have lost touch with almost all of them.
Ben Vendetta was clearly a member of the latter group and Wivenhoe Park charts his, oops sorry, Drew’s journey from Michigan based runner and chaser of teenage goth girls through to inhabitant of the Brutalist paradise that is the university of Essex in Colchester.
This is classic coming of age stuff. Drew makes friends, hangs out with bands, dates inappropriate girls, takes drugs and whole lot more. But what makes Wivenhoe Park such a joy is that Ben writes in a very engaging way. In particular Drew isn’t your average John Hughes-esque teen novel fodder (I still haven’t forgiven him for what he did to Ducky at the end of Pretty In Pink) . Sure does he stupid things and yes he makes mistakes, especially with the ladies, but he is also, smart, funny and blessed with a Forrest Gump style aptitude to be present at key moments in British indie history.
The Indie Forrest Gump
So he catches Bobby Gillespie on the verge of jettisoning the Mary Chain to indulge his Byrds fantasies in Primal Scream. He hangs out in the Hacienda in its awful mid 80s period, and even spots a Manc gothy band who would one day go on to make the seminal album that even 25 years on still, kind of defines the city. Along the way there are cameos from all sorts of indie chancers from The Cure through to Modern English, and even seminal Medway garage punksters The Dentists. Then there are his wonderful ruminations on the lyrics of his heroes too. Ben’s take on the title of the third Psychedelic Furs album really will make you smile. Sure it all sounds a bit trainspottery, but the quality of the prose means that you don’t have to be have been a fully fledged Anorak clad shambler to enjoy it
Ultimately you are left wondering exactly how much of what ben has written is true. Not that it really matters. If you ever enjoyed High Fidelity, went to a British University in the mid 80s or are counting the days until Cherry Red reissues the legendary C86 compilation (as a two disc set!) you’ll love this.
Single of the summer? Well for me that was David Woodcock’s breezy pop gem Same Things, when the Southender re-ignited Estuary Pop with a whirling piano based ditty that landed somewhere in between Ian Dury’s early solo records and the lighter side of Brit Pop.
Well the promised album in the Autumn didn’t arrive, but single number two from Woodcock has landed (500 vinyl versions or the download if you must) and it is yet another gem. Beggars Can’t be Choosers has the same music hall piano of the first record though this time there less of the harmonies and the more obvious pop hooks. It also takes an unexpected, but rather inspired, punk rock detour in the middle too.
The flip Tease, is a slightly more continental song which highlights Woodcock’s Lennon-esque vocals on a song that wouldn’t sound too out of place on the Beatles’ Mind Games album.
Here’s hoping that the album follows soon.
Recently it has been diminishing returns from psych pop compilations. They either veer too much towards fluffy pre-psych pop or feature bands whose droney guitars and grand standing organ solos are much prog than anything else. Which is why I was so knocked out by Book A Trip from the Capitol Records archive which came out a couple of years ago. It was just loaded with wonderful poppy gems with enough psych trappings to keep me onside.
And now we have Volume Two courtesy of the man behind Now Sounds, renaissance fella Steve Stanley.
In many ways this is an even better trip than Volume One. From start to finish it is simply teeming with fantastic tunes.
Granted some of the songs may be a little more familiar to hardcore psych fans especially if you have invested in some of the other Now Sounds releases, but the overall standard is exceptionally high.
It is a real pleasure to hear the original version of the Smoke’s October Country as performed here by Raw Edge (this take landed up on the Smoke album). If, like me you have only ever heard muffled bootleg versions this will be a revelation. There is also a take of the British baroque pop classic When Diana Paints a Picture by Robbie Curtice, which quality wise is a leap on from the version on the Fading Yellow compilation of many years back.
Other highlights? Well These Vizitors For Mary’s Sake sounds like a garagey version of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and features some heavenly female vocals. Just as good is another Brit Ian Whitcomb’s Groovy Day, which has Swinging London film soundtrack written all over it. There’s also another track by the legendary Sidewalk Skipper Band, who provided several of the highlights of volume one and the excellent Masquerade by Jesse Lee Kincaid, a man whose other big claim to fame is penning one of the best 60s songs you have (possibly) never heard.
So overall Book A Trip 2 is a pretty essential purchase if you like a bit of sunny psych pop that is. Whether there’s enough in the Capitol vaults to create a volume three (it is coming in 2014) to match this remains to be seen, but good luck to Steve for giving it a go.
Some huge news for fan of Aussie psychsters The Church this morning. The hugely influential band has announced that it is returning to the studio to record a new album. The surprise news though is that the album will be recorded without guitarist Marty Willson Piper who has been with the band since 1980 – other than a brief period in the 90s.
His replacement is Ian Haug from Powderfinger. The band’s lead singer/songwriter Steve Kilbey announced the news on Facebook this morning and then followed it up with a passionate defence of the move.
The band’s last album Untitled #23 , came out in 2010 and received many rave reviews for its space Pink Floyd-esque psychedelia.
Here’s what Kilbey had too say..
this has been hard to broach and it has been hard to announce.
this is the simple truth.
marty was/is unavailable.
after having secured the funds to make a new church record, marty was not available to make it.
so i asked ian haug from powderfinger if he would like to play on this record and do the subsequent tour. he said yes.
we have begun the new album and let me reassure you it is magnificent. otherwise we wouldnt be doing it.
i will never say anything more about this subject. marty is not available. ian was. and i needed to make this album because we havent done anything for so long.
you’ll have to trust me. this step was not taken lightly.
ian is a brilliant guitarist who brings years of experience and a new fresh enthusiasm with him. this is no second rate deal. and nothing is chiselled in stone.
if you cant dig it i’m sorry. this is my fucking band after all and it has existed at times without peter and in the beginning without marty. and for times in between while he went AWOL.
i love the guy. his musicianship is undeniably good. but its over now . the church will have to move on without him or have no church at all. which one did you want?
i am sitting here right now with 16 new incredible songs that we just wrote. its frustrating that it will be a while till you hear it. but the church will ride on. and i hope that when i fall off my perch that someone else jumps in and keeps it going. this is what i was writing about the other day. the church is an ideal that produces a certain type of music. regardless of individuals.
the church will prevail. and our new music is very very fucking cool.
and thats it!
Here is a curious one. For me one of the great mysteries of the 90s was how the Orgone Box’s debut album did not become at least as big as Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque or Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend. In fact there is a pretty strong case for arguing that it is the definitive psych-ish power pop of that, or indeed any decade. If you have never heard it prepare for one long sugar rush of Byrdsie guitars, Hollies-eque harmonies and a vocalist who has clearly been studying Lennon’s 70s recordings very closely.
Well the big news is that Sugarbush Records, is about to put out Centaur, which is a re-recording/re-working of the album by its main man Rick Corcoran. In spite of its brilliance Corcoran has always maintained that it wasn’t mastered to his taste and that some of the songs were speeded up. So the new album has some re-recorded versions of the album’s genius pop tunes, some that have just been remastered and a brand new song called Wethouse. The label is billing it as the definitive version of the album and it is vinyl only with a limited run of 400 copies.
Well we’ll find out soon enough whether it is superior to that astonishing debut as it comes out on December 1st. I am not sure, but I hope that the vinyl comes with download codes too. You can get it here.
Until then feast your ears on the original version of the classic Judy Over The Rainbow as performed by Corcoran’s earlier band Orange. You can also find a compilation of the band’s recordings on Spotify.