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In a year that saw new material released by artists such as

David Bowie
Cher
Pearl Jam
The Beatles
New Order
Bon Jovi
Nine Inch Nails
Paul McCartney
Britney Spears
Lady Gaga
Beyoncé
Depeche Mode
Justin Timberlake
Artic Monkeys
Manic Street Preachers
Tricky
Gary Numan
Sigur Rós
Mazzy Star
Deep Purple
Travis
Earth Wind & Fire
My Bloody Valentine
Vampire Weekend
The Strokes
M.I.A.
Miley Cyrus
Queens Of The Stone Age
Kayne West
Megadeth
John Legend
Dido
Ministry
Joe Satriani
Arcade Fire
Celine Dion
Low
The Roots & Elvis Costello
Flaming Lips
John Mayer
Josh Groban
Goldfrapp
Elton John
Moby
Eric Clapton
New Kids On The Block
Five Finger Death Punch
Sting
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Suede
Goodie Mob
Phoenix

to name just a few, I'm going to offer twenty that I took the time to go out and buy a physical copy of, and write my own mini review for. This is the 4th year I've done this, and I almost skipped doing it because ..... for all the reasons you might expect and because sometimes it's hard not to listen to the person who cares the least ..... but I enjoy putting it together. It's a positive endeavor, it makes me feel good, and that's a healthy and integral part of what this group is all about. I make no claims of expertise, and hopefully make up for that with enthusiasm. There is a ton, a treasure trove, a veritable cornucopia of quality material, content, format, and choices available and it's impossible to keep up with everything. I like what I like, I've been lucky to have been exposed to a moderate level of diversity over the years, and I think most importantly, I'm always eager to hear something new. I also try to never disparage someone else's tastes. Musical choices are extremely personal. These picks represent my tastes, and are not in any way shape or form indicative of what others here individually or as a group might like, buy or endorse. They're not in any ranking order, the numbers are really just there as a reference guide. So...


1
Disclosure - Settle ) 19 and 22 year old brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence have released one of the best records of the year and one of the strongest debuts ever. I don't make that statement lightly or capriciously. It's really that good. Their fully formed musical thought expressions are like liquid drops of mirror balls reflecting rich complexity, self assured swagger, and unforgettable hooks. There isn't a bad track on the whole disc. Singles Latch and You & Me are breathtaking in their sexy, slick, young, hip, very now and modern yet timeless presentation and the videos only reinforce those perceptions but my personal favorite is the neo(n)-soul bounce of Defeated No More, with Friendly Fires guest vocalist Ed MacFarlane producing a sound like they rummaged around in Daryl Hall's 80's demo collection & polished up a glimmering and simmering 21st century anthem. Highly recommended.
2
Yo La Tengo - Fade (Deluxe Edition) ) 30 years in, Hoboken, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo have become one of the best uniquely American bands ever. Centered around husband and wife Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, influenced by, well, everyone, they've defied easy categorization, and stayed true to the music they've wanted to make, on their own terms and on indie labels the entire time. Ohm will bring you up to speed, and Is That Enough has Fred Willard breaking down the equation ever further, but I'll Be Around proves how great they are as musicians, with recipes, and as storytellers.
3
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories ) In spite of previous album titles, this French duo offer up their most human collection yet while never letting go of their automaton personas, writing in the arguably definitive track of 2013 we've come too far to give up who we are. Enlisting the talents of such 70's greats as Paul Williams, Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers from Chic, as well as one of this century's greats, Pharrell Williams, they turn dance music, critics' expectations, and their own career on its head. There isn't any wonder why this is on so many year end best of lists, including mine.
4
Bell X1 - Chop Chop ) On their 6th studio release Ireland's 2nd biggest band deliver a mature and multi-textured endeavor that's extremely rewarding and some of the best work of their career. With 9 meticulously crafted Dioramas of sounds, thoughts and feelings that each build to their own rich crescendos, they weave sonic complexity and a delicate intricacy that showcase a group that's really come into its own. Video for The End Is Nigh is an awesome demonstration, juxtaposing the detached perception of tilt shift imagery with the beauty of humanity.
5
Kaskade - Atmosphere ) DJ Ryan Raddon follows up last year's Grammy nominated Fire & Ice double set with another Grammy nomination of solid progressive house that never understates or overwhelms, using the airport code flight instrumentals to tie all the tracks together with nice uptempo chill wave interludes, and venturing out further with his own vocals on 3 of the tracks, including the title cut. My personal favorite is Feeling The Night featuring Becky Jean Williams.
6
Rhye - Woman ) To say I was intrigued when I first heard Mike Milosh's contralto like voice on Open would be an understatement but he pulls it off so effortlessly. He and Dane Robin Hannibal create a disc of lilting, light, sweet yet longing, jazz infused, r'n'b snyth pop elevated to a new sexy, coolness level. Think Sade, but ... not. Extra points awarded for the bike ride in The Fall.
7
Camera Obscura - Desire Lines ) There's a certain English eccentricity and charm that goes along with Camera Obscura and their 5th release shows off both those qualities while adhering to and being enhanced by a certain aesthetic that comes from the 4AD label. Recorded in Portland, OR with Tucker Martine producing, it's dreamy, lush, melancholy tinged indie pop, with Traceyanne Campbell sounding as sweet, slightly heartbroken, and clever as ever. Both the videos made to promote this are great but Fifth In Line To The Throne is a beautiful thing with Neko Case's background vocals enhancing.
8
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter At The Feast ) The seventh studio release from this Marlon Brando namesake band solidifies and refines their unique sound, mixing elements of the bluesier aspects of Zeppelin and The Stones with the fuzzed out distortion of Psychocandy era Jesus & Mary Chain. Shadow On The Run is a fine example of where they're at. And this review isn't complete without acknowledging the influence Robert Been's father had on the band, from his own experience in The Call, to working on production and sound for BRMC, both on the road and in the studio. Covering Let The Day Begin is a fitting tribute to his passing.
9
OMD - English Electric ) It seems fitting that OMD are enjoying their own revival while riding a current trend in popular music that directly derives from their original 80's output. The strength of the songwriting is in full bloom, building on 2010's History Of Modern, and mining the best of their past, including short sound collages à la Dazzle Ships. It's very much a full and mature presentation, with artwork, package and video all working as a whole along with the music. The throbbing pulse of the train in Metroland evokes a joyous return of ...a well run machine and Night Cafe is absolutely one of the best videos of the year.
10
Autechre - Exai ) Pronounced aw-tek-ər, I can't think of a more dramatic polarization between critics and fans. You either like them or you don't. What no one can deny is the meticulous nature of their work. There isn't a note, beat, sound, rhythm, or noise that Sean Booth & Rob Brown didn't intend. They bend and break every preconceived notion about what a song is, does, means, or is supposed to be. At two hours this double disc set is a dream for me, but I doubt it's going to win over any converts. And I don't care. Obligatory companion EP, L-event also available.
11
Pink Martini - Get Happy ) As usual, there's a tremendous range of styles and depth of talent from this fun & expansive collective of musicians, on their 6th release. Everything from jazz to dance hall, to 50's crooning, to 60's J-Pop, to samba & classical, it's a little bit of everything blended together artfully. With vocals ranging from German, Farsi, Mandarin, Spanish, French & English, it all works seamlessly, luxuriously, pleasingly and honestly. Rufus Wainwright lends his talents on the title track medley, but this video of China Forbes and Storm Lange performing it is awesome too. Including Phyllis Diller's last performance that she recorded in her living room with founder Thomas Lauderdale is sweet and touching and acts as the perfect cherry on top.
12
M83 - Oblivion - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ) Joseph Kosinski tapped French artist Anthony Gonzales (M83) for this Tom Cruise movie and there are obvious comparisons to Kosinski's 2010 work with Daft Punk on Tron: Legacy but it's still uniquely enjoyable, and advances both of their careers favorably. Umm, did I mention this is a Tom Cruise movie? Yes, this is a Tom Cruise movie. Tom. Cruise. That's all I really need to say.
13
Karl Hyde - Edgeland ) On his debut, the Underworld vocalist shares an intriguing and personal stripped down vocal and keyboard driven sound, with a decidedly different feel from the club circuit you might expect. Lead single The Boy With The Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers (extra points for the Saint Etienne connection) is the most uptempo, and if there's anything to be learned from Underworld's past, it's that every song has the potential for a hugely different mix hidden inside.
14
Foals - Holy Fire ) This Oxford based band expand upon their guitar driven indie sound, adding synthesizers, sound loops and drum machines into the mix and picking up a Mercury Prize nomination for their third release. Alan Moulder & Flood produced and really help to draw out the best elements of a band breathing and tasting hugeness, with the dance-y vibe of My Number giving those age old insider/outsider feelings a new spin.
15
The Ocean Blue - Ultramarine ) Formed in Hershey, PA in 1986, I'm really thrilled to be able to say this sounds exactly like their finest moments from the early 90's. If you don't know what I mean, I"ll wait while you introduce yourself to a bit of Cerulean or Beneath The Rhythm And Sound and then you can compare that to Sad Night, Where Is Morning? It's the same jangly, shimmering guitars and lonely vocals of David Schelzel sounding timelessly modern and I'll guarantee it will sound that way in another 20x20 years.
16
Pet Shop Boys - Electric ) I like PSB. A lot. I'm not a fanatic, but I've been a fan for a long time. From West End Girls on MTV up through last year's extremely satisfying Elysium. They are the most successful UK duo ever, with more than 50 million records sold. This disc is dance floor ready. This is what they excel at and what they've crafted an entire career around. But it's more than Vocals and music. I can identify with them on an extremely personal level. And I don't know what else to add to that.
17
Saint Etienne Present Songs For A Central Park Picnic ) This is the 4th in a series, and the first on Bob Stanley's own Croyden Municipal label. More rarities than obscurities, these 60's pop gems flow as a whole and evoke a different time and place. Sammy Davis Jr., Vince Guaraldi, the Drifters, Phil Spector, Artie Garr, Jerry Butler's original charting of Moon River, Henri Mancini, Dion, Connie Francis. Bob Stanley is such a meticulous collector and compiler and this series earns him high marks, besides the role he plays in Saint Etienne, one of my utmost favorite bands ever.
18
Testament - Dark Roots Of Thrash ) A double disc live set recorded in February 2013 from this legendary San Francisco band and it just kills. There's a DVD or Blue-ray to go along with your experience if you are so inclined and Rise Up is a great taste of just how thundering, blistering, and crushing this band are at the moment. Chuck Billy's vocals have never sounded better in 26 years and Alex Skolnick really is one of the best guitar players ever.
19
Washed Out - Paracosm ) Clarity with just the right amount of fuzziness around the edges. On Sub Pop for the second time, which just bolsters the credentials, as far as I'm concerned. A solo effort for the most part, although he's once again brought in Ben Allen on bass and Bradley Hagen on drums, I'm really liking the development of Ernest Greene as an artist who operates under the stage name Washed Out. Blissed out. Tripped out. Chilled out. Beauty within and without. The feeling when it all works out.
20
Bright Eyes - A Christmas Album ) Given the field of work I've been engaged in for the last 25 years I almost never, ever buy or recommend holiday music, and granted these aren't new songs or even a new compilation, but Saddle Creek re-released this 2002 gem and it's one of the starkest, saddest and endearing Christmas song collections I've heard. Ever. I passed on the white vinyl, but that's a guaranteed collector's item. And as a bonus all proceeds go to the Nebraska AIDS Project.


Bonus Round

Primal Scream - More Light

Snow Ghosts - A Small Murmuration

Joey Negro - Remixed With Love

I Am Kloot - Let It All In

India Arie - SongVersation

Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind

Black Sabbath - 13

DJ-KiCKS - John Talabot

She & Him - Volume 3

The National - Trouble Will Find Me

Cut Copy - Free Your Mind

Los Amigos Invisibles - Repeat After Me

Atoms For Peace - Amok

Late Night Tales - Bonobo

Simple Minds - Celebrate

Moderat - II

Chvrches - The Bone Of What You Believe

Deep Forest - Deep Africa

London Grammar - If You Wait

Future Bible Heroes - Partygoing



This marks the third year I'm making a special presentation for the fabric nightclub in London monthly series. There isn't anything else like it around, it gets better every year and I really don't know what else to add, beyond what I've said before and included here again. Do I like some issues more than others? Of course. But nothing, and I mean nothing, gives a bigger bang in my world for quality, quantity, and value. nothing.


Best Monthly Series, Hands Down, Across The Board, In All Ways

Fabric & Fabriclive
5 out of 5 for music, artists, DJ / compiler,
artwork, package design, price, digital support and club tie in
Label celebrates 12 years and club celebrates 14
Catalog now 140+ deep

Fabric

As a disclaimer I have a monthly subscription. I don't want this to seem like a sales pitch because it isn't. It's about me sharing a great source for contemporary music from a globally recognized name, label and place. I really can't say enough good things about this series. It's a wonderful underground pipeline to one of the world's premiere clubs and I anxiously look forward to every release. It's one of the best musical "secrets" I've stumbled onto and I've never been disappointed. Given the nature of the music business, taking into account the past & what's passed, and knowing that some ideas, melodies, chords, notes, moves, beats, trends... really can last "forever," this series will reverberate for lifetimes. That's not an overstatement. Trust me.



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2:54 PM PT: thanks for the Rescued tag, Rangers. I'm honored.


Originally posted to just anod on Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 07:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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