Music of 2013, part four

1st December 2013 – 3.52 pm

An actually timely and perhaps final set of reviews for the year, for budgetary reasons. And it's a good end to the year, with some decent albums from new and old bands alike. There's still plenty more out there to listen to as well.

It's been a long wait for the debut album from Factory Floor. I only saw them live once, supporting a disappointing Fuck Buttons, but that convinced me to buy their EP and be interested. And normally such a long delay for a full release—holy crap, the gig was three-and-a-half years ago—with nothing else in-between is a poor sign. Thankfully not this time. Even on a first listen, when the opening clicks of the album are joined by a thumping bass drum in a different time signature, I'm excited. The mix of electronica, acoustic drumming, and the occasional guitar and vocals, pulsates with just the right amount of repetition and variation through each of the songs. Factory Floor get the synthesised sounds right, the tempos right, the beats right. This is a fantastic album that manages to live up to my expectations, and has been well worth the wait.

I have admitted before that I may have judged No Age harshly when I reviewed a previous album, expecting a sound much more lo-fi than perhaps I should (because of the amazing Times New Viking). I ended up enjoying the album I dismissed, so when new album An Object turns up to good reviews I am more than willing to expand my No Age library. And again I have an initial period of disappointment with this supposedly really lo-fi band, followed by some acceptance, albeit on a shorter timescale than previously. An Object undeniably has some good songs, is definitely lo-fi in its way, and I will probably continue to enjoy it for a while. But I still can't help but feel it could be much better. The sound levels are just wrong. There are rough drums, lots of fuzzy guitars, and some squealing feedback, but it all sits just beneath the surface when it needs to break through and explode all over the place. Compare it to Bo Ningen's first album (their second suffers similar sound level disparities), or Metz's album. Although An Object feels like it should be rough and raw, it just sounds tame. Good, but with unrealised potential.

Something about the review of Flourish//Perish by Braids interests me, but I can't say I quite expect what I end up listening to. I'm not sure why. Maybe because the album is quite different to most other music I listen to, yet with the endearing qualities of a soft female vocalist and intricate, often-subtle electronic music. I can't really separate any of the songs for particular merit, but that's not because any are bad, more that the album works really well as a whole, with a satisfying level of quality sustained throughout. Like Grimes but without being nuttier than a fruitcake, Flourish//Perish is a brilliant and atmospheric creation.

New band Younghusband get slapped with the psychedelic rock tag, one which I clearly don't know what it means, or has morphed in to something tamer than I expect over a couple of decades. Still, I am interested enough to pick up Dromes and give it a listen. Dromes starts well, with breathy vocals sitting nicely on top of droning guitars for opening track Running Water, and as the album continues I can detect a distinct resemblance to Toy, another band tagged as being psychedelic rock, so that makes some sense. But as I listen for that first song to develop it finishes instead, leading to my main criticism of the album being that some of the songs can be fairly one-dimensional. There are some good songs on Dromes, and plenty of good ideas and concepts, but a few of them follow the same track without expanding on their core. Even so, Younghusband have created a decent debut album, one that is enjoyable to listen to and shows promise for future recordings. I'll keep listening.

Mazzy Star return after over a decade with fourth album Seasons of Your Day. Recording after such a long absence barely seems to go well in my experience, particularly after one of the members goes solo in the meantime, but I can't help but find out how the new album sounds for myself. It's good. Not special, but good, solid. It sounds like a blend of So Tonight That I Might See and Among My Swan, and whilst there doesn't seem like much of a progression from the earlier music it still works well. Seasons of Your Day is either not particularly remarkable because the gap between albums doesn't come with a similar gap in music style, or actually remarkable because they have managed to not lose touch with their style. Whatever it is, this is a nice addition to Mazzy Star's work, even if it doesn't obviously push any boundaries.

Tookah is the fourth album from Emiliana Torrini, released on a more regular schedule than Mazzy Star's fourth album but with a similar feel to previous works. First album Love in the Time of Science had good songs but suffered from a trendy trip-hop soundtrack, which is perhaps a natural mistake for a young songwriter. Second album Fisherman's Woman showed Torrini's talents, as not much can be hidden by mostly acoustic music, and third album Armani and Me brought a maturity to both the songwriting and composition. Tookah brings all the elements together, combining some electronica and acoustic instruments in to more maturely penned songs, everything fitting together nicely. The result is an intriguing mix of contemporary and retro music stylings, all with Torrini's beautiful vocals and often-thoughtful lyrics. Tookah is a good album that both extends and expands on her previous works.

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