Even with the amount of music we pore over each day, there’s always a handful of gems we manage to miss out on.
2013 was no different, and whenever we post a list of records we enjoyed, a few weeks later we usually find just as many that we wish we’d heard earlier. This year we’ve compiled a list of 10 records from 2013 that we managed to miss out on when they first emerged – records that slipped under our radar, and may have slipped under yours too. Sometimes this was down to the deluge of releases that clog up our mailboxes each week, but more often than not it was simply because there are always albums that manage to slip out into the world without even a simple Tweet to let the world know. Long may they continue.
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Hell On Earth
It’s understandable that we missed Matthew Sullivan’s latest outing under the Earn moniker. Hell On Earth is a record so understated that even when you’re playing it, there’s a sense that it’d rather you weren’t in the room. It’s gorgeous, subtle music with a light touch that holds up favorably to comparisons with The Cocteau Twins or early Steve Roach, yet also manages to poise itself on its own cooling, substance-battered pedestal. Rumor has it Sullivan is hard at work on an album for Spectrum Spools right now, so it looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more from him this year.
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Best Night Ever
There was no shortage of faux-footwork dross in 2013, but DJ Clap’s Best Night Ever was a rare tall poppy. Released on Daedelus’ Magical Properties imprint, Best Night Ever basically sounds like The Field’s From Here We Go Sublime ratcheted up to 160bpm – subtle as a sledgehemmer, but all the better for it. Worth a round of applause, however much of a twerp he looks in the press pictures.
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JAMES PLOTKIN & PAAL NILSSEN-LOVE
Ignore the fact that Death Rattle looks suspiciously like an avant garde jazz album for a second and simply press play. See? What did we tell you – looks can be deceiving, and metal supremo James Plotkin’s bashing of heads with Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love is actually an explosive, noise-drenched trip into the netherworld. It’s not exactly easy listening, but we’re all in need of a kick up the ass this January, and Death Rattle provides in spades.
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Less roughneck than his 2011 Mathematics LP The Second Son, Desolate Figures sees the young Liverpool producer on emotionally engaged form – making (mostly) techno with a romantic sweep and more than a few nods to Bytes-era The Black Dog. Highlights abound: the warp-speed ‘Death Of A Spaceman’; the Badalamenti-besotted ‘Blindman’s Bluff’; and ‘Never With You’, which could happily lodge in Maxmillion Dunbar’s House Of Woo. Album strike ratio: two out of two.
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Lullabies and Nightmares
The debut LP from trumpeter and electronic tinkerer Justin Walter slipped out midway through the year on Kranky and proved to be the sort of gentle bubbler of a record that has mileage far beyond your initial expectations. Making use of the rarely-heard Electronic Valve Instrument (a cross between a trumpet and a synthesiser), Walter smudges his sounds into a canvas of frothing, frayed electronica that’s the synaesthetic match to the album’s painterly cover art. Wonderful before-bedtime stuff.
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(Not on label)
Heard this one before? A Chicago kid bucks the city’s rap scene with a mixtape full of sideways beats and a fresh perspective on drugs. No, not Chance the Rapper — we’re talking about now 17-year-old rapper Lucki Eck$ and his debut tape Alternative Trap. With a languid flow that borders on lethargic, Eck$ lives up to the tape’s title with a non-traditional approach to rapping about dealing: boasting of being “like gas station shutdown / got the whole town on E” one minute, and then contemplating quitting the trap game if it’ll save his ‘Cocaine Woman’ the next. Fellow Chicago youngins like Plu2o Nash and Hippie Dream handle the beats; following Lucki’s lead, they lay down post-cloud beats that threaten to float away in a haze of hypnagogia. Yet another Chicago voice to listen for in 2014.
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(Not on label)
The Sa-Ra producer, Frank Ocean collaborator and star of Diddy’s Making His Band finally released his debut solo effort, dropping the long-promised City Pulse as a free release early in the year. It’s a shame we missed it the first time around: bounding between AutoTune-and-synth R&B futurism, soul-kissed disco revival, Prince-inspired electro-funk, neo-soul sex jams, and more, City Pulse is the album we wish The-Dream made in 2013. 15 would-be anthems (that never wear out their welcome) from an artist who has worked with everyone from Mark Pritchard to Rick Ross.
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Now that everyone and their ferret has a favourite Fall album and John Cooper Clarke deploys his twisted Manc vowels to sell oven chips, the edgy cool of the ‘Northern bard’ character has faded like Alex Turner’s Sheffield accent. So it comes as a bit of a shock to discover Sleaford Mods, who tear the stereotype a new one on their ranting, raging, lewd and fookin’ crude Austerity Dogs, an album that’s political and poetical in equal measure, and not likely to land its creators a 6Music slot anytime soon. “Don’t call me gobb-eh!”
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Low Point X
(Magic + Dreams)
Having hit a critical peak with 2012’s Reeling Skullways, Ralph ‘Bass Clef’ Cumbers snuck out two Bandcamp EPs in October – a set of capable acid pastiches titled Acid Tracts, and his last ever release under his hardware-only alias Some Truths. The former’s good, but the latter’s exceptional – a convincing collection of digital dancehall, drone and modular synth jiggery-pokery.
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(Not Not Fun)
Brad Rose flagged up Drifter’s Gold in his round-up of 2013’s best cassettes, but we – appropriately perhaps, given the dreamlike quality of Crystal Dorval’s music – slept on the other album released by White Poppy last year. More varied than Drifter’s Gold, there’s touches of Blank Dogs’ C80 punk dotted throughout White Poppy, while some tracks either drown in bubbling electronics (‘Joyride’) or reach for the stars (squint, and ‘Today Tomorrow’ could be Grimes in full Madonna mode). Think Suicide meets Slowdive, and – as glib as that sounds – you’re really not far off.
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