Look­ing over our choic­es for albums of the year, sev­er­al fea­ture dreams, frac­tured mem­o­ries in an ambi­ent set­ting… artists search­ing for clues from the past to help them make sense of the present. Per­haps it’s a post Covid thing, as we escaped our con­fines and moved war­i­ly, or rushed glad­ly, out into open spaces again, embrac­ing sweaty gigs and fes­ti­val crowds. What­ev­er the rea­son, there has been a glut of quite dif­fer­ent music this year, with some notable new works from artists who are mov­ing into new and unchar­tered spheres.

Jo Schornikow

Jo Schornikow. Altar A col­lec­tion of sen­si­tive, haunt­ing­ly beau­ti­ful songs by Mel­bourne-born, Nashville based singer-song­writer and key­board play­er Jo Schornikow. She also plays and tours with her part­ner Matthew Houck aka Phos­pho­res­cent. Lose Yr Love and Visions set the mood, the for­mer has a War On Drugs pul­sat­ing beat, set against melan­cholic lyrics. Schornikow is some­what under the radar and deserves a lot more air­play. Jo Schornikow
Label: Keeled Scales

The Louge Society

The Lounge Soci­ety Tired of Lib­er­ty Since The Lounge Soci­ety released their debut track Gen­er­a­tion Game the young band from Heb­den Bridge have been on an upward tra­jec­to­ry. New album Tired of Lib­er­ty proves adept at mar­ry­ing mem­o­rable, spiky riffs with fiery con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal lyrics. Peo­ple Are Scary is the open­ing track with its stac­ca­to riff. North Is In Your Heart is one of the most elo­quent tracks. The mourn­ful open­ing riff leads into the spo­ken-word lyrics, all the more effec­tive for its sonorous clar­i­ty. Hav­ing cement­ed their sig­na­ture sound, it will be inter­est­ing to see what they do next. And check out the Gourmet Gigs inter­view with The Lounge Soci­ety. The Lounge Soci­ety Label Speedy Wun­der­ground

The Besnard Lakes. Are The Prayers for the Death of Fame The mes­meris­ing, beau­ti­ful psych-prog Mon­tre­al band dis­cov­ered a new lease of life with their 2021 album Are The Last of the Great Thun­der­storm Warn­ings. And this 3‑song EP con­tin­ues in the same vein. Well, if it’s not broke… The final num­ber, Sil­ver Shad­ows, lasts a full 16min 43; a cathar­tic blissed-out slab of joy that encap­su­lates the full beau­ty of this unique band. The Besnard Lakes Label Full Time Hobby

Scalp­ing. Void Scalp­ing live is a pow­er­ful, vis­cer­al and intense shock to the body and the sens­es. In truth it is impos­si­ble to repli­cate the full-on live expe­ri­ence so you’ll just have to turn the vol­ume up as far as you with­out annoy­ing the neigh­bours. Caller Unknown sum­mons mem­o­ries of Tim­ber by Cold­cut – its men­ac­ing encroach­ment of machines herald­ing impend­ing doom. Scalp­ing

Fujiya & Miya­gi. Slight Vari­a­tions F&M always feel like a band who love what they do with­out tak­ing them­selves too seri­ous­ly. Their for­mu­la obvi­ous­ly works – they have been going for 20 years, give or take one or two band mem­ber changes. Dig­i­tal Hang­over is a sexy dis­co-tinged syn­thy num­ber with that insis­tent motorik beat, over­laid with David Best’s charm­ing­ly laid-back, play­ful vocals. “I feel this record encap­su­lates the essence of the group, from its begin­nings to new places,” he says. Fujiya & Miyagi

The Orielles Tableau album cover

The Orielles. Tableau An astound­ing depar­ture from their feel-good garagey sound and a leap into an exper­i­men­tal new space. The Orielles nev­er rest on their lau­rels and con­tin­u­al­ly push their bound­aries; dou­ble album Tableau takes its time and does­n’t rush, explor­ing sound­scapes and dreams half for­got­ten, yet it nev­er strays too far from its intent. Tableau feels like a water­shed moment in the band’s career, a work broad in land­scape and feel and with a deserved con­fi­dence. The Orielles Label Heav­en­ly Recordings

Syl­vette. Sin­gle Thread The third album from Man­ches­ter five-piece Syl­vette, who con­stant­ly forge their own unique path, com­bin­ing an orches­tral approach with dra­mat­ic flour­ish­es of prog, dance and rock. Sin­gle Thread takes a dif­fer­ent direc­tion: deeply per­son­al and dis­play­ing a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. The songs, del­i­cate and pen­sive, result­ed from vocal­ist Char­lie Sin­clair’s per­son­al strug­gles whilst car­ing for his dis­abled and ter­mi­nal­ly ill father, and his sub­se­quent loss dur­ing lock­down. Syl­vette

TrevorBeales courtesy of ChrstineBeales WEB

Trevor Beales. Fire­side Sto­ries (Heb­den Bridge cir­ca 1971–1974) Amongst the clam­our of new albums, this shin­ing jew­el unearthed from the 1970s stands out in its sim­plic­i­ty and back­sto­ry of a tal­ent that has lain dor­mant for so long. The dis­cov­ery of these songs is to be cel­e­brat­ed. Trevor Beales died at only 33 years of age due to ill­ness, but this col­lec­tion of folk-based songs, record­ed in his home town of Heb­den Bridge, and dis­cov­ered on a cas­sette, make their way into the light and he deserves the recog­ni­tion. Label Basin Rock

Ran­cho Relaxo. Spir­it of Ecsta­sy For any­one alight­ing on this Nor­we­gian band for the first time, you’ll find they are grat­i­fy­ing­ly pro­lif­ic in their out­put. For those of us of less than ten­der years this band offer a com­fort blan­ket of heavy, prog­gy psych pep­pered with sitar and tam­bourine flour­ish­es; there’s a BJM flavour to their out­put with that deep rich soup of instru­men­ta­tion. Although hav­ing said that, this album light­ens things up a tad com­pared to some of their for­mer albums. Title track, Spir­it of Ecstasy is a 7‑min chunk of instru­men­tal psy­che­delia to get lost in. Ran­cho Relaxo

Julia Jack­lin. Pre Plea­sure Julia Jack­lin is in a dif­fer­ent place emo­tion­al­ly since her last album but, as is her wont, she pon­ders over her emo­tion­al state and her reac­tions to sit­u­a­tions in snap­shots of her life. So Pre Plea­sure con­tin­ues in the same angsty vein. Open­ing track, Lydia Wears wears a Cross, with its sparse instru­men­ta­tion, forces you to focus on the lyrics: mem­o­ries of Catholic school, pray­ing, with Jesus Christ Super­star play­ing in her head. I Was Neon is the most catchy track; dive into the lyrics, and it’s about Jack­lin cas­ti­gat­ing her­self for giv­ing too much of her­self. Julia Jack­lin

The Utopia Strong. Inter­na­tion­al Trea­sure The tri­o’s lat­est release takes the lis­ten­er on an emo­tion­al and sen­su­al trip. Tri­dent of Fire sets the scene, draw­ing you down into a calm and deep space, all the bet­ter to expe­ri­ence the jour­ney to fol­low. Perse­phone Sleeps reveals an echo of Pink Floy­d’s Med­dle. Arca­di­an Lilt takes you deep­er, in a dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing way, like swim­ming under­wa­ter los­ing your sense of which way is up. Final track Castalia brings an awak­en­ing, imbued with a gid­dy pos­i­tiv­i­ty. For a heady expe­ri­ence, see The Utopia Strong live in 2023. The Utopia Strong

Pale Blue Eyes. Sou­venirs The Devon-by-way-of Sheffield tri­o’s inau­gur­al album Sou­venirs is packed with com­pul­sive­ly dance­able elec­tro-pop tracks. Dr Pong, about play­ing ping pong through the night in Berlin, finds its way into your soul with its insis­tent hooks and motorik qual­i­ty. An aura of pos­i­tiv­i­ty and ener­gy radi­ates, rem­i­nis­cent at times of Djan­go Djan­go, and gives Sou­venirs more than a touch of mag­ic. Pale Blue Eyes

Main shot: Pale Blue Eyes

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