Friday, 3 January 2014

2014: the year in music ahead - Part 1

So that was 2013, and if you were tuned into the musical offerings delivered by this humble website, then you will be aware that it was a year that produced a lot of quality records. Those unfortunate "neutral" everyday folk who don't mind having their musical choices served to them by the mainstream have had the worst year yet, but luckily us active-listening music enthusiasts live in a completely separate world to the masses being spoonfed manufactured chart garbage. In the mainstream, the current rate of exposure for talentless corporate acts means that things are probably going to stay just as bad in that respect, but in the world of artists and musicians 2014 is promising to be a superb year. So what have we got to look forward to over the next 12 months?


Bruce Springsteen is to release a new album in a few weeks time, to provide the year's first high profile album. 'High Hopes' features 12 songs, including new versions of old tracks, a cover version and new originals. The album's title track was written by the Havalinas in 1990 and first recorded by Springsteen in 1996. There are new versions of 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' featuring Tom Morello, and 'American Skin (41 Shots)', which has only previously been aired live. The album closes with a cover of Suicide's 'Dream Baby Dream'. Although it's not out until 13 January in the UK, 'High Hopes' fell victim to a 'leak', when it was temporarily made available early on Amazon two weeks ahead of release...


Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks release their sixth LP 'Wig Out at Jagbags' next week on January 6. Malkmus describes the record as sounding like "Can ... Stephen-Malkmus-imagined Weezer/Chili Peppers, Sic Alps, UVA in the late 80's ... inactivity, Jamming, Indie guys trying to sound Memphis, Flipper, Pete Townshend, Pavement, The Joggers, The NBA and home life in the 2010s ...". Listen to 'Lariat' HERE.


Mogwai's eighth full length is called 'Rave Tapes' and was recorded over the summer at the band's own Castle of Doom studio in Glasgow. It sees the post-rock legends team up once again with Paul Savage, who co-produced 2011's magnificent 'Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will'. Listen to 'Remurdered' HERE, and 'The Lord is Out of Control' HERE.


February 18 sees the prolific Ohio-based indie veterans Guided By Voices releasing 'Motivational Jumpsuit', their 20th album overall.


Beck releases his new album 'Morning Phase' in February 2014, after a six year break between records. Capitol Records will release his 12th album, which will be followed later in the year by his 13th. The album is described as being a "companion piece" to the 2002's lovely 'Sea Change', and will include a number of guest stars, such as Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. Beck explains how he made the LP after being out of action with a spinal injury: "(When I was able to play guitar again) there was a jot of joy. It was a relief for me. I'd been looking at that guitar for years, wishing that I could pick it up, wanting to be able to play it again. So there was a lot of emotion when I finally did."


The Horrors were set to release the follow-up to 'Skying' in autumn of last year, but then postponed it until some point this year. Josh Hayward explained: "We didn't finish mixing it in time so it's been pushed back. But now we've got more time we'll probably write more songs for it... there's a good chance we will end up wanting to change it because we're constantly having new ideas and trying different things... We'd agreed on the final tracklisting if the album was going to be released in September. Now it's not everything's up in the air again. It's all quite exciting really." Meanwhile, frontman Faris Badwan added: "We basically had the choice between finishing the record and it being one way, or giving it a few more months and it being substantially better. Albums last forever, there's no point rushing it." Badwan confirmed that there will be no guest stars on the album: "Collaborations are for losers who want to boost their careers by getting fucking Rita Ora on their track..."


Johnny Cash may have left this planet a few years ago, but more posthumous material is finding its way onto record in 2014. 'Out Among the Stars' is a new album comprising 12 recently discovered studio recordings from 1981 and 1984, which were produced by Billy Sherrill. It comes out on March 25.


Temples - for me and many others, this is the most anticipated debut of the year. A terrifically exciting new band, the Kettering-based foursome have released a string of consistently dazzling singles, and their first full-length 'Sun Structures' is out in February.


The Hosts - following on the fantastic Richard Hawley-produced singles 'September Song' and 'Give Your Love To Her', the Sheffield quartet release their impressive debut 'Softly, Softly' through Fierce Panda in February. The two previous singles can be heard HERE and HERE. The band's Facebook page can be found HERE.


East India Youth - when Southampton-based Doyle And The Fourfathers split in 2012, it felt like the end of something beautiful. In a lot of ways, it was just the start. Frontman William Doyle made a DIY set of magnificent electro tracks, released them as an internet only album as East India Youth, and began receiving more acclaim than he'd ever had before. Now, his superb debut album 'Total Strife Forever' is getting a proper release, and having indulged in it a few times, I can tell you that it is well worth adding to your collections. Review coming soon...



No year in music would feel complete without something from The Fall. In 2013 they released the excellent 'Re-Mit' as well as the six track EP 'The Remainderer', and in 2014 they plan to release their 31st studio album. If you can't wait until that comes out, Cherry Red records have lined up the release of yet another live offering from Mark E Smith and his band... 'The Fall Live' is out in a few weeks (Amazon says Jan 20th) and features tracks recorded over the last year or so.


Bell Gardens are the Californian duo who made the finest album of 2012 in 'Full Sundown Assembly'. When thanking me for my support, last year the guys revealed that they were already working on the follow-up. In August 2012 they told Facebook fans that "we have been very busy with many things which include working on the follow up to Full Sundown Assembly." The prospect of that emerging in 2014 fills me with sheer joy... 


Stephen Jones was the genius behind Babybird, who has also been busy with other projects recently, including Death Of The Neighbourhood and Black Reindeer. Under the BR alias, Jones has produced and released no less than twelve albums since late 2012, with another one imminent, but with these records consisting of largely instrumental works, many Babybird fans have been hoping for a second "proper" solo album from SJ. The recent singles 'Music Is My Only Friend', 'Love Life Love Life' and the festive 'I'm Not Coming Home For Christmas' saw a return to the more familiar vocal and lyric based sound which SJ excels at, as he continues to reveal more about the upcoming album one bit at a time. Definitely one to keep your ears peeled for... Listen to the stunning 'Love Life Love Life' HERE


Californian punk veterans Rancid have been promising a new album for two or three years now. Seems to be taking a while. Now Tim Armstrong has released the third Transplants LP, the completion of that project means it's more likely that we'll hear something this year, and with some luck it'll be better than 2009's patchy 'Let The Dominoes Fall'. 



Blur - so the great mystery rumbles on. Are Blur making another album? Fans have been wondering ever since the 90's legends reformed, and the 2012 tracks 'Under The Westway' and 'The Puritan' showed that the old magic was still there. When asked about the possibility of a new LP, all band members have sent out some very mixed messages so far. Last year while onstage in Japan, Damon suggested that the time was right to "make a new record", so may we hear it in 2014? One can only hope. But while it's highly unlikely that their few weeks on tour over there produced an entire album, it seems that the foundations are there for new material. “We did a bit of recording in Hong Kong and it was brilliant,” said Alex James, “but I don’t know what it is yet." In another interview James stated: "We had a few days off in Hong Kong and thought, 'What the hell, let's go to the studio.' It went very well. The opportunity came and we took it. Any chance to get together and make music is very welcome. It was absolutely brilliant. We were just jamming, but it was good. I hope it happens."




Oasis reform for the 20th anniversary of 'Definitely Maybe'? Nope. NOT going to happen, as much as many would love it to. It's more likely that Noel will begin recording his second solo album, which will probably be finished in time for a 2015 release. I predict that Liam will attempt to mark the anniversary in his own way, maybe touring the classic debut album himself with various Beady Eye members and Bonehead. Noel rubbished claims in a recent interview: "We are split up," he said. "You've heard that, haven't you? You must’ve heard... Yeah, so, ergo, band splits up, band is no more. There is no band. So, no, I won't be getting involved, anyway. If there is a reunion, I won't be in it."


The Kinks reform?
One set of famous fighting rock n roll siblings may not be reuniting in 2014, but Ray and Dave Davies look set to put their differences aside for a 50th anniversary reunion of The Kinks. And word is that if they do, a brand new album could be on the way too... "We got together in August (2013) and the first few days were beautiful. We went up the pub and had a few Guinnesses, and we were talking about all kinds of shit, the old days and what-ifs," said Dave. "I said to Ray I thought that it'd be a great shame if we don't try and do something." The pair have not played together since 1996, and are known to have an acrimonious relationship. Ray has also talked about the reunion: "I'd like something good to come out of it, not something sad... I'd like to do something sensible, artistic and dignified. There's every possibility it could happen, if people behave. Or misbehave at the appropriate moment."

Part 2 coming soon...

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