Albums of the year 2023

2023, albums of the year, best of, essex, records of the year, south records, southend -

Albums of the year 2023

Yo La Tengo – This Stupid World [BUY/INFO]

40 years in and indie rock’s quietest loud band have released one of their leanest and most concise records in years. As noisy and nostalgic, and as timely and timeless, as ever. A future classic.

Modern NatureNo Fixed Point In Space [BUY/INFO]

No Fixed Point In Space, the third full-length album by Jack Cooper’s Modern Nature, takes the palette of sound and themes that were honed on 2021’s Island Of Noise and launches them into an expansive world of openness and vivid technicolour. Certain moorings - woodwind, percussion, strings and Cooper’s lambent voice - are still present and recognisable from No Fixed Point In Space’s predecessor, but the new record marks a shift to utilising musical notation as a point of departure, from which the group explore the space around suggested notes and rhythms to create a semi-improvised, semi-composed ensemble performance. 

Sven WunderLate Again [BUY/INFO]

Soundtrack and library aficionados, jazz connoisseurs, and the hip-hop heads with an open mind: take note. Late Again is a collection of nocturnal jazz pieces that depict shooting stars and scattered beams from the setting sun, with an emphasis on gentle compositions for piano and orchestral pop-jazz arrangements for flute, brass, and strings. 

The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore [BUY/INFO]

I Am Not There Anymore, their first LP in 6 years, incorporates elements of post-bop jazz, contemporary classical, and electronic music into their shimmering, hazy pop. With those elements in the foreground, I Am Not There Anymore reasserts The Clientele’s standing among the great stylists of pop music, deftly shifting from image to image, mood to mood, in a way that feels both new and classically them.

James HoldenImagine This Is Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities [BUY/INFO]

Electronic explorer James Holden returns with a generically unconstrained new album of rave music for a parallel universe that seeks to reconnect with the feelings of hope, freedom and possibility that characterised the earliest days of dance music, coming to terms with his own musical past in the process.In contrast to its jazz adjacent live band predecessor The Animal Spirits, Holden's trippy fourth solo artist album is more of a continuous sound collage, artfully juxtaposing audio worlds and field recordings with an anything goes approach in the style of early nineties pastoral classics like The KLF’s Chill Out and the sprawling radioscapes of Future Sound of London.

Sam Prekop & John McEntireSons of [BUY/INFO]

The first full length collaboration from Sam Prekop and John McEntire (Tortoise) two artists who have expanded the field of rock through their work over the last three decades, both as individuals and in their time together in The Sea and Cake. Sons Of finds two master craftsmen working at the nexus of pristine production and skilful improvisation, forging compelling narrative arcs into glistening metropolises of infinite pulse. The resulting sound is one of transformative fluidity; each passing beat marking a sense of familiarity while the surrounding atmospheres are in constant flux. Ever-shifting tonalities and magnetic grooves propel the music with persistent momentum without feeling hurried buoyed by the steady pace, creating the framework that allows space for new sounds to breathe and evolve.

Dorothy CarterWaillee Waillee [BUY/INFO]

Dorothy Carter was many things - a virtuoso player, storyteller, historian of Celtic and Appalachian folk music, avid lifelong busker, avant-garde musician, and itinerant troubadour, laying a framework for music that existed both within and outside of standard folk idioms - never better represented than on her 1978 masterwork, Waillee Wailee. Underscored by Bob Rutman's cavernous bowing of the steel cello, the richness of Waillee Waillee's sound produces an album unlike any other in her discography. In particular, its two side-ending pieces, "Summer Rhapsody" and "Tree of Life,'' glide with the shimmering filigree of hammered dulcimer and Dorothy Carter's ephemeral voice floating over Rutman's droning buzz of the steel cello. The elements of these two tracks suggest something akin to a transcendental appalachian raga or whirling cosmic folk music, an effortless combination that serves to add additional substance to the remaining tracks on the album.

Candi Staton - Stand By Your Man [BUY/INFO]

Recorded in 1970 at Rick Hall's FAME studios, backed by the best in the game, Stand By Your Man became one of the cornerstones of Southern soul. Includes her string-drenched hits 'He Called Me Baby' and the title track, but it's 'Too Hurt To Cry' that elevates this to an all-timer of all-timers. Essential. 

John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy – Evening's at the Village Gate [BUY/INFO]

In August of 1961, the John Coltrane Quintet played an engagement at the legendary Village Gate in Greenwich Village, New York. Coltrane’s Classic Quartet was not as fully established as it would soon become and there was a meteoric fifth member of Coltrane’s group those nights— visionary multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. Ninety minutes of never-before-heard music from this group were recently discovered at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, offering a glimpse into a powerful musical partnership that ended much too soon. In addition to some well-known Coltrane material ("My Favorite Things", "Impressions", "Greensleeves"), there is a breathtaking feature for Dolphy’s bass clarinet on "When Lights Are Low" and the only known non-studio recording of Coltrane’s composition "Africa", from the Africa/Brass album.

Robert ForsterThe Candle & The Flame [BUY/INFO]

Robert Forster’s eighth solo LP, has added resonance - mid-pandemic, Forster’s partner, Karin Bäumler, was diagnosed with cancer. Forster’s songs pre-date that diagnosis, and the chemo and the surgery. But as is the way of songwriting, Forster’s songs examined healing, his love for Bäumler, and unexpected happenings. Balancing the understated, with a melodically direct approach. An intimate, and life-affirming return from the ex-Go-Between.

Eddie ChaconSundown [BUY/INFO]

Sundown is "low-key R&B legend" Eddie Chacon’s soulful, meditative debut for Stones Throw Records. Eddie Chacon rose to fame in the duo Charles & Eddie, whose 1992 single "Would I Lie To You" was a #1 hit around the world. Chacon returned in 2020 with the album Pleasure, Joy and Happiness, widely acclaimed by the New York Times, Guardian, and many more. On Sundown, blissful saxophones and synth bass emit an air that’s joyous and carefree alongside Chacon’s shaky vibrato, describing summer breezes and gentle rain. Moments like these encapsulate the spontaneous, paradisiacal feel of the album’s early days in Ibiza: a place where Chacon could reflect on love, loss, and the weight of the world without ever losing his groove.

TitanicVidrio [BUY/INFO]

Titanic's debut album Vidrio is the collaboration between composer I la Cat6Iica (Hector Tosta) and Guatemalan experimentalist Mabe Fratti. One could call Vitrio a jazz hybrid record, though once upon a time this music would have been called postmodern; an answer to pop's pre-packaged form, adopting maybe more classical structures to tell a story. In that, this record is reminiscent of Derek Jarman's "1980s contemporaries, The Blue Nile, who made widescreen post-pop that ached with longing for resolutions that seemed to be just over the horizon. And for all the deconstructions, the deliberate raucousness of the sax and the rhythms of the percussion (like waves riding up a shingle beach outside Jarman's cottage), this is still a music that can thread a line back to classical opera whilst nodding along the way to the likes of Terry Riley, or bebop.

WilcoCousins [BUY/INFO]

After a short detour back into their country influenced roots via last year’s Cruel Country double album, Cousin sees Wilco back in their more familiar progressive and experimental rock territory. Tweedy’s singular songwriting voice is in full evidence, with lyrics weaving across a variety of topics from the iconoclastic to the introspective.

MemorialsMusic For Film [BUY/INFO]

A seismic, cinematic double dose from two veterans with previous in Wire, Electrelane, and Better Corners. Memorials’ kaleidoscopic debut covers broad musical territory, encompassing protest songs, fuzz-flooded pop, searing drone, and psychedelic freakouts whilst carving out a sound that is uniquely their own. Both halves of this dynamic double album were originally conceived as individual film soundtracks but once the multi-instrumental duo of Verity Susan & Matthew Simms brought Music For Film into a live space, the desire to shape it into a cohesive whole was more than they could resist. The resulting, intoxicating, musical odyssey can be viewed independently from the associated films and stands proudly as an ambitious artistic statement.

CindyWhy Not Now [BUY/INFO]

Moving on from the fixed quartet that performed the first three albums, Gill worked alongside original keyboardist Aaron Diko to develop the songs and they enlisted players from the ever-blossoming SF pop scene to realise her minimalist vision -- members of Flowertown, Telephone Numbers, April Magazine, Famous Mammals, and Sad Eyed Beatniks to name a few. The collective sounds fill out the record perfectly with John Cale-esque viola on ‘August’, lo-fi fairground organs, and a tasteful full-band sound that crops up throughout. While the dream-pop tag is probably still relevant, this isn’t algorithm-fed genre ambience. Gill’s vocal/lyrical presence can be as gently momentous as Leonard Cohen or as intellectually potent as any ’79-’80 Rough Trade post-punk.

MovietoneMovietone [BUY/INFO]

Long-awaited reissue of the self-titled debut album by Bristol’s Movietone. Originally released in 1995 by Planet Records and reissued on CD in 2003 by The Pastels’ Geographic Music imprint, this is the first time Movietone has been reissued on vinyl. An expanded double-LP edition of 1000, it includes the extra tracks from the 2003 CD (their first two singles, and an unreleased demo of "Chance Is Her Opera"), and adds three more unearthed gems: demos of "Alkaline Eye" and "She Smiled Mandarine Like", and an early take of "Late July", recorded in a garden by Dave Pearce (Flying Saucer Attack) in 1993. Taken together, this is the definitive collection of music from the first phase of one of Bristol’s most remarkable groups.

Pharoah SandersPharoah [BUY/INFO]

Frequently bootlegged, this is the first official version since 1977. This record’s origin story is as elusive as Pharoah was about everything Pharoah. It was born out of a misunderstanding between him and the India Navigation producer Bob Cummins and was recorded at a crossroads in his career with a group of musicians so unlikely that they were never all in the same room again. There was a guitarist who was also a spiritual guru, an organist who would go on to co-write and produce ‘The Message,’ and a classically trained pianist - his wife at the time, Bedria Sanders - who played the harmonium despite never having seen one. At times ambient and serene, at others funky and modal, Pharoah radically departed from his earlier work. It would become one of the artist’s most beloved records and one of the great works of the 20th century.

Blue LakeSun Arcs [BUY/INFO]

Blue Lake is the musical moniker of American born, Copenhagen based multidisciplinary artist and musician Jason Dungan. Sun Arcs follows 2022’s release Stikling, earning a nomination for Album of the Year at the Danish Music Awards plus warm praise from The Hum blog and musicians and DJs alike including Jack Rollo (Time is Away/NTS) and Carla dal Forno. A self taught player, Dungan began freely experimenting with self-built multi-string instruments, preferring to build his own hybrid 48-string zither and working in the realms of left-field ambient music, off kilter folk and improvised acoustic minimalism.

HydroplaneSelected Songs [BUY/INFO]

Selected Songs 1997-2003 compiles some of the finest moments in the recording history of Hydroplane, the Melbourne-based indie-pop three-piece that operated alongside The Cat’s Miaow through the second half of the nineties. Hydroplane would be familiar to anyone already following these breadcrumb trails – Andrew Withycombe, Bart Cummings and Kerrie Bolton were the group’s core, all members of The Cat’s Miaow. With Cat’s Miaow drummer Cameron Smith itinerant, having moved to London, the trio used this opportunity to expand their music. It’s a subtle, but important shift. If The Cat’s Miaow was about the perfect, minimalist, two-minute pop song, Hydroplane’s music was far more open-ended, embracing the loops and drones, sampled house-y shuffle beats, the burbling of a Roland Jupiter-4 synth, all of which the trio joined, effortlessly, to their endless capacity for moving, elegant melodicism.

SparklehorseBird Machine [BUY/INFO]

Originally recorded with Steve Albini in 2010, and mixed by Mark Hamilton (who also worked on It's A Wonderful Life). 13 years later one of Mark Linkous’ best finally saw the light of day – shedding his sad-singer-in-a-home-studio reputation for a freewheeling garage band rock record, with some of his most direct and candid lyrics


Also great and released this year:

Acetone – reissues  [BUY/INFO]

Alfie Firmin – Absentee [BUY/INFO]

Allah-Las – Zuma 85 [BUY/INFO]

Andrew Hung – Deliverance [BUY/INFO]

Arthur Russell – Picture of Bunny Rabbit [BUY/INFO]

Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel [BUY/INFO]

Autobahn – Ecstasy of Rain [BUY/INFO]

Better Corners – Continious Miracles vol 2 [BUY/INFO]

Bill Callahan – YTILAER [BUY/INFO]

Blonde Redhead – Sit Down For Dinner [BUY/INFO]

Bonnacons of Doom - Signs [BUY/INFO]

Bowery Electric – Bowery Electric [BUY/INFO]

Claire Rousay – A Heavenly Touch [BUY/INFO]

Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari – Tales of Mozambique [BUY/INFO]

Craven Faults - Standers [BUY/INFO]

Cymande – Cymande [BUY/INFO]

Dave Evans – Elephantasia [BUY/INFO]

De La Soul – 3 Feet High & Rising [BUY/INFO]

Death & Vanilla – Flicker [BUY/INFO]

Decisive Pink – Ticket To Fame [BUY/INFO]

Dolly Mixture – Remember This [BUY/INFO]

Dorothy Ashby - The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby [BUY/INFO]

Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here [BUY/INFO]

Emma Anderson – Pearlies [BUY/INFO]

Emmett Finley – Emmett Finley [BUY/INFO]

Far Out – Nihonjin [BUY/INFO]

Fela Kuti – Gentleman [BUY/INFO]

Felt – Gold Mine Trash/Bubblegum Perfume [BUY/INFO]

Fred Again & Brian Eno – Secret Life [BUY/INFO]

Fridge – Happiness [BUY/INFO]

Gabor Szabo - 1969 [BUY/INFO]

Goat - Medicine [BUY/INFO]

Guided By Voices – Sandbox [BUY/INFO]

Hey Colossus – In Blood [BUY/INFO]

Joanna Brouk – Sounds of the Sea [BUY/INFO]

Joe Harriott/Amancio D'Silva Quartet - Hum Dono [BUY/INFO]

John Cale – Mercy [BUY/INFO]

John Cale – Words for the Dying [BUY/INFO]

John Carroll Kirby - Blowout [BUY/INFO]

Cotton Jones – The River Strumming [BUY/INFO]

John McEntire – Vanishing Points/A Cappella [BUY/INFO]

John Surman, John Warren – Tales of the Algonquin [BUY/INFO]

Karen Dalton – In My Own Time [BUY/INFO]

Kate Bush – reissues [BUY/INFO]

Kate NV – Wow [BUY/INFO]

Kath Bloom – Finally [BUY/INFO]

Kelenkye Band – Moving World [BUY/INFO]

Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd [BUY/INFO]

Little Simz – No Thank You [BUY/INFO]

Mark Fry – Dreaming of Alice [BUY/INFO]

Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs [BUY/INFO]

Mystic Chords of Memory – Mystic Chords of Memory [BUY/INFO]

Nucleus - reissues [BUY/INFO]

Okonski – Magnolia [BUY/INFO]

Parson Sound – Parson Sound [BUY/INFO]

Pauline Anna Strom – Trans Millennia Consort [BUY/INFO]

Lewsberg – Out and About [BUY/INFO]

Phet Phet Phet – Shimmer [BUY/INFO]

Primal Scream – Reverberations [BUY/INFO]

Prince – Diamonds and Pearls [BUY/INFO]

Shack – Here’s Tom With The Weather [BUY/INFO]

Sleep – Dopesmoker [BUY/INFO]

Sonny Sharrock – Black Woman [BUY/INFO]

Southern University Jazz Ensemble – Live At The 1971 American College Jazz Festival [BUY/INFO]

Spencer Cullum – Coin Collection 2 [BUY/INFO]

Sun Ra – Space Is The Place [BUY/INFO]

Tara Clerkin Trio – On The Turning Ground [BUY/INFO]

The American Analog Set – For Forever [BUY/INFO]

The Breeders – The Last Splash [BUY/INFO]

The Ironsides – Changing Light [BUY/INFO]

The Lemonheads – Come On Feel [BUY/INFO]

The Lyman Woodard Organization – Saturday Night Special [BUY/INFO]

The Reds, Pinks & Purples – The Town That Cursed Your Name [BUY/INFO]

The Sea Urchins – Stardust [BUY/INFO]

The Shapiros – Gone By Fall [BUY/INFO]

Ulrika Spacek – Compact Trauma [BUY/INFO]

Unrest – Imperial ffrr [BUY/INFO]

Vanishing Twin – Afternoon X [BUY/INFO]

Wilco – Cruel Country [BUY/INFO]

Woods – Perennial [BUY/INFO]

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