Sheer Music’s AOTY 2019

I’ve put absolutely no pre-thought into writing this, it’s coming out in a spew right, now.

10 – DZ Deathrays – Positive Rising #1 (Alcopop Records)

A much more understated album than their last outing, which was an absolute banger, this was a more controlled version of the beast we knew. Their atmospheric & anthemic sound were still in place and the album did drive and punch in equal measure, but it clocked in at 9 tracks, so felt a bit quick.

 

9 – The Real Cheesemakers – Grated Hits (self release)

Wiltshire’s finest silly song writers finally delivered their debut after nearly 20(?) years in the making. Certainly, in the decade I’ve known them. It’s strongest attribute will probably be their biggest hold back from reaching potential fans. People just don’t like silly songs, despite the musical prowess backing it up, and there was plenty of muscle flexed on this record. However, if you enjoy songs about cheese, giant squids, dinosaurs and guest appearances from chap-hop stars, then this record really, really delivered, and crucially, it stood up to repeated listens. Support slots to Creed Bratton, Goldie Lookin’ Chain & Professor Elemental on the way tell their own story. Almost certainly ones to look out for, as they will be hitting that circuit hard in 2020.

8 – Hysterical Injury – Life Death Life (self release)

I was slightly worried this came out in 2018, given it was released so early in 2019. The band played a single release show for us at the Komedia in Bath at the tail end of 2018, and this album followed shortly after. It was quite different sonically from their debut. Less pedal to the metal bass riffs and balls to the wall drums, and instead were more noisy soundscapes, programmed drums and dancy bass beats. This departure was rewarded with a UK tour opening for BEAK>, which is the only review you need.

Friendly Fires - Inflorescent.png7 – Friendly Fires – Inflorescent (Polydor)

In what is probably a wild card from me, big-budget, big label, pop-dance crossover indie disco outfit, Friendly Fires came back finally with their 3rd studio album. They did not reinvent anything of their history, they just continued to release dance floor friendly indie bangers. Not a lot else needed to be added, except to say, if you wanted a feel-good dance record, this was it.

A hand-drawn globe against a white background, with an orange border on the left-hand side. The words "FATHER+OF+THE+BRIDE" encircle the globe, with "Vampire Weekend" and "Sony Music" printed above and below the globe respectively. 6 – Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride (Columbia)

A stunning return to form, after trailing off since their debut (in my opinion), probably in part due to the introduction of 3 new members. This was an album of short, sharp songs (something of a theme in my list this year), spiked with their usual sun-bleached tunes. All destined to feature on a film 4 film in the future, obviously.

 

5 – Chris Farren – Born Hot (Big Scary Monsters)

If you’re not familiar with Chris’s sound, rest assured that if you picked this record up, you’d be delving in at his very best. His voice just tells stories, and I want to hear him lilting them to us. He doesn’t reinvent himself, but he did reinvent his advertising campaign, which had us all hooked on Twitter for the course of the record.

4 – Brand New Friend – Seatbelts For Aeroplanes (Xtra Mile Recordings)

OK, so not technically released this year, but I picked it up this year at their Swindon show, opening for Sean McGowan. And fuck me, the only reason this isn’t top, is because I got the  year wrong, because THIS is the sound of the funnest band out there right now. Brand New Friend are the natural successors to Ash. Infectious sub-3 minute pop tunes, all power and glory at being barely 20 something. They were my favourite set at 2000 Trees & they tour the UK in 2020, and I will be down the front, singing my heart out.

Image result for gender role prang3 – Gender Roles – Prang (Big Scary monsters)

Haha, now this was a fun album. BSM always find the band that epitomize the underground at that precise moment in time, and with Prang, Gender Roles delivered 2019’s snapshot of the state of the scene. They looked goofy, the wrote goofy and they played goofy. I have a live recording of the opening date of the album tour, in Chippenham. It was a wicked fun show, for a wicked fun band. When Weatherstate played Trowbridge a few weeks ago, these were the band everyone was buzzing about.

Image result for tom jenkins misery in comfort2 – Tom Jenkins – Comfort in Misery (Self Release)

Now here is an album.  Arguably the best-crafted collection of songs released in 2019, only missing my number 1 because of the repeated plays Indoor Pets got, because their’s came out earlier! Each song is an example of utterly perfect execution song writing. Even the shorter link tracks are perfectly weighted. No song grapples with another, the flow of the record was perfect, the weight of each track tempered expertly, none outstay their welcome – It’s a stunning record from start to finish. Tom took us on a journey, and it was beautiful.

1 – Indoor Pets – Be Content (Witchita)

After catching them for the first time since the name change (they played for us as Get Inuit, opening for Ash) at 2000 Trees, their performance was forever etched in my memory, not just because of the company, but because of the passionate delivery of the best collection of indie rock songs since The Pixies (for me at any rate). Their set was brief and faultless, and this album just got repeated and repeated. I’ve not seen them since, but I need to. I drove my family up the wall repeatedly playing Pro-Procrastinator. They hate it now. Oops.

Sheer Music #AOTY 2017

It’s that time of the year again, #TeamSheer run through their favourite albums of the year. Turns out after reading last years top 10 again, I’ve listened to a lot more music this year, and I’m much happier for it. You can head over to TheColourOfVinyl to see the run downs, but here’s my list, with explanations… Let’s get cracking.

10. Gnarwoles – Outsiders (BSM)

My first listen of the album was “difficult second album” after Chronicles of Gnarnia simply bolted the first EPs together, before their self titled debut proper, both absolute belters. So this was always going to be a tough ask, but after repeated listens the album not only stood up, but became a bit of a fav. 10 tracks, 30 minutes and a Placebo parody.

Their set at 2000 Trees was absolute killer too. A band hitting their stride.

 

9. Kamikaze Girls – Seafoam (BSM)

This duo came out of nowhere for me. I hadn’t bothered with the earlier EP (you can’t listen to everything) but I found myself with some spare cutter burning a hole, and decided to pick it up, and from the off I loved it. First listen, I loved the tones, the songs, the message. For me it was pure, as I knew nothing else about the band, so it was with subtle intrigue I also caught their set at 2000 Trees, and they were superb.

They have promised to play for us at some point too………..

 

8. Heartwork – Things I Wish I’d Said (Aaahh!! Real Records)

Dan O’Dell crowd funded this debut album, and in no small part that came form a lot of the regulars that come to our shows in both Devizes and Swindon. Dan has done a lot of shows for us, supported some great acts and really built himself a nice niche in our local scene. Heartwork’s last EPs were more than splendid so finally having an album to really express himself on, Things I Wish I’d Said, was a huge step up and step forward, which is hugely encouraging of things to come. 

Whisper it… there may be a second album, and a full band show in 2018. 

 

7. And So I Watch You From Afar – The Endless Shimmering (Sargent House)

Now on their 5th album and no real reinventions of their sound here, this album is still a glorious cacophony of noise. I recently caught them at Bristol’s Thekla, supported by Gallops, and it was a fantastic show. The best parts of this album easily stack up with their back catalogue. 

 

6. Paul Draper – Spooky Action (K-Scope)

I was a HUGE Mansun fan. Apparently not as crazy as some, but crazy enough to pledge to vault recordings being pressed up. A looooong time ago Paul, Mansun’s front man admitted that he had material for a solo album, and that it would be called Spooky Action. I waited patiently for it’s release, and finally this year it saw the light of day.

To be honest, I struggled with it to begin with. The singles were excellent, but first impressions of the album didn’t instantly satisfy me. After speaking to the only other Mansun freak I knew, Phil Cooper, I stumbled across the reason why. I kept wanting it to sound like Mansun, and obviously it doesn’t. There’s no Chad. Once overcoming this obstacle, I “got” the album, and I loved it. Perhaps not quite as much as I loved Mansun albums, but certainly up there. Shortly after, I managed to catch Paul Draper on his solo tour. A tour that was mired by ill-conceived comments on social media before it even started, gave me an internal tussle over how I felt about art and artist, but I managed to settle that with myself, and enjoyed the gig. Hearing those Mansun songs made me pine for the band soooo bad, but hearing his own material made me realise all was good. After that tour Paul announced another solo tour and a live performance for the debut Mansun album, forgoing any support slots. Amazing idea, and dream come true for super fans.

I’m going with Phil, and we will have a whale of a time.

 

5. Gallops – Bronze Mystic (Blood & Biscuits)

Ahhh, now this is a band. I first caught Gallops at the International Bicycle Convention at the Barbican. They were performing in the foyer, and they were utterly awesome! A live drummer, syncopated guitars and keys, a beast of a drummer, a wall of noise. Epic. I bought the EP, 7″ and double LP, and then they split in 2013. Fast forward 4 years, and the band have reformed, recorded a new album, and then toured with ASIWYFA. The 4 year gap was worth it, as they’ve lost none of their power, despite a line up change.

 

4. Alpha Male Tea Party – Health (Big Scary Monsters) 

This was another stab in the dark, having had some extra moula in my pocket I decided to plunge for this, and I’m glad I did. More in the vein of ASIWYFA, Gallops, That Fucking Tank etc style, a sound that could only have been made by a northern band, Alpha Male came with sounds and tones never heard before, and a penchant for tunes.

There wasn’t a single duff track on the album, and the epic album closer, complete with repetitive vocal line was just glorious. I even managed to sneak a live show in Trowbridge in as a warm up to their Arc Tan Gent performance. What make the whole shabang even better is that they are thoroughly, thoroughly bloody lovely people.

 

3. Ben Marwood – Get Found (Xtra Mile) 

Ahhhh Ben & I go waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy back, to just after his first EP (that upon checking has been white washed from his history!), right back to the beginning of Sheer Music some 14 years ago. We met on a band forum (remember those?) and I fell in love. Skip forward 14 years and without doubt we are listening to a musician that’s fully & comfortably grown into his sound, but still hinting at more to come. Stand out track of Ben’s year is arguably “Safe Mode” and that wasn’t even on this excellent 3rd album!

 

2. Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (Anti-)

The album opens with the stunning line “she kissed me like a chorus” and doesn’t let up over their standard 8 track records. Another band not to reinvent their sound, but instead focus on delivering quality and a distilled perfect version of what they are. To me this is inspirational road trip music, that equally soundtracks a night time city-scape as it does a daytime desert drive. This record makes me want to ditch everything, pick up my car keys and find an adventure. Powerful stuff.

 

1. TALL SHIPS – IMPRESSIONS (FatCat Records) 

I pre-ordered this album the day it was available. 2x LP with etching on side 4. Super-uber limited edition vinyl! It’s an investment! This is a band that will go down cherished in the annuals of British rock. A bit of a grower on me, as it took a number of listens to get under my skin (a familiar theme this year… maybe you need to try a little harder to get better rewards?). At times I wanted more bombast, at others I wanted the songs to get going quicker, but upon repeated plays I realised that each song was just perfect in it’s own way. I’m literally still spinning this album daily, along with a few others above and it still sounds fresh. 

 

 

Special mentions to Tellison for their re-issue of their debut album Contact! Contact!, and to Oceansize for their re-issue of Effloresce. UBER special mention to Mark Morriss for his 3rd solo album, “Look Up” that I rightly couldn’t include in the top 10 because I’m on it. Hand claps and oohs & arrs, and you know, that would be bias. 

Some awesome EPs released this year, certainly being lead by Southampton’s Sean McGowan. His vinyl EP Graft and Grief was a belter.

So that’s it. What does 2018 hold in store? You know, with everything else going on, I have no idea what’s due…. but I’m sure I’ll catch up.

See you at Xmas x x