GFP’s Favourite Albums | 2013
10. Fasano | The Barn
The PR that accompanies this most gloriously realised mini-album talks a lot about the magic that accompanied its creation. It also questions whether we, the listener, will hear this magic that apparently took place during The Barn’s creation over just one day in a practice space somewhere in Bushwick. Well, we’re here to say that we do indeed hear it. Recorded live to a four-track tape reel, and flying the flag for all things DIY, these songs glow in the most beautifully understated of ways. Last Evening and Midsummer Prayer have the sweeping grandeur of Grizzly Bear at their most passionate, while New York Is Working Out Just Fine is a scratchy and insular lullaby for the disenchanted. To single out any song in particular is to miss the point entirely however. The Barn is a twenty-minute snapshot in to the work of a truly talented songwriter and a wonderful – and, yes, often magical – place to hide away in. We highly suggest you find the time to do so.
9. Jensen Sportag | Stealth Of Days
While hazy and floral electro-pop has formed much of GFP’s backbone over the years, 2013 was a reasonably quiet one for it both in terms of coverage on the site and our outside-listening habits. Whether that was due to the genre itself having a subdued output, or a drop in the quality of what was being produced, is hard to say (the truth is it’s probably somewhere in between). One record that both (mostly) fitted in to this category, and also blew us clean away, was the long-awaited and much-anticipated return of Jensen Sportag. Carrying less lucidity than the most enigmatic of dreams, Stealth Of Days is a warped and fog-drenched collation of slick beats, smoky vocals and all manner of tricks and ticks that allow these songs to slowly seep in to your consciousness and simply hang there, like the most seductive and enticing of reflections. The result was the years most meditative collections of beats and a record that stood as a genuine triumph from start to finish.
8. Snow Mantled Love | Conversations
It’s hard to imagine a more invasive listen that Conversations, the debut full-length from London, Ontario’s Snow Mantled Love. Which isn’t to say there is anything brash or rousing going on here, in fact it’s the complete opposite. By reigning things in the trio cast the kind of spell that is simply inescapable. Steeped in heartache and unflinchingly raw it still, somehow, manages to be complete beautiful. Beautiful to the point where there’s nothing that can be done when listening to this record other than sitting back and letting it consume you. This makes it an often difficult listen, but don’t let that get in the way of you actually doing so. As human beings we should try to confront these things rather than shy away from them. Even if it’s someone simply unraveling upon you, rather than any kind of give and take. If the latter makes more sense to you then find this record and simply be the willing ear. If you associate more with the needs of the former then find in it the very best of friends, a hand to hold, a chest to lay a cheek on. But, most importantly of all, find it. Find it and then cherish it, for it’s a wonderfully special record whichever way it grips you. And make no mistake, you will be gripped.
7. Coma Cinema | Posthumous Release
The world created by Mat Cothran on Posthumous Release is one that I’m not accustomed to, but also one that I feel very much a part of. It feels almost unflinchingly American and yet it affects, just as greatly, someone 3000 miles away from it. It’s a record of quiet despair, but not one that travels the usual roads of love and loss, more a document of what it’s like to sit in a darkened room, staring at the world outside the window, but finding no way to impart yourself within it. More than that though it feels like good company. Not the kind that comes flying in and shakes you all up, more the kind of friend that does all it needs to by simply being there. It doesn’t have any witty anecdotes to impart on you, nor any motivational speeches to remedy the heaviness in your chest, but it’ll stay with you until the sun comes up and pour you a beer before your glass empties.
Three tracks in to Posthumous Release it tells you to “bare the weight of everything you’ve ever done” and at no point over the past year has that felt more achievable than when I was playing this record. A small, mostly quiet, but completely indestructible collection of songs.
6. Ever Ending Kicks | Weird Priorities
One of the most taxing things about running a site that delves in to music that sits outside of the mainstream is stumbling across the real hidden gems and then not being able to make them in to records that the whole world knows and loves. Hell, even being able to turn them in to records that your closest friends know and love is just as hard. So, even if you never do so again, can you please, just this once, listen to me very closely and act on what I say: listening to Weird Priorities will improve your life. If you’re here, reading this blog, then I’ll even pinky-swear you on it. From the sweet sketches of the opening couple of tracks, to the blazingly bold centre-pieces that form the most truest of hearts, it’s an album so full of wonder, craft, skill and wide-eyed optimism you’re left wondering quite how anyone manages to live without it. Give it one dedicated spin and we’re willing to bet that you won’t be able to any longer.
Paul Adam Benson; we salute you from our dancing feet to our ever-growing hearts.
5. Joanna Gruesome | Weird Sister
// ‘Lemonade Grrrl‘ confirms that there’s some serious heart-break on this record but the vocals have purposely been put so low in the mix that you can’t really tell what they’re singing about. That said, with production such as this, the fact that I get these sort of feelings proves that Joanna Gruesome don’t necessarily need crisp statements to make your heart ache. ‘Secret Surprise’ is probably my favourite track on the entire album and that’s not just because it’s the kind of song I would imagine My So-Called Life’s Jordan Catalano and Angela Chase would write together (a girl can dream, okay?). No, it’s grunge aesthetic and howling screeches from both guitar and vocalists make it an angry love letter to your teen-years infatuation and further proves that Joanna Gruesome write some of the catchiest, noise-infested, punk-pop (not the Sum 41 kind) around. They’re bloody brilliant and I’m going to shout it from the rooftops.
The energy on ‘Weird Sister‘ never, ever lets up. It makes me wince for the super-human drummer and has me wondering how the hell these guys get through a live show. They’re one of of the tightest groups I’ve ever heard and it’s obvious that each and every song was created exactly as each member wanted it to be. The all-important chemistry is clear and means that this is an album of unashamedly playful beauty. It tugs you in all kinds of different directions – depicting those transitional years when you’re trying to find out who you are, which path you’re going to take and whether you should really stop placing teddies on your bed now that you’re a 25-year-old woman. ‘Weird Sister‘ is a wonderful debut that should be praised from anyone who can appreciate brilliant song-craft, honest in-your-face lyrics and undeniably clever compositions. // [Read More]
Words by Sammy Maine
4. Oliver Wilde | A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears
// One minute you could be lost in the anguished refrain of “But you wouldn’t know” during opener ‘Curve‘, or eyes shut, throwing yourself around to the emphatic thud of ‘Walter Stephen’s Only Daughter‘ the next. Wilde’s ear for beautiful melody and instrumentation married with a palette of alien sounds combines to define his sound as being at once cautious and unknowable, but with a wonderfully human element which hammers home the emotive value of his music.
Whats more, ‘A Brief Introduction…‘ gives a breadth to the moniker of ‘lo-fi bedroom producer’ (if ever such a thing was important) in so far as his sound possesses quality which boasts the individual catharsis of making music, yet it feels instantly relatable. The further you venture down the album’s causeway of scattershot acoustic guitars, vibrant synthesised passages and enigmatic vocal delivery, the more you warm to the idea that Oliver Wilde really has managed to write the music you always wanted to hear. Instead of imposing with needless bravado or dramatic crescendos, Oliver’s music picks you apart without concern, only to then piece you back together – an almost cubist take on intimate songwriting. // [Read more]
Words by Robin Stewart
3. Frog | Frog
// As soon as I heard I ‘Nancy Kerrigan’ I was gone. And not just for five-minutes, but for days. It just hit me, hard, and I have no idea why. It’s by a two-piece called Frog and came out on Brooklyn’s Monkfish Records – and that’s all I know. I don’t know who they are, if it’s their first release, how it was received, whether Pitchfork listened to it. Nothing at all. And I don’t want to know. I want that teenage romance with this album, the way it used to be when you were just given some record by a band you’d never heard of and it changed your life. I know all the information is right there in Google but it can keep it. It’s just me and Frog.
‘Nancy Kerrigan‘ is a love song about the US Figure Skating Silver Medalist at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Of course. But that’s pretty much irrelevant. It’s a love song, first and foremost, and it’s bone-crushingly good. No attachment to time or place (despite the subject) it simply exists; and it’s weird and it’s beautiful in ways I can’t really describe. It was so good, in fact, that I almost didn’t want to listen to the rest of the record. It sustained me, I didn’t need more. I could live with just Nancy Kerrigan. But life’s a risk right? So in I jumped…
And oh what sweet relief. The opening one-two of ‘Ichabod Crane‘ and ‘Arkansas‘ beat any fears out of you with sheer brutal brilliance. The first couple of minutes of Ichabod bounce along on an almost country twang that slowly builds in to a blast of distorted garage rock that will have you scrambling for the doors. The vocals are glorious. At first they’re an angsty Neil Young, smashed off his face on cheap beer, before they grow into a feral rasp that sounds like whoever is delivering them is being hung over the edge of a cliff by his dungaree straps and told to sing for his motherfucking life. Arkansas is just as thrilling; again the band play as if their very lives depend on it, and yet they still find the time to write hooks that will punch you in the heart. // [Read More]
2. Gleemer | Death Sky, Soft Eye
On Death Sky, Soft Eye NYC’s Gleemer manages to prove a couple things. Firstly, that records released in January are forgotten about come the end-of-year-lists and, secondly, that sometimes all we want and need from music is a big slab of guitar and some huge, heart-on-sleeve rock and roll songs. It’s a record that instantly feels like the most dependable of friends. From the big choruses that feel instantly familiar and gloriously alive, to the dazzling array of hooks that are both loveable and wonderfully inspired, and the quieter, more withdrawn moments, it’s a record that barely puts a foot wrong across it’s thirty-three minutes.
While Gleemer is often referred to as the ‘bedroom project’ of one Corey Coffman, to resign it simply to the four walls that house him would be a huge disservice. These songs are made not just for him, but for anyone who’s ever given a fuck about what someone can do with a guitar, a steady hand and a wanting heart. They are songs that are made for wide open spaces. Songs that grow with you and help you to grow. They are tender, emboldened anthems that burn with a passion that is so easily lost on this bizarre and often wonderful little trip that we all find ourselves on. Embrace it with all your might, it won’t let you down.
1. Majical Cloudz | Impersonator
Though I try and fight against it, I’m prone to being a disarmingly nostalgic person. There are many loose ends both to my childhood and the years that followed it and it’s so easy to get lost within them. To crave for the chance to do some things differently or to simply relive experiences again. The problem with nostalgia is that it can spark contempt and derision about both the present and the future, even when there is so much to be thankful and excited for. Life, after all, is scary enough without thinning the thread ourselves and delving in to things that are already out of our control.
Not that Majical Cloudz were listening. On Impersonator they dive head-and-heart-first in to this exploration and find all manner of things that spook, entice, enamour and disturb in an abundance of varying measures. The twisted battle between the inner workings of our mind, and the thoughts which continually afflict us, form the albums narrative; the songs shifting from haunted lullabies to end-of-the-world paeans in the blink of one bulging, intimidating eye. These songs aren’t about being in the moment, they are about inspecting and embracing everything but the moment. They are cries for help. They are moments of solidarity shared between strangers. They are the tenderness of a life already lived.
Though the record is led by the extraordinary baritone of Devon Welsh, and accompanied beautifully by the heart-stoppingly pretty musical embellishments of Matthew Otto, the duo have crafted something that’s far greater than the sum of its parts. Though the themes and the ideas formed may be harrowingly personal, they aren’t consigned to their protagonists. They prick at all of our thoughts and fears; of monsters standing over our bed, of lost soul-mates, of dying alone. They stir and distress and provoke in ways that may well break your heart, but they’ll also stand side-by-side with you through it all.
In a world that seems to be constantly screaming ‘more, more, more’ Impersonator affects so greatly by slowing everything down to a crawl, delving inside of itself and confronting whatever it might find there. In doing so, Majical Cloudz have created a piece of work that isn’t just a devoted and faithful document of its creators trials and tribulations, but also a rousing and inspiring elucidation of humanity itself.
Buy Impersonator here.
Related: Feature | Ten Favourite EPs of 2013
Related: Playlist | Best of 2013