Disclaimer: I’m still doing a degree, hence lack of posts. Although the interface has totally changed since last time I wrote anything, so this is perhaps a sign that it has been too long.
Released the tail end of last year, The Wave Machines’ Pollen truly came to life this year with the single release of Ill Fit. Easily one of 2013’s finest single releases, it’s funky, just a little bit sexy (‘Bite on a red lip, hold it…’) and a welcome burst of originality. 2009’s debut Wave If You’re Really There still stands up, but Pollen is a big step forward, covering everything from dreamy sentimentality (see Home) to slightly unsettling (Counting Birds). They’re excellent live, too.
Another of this year’s highlights was Jesca Hoop’s third album The House That Jack Built. Perhaps more mature than her previous efforts, this is the sound of a woman finding her, well, sound. Her incredible voice seems to have new power, at once wonderfully free and ultra-precise. It’s an album of two very distinct sides: half mourning, half call to arms. The title track and DNR in particular deal with the recent death of her father with a startling lyrical honesty. While emptying her father’s house, she lists his possessions, lamenting “it’s not enough to know you through this”: simple, frank and devastating.
As for the call to arms, it’s a word that’s overused, but empowering is the only one that fits for Jesca in combative mood. See Peacemaker, in which women stop a war by witholding sex. Seriously. It shouldn’t work, but it’s threatening and terrifically sexy. And to let you know what you’re in for, opening track Born To is her best moment to date. It sounds like it was forged in a storm: a thundering sort of mandolin sound, that howl towards the end and that repeated assertion “I was born to, I was born to”. Born to what, we don’t find out, but whatever it is, you definitely believe her.
Good God, Rod Jones, where have you been hiding this? A second Birthday Suit album is in progress, and after last year’s excellent The Eleventh Hour, hopes were high, but not quite this high. Less Worthless Years is joyous, impossibly infectious and utterly bonkers, and it’s their best yet. The same sense of euphoria as Idlewild’s Readers and Writers with a proper shot in the arm, it’s one of those songs that’s almost over too soon, but as a piece of inventive guitar pop, it’s pretty much perfect. Available to download from Monday 9th.