Well, hey there, how you been, it’s been quite the year, right?
So, musically, there was some proper dross out there this year, but in amongst all of that steaming manure, there were some absolute nuggets, and of those nuggets, here’s my Top Ten. It’s quite the eclectic mix, so buckle up, and hold on to your helmets, as I shoot you through, at breakneck speed, some of the absolute corkers which have hit my stereo, and ears, this year…
10. Reverend Mother ‘Damned Blessing’
Starting strong, and throwing my hat in the ring, I’m nominating Reverend Mother for number ten. What’s not to love on this album? Proof if ever it was needed, that bands can still take an eclectic music style, and regenerate it with such force, that it defies the genre it was ever placed in and becomes something greater altogether. Including the best Britney Spears cover in existence, this one is pure fire. If retro sleazy riffs, and powerhouse percussion is your thing, this is the baby for you. Its pure filth, in the best way possible.
Label: Seeing Red Records
9. Serpentent ‘Ancient Tomes, Volume I: Mother Of Light’
In at nine, is the dark brooding majesty that is Serpentent. Ancient Tomes… is an album so deliciously dark, that it will leave you under its spell, long after the album has finished. An eclectic album, at times dark, at times whimsical, but always infectious. Up there with the likes of Chelsea Wolfe, but with a more classic rock feel, this release, and the accompanying videos are still party of my YouTube playlist, even now.
Label: Svart Records
8. The Bobby Lees ‘Bellevue’
Recommended by fellow Shaman scribe Reza Mills, this album is a bolt out of the blue, and then some. Instantly infectious, at times completely off the rails, The Bobby Lees have come to crash your party, drink your beers, and completely destroy your sound system. Taking cues from the whole garage rock scene, the sound is so much bigger, and should see the band elevated to the next level of stardom. Not since Nirvana have I watched a band, and known deep down inside that greatness awaits.
Label: Ipecac Recordings
7. Pit Pony ‘World To Me’
I don’t know about the band, but this album literally means the ‘world to me’. The debut by a band who are going to hopefully be making waves over the coming twelve months, Pit Pony have stepped up, pitched, and thrown out a complete curveball of an album, filled with nuggets of joy, that Ronald sodding MacDonald world be proud of. Truly a pleasure that I got to review this album, it’s been on repeat at home, in the car, and at work ever since I was first handed it. With a sound that us here in the UK can proudly say we do best, this indie rock masterpiece is only the beginning. Pit Pony give me feelings that are usually reserved for bands I’ve loved for years, it’s a good sign indeed.
Label: Clue Records
6. Jo Quail ‘The Cartographer’
Truly the loveliest person in music, this masterclass in art, skill, and quality, truly cemented Jo Quail’s undeniable talents this year, on an opus filled with otherworldly majesty. After its release, and a string of dates playing with some of the most influential artists on the planet right now, The Cartographer shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, Jo’s talents, on a level unparalleled. From start, right through to its climax, the sheer depth of scope and creative talent cannot be emphasised enough.
To see an artist take on the big hitters, armed with a cello, and accomplish an album which is head and shoulders above pretty much everything else released this year is totally plausible. It just shows that the world is changing, and that an instrument which you have a mastery of, whether it be cello, violin, or a bloody recorder, when handled properly, you will create beautiful, world crushing things.
Label: By Norse
5. VLMV ‘Sing With Abandon’
Right from leftfield, VLMV show up, and slam down one of the most beautiful, and hypnotic albums, ever committed to record. Truly a work of genius, if this album doesn’t enter your life, and leave you forever changed, then you are truly broken. It has a warm, soft feel, like a summer breeze, gently rushing across your face on a warm July day, and a calming effect, that lifts this from being only music, and on to a higher plain of existence entirely. I can’t state this clearly enough, this album is epic, get it, and thank me later.
4. Feed Me To The Waves ‘Feed Me To The Waves’
In a year which has seen my own personal evolution in music, and its experiences, came Feed Me to The Waves, to shake up my life even more, and firmly stamp a place in my heart. This album is a truly incredible display of musicianship, coupled with ideas and visions, wise beyond its years. This post-rock outfit have helped me reach the end of the year wiser, calmer, and more centred. If you like The Ocean, Mono, and pg.lost then this, my friends, will revolutionise your way of thinking completely.
Label: Dunk! Records
3. Deadhead ‘Bad Dog’
Sometimes, something will come from the most random of places, and leave you completely in ore of it, without any knowledge of what’s even happened. Deadhead came into my life via Instagram of all places and left me at a place where if I hadn’t followed up on them, and jumped down that rabbit hole, it probably would have been in the top five of my own personal fuck up moments of all time. Deadhead, the duo, not to be confused with the death metal band with the same name, put out Bad Dog this year, and by fuck is it insane. Not insane like ‘what sort of insaniacs are still buying Nickelback albums’, but insane like ‘fuck me, that was insane’.
This album, if you don’t know it, is proof that if you have talent, good ideas, and are unafraid to push those boundaries, you will create something monumental. Oh, you still don’t know them? What are you waiting for, you’re probably reading this on internet related technology, go for your life, enjoy every dirty second. In fact, I imagine there is a link tied to this statement, see, we made it easy for you.
2. Drowse ‘Wane Into It’
OK, it’s not really a big secret that I love shoegaze, well, actually, maybe it is, but it has to be good shoegaze, not just any old slop. For me, it’s the classics, Slowdive especially, but if you are talking like I’m an ancient old fart, then I will say Slow Crush too, and leave it there. So, imagine my surprise when this little beauty by Drowse landed at my feet, ready to kick straight on to the music box. I can’t underline this statement enough, THIS ALBUM IS PURE FUCKING JOY, in all of its brooding sadness. Truly a perfect shoegaze album for the twenty first century, this hit number two in the list because the only thing that beat it is my favourite band of all time ever. It has only recently been released, but I know will stay with me for years to come.
Label: The Flenser
1. The Gathering ‘Beautiful Distortion’
Here it is, the big one the numero uno. It’s my most favourite band on the whole planet, and after a few years hiatus, this year they graced us with a new album, Beautiful Distortion, and its flipping, err, beautiful. It shows a more mature sound in the band, a grown-up album for grown-ups. It’s an evolution, without side-lining any of the band’s integrity along the way. It has all the trademark The Gathering-isms in place, from Rene’s signature guitar work, to Silje’s haunting and wonderous vocal.
This isn’t a thrashy blood fest, and nor is it a fuzzy stoner sludgefest. What it is, is a reinforcement of the mark The Gathering make on the world. It hits at shoegaze, trip rock, and prog, to a certain extent, in equal measure, but does it in the most lavish way possible. It would be a travesty to have put it any lower on the list, it was number one, or number nothing, but I never had a doubt, my favourite band are back, and no one is happier about that than I. This album is so emotionally charged it hit me right in the feels, and there were moments of pure joy, where the undeniable excitement was overwhelming. And that’s why it’s number one…
Label: Psychonaut Records
OK, so I’m throwing these out there quickly, it been a long while, your hair has probably grown a little since we started, so, with full respect, and much love to the following bands, who all released blinders this year, disregarding if they made the Top Ten, here’s the other top choices…
Helms Alee, Blacklab, God Is An Astronaut, Brutus and Shallow Black, all of whom are out there, proving that being different is fucking kick ass, fuck the squares, us outsiders know where it’s at, always…
Thank you for taking some time out of your busy day to read my mindless ramblings, it took a while, but we got there eventually. Here’s to 2023, probably another vintage shitshow year all round, but fingers crossed, it’s not gonna be as ridiculous as this year was…
Scribed by: Lee Beamish