2023 has continued to be a solid year for quality releases, and trying to keep this list down to ten (or this month eleven) is increasingly hard.
Anyway, here’s the best eleven tracks of the past month.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Track of the Month
/Days Move Slow
/Lucky for You
I must confess that Alicia Bognanno’s work as Bully had passed me by until I heard this fantastic track, and I’m now frantically trying to catch up. This lead single to her fourth album is a barnstorming grunge-pop track with dreamy, shoegazey backing melodies and a chorus I’ve been unable to crowbar out of my brain for weeks. For what on the surface sounds like a positive song about moving on – with a steely determination to do so – it was a bit of a surprise to find the adversity that inspired it was the loss of her beloved dog Mezzi. Even so, this has leapt to the top echelon of songs I’ve loved this year.
/Last One Standing
The surprising return of this excellent UK duo recently was something to celebrate, especially when it features this fabulous song – long the band’s stand-out song (and only ever released on the Resistanz Festival 2013 compilation before). A decade (!) on from that, and a sign of just how good this song is/was, is how it doesn’t sound dated whatsoever. This is simply top-drawer electro-industrial that is catchy, danceable and hugely enjoyable. It’s great to have them back.
/Warrington-Runcorn New Town Development Plan
/The Nation’s Most Central Location
I only caught onto the striking, brutalist ambient of W-RNTDP earlier in the year, and already they have a new album out – and going on the fact that the physical copies sold out in the blink of an eye this time, it’s clear that Gordon Chapman-Fox has struck a nerve with his work. It is music set around the idea of futuristic promise, but deals with what was and wasn’t delivered – the Busway in question here is the Runcorn Busway, the world’s first bus rapid transit system, but one that hasn’t been able to keep up with other developments in the area (and, of course, privatisation of the bus networks that served it). Like all of the work by Chapman-Fox, there is a wistful sense of what might have been, and is quite, quite different to other ambient music that you might hear as a result.
NOIR have dabbled in a few sounds across their releases, but sleek electro seems to suit Athan Maroulis’ rich vocals best, and new single Fallen reinforces my view. Synths twinkle amid a driving rhythm (which also stands up well to some fascinating remixes on the release, too) but are really a vehicle for Athan’s exceptional vocal delivery. His work – in Spahn Ranch, Black Tape For A Blue Girl and now NOIR – has been a constant in my listening since well into the nineties, and his style is so distinct and different from any of his contemporaries that it always stands out. This song is another impressive release to add to that lengthy discography.
/Design International EP
We’re years into this second generation of EBM – the revival, if you will – and happily there are still new artists coming through who are doing something interesting with a familiar template, and more to the point, releasing dancefloor fire. Tyler Baker aka Comfort Cure, out of Detroit, is one of those, with synths and beats programmed like weapons to absolutely detonate the dancefloor, using elements of sleek techno to enhance his EBM sound (rather than the other way round). You can pretty much guarantee you’ll be hearing this in my set at Work! To Live 5 in London at the end of July.
Talking of dancefloor-bound industrial…Originally released over a decade ago on the Come Fall EP – which has long since vanished online, it seems – Kalle Lindberg decided to rework a couple of his oldest tracks from this project to go alongside a great set of remixes from last year’s stellar album II. It was worth the work, too, as this new version of Capitulate is a thundering monster that whips up a storm with bass-heavy synths, a forest of samples and a reminder that Lindberg remains one of the finest exponents of electro-industrial in these times.
A bit of a pivot from previous work, Mari Kattman here has shifted into a denser, groovier sound (as others have noted, there are nods to KANGA’s earlier sound and most notably Curve) and frankly sounds better than ever. The tempo is slowed to a trap-like sound, as Kattman sneers at the expectations on women in alternative music (and how they are all too often held back – as I sadly confirmed on this site some years back). Changing tack has lit a fire under Kattman’s creativity here, as this is a fantastic EP.
/5 of Fire
I’ve been a fan of Will Haven for a very long time – probably since I first heard the rumbling dread of I’ve Seen My Fate over twenty-five (!!!) years ago. Releases from them have been a bit more sporadic in recent years, but their seventh album VII is imminent, and it is being led out by the feral power of 5 of Fire. In so many ways precisely what I’d expect from this band at their best – riffage that could cut rocks in two, Grady Avenell’s vocals delivered in a howl that must be at his limits, and a track so heavy that it is intimidating – and then it drops into a dreamy mid-section that comes out of nowhere. In other words, it’s fucking great.
/30 Under 13
Talking of sonic brutality, Greg Puciato has joined up with ex-members of Every Time I Die and Fit For An Autopsy for, well, a band that sounds an awful lot like a certain old band of Puciato’s… Oh yes, 30 Under 13 is full of tempo changes, riffs that charge like a herd of elephants, a drummer working extremely hard, and Puciato has his old hardcore roar back. There’s about four different songs in the four minutes, just as many moshpit-friendly breakdowns and a general feel of some old friends letting loose with a ton of ideas at once that they’ve had caged up for a while. I can’t wait for the inevitable album, that’s for sure.
/Drowning In Light
Still one of the few bands using industrial textures and full-on shoegaze are Bloody Knives. They remain the loudest band (by some distance) that I’ve seen at Cold Waves in four visits, as Preston Maddox appears to be a master of production – able to balance the wall of guitar noise with drums and synths, never making his vocals inaudible either. This new track Deeper goes for a full-on charge, and I cannot wait to hear this live on my fifth visit to Cold Waves in September.
/Take up Serpents
/Death Folk Country
Dorthia Cottrell is the frontperson of US doomsters Windhand, but her solo work strips away the fuzz and distortion, to reveal a chilling vocal delivery that has seen things. Her new album is perfectly titled – this is black-clad American folk music that coldly faces up to death and terror, and stares it down. So, not a particularly easy listen, but it is quite brilliant. Highlight of a very good album indeed is this track, where her voice appears to be multi-tracked, as she weaves a tale of proving love and faith with terrifying candour.