The final /Tracks of the Month of 2023 – or more to the point, the last before I unleash /Countdown /2023, wrapping up the best music of the year.
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
/Voice of the Echo Chamber
My normal policy is that if I can’t legally share a track – i.e. it isn’t on streaming services or Bandcamp yet – I won’t write about it until I can, but the timing for this means this won’t quite work. So, with the album out on Friday, and having heard this-much anticipated album in full, you’ll have to take my word for this over the next few days (I’ll update the track player on Friday).
Flesh Field are back with their first album in nineteen years, and it rips. Ian Ross has returned to the dramatic intensity of 2004 album Strain – think thundering industrial with string samples and crescendoes that crash like enormous waves – and added in political fury to the lyrics, and the result is an album of immense detail, and one that needs to be listened to as loudly as possible. The most impressive track is the roar of Rampage, which builds steadily before unleashing crunching guitars, ominous synths, those strings, and beats that punch like a heavyweight’s right hook.
Flesh Field always sounded like no-one else, and they still don’t. It’s great to have them back.
Black Magnet – now upgraded from a solo project to a four-piece – has been one of the most impressive and interesting industrial metal artists around in the past few years, and the first taste of the upcoming third album continues that upward trend. Mechanised, chugging riffs anchors the track, while electronics bulks things out, and James Hammontree’s vocals are more prominent than ever. Dare I say this might be a bit more accessible than before, but no less punishing. The b-side Desert Boots has great thrash metal riffage – think Megadeth if they were a) good and b) industrial metal. No, really.
/Alone at Parties
The excellent neo-noir synthpop duo Promenade Cinema have released new singles around Hallowe’en before, so another new song at this time of year is appropriate. It initially appears that Alone at Parties is a maudlin ballad about loneliness, but it doesn’t take long for the track to take flight and transform into a thrilling, pulsating track that races with the nervous energy of someone who’s suddenly in the spotlight without ever intending to. The protagonist here attracts attention by dancing alone, and it’s certainly a different look at panic and fear.
After what has been a pretty difficult period for Shah during COVID, going on social media posts and then a period of relative silence, it’s great to hear her back singing again, with the first taste of her upcoming album. It’s going to be interesting to see what the theme of the new album is – the last few have all had a clear theme as a springboard – but the intriguing new single apparently was inspired by a lack of connection between Shah and a counsellor, and the spiky edge to the single reflects that, with accusations and what seems to be word assocation making up the lyrics. A great return.
A bit out of the blue – or at least it was to me – IDLES are back with their fifth album coming soon, and they’ve brought in unexpected friends for this new single. James Murphy and Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem are those guests, and they add backing vocals to a track that seems like a bridge between the taut punk-influenced rock of IDLES, and the dance-punk of LCD at their best, and somehow it works well. Last album Crawler lost me a bit, but there’s a feeling here that IDLES have rediscovered their mojo again.
/He’s A Man
/Humble As The Sun
Bob Vylan have been rising stars for some time – as excited reports of their ever-bigger gigs attest – and they are striking while the iron is hot with another new album coming soon. Politics – and particularly racial politics and how they affect present-day Britain – are key to their songs, and so He’s A Man is a great return, as they provide a character sketch of the unreconstructed white man in suburban Britain, the man who’s always right, buys drugs and foreign food from the minorities he professes to dislike, and thinks feminism is a myth.
OK, so this is shooting fish in a barrel, but – as we’ve found out about appalling political leanings and sympathies from someone who we thought was better than that in the past couple of days – it continues to be a problem, so it should continue to be called out. Bob Vylan do a great job of doing so.
An absolutely fascinating new artist – at least, new to me – that I came across during October. A duo that bring together shoegaze and Mayah Alkhateri’s Emirati/Egyptian heritage for downtempo music that seems to sound like nothing I’ve heard before. Pick of the songs on this EP is z, with droning guitars and a muscular drum pattern that provide a gorgeous backing for Alkhateri’s swooning vocals. Well worth a listen.
/The Line or Curve
Another new artist bringing us dreamy, dark sounds are San Francisco band Octavian Winters, who tag themselves as “darkwave” and “post-punk”, but really they are ethereal goths with a deep love of shoegaze. And that’s absolutely fine, as lead Ondine is gorgeous: slow, rolling basslines and chiming guitars wrap around Ria Aursojoen’s delicate vocals, and in the tradition of the style they have, the vocals are part of the texture of the sound, rather than centre stage. Sure, elsewhere (such as on Undertow), the basslines nudge into classic Goth territory, but it’s clear they have little interest in doing the same as everyone else, and so I’m going to be keeping an eye on their progress.
/How’s It Gonna Be?
/God Is A Woman
REIN’s second album feels like it has been a long time coming, even if in reality it hasn’t been that long since REINCARNATED. The first taste of it, How’s It Gonna Be?, moves away from the shit-kicking, dancefloor-friendly power of the best moments of that debut. Instead, it is a sparse piece of electropop, with a more resigned REIN singing an actually quite elegant song. I’m intrigued to see if this is just wrongfooting us, or whether this is indicative of a new direction.
/Front Line Assembly
/Mechvirus featuring Ayria
Here’s a curious one: the impressive Warmech came out five years ago, and out of the blue, a new version of Mechvirus has been released, with Ayria adding vocals. It remains an impressive track – the twin “Mech” albums are deep instrumental pieces, with intricate detail and cavernous bass resulting in a very different side to FLA – and Jennifer Parkin’s strong vocals suit the track very well indeed. And for the DJs wanting a version to play in clubs, Sebastian Komor turns it into a roof-raising futurepop epic.