Festive 50 2013

Festive 50 2013

Welcome to 2013’s Festive 50, as everyone focuses on a New Year WithGuitars has a few musical highlights of this past year that made their mark, here below are 50 of the most recommended songs in these broken and wonderfully dysfunctional times. Brought your very own way by Nick Hutchings, Chris Todd, Jamie Gambino, Rotten Johnny, Jamie Morrell and Steve Janes. Bon voyage!

Caveman – ‘In The City’

Caveman are a five-man vibe collective from NYC that released their first album in 2011. As first albums go, CoCo Beware’ was something akin to a moody statement of intent; The guys holed up in Brooklyn’s Rumpus Room to start recording new material in earnest with Nick Stumpf (who produced the band’s debut album) and Albert Di Fiore behind the controls. The end result, the guitars on ‘Caveman’ were bigger and more expansive, the rhythm section is tighter and more adventurous, a marriage between “Tangerine Dream, late period Slowdive, and Lindsey Buckingham”, an influences  realised with  ‘In The City’ a quality feel coupled with modern sensibilities to good effect. Caveman‘s video for the track “In The City”. Director Philip Di Fiore made a thrilling portrait of a tourist couple visiting New York City for the first time. also mage the single release memorable. Steve Janes

Electric Guest  – ‘The Head Hold’

Electric Guest made a return to Festive 50 after featuring at last year’s  feature, such an impressive album as ‘Mono’ was, the album ‘poses an almost old-fashioned love of melody as it switches genres with blatant disregard for simple categorisation’. Add the production nous of the mighty Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, The Black Keys) – contemporary ingenuity rooted within pop’s most essential and traditional attributes – and it’s clear why Electric Guest are so immediately enticing to such a wide audience. It’s because of their appeal that ‘The Head Hold’ was released in the spring. Strange thing is the single still does the business so well, second time around in 2013. Steve Janes

Yellow Creatures – ‘Town Hall Crypt’

Quirky post-punk reminiscent of bands from the 80s heyday of post-punk like A Witness and Big Self, but they’re very much now and stand out like a beacon amongst the other many generic and derivative bands.
One of Tyneside’s hidden treasures and on the ‘To Watch’ list for 2014. Rotten Johnny
Listen to ‘Town Hall Crypt’ via bandcamp here

Frankie & The Heartstrings – ‘Nothing Our Way’

A healthy fusion of indie-rock  meets pop from Sunderland, that impressed from the off, after two well observed singles then  ’Hunger, Frankie and the Heartstrings’ debut album was released back in February 2011; it charted at No. 32 on the UK albums chart. I remember a busy 2011 as the band then went on to support Kaiser Chiefs and The Vaccines on their UK tours later in that year.
Back to 2013 and the ‘Nothing Our Way’ appeared May this year, taken from the new album ‘The Days Run Away’ which followed in the summer. The first single was an impressive introduction to the band in 2013. ‘Nothing Our Way’ chimed with multitudes in the length of the UK, including WithGuitars, getting blissful after enjoying yet another memorable song of 2013. Steve Janes

Flaming Lips (Feat. Phantogram) – ‘You Lust’

Perhaps the clues were there in the stars, or perhaps on The Dark Side of the Moon the album by their heroes Pink Floyd that they covered in full in 2010. The song “You Lust” at 13 minutes and half way in, is the centre piece to an album of post apocalyptic fug, an album that is forebodingly called The Terror and which unfurls its charms like a mist coming in off the blackened sea.  This we have been told is the vision of guitar hero and once euphemistic spiderbite victim Steven Drozd rather than that of flag waving leader of the free Wayne Coyne, and it’s a deep journey into the recesses of a well travelled mind.  It was heading this way even on the last album, sprawling collaboration 2012’s Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends amongst which the Yoko Ono & Plastic Band work was perhaps the closest cousin. Experimental, as we know they can be, sometimes trying but always trying something different. Ever the early adopters, on “You Lust” the Lips have enlisted assistance from New York electronic duo Phantogram, and have also borrowed and amusingly twisted the “big boys don’t cry” whispered line of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, replacing it with “last to succeed”. This is no coincidence I’m sure as nothing by this band is done by accident. It’s been a busy year, with The Terror followed by an alleged Twitter hacking which claimed the band were splitting, then the recent and brilliant (and more hopeful in spirit) Ender’s Game influenced Peace Sword EP. And if that wasn’t enough another covers album this time Stone Roses as part of Record Store Day’s Black Friday releases. Its hard to be a Flaming Lips completest, especially with releases such as a limited gummy bear sweet with USB stick inside rack up big expenses or 24 hours long releases are simply un-downloadable, but if you were to download one Lips tune this year “You Lust” is a must. Nick Hutchings

 

The Mob –  ‘Rise-Up’ (All The Madmen)

Been 30 years since one of anarcho-punk’s finest bands The Mob released anything and it has been well worth the wait. ‘Rise-Up’ has all the brilliance of the band circa ‘Let The Tribe Increase’ but with 2013 production techniques which only serve to further enhance the intensity of the music. Rotten Johnny

 

Foals – ‘Inhaler’

‘Holy Fire’ album arrived in February (charting at number 2), the+ Oxford five piece have since unleashed a feverish assault on live audiences worldwide. America, Europe, Asia, Australia have all witnessed the band’s electrifying live show that’s earned them the reputation as the most exciting British guitar bands treading the boards+. the album spurned several singles including Inhaler’ which did the business for us. Steve Janes

 

Kurt Vile –  ‘Walkin’ On A Pretty Day’

I bought the album Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze not because I was a Kurt Vile fan. Though I am. I had previously been put off it by some indifferent reviews based on six minute songs of self righteous indulgence. However when I saw the double 180gms blue vinyl copy complete with stickers with which to graffiti the album cover, being the vinyl magpie I am, I had to have it. And I don’t regret it. The almost titular album opener sets its smoke ringed stake out. It’s lazy, hazy and stir crazy. Kurt Vile, the prolific doyen of slacker alt country rock is so slack vowelled that you wonder if he’s barely conscious at times, but as suggested in the title, his is a pretty sound, and even if this song is, like most of the album, a winding opus, it’s a pleasingly sun dappled journey into an inner consciousness. It’s light on the outside but the further in you wander, the darker it gets. It’s no surprise that Kurt Vile has a slightly dark world view though as it’s surprising he can see out of those curtains, coming across like an extra in the grunge movie Singles. It’s a confident album opener though and sets its meandering tone perfectly, showing the once self-proclaimed “childish prodigy” is growing into himself. Nick Hutchings

 

 

Elephant Stone – ‘Sally Go Round The Sun’

I was first introduced to Elephant Stone this year, and I often question myself as to why I hadn’t heard them of the band previously. Elephant Stone is fronted by Rishi Dhir, who is somewhat of a household name on the psychedelic rock scene. ‘Sally Go Round The Sun’ transports you back to a decade when LSD was as common as a cup of tea and rock was heavily influenced by Eastern culture and Indian instruments. The track is an instrumental, which doesn’t detract from it’s headbanging quality; I feel lyrics would have only complicated the brilliant musicianship of the song. Rishi Dhir’s sitar playing exacerbates the psychedelic sound of the song, whilst a rhythmic bass line and pounding drum beat pummel the song onto a wavelength that can only be described as righteous. ‘Sally Go Round The Sun’ is one of those timeless gems that escapes the confines of mundane unoriginality. Jamie Morrell

Daughn Gibson – ‘The Pisgee Nest’

Daughn is a man, not that you’d know from the name. No, let’s correct that, he is the man. Of 2013 at least. And he’s a man mountain in stature too. His second album Me Moan has been on repeat play in my ‘phones filling them with a sensurround sound that takes in beats, loops, Eastern mysticism, Gothic menace and a killer baritone. With lyrics evocative of Twin Peaks particularly on this tale of “the state trooper’s daughter”, apparently based on an unseemly incident in the mountains where he grew up. If David Lynch made more accessible music he’d be making Me Moan. “The Pisgee Nest” is Chris Isaak meets Nicholas Jaar telling the tales of the seedy underbelly beloved by Nick Cave, it’s about bad stuff by bad apples but done with sweet aplomb. Daughn you may be surprised to know is not his real given moniker. His government name was Josh Martin, but his pseudonym is a nod to country legend Don Gibson and blues guitar virtuoso Stevie Ray Vaughan and that is encapsulated in the country leaning slide guitar creepiness of “The Pisgee Nest”. It’s a haunting perfect pop song nonpareil. Nick Hutchings

 

  

Thee Oh Sees    ‘Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster’

John Dwyer is the cool dad of the San Francisco garage psych scene and although he’d already been a cult hero with The Coachwhips, he’s now ensure his legacy with the ever-toiling, never-spoiling possibly best band on the plant Thee Oh Sees. Both prolific and terrific, this year’s effort Floating Coffin resplendent with evil toothed strawberries is a corker. When they get in a groove they lock into it and stay on it until you can’t get it out of your mind. This, the first single, takes no prisoners and if it did the title “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” suggests they’d be crying for mercy. It has a crunching riff, a singular melody, some strawberry sweet male-female harmonies and an uncompromising video to accompany it. The song announces its arrival with an ear-splitting feedback screech then drives on, somewhere between The Cramps, The Sonics and the Wooden Shjips, encapsulating both carnal fleshiness and morbid fascinations. This could be Thee Oh Sees very own “Human Fly” recognisable at any chord, and it struck a fine chord with me. Nick Hutchings

 

Poliça – ‘Chain My Name’

August brought the second single to be taken from October’s sophomore album, ‘Shulamith’, as ‘Chain My Name’ landed so positively.  Not too much of a surprise perhaps, the Minneapolis electro-R&B outfit had already released the shadowy, ‘Justin Vernon-aided lead single ‘Tiff’ that drew much attention. But for us ‘Chain My Name’ made a much heavier glowing impression, even with the doomed relationship narrative, the single goes down well. Steve Janes

Thundercat  – ‘Oh Sheit It’s X’

While when it comes to dance music most of the hype in 2013 has rightly been around the human soul behind the robots of Daft Punk and the rightful re-ascendance of should be Sir, Nile Rogers, going under the radar was the finger picking stealth soul of Thundercat. “Oh Sheit It’s X” starts off super funky like an extra summer sitting of Parliament Funkadelic, like John Legend in a Stevie Wonder headlock, like Trouble Funk’s “Lets Get Small” only bigger. But it’s at 2 minutes in when the refrain “Oh s*** I’ve f***** up” hits like a bolt from the literal blue. This is the one and only time the phrase almost in the song’s title raises it’s profanity swan above the choppy seas of future soul, but it’s all the more powerful for it. It’s that realisation that everybody gets now and then, and the music stops for it momentarily but then bounds on as life itself must. Musically, this is a song which Nile Rogers would have been proud of, but also in sentiment given the early genesis of “Freak Out” as a “f*** you” for not being allowed into Studio 54. Thundercat is a supremely talented multi-instrumentalist and cohort of the chin stroking electrohead Flying Lotus, but on this his second album he lets fly himself. Although it goes occasionally noodly and jazz funk it’s mostly a party you’d like to be at, a party even Rick James, Bootsy, Afrika and George Clinton would be clamouring to get into. Nick Hutchings

 

Zounds – ‘Ancient Briton’ (Overground)

Continuing in the impressive vein from their amazing ‘The Redemption of Zounds’, effortlessly creative yet beautifully crafted with sounds affects, unusual time signatures, no guitar solos and a one-line chorus, this record is a mini masterpiece that takes a dig at ladish culture. This is almost poetry set to music. Wonderful! Rotten Johnny
Listen to ‘Ancient Briton’ via Spotify

King Khan & The Shrines –  ‘Luckiest Man’

While the Daft Punk robots were up all night to get lucky, the fleshy garage party soul King Khan was slightly more down on his, on this album Idle No More the first for Chapel Hill’s Merge Records. Normally he’s singing about unrequited love for the unlikeliest of suitors to music suited to The JB’s meets The Standells, but this time just as he and The Shrines had seemed to have hit their biggest groove, the lyrics on the album are mostly about loss – including of close garage rock compadres like Jay Reatard. For this song though, King Khan aka Arish Ahmad Khan sings that he’s the luckiest man the world has ever seen but even though this is a euphoric rocker compared to the darkness that follows, you feel that he protesteth too much. This could easily have been on that Best of Sam & Dave Atlantic cassette that Belushi and Akroyd throw into the deck of the Bluesmobile, but is also reminiscent of Northern soul epic “Tighten Up”. Throw in some Shangri-La charm, Arthur Lee aplomb and The Saints brassbound snarl and you’re some way to the evisceral thrill of this late summer humdinger from a great album that exposed new depths to Khan’s kingdom. One day, in my warped dreams and in a parallel universe we may erect a Shrine to this King to eclipse Graceland.  Nick Hutchings

 

The Dirtbombs –  ‘Hot Sour Salty Sweet’ (track 3 on the side A video from the ‘Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!’ LP)

Mick Collins of The Dirtbombs had already paid homage to the soul and techno for which his hometown of Detroit is famous. However one blistery itch he hadn’t scratched was a yen for the 60s bubblegum pop from the kids shows from his childhood (sshh don’t tell everyone how old he is). Being a student of music too, he has done a pretty darned faithful impression of the likes of The 1910 Fruitgum Company and the theme from The Archies. But these ain’t no covers, they are love letters to pure, un-nuanced pop from a simpler time where things had only just gone from sepia to glorious eye-popping technicolour. “Hot Sour Salty Sweet” with its “apples, peaches, pears and plums – can’t wait ‘til evening comes” refrain feels like part of a memorable episode of Banana Splits. Its life affirmingly retro, nothing deeper than an “eenie meanie minie moe” song about candy which is literally about candy sweets, not a euphemism in sight. Sure, his tongue is firmly in his cheek and the sound is fluffy as hell, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of sugary tea, but it defo pepped me up. Nick Hutchings

Crocodiles – ‘Virgin’
Reprobates from the navy town of San Diego, named after an Echo & The Bunnymen song Crocodiles are clearly in thrall to British indie music ranging from early Primals via Charlatans and on this one later era Jesus & Mary Chain. Earlier albums by the band seemed all tight with sexual frustration, but this one – Crimes of Passion has gone through satisfaction and out the other side. The chorus bemoans “if I was a virgin again” with bed soiled regret, but there’s no going back, and although they feel like an unfashionable band they’ve got a lot more to give. Their mix of killer singalong refrains and well produced but undeniably scuzzy synth / guitar pop is an edifying cocktail and although this could be destined to be a long-lost gem, I feel that greatness is in their reach if they don’t blow it in a human zoo of debauchery. It’s either that or their yen for British indie will hit ’95 and get all Blurry. Hopefully we’ll see them later alligator. Nick Hutchings

Steve Ignorant with Paranoid Visions – ‘Join The Dots’ (All The Mad Men)

Former Crass vocalist joins forces with notorious Dublin punk rockers Paranoid Visions to create something very special. There’s no-one with quite the vocal delivery that Ignorant has and few punk bands are willing to push boundaries like Paranoid Visions, making for a very special collaboration. Rotten Johnny

Thee Oh Sees – Sweet Helicopter

Despite these guys seeming to release an album every other week, quality control remains high. This lead track from their umpteenth album, this year’s ‘Floating Coffin’ is a psyched up freakbeat treat. Just over two minutes of scuzzy desert rock, indecipherable spooked up vocals and through the middle lies one of the most thrilling rock riffs put to tape in years, it’s as if they tanked up on Tintern Abbey, BBC Radiophonic records and transported us back to 1967,utterly exhilarating.  Chris Todd

 

Ashrae Fax – ‘Daddystitch’

Originally released back in 2003 and receiving no love at all, New York label Mexican Summer had the vision to give it another airing this year. Until finding out this fact, it’s easy to make the assumption that it’s an album by another bunch of hot new things. Daddystich is the highlight of the album, an urgent electronic rocker with elements of a pissed off Siouxsie back with feminine cooing backing vocals and schlocky sounding synths. Definitely victims of doing something way ahead of its time, Daddystitch and the parent album ‘Static Crash’ sounds pretty contemporary a full decade after release.  Chris Todd

Fuzz – ‘Sleigh Ride’

2013 has been a relatively quiet year by the super prolific garage guitar hero Ty Segall, but even saying that there’s been two albums – the quieter more reflective solo record Sleeper and Fuzz by Fuzz, a power trio featuring Ty on the traps instead of up front. Fuzz is such an inconspicuous name for a band and has already been used several times before. It was originally designed as an almost secret project to deflect attention away from Segall’s involvement, but since this is a record that would instantly appeal to garage heads and since the man himself can’t resist singing even from the drum stool, how could any of its target audience not know! The moot point of the album and this its ter-riff-ic centrepiece song “Sleigh Ride” though is the involvement of guitarist Charles Moothart, the slaying axe all over Ty’s noisiest 2012 effort Slaughterhouse by Ty Segall Band. Seasonally titled now “Sleigh Ride” was originally released back in Spring and crunches into life like a season changing frost under a size nine worn by Geezer Butler. If you love a bit of Queens of the Stone Age but wish the rock was harder, or want your slab of Sabbath even blacker, the onomatopoeically fuzzy Fuzz peddlers could still take you on a noisy ride into the new year… Nick Hutchings

 

Phosphorescent – ‘Song For Zola’

The breakout song from Phosphorescent’s 2013 album ‘Muchacho’, ‘Song For Zula’ became daily aural medicine here at Withguitars, such was the impact of the gifted single, which delivered broken hurt, passion and power. the album, Muchacho’, Nearly three years on from his breakthrough album ‘Here’s To Taking It Easy’, Phosphorescent returns to the fray with his most stunning ‘Muchacho’; Phosphorescent’s full-length  should be earmarked for further investigation. Matthew Houck, for he is Phosphorescent, likes to work. The Alabama native, now resident in Brooklyn has delivered six albums as Phosphorescent since his 2003 debut.
But if  Losing one’s way results in something as lustrous as was this first album taster, more artists should consider biting their bullet for something as haunting as ‘Song For Zola’, the single is so hugely impressive. Steve Janes

 

Schonwald – ‘Mercurial’

A man, a woman, a drum machine and a guitar, it’s cold in Schonwald’s place and it’s dark. This Italian two piece nugaze act is responsible for this deliciously bleak piece of black pop. It’s desolate, without hope and unbelievably not by some long forgotten goth band from Bradford in 1983. Not sure if Italian and shoegaze are two words that have ever been uttered in the same sentence of this makes Schonwald even more unique, there’s an album due at the beginning of 2014, if this is an indicator of what it will contain, you’re going to need extra lighting to get through it. Chris Todd

Throwing Muses – ‘Sunray Venus’

Throwing Muses returned with a 32 track album fairly quietly at the end of the year, they would have toured but bassist Bernie almost chopped a finger off. On hearing ‘Sunray Venus’ you question how this is even possible, surely this long serving band are actual gods incapable of such human tragedies?. That the record is entirely fan funded is testament to Throwing Muses genius and ‘Paradise / Purgatory’ might actually be one of their best albums to date. Jamie Gambino

Pearl Jam  – ‘Mind Your Manners’

Not since Metallica covered Anti Nowhere League’s expletive ridden punk anthem “So What?” at the MTV Awards in London in 1996 has a band so big made a song this nose thumbingly angry yet so tongue in cheeky! Guitarist Mike McCready has claimed it’s his attempt  “to try and make a Dead Kennedys sounding song”  and it definitely is on head nodding and banging terms with early 80s hardcore music like this and Black Flag which must have inspired Pearl Jam before they formed in 1990. But here they are on their tenth album Lightning Bolt and they’re in rude health. Although they are clearly part of the rock establishment you have to admire their attempts to subvert from within – early to take control of their own music, working to take on the agents to keep ticket prices low, much like their influences on the Dischord label which this song could easily have appeared on. So angry and yet also so polite “all we’re saying is mind your manners”, long live these angry old men. Trying not to remember that’s how I could also describe myself. Nick Hutchings

Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right’

One of the biggest music stories of the year wasn’t just that Daft Punk had a new album out after eight years but that although the last album before this year’s smash Random Access Memories was called Human After All it seemed that only now we could truly feel the fleshy soul behind those shiny stylish robots. While “Get Lucky” and its priceless hook, sprinklings of Nile Rogers stardust and the midas touch vocals of Pharrell Williams grabbed all the headlines, closely followed by the Julian Casablancas collaboration “Instant Touch”, if you delved further in, there were moments of introspection, nostalgia and brilliant timeless song writing. Once you got over the annoyance of the talkie bit on the Giorgio Moroder produced kind of self homage on “Moroder” it was a slammer, and the piano bleeding “Within” had a mournful soul that Chris Martin would love to have a slice of. However it was at the tail end of a piece of vinyl that history may rank as important as Tubular Bells or ELO’s Out Of The Blue that my favourite appears. “Everybody will be dancing if we’re doin’ it right” goes the robotic refrain, and they’ve certainly got it right. They’ve got the now ubiquitous (they kind of started it all over again) vocoder retro futuristic voice there which is basically a Daft Punk trademark but with the excellent Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear, the singer of the sound of 2009, Animal Collective, singing a plaintive but uplifting chorus over the top, it’s an irresistible combo of robot and himan. And despite playing it more than I’ve heard “Get Lucky” on the radio (well almost) I’m still dancing. Nick Hutchings

 

Kolsch – ‘Der Alte’

Danish producer Kolsch has been a regular maker of dance floor gems, predominantly on German techno label Kompakt for some time now, ‘1977’, his first foray into the long player showed he could sustain the quality shown so far over an extended format. On this album highlight he uses a 4/4 beat base to produce a track full of euphoria but uses his skill and discipline to not fall down the predictable cheese trap that usually comes with trance. The enveloping warm basslines and jacking piano riffs of are lifted to a higher dimension by the use of sorrowful violins, still very dancefloor orientated but very much from the heart. Chris Todd

The National – ‘Demons’

Trouble Will Find Me is a brilliant album by a band made more confident by the surprise but ten years coming “overnight” success of High Violet. They’ve been given a mandate to be themselves and while clearly they’ve just been themselves and done more of the same they’ve once again managed to craft some stone cold indie classics. Their unassuming, introverted performances however show they’d be doing this regardless of critical acclaim. This studious bunch still possess the inner ghosts of love lost and unrequited and in the song called “Demons”  you are there with every “sinking feeling” of singer Matt Berninger’s melancholy. He claims in his inimitable baritone to be “secretly in love with everyone he grew up with” and you feel he seems content to wallow in his own pity, with a heart black like molasses. But then the music rises, driven by the Dessner brothers to a hopeful height as Berninger wants “to see the sun rise over New York” – a chink of light from his solitary confinement. When he says “he’s going through an awkward phase” and you know he’s no teenager you can only smile a wry smile. Bet he smiles when he gets the royalties through though, as with this album, as per it’s illustrious predecessor, The National have ensured their music will endure. Nick Hutchings

 

Wampire – ‘The Hearse’

Taken from this year’s stomping debut ‘Curiosity’, this Portland, Oregon five piece fused together a concoction of very early Beach Boys, Joe Meek drama and The Ramones’ disposable bubble gum choruses, this was given an undefined production sheen (by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Jake Portrait) reminiscent to that of recent work from the likes of Aerial Pink & John Maus, analogue recordings cut to shitty cassette tape. This track breaks down into a clash of shrieking guitar which makes way for a really trashy organ line that comes across as a theremin sample from a crappy b-movie before ending up as joyful New Order influenced pop. Chris Todd

 

Here Is Your Temple – ‘So High’

Swedish five piece Here is Your Temple dropped this EP back at the start of the year and whet serious amounts of appetite with their overly bombastic indie pop, atmospheric throughout with the occasional nod at an anthem or two. So High, the lead cut is a delicious mixture of fuzz bass, dramatic male backing vocals and over the top keyboards. All this is topped off with the brooding vocals of Emily McWilliams, a cross between Nico and Marianne Faithfull but without their unsavoury croak from smoking 100 fags a day. Taking Tusk era Fleetwood Mac, giving it a shoegaze sheen and an almost camp level of the dramatic, So High takes Beach House and gives it a shot of sheer joy.  Chris Todd

Mudhoney – ‘I Like It Small’

Putting self effacement in your face as they have been since the now surprisingly 25 year old grunge anthem “Touch Me I’m Sick”, Mudhoney have always been the anti-heroes, the underdogs and that’s why I love them so much. This song sings of a band happy in its own underachieving skin – “minimum production, low yield, intimate settings, limited appeal, dingy basements, short runs, no expectations, wait I’m not done”! This is their life, it’s small but it rocks. They live life playing the same clubs near enough as they did when they were seen most likely to succeed before Nirvana blew everything away, but they’ve “got big enough balls to admit” they “like it small”. This is whip smart funny, and punky and a stand out from their ninth studio album the Antonioni inspired Vanishing Point but this band isn’t about to vanish yet. It’s much nearer the Nuggets esque garage purity of landmark Superfuzz Big Muff and puerile amusements of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge than it is their more recent motorik-psych almost prog leaning efforts Since We’ve Become Translucent and Under A Billion Suns and its more instant for it. Clearly (pun intended) they have been previously worried about becoming invisible, and on Lucky Ones where they sang “the lucky ones have already gone down”, it seemed like they had been feeling a little sorry for themselves as the hangers-on, the barflies from a scene long gone. However, with “I Like It Small” and the equally brilliant if irascible lament to crap wine on the rider “Chardonnay” they’ve reassessed and reclaimed their pluck and indomitable spirit, and it’s fun to stay on their rag tag punk rock ride.  Nick Hutchings

Valentiine – ‘Love Like’

Like many of the fans of  The Valentiine e were thrilled that  hard working antipodal garage rock trio  were signed to Integrity Records. Shoulda figured the songs we all originally loved, so would the record label As a result 2013 saw the singles get a fresh airing amid a busy tour, leading up the bands 2nd single ‘Chucky’ this summer release of an album in July. The band’s 2nd single ‘Chucky’ i a an darker humorous gem of a single, but the first release was the powerful ‘Love Like’ single that blows most away, such is the narrative, but the real power is from the Melbourne band’s musical attack, delights, still a no brainer making 2013’s Festive 50, such is the draw of ‘Love Like’. Steve Janes

 

Keep Shelley in Athens – ‘Sails’

This Greek duo, named, sort of, on the district Kypseli, in Athens, has slowly burned up to this point. A couple of EPs warmly received over the past couple of years led us to a sumptuous debut album (‘At Home’) this year. This track is a break from their usual blend of mid-tempo electronic pop, driving heartbreak house beats and sullen synths drenched in waves of sunshine blown in from the Aegean sea. Vocalist Sa-ah P commands attention, her yearning coos re-imagine Liz Frazer and Bjork, there’s even an element of Robin Guthrie’s chiming guitars on this, a delicious reinterpretation of shoegaze lovingly crafted by machinery.  Chris Todd

Lucius –  ‘Turn It Around’
Since the early days NYC’s Lucius, have been dubbed a “band to watch” by the majority which WithGuitars was, on this occasion are happy to be part of. Stylishly think 60’s classic pop spliced with a dose of  modern day alternative mindset. ‘Turn It Around’ was one of 2013’s highlights, the ‘Wildewoman’ album was released, which strengthened the Brooklyn quintet  status a lot further partly indebted to ‘Turn it Around’ sweet infectious refrains helped crown a fantastic year. Steve Hanes

Chvrches – ‘Lies’

Scottish synth act CHVRCHES scored pretty big in 2013 with their  astounding debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ single ‘Gun’ was an instant classic but it is ‘Lies’ that I cannot stop playing. Dark & sour, sweetness & light CHVRCHES made the cross over from credible indie to danceable pop music appear to be a piece of piss. The sweet as vocals are just the icing on a sublime cake. Jamie Gambino

Quasi – ‘You Can Stay But You Got To Go’

Just one of Quasi ‘Mole City’ era highs. Now in their 20th year as a band, and a two-piece once again, Sam Coomes and Janet Weis hand-delivered the double album/Liberation Cookbook/Encyclopedia of Kicking Ass, Mole City, to “those of us who still care about well-built, homemade objects crafted with integrity, spirit, fire, and skill.” In other words expect a good musical focus and agility, with a slice of creativity, and personal filtered attitudes which, at least at WithGuitars delight.
As an invitation to a larger well studied body of work, ‘You Can Stay But You Got To Go’ excels, also works as one of the better single releases in 2013. Steve Janes

 

Toy – ‘Fall Out Of Love’

Toy came to us as a fully formed gem. Their debut album in 2012 showed them as masters of repetition, they introduced krautrock to simple pop, washing over this with a shoegaze sheen. Their recently released second album closes with this nine minute killer. Similar to ‘Kopter’, the closer to their previous album, this is a rapid kraut laced indie popper injected with heavy doses of joy. It really gets going halfway through when the vocals end, replaced with fuzz base and some dazzling work by their genius organ grinder Alejandra Diez, then the punishment of guitars thrash it out, all musicians vying for the listeners attention, listener wins. Chris Todd

 

Babyshambles – ‘Dr. No’

2013 saw Babyshambles third album, after what seemed like an eternity for their widespread web of devoted fans. ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ was one of the most awaited records of the year, and with it came a selection of brilliant tracks. ‘Dr. No’ is a ska number, which takes a step away from the Brit rock so often accustomed to Babyshambles. The line ‘Sharks in the water but the waters deep, and they’re swimming in their sleep’ has surely been howled in many a drunken household. The track is littered with Doherty idiosyncrasies, such as mumbling screams of ‘wallah, bang!’ Backing vocals have a barbershop type sound on the chorus, which all in all sounds excellent. Doherty proves time and time again that he is an excellent artist, who will no doubt go down in history as the talented gentleman he is. Furthermore, the skills of his Babyshambles counterparts is strongly evident on ‘Sequel To The Prequel, as we cannot forget the album was co-written with Drew McConnell. Many of the tracks on the album, especially Dr. No, are sure to become a Babyshambles classic.  Jamie Morrell

Empire of the Sun – ‘I’ll Be Around’

The majority of Empire of the Sun’s second album got it all so hideously wrong, awful EDM influenced big room pop music, auto-tuned vocals, even David Guetta remixes for fuck’s sake. The album switched from no integrity euro- to unlistenable housey pop. When they cut the attention seeker and calmed down, they came up with something much more impressive. This calmer moment evoked the feeling of Californian Summers in the early eighties driven on by guitar line that was probably ripped from a b-side by The Police.  Chris Todd

 

Savages – ‘City’s Full’

Being so heavily hyped could only lead to an album which ended up being sort of ok but not as worthy of the praise journalist salivated prose over. This track is a visceral piece of angry post punk pop, it’s angry, urgent, direct and straight to the point. A whole album of this would have prevented the disappointment of a debut album that should have offered more.  Chris Todd

September Girls – ‘Heartbeats’

September Girls sound like sunshine & alcopops & a great festival fumble whilst you both have fresh & clean genitals.. Yes THAT good. September Girls are also reminiscent (slightly) of early Lush and I can’t actually heap any higher praise on the band, ‘Heartbeats’ sounds like Miki Berenyi sat on your lap, pouring cider down your throat & snogging your face off. Jamie Gambino

 

Kathleen Hanna’s The Julie Ruin – ‘Oh Come On’

Legendary Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna’s (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) critically acclaimed debut The Julie Ruin record ‘Run Fast’ made a big impact on the album’s release, thanks to a slew a tasty release leading up to the album’s release. Run Fast features dream-team Kathi Wilcox on bass (Bikini Kill bandmate), Kenny Mellman on keys (’Kiki and Herb’), Carmine Covelli on drums (actor, filmmaker and musical juggernaut) & Sara Landeau on guitar (met Kathleen mentoring at Rock Camp for Girls) roll call aside, it was easily the first single ‘Oh Come On’ that first rocked WG’s world so. Our appetites were whetted further by album  cuts,‘Ha Ha Ha Ha’ and ‘Just My Kind’, either side of today’s subject.
Kathleen Hanna recently has collaborated on The Riot Grrrl Collection book alongside Fales senior archivist Lisa Darms, Johanna Fateman (Le Tigre), Molly Neuman (Bratmobile) and more. Soon to be released, The Punk Singer is a documentary film made by Sini Anderson and Tamra Davis that follows Kathleen for a year, during which she discovers that she has Lyme Disease, explaining her temporary absence from music.
‘Oh  Come On’ is just a classic by a terrific band completed by the  celebrated feminist punk, here’s hoping that The Julie Ruin grace many more Festive 50’s to come. A stomping single highlight. Steve Janes

 

 

Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘ My God Is The Sun’

QOTSA returned this year with dark tales from frontman Josh Homme. ‘Like Clockwork’ was certainly more twisted and reflective than previous outings but as ever the band delivered. ‘My God Is The Sun’ was the mosh pit friendly, bass fuelled anthem of a lead single. Jamie Gambino

 

Depeche Mode – ‘Heaven’

When I saw Depeche Mode at the O2 earlier this year I was blown away. Dave Gahan is the consummate rock star. They have always had a keen sense of who they are, and have been reincarnated successfully several times like a snake shedding its skin. And the serpentine nature of the apparently triple (or missing?) hipped Gahan, a man whose disconnection between abdomen and limb is second only to the likewise still active Iggy Pop, was manifested not only on stage at the enormodomes of their tour but also in this seductive song “Heaven”. The album Delta Machine is very much the product of recent dance spinoffs by Martin Gore, with many plaudits going to the VCMG album, so electro dance is very much back in the vogue or should I say Mode? However “Heaven” is a big, big song that calls to mind my favourite Gahan era, that of Messianic cowboy circa Songs of Faith & Devotion. Ok, it does borrow heavily from (Anthony Newley’s) Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. Muse, a band with Depeche Mode pretentions covered said epic standard but Depeche Mode have constricted it, squeezing a whole other life out of those unmistakeable piano notes and taking it to a claustrophobic maelstrom of paranoia, mistrust and quiet rage. It’s unsurprisingly dark but if this is Gahan’s heaven I’d hate to inhibit his personal hell. Nick Hutchings. Nick Hutchings

 

Sleaford Mods – ‘Jolly Fucker’ (Fourth Dimension)

For many their ‘Austerity Dogs’ album was the album of the year and has already appeared in my best of lists. Although not on the album this single is every bit as good and sees Jason give more a unique observation of working-class life. Wordy yet strangely poetic. Full of rage yet beautifully subtle. Unique but strangely familiar. There’s nothing black and white with the Sleaford Mods, you either love them or hate them. Genius!Rotten Johnny

Big Deal – ‘Dream machines’

‘Dream Machines’ graced us as the nights grew longer, with a hefty slice of distorted guitar beauty, complete with hypnotic ‘big’ beats and the dis-oriented dual vocals of Alice Costelloe & Kacey Underwood; all of which was one hell of an introduction to Big Deal’s second album ‘June Gloom’.

The band started life back in 2010 and fell into the name of Big Deal, “the band name was totally accidental, it came from a joke. We we’re both in separate bands, that were our main focus, the other bands, this was just a silly thing that we were doing, so we didn’t really think about the name, so we called it ‘Big Deal’ like equally, who cares? A couple of weeks later we had a gig for friends, just a club night.” what happened next cemented the band’s name and moved things on, “Just by chance, quite luckily someone from the Guardian was there, liked it and then two weeks later wrote about us. We didn’t have time to change the name or anything – so the joke was on us.”

Quite a few may have caught Big Deal either as headline or as support to the mighty Depeche Mode very recently. The release may only one of three choice singles to come from ‘June Gloom’, but ‘Dream Machines’ is some heavyweight keeper, a real winner. Steve Janes

 

Pixies – ‘Indie Cindy’

While David Bowie’s surreptitious comeback was the talk of the year, perhaps equally surprising and serendipitous was the new EP by Pixies. Although they had made the one-off new song “Bam Thwok” as an unused movie tie-in for Shrek 2 back in 2009, and played some nostalgia fuelled gigs more recently for well deserved lucre, nobody expected a resurgent, resolutely active band – a truly landmark band back for a serious second helping. Although first time around it could be argued by the time of Trompe Le Monde they were an outfit of diminishing returns, they’ve exploded back with an underwhelmingly titled by overwhelmingly bombastic EP1 which promises more to come. I say exploded because within the morass we’ve had the noisy departure of Kim Deal, who has sung on the new material, to be replaced by Muffs frontwoman Kim Shattuck who has since acrimoniously departed. Coupled with some quotes from Black Francis about it being “unpopular in the camp” when the new material go down well live, you wonder how long it will be before it’s another Frank Black solo project, but in the meantime let’s cherish this return to the scene and return to form. It’s a piece de resistance for guitar hero Joey Santiago and it’s a nonsensical jumble of lyrics from Francis ranging from being “the burgermeister of purgatory” to putting the “cock into cocktail” via a bouncing bomb to a Beach Boys-esque refrain – basically normal service is resumed if it were indeed ever normal. The anthemic and memorably childish “Indie Cindy” could easily have sat alongside “Crackity Jones” and “No. 13 Baby” on the sublime Doolittle. Here’s hoping they do more next year as threatened / promised. Nick Hutchings

 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds –  ‘Jubilee Street’

Like other stand out tracks on Bad Seeds albums of yore, “The Mercy Seat” comes to mind, there’s a building menace to “Jubilee Street” – the difference being that there is no cataclysmic shuddering climax. It doesn’t get raucous and bawdy. It doesn’t have the warm arterial spray of a murderous demise that Nick Cave usually narrates. This is the strength of the song, and of Push The Sky Away as an album. The darkness builds and builds and just as you think all hell may break loose, the strings of Warren Ellis adding to the suspense, it ends. It’s equivalent to the moment where the camera looks away to the wall at the crucial moment of ear splice by Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs. Coupled with a virtuoso if a little stomach churning turn by Ray “who you looking at?” Winstone in the video, “Jubilee Street” is so good it even spawned an epilogue on the album called “Writing Jubilee Street” – testament to Nick Cave’s apparent admiration of this truly epic number. But just before you think writing a song about writing a song will open up a worm hole that will mean our very existence is sucked inside out, you are brought back to the frost underfoot of “Jubilee Street” and its suspenseful core like the coldest of cold wars – “when they shot her down, the Russians moved in”. This is a song I simply haven’t been able to move on from this year. Nick Hutchings

Smallpools – ‘Dreaming’

The foursome’s first single ‘Dreaming’ was produced by Captain Cuts and instantly shot to #1 of Hype Machine within the first 3 days of its revealing, if only WithGuitars had had more lists and charts! All we could conjure were nodding heads coupled rabid hearsay to anyone within reach, pleased we can make further amends with this year’s Festive 50 inclusion.  Smallpools consist of Sean (vocals/keys), Mike (guitar), Joe (bass) and Beau (drums), the band will dividing their time between the studio working on the full-length debut and increasing live shows.

As Smallpools explains his song by saying, “In contrast to the upbeat vibe of the music, the song talks about a moment where everything goes wrong in a situation where you thought you had it all figured out.  A moment we’ve all experienced to some degree, but most often if we’re lucky, in a dream where we get to wake up in a sweat and say, “Phewf, ok, that wasn’t real.” for us, ‘Dreaming’ was a 2013 anthem, worthy of any high praise. Steve Janes

David Bowie – Valentine’s Day’

David Bowie is forever re-writing the rule book and he certainly did it again this year, just as people had assumed he’d never be back, was ill, turned down the Olympics cos he had stage fright etc. he snuck under the radar like a ninja flying a stealth bomber. Others have done it before or since tried to do it, but he always does things that bit better. How the album The Next Day was kept a secret is a miracle given this day and age of blanket media coverage, but it’s testament to the fierce loyalty to his legend that his cohorts and collaborators kept it zipped. And to top it all, it is up there with the best of his work, not some late career muddying of the waters. When on an unremarkable January Monday, the retrospective lament of “Where Are We Now” and its “Potsdammer Platz” Berlin memories seemed to capture the triple dip post holiday hangover blues perfectly. And if that was our late Christmas present, “Valentine’s Day” the song which directly follows it on the album let rip with some perfect pop and a soaring chorus which showed that despite the high impact but low-key re-entry of the first single and the white boxed re-tread of Heroes for the cover art, this truly was an artist in the rudest of health and still more relevant than ever before. Starting with a guitar lick that Mick Ronson would have been proud of, and that unmistakeable English eccentric lilt of Jones, he’s certainly “got something to say – it’s Valentine’s Day”. Wish it could be Valentine’s Day Every Day. Nick Hutchings

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Festive 50 2013