[sic] Magazine

Editor’s Albums of 2023

You know those End Of Year listings? Yeah, this is one of them but no, I mean, all the other year end listings – the Quiet/Pitch/Loud/Shifty…whatevers’ – the high-brow lists. Notice how they are all pretty much the same? 10, 25… sometimes 100 weird albums. The acts are always post- Viking, acid nursery-rhyme, urban, witch_step…(actually that sounds alright)…unheard of acts with horrendous cover art and far too many ‘Z’s in their names. Each list is credible because, you know, it’s….. like the other lists. They’re all nuanced…a bit. Shuffle those positions…. slightly, make it look different. Publish early. Appear ‘in the know’.

I can’t really be doing with it.

Plus they’re getting earlier and earlier. Next year some will be in August I reckon. Guys, come on, a good album can still be released after mid-November! Some of my favourites were!

Anyway, I won’t be doing that. When I listen to music I want to feel something other than the end of my beard. Mine’s a personal list. It reflects my listening, not what’s deemed to be cool by the herd. (BTW I have absolutely nothing against those others, in case I sound sniffy. Kudos to anyone for having the time to listen (properly) to all of that stuff. However I’m guessing that if you read [sic] you most probably share our tastes somewhat.)

Reflecting on this list it feels as though I fell back in love with post-rock and shoegaze this year. I hadn’t realised. Not until I looked back down at the page.

Cool cool cool.

So this is Christmas. Cheers for spending the year with us. What have we done? Well, I gather a sign of a good champagne is how many bubbles you have going on in the glass. I’ll do my top ten in a moment but who did I have bubbling under? For starters I’d say I was comforted by The Nationals return to album duty. As predicted they eventually released two albums from the same recording sessions. The First Two Pages Of Frankenstein and Laugh Track. I enjoyed both but neither quite hit the heights of I Am Easy To Find. In many ways the albums were regressive. They’d say it was a ‘back to basics’ move as their ‘Paul’ collection is more in the vein of the Trouble Will Find Me era than the subsequent two albums which, for me, were braver and more interesting. However they had been battling writers block and almost ended the band so I’ll take the win.

Another tent peg act, Sigur Ros returned unexpectedly and gave us the understated but rather majestic ÁTTA. I really liked it. It’s a perfect Sunday Morning listen.
I must give a shout out to some other stalwarts. JARR is the partnership of yellow6 (Jon Attwood) and Wodwo (Ray Robinson). yellow6 themselves released lovely music as did former labelmates/friends epic45 with Spring, the unreleased album that bridges Drakelow and May Your Heart be The Map. I’m currently hammering their tour EP which is superb, but you may struggle to pick that one up if you didn’t already snag one at a show. Try Bandcamp. New album in January though. It’s gonna be good.

Vague Lanes is the ‘double bassist’ project of n5MD head honcho Mike Cadoo and Badger McInnes. I loved it. Very 80s sounding. epic45s Ben also released the The Sound Of Where It All Ended EP in his My Autumn Empire guise and my childhood faves, OMD put out Bauhaus Staircase which is rumoured to be their final album.

I also enjoyed Yo La Tengo, The Clientelle, We Melt Chocolate, Young Fathers, Celestial North, Ist Ist, Mercylane…..it’s about now where I start fretting about the ones I’m clearly gonna forget. Pleeeeeease don’t kill me, I’m just lame. if I say I love you, I love you. End of.

Stopping for breath now.

Re-release of the year is A. R. Kanes epic box set, A R Kive closely followed by The Veldts ‘lost’ album they did with Robin Guthrie, Illuminated.

Compilation of the year is Richard Hawley, Now Then.

Here’s the ten. I’ll put some songs underneath and hope you enjoy something.

Last years list.

Thanks again.

10 파란노을 [Parannoul]After the Magic

Synthesis is to the fore on enigmatic Korean post rock/shoegaze/indietronica act (Parannoul):’s third album. They describe it as not the album they expected but the album they wanted, coming from the dreams that followed their second release. Fair enough. Distorted vox may be a barrier to some listeners and the album occasionally veers a bit mathy/arty but the electronics are a delight. Recommended headphone listening.

9 SceniusLife Is A Thing Review

Synthpop duo with slightly darkwave tendencies. Think Depeche Mode and you aren’t too far adrift. I fell hard for their debut album Enough Fears. That was the lockdown release whereas Life Is A Thing (again) ushers us and them back out into the new, ‘new normal’. Cool, and deliciously subversive they could just win everyone’s hearts these guys.

8 The Declining WinterReally Early, Really Late Review

The prolific Richard Adams (Hood, Memory Drawings, Western Edges) released his tenth album as TDW and a cracker it was too. To top it off I got to see them play in a couple of very intimate venues, in his native Yorkshire with another favourite band of mine, epic45. For full write-up see Paul Ls article via link. Probably a handful of the [sic] team will place this one. Bark Pyschosis meets Piano Magic meets Disco Inferno. Richard will probably rap my knuckles for such lazy references.

7 SlowdiveEverything Is Alive

The Fleetwood Mac of shoegaze return straight into the top ten and yep, this one surprised me too. I didn’t expect it to be list material but it’s actually miles more cohesive than the comeback s/t album . People say it’s their most electronic. Not sure it’s more so than, say Pygmalion but I do detect some krautrock. I just really enjoy playing this one. It flows well.
Winning a whole generation of new fans, these guys. I’ve witnessed it first-hand.

6 There Will Be FireworksSummer Moon Review

For the full gush read the review article by our Paul L. However, suffice to say we liked the Glaswegians third album…a lot.
Signature atmospheric, post-rocky actual songs.
It must be that Scottish air! If you fancy a lungful then pick up Summer Moon. There will indeed be fireworks.

5 Tiger LouActs Review

Swedish miserablist, Rasmus Kellerman returned with only the second Tiger Lou album since 2008. The Wound Dresser impressed the heck out of me and got a high placing in 2016. Acts is a more sensual, progressive album. It’s their In Rainbows, if The Wound Dresser was The Bends – or it’s their Drift if Wound Dresser was Keep You. It even has a red cover! Sexy! In any case just really happy to have Kellerman back and I keep my fingers crossed that Tiger Lou can venture somewhere near Belgium.

4 SENSESLittle Pictures Without Sound Review

Coventry band, Senses combine melodic Britpop with arena-sized angst rock to brilliant effect. Think Doves, Oasis, Shack but also U2, The Boxer Rebellion, Ride… and yes, fellow Coventry dwellers, The Institutes (who were AOTY themselves in 2021)

Little Pictures Without Sound is their debut album, it’s been a labour of love and I love it!

3 Black Swan LaneDead Souls Collide Review

The eleventh BSL album (and that’s not even including Messengers) came out only a few weeks ago and was as surprising as it was pleasing. Mainstay and now sole member Jack Sobel is a one man, mid-eighties throwback whose music combines elements of shoegaze, gothic and post punk. Another former AOTY winner here (and highly placed virtually every year), it’s nice to see BSL finally starting to garner some appreciation in other publications. All newcomers are welcome.

The new album put me in mind of The Banshees, House Of Love and The Bunnymen more so than the more commonplace comparisons, The Smiths and The Chameleons (with whom BSL are most associated) It’s going out right now but honestly, keep an eye on BSLs entire album bundle. You’ll save on shipping and a ton of wonderful music will tumble through your letterbox.

2 boygeniusthe record

The indie supergroup of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus topped charts in many territories and snagged a half dozen Grammy nominations. Yet nothing is quite as prestigious as a [sic] Magazine placing, right kids? The triumph here is in the songwriting but also the album craft. Whilst you can tell who authored what, the record doesn’t feel like one of those cakes with three different layers. The trio are dovetailing, finding their collaborative spark and the songs complement and even enhance each peers contributions. I enjoyed it more than The Nationals double whammy which is also lit up (yes) by girl genius Bridgers.

Honestly it was tough to see beyond this one.

1 HammockLove In The Void Review

Released way back at the start of the year, the ambient/post rock legends did what I had been craving Since 2016’s Everything and Nothing – made a multi-faceted Hammock album. The Nashville duo had previously quadrupled down on their ambient side, releasing their cathartic ‘grief trilogy’ as well as lockdown effort, Elsewhere. I like them all just fine but I was craving a bit of the old Hammock pizazz.

Earlier this year we got precisely that with Love In The Void, a more complete Hammock collection that puts the pop back into their particular brand of hazy dreampop. Sleepy time is over, people. Those guitars blaze once again. It’s probably my third favourite Hammock album to date after Departure Songs and the aforementioned Everything And Nothing. Their The Summer Kills collaboration has also held my top spot in previous years.

Well played Hammock. You’ve done it again.