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The Norman Records Mid-Year Review, 2013

Well, we're already halfway through 2013 and there have been some BIG moments.

It's fair to say, for example, that very few people expected this to be the year that Kevin Shields decided it was time to break out a new, badly-titled-as-always My Bloody Valentine album. The Knife returned after a seven-year hiatus and gave the world a new definition of the word 'epic' with their triple LP, all-day listen, Shaking The Habitual. Boards of Canada teased the world for weeks before unleashing their newie Tomorrow's Harvest on us. Meanwhile, Liz Harris dropped a shedload of unreleased Grouper stuff at our feet and demanded we listen to it.

But it's not like the established artists have had it all their own way. Hookworms firmly planted their flag as one of the UK's hottest new properties with their debut long player, Pearl Mystic. Hacker Farm followed up on last year's weirdo electronic highlight Poundland with a new album (UHF) that confused and excited our Brian so much he had to make up a new word to describe it ("psychotronic"). And back in the land of the sane, Parquet Courts offered up convincing proof of their post-punk chops with an album that united the office around Mike's five-star assessment of their debut, Light Up Gold.

So much stuff, so little space. Anyway, presented here in totally random order are the records that have been tickling our fancies so far this year. If you're wondering how we came to decide on this list there's been no methodology as such...no collective view...no fisticuffs over the merits of this or that. You'll have to wait until the end of the year for that. No, here we present a few of the individual choices from us music-loving, hard-working Normanites mixed in with what the gaffer, Phil, has decided should be in there.

So, in no particular order...

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Push The Sky Away

You've heard him repeatedly on Peaky Blinders so if you haven't already caught up with Nick Cave's sixteen or so studio albums with his Bad Seeds then there's no time like the present. Push the Sky Away was his 2013 album which showed that time had withered none of his songwriting and arrangement skills. It's a slow moving record of stripped down songs and heartfelt paeans somewhat at odds perhaps with the more brutal landscapes of his records earlier in the decade but showcasing the more introspective side of his oeuvre.   

Grouper
The Man Who Died In His Boat

Originally released in 2013, this album was recorded by Liz Harris alongside her best-known work, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. It’s in the same stylistic ballpark - ethereal, heavily reverbed electric guitar and vocals with dark and mysterious undercurrents, sometimes swimming into clearer focus when Harris switches to acoustic. Out of print for a while and now back on CD.

Hookworms
Pearl Mystic

This is the 'classic' debut album Leeds psych man band Hookworms. They purvey a kind of heads down, no nonsense kraut boogie which borrows as much from Neu '3' as it does Status Quo 'On the Level'. Moving way into the modern age, it's the kind of album no Spacemen 3 fan should be without. Heavy psych wibbling for all the family.  

Sleaford Mods
Austerity Dogs

Austerity Dogs is the 6th album by Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods, but it’s the one that got them noticed. Since its release in 2013, the band have gone from strength to strength, being a necessary mouthpiece and cathartic outlet for many in the these austere times. They mix a punk snarl with pepped-up hip-hop beats and socially aware lyrics to make an original, energetic, angry and often witty statement that has become essential.