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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...

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
II

'II' is the (you guessed it) second album from the Portland psychedelic pop group Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Their distinct sound relies on lo-fi production, alien melodies, hushed vocals, summer dreaminess and off-beat psych funk. This one contains some of their best work including 'Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)', 'From The Sun', 'Monki' and 'So Good at Being in Trouble'. This is an ideal starting point into the band as it's midway between the raw Dunedin influenced debut and the lush psychedelic soul of 'Multi-Love'.

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.   

Hacker Farm
UHF

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Autechre
Exai

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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.

Anthroprophh
Anthroprophh

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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.  

The Knife
Shaking The Habitual

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Function
Incubation

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Parquet Courts
Light Up Gold

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My Bloody Valentine
m b v

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Thee Oh Sees
Floating Coffin

Which one is this then? It seems it was the fourteenth album from the endless splurge of creativity that comes from the noggin' of John Dwyer and his Thee Oh Sees friends. Released in 2013 the album was more of a group effort than earlier discs, heavy and dark it contained matched their garage rock racket with quieter, more reflective moments. 

The Haxan Cloak
Excavation

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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.

Vision Fortune
Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune

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Boards of Canada
Tomorrow's Harvest

I still remember the excitement in the office when the promo of this turned up and the real effort we all went into of trying not to be disappointed. It sees Boards of Canada eschewing slightly their rich and textured sound for something more cold and dystopian. To that end it slightly follows in the path of artists who were also looking back at the works of the likes of John Carpenter for inspiration. Not as warm and inviting as previous records but spin it slowly and with patience and there's a myriad of evocative high points to enjoy from these masters of their genre. 

Dirty Beaches
Drifters / Love Is The Devil

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The Pastels
Slow Summits

Slow Summits was the Pastels fifth and final (to date) album originally released in 2013. The gestation period between the Pastels albums seems to get longer and longer but it is worth the wait as the band are now capable of making superbly crafted lovelorn albums that take their distinctive brand of shambling indie-pop and add in jazz and folk influences. Gorgeous stuff. 

These New Puritans
Field of Reeds

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Holden
The Inheritors

The Inheritors was (James) Holden's follow up to his much-loved 2006 debut The Idiots Are Winning. Again on Border Community it was another fruitful journey into his sound world  - an immersive swirl of sounds that takes dance music and stretches it to its outer limits. Comparisons are hard to pick out but there's something of the prism-like haze of Boards of Canada here but Holden's sound is truly all his own. 

Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld
Still Smiling

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Oneohtrix Point Never
R Plus Seven

‘R Plus Seven’ is Oneohtrix Point Never’s sixth studio album but the first he’s released since signing to Warp Records. Daniel Lopatin’s new surroundings suit him well, with ‘R Plus Seven’ combining his signature brand of uncanny hypnagogia with the IDM and electronica innovations of Warp luminaries like Boards Of Canada and The Black Dog. One can also detect the influence of Vangelis, Lapalux and Daedelus.

Lantern
Rock 'N' Roll Rorschach

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Mazzy Star
Seasons of Your Day

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Rashad Becker
Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I

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M. Geddes Gengras
Collected Works Vol. 1, The Moog Years

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The Prophet Hens
Popular People Do Popular People


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Factory Floor
Factory Floor

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Roly Porter
Life Cycle Of A Massive Star

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Tropic of Cancer
Restless Idylls

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Fuzz
Fuzz

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The Oscillation
From Tomorrow

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Machinedrum
Vapor City

This is a cracking LP from Travis Stewart aka Machinedrum. He rose to fame amongst footwork fans with the popular 'Room(s)' and then perfected his craft on this here follow-up record 'Vapor City'. An intoxicating blend of thumping house, jungle, bass music and futuristic UK garage, it's an album of incredible production featuring lovely sub-bass, mutated voices, sharp percussion and euphoric soundscapes which suits both dancefloor chaos and engaged home listens.

Sommet
Fugitive

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Vatican Shadow
Remember Your Black Day

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Plinth
Music For Smalls Lighthouse

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Laurel Halo
Chance Of Rain

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