Best Records of January 2019 Nkisi, Rustin Man, Gum Takes Tooth, The Twilight Sad, and more

As it accounts for seemingly most of the year, you’d expect January to have plenty of good new releases. Disappointingly, to our ears anyway, there haven't actually been that many. Which isn't the same as none, so here are the very best bits. 

Best albums this month

Nkisi - 7 Directions

It’s not often that you find a record that sits as happily next to mid-90s continental gabba as it does the slightly calmer music of ambient. But on 7 Directions that’s exactly what NON Worldwide’s Nkisi has achieved. Depending on how you're feeling, you can draw out either devastatingly complicated drum patterns or the more soothing loops that lie beneath.

Rustin Man - Drift Code

Talk Talk’s Paul Webb does what we hope Mark Hollis might one day might do and makes another solo album. This is different in tone and feel to Webb’s previous Rustin Man album ‘Out of Season’ as instead of Beth Gibbons lugubrious drawl you get Webb’s voice which sounds almost identical to that of Robert Wyatt. Musically it sits in a woody, jazz-folk glade with nods to John Martyn and Van Morrison. Deserves to find it’s own audience.

Gum Takes Tooth - Arrow

Drums. Really good things. Rhythmic. Gum Takes Tooth are Rocket Recordings latest attempt to sweep up the entirety of psych rock and they make a dark pulverising mass of drums and limbs over which vocals wail and guitars stretch skywards. Theirs is an incendiary combination of ritualistic rhythm and folk inspired composition. Watch out for your socks.


Most fan reviews of this latest the Twilight Sad album have been ecstatic and they are a band that, for once, we don’t mind to see heading towards the stadiums. 'IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME' can be a little overblown in places, but that's always been the danger with The Twilight Sad and there are still plenty of fine examples of their windswept brand of Scottish post-punk. Not least the stunning opener, '10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs'. File under: cobwebs blown off.

Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

Many bands and artists do the guitar-to-electronics shuffle about three or four albums in, but Sharon Van Etten has done it much more successfully than many others. Her dark electronic textures and bold vocals recall Zola Jesus, but with a much poppier edge. Strident and confident this should win her new fans while not totally isolating the old ones.

Prefab Sprout - I Trawl The Megahertz

If you’ve never heard ‘I Trawl the Megahertz’ before then you are in for a shock. It was initially released as a Paddy McAloon solo album in 2003, and consists of a remarkable set of emotional neo-classical tracks that tap into the emotions McAloon felt when he temporarily lost his sight. Now re-issued under the Prefab Sprout brand, this should hopefully find the enthusiasm that evaded it first time around.

Sarah Louise - Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars

Six-string practitioner and Pitchfork favourite Sarah Louise manipulates her guitar here using modern computer technology - speeding it up, slowing it down, making it go upside down and inside out. On top of this she adds in her own affecting but unaffected voice, on an album that sounds like it was carved from the earth despite being partly the result of computerised experimentation. File under: very pleasantly surprised.

The Silver Field - Rooms

Abstract folk music from Carol Rose’s solo project, whereby she uses a host of unusual instruments (double bass, bagpipe, electronic valve things) and uses loops made out of an old reel-to-reel player. This gives the album a very abstract, dream-like feel with pitch-shifted vocals and twisted guitar loops. Homely and lovely.

John Butcher & Rhodri Davies - Drunk On Dreams

Saxophone and harp. Not normally bedfellows, but here in the hands of two expert players they blend as well as, um, harp and saxophone ever have. Which is to say: extremely well, it turns out. Both Butcher and Davies know how to squeeze every last drop of potential out their instruments, and the result is a kind of electro-acoustic improvised jazz that’s utterly unique and beguiling.

Christoph de Babalon - Hectic Shakes

When our Ant heard that Christoph de Babalon was returning with new material he had trouble not thinking sexy thoughts. Read his review for the full TMI effect, if you have a strong enough stomach. I think it’s fair to say that Mr de Babalon came through for Ant, successfully building on his legacy of dark jungle and drum and bass that’s every bit as energetic and inventive as his 1997 masterpiece.

Jay Mitta - Tatizo Pesa

The ever brilliant Nyege Nyege Tapes continued to spoil us in January with the debut from Jay Mitta, of the Singeli scene that also includes Bamba Pana - responsible for one of last year’s best albums. Sky high BPMs and catchy loops make for an album that provides the sort of euphoria you need to get through these darker months. Just make sure your heart doesn’t give out.

Coming to a shelf near you this February

We’ve made it through the longest month of the year. Time will tell how we handle the shortest one. Here’s some music that should help:

  • The emo band you’re allowed to like return with their new album American Football, following their albums American Football and American Football.
  • After killing off fabriclive last September, the merciless clubbing institution are back with fabric Presents: Bonobo.
  • Theon Cross, the London Jazz scene’s Tubby the Tuba in chief, offers us Fyah to tide us over 'til those Sons of Kemet represses come in.
  • Lovely Leeds psych stalwarts Bilge Pump return to remind you that though it doesn’t always seem it WE LOVE YOU, dear customers.
  • And a tasty bit of fresh-outta-the-oven hauntological electronica from perennial Norman faves Pye Corner Audio.
  • We’ve got Drexciya reissues.
  • We’ve got Yung Lean reissues.
  • We’ve even got [checks notes] Razorlight reissues.
  • Oh yeah, and some band you probably haven’t heard of called Sleaford Mods are releasing something.

Not satisfied? Have a gander at our cool, sexy, and less-reliable-than-the-33-bus-here-in-Leeds release schedule. (Note: the 33 bus here in Leeds is really unreliable.)