10. The Charlatans - Modern Nature
When tragic news broke in August 2013 about the passing of The Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes, many questioned whether the remaining members would call it a day. With Brookes very much in mind, they returned at the end of January to release ‘Modern Nature’.
Whether the band approached the track ordering with fans in mind remains to be known but, to open with the solemn ‘Talking In Tones’ was spot on. It allows the listener to approach with caution and gradually be coaxed into yet another new era for this great enduring band. The new found electronic production on this track would suggest hanging out with Grumbling Fur has had positive effect.
The secret weapon of ‘Modern Nature’ is the subtle and underlying groove that flows through its veins. Former single ‘So-Oh’, stomps (with a small s) along so pleasantly its impossible to not be completely in awe of the affection it dishes out. Add Burgess interchanging from his classic deep gravel vocal and his ‘Wonderland’ falsetto beautifully and you have a classic on your hands.
‘Come Home baby’ is another fine exponent of this new groove. The piano loop ties this track together, which, in turn allows the ‘Tellin Stories’ country-blues chorus comes crashing in. This is sure to be a live sing-along favourite on their March tour.
Their love of New Order not only resurfaces, but to the same high quality of ‘Mistakes’ and ‘Misbegotten’ from their ‘You Cross My Path’ album. This time round, ‘Emillie’ trickles along like something from ‘Get Ready’ but with far more elegance. Meanwhile, ‘Let The Good Times Be Never Ending’, the track dedicated to Brookes, combine the free flowing nature of New Order’s guitar playing with some 70s disco production to conjure the highlight of the album.
Not everything works on ‘Modern Nature’, the stripped back ‘Keep Enough’ fails to spark any emotion. However, reflecting upon the grief and pain the band went through (and probably still are) to make this album, you have to stand up and applaud.
The Charlatans have never been afraid to try new things but who among us would have not forgiven them for sticking to a tried and tested formula on this offering? Instead, they launched a new era for The Charlatans and begun, yet again, to change people’s viewpoints on what their archetypal sound is.
9. PINS - Wild Nights
Manchester’s PINS second album ‘Wild Nights’ was eagerly anticipated after their great punk debut ‘Girls Like Us’. This time round, PINS have built upon their punk roots by adding elements of psyche and shoegaze to the arsenal.
‘Baby Bhangs’ and ‘Curse These Dreams’ form a big part of their evolving sound. The former has a big krautrock riff pulsing through its veins before the Cats Eyes-esque chorus comes rippling through. The results are not perfect but they are on a clear path towards it.
‘Curse These Dreams’ is a hazy affair with a baseline Mani would be proud off. The new intoxicating sounds are a big leap from the ferocious ‘Get With Me’ and Banshee’s inspired ‘LUVU4LYF’ from the debut but not an irrelevant one.
Making it all sound like a great rock n roll journey are the vocals of Faith Holgate. In a similar fashion to Tim Burgess, Holgate’s ability to adapt to different styles seems effortless.
They haven’t completely discarded their punk beginnings though. ‘Too Little Too Late’ brings in their debuts power along with the new pop-psyche sounds. This feels like a space where PINS could really make their mark on album number three. Thee Oh Sees do this sort of thing well but they lack the pop sensibilities of PINS.
What is evident on this record is the lack of killer guitar solos. Lois McDonald has created some brilliant riffs here and at times impressive melodies but the definitive hook or solo eludes. If they materialise, McDonald will rightly take her place alongside the likes of Andy Bell and the Reid brothers.
‘Wild Nights’ is a very good record. A great record it is not. It’s imperative to state this because PINS are so close to creating one. As a live act they have everything. On record though, they are still learning the ropes it seems. Take ‘Molly’ for example’. The guitar pay off doesn’t match the world class build up it’s given in the opening minute. It’s an eight out of ten but feels like full marks could have been got.
Nevertheless, ask yourself this, how many bands in recent years have you felt that about? Exciting times definitely lay ahead for PINS.
8. Noel Gallagher - Chasing Yesterday
We would love nothing better than to write a glowing review about Noel’s second solo album but we won’t. The reason being, another Mancunian legend John Robb produced the finest piece of music writing of 2015 back in March when he reviewed ‘Chasing Yesterday’.
So, click on the link and go to his brilliant website Louder Than War and read his review. Afterwards, set the site to your favourites and tweet John the gushing praise he deserves.
7. Public Service Broadcasting
The second helping from PBS is a concept album based upon the US vs Soviet Union space race from 1957 to 1972. A genius idea as the rousing speeches, tragic missions and sense of isolation in space are a great source of emotion with which to hook listeners.
The samples are used expertly as they were on their debut 'Inform-Educate-Entertain' to detail the events of the space race chronologically. It's not just Brian Cox educating us on space now!
The real power of this album is not the gimmick, no; it lies within the emotional understanding of the events. 'Sputnik' is a slow building house track which uses scintillating synths to signify the world's realisation that travelling to space will happen. Whereas, 'Gagarin' displays the hero worship Yuri Gagarin obtained for being the first man in space and the subsequent feel-good factor it gave to millions around the globe.
The tragedy of Apollo 1 is captured with minimal effort. The fuzzy radio static and deep noise of the cello acts as a back drop to news reports. This is a as haunting as it gets and a record which will never cease to make you stop and contemplate that fateful day.
Soaring above the crowd is the glorious 'The Other Side'. It documents the successful mission of Apollo 8 utilising NASA radio transmissions via Kraftwerk inspired synths. As it becomes clear the mission will be achieved the music saunters into escapist heaven providing goosebumps galore.
The London duo has delivered above and beyond on their second album. With such a strong gimmick as their key hook for listeners it really wasn't clear if this would be the case. The decision to make the album around such an awe inspiring epoch of human achievement was an excellent one. One in which they were allowed to breathe creatively and conjure new sounds and new image for themselves.
6. Richard Thompson - Still Life
In at number 9 is the fabulous new offering from folk veteran Richard Thompson. Read all about it via Jim Wirth's great review and highly revealing Q&A on Uncut's website here: