The best album releases of the month, January 2014

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Well yes, what did I say? I believe that whilst compiling the albums of the year throughout December I may have claimed that I wouldn't be doing these monthly updates again. Anyway, I've since been given an internet radio slot - Wednesday at 9pm on Radioaktiv (listen again links are here) - so the new releases are coming thick and fast. I could have posted a list of 15 albums which I quite liked on January 31st, however I like the discipline of posting ten and I always take time to whittle them down. So, without further ado, here is my list of ten albums from January. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that 2014 isn't going to top 2013 in terms of good albums, but I'd love to be proved wrong.

Mogwai 'Rave Tapes'
'Rave Tapes' is both a departure and a continuation for Mogwai. The familiar post-rock light and shade is still there, although modular synths are to the fore on a lot of these new songs. Some of the melodies and the moods have germinated from seeds sown from their soundtrack on 'The Returned'. Their best album in a very long time.

I Break Horses 'Chiascuro'
The second full-length release from this Swedish project was produced, written and mixed by Maria Lindén, a talent lauded as a 'female Kevin Shields' by Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde. This isn't as edgy or as noisy as the debut album, instead it comes across as a smoother journey through differing aspects of electronica, from 80s influences to the Chromatics. This may well get under my skin with subsequent listens.

East India Youth 'Total Strife Forever'
Much like his live performances, East India Youth (aka William Doyle) impresses through the sheer range and variety of his talent. This debut explores everything between full-on techno and gentle electronic pop, and whilst that path seems random at times, TSF still manages to gel into a coherent whole.

Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra 'Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything'
Another uncompromising and imaginative album from this Montreal band, perhaps more anxious and certainly more vocally focused than their parent group GY!BE. It's a challenging listen for sure but when it works, it is very beautiful indeed.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks 'Wig Out at Jagbags'
A landmark release as it marks Malkmus's sixth album with the Jicks, one more than he managed with Pavement. Much like all his other work it confounds and teases and delights in planting little puzzles for the listener. It begins with 70s guitar lines and references the golden age of 80s indie. It may not win new fans, but it should satisfy the existing ones.

Hospitality 'Trouble'
Second album from this Brooklyn, obviously in love with 90's indie - shades of Luna, Bettie Serveert, Throwing Muses - albeit updated with some tastefully placed synths. Some very strong tunes here and an album that deserves more exposure.

September Girls 'Cursing the Sea'
A joyous indie-pop record from this all female act from Dublin. They sound nothing like Big Star, instead they are more like Lush produced by Phil Spector. I particularly like the fact that he vocals are submerged in the overall fuzz yet they still manage to carry the tunes across. A neat trick.

Warpaint 'Warpaint'
This is a fresh departure for Warpaint on this second album; this is more atmospheric, maybe even a little misty. The tunes shine through though, and in fact the band sound even more confident and assured. For some reason this reminds me of Luscious Jackson without ever really sounding directly like them.

Pow 'Hi Tech Boom'
More San Franciscan delights from Castle Face records, POW! come across as an edgy synth-driven cousin to the other acts on the label (Thee Oh Sees, White Fence, etc). Very tasty.

Pontiak 'Innocence'
How did this lot get up to their ninth album already? Maybe because when they get the bit between their teeth they have a prolific streak about them to rival the likes of Guided By Voices. 'Innocence' is not a throw away record by any means - in fact this may be the strongest collection of Pontiak tunes to date, and the production gives it a zingy edge.

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