The best new albums of the month, July 2014

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Traditionally July is a fallow period for new releases, but this year I had no trouble finding ten albums to recommend. In fact, I would be surprised if a few of these didn't appear in this blog's end of year round-up.

King Creosote 'From Scotland With Love'
Even though this is essentially the soundtrack to a lovely film made from archive footage of Scotland's recent past, it is also the follow up to the masterpiece that was 'Diamond Mine'. It certainly differs from the KC of old; lo-fi methods are cast aside in favour of lush production and some beautiful string arrangements. The songs themselves are by turns happy, sad, poetic and reflective. A perfect companion to the visuals it was made for, but also a collection that ranks amongst his very best work.

Shabazz Palaces 'Lese Majesty'
Eighteen songs over seven 'suites' loosely based on sci-fi might sound a bit prog-rock, and it's certainly a challenging listen, taking a sideways step from the excellent 'Black Up' but delivering something no less thrilling.
Exactly as their recent London show suggested, Shabazz Palaces have a certain skill of reeling you in and overwhelming you with their woozy, psychedelic hip-hop without you really even noticing. They just creep up on you and before you know it you are hooked.

Luluc 'Passerby'
Some may know Luluc from the National's ATP line-up or from last year's Nick Drake tribute, but they have kept such a low profile since their debut came out in 2008. This second album is released by Sub Pop, produced by Aaron Dessner from the National and contains a selection of lovely yet mostly melancholic, Nick Drake-influenced songs. It's perhaps ironic that the title is 'Passerby' as I found it took a few listens to really get into. In the end the impressive, seemingly effortless harmonies won me over.

Comet Gain 'Paperback Ghosts'
Surely one of the most under-rated UK bands of the last 20 years, Comet Gain have been plugging away since the heady days of Wiiija records in the mid 90s, releasing fine albums every few years or so. This is their eighth album and it often sees them in more reflective mode, taking the foot off the gas on their Northern Soul/ indie-pop sound to pause and look around them. This could be the most beautiful record they have made.

Honeyblood 'Honeyblood'
I've had this debut from these "noisy Scottish girls" for a while now, and it's starting to sound like one of the debuts of the year. That slightly self-deprecating description of themselves doesn't to do justice to the quality of the songwriting here. They sit well with the new feisty alt country vocalists like Caitlin Rose and Angel Olsen, whilst still coming across as a cracking indie-rock band.

Wolves in the Throne Room 'Celestite'
On this album, WITTR's estrangement from the world of metal becomes almost permanent, as they continue to explore the atmospheric synth-based pieces which have led some people to compare them to the likes of Popul Vuh and even Tangerine Dream. Indeed this could be a soundtrack from some lost, or yet to be made, Werner Herzog film.

Alvvays 'Alvvays'
Whilst there is nothing new on this debut by Alvvays (it is of course pronounced Always) their melodic indie-pop is hugely enjoyable. I bet this collection of songs will form the soundtrack to may people's summers this year. Up there with the aforementioned Honeyblood as one of the best debuts in this genre for ages.

The Soft Walls 'No Time'
As I often say on here, there are simply too many acts like this around - psychy garage-rock acts who are in awe of what has gone on decades before. Happily, 'No Time' has enough quality to stand out and plenty of tricks up its sleeve - noisy interludes, old school drum machines, and some hissing drones that could have been mined from the mid-70s and Suicide. It certainly doesn't sound like a side project, although it is essentially a solo album by Dan Reeves from Cold Pumas

Gulp 'Season Sun'
Nearly two years on from their first single 'Game Love' (it's the opening track here), Gulp's debut album continues in the same psychedelic folk-pop vein. The haunting folk-tinged vocals of Lindsey Leven are central to it all and she has written all the material with her partner Guto Pryce (former Super Furries bassist). A summer album with a twist, as the pretty tunes sit side by side with some woozy psychedelia.

Slow Club 'Complete Surrender'
When I first heard the remarkable title track I thought we were set for a change of direction from this duo, but overall the album is more of a steady progression from 2011's 'Paradise' rather than a huge leap into mainstream pop. That title track is a masterful pop song though, as is 'Tears of Joy', and the inevitable shift from their folk-pop beginnings to something resembling indie-soul is pretty exciting.

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