The best new albums of the month, October 2014 edition

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If you are the sort of person inclined to chop up your year into monthly chunks, you know that some months are better than others. And in 2014 terms, October astrides this calendar year like a collossus. The overall quality meant that it was harder than ever to keep the list to ten choices only, and as I listened to roughly double my monthly amount and had more reviews published than usual, I have gone giddy and selected 15 albums. Enjoy.

Vashti Bunyan 'Heartleap'
my review (the 405)
"Vashti has said that Heartleap will be her final album, and with that statement it is as if she has come full circle. For someone who walked away from the music business at the age of 25, it is fitting that she has bookended her career with this album. It has been made on her own terms and in her own time, with her in total control of the finished product. In other words it is a total re-establishment of the self-confidence that she lost in the '60S. Best of all, Heartleap works superbly as a collection of songs, and can only serve to extend and preserve her legacy."

A Winged Victory for the Sullen 'Atomos'
my review (the 405)
"Apparently conceived and performed over a relatively short time span, Atomos is a very powerful work and one which could well bring modern classical music to the attention of people with only a passing interest in it, in much the same way as Philip Glass and Steve Reich have done. It's a beautiful record which well worth your attention."

Wrekmeister Harmonies 'Then It All Came Down'
my review (the 405)
"Then It All Came Down was premiered last year in the National Bohemian Cemetery in Chicago, under a full moon. When you hear it, that all makes sense. The natural yet eerie setting, surrounded by reminders of mortality, and the potential interest in the occult. This is a superbly assembled piece, with a great grasp of dynamics and an understanding that its subtle moments can be just powerful as those times when it becomes a complete aural assault. Then It All Came Down is a noisy beast, but it is a beautiful one too."

The Twilight Sad 'Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave
my review (the 405)
"This fourth album comes across as a consolidation of the edgy noise of their early records and the electronic aspects of its predecessor. They sound as powerful as ever, and their penchant for weaving subtle folk melodies amongst their noise is still pretty special. Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave is a highpoint for the Twilight Sad and in many ways it is the best record they've made to date."

Scott Walker and SUNNO))) 'Soused'
A controversial record of course, but a brave and brilliant one as well. Despite the fact that it sees the enigmatic Scott join up with the experimental doom-metal of Sunn0))) this seems like a step away from his very challenging Avant Garde trio of albums. Sunn0))) play with a fairly straight bat, hitting the fuzz when they need too, and the main eyebrowing raising moments come from Scott's barmy attempts at poetry.

Allo Darlin 'We Come From the Same Place'
Personally I never thought Allo Darlin were that "twee" so it is odd to read reviews which say they have grown up. This album was created with the members living in different countries for the first time, due to Elizabeth leaving the UK. Musically and lyrically however, We Come From the Same Place carries on where its fine predecessor Europe left off. There are some lovely lyrical gems and some decent tunes, and if anything has changed it is that Elizabeth's voice sounds more confident and established. Maybe that's what people mean by sounding grown up. Hear for yourself...

Grouper 'Ruins'
It's early days but this already seems like a very special record. Grouper aka Liz Harris nearly always works alone, but this time she has dispensed with any artificial studio work and recorded four long sad songs with just voice and piano in a seemingly untreated room. There are many incidental sounds that are picked up - thunder and rain, crickets and the ping of a microwave - it is quite a revealing listen on headphones. The songs themselves are sad and beautiful, and overall Ruins is pretty wonderful.

Azar Swan 'And Blow Us A Kiss'
my review (the 405)
"Azar Swan have set out to make a pop record and have succeeded. Currently there is so little darkness and experimentation within the world of pop that And Blow Us A Kiss comes across as a genuinely exciting record, and one which shows a lot of their contemporaries in the worlds of the goth/industrial/dancefloor crossover that they have plenty of tricks up their sleeve."

Flying Lotus 'You're Dead'
When FlyLo emerged last decade people became aware of his jazz heritage and the family connection with Alice Coltrane. However, 'You're Dead' is the closest any of his records has got to jazz, albeit in a free-form freaked-out version. The psychedelic touches are there of course and that frustrating, teasing way that he flips away from one idea before it is really finished with is still in evidence as well. The title does hint at a fairly morbid effort, and it does get darker than he has before, but ultimately it is well worth hearing for the adventurous and ambitious turns that the music takes.

Run the Jewels 'Run the Jewels 2'
Run the Jewels debut appeared out of the blue and - like this one - was given away free over the internet. At the time it seemed like a one-off but after a couple of successful tour and a great reaction to that debut, the duo of El-P and Killer Mike have released a follow-up. Album two continues where the debut left off, though this time around it flows even better, and sits together as a set really well.

Jane Weaver 'The Silver Globe'
This is Jane Weaver's sixth solo album, and although some people may know her as a folk influenced musician, The Silver Globe is a concept album taking its name from a Polish sci-fi film - yet it manages to be both a coming of age tale and a romantic paean, though I haven't quite got to grips with the story yet. It goes heavy on the synths and prog touches, yet equally unafraid of pop melodies. There are some gentle subtle songs, some electronic noodling and this tune, which sounds like Can and Hawkwind at the same time...

Thurston Moore 'The Best Day'
The most Sonic Youth sounding effort from any former Sonic Youth person to date, and I don't think many people would complain about that. It is half of SY of course, as Thurston is joined by Steve Shelley on drums, whilst Deb Goodge from My Bloody Valentine and James Sedwards from Chrome Hoof form the rest of the four-piece. This time Thurston has side-stepped the obvious noise, improv and folk stylings of his recent projects to make a damn good rock record. It isn't all straight SY songbook though, and the likes of the drone-folk piece 'Tape' show that those other influences are never far away.

Iceage 'Plowing Into the Field of Love'
I haven't gotten on with Iceage's records to date, but 'Plowing Into the Field of Love' is totally different to anything they've done before. So much so that a lot of their fans have turned their noses up at it. In contrast to their earlier efforts, this time the singer has adopted an unhinged Shane McGowan style delivery - not quite in tune - and the music is a rich cacophony of edgy 80s acts like The Gun Club, Crime and the City Solution and the Bad Seeds. Brave to see a band completely change tack, and I hope they can gain some new fans in the process.

Caribou 'Our Love'
The contented Caribou album. A record all about love, and consequently one that is more in touch with Dan Snaith's equallty great Daphni project than previous Caribou releases. It is joyous, dig in!

Heat Leisure 'III & IV'
I'm on a mission to reclaim the word 'psychedelic' from the epidemic of garage bands, so this is the second psychedelic album in the list, after Flying Lotus. Heat Leisure are a collective featuring both of Guardian Alien, the Pontiak brothers and Steve Stromhier from Beach House and these two long pieces owes a debt to the early records of Can and Amon Duul II. The voice which introduces the whole thing is the original Merry Prankster, former Grateful Dead MC Ken Babbs, who has contributed a long monologue. The rest is a joyous, often improvised jam.

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