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Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of January 2020
Patrick Clarke , January 31st, 2020 10:26

Here's a buyer's guide to the very best music January had to offer, from Wire to Keeley Forsyth via Algiers, Squarepusher and Katie Gately.

January 2020's best music

Earlier this month, we took a look back at The Sundays' Reading, Writing and Arithmetic from 30 years' distance, a record that we noted as perhaps the first great release of the 1990s.

We also reconsidered Primal Scream's XTRMNTR after two decades, the first great rock & roll album of the 21st century. It got me wondering what we might consider to be this decade's first masterpiece.

Below, you'll find a number of contenders, from yet another superb LP from the evergreen Wire to an extraordinary musical debut from Keeley Forsyth, via another taste of Algiers' vital power and career-bests from the likes of Squarepusher and Destroyer.

All that and more are among our favourite records and tracks of the year so far, as selected by the tQ staff. We do hope you enjoy them as much as we did, and if you get turned on to something you really love, why not fling us a quid or two to help us keep bringing you more? You can do that here.
Patrick Clarke

ALBUMS

Wire - Mind Hive
(Pinkflag)

"Wire were always concerned with making music that "felt" of something: a band who could create strong if initially broad-brush impressions with their sound and message. On Mind Hive. there are gentle, rich and abrasive moments aplenty, and often in harness. The beautiful 'Unrepentant' brings Pink Floyd to mind, just before their music became unbearably stodgy and prim. The track's long tail out is a glorious instrumental meandering coda that affirms the dreamy thoughtforms that make up the lyrics."
Richard Foster - read the full review here

Keeley Forsyth - Debris
(The Leaf Label)

"Forsyth is able to create incredible depths with simple words and phrasing, combining them in a way that’s elusive and yet makes full emotional contact. By the third track ‘It’s Raining’, her dramatic proficiency begins to reveal itself more fully; the rolling of the ‘r’s, the wet ‘p’s and the transition between head and chest voice that refuses to be discreet. This is a boldly honest and startling debut."
Lara C. Cory - read the full review here

Squarepusher - Be Up A Hello
(Warp)

"Be Up a Hello is Squarepusher's strongest album for a decade and is easily up there with his best work. After the initial euphoric bounce of ‘Oberlove’ and ‘Hitsonu’, the album delves into classic territories. Wonky jazz and acid breakdowns all feature, making Be Up a Hello feel like a greatest hits album. And in a sense it is. In a perverse way, by using the same equipment he started out with, Be Up a Hello feels like his debut 2.0. He’s taking everything he’s learned over his twenty-four-year career and putting it to use with his original gear, making for an album that has hints of nostalgia, but none of the awkwardness."
Nick Roseblade - read the full review here

Algiers - There Is No Year
(Matador)

"Algiers’ previous record, 2017’s The Underside of Power, was a doubling down on the dense wall of noise of its self-titled predecessor. There Is No Year isn’t exactly a retreat from that; the four-piece’s loosely post-punk template is still based around vocalist Franklin James Fisher raging against the dying light, as he fights to find space amongst the claustrophobia of his bandmates’ juddering industrial hisses and thuds. This time round, though, he’s starting to win the battle. His lyrics – taken entirely from a self-penned poem called ‘Misophonia’ – sound clearer than ever before. In the first third of the album in particular, the relatively dry mix applied to his vocal means that, even when things are tilting and howling at their most unshackled, the singer is in tortured ecstasy just inches from you."
Simon Jay Catling - read the full review here

AYA (FKA LOFT) - are eye pea ell oh eff tea
(Self-released)

AYA is a North Manchester based musician who has been referred to, not uncontroversially, as working in the field of deconstructed house. I’m not sure that I think deconstructed house exists, really. I watched AYA (very recently FKA LOFT) play a festival levelling set at Unsound in Krakow last year and I was shepherded by invisible tractorbeams that only work on men with stiff joints to go and stand with M.C. Schmidt of Matmos, Leyland James Kirby and the wise and venerable Dr Ted. Our ages combined to make a quarter of a millennium. Everyone else in there was under 25 and bouncing off the walls, bouncing off the ceiling, smiles as wide as planets. Playing live she pulls the process curtain back, leaping on the mic to explain exactly what she’s doing, while she’s doing it and that’s where the element of deconstruction comes in perhaps. Not without pinpoint accuracy Kirby shouted to me: “This has the energy of when I first heard acid but it’s new. She’s like an acid house bingo caller.” Those who are only just getting to know AYA now for supremely having it drum & bass parallel tunes like ’that hyde trakk’ will love this anthology of LOFT material from 2009 - 2019, drawing acid, funky, dubstep, UKG &c. into an extremely dynamic and transportative place. It’s clearly a palate cleanser for whatever comes next but absolutely not throwaway or cobbled-together feeling either.
John Doran

Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown
(International Anthem)

"Suite for Max Brown is largely instrumental and combines jazz, electronic, rock and the avant-garde to create something that is captivating whilst non-conventional. It’s an album that if you take it at face value will delight, but if you stick around and penetrate its surface, you’ll find one of the most transfixing albums in recent years."
Nick Roseblade - read the full review here

Charles Curtis - Performances & Recordings 1998-2018
(Saltern)

"Juilliard graduate Charles Curtis is one of the world's greatest living interpreters of contemporary cello repertoire. This essential release, compiled and released by Tashi Wada, include sublime recordings of music by Éliane Radigue, Morton Feldman, Terry Jennings, Richard Maxfield, and Alison Knowles, as well as several of the cellist's own compositions. The best of the latter is 'Unison Offset', a six-and-a-half minute tooth-grater, eking out jagged harmonics like a serrated blade or a very angry wasp. Guaranteed to put you on edge, just the way you like it."
Robert Barry

Destroyer - Have We Met
(Merge/Dead Oceans)

"Have We Met’s overall mood coupled with Bejar’s descriptive use of language immediately transforms these songs into fully realised settings. In these murky and menacing melodies, creating the aural equivalent of a murder-mystery TV mini-series, Bejar's transition from songwriter to musical dramatist is complete. Even after repeated listens, when all the characters and plot-lines have been revealed to us, the element of surprise remains in-tact across this immersive offering."
Zara Hedderman - read the full review here

TRACKS

Katie Gately - 'Waltz'

Already one of the year's best tracks, a lavish, maximalist and unsettling taste of next month's extraordinary new LP Loom

Ani Glass - 'Mirores'

A super-sweet electro-pop stomper with some stunning choral vocal work and a soaring chorus to melt even the stoniest of hearts.

tētēma - 'Haunted On The Uptake'

From Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras comes tētēma, with forthcoming album necroscape preceded by this bombastic and brilliant single.

Container - 'Nozzle'

A relentless first taste of Rhode Island-born, London based noise veteran Ren Schofield's March LP SCRAMBLERS

Craven Faults - 'Vacca Wall'

From a disused Yorkshire textile mill comes this enormous 17-minute slab of absorbing synth brilliance from the mysterious Craven Faults

Planet 1999 - 'Party'

PC Music's only 'band' proving that the label/collective many still try to dismiss as a joke remain, nonetheless, amongst the finest purveyors of sonic sweetmeats. This may sound, on first glimpse, like it's the Radio Dept covering some obscure early 80s French pop hit, but my god it's infectious.

PVA - 'Divine Intervention'

The first divine balearic thumper of the new decade courtesy of the ever wunderbar Speedy Wunderground.

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