'Tis the season to spread the love and BUY music as presents! Support the UK's finest alternative musicians! Here are my recommendations of friends' and acquaintances' music that has been released this year. Remember to buy them from the source (helpfully linked below)!
1) Roshi feat. Pars Radio - 3 Almonds and A Walnut
My main girrrl released her new alt-pop/electronica album early in the year. The first track is a killer version of an Iranian children's poem, with the rest of the album weaving Pars Radio's atmospherically-gritty electronica in more traditional Iranian material and evocative original songs. She's been nominated for a Songlines award this year!
2) Anna Meredith - Jet Black Raider
The follow-up to composer-performer-daredevil Anna's first EP Black Prince Fury (both named after her ma's childhood horses, don't you know). It's four injections of punchy, bleepy, bonkers electronica, which got rave reviews in the summer. Anna's looking forward to supporting Anna Calvi in 2014...
3) Lisa Knapp - Hidden Seam
One of my favourite folk artists brought out her long-awaited second album this year, and it's a gloriously-textured feast of loveliness, with mostly original tunes connected to the elements. It features guest vocals from Martin Carthy, James Yorkston and Alasdair Roberts with beautiful instrumental writing. Lisa's been nominated for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in Feb 2014!
4) Rhythm Sticks - The Hen's Tooth
A load of 16-year olds from Tottenham! Steered by death-baritone Andrew Plummer and drum-devil Tom Greenhalgh! This album is properly excellent, mixing grooves, rock and improv. And speaking of Andrew and Tom, check out their single with terror-blues trio Snack Family from last summer.
5) Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson - Hirta Songs
My favourite folk singer in a collaboration with my favourite poet, collectively mining their dark and dolorous Scottishness. Alasdair sets Robin's specially-written lyrics in a love letter to the remote archipelago of St Kilda. Alasdair does his usual wizardry as a tunesmith and Robin will make your ears crumble with his readings...
6) John Potter, Rogers Covery-Crump & Chris O'Gormain - Conductus, Vol. 2
Lovely 13th century French vocal music and poetry from York-based tenor chaps including my ex-lecturer/guru/landlord John Potter...
7) House of Bedlam - Talking Microtonal Blues
Helmed by composer of brilliance Larry Goves, this instrumental chamber ensemble loose an album of wild, vivid sounds and textures, interspersed (and mixed with) spoken word from Mathew Welton. It's FAB.
8) Olivia Chaney - Olivia Chaney
OK, so this came out at the end of last year, but I hadn't yet got it... this is English singer-songwriter Olivia's thoroughly shimmering debut EP. Original songs, fab lyrics, and she's basically the 21st-century Sandy Denny. And now she's been signed to Nonesuch! Score!
Metamorphic - Coalescence
The original jazz-folk-prog sextet I sing with, led by pianist Laura Cole, released our second album in the spring, to great reviews (and Brian Morton from Jazz Journal's album of the year!). It's a mix of grooves, folk song shreds, wild improv, vocal loops, and P Diddy basslines, obvs...