We are always led to believe that January is a miserable month, terms like Blue Monday are thrown around which don’t help. I have always had the opposite feelings about January, for me this is a time to look forward to the year ahead, to make plans, to think about what we want to do, what we want to achieve in the next twelve months. This has all been helped by the abundance of incredible new music we have had to start 2023 with. I always find it hard to keep up with all the music that I want to write about, and I can’t be alone in appreciating how many great albums have already been released during the first three weeks of January. I have written in depth articles on new releases by Sweet Baboo, The Reytons, CVC and the beautiful re-issue of the debut album from Delays. I also wanted to spend a bit of time acknowledging some of the other albums I have been enjoying this month, as much as I would love to deep dive into all of these albums I have tried to capture a brief summary to celebrate the greatness of each and every artist featured below starting with Gaz Coombes...
Gaz Coombes: Turn The Car Around
This is the third solo album from Supergrass frontman and sounds like the album Gaz has been waiting all his life to write. This is such a confident, thoughtful album that will certainly feature in many of our end of year charts. Listening to this album I found myself thinking do we mention Gaz Coombes in our conversations around our greatest song writers? If we don’t, we really should. Gaz has been a mainstay of British pop for the last thirty years, each of his solo albums has shown a progression in his song writing and the world needs to be recognising just how important he is to British pop music and beyond. Long Live The Strange is an anthem for the ages, this song needs to be on the school curriculum and celebrates the importance of difference in our societies, the importance of being confident in who we are “Long live the strange / Where I’m with you, oh / So don’t ever change/ ‘Cause I love you”
Billy Nomates – Cacti
Talking of being confident in who you are, Billy Nomates returns with her second album Cacti showing the world she is a pop star who you would be incredibly foolish to ignore. Billy Nomates, is clearly an artist who is confident in her own skin, believes in who she is and is without a doubt an idol for this current generation and to all of us. This is an album that will cross genres, unite generations, and needs to be listened to and enjoyed by everyone. If this album is anything to go by it won’t be long before Billy Nomates follows in the footsteps of Billie Eilish and headlines the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.
Belle and Sebastian – Late Developers
What a lovely surprise this album was to start the year with. After the release of A Bit of Previous in 2022 I don’t think any of us was expecting a new Belle and Sebastian album to start 2023 with. Late Developers provides the world with some much-needed sunshine. It is impossible not to feel happy when listening to Belle and Sebastian. Ten albums into their beautiful and creative career they are still delivering albums of the highest quality, albums to make us fall in love with the world, take notice in our surroundings and just feel privileged to be waking up each morning. For someone like me who always loves pop songs that captures everyday life and thoughts we all have at times, I must highlight When We Were Very Young for the standout lyric “I wish I could be content with the football scores, I wish I could be content with the daily chores”
The Subways – Uncertain Joy
The Subways have always been a band to do things their own way. This is a band who make the music they love and have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure us lucky fans can go on this journey with them. Uncertain Joy is another collection of passionate, energetic pop songs full of memorable guitar lines, anthemic choruses and driving rhythms that will drag you out of your seat, drag you out of your house, head out into the night with the belief that the world is yours for the taking. The Subways are a band who live and breathe music, love playing music and sharing that with the world. This love of music is captured perfectly in Black Wax which is a love letter to music, a nod to vinyl and so many greats including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson, Madonna, Aretha Franklin.
James Yorkston, Nina Persson and the Second Hand Orchestra – The Great White Sea Eagle
I am not sure there are enough words in the Oxford English Dictionary to fully do this album justice. I have had so many cold early morning walks with my dog during January and this album has been the perfect soundtrack to these walks before dawn has broke and the skies are still full of stars. With each listen I have been left feeling warm from the inside and out. The way James and Nina’s vocals combine with each other is something to truly lose yourselves in. There are so many moments in this album where the melodies soar and will be sure to blow away any cobwebs and make you feel rejuvenated and ready for any challenge that life may throw at you.
John Cale – Mercy
Anyone who has had 60 years in this music industry is worthy of your time and respect. John Cale has always been an artist who has challenged and pioneered new ways of doing things. He has never stood still and his latest album is a truly immersive experience. Listen to this on your headphones and get lost in all the glorious sounds, inventive melodies, and escapism that you hear. There are so many notable collaborations on Mercy including Weyes Blood, Sylvan Esso, Animal Collective, Dev Hynes and others. Mercy is an album that will certainly feature a lot in my world over the next twelve months and beyond.
Låpsley – Cautionary Tales of Youth
If ever you wanted to take a chance on an album by the title alone this third album Cautionary Tales of Youth by Låpsley would certainly be one to do just that. Not only having a great title this is a collection of pop songs that capture the difficulties of growing up, that journey from childhood to adult hood, trying to find your way in the world. "Are you lonely? / Are you hurting? / Is your sleep right? / Are you turning to the right ones?” sings Låpsley on Lifeline a song that will be a comfort to so many people who have found themselves in this situation. These everyday emotions and challenges in life are all delivered to us in such fantastic pop songs that will be sure to resonate with everyone who gives this album the time it deserves.
The Murder Capital – Gigi’s Recovery
Full disclosure because I have never been anything but honest with my writing, the first album by The Murder Club past me by. There is no logical explanation other than I just did not even listen to it. I have certainly made up for that with Gigi’s Recovery the bands second album which is a deeply personal album about trying to figure out who you are, to have confidence in yourself and reflecting on your place in the world. Lyrically and musically this is an album that many of us will be able to find common ground with. So many of you will already love this band. If like me you are late to the party please don’t waste another moment get stuck into this album then when you can part yourself dive into their first album When I have Fears and your life will be all the better for doing so.
We Are Scientists – Lobes
We Are Scientists are a band who I probably haven’t thought about much in the last twelve years. Yet they are a band who when I do think about them always manage to spark a feeling of joy inside me. Like many people my age With Love and Squalor is an album that will always have a special place in our hearts. When I saw the band had released a new album, Lobes, I was inclined to give it a listen and what a great decision that turned out to be. This is an album full of uplifting indie pop songs that never get old, songs that make you want to head to your local indie club and dance the night away.
Dave Rowntree – Radio Songs
I have a feeling this album from Dave Rowntree (Blur drummer) is one that may go under the radar. In my opinion that should not happen, and you all can play your part to ensure that does not happen. There is so much to love in Radio Songs, the dreamlike vocals and melodies that will send you on your journey to a very peaceful place. There are moments on the album that you would be forgiven for asking is this Damon or Graham I hear? I had those thoughts too and they are meant as a compliment. This album is an absolute gem that you need to listen to and share with others.
January 2023 you really have spoilt us, there is no escaping the fact that the world is in a very difficult place at the moment. It is so easy to get frustrated with the state of things right now, get angry at decisions that are made and not know what to do about it. However, we all need time to escape from the challenges the world throws at us, music has always been a coping mechanism for me and all of the albums mentioned above have certainly helped me get through the last month, helped me escape and to feel optimistic about the year ahead. Please listen to these albums and if you have cash available during these challenging times head to your local independent record shop and treat yourself.