BEST OF 2012: 26. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber

My experiences with this chiming, glistening, jangling beauty of an album are largely linked to various record shops. Firstly, it was via one of the tips offs that you only really get from indie stores that I even knew this existed. The good folk at Rise in Bristol let me have a listen to the promo and I was immediately smitten. “Produced by the guy from Tame Impala” was enough to perk up the critical radar, but any attention it may be gleaning off the back of such associations is irrelevant as it more than deserves to stand on its own. That said, whilst stood at the counter in Spillers in Cardiff, slurping strong tea and muttering about fatuous deluxe editions of albums, a chap approached with a copy of ‘Lonerism’ and before I could remind myself that I don’t actually work in a record shop I chirped up that he should get Melody’s Echo Chamber if that was his sort of thing. Next thing you know, it was added to his pile. I do hope he liked it.

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The rough-edged, woozy pop psychedelia and floaty strains of Melody Prochet’s vocal on this tremendous debut, for Domino offshoot Weird World, make for an addictive cocktail. The fuzzy, pulsing energy coursing through it creates a very definite sound on an album which repays repeated listens and needs a bit of volume to truly seduce the floaty, squidgy bit of your brain that gets all hung up on dreamy indie music. Get it on vinyl, crank it up and remember when you used to be young.

The looped, heel-dragging drum pattern at the start of ‘You Won’t Be Missing That Part Of Me’ seems naggingly familiar, before blossoming into something no Stereolab fan could resist. Singles ‘I Follow You’ and ‘Crystallized’ do a pretty decent job of capturing the competing forces at work on this record, but nowhere is the kaleidoscopic sixties sheen more effective than on ‘Some Time Alone, Alone’. Prochet’s vocals are at risk of being swallowed by the stomping backdrop on a track which possesses that insistent, driving sound so typical on classic mono recordings. Whether you’re a fan of vintage girl-group pop or Stereolab obsessive, a Tame Impala devotee or simply somone who likes a good tune, you’ll find much to love on this quietly released stormer.

BEST OF 2012: 27. Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood

It’s now more than four years since this particular band entered my life. I blame Steve Lamacq for this one. During a not especially sunny summer’s week spent in Northumberland way back in 2008, I found myself tuning in to Lammo’s 6music afternoon show rather a lot. This was partly down to me reading his excellent autobiography at the time and partly because it was pretty good at drowning out the sound of incessant rain. One afternoon, his guests were Tom Williams & The Boat. Thinking back now, I can’t be absolutely certain what about them caused them to click so perfectly with me, but they were only half way through their first song as I reached for my phone to store the name of this curious new band. Since then, I’ve hoovered up the self-released EPs with handmade artwork, told anyone who would listen about their tremendous debut record and grinned immensely as they finally began to get the recognition they so richly deserve.

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And my, how they’ve grown. Second album ‘Teenage Blood’, on Moshi Moshi  no less, was released initially via a PledgeMusic campaign in March, with it hitting shops in the April. It is, of course, an excellent record and one which made all the more sense after a wet Sunday morning in August. It wasn’t a vintage Green Man this year – in fact, it was a little off the boil to my mind. But, there were golden performances to be found with a little effort and some decent footwear. As the rain continued to fall on the final day of the festival, I was one of the small but determined number already there for the first act on the Far Out Stage. After such a prolonged period of fandom, this was to be my first time seeing the band live and they did not disappoint. The gnarled, writhing guitars and passionate, emotive violin truly take off on stage, prompting the euphoric rush that comes when music consumes you.

In a year when alternative music has seemed so often preoccupied with fitting in rather than standing out, it’s refreshing to hear such a wilfully individual sound. With roots in the melodic world of the mainstream, ‘Teenage Blood‘ is an instantly endearing proposition, although repeated listens unveil the twisted, contorting soul at its heart. The dextrous band ooze and explode thrillingly with each emotional turn, while Williams’ sung-spoken vocals are perhaps the band’s trademark, variously murmuring, bellowing and spitting out lyrical delights such as “my sister was a referee, reffing Sunday morning leagues, south of Sheffield at a park, showing yellow cards to rapists and thieves,” in ‘Little Bit In Me’. The debut made last year’s countdown and is well worth seeking out, but ‘Teenage Blood’ is a more fulsome beast. It’s a record which may miss out on many of the ‘big’ lists this year but which deserves the attention so often lavished on the same old same old.