At the end 2013, things have settled even farther into their niche. When Real Gone was born, the intent was to write reviews of albums that ended up unloved in cut-out bins – the ultimate guide to creating a brilliant record collection on a budget. Pretty soon, a few DIY bands got interested and PR guys got interested and the focus began to change. It would have been churlish to turn these new opportunities away…and by including reviews of independent and smaller bands, RG slowly expanded its readership.
From time to time over the first three years, reviews of major releases were also thrown into the mix. These had an uneven effect: traffic rocketed, but none of those visitors had any interest in the website’s core material; they only ever came looking for free downloads of those bigger releases – and it seemed that once they knew they weren’t getting any, they never came back. As a result, this year, album reviews covering “established artists” has been kept to a minimum.
In 2013 Real Gone has been more focused than ever. Most reviews have covered stuff from indie labels and unsigned acts, something very much reflected in the year’s best picks. There has been a great deal of top quality output – disproving the long-outdated theories that DIY/independent/unsigned acts releases are always marred by demo quality recordings.
Here are Real Gone’s top picks of 2013:
NICK CAPALDI – The Golden Summer EP
It cannot be overstated how good this self-released EP from UK singer-songwriter Nick Capaldi is. A worthy successor to his ‘A Shade of Orange’ full length, these tracks blend 60s pop influences with a 90s Britpop slant to create a ray of sunshine that never fades. If the labels aren’t knocking by the summer of 2014, we’ll be surprised. [Full review here]
EVOLETAH – We Ache For The Moon
This was undoubtedly 2013’s biggest surprise. Evoletah’s previous album contained well-played, sometimes dark sounding alt-rock. Vocalist Matt Cahill sounded great throughout, but there wasn’t always much there to make Evoletah stand out from the ever-growing crowd. A relatively short time later, the Aussie band returned with a new line-up and new ideas. 2013’s ‘We Ache For The Moon’ blends alternative rock edges with progressive rock atmospheres and a touch of jazz, resulting in something quite, quite brilliant. [Full review here]
THE 1957 TAIL-FIN FIASCO – Cruise Control EP
This year saw two releases from this oddly-named Essex-based band. This EP showcased their unashamed love of Steely Dan, added a pinch of power pop and some Mike Viola-esque vocals. It’s hard to imagine anyone who loves 70s pop not loving this. [Full review and stream here]
NEURONSPOILER – Emergence
Metal has grown and evolved into all kinds of interesting subgenres over the past couple of decades, but there’s still room enough in the world for old school metal with a heavy 80s influence. This British band take 80s influences and run with them on their second release – top riffs, strong vocals, excellent production. You want old-school metal? Look no further. [Full review and stream here]
THE COMPUTERS – Love Triangles, Hate Squares
In 2012 The Computers were a top punk ‘n’ roll band. Their second release ‘This Is The Computers’ attacked the listener in a relentless fashion, as if Rocket From The Crypt had fused with The Nerve Agents. It came as an enormous surprise, therefore, that this third album showcased a band more concerned with mod and soul influences. Sure, there was still a huge dose of attitude, but ‘Love Triangles’ was so different from anything the band had given the world before; strong songs, an unexpected increase of melodies = a huge risk of a record that could have alienated their existing fan base… It was certain to pick them up new listeners. Absolutely filler free – the re-birth of The Computers looks towards very big things. [Full review here]
In addition to our big five, there were also great releases from Glenn Robinson, whose ‘Modern Mistakes’ offered great punk-pop and new wave attitude akin to his sometime label-mate Kurt Baker, while Real Gone favourites The Silver Seas went on a rootsy journey through ‘Alaska’. Despite appearances, Lyn Saga’s ‘Venice’ carried some hefty chops as the US performer advertised herself as “Girl Weezer”; two EPs from garage blues duo Detroit Rebellion (‘Fork In The Road‘ and ‘67‘) gave off attitude aplenty and geek favourites They Might Be Giants fascinated/entertained/annoyed us with ‘Nanobots’ – their first offering for Lojinx Records and their finest record in years. [Full reviews of each are behind the links]
As a footnote, we’d like it to be known that this year’s best album by an established band was ‘This Is Not The End’ by Baby Animals. Returning after a twenty year absence from recording all-new material, the Australian band sound as awesome as they ever did. In fact, despite the long gap and signing to an indie label, the album sounds exactly how you’d expect – almost like they’d never been away.
There’s still a lot of music from the year we’ve not even touched on, of course…including some recorded by bands that are already aware of Real Gone but have yet to make contact. There’s still time to catch up with those but, in the meantime, here’s hoping that 2014 will bring more great music without the aid (and greed) of major labels!