Sunday 31 December 2023

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Favourite Albums of 2023

First of all I'd like to sincerely thank all the Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast subscribers, contributors and people who have kindly offered encouragement and assistance along the way in the past year, thank you for your support, it is very much appreciated. As always, we would encourage you to check out the highlighted links below to also add your support to the many fantastic, bands, artists and record labels that we have featured in 2023. You can hear tracks from many of the bands in various epiosdes of Retrosonic Podcast which are all available in our archives at Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and iTunes - if you are not already, please like, subscribe and share to help spread the news about the great new music that is being released. Have a wonderful New Year and let's hope 2024 brings us even more superb sounds! 

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast's Pick of 2023 Albums

1. "Eternity"

Despite only being released on December 15th - this perfectly plotted debut album from the Liverpool based Tom Powell shot straight into our Number 1 slot. The immediacy of the melodies, the rich production, insistent riffs and hooks and timeless genre-defying sound made it an immediate hit. Tom has been ably assisted by a superb cast of contributors including Tom's 'day job boss' in The Red Elastic Band, Mick Head, Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian and Tom's Dad, the guitarist and producer, Steve Powell. "Eternity" is a masterclass in songwriting of the highest order. You can hear Tom talking about the concept behind in our special Retrosonic Podcast here.

2. Jim Jones All Stars "Ain't No Peril"

Absolutely blistering album from the fomer Hypnotics, Jim Jones Revue and Righteous Mind frontman and his new all action outfit. Somehow "Ain't No Peril" manages to capture the intense energy of the band's live performances in it's grooves and the album screams out Gospel, Garage Rock, Soul and downright raw Rock 'n' Roll.

3. Lalalar "En Kötü Iyi Olur"

Taking Turkish Psychedelia and mixing it with modern day Electronica and Dance beats along with some hugely inventive guitar playing - this Istanbul-based trio produced one of the most striking and original albums of 2023.

4. Jah Wobble "A Brief History of Now" (featuring Jon Klein)

Jah Wobble got together with former Specimen and Siouxsie & The Banshees guitarist Jon Klein to release this stunning album which sees a return to the angular Post-Punk sound of Public Image Ltd with trademark bubbling bass and Klein's scathing guitar work.

5. Wingmen "Wingmen"

A collaboration featuring Baz Warne of The Stranglers, Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC, Paul Fox of The Damned, Marty Parrott of the Johnny Moped Band and Rob Coombes of Supergrass might have signalled a new tribute act to themselves - but bravely they avoided any notion of nostalgia and released a quite magnificent collection of all new original material. The always entertaining Leigh Heggarty joined me to discuss Wingmen and how it all came about in this great episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

6. Sparks "The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte"

The Mael Brothers continued their remarkable 50-plus year musical journey with this great album packed full of their usual wit, originality and inventive songwriting.

7. Pascal Comelade & The Limiñanas "Boom Boom"

A hypnotic and atmospheric collaboration between the avant garde musician Pascal Comelade and our favourite fuzzed-up French duo Lionel and Marie Limiñana.

8. The Blue Aeroplanes "Culture Gun"

Released not long before the terribly sad news of guitarist Angelo Bruschini's passing - this album is simply one of the best of the Bristol based collective's long musical history. Poet/Vocalist Gerard Langley's half-spoken delivery is complemented by the vocal harmonies and contributions of his revolving line-up of collaborators and band-mates.

9. Iggy Pop "Every Loser"

Merging the best of all aspects of Iggy's repertoire from foul-mouthed 100 miles an hour rockers like "Frenzy" to the crooning baritone of "Strung Out Johnny", this album has it all - if you love Iggy you'll love "Every Loser".

10. The Skids "Destination Dusseldorf"

Harnessing all the trademark Skids tricks that I've loved since seeing the high-kicking Richard Jobson and his Dunfermline gang on Top of The Pops as a kid. The huge, stadium sized choruses, ringing guitar and Jobbo's impassioned vocals are all present and correct in this fantastic collection of new material.

11. The Hives "The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons"

The Swedish Garage Rock legends returned with their first album since 2012 and it's their strongest to date for sure, a swaggering beast of a record. New outfits, new bassist but same attitude and energy, proving they were always far more than a cartoon act.

12. The Brian Jonestown Massacre "The Future Is Your Past"

The run of superb albums from The Brian Jonestown Massacre over the past few years continued with this excellent collection of songs that came in a colour-your-own album sleeve complete with BJM crayons, genius! 

13. Fake Names "Expendables"

Dennis Lyxzén from The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Refused teamed up with members of some of his favourite American Punk bands such as Minor Threat, Bad Religion, S.O.A., Fugazi and Girls Against Boys to release this melodic tour de force, building on the promise of their self-titled 2020 debut album. Check out out thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast with Dennis where he discusses how Fake Names came about and other aspects of his fascinating musical career.

14. Gina Birch "I Play My Bass Loud"

One of the founding members of the Raincoats, Gina Birch released this great album bursting with fresh and inventive ideas tinged with Reggae and Electronica. "Wish I Was You" ranks up there among the very best songs of the year.

15. The Damned "Darkedelic"

There's no doubting that for me personally, the return of bassist Paul Gray reignited my love for The Damned and if you liked the 60's Garage Rock nuggets of their alter-ego Naz Nomad and the "Strawberries" and "Black Album" era, then "Darkedelic" will be right up your street (of dreams...). The news that Rat Scabies will be back behind the drum-kit makes 2024 a very exciting year for fans of the band.

16. Shonen Knife "Our Best Place"

The Osaka based trio have been consistently releasing albums of pure buzzsaw Punk Pop joy for 40 years now but there is seemingly no let up on their cheerful worldview and tales of their favourite food and cuddly animals.

17. Melody Fields "1901"

This Swedish Psychedelic band that emerged from ashes of The Movements are fast becoming one of our favourite acts. This is a masterclass in neo-Psychedelia that almost defines the genre.

18. Vännäs Kasino "Vännäs Kasino"

It's Dennis Lyxzén again but on guitar duties this time with a fantastic album featuring his INVSN colleague Sara Almgren on vocals and a blistering collection of Punk Rock that reminds me in places of prime Dead Kennedys.

19. Altin Gün "Aşk"

Dragging the exotic strains of Turkish Anatolian Rock and Psychedelia into the present day, Altin Gün are becoming hugely popular and it's easy to see why with releases of this calibre.

20. The Jack Cades "Something New"

A kind of contemporary Garage Rock 'supergroup' featuring members of The Embrooks, Speedball Jr, The Baron Four and The Missing Souls - The Jack Cades albums just get better with each release and this memorable collection of great songs with Mike and Elsa's vocal harmonies and nods to The Velvet Underground and early Brian Jonestown Massacre. It makes you wonder just how they are going to top this one. We spoke to Mike and Elsa about some of their favourite songs and influences in this episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

21. Ian Kay "Walk That Road Again"

Elsa from The Jack Cades' former colleague in The Missing Souls, Ian Kay, finally released his long-awaited debut solo album this year and yes, it was well worth waiting for. Ian's highly infectious Garage Soul packed full of irresistable hooks will get you in the dancing mood from the moment the needle hits the groove.

22. Gatuplan "Välkommen Till Underjorden"

Inge Johnansson, the livewire bassist with The (International) Noise Conspiracy released the second album from his band Gatuplan in 2023 and its bursting with a positive, uplifting energy cramming in all of Inge's passion for Swedish Hardcore, Punk Rock and Ska. Have a listen to the hugely likeable Inge on Gatuplan, The (International) Noise Conspiracy and some of his favourite songs and influences.

23. Rhoda Dakar "Version Girl"

A brilliant collection of lovingly curated and performed cover versions from the former Bodysnatchers vocalist, "Version Girl" also boasts stunning cover art from Pete McKee.

24. Duncan Reid & The Big Heads "And It's Goodbye From Him"

The fact that "And It's Goodbye From Him" is possibly former Boys bassist Duncan Reid's best collection of his now trademark Power Pop Punk gems makes the unexpected decision to call time on his musical career even more disappointing, but it's one hell of a way to bow out. I just had to catch up with Duncan to discuss the reasons behind his decision to pack in music suddenly and what followed was a fascinating chat on the life of a post-Brexit musician.

25. French Boutik "Ce Je Ne Sais Quoi"

An immaculate collection of Pop Moderniste songs from the Paris based band oozing class with their high quality mix of Indie, Ye-Ye, Soul and 60's Pop.

Bubbling under... 

Ian Person "Autoimmune", Galen & Paul "Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day?", Per Svensson "Magic Trip", The Coral "Sea of Mirrors", Holiday Ghosts "Absolute Reality", Ruts DC "ElectrAcoustic Vol. 2", The Bug Club "Rare Birds: Hour of Song", Popincourt "We Were Bound To Meet", The Go! Team "Get Up Sequences Part 2", The Sound of Pop Art "Shapes & Shadows".

Sunday 3 December 2023

New Retrosonic Podcast with Tom Powell, Bassist with Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band on his new solo project

In our recent Retrosonic Podcast Episode 53 you would have heard the excellent track by called "Play It Cool", well we liked it so much we named the episode after it and even featured the man behind the project, Tom Powell, on the cover. You might recognise Tom as the bassist with former Shack and Pale Fountains frontman Mick Head's latest outfit, Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band and here, in a thoroughly entertaining show, Tom discusses the concept behind and the superb album "Eternity", some of the varied musical influences that helped to shape the sound and the contributors that played their part in creating one of the best albums of 2023. "Eternity" is a concise and perfectly plotted debut that effortlessly moves between an eclectic mix of genres, from 60's West Coast Californian harmonies, pastoral Folk Rock with lush orchestral arrangements to 90's  Trip-Hop and contemporary Neo-Psychedelia, but despite the varied reference points, it all sounds completely fresh and unique. It brings to mind the similarly studio-based project 5 Billion In Diamonds which was created by Nirvana Producer and Garbage drummer, Butch Vig along with the Bristol based Producers and DJ's James Grillo and Andy Spaceland and a list of impressive studio guests including Ebbot Lundberg from The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Damian O'Neill from the Undertones and members of Ocean Blue, Massive Attack, Spiritualised and The Blue Aeroplanes. 

With, Tom has called on dad, Steve Powell from Ark Recording Studios in Liverpool who has worked with Mick Head, The Stairs, Cast and Echo & The Bunnymen among others and here his production and guitar work, lifts "Eternity" to another level, the album just sounds fantastic, especially on vinyl. Then there are contributions from Tom's Red Elastic Band colleague Phil Murphy on drums, Chris Geddes from Belle & Sebastian on keyboards and Mick Head himself, who adds vocals to a couple of songs and also more intriguing, the bongos! In fact, the time spent working with Mick Head, who the NME once dubbed as Britain's "Greatest Songwriter", has certainly rubbed off on Tom as "Eternity" is packed full of immediately memorable songs, ringing with superb guitar riffs, beautiful melodies and choruses that will stick in your head for days after the very first listen. His Red Elastic Band boss must be very proud. Talking of which, during our chat, Tom also covers the amazing reaction to the "Dear Scott" album and the wonderful experience of playing in Japan with Mick and The Red Elastic Band earlier this year. We were lucky enough to be there to catch one of the Tokyo shows and you can see videos over at our YouTube channel here. Anyway, please enjoy Tom's company in this latest episode which is also soundtracked with a selection of songs from the "Eternity" album - you can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

You can order "Eternity" directly from the official website here and check out more news and information at the Facebook page here. With thanks to Tom and to John Johnson photography for use of the excellent photo in the Podcover. We recommend the Pale Fountains fan's Facebook group here for all Mick Head music-related chat and resource. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence.