Amanda Palmer – There Will Be No Intermission

AP

There Will Be No Intermission is the third solo release by Amanda Palmer, the former lead singer of The Dresden Dolls and the one and sometimes still performance artist also known as Amanda Fucking Palmer. It’s certainly quite a performance. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes and with a couple of tracks passing the 10-minute-plus mark, this is not a record for those who are even slightly pressed for time. It’s also a highly confessional album. Indeed, as confessional albums go, this one has already been inside the box talking to the priest for quite a considerable period. It could all be a little too much. And in a different context it would be. If this was a man singing about his personal problems in an equivalently querulous and emotional register, any relationship he was having would most likely go tits up sooner rather than later. But it’s not. Released on International Women’s Day, the themes speak to some very difficult gendered issues, including Palmer’s own experience of abortion. Fittingly enough, the truth-telling reaches its climax on ‘A Mother’s Confession’, where Palmer recalls the everyday difficulties of motherhood in sometimes disturbing detail. “At least the baby didn’t die”. There Will Be No Intermission isn’t an easy listen. That’s both its strength and its weakness. Sometimes a huge amount can be too much. But sometimes it can be perfection too. Here, there are moments of plain and simple beauty that will stay with you forever. The waltz-theme of ‘The Ride’ being one. For that reason alone, let’s hope that there will indeed be no intermission.

Goshen Electric Co.

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“You won’t have to think twice if it’s love. You will know”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Timothy Showalter and former members of Magnolia Electric Co. reinventing two of the more obscure tracks from Molina’s Didn’t It Rain era.

Iron & Wine – Weed Garden

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“Some want love and some want gold, I just want to see you in the morning”. Sam Beam returned with six gorgeously gentle songs full of recognisably Iron-&-Wine-y themes, lyrics, and arrangements.

Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee – Farewell Transmission/The Dark Don’t Hide It

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“In the sirens and the silences now all the great set up hearts, All at once start to beat”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield reinventing two of the best tracks from Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. era broadly understood

Kramies – Of All The Places Been & Everything The End

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It’s been a long wait. “Ireland” was premiered on the 2015 forêts antiques live EP after all. But it was worth it. Rising and falling. Swelling and subsiding. Kramies brought us on a journey through all the places been to a new home. And more.

Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie

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“If you’d have seen me last year I’d have said, ‘I can’t even see you there from here'”. Matthew Houck may have become a parent and started writing songs about his young son. But fear not, the essence of the old Phosphorescent still shone as brightly as ever.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

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“This is a verse about a man who dared, To fall head over heels for a woman who shared, Similar interests, similar looks, Similar taste in similar books”. A typically eclectic mix from the (grand)father of indie rock. Includes the best song about a bike lane that you’ll hear all year.

The Rock*A*Teens – Sixth Sense

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‘Take a deep breath and blow the cobwebs away”. The Rock*A*Teens returned with a new beginning, proving that teens still know how to rock, even once-upon-a-time ones.

Shakey Graves – Can’t Wake Up

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“Tonight!, I’ve got nothing on my mind but you, Somewhere, somehow, You’ll feel it too”. Alejandro Rose-Garcia really doesn’t like Abba. The song ‘Aibohphobia’ confirmed that.

Mount Eerie – Now Only

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In a category of its own. Do not send these songs to your friends or play them at parties! They are some of the most emotional pieces of music of the year though.

 

Cat Power – The Wanderer

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“Doctor said I was not my past, He said I was finally free”. The return of Chan Marshall after a six-year absence was one of the year’s greatest moments. And there were a few of those.

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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“I was just coastin’, never really goin’ anywhere, Caught up in a web, I was gettin’ kinda used to stayin’ there, And out of the blue, I fell for you”. Kacey Musgraves made the big time in 2018, but also managed to subvert it slightly when she was there. That’s a great trick.

Soccer Mommy – Clean

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“And I knew when I met him, That he’s the one I want to be with, ‘Cause I can see him, Blossom in the future that I’m dreamin'”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Soccer Mommy. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.

Snail Mail – Lush

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“It took so long to know someone like you, And age in the dying sun, With only the vivid greens and blues”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Snail Mail. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.

Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink

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“I could stay on the crest of the wave, In the sea of your love all my days”. The transformation of Jess Williamson’s music over the course of three albums has been revelatory. Cosmic folk, Texas-style.

Songs: Ohia – Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions

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“Whether you save me, Whether you savage me, Want my last look to be the moon in your eyes”. If The Lioness is your favourite Jason Molina album. Possibly. And you want more songs that sound like The Lioness. Definitely. Then this Deluxe version is for you. Phew.

Bob Dylan – More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14

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“I came in from the wilderness, A creature void of form, ‘Come in’, she said, ‘I’ll give ya, Shelter from the storm'”. If 3,513 versions of ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ is what you are craving. Hmm, not totally sure. Then this Deluxe version of Blood On The Tracks is for you. Oh, OK.

Neil Young – ROXY: Tonight’s The Night Live

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“Walk on, talk on, baby tell no lies, Don’t you be caught with a tear in your eye”. If you like Neil Young to be providing somewhat approximate renditions of what are undoubtedly some of his best tunes. Yes, yes. Then this live version of Tonight’s The Night is for you. Oh Good.

The Beatles – White Album

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“The sun is up, the sky is blue, It’s beautiful and so are you”. If you have ever been to Esher and wondered what it must have been like for The Beatles to demo The White Album songs there, then this Super Deluxe Version is for you. Where’s Esher again?

Kate Bush – Remastered I-IV

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“His left hand is under my head, And his right hand, Does embrace me, This is the song of Solomon”. Classic Kate Bush. Remastered. Move on. Nothing more to add. Oh OK. Right.

 

Alpha Hall – Omens

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Alpha Hall are from the same Hidden Shoal stable as Kramies and Summon The Birds. They’ve been described as a cross between The National and The Dirty Three. It’s not a bad description. There’s a certain understated Matt Berninger manner to the vocals, particularly on songs like ‘Salt‘ and ‘Trees’, while the manic violin playing is reminiscent of Warren Ellis in madcap mode, which, in fairness, is most of the time. But Alpha Hall deserve their own reference point not an amalgam of other people’s. Because Omens is a really impressive debut. The riffs can sometimes be big and the melodies are always mellifluous. And all the time there’s the background scraping of the violin to keep the sound slightly but nicely off-kilter. The result is that they sound like Alpha Hall and no-one else. And that’s the highest compliment of all. Check out Omens. It’s a good one.

Kramies – Of All The Places Been & Everything The End

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Follow the light and feel alive again. Kramies’ new EP explores the idea that breaking with routine creates new opportunities. The unnamed man mourns the loss of his wife. To cope, he maintains the same schedule. Year after year. He’s tired. But one day he chooses to veer off the path, following a light into the forest. The result is an epiphany of sorts. He lets go of the past and finds himself home. A new home. As Kramies explained in a recent interview, it’s a story whose roots are very personal. But the beauty lies in the timelessness and universality of the narrative. And that’s not the only source of beauty. The music sounds fine too. It’s more layered, more dense, more intense than previous Kramies outings. The result is a strong sense of interiority that captures both the mind of the man and the tangle of the trees. For sure, there’s a sense that the title of the EP is in need of some punctuation. Everything. The End? But this is the most minor of quibbles. Instead, revel in the break at 5.14 in ‘Ireland’. The echo at 2.09 in ‘Of All The Places Been’. And the beautiful last minute of ‘Everything The End’. Follow the light, listen to this EP, and feel alive again.