Best things we heard in January

Will Collins: My favourite discovery of January was actually a record that came out last year. I came across Hotel Insomnia by For Tracy Hyde during that odd period around the new year when no new music is being released and instantly felt short-changed that I hadn’t heard it earlier. The Japanese group serves up an energetic brand of shoegaze that marries the ethereal beauty of the softer end of the genre with soaring guitar and a pleasingly crunchy rhythm section. The resulting sound is a muscular and transporting take on the genre. Turn it on, turn it up loud and forget about the January blues.


Tom Burrows: Little Simz smashed it with her surprise end-of-year release, No Thank You. Her old manager’s ears must be ringing after 50 minutes of focused ire. It reminds me of 2019’s Grey Area in its tight rhymes and mesmerising instrumentals from Inflo. But I especially appreciate the development in her delivery. She doesn’t need to flex anymore or try too hard to get her point across. She totally believes in her ability to calmly emote, and the album is all the better for it.

In this month’s releases, I really enjoyed Billy Nomates’ second album, CACTI. Her first got a lot of acclaim from Fran and James in particular, but I only casually listened to it. This one sounds great, and I found the introspective aspect to it very compelling. Maybe I should listen to my fellow editors more often.

Finally, it may be an album of incidental instrumentals, but I found Mac Demarco’s Five Easy Hot Dogs soothing to listen to as background music for a couple of walks. Not sure that’s much of a recommendation but some of them are quite nice – which I guess is what his intent was, to detract from the turbulence of tour life. It’s definitely better than that Sound of 2023 playlist anyway.


Fran Slater: Anna B Savage’s debut, A Common Turn, was our album of the year over on the Picky Bastards Podcast in 2021. With a gig review, an interview, several appearances in our best-of-the-month lists, and two of our editors also picking it as their own individual AOTY, we were at risk of becoming an Anna fansite for a little while there.

Well, the second album, isn’t even out until Feb 17th and it’s time for that train to get started once more. I’ve been lucky enough to have advanced access to the album and let me tell me you that something truly special is coming to your ears in a few weeks’ time. It’s a knockout from start to finish and confirms that Anna is an artist that deserves legendary status. I’ll be reviewing the album on release day so won’t say much else for now, but yeah – it’s a worldie.



Rick Larson: I’ve been catching up on some of the stuff I missed in 2022. I enjoy that Jockstrap album quite a bit; ‘Greatest Hits’ moved into my revised best 30 songs of the year list.

How did I miss this Wilder Maker album, Male Models, released in late July last year? I can’t stop listening to it. Mildly obsessed. The Brooklyn group delivers a freaking beautiful slab of American music that will break your heart and hurt your tossing head. When those drums crack in the opener, ‘Letter of Apology?’ Sigh. ‘The Professional’ makes me bop with tears in my eyes. ‘All Power Must Remain Hidden‘ is a scorcher that teases with cowbell then goes all in. ‘Scam Likely’ is a two minute gem; it would fit in on Double Nickels.

Yeah we live in the US of A. Scam likely indeed.


James Spearing: I said it would be good. Fran said it was good. And it was good. Yes the best thing in January was of course Billy Nomates with Cacti. It pains me to say that Fran’s review of the album was anywhere near perfect, and neither does what follows make great reading here, but I’ve little else to add to what Fran already said. If anyone doubted that Tor wouldn’t be able to push her music beyond what we already knew and loved then they have been proven wrong. Singing along to ‘Spite’, with the lyric “little boy don’t think you quite understand/don’t you act like I ain’t the fucking man” is the catharsis we all need right now.

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