That time once again rolls around and we put our collective heads together to put decide on our best albums of the year for 2021. It’s been an amazing 12 months with so many fantastic records released. As writers, we cover as many as we can and Louder Than War is a broad church, reflected in the individual choices of all contributors we polled for this rundown. That said, there were a few albums that really stood out from the pack and our number one was, this year, never in doubt.

So, here they are. Louder Than War’s Top 100 albums of the year.

Albums of the year100. TV Priest: Uppers (Sub Pop)
Scratch the surface, peel away the layers and you’ll find something here to make you think there might be something more to come. There are hints of The Fall, The Pop Group, post/art-punk angular guitars. They are recreating a formula that has worked over the years and will no doubt garner a dedicated following.
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99. Primitive Knot: A New Ontology Of Evil (Deathbed Tapes)
A New Ontology Of Evil is a dark, twisted and thoroughly evil trip into the void. While industrial-metal acts like Godflesh are certainly a big influence, Primitive Knot remains a law unto itself.
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98. Delilah Bon: S/T (Trash Queen)
Delilah Bon is the explosive new project from the mind of multi-instrumentalist, producer and prolific punk rock queen Lauren Tate, unleashing a whole new level of clever, sarcastic, empathetic and righteously angry lyrics and the living embodiment of the DIY attitude.
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97. The Brothers Steve: Dose (Big Stir)
Full of hidden depths and fine detail that repeated plays will no doubt reveal. That’s two out of two gems from The Brothers Steve for the listener to enjoy. We can only wait and imagine a third with a similar amount of inspiration, conviction and above all, stunning melodies.
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96. Blowers: S/T (Spooky/Chaputa!)
A literal ripping to pieces, a literal cutting of the throat, literally too old for any of this shit until, arrestingly distressed, compelling bleeding along the edge, exhaustion turns to existential rage.
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95. Bevis Frond: Little Eden (Fire)
A full journey through a vision that blends reality and romance. It’s a kitchen sink drama, but shot in psychedelic technicolour and left open-ended for joy. In short, it is the comeback from The Bevis Frond we would have hoped for.
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94. Rutger Hoedemaekers: The Age Of Oddities (130701)
An extraordinary album for the listener, one that takes you from the murky cavern of distorted, processed vocal at the beginning to Hoedemaekers’s sublime and poignant piano at the close. You feel like you have been transported, out of the darkness and into the light.
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93. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! (Constellation)
A pure, powerful and moving expression of the here and now. Providing hope amongst all the chaos and uncertainty, Godspeed You! Black Emperor return in the nick of time with their skinny fists raised in defiance.
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92. Gary Numan: Intruder (BMG)
This is an album as told by a storyteller, with nods and winks to his musical style from the 1980s. For those that love this current version of Gary Numan, this is an album for headphones and closed eyes, a grand arena for the mind and imagination.
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91. FilthyDirty: The Rise And Fall Of Blasphemouth (Cracked Ankles)
A dirty bastard that sounds like Mark E Smith on acid… a deep down horror soundtrack that conjures up the image of something not very nice down in the cellar.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202190. Mush: Lines Redacted (Memphis Industries)Mush have turned their sights on the darkness behind the curtain, where the world’s stagehands are turning the cogs at the behest of the catastrophe directors while we, as actors, spectators, seem unable to do little more than play our scripted parts or look on in horror.
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89. Divide And Dissolve: Gas Lit (Invada)
To hear Gas Lit is to take your clothes off and walk into the sea, to dig your toes and hands into the Earth. It is history, it is future, it is necessary and to spend time with it is to address what it is to be human.
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88. Digital Resistance: Alternative Facts (Grimace)
Digital Resistance is making music that rages, and brilliantly so. With songs that are just as insightful and shrewd as they are indispensable, Alternative Facts illuminates the urgency of rising up.
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87. Freya Beer: Beast (Sisterhood)
Delving into the aspirations of the dreaming to the lucid nightmares of the living, the songs of Beast find Freya blurring fiction and reality with a disorienting daze.
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86. Vex: Average Minds Think Alike (Self-release)
The sound of Vex is one of pulsating electronic pop in the vein of Devo, albeit reimagined in a euro-dance fashion whilst adding a sprinkling of angular post-punk aggression.
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85. Anthrax: Serfs Out (Grow Your Own)
Anarcho-punk stalwarts Anthrax lament the state of a Brexit Britain that doesn’t care for its people, run by a cabal of lying coke head chancers who have managed to hoodwink the nation. An understated masterpiece.
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84. Cult Figures: Deritend (Gard du Nord)
Deritend is a deep work that matches acute lyrical insights into an addictive musical palette. There is a lot to occupy one’s mind on this album and there is a sense here that although there are no easy answers, we should start asking difficult questions.
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83. Francis Lung: Miracle (Memphis Industries)
Eclectic and referential, the album is nevertheless a distinctly personal statement. With its varying moods and intimate lyrics, it shows someone who is not hesitant to open up
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82. Amy Macdonald: The Human Demands (Infectious)
It’s a story about giving yourself credit for your achievements and understanding your limitations. Much like Amy’s general demeanour, it’s a relatable and down-to-earth record that many of us can find comfort in.
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81. Piroshka: Love Drips And Gathers (Bella Union)
One that passed us by at first. “The way Love Drips And Gathers changes shape and dynamic is less a reprise of nineties Brit indie than a transformation into a more shivery, Euro-mantic version with glistening electronic filigrees.”
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202180. Erica Nockalls: Dark Music From A Warm Place (Gentlemen)
Another that slipped through our net on release. “What happens when a classically-trained violinist explores the more twisted neighbourhoods of alternative pop? The work of Erica Nockalls provides the searingly accurate answer.”
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79. Hooveriii: Water For The Frogs (Reverb Appreciation Society)
A strange collection of songs full of nice undertones. Influences by Iggy’s The Idiot, Soft Machine and Berlin-era Bowie show throughout this hazy platter.
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78. Du Blonde: Homecoming (Daemon TV)
Homecoming communicates the necessity to embrace one’s younger self and recall things that have shaped his or her personality. Still, with the poppier vibes, Houghton stays true to her garage and glam-punk oeuvre.
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77. Sister John: I Am By Day (Last Night From Glasgow)
An exciting progression in the band’s sound, while losing nothing of the beauty and integrity that holds such an affinity for fans of the band’s music.
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76. The Chills: Scatterbrain (Fire)
Magick and mysticism ooze from Scatterbrain’s every pore from the opening note. The Chills are very much still creating their finest works.
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75. Sonny Vincent: Snake Pit Therapy (Svart)
The souped-up thrust of the music, a simple but lucid production and the down to earth sentiments of the lyrics come together to make the album a full-bodied treat of street attitude expertly allied to tough and tune-laden music.
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74. Snapped Ankles: Forest Of Your Problems (The Leaf Label)
They upped their game with this one to produce a fantastic record of synth-drenched post-punk. Wired and totally addictive.
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73. Parquet Courts: Sympathy For Life (Rough Trade)
The enigmatic social media shy Parquet Courts return with an album that’s as diverse as ever. They’ve piled up the funk and disco, delved into Krautrock and even gone all Eighties on our music junkie minds.
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72. Lou Barlow: Reason To Live (Joyful Noise)
Reaffirming a joy for music, love and life that, at one point, was on the brink of being lost. It’s a record that brims with optimism and one to go back to again and again.
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71. John Grant: Boy From Michigan (Bella Union)
Oh, to be reacquainted with that rich, resonant voice again; it’s like a warm wave of reassurance washing over us, like the moment lockdown eased and we were able to step back into our local pub.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202170. Kiss Me, Killer: 2020 Vision (Grow Your Own)
Swirling together a dayglo vortex of first-wave punk, surf, garage, rock ‘n’ roll and post-punk, Killer will appeal equally to old farts who like punk ‘n’ roll as well as the young upstarts they sneer at.
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69. Alan Vega: Mutator (Sacred Bones)
Whenever a legendary artist dies and a posthumous album arrives a few years later, you can usually hear the sound of barrels being scraped in a bid to squeeze every last cent out of their legacy. Happily, nothing could be further from that with Mutator, a genuine “lost” album by Suicide’s late great Alan Vega.
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68. Jim McCulloch: When I Mean What I Say (Violette)
An album of airy Americana psych that drifted by us on release but worked its way into more than one of our consciousnesses. A triumph for the Motherwell singer-songwriter.
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67. Field Music: Flat White Moon (Memphis Industries)
Exquisite art-rock sentiment from retrofuturistic English collective Field Music, led by the ever-prolific Brewis brothers.
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66. The Coral: Coral Island (Run On)
A whole world within a world, an escape from reality that resonates deeply, fantastical yet altogether real. This could be their best album to date.
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65. Jim Bob: Who Do We Hate Today (Cherry Red)
Excellent yet again from a clever guy who keeps on giving and is probably one of the best storytellers around. A master of lyrics and a songwriting treasure.
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64. Johnny Mafia: Sentimental (Howlin’ Banana)
Sentimental is an authentic rollercoaster of a record. It twists and turns, rises and drops you flailing into the next breakneck curve. Johnny Mafia are a band going from strength to strength, a pure joy to see and listen to.
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63. Fightmilk: Contender (Reckless Yes)
Slightly delayed by the pandemic, I guess you could use the adage, good things come to those who wait. In the case of Fightmilk’s second album, this is indeed true. Although who am I actually kidding? It’s not just good, it’s fucking brilliant.
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62. Night Beats: Outlaw R&B (Fuzz Club)
A potent psych force. The vocals are often drenched in a similar fuzz sound to his wild guitar work, adding to the mysteriousness of both Blackwell’s lyrics and character.
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61. Lonelady: Former Things (Warp)
Another, this time from our own fair city, that got lost in the melee of albums, Lonelady’s latest is an electropop opus. Definitely one for us to go back to and explore over again.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202160. Shame: Drunk Pink Tank (Dead Oceans)
The songwriting is more adventurous than their debut, the musicianship better and in general there’s just a lot more variety. It’s the type of album that, even after several listens, feels like it still has so much more to it yet to be uncovered.
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59. Amigo The Devil: Born Against (Liars Club)
Rarely does an album contain so much soul, emotion and mastery of the art of storytelling, conveyed through such warmth, passion and sincerity, but this one has it in spades.
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58. The Shadracks: From Human Like Form (Damaged Goods)
The influence of punks mavericks and thinkers Devoto, Vic Godard, Wire and Mark Perry is all over this album… which shows the band have great taste and are twisting and adapting old ideas in new and interesting shapes.
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57. The Bug: Fire (Ninja Tune)
Fire is a reflection of and reaction to the world we live in, the floor-shaking dub designed to snap you out of complacency and instil a little fire in your soul. It isn’t the kind of music that should be greedily hoarded by underground aficionados. Fire is a gift to the world.
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56. Dark Mark vs Skeleton Joe: S/T (Rare Bird/Kitten Robot)
It’s as if Mark Lanegan and Joe Cardamone have found both sonic and linguistic ways to enter into dialogues that would otherwise seem impossible. And they’re exquisite. This is dark and ethereal experimentation at its best.
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55. Manic Street Preachers: The Ultra Vivid Lament (Sony)
Today, older and wiser, they crave a different kind of relevance and seek validation by letting the tunes do the talking. And by God, can those tunes talk. Rest assured, The Ultra Vivid Lament, the fourteenth studio album of a glittering career, is categorically relevant.
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54. Kiwi Jr: Cooler Returns (Sub Pop)
US slacker/college pop meets UK post-punk and indie with a smattering of folky/Americana influences. Kiwi Jr’s world is the perfect anecdote to the real world in 2020/21.
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53. Viagra Boys: Welfare Jazz (Year 0001)
Sleazy and chaotic post-punk second album from Sweden’s Viagra Boys slipped under our radar on release but found its way onto a fair few of our writer’s top tens. Full on and totally entertaining.
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50. Gorija: Fortitude (Roadrunner)
More than any other form of music metal somehow sneaks ideas, idealism and forward-thinking into the cheesy mainstream without diluting its power and creativity and Gojira are a prime example of this truly independent process. The band are breaking boundaries, breaking records and breaking the anglo-American music culture consensus.
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51. La Luz: S/T (Hardly Art)
La Luz should be the go-to band for dreamy/eerie pop – they should be in an untouchably cool position like Stereolab used to be. The music business goes on around them, yet they are head and shoulders above it all, making seemingly effortless music which is immediately identifiable and peerless.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202150. Low: Hey What (Sub Pop)
The third since their sound was revolutionised by BJ Burton in 2015, sowing seeds of chaos amid the calm when he produced Ones And Sixes. Here he takes it one step further than he did on that album’s hugely acclaimed successor (and this one’s predecessor), Double Negative. The abstract soundscapes are still there, the electronic beats still throb and pound beneath, but the vocals, so often digitally manipulated on the last album, are pushed to the forefront in all their natural glory, Mimi and Alan’s voices merging like a celestial choir.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202149. The Stan Laurels: There Is No Light Without Dark (Big Stir)
The Stan Laurels have produced a work of abundant depth, cracking tunes allied to a very wise and above all human lyrical viewpoint. Just because there is only one person involved does not mean there is any less power to the music, as if you were not conversant with the fact that this is John Lathrop on his Jack Jones beforehand, you would never suspect it as anything other than a band recording and a high-quality one at that.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202148. Slow Down Molasses: Minor Deaths (Noyes)
This album by the Canadian band Slow Down Molasses was another that skirted past us upon release in October. On the album, Various Small Flames wrote: “For these are songs that work on a visceral level, pulling the listener into frantic eddies and wide swells, but within these currents lie hidden depths. Be it clever lyricism, dual meanings or ambiguities in the mood that warrant closer inspection.”
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202147. Reigning Sound: A Little More Time With… (Merge)
A Little More Time With… is a crystal clear and crisp record that glides effortlessly. It shows the Memphis lineup truly at one again with each other, a feeling of intimacy like sitting with the band themselves as they knock out the tunes. Smokey soulful melodies and rhythms abound. It’s great to finally have some more time with Reigning Sound and, as they sing, let’s do it again real soon.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202146. Lump: Animal (Partisan)
There’s a warm, organic quality to the recordings that makes the whole album feel inviting. Animal wraps you in a sonic cocoon, with a brilliantly strange undercurrent ensuring we’re never too relaxed. There’s something satisfyingly indefinable at its core. It is an instinctively playful and curious beast, nuzzling its way through a variety of styles with a genuine sense of fun and adventure. A clever, wild and overwhelmingly adorable animal that thrives on the sheer joy of making music.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202145. Turner: Daydream And Stars (Stoned Gospel)
Daydreams & Stars ebbs and flows to its own individual pattern, meandering attractively along the way. As a result, it has the feel of a set of songs that just belong together. They build into a great whole and that is despite representing a range of tempi, sounds and feelings along the way. It adds up to an excellent record from Turner, an artist who deservedly steps out of the background and into the bright daylight on this fine collection.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202144. Sam Fender: Seventeen Going Under (Polydor)
At times, Fender’s intelligent, re-wired heartland rock shares similar territory to Manic Street Preachers, but there’s no doubt that the North Shields songwriter has established a unique musical identity, enabling him to pull off the remarkable feat of topping the UK album charts with a modern rock record characterised by intelligent lyrics, not once, but twice. A modern take on classic arena rock that avoids predictable clichés through its sheer sincerity and relevance to the conflicted times we are living through right now.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202143. Catenery Wire: Birling Gap (Skepwax/Shelflife)
It’s C86 Indiepop reaching adulthood with quality Dreampop production. Musically, the experience and influences of Hallam, Lewis and Button enhance the Fletcher/Pursey songs and performances and give the intelligent songs about Englishness an analogue pop sheen and professionalism…. it’s just such a great album. Birling Gap, is a shimmering thing of beauty. Pop with depth and the wisdom of that comes with age and musicianship to match.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202142. Neighborhood Brats: Confines Of Life (Dirt Cult)
The third album from these LA punks is a tuneful and melodic yet punchy and gritty album full of great hooks. It sounds like California, continuing the long legacy of West Coast punk rock. And yet, inside their ball of pure energy they find the space to tackle a wide array of issues, from environmental meltdown, systematic oppression, inter and intrapersonal conflicts and the way we find ourselves trapped. No mean feat to do so in such an entertaining way.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202141. Lola In Slacks: Moon Moth (Last Night From Glasgow)
Seven years on from the three astonishing demo tracks that piqued much interest in this boldly individual group, Lola in Slacks have finally delivered on the promise of their early singles and stunning live performances with the release of Moon Moth, a perfectly-realised debut album that dazzles with sublime, adventurous songwriting and the gloriously noir atmospherics that the group have made their own. They have brought to life a work of great beauty, intelligence and optimism, precious commodities in uncertain times. Embrace them.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202140. Marissa Nadler: The Path Of The Clouds (Bella Union)
Marissa Nadler started out making a dark dream folk, her ghostly voice swathed in reverb against skeletal backings. Her ninth album fleshes out her sound on a set of murder ballads with a twist to create her crowning achievement. Lyrically, her artist’s eye captures the detail in the stories she weaves in much the same way as she meticulously applies paint to a canvas. There are musicians for whom the term “artist” sounds trite, but for Marissa Nadler it’s exactly the right word. In fact, it’s the only word. She’s an artist at the peak of her powers.
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albums of the year39. Damon Albarn: The Nearer The Fountain The More Pure The Stream Flows (Transgressive)
Partly inspired by his new homeland, Iceland, and the poetry of John Clare, Damon Albarn’s latest album is ethereal, wistful and remote. It’s an incredibly moving body of work from a master songwriter. It’s a masterclass in songwriting, contradictory in the sense that it is retro yet futuristic; glacial yet warm; majestic and grandiose yet homespun. Albarn has never been one to follow the rules, nor has he the tendency to glance over his shoulder at the past. A great chameleon for our generation.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202138. The William Loveday Intention: Will There Ever Be A Day That You’re Hung Like A Thief? (Damaged Goods)
The whole of the album is ’65/66 Dylan in style, but Billy’s songs. Heavy on the harmonica and with guitar-playing which is not ‘rock’n’roll’ for the most part, Will There Ever Be A Day That You’re Hung Like A Thief? is a bewilderingly brilliant album. The songs cover events & subjects Childish has covered before and the album reduced me to tears and brought me great joy. Some older Childish song-lyrics, some new, but the different musical framing makes the whole thing seem brand spanking new and fresh and alive.
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albums of the year37. Deathretro: S/T (Cosmic Glue)
Deathretro deliver a dance-punk debut album packed with riffs, synths and swagger. An LP without an inch of flab, there isn’t a second here that doesn’t crackle with electricity. Every second is stuffed-to-the-gills with riffs, synths and swagger. A genuinely exhilarating experience: They have delivered an album that goes for the jugular with an impressive and persistent ferocity. Trapped in amber like the mosquito in Jurassic Park, the band have finally re-emerged as a fully grown T-Rex. Jaws drooling and ready to rock.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202136. 24/7 Diva: Stress (Noisolution)
Now firmly established within the German gig and festival circuit, the trio is also one of the driving forces behind the Grrrl – Noisy collective in Berlin, a growing community of womxn musicians and creatives that form part of a feminist DIY movement that provides a safe space for live jam sessions on a regular basis. The Berlin (and sometimes not so underground) alternative music scene and its counterculture is well alive and kicking again and 24/7 Diva Heaven will hopefully soon be an international force to be reckoned with.
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albums of the year35. James: All The Colours Of You (Virgin)
They’ve come a long way in the 39 years they’ve been together. They’ve been through a lot since the band’s music was mainly for students in Mancunian bedsits. Despite this, it’s unmistakably still James. All The Colours Of You sounds bigger than anything that’s come before and that’s not taking anything away from previous producers. The album is polished, but not superficial, cinematic and turned up to 11.
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albums of the year34. Steve Conte: Bronx Cheer (Wicked Cool)
Bronx Cheer simply oozes cool and is an album full of attitude, energy and above all else, real heart and soul, deep from within the bowels of New York’s rich musical heritage. This really is a magnificent collection of songs, full of great melodies and fuzzed-up guitars, ranging from hard-edged rock ’n’ roll to a heartfelt and soulful beauty, which prompt you to stand back and almost re-evaluate life itself. And within his ever-expanding musical horizons, this really does showcase Steve’s considerable vocal talents within the world of rock ’n’ roll.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202133. Zozo Ginsburg: Blue Mountains (Self-release)
There are echoes of artists such as Wire and PJ Harvey floating through the album, and it’s all glued together with a middle eastern vibe and atmosphere that gives the sound of Blue Mountains its distinctive edge. It’s one of those multi-purpose albums that I’ve found to be the perfect accompaniment to all sorts of activities, be it driving, lying on the sofa feeling rotten or dancing in the kitchen, it’s that good. It’s an album that will undoubtedly change ZoZo Ginzburg’s fan base from being a home country based affair to a deserved international one.
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albums of the year32. Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend (Dirty Hit)
Wolf Alice have invested so much more of themselves into this album and it shows. Every song feels carefully crafted, with a vast amount of musical layering and texture. The subject matter is personal, yet very relatable. Even songs that seem more simplistic, have hidden depth and their deliberate placement on the tracklisting is intrinsic to building the narrative around growth and self-reflection.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202131. Jane Weaver: Flock (Fire)
With lyrics questioning someone’s narcissistic and self-aware nature, there’s still the realism that permeates Weaver’s work, especially when she has something crucial to say. Weaver is unafraid of the industry, patriarchy and takes the world to task in a way that should make anyone sit up and take notice, as well as dealing with those universal themes of nature and our collective consciousness. The fact that she can do so with a bright, unpretentious pop sensibility, a neon glitterball hanging in a woodland, is what really marks out Flock.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202130. Blue Orchids: Speed The Day (Tiny Global)
Mad songs about what it’ll be like a hundred years from now. Songs about speeding your tits off. Surrealist tales and psychedelic philosophising with tunes that are memorable and uplifting. Martin Bramah is as great a songwriter as both Bolan and Barrett, with his own idiosyncrasies and style and a superb band of musicians in the current line-up. The Last Great Mancunian poet too when you look at the lyrics to Speed The Day. From a celestial garage band who’ve been around for years, The Blue Orchids really do get better and better.
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albums of the year29. Pink Suits: Political Child (Self-released)
This is entertainment, this is fun, this is angry shouty sweary (divisive) basic guitar and drums punk rock made by two people who seem to know how to entertain and shout about the stuff that needs shouting about. These are the good guys and there’s always room in this world for nonsense such as this. Have a listen and object, refuse, reject or abuse it at your will.
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Why Pink Suits are the most vital new punk band in the UK

 

Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202128. Stephen Fretwell: Busy Guy (Speedy Wunderground)
Busy Guy has the feel of an album that’s been a lifetime in the making. Freed of the major label pressure to write hit singles, it is a very simple record wracked with fragility and vulnerability. It is a response to the world around him falling apart during the process of crafting it. The silence and spaces in the songs often have as much impact as the guitars and the words in creating the effect that you’ve been let into the most private thoughts, emotions and fears of its creator.
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albums of the year27. Private Function: Whose Line Is It Anyway (FOLC)
A high-octane injection of pure and simple punk rock, the kind that pins you to the wall as you raise your pint in the pit, spin, slip and slide on the beer-soaked barroom floor, bounced back vertical by the pinball punters flying around. Listening to Private Function’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? recalls exactly that. It rockets along at breakneck speed, flying through its thirteen tracks with the ferocity of a paranoid speed freak hoovering up the last lines in the piss-soaked stalls before diving back into the mayhem.
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albums of the year26. Matt Berry: The Blue Elephant (Acid Jazz)
Possibly his best album to date, a big departure from the well-received Phantom Birds and a great journey into the psychedelic sixties recreated by a genuine polymath. This needs to be listened to as a whole. It’s a psych concept album full of ideas. A psychedelic masterpiece that takes you on a trip back to the sixties, clocking in his playing of 19 different instruments, accompanied by Craig Blundell’s amazing drumming.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202125. Black Midi: Cavalcade (Rough Trade)
After an incendiary breakthrough, Mercury Music Prize nomination, and widespread critical acclaim, they quickly became one of the hottest tipped bands on the British gig circuit. Their religious dedication to music quickly created a mythology around the band as the dark horses of the British punk scene. Though post-punk is loosely attributed, Black Midi defy genre classification. The curation and musical precision of the band have resulted in a sumptuously brilliant album.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202124. St. Vincent: Daddy’s Home (Loma Vista)
Like a brilliant shape-shifting chameleon, Annie Clark, who has already morphed into space-age superstar St. Vincent, is always restlessly on the move. Daddy’s Home is brilliant space-age glam pop with a deep emotional undercurrent. Like the great David Bowie in the seventies, she is always changing like a glam chameleon. Her music and image slip and slide through a series of images to paint the full 360 picture around her music, revealing her emotional core whilst dancing through the wardrobes off pop!
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albums of the year23. Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark (Rock Action)

They’ve come back completely on their own terms and delivered an album bursting with renewed purpose and creativity. Back from the grave and ready to rave. It’s a deeply immersive album from beginning to end; like a good book, it’s almost impossible to put As Days Get Dark down once you’ve started. That poetic mix of darkness, melancholy, romance, and unflinching honesty that has always been an Arab Strap speciality. Reaching out through the bleakness to offer a hand to hold as days get dark.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202122. The Mudd Club: Bottle Blonde (Raving Pop Blast)
Teenage Delinquent Garage Punks from Wales via Kansas. Brother and sister, 13 and 19 effortlessly reinvigorate basic Rock’n’Roll comic-book style. One of Ged Babey’s ‘Greatest Bands In The History of the World Ever!’ or beginners luck? They are so instantly likeable: so simple, raw, dumb, trashy, funny, obvious, natural, talented, effortless….so basic! Fun, Attitude and Volume. 3 chords and some dumb rhymes. The magic, winning formula. All their songs sound the same: sorta – BUT they all sound like the greatest song ever written.
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albums of the year21. Rats On Rafts: Excerpts From Chapter 3: The Mind Runs A Net Of Rabbit Paths (Fire Records)
Excerpts From Chapter 3… is a stylised and stylish modern drama that reveals intricate characters and drama that hooks you and keeps you absorbed throughout. It makes a leftward lunge into a heady blend of post-punk and engrossing psych. A massive step forward for the band, both in terms of sound, songs and concept and the final result is a record that grabs you from start to finish, takes you through a journey and leaves you wanting to flip it over and start again.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202120. Greentea Peng: Man Made (AMF)
It was love at first beat. I love the way Wells takes well-worn styles such as soul, blues, jazz, reggae and trip-hop and weaves them into a hazy, trippy, smoky sound that, despite the familiarity of its component parts, she makes all her own. She’s the antidote to that stereotype of post-Brexit Britain that much of the world sees – hopeful messages for our troubled times presented in a mellow vibe that can be best enjoyed in the sunshine.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202119. CHIHUAHUA: Violent Architecture (Self-release)
Violent Architecture is one of the most interesting, most intense debut albums released this year. It arrives at a point where purveyors of taste are championing ‘difficult’ music again. The outsiders have a way into the mainstream. The sheer intensity of it. The oddness and precision. The fact that there are hints of ‘other music’ yet an innate originality…this really is a remarkable, fully-formed work of art-punk, politico-noise mischief that is hard to beat.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202118. IDLES: Crawler (Partisan)
As much as Brutalism gave you a thorough pummeling, an emotional bruising, Crawler ought to creep into your ears and your consciousness with far more invasive stealth than any of the band’s work so far. Part of what stalks you and pins you down comes from the element of surprise. Crawler is grimly whimsical and refreshingly left-field. It champions the mantras of DGG and KFG. If you’re unsure what those acronyms mean, ask your local AF Ganger.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202117. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Carnage (Goliath Records)
Religion has always been deep in the soul of Nick Cave. Old-time religion, Old Testament religion. It’s there in the biblical narrative of his life, it’s there in the shiny threads of his preacher man persona, it’s there in his Southern Gothic prose. Most of all it’s there, deep down in the grooves of his latest album, Carnage. Like all the best music since the blues begat rock’n’roll, his songs are rooted in the elemental stuff of life and death, love and loss, that sacred space where suffering and salvation lie side by side. Brutal, beautiful and occasionally very funny
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albums of the year16. Hello Cosmos: Golden Dirt (Cosmic Glue)

Golden Dirt is an adventurous and playful project that finds Hello Cosmos head honcho Ben Robinson gleefully exploring every musical inclination that comes to mind. The rock influences on the band’s debut, Dream Harder, have been toned down and swirled into a melting pot of inspirations from hip-hop and pop to dance-inducing electronica. It’s a gamble that pays off in spades as the album revels in its eclecticism like a well-constructed mixtape should. Hello Cosmos are chasing white rabbits all the way to Wonderland.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202115. Carol Hodge: This Crippling Space Between (Midnight Stamp)
The Crippling Space Between is an unashamed exploration of the emotional rollercoaster that was 2020. Carol flits between musical styles, bridging the gaps with her astute lyricism. She should be massive by now. Three albums in, a life of turmoil and emotions that she’s told to fuck off. Riding through the storm with her sarcastic yet personal lyrics to a soundtrack of pure bliss. Read on major labels. An independent woman who should be walking out at awards ceremonies clasping those insignificant pieces of metal that are chucked in a cupboard by these money-grabbing moguls.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202114. Sons Of Kemet: Black To The Future (Impulse)
Ferocious and exhilarating, the new album from Sons Of Kemet is beyond jazz. The message is compelling, the music hypnotic and unforgettable. Black To The Future feels somehow bigger than any of Hutchings’ previous projects, whether with Sons Of Kemet, The Ancestors or The Comet Is Coming. It projects a sound from the speakers that engulfs the whole world and swallows it whole. Driven by that overarching narrative of anger and frustration, the words and music fuse potently, creating a portentous landscape. And yet, there is an incredible contradiction.
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albums of the year13. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: LW (KGLW Records)
I love the simplicity of a good punk hook, the catchy indie anthems, the post-punk sounds of a lot of original bands cementing their unique stuff on the scene, yet this is compelling musicianship at its best. 17 (now 18!) albums in, this is possibly their best work and they have finally honed their sound into their own. One of the best bands around in these dark times. It’s an absolute stunner that’s going to be up there in the best albums of 2021 as they solidify their mantle as one of the original great bands of our time.
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Gazelle Twin NYX12. Gazelle Twin & NYX: Deep England (NYX Collective)
Deep England is a vital piece of contemporary art. It is a statement piece that may have been about one thing but has now become a piece of protest against something else. It is important that people do what we should all be doing right now and that is listening to what these women have to say about their lives and our current culture. Take it with you wherever you go when you buy it and allow its narrative to frame your opinion on what you see around you. Deep England is angry, haunted and direct and so should you be.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 202111. Dry Cleaning: Long New Leg (4AD)
Dry Cleaning has to be one of the best new bands to emerge in the twenty-first century, interweaving inventive, astute, and amusing lyrics with instrumentation that underlies the frantic anxieties and uncanny disconnects of modern life. There’s a deep loneliness to each track on New Long Leg, linked with a desire to revel in amusing cliches inherent in everyday life. Ultimately, the lyrics and sounds are enigmatic and ambiguous, asking the listener to play a role in making meaning from the music they’re hearing.
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albums of the year10. Squid: Bright Green Field (Warp)
Squid’s sparse droog punk funk on this explosive brilliant new album soundtracks the nu generation thinking. It’s music that is conversely claustrophobic and forward-thinking full of clipped guitars, free jazz ideology and wild digital beatnik poetry. Music that puts the ‘on’ into skronk. Their eccentric angular art-pop is the soundtrack to that now very alive, kicking over the statues (literally. This is the soundtrack to the new narrative and it flies the flag for an eccentric high IQ music that they have somehow turned into a perfect pop. An album that is brimful of ideas and wild kinetic energy as it dances around with its hands in its pockets and a head full of words. It’s a wonderful and thrilling trip.
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Cold Water Swimmers - Holiday At The Secret Lake9. Cold Water Swimmers: Holiday At The Secret Lake (DIY or Die)
This is a magic album. From songs that pull at the heartstrings and send shivers down your spine to bouncing indie floor fillers and more brooding post-punk, Holiday At The Secret Lake has it all. None of these songs are new to the initiated, yet if you’ve followed the band from the early days you’ll notice a massive difference in sound, style and production. Everything has been scrutinised down to fine detail including the tracklisting and the excellent album cover by Paul Husband. Album of the year contender anyone? I’ve not heard one as good yet. As debuts go this is perfection from the mind of Chris Bridgett who has threatened this for some time and come up top trumps. One for any music lovers collection.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 20218. Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure (Fiction)
Rebecca Lucy Taylor has not only made Self Esteem her stage name, but she has also made all aspects of self-respect her modus operandi. Calling her second album Prioritise Pleasure and placing that phrase next to ‘Self Esteem’ presents us with two intertwined concepts, a mantra for existence and a life lesson that runs through the album’s thirteen songs. By validating herself, giving herself permission not to have to seek permission and validation from others, Prioritise Pleasure becomes a suite of songs of freedom that are aspirational and inspirational. it’s a feel-good album, but one born of having been made to feel bad at times by others. There’s powerful, personal psychological insight, but Prioritise Pleasure is also a triumphant and huge pop record.
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albums of the year7. Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs (Rough Trade)
Leaping into 2021 Sleaford Mods still grab your attention with their stories of broken Britain and a bent government, with a comic twist provided by Williamson. This time he tackles the plight of independent venues, name-checking 80’s films and basically ramping up his unique style of political street comedy gold. They have hit back with an album that doesn’t change their sound yet does in the experimental sounds on this offering which excites like Divide & Exit did. Not a return to form as they’ve never lost it. A return to hard-hitting lyrics which are backed with some comedy madness, grime, dubstep and old school punk bass that excites. A fine as fuck platter of past and present, dissing people in their path along the way on their finest form
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 20216. The Stranglers: Dark Matters (Coursegood)
The Stranglers first release for a decade, the aptly titled Dark Matters, is a masterpiece to get lost in and a tribute to their late and great keyboard wizard Dave Greenfield. The album sees the band embrace all the nooks and crannies and styles of their fascinating journey in a late-career flourish – a genuine highlight that ranks with those classic and game-changing first 5 albums. It somehow sounds both idiosyncratic and modern. Being this inventive this deep in a career curve is unexpected and ironically, for an album that deals with the ghosts of the past, it is also surging forward and shows that daring to explore your own creative obsessions is the only way forward.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 20215. Mogwai: As The Love Continues (Rock Action)
Recent years have seen Mogwai employed in soundtrack work, an interesting twist on their dynamic and seeing them stretch their sound taut allowing so many sonic nuances to escape. These soundscapes describing celluloid demand more space and a calmer approach, which they have employed on As The Love Continues. The new album brings this into play with beautifully barren stretches that are like the astonishing images of Mars that hold the tension for the climactic build-ups. This is a sensual, subtle shape-shifting music that reconnects with the subtle oddness of their music that finds release with those dense plateaus of sound as they build and build. The album is a world to get lost in, a world of the shimmering melancholia of The Cure, the spatial adventures of post-punk and the subtle moods, textures and shifts in sound that Mogwai have become the magicians of – music that creates a film that runs in your head, a total trip, a genius head fuck and not so much nostalgia for an age yet to come as a soundtrack for a film yet to be made Stunning.
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 20214. The Courettes: Back In Mono (Damaged Goods)
On Back In Mono The Courettes have hung up their more crunching garage in favour of an immersion into the classic R&B soul sound of the ’60s. It certainly seems that way, and it’s no bad thing at all. Not to take anything away from the crunching fuzzed-out style of some of their previous songs, but on their previous albums, they were also laying clear breadcrumbs that have led them to this treasure trove. Throughout, the classic ’60s garage is there, albeit driving the songs from within, surging beneath the sugar-spun melodies. While the album was recorded in their native Denmark, the final mix of the album was overseen by Wall Of Sound aficionado Seiki Sato in Japan and the impact is clear, resulting in a fantastic album that drips in that Gold Star sound. Just as bands like The Detroit Cobras have done in the past, The Courettes have written a collection of songs that combine the band’s love of both classic garage and R&B. And boy have they done it in style!
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Louder Than War Albums Of The Year: 20213. Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Age 101)
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is a lush, expansive, sprawling masterpiece. Awash with sweeping strings and eternal conflict, Little Simz raps with potency and power. Nineteen tracks, no two of which are the same. Moreover, none are throwaway. Every damn second counts. It’s a powerful, dazzlingly creative, consistently amazing movement, centred predominantly on London and working in parallel with that other great revolution that’s happening in the new wave of British jazz. Both fuse multiple influences, including hip-hop, jazz, soul, Latin and afro, building on a platform of classic songwriting and technical brilliance. The fusion of lush orchestration and rap is a combination as irresistible as Pernod and blackcurrant. It works so persuasively thanks to the contrast, creating something of a musical chiaroscuro, something utterly stimulating, and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is built on this foundation of contrast and counterpoint. This is our latter-day renaissance and we are fortunate to be living in the midst of this.
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albums of the year2. John: Nocturnal Manoeveurs (Brace Yourself/Pets Cares)
Once again, the duo of John clinch the number two spot on our Top 100 albums of the year. The album is a mammoth step that should see them leap into the realms of hardcore punk we’ve not heard since the days of Jesus Lizard and the heavy scene of noise bands from DC era. Cranked up to the max with pacey drum beats and mental riffs that weave a dark web of sonic noise backed by the throat-ripping vocals of John Newton. The album is full of hardcore thrillers with distorted double vocals from both Johns that pummel your brain with some stunning crashing guitars that never let up and the finale just rips your ears with feedback. I’ve never been blown away so much by these two normal John’s as on that memorable night two years ago at Manchester’s Castle Hotel. You just knew there was something special about these soon to be hardcore titans that are going for the jugular. A welcome return and a culmination of non-gigging boredom ready to be let loose live at a venue near you.
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albums of the year1. Amyl And The Sniffers: Comfort To Me (Rough Trade)
On their debut album, Amyl And The Sniffers were the mutts that couldn’t be muzzled, underdogs thrown into the ring, full of pent up sinewy energy that spat out out adrenalin-fused honed attacks. Now they’re back, leaner, more muscular, stalking with a beefed-up sound that focuses with an intense gaze that propels Amy Taylor’s vocals to the fore. It’s everything that the band were promising through their first EPs and that great debut dialled up and doubled down on. But through the vehemence, there are moments that feel more personal, a looking glass to the internal, the expression of a desire for acceptance heard in many great punk songs.

On Comfort To Me, Amyl And The Sniffers expertly walk the tightrope between a passionate in-your-face battering of resistance and an introspection held together by a cracking hardened exterior. They have stripped out some of the bedlam in favour of a sound that menaces more than attacks at times while still retaining plenty of bark and bite. The change in tack has allowed him to explore a simple shift in tone and style that, when not powering along in unison with Gus and Bryce, allows for a breath that gives the songs more dynamics, all the while Amy is shadowboxing, winding the spring to deliver a barrage of timed blows. Comfort To Me is an absolute triumph.
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Read our full interview with the band here.

Compiled by Nathan Whittle from nominations by John Robb, Nigel Carr, Wayne Carey, Phil Newall, Naomi Dryden-Smith, Melanie Smith, Nathan Whittle, Ged Babey, Ian Canty, Nathan Brown, Cassie Fox, Neil Hodge, Paul Clarke, Iain Key, Paul Grace, Tim Cooper, Banjo, Susan Sloan, Audrey Goulden, Ian Corbridge, Keith Goldhanger, Gus Ironside, Mark Ray, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Brown, Gordon Rutherford, Svenja Block, Jon Kean, David Brown, Irina Shtreis.

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Nathan has been writing for Louder Than War since 2012. Before that, he wrote for manchestermusic.co.uk. Now living in Spain, he also writes for the Spanish magazine Ruta 66.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thank F*** this site exists now that we no longer have NME, Sounds etc. Great run down of what’s what. More power to Louder than War, Well done John Robb and the team.

  2. What a shit load of a list apart from Anthrax.
    Where’s ‘Icons Of Filth – Plight.

    Rock ‘n’ Roll circus is still here

  3. This is a great list. good to see Amyl there at the top. Looking forawrd to seeing some of these bands soon and am giving a listen to those i haven’t heard already theres som proper blinders in there

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