#1: John Howard – Cut The Wire
John Howard‘s Cut The Wire emerged as a luminescent jewel in the singer-songwriter realm, captivating critics and listeners alike. This year, Think Like A Key Music breathed new life into this soul-stirring album with a remastered vinyl edition that’s nothing short of aural alchemy. Each track, originally crafted in Howard’s home studio, is a window into his soul, brimming with raw emotion and unguarded honesty. His tender piano melodies interweave with warm, resonant vocals, creating a tapestry of longing, reflection, and hope that’s palpable in every note. The remastering by Prof. Stoned isn’t just a technical tweak; it’s a revelation, adding layers of clarity and warmth that elevate Howard’s poignant narratives to new heights. From the folksy allure of ‘So Here I Go’ to the heartrending beauty of ‘Long Since,’ this album is an emotional odyssey. The vinyl reissue of Cut The Wire doesn’t just preserve Howard’s timeless artistry; it enshrines it, inviting listeners to plunge back into the depths of his profoundly moving musical universe. A testament to Howard’s enduring impact, this release is destined to resonate for generations to come.
#2: R. Stevie Moore – Games and Groceries
One of our most joyously eclectic releases this year was the long-awaited reissue of R. Stevie Moore’s 1978 masterwork “Games & Groceries.” This sprawling double album, part of our tribute to DIY legends, zooms through styles from sunshine pop to new wave with Moore’s trademark genre-blending verve. Brimming with everything from whimsical songs to satirical sketches, it showcases the prolific artist’s boundless creativity. A longtime favorite of aficionados, it features the indelible classic “Part of the Problem.” By remastering this treasure with Prof. Stoned, we were able to preserve its lo-fi roots while bringing new life and clarity to Moore’s ingenious songcraft. As his influence continues rippling through internet culture, revisiting “Games & Groceries” feels both nostalgic and newly relevant. We’re thrilled to give new and old fans alike a chance to rediscover this kaleidoscopic career highlight from a true underground icon. Moore’s playful spirit and singular style shined as bright as ever through this colorful trip back to 1978.
#3: LMNOP – LMNO3 (Deluxe)
Continuing our salute to the trailblazers of underground DIY music, Think Like A Key proudly presented the second installment in our TLAK Goes DIY series: the reissue of Stephen Fievet’s LMNO3. This 1985 gem from LMNOP is a kaleidoscope of sound, a perfect melding of ultra-catchy guitar pop with smart, hook-laden lyrics, as aptly noted by a reviewer from The Big Takeover. Originally released as an independent cassette, LMNO3’s quirky, power-pop brilliance has been magnificently resurrected in our remaster from the original tapes. Echoing the reviewer’s enthusiasm, it’s a record that demands an immediate ‘check it out NOW’ spot on every playlist, with Fievet weaving influences from early R.E.M. and the Buzzcocks into a uniquely captivating style that defies easy categorization. Tracks like ‘Garbage’ and ‘Sitting On Uranus’ burst with an infectious, euphoric energy, while the rediscovered demo ‘The Big Ride’ was hailed as ‘gobsmackingly great…one of the best songs I’ve heard in years.’ We’re beyond excited to bring new attention to this overlooked classic and celebrate Fievet’s extraordinary songcraft through our DIY series reissue.
#4: BRIAN BORDELLO – Songs For Cilla To Sing
In our quest to spotlight the unsung heroes of the DIY music world, Think Like A Key unearthed a true gem with Songs For Cilla To Sing, a collection of home demos by the enigmatic Brian Bordello of The Bordellos. These tracks, once intended for the legendary Cilla Black, showcase Bordello’s unvarnished songwriting prowess. As a perceptive reviewer noted, the hidden treasures of music always hold a special life force, and this release reignites Brian’s artistic fire, which had been smoldering quietly for years. The album, devoid of any unnecessary ornamentation, allows Bordello’s raw talent to radiate in songs like ‘The Boy Belongs To Yesterday’ and ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They,’ pulsing with an exuberant, sharp-edged energy. While these songs might have veered away from what Cilla Black typically gravitated towards, they unmistakably reflect Bordello’s vigor, honesty, and impactful punch. Our reissue pays homage to Brian’s audacious Muse, proving that what was once shelved can triumphantly resurface. Songs For Cilla To Sing opens yet another fascinating window into the intrepid artistry of the underground’s fearless trailblazers.
#5: FRAN ASHCROFT – A Tour Of British Duck Ponds
Fran Ashcroft’s A Tour of British Duck Ponds, part of our DIY series, stands as a testament to his minimalist yet masterful production style, crafted entirely solo in the cozy confines of his home studio. Renowned for his ability to conjure pristine soundscapes with just a handful of tracks and microphones, Ashcroft’s latest offering is a showcase of his multi-instrumental finesse. The album is a quirky, keyboard-driven expedition through the eccentricities of Britain, peppered with wry humor and infused with Liverpudlian psychedelic vibes akin to Martin Newell. Critics are enamored, noting how tunes like ‘The Legendary Fish Of The Mediterranean Sea’ linger in the mind with their distinctively English character and gentle northern charm. At Think Like A Key, we’re delighted to champion the unique solo artistry of Fran Ashcroft, a true auteur whose graceful melodies and ironic lyrical twists deserve far broader acclaim. A Tour of British Duck Ponds isn’t just an album; it’s an invitation to explore the whimsical, melodic heart of Britain through Ashcroft’s eyes.
#6: HAWK PERCIVAL – Night Moods
Our DIY series, while renowned for resurrecting forgotten treasures, also spotlights the brilliance of contemporary artists who embody that same pioneering ethos. With Night Moods, Hawk Percival delivered a tapestry of lo-fi allure and unique artistry that’s been turning heads and winning hearts. Earning a perfect 5-star rating from Shindig! magazine, Night Moods is an exquisite blend of homage and innovation. Hawk Percival weaves an avant-pop tapestry, intertwining intricate melodies drawn from a spectrum of influences. This album isn’t just a debut; it’s a bold statement, showcasing Percival as a ‘one to watch’, or at least, to enjoy, in the contemporary music world. As a last minute addition to our series, Night Moods firmly establishes Hawk Percival as a fresh and formidable force, seamlessly carrying forward the DIY legacy of heartfelt passion and genre-defying creativity. Keep your eyes and ears open for more from this rising artist.
#7: PATTO – Patto (Demixed Remaster)
Another one of our most exhilarating reissues of the year: the long-awaited first official US release of Patto’s groundbreaking 1970 debut album. Initially overlooked, time has since elevated this album to a revered position in the British jazz-rock fusion genre, celebrated for its innovative arrangements and exceptional musicianship. Entrusting Prof. Stoned with a new spectral demix and remaster, this edition unveiled newfound depths, particularly spotlighting the synergy between Mike Patto’s soulful vocals and Ollie Halsall’s masterful guitar and vibes on tracks like ‘San Antone’ and ‘Hold Me Back.’ Critics have hailed this version as ‘more gloriously misshapen than ever,’ capturing its unbridled, euphoric essence. This reissue also features the 14-minute rarity ‘Hanging Rope,’ complementing our other Ollie Halsall releases including the live CD/DVD And That’s Jazz and his solo demos in Lovers Leaping. We’re excited to reintroduce this underappreciated gem from our 2023 catalog, affirming its rightful status in the annals of progressive rock.
#8: DC CARDWELL – Pop Art
In our spirited journey to celebrate unsung singer-songwriters, we’ve struck gold with the vinyl debut of Pop Art by the Ireland-born, Tasmania-based maestro, DC Cardwell. This album is a treasure trove of lyrical wit, heartfelt vocals, and masterful guitar work, encapsulating nine melodically rich tracks that stand out as a pinnacle in Cardwell’s repertoire. Pop Art is not just a collection of songs; it’s an intimate exploration of sharp, resonant storytelling. Each track in this reissue glows with a newfound warmth and clarity, from the wittily crafted lyrics of ‘In The Cloud’ to the biting cynicism of ‘Record Store Day.’ It’s been hailed as an ideal gateway for newcomers and a treasured addition for long-time fans. Our reissue celebrates and preserves DC Cardwell’s unique artistry, casting a spotlight on his enduring songs that are not just heard, but deeply felt. It’s an honor to reintroduce Pop Art to a new audience, ensuring that Cardwell’s compelling musical narratives continue to resonate and inspire.
#9: NOVELTY ISLAND – Wallsend Weekend Television
We were over the moon to bring Novelty Island‘s latest tour de force, Wallsend Weekend Television, to US shores. This sophomore album, blossoming from its inception in 2018 at Abbey Road Institute, is a vibrant testament to Thomas McConnell’s razor-sharp pop acumen. The journey from Studio 13 to Abbey Road itself allowed McConnell to weave his enchanting tapestry of woozy electronic vibes with a dash of northern charm. Critics are raving, hailing the album’s 11 psych-tinged tracks—meticulously curated from a pool of 80—as a significant evolution from the debut, brimming with ‘Beatlesy pop smarts’ and rich, colorful storytelling. The album is lauded for its clever nod to nostalgic influences, stitched seamlessly into its joyous fabric. Wallsend Weekend Television cements Novelty Island’s status as more than just a musical project; it’s a whimsical realm of pop artistry, a ‘magical ferry’ ride into McConnell’s vivid imagination. We’re beyond proud to showcase Tom’s remarkable talent in our 2023 catalog, further enriching his unique pop universe. (And for those across the pond, don’t miss the distinctive UK pressings by Nine x Nine records).
#10: PETER DALTREY & THE KNOW ESCAPE – Running Through Chelsea
We were thrilled to premiere the groundbreaking collaboration Running Through Chelsea from Peter Daltrey and Mark Mortimer (aka The Know Escape) in 2023. Building astonishing sonic panoramas through mellotrons, strings, exotic folk instruments and more, the album affirmed its status as “a truly original album full of brilliant songs.” According to Daltrey, the process allowed intricate multi-layered arrangements to emerge from simple instrumental demos, taking inspiration from his psychedelic past but crafting something ahead of its time. As one reviewer noted, tracks like “Hotel Juliet” achieved “a sound that countless 1980s bands tried to capture.” Meanwhile, Daltrey touched on nostalgic reflections in lyrics for cuts like the title track and “Those Days,” praising the album’s balanced styles. The release first hit us in March on CD and streaming platforms (with an extended tracklist), but the real frenzy kicked in with the long-awaited vinyl release later in the year. Running Through Chelsea isn’t just an album – it’s a landmark in collaborative music-making, setting a new standard for what artistic synergy can create.
#11: WALLY WALLER – Kitchen Rock
In 2023, Think Like A Key was honored to bring to a broader audience one of the year’s most heartfelt releases: Wally Waller’s solo album, Kitchen Rock. Conceived during the quiet solitude of lockdown, this intimate record from the former Pretty Things bassist and songwriter is a captivating blend of unplugged renditions of his classic co-writes with Phil May and beloved rock standards. Critics have been quick to note how the album’s pared-down nature illuminates Waller’s evocative vocals and songwriting prowess in a new light. Tracks like ‘The Sun’ and ‘Grass’ shine, retaining the vibrancy of their original versions, while others showcase Waller’s unwavering creative spark. Kitchen Rock is more than just a collection of songs; it’s a poignant testament to Waller’s vast influence and a nod to how underground legends kept the flame of DIY ethos burning in the most challenging of times. By including this deeply personal and originally self-released work in our 2023 catalog, we’re not just sharing music; we’re preserving an essential chapter of one of the architects of British psychedelia.
#12: UNICORN – Too Many Crooks
2023 rocked our musical world with the vinyl reissue of Unicorn‘s legendary 1976 masterpiece, Too Many Crooks, a record that’s been eagerly awaited by audiophiles and music buffs alike. Produced by none other than Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, this album is a sonic wonderland, perfectly melding pastoral folk-rock with laid-back West Coast vibes, all set to the rhythm of Ken Baker’s sublime songwriting. Critics are raving, pointing to tracks like the eponymous ‘Too Many Crooks,’ the haunting ‘No Way Out of Here,’ and the power-pop banger ‘Disco Dancer’ as proof positive of why this album stands as Unicorn’s magnum opus. Known more for their dynamite live performances supporting other bands, Too Many Crooks is Unicorn’s own showstopper, a dazzling showcase of their versatility and mastery over multiple musical textures. Initially released on Harvest in the UK and Capitol in the US, our 2023 reissue breathes new life into this criminally underrated gem. From high-octane country-rock anthems to soul-stirring folk ballads, this album isn’t just a collection of songs; it’s a celebration of Unicorn’s lasting brilliance and a testament to their rightful place in the pantheon of music legends.
#13: NIRVANA – Orange And Blue
One of the standout and possibly unexpected highlights in our 2023 catalog is the definitive, first-ever reissue of British Nirvana’s mysterious 1996 album, Orange and Blue. Merging never-before-released ’60s-era tracks with contemporary (to the 1990s) additions, this album is the climactic result of our exploration into the duo’s extraordinary rich catalog. The liner notes unravel an absorbing musical journey, from the sci-fi splendor of ‘Lost in Space’ to the poignant ‘Our Love Is the Sea’, a song crafted for Françoise Hardy, showcasing their vast stylistic breadth. The album’s audacious ‘Lithium’ cover is a genre-defying highlight, further enriched by rare session photographs that provide insight into Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos’ distinctive creativity. This collection, complete with two previously unreleased out-takes in the CD edition, transcends mere music. It’s a revived legacy, bolstering the duo’s pioneering status and bridging their timeless allure to a new generation of listeners.