Best of 2013 w/ Daragh from The Statics

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It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling lists, lists and more lists. Last year I asked bands and artists who’d played ‘BarryGruff Presents’ shows to put their own list making skills to the test in picking their ‘favourite album of 2013′, ‘favourite song/remix of 2013′ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’. After another successful year of shows, why break with tradition?

Right, that is enough from me, over to Daragh from The Statics and his picks from 2013.

Favourite album of 2013: Queens of the Stone Age – ‘…Like Clockwork’

Q.O.T.S.A. are a long-time favourite of mine. For me they didn’t put a foot wrong with this album. The dirty riffs, melancholy piano and great melodies combine in a more experimental way than before. It’s entirely different from my personal favourite ‘Songs for the Deaf’; it’s quieter and more composed, with perhaps the exception of ‘My God is the Sun’. I’ve seen people physically sit up and pay attention to ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ too. It’s a feather in their bow that I don’t think a lot of people thought them capable of, until now. It’s far and away my pick of the year.

Favourite Song of 2013: Arctic Monkeys – ‘R U Mine?’

So, its not really a 2013 song but its on a 2013 album, apologies to the pedants, but its Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine? Which despite the spelling is actually a really good tune. Its the biggest nod to their early sound on their latest album and so it doesn’t tread to much new ground, but its exactly what I want when I put an Arctic Monkeys song on. No time is wasted getting into it and while it was out on Record Store Day in 2012, I’m still not tired of hearing it. Its was a belter in the Electric Picnic set. People went crazy to this one.

For an official 2013 tune I’d have to say Pulp’s ‘After You (James Murphy Remix)’. Just scraping in at the beginning of 2013 (available for download in December 2012, but officially released on January 28th) this is probably my favourite of the year. It has that classic ‘Common People’ Pulp sound made just that little bit better with a little help from Mr LCD Soundsystem.

Favourite Irish Song: Little Green Cars – ‘Harper Lee’

If it has to be one, and it does, then its Little Green Cars’ ‘Harper Lee’. Great harmonies, great driving drums, great band. Just one of the myriad of excellent songs I could’ve chosen from a tonne of great Irish bands making great music this year.

(Video) The Last Monroes – ‘Underneath the Streetlight’

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We heard from The Last Monroes a while back with the release of Live From The Barn, a great introduction to what they’re all about.

The Wicklow duo (of Simon Quinn and Konrad Sheane) are back with a new video for ‘Underneath the Streetlight’, directed by Shane Doyle. ‘Underneath the Streetlight’ is a supercharged blast of heavy blues riffage, a serious jam designed to be played loud and veritably burst out of the speakers and it’s the pick of the bunch from the aforementioned release. It is always a pleasure to discover bands who, with just two bodies, somehow manage to make such an almighty racket. All in all an exhilarating listen and hopefully there’s plenty more where that came from in the future.

You can download Live From The Barn gratis from bandcamp now.

BarryGruff’s Irish Songs of 2012 (Mixtape)

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2012 has been another impressive year for Irish releases, leaving us with a hell of a lot of great albums, EPs and songs to enjoy. For such a small place it can be surprising, the sheer quantity and quality of stuff in Ireland. On the surface at least, Irish music appears alive, well and more diverse and vibrant than ever.

In an attempt to do the year some justice (some, I said), I decided to cobble together some of my favorites from throughout the year into a mixtape/compilation. Please excuse the odd mistake, my laptop has not been kind to me the past week. Without further ado, here’s my favourite ‘Irish Songs of 2012’.  The tracklisting is after the jump.

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BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2012

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So, yeah, this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s end of year list time and every website, blog and magazine are busy compiling them. So not to be left out, here are my favourite 25 albums from 2012. Feel free to leave your few cents worth in the comments section, if you  feel the need that is.

25. Dark Horses – ‘Black Music’

24. The Egg – Something To Do’

23. Attaque – ‘When Light Falls’

22. Stealing Sheep – ‘Into The Diamond Sun’

21. Gaz Coombes Presents – ‘Here Come The Bombs’

20. Session Victim – ‘The Haunted House of House’

19. Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

18. Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’

17. Graham Coxon – ‘A+E’

16. The Futureheads – ‘Rant’

15. Mystery Jets – ‘Radlands’

Radlands saw Mystery Jets rediscover their sparkle following the mediocre Serotonin. Decamping to Texas to record the album, it sees them embrace a whole series of sweet Americana sounds. They haven’t lost sight of what made them such a great band in the first place; a blitz of wonderful indie, quirky eccentricity and a supreme ability to produce perfect pop songs. A thoroughly enjoyable and likeable record.

14. Eugene McGuinness – ‘Invitation To The Voyage’

Eugene McGuinness‘ second album Invitation To The Voyage was one of the more enjoyable of 2012. Nothing startling or groundbreaking but an enjoyable blend of quirky, left-of-centre indie with a glossy pop sheen. With bursts of brass, surf/’60s pop guitar, clever lyrical wordplay and a confident swagger; McGuinness found a perfect balance between catchy pop and exhilarating indie.

13. Cloud Nothings – ‘Attack On Memory’

Attack On Memory is a heavyweight and rather muscular record. A short, sharp shock to the system, a proverbial kick in the bollocks if you like, taking in post-rock, indie, post-punk and pure unadulterated noise. Interspersed with bursts of scuzzy powerful indie we are exposed to a barreling barrage of loud, pounding drums, raw guitars and a Dylan Baldi sounding like a young Jake Burns. It is in no way subtle, a terrific album nonetheless.

12. Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band – Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band

Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.

11. Tennis – ‘Young and Old’

Young & Old is Denver-based husband-and-wife duo, Tennis’, second LP. The album is swathed in soothing ’60s sounds, syrupy melodies and smart, soulful pop songs with captivating, richly melodic purr of singer Alaina Moore’s stunning voice at the fore. There is a very real retro vibe, yet not at one time does it feel old, stale or tired. It is bright, breezy, charming and uncomplicated, most importantly, it is damn fine record.

10. By The Sea – ‘By The Sea’

The banks of the Mersey has given rise to many great bands over the years, the latest to emerge from the production line are  By The Sea. Their self-titled debut album, produced by Bill Ryder Jones, hints at this Scouse heritage but this six-piece are very much their own band, with their own sound. The song titles like ‘Dream Waters’, ‘A Sail Floats and ‘Waltz Away’ set the tone, the album offers an elegant blend of dreamy, psychedelic and pastoral jams, this is music to get lost in. Liam Power’s voice, which has an uncanny resemblance to Shack’s Mick Head proves soothing and stirring as they waft across a hazy canvas of breezy, washed-out sounds.

09.The Heavy – ‘The Glorious Dead’

Wandering a retro path in the modern world can be tricky, there is little room for error. ‘Soul Rock’ is a minefield in itself. The Heavy have proven with two previous albums, while they do wear their influences on their sleeves, they make damn fine records. The Glorious Dead continues this trend. Meshing a clutch of hip hop breakbeats, slices of ’60s R&B, horns, riffs, zombie movie snippets, and soulful vocals into quality soulful, funk rock, of the highest order. What makes it so good? The wonderful execution, and it is oh so much fun, sometimes that really is quite enough.

08. Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’

Melody’s Echo Chamber is Parisian mullti-instrumentalist Melody Prochet. Teaming up with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on production, her self-titled debut pushes her flair for dreamy pop into more experimental, spaced-out zones of hazy psych-pop. The album has Parker’s stamp all over it. Prochet’s light, inviting vocals are cast into a shifting series of settings, with beguiling results. At times everything is covered with a heavy blanket of reverb and fuzz, while others are a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic dream-pop. It is the combination of Parker’s inspired production and Prochet’s evocative voice which strike a perfect balance between pop and the psychedelic. A rather inspired and stunning debut.

07. Conor Mason – ‘Standstill’

Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.

06. Richard Hawley – ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’

The seventh studio album from Richard Hawley saw an interesting change of direction toward hazy psychedelia, something Hawley proves masterful at it. With only one track clocking in under five minutes, the songs are suffused with snarling, meandering guitars solos and Hawley’s distinctive vocals. The title track is a masterpiece telling tales of a man who kills his wife and kids, a hard-up prostitute who ends up in jail and a young man involved in inner city violence respectively. It’s the rockier material here that really stands out, like the excellent ‘Before’ and ‘Down in the Woods’. The latter is a real rocker with a venomous Hawley sounding not unlike Mark Lanegan. There are moments of real beauty here too, one wonders where Hawley will go next but it will certainly be interesting to find out. (Words edited from Johnny Feeney | Because I’m lazy)

05. Miaoux Miaoux – ‘Light of the North’

Light of the North is the debut record proper from 26-year-old Glasgow based producer, Miaoux Miaoux. Fluid and uplifting, these sounds evoke moods a million miles from dreary rain soaked city of its birth as he hops from genre to genre. It is a stunning record which delicately pieces together beats, electronics, synths and acoustic guitars, with his pristine vocals gliding through a heavenly mist of lush harmonies, melodies, beats and electronics. One for fans of Caribou, Hot Chip and Jape. An irresistible debut record, a bright future lies ahead.

04. The 2 Bears – ‘Be Strong’

The 2 Bears debut LP, Be Strong is a scatter shot across the entire scope of electronic music which feels like foraging through a fine record collection. It is a cheery, cheeky and joyous amalgam of sounds and a massive injection of positivity amidst a time of dreariness and uncertainty. It is a worthy ode to the past two decades of dance music, a fine soundtrack to any weekend and most importantly, a bloody excellent dance record.

03. Sam Willis – ‘Winterval’

Winterval is the debut solo album from Sam Willis, one half of London-based Walls. Taking a host of house, techno, minimal and Balearic influences, Willis assimilates these familiar traits into otherworldly electronic music that gracefully hovers in an ambiguous hinterland, between subtly euphoric and vaguely ambient. Chiming notes resonate through every track and the beats are delivered with pin point accuracy. Willis has mixed the warm sounds with a crisp frosty elegance, creating a hypnotic, comforting sound collage. It is no way an exaggeration to say Winterval is one of the most aesthetically complete electronic albums for quite some time.

02. Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’

Where to begin with this one? Lonerism is a simply brilliant album. Their 2010 debut Innerspeaker set the standard for warped retro, yet futurist psychedelia. The follow-up is leaner, more confident as it sprawls into further exploratory psychedelic territories. It kind of goes everywhere while remaining fluid and cohesive throughout. From the rocking stomp of ‘Elephant’, to dazzling epics of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ or Lennon/McCartney-esque ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Lonerism remains cohesive. It is an album which increasingly fascinates with every listen. Give it the time it deserves, it’s guaranteed not to disappoint. Truly stunning!

01. Django Django – ‘Django Django’

While Django Django’s debut album contains undeniable similarities with The Beta Band, they have far from copied or imitated. Part of the appeal is an ability to seamlessly blend genres and sounds from a melting pot of influences into a striking blend of understated indie, with an electro groove at its heart. Anchored by alluring harmonies and an undeniable groove which permeates the very core of this record, this is indie music to dance to. An inspired and wholly irresistible debut, and my album of 2012. Thank you!

Introducing: The Alice Kona Band

Loud, lively and exciting are three words that best describe The Alice Kona Band, a 4-piece garage/punk band from Belfast.

These four lads from the banks of the Lagan channel a racey mix of 60′s garage, 50′s pop and gritty rock ‘n roll/punk. The Alice Kona Band already have a number of startlingly good EPs under their belt, which accumulates to a riotous collection of high energy songs. Whether it’s the spikey indie of ‘Bad Dreams’ or brash punk-rock-out of their latest single ‘Film’; their tunes are invariably rockin’, loud, punchy and yet endearingly melodic. 

Pretty compelling stuff and presumably a ferocious proposition live. They play Musicmaster.ie presents at The Hard Rock Cafe, Dublin on the 29th of November but until then you can give the tracks below a spin and you’ll get the idea.

Welsh Wizards | Mixtape

This is a quite odd post even by my standards. This day ten years ago I upped sticks and moved to Wales, Wrexham to be precise, which explains all the Wrexham related tweets for anyone who follows me on Twitter.

Although I’m back in Ireland a few years now, it was one of my smarter moves & I retain a fondness for Wales as a country and the music it produces (although I don’t get over half as much as I’d like these days). Welsh music features quite prominently on the blog, something regular visitors are probably aware of. Apart from anything else it got me thinking and I decided to knock together a mixtape/compilation of some Welsh favourites from the past few years, with one or two older tracks thrown in for good measure.

So, without further waffling, here it is, some mighty fine weekend listening. Diolch. Mwynhewch.

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(Video) Kid Karate – Two Times

It’s been quite a wait, two years in fact, since first hearing Dublin noise makers Kid Karate, supporting The Rags in Whelan’s where they almost blew the roof off. From the first visceral note on that night it was bloody obvious these guys were something special.

Numerous electrifying gigs, an excellent EP later and their debut album Night Terrors is finally ready to go. Taken from said album is new single ‘Two Times’, which sums up why they’re such a formidable force. It’s a scuzzy rock n roll jam filled with furious riffage and thunderous drums, not to mention throat zapping vocals. If that doesn’t leave you eagerly anticipating their debut album, nothing will. 

It must be said too, they are one of the most impressive live performers in the country, so when they hit the road to promote the new record don’t miss out.

Photo by kdamo