BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2013

BarryGruff Albums of the year 2013

It’s that time of year once again when every music blog, website and magazine busy themselves with list making activities, and this blog is no different. Due to other commitments this year, especially the second half, it was rather difficult to keep on top of album reviews for the blog. Saying that, I reckon I’ve listened to as many records as any other year without finding the opportunity to share my thoughts on many of them.

Without further ado, here’s the BarryGruff ‘Albums of the Year’ for 2013.

25. Crystal Stilts – ‘Nature Noir’

24. Appelscal – ‘Dreaming In Key’

23. Trwbador – ‘Trwbador’

22. Mr. Huw – ‘Cariad Affaich’

21. King Krule – ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’

20. Channel Swimmer – ‘Alphabet’

19. Valeria June – ‘Pushin’ Against A Stone’

18. Veronica Falls – ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’

17. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’

16. Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’

15. Marika Hackman – ‘That Iron Taste’

A collection potent songs of enigmatic beauty, That Iron Taste is a gorgeous and charmed introduction to the delectable talents of Marika Hackman. It is done so with a striking vocal delivery, sounding both wise and beautiful, imbued with a telling level of touching emotion. She channels something beautifully rich and dramatic in telling these rather dark poetic stories. Absolutely no substandard happy-clappy folk pop nonsense on show here, on the contrary, her debut (mini) album is quite frankly a haunting, numinous experience.

[Stream on Spotify]

14. The Pictish Trail – ‘Secret Soundz, Volume 2’

Most likely the greatest album to be recorded solely in a caravan, Secret Soundz, Volume 2, is the second LP from The Pictish Trail, the alter ego of Scottish musician Johnny Lynch. Throughout the LP, he’s in a contemplative, often melancholic mood, concerned with life’s ups and downs. In contrast, musically Secret Sounds is rather chipper, spurred on by a glorious melange of oddball sounds, sparks of frazzled electronics and instrumental breaks. A magnificent record; warm, inviting and full of charming quirks from an exceptional talent.

13. Biggles Flys Again – ‘Remember Saturday’

Ireland produces plenty of great bands but where it falls short, of say our Welsh neighbors, is when it comes to indie bands of the weird and wonderful variety. In Biggles Flys Again, the moniker of Conor Deasy, we’ve got a domestic talent flying that flag. Biggles’ debut album Remember Saturday displays real talent for 3 minute pop gems. It is brimming with enchanting and whimsical good old fashioned pop songs, filled with sinuous melodies and organic arrangement. This is pop in the old fashioned sense, played by a band, and with an assured sense of style.

[Stream on Spotify]

12. Akala – ‘The Thieves Banquet’

Since the release of his debut in 2006, Akala has proven himself as one of the most articulate, intelligent and talented MC’s around, a trend continued on his fourth LP. A potent wave of righteous fury crashes through The Thieves Banquet. The world is beset by many problems, varied and plentiful they may be but Akala manages to take plenty of them head on. He remains passionate, focused and sharp when tackling everything from a sense of powerlessness to change things, to berating imperialism,  slavery, capitalists, 3rd world dictators and the clergy. A very fine record indeed.

[Stream on Spotify]

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(Video) Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’

‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’ is the latest track to be taken from Billy Ryder-Jonesexcellent album, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, one which is wholeheartedly recommended.

On the ex-coral man’s debut solo LP, he embraces his talent for arrangement, looking inwards, he penned a gripping album of pensive ballads and hushed pop songs. Ryder-Jones’ latest single ‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’ is pretty typical of what to expect from his highly accomplished and deeply affecting debut. Built with subtlety and restraint, it is gentle, predictably melancholic and filled with hushed tones, as he tells a solemn tale of obsession, murder and double murder. Yes, it’s a rather dark subject matter but ‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’ is a marvelous song. 

You can check out ‘You’re Getting Like Your Sister’ and it’s animated video above and the album, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, is out now on Domino Records. An album well worth your attention if you find the time.

(Video) Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘Wild Swans’

If you have yet to acquaint yourself with Billy Ryder-Jones‘ wonderful new album, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. 

On the ex-coral man’s debut solo venture, he looks inwards, penning a gripping album of pensive ballads and hushed pop songs. Ryder-Jones’ latest single to be taken from the LP, ‘Wild Swans’ is a typical autobiographical tale, built with subtlety and restraint. It is predictably melancholic and filled with wistful heart swelling melodies, as he solemnly mourns a lost love, in a hushed, semi-spoken voice. ‘Wild Swans’ is typical of what is a highly accomplished and deeply affecting debut, one well worth checking out when you find the time.  

‘Wild Swans’  is out on August 26th & his latest album, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart, is out now on Domino Records.

BarryGruff’s Best Albums of 2013 so far……

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Due to various reasons I’ve been slacking with album reviews this year. That said, I’ve been listening to more than ever before but finding the time to pen some musings about some of them. In an attempt to redress this situation, here’s the ten albums that have impressed me the most so far this year.

10. Applescal – ‘Dreaming In Key’

Dreaming in Key is the third LP from young Dutch producer Applescal. Comprised of 11 tracks, the album isn’t too easy to pin down, finding itself in an ambiguous hinterland between electronica & techno; meaning it comes across as both dreamy and driving. It is also marked by the track’s complexity. Lavish layers of sound are met with impressive sound sequencing resulting in a warm, mellow vibe. Applescal is on top of his game.

[Stream on Spotify]

09. Trwbador – ‘Trwbador’

Mergers of folk and glitchy electronica can at times yield yawnsome middle of the road, chin stroking bollocks, but not so for Welsh duo Trwbador (aka Angharad Van Rijswijk & Owain Gwilym). Since forming in 2010, the pair have forged a distinctive and fruitful partnership for producing serenely beautiful, otherworldly music. It’s a trend carried through to their self-titled debut which sees warm folky sounds and whimsical vocals pinned to electronic glitches and loops. It contains a real sense of tenderness, twinkling and flickering simultaneously, it is both carefree and hypnotic. A magic and irresistibly beautiful album. This is absorbing music to get lost in.

[Stream on Spotify]

08. The Pictish Trail – ‘Secret Soundz, Volume 2’

Most likely the greatest album to be recorded in a caravan, Secret Soundz, Volume 2, is the second LP from The Pictish Trail, the alter ego of Scottish musician Johnny Lynch. Throughout the LP, he’s in a contemplative, often melancholic mood, concerned with life’s ups and downs. In contrast, musically Secret Sounds is rather chipper, spurred on by a glorious melange of oddball sounds, sparks of frazzled electronics and instrumental breaks. A magnificent record; warm, inviting and full of charming quirks from an exceptional talent.

07. Biggles Flys Again – ‘Remember Saturday’

Ireland certainly produces plenty of great bands, but for me, where it falls short of say our Welsh neighbours, is when it comes to indie bands of the weird and wonderful variety. But in Biggles Flys Again we’ve got a domestic talent expertly filling that void. Biggles Flys Again is the moniker of Dubliner Conor Deasy, who’s got a real talent for crafting 3 minute pop gems. Biggles’ debut album Remember Saturday is brimming with enchanting and whimsical good old fashioned pop songs, filled with sinuous melodies and organic arrangement. This is pop in the old fashioned sense, played by a band, and with an assured sense of style.

06. Sweet Baboo – ‘Ships’

Touted as a concept album about the sea, and yes, there are plenty of sea related moments but the songs are mainly concerned with love and relationships, usually with a bittersweet edge. Ships is a wry take on lost love and heartbreak, sliding from darkly funny to piercingly tender, this is one of the most perfectly crafted indie-pop you’re likely to hear all year. There are so many highlights, ’If I Died…..’ opens the album perfectly and features one of the best lyrics – “Daniel Johnston has written hundreds of great tunes, and I’ve got six, so I guess there’s some catching up to do” – and a delightful melody and irresistible swirls of brass. That’s followed the startlingly perky ‘The Morse Code For Love’ and ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’, shrouded in a woozy veil of melancholy before bursting into life with a brass-filled chorus that won’t leave your head anytime soon. The North Wales native is an idiosyncratic artist with an ear for a sparkling melody and a gift for an evocative lyrical turn.

[Stream on Spotify & Deezer]

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Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘He Took You In His Arms’

BRJ photo

Bill Ryder-Jones, formerly of The Coral, is stepping out as a songwriter in his own right with his debut LP, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart.

‘He Took You In His Arms’ is the first taste of what to expect from the forthcoming album. It’s a gentle, touching slice of melancholy with a heart swelling melody. It is in fact, the most beautiful song of 2013 so far, one that will be hard to surpasses throughout the year. Ryder-Jones is sounding very much at ease with himself and his talents. The album was recorded upstairs in Ryder-Jones’ mother’s house in Liverpool, with two members of the great By The Sea making up the backing band. 

A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart is out in April through Domino imprint Double Six Records. Until then, just open your heart to ‘He Took You In His Arms’.

Graham Coxon, Paloma Faith & Bill Ryder-Jones – Desire

Get this. Converse pulled together awesome trio of Graham Coxon (Blur), Bill Ryder-Jones (Formerly The Coral) and Paloma Faith to create ‘Desire’.

It does seem a bit random, a shoe company bringing together exclusive music collaborations but, it is the latest of a series which has previously seen collaborations from Vampire Weekend, Kid Cudi & Best Coast, Bernard Sumner, Hot Chip and Hot City and Santigold, Pharrell and Julian Casablancas.

It doesn’t really matter about the who, what and why, this works so, so well. Ms. Faith’s soaring vocals are impeccable, especially against the backdrop of two of the most talented guitarists of their generation rockin’ out together. Thank you, Converse.

Watch the video or grab the track for keeps below.

Download: Graham Coxon, Paloma Faith & Bill Ryder-Jones – Desire