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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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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‘Czarface’ (7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck)

The ’90s is often cited as the golden age of hip hop and while this is a debate best left to another, it was this decade that thrust the likes of Gang Starr, Wu-Tang, Mos Def and J5 upon me. In doing so, it opened up a new and wonderful world before me. 

So, away from the trip down memory lane and back to the here and now. Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric have come together as ‘Czarface’ and in doing so, taken ’90s East Coast Hip Hop as a blueprint, run it through the gauntlet and brought it right up to date. This is hip hop that makes you bop, with beats that have more bloody bounce than Zebedee. 7L’s production excels as he stitches together bits of dialogue to create a dark, aggressive and sinister subterranean-minded world that suits the two emcees to perfection. Lyrically it is filled with complex rhymes and similes, as Esoteric and Deck deliver verse after verse as a verbal art form. Add to this a pretty stellar supporting cast including Ghostface Killah, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson & Premier, and you’ve got one great record.

Yes it is a bit of a throwback record but it never sounds anything but inspired – enough chatter from me, just give it a go, I implore you. 

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