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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Best of 2013: Johnny Feeney’s Albums of the Year

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The ever knowledgeable Johnny Feeney has frequently featured on the blog throughout this year, popping up time and again to share his musical musings and words of wisdom with us all. So ahead of my own list of albums of the year, Johnny has kindly compiled his top ten albums from 2013.

Before I leave you in Johnny’s very capable hands, I’d like to thank him for this, and all the other posts during the year. He’s a top man. So, without further ado, here are his top ten albums of 2013.

10. Creep – ‘Echoes’

Echoes, the Brooklyn electronic duo Creep’s second album, is a dark, atmospheric record laden with spectral, woozy trip-hop beats and are joined by lots of guest vocalists including Romy-Madeley Croft of the XX and trip-hop royalty in the form of Tricky.

9. Cults – ‘Static’

Static is a tightly packed album of breezy, infectious indie rock with lo-fi production and errs on just the right side of sickly sweet. There are some incredibly catchy songs on here that can lodge in your head for days. Great stuff.

8. Drenge – ‘Drenge’

This debut album from the Loveless brothers, Eoin on guitar/vocals and Rory on drums, is a treat of primal, visceral blues rock. There are some great clattering drums and thundering power riffs throughout. Raw and raucous, this is an excellent rock album.

7. London Grammar – ‘If You Wait’

Ploughing a similar furrow to the XX, Nottingham trio London Grammar specialize in beautifully understated, minimal pop on their debut album. In Hannah Reid, they have a commanding vocal presence that lends a gorgeous intensity throughout. Some real gems on here.

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(Recap) Some Highly Recommended Albums: Cian Ciaran, Drenge & Curly Castro

I’ve been struggling to find the opportunity to share some of the albums I have been obsessing over recently so here’s three. A bit like buses my album posts. 

Cian Ciaran – ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’

For many familiar with Cian Ciaran‘s debut last year, Outside In, They Are Nothing Without Us may come as a bit of a surprise. The former was indebted to grandiose orchestral pop of the ’60s / ’70s, in contrast, the Super Furries man’s latest is spiky, angry but with shades of sweetness and sparkling ability for a pop song sewn throughout. This combination, with a dash of idiosyncratic Super Furry sparkle, makes the whole thing even more palatable. Where musically it opens with a rattling and rumbling fury before melting into psychedelic space territory as it progresses, lyrically, Ciaran is filled with anger throughout. He said this was his protest record and he has duly delivered that, while also producing one of his finest records to date (up there with SFA at their very best).

Drenge – ‘Drenge’

Drenge steadily impressed since the turn of the year with track after track of exhilarating punk-rock fury, and the debut album from sibling duo of brothers Eoin (guitar, vocals) and Rory (drums) Loveless, doesn’t disappoint. The record is a frenetic blitz of untamed rock ‘n roll, swathed in splashy cymbals and heavily distorted grungy guitar riffs. There’s a quite menacing threat to it all, hindered in no part by the opening salvo of four, under three minute bursts of coiled up aggression and fury. Although, it becomes more expansive the further through it progresses, climaxing with the eight minute ‘Let’s Pretend’, the album’s slowest and heaviest moment, and the softer, more melancholy of ‘Fuckabout’, which channels Hawley, Cocker & Turner. As spectacular debut record, as impressive as any band could hope for. 

Curly Castro – ‘Fidel’

There is scarcely enough space to pay full tribute to Curly Castro‘s latest album, Fidel, one of the finest hip hop records of the past few years. Raised in Brooklyn but residing in Philadelphia, Curly Castro’s music and lyrics explores a whole array of topics and themes; ranging from Black Nationalism, civil rights, racial issues, drugs, crime and autobiographical tales from his younger days, chronicling his journey to adulthood. Castro has plenty to say, but its not just what he’s saying, its the way he says it. Speaking with authority, an authority that makes you pay attention, his vision is delivered clearly and concisely, without ever sounding preachy or pretentious. His gruff vocal and impassioned delivery ensures added lyrical depth and musically, it doesn’t miss a beat and the production is top notch. You can download ‘Fidel’ from Djbooth.net for free.

Drenge – ‘Face Like a Skull’

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Drenge have impressed no end since the turn of the year – it’s been track after track of exhilarating bluesy punk-rock fury. 

Anyway, the brothers Loveless are releasing their self-titled debut album next month. The latest jam taken from it, ‘Face Like a Skull’, lines up pretty well with all that’s gone before it. Leaning in a more grungey direction, the adrenalin fueled ‘Face Like a Skull’ is unsurprisingly rammed with vicious hooks, infectious melodies and shed-loads of swagger and primal energy. Drenge certainly sound as though they have plenty of fire in their bellies. Two lads who make a whole pile of noise, what’s not to like?

‘Face Like a Skull’ is released on August 26th, taken from their self-titled debut album, which arrives on August 19th. You can check all that they’ve released to date here. S

Drenge – ‘Backwaters’

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So far, anytime we have swung by on Drenge, brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless, we’ve found them manage a perfect balance of simplicity, rawness and soul in their blasts of good old fashioned rock and roll.

Not ones for unwanted surprises it seems, the duo keep the continuity going with their latest single ‘Backwaters’. It continues along the same punk-blues-rock path that made their earlier tracks so good. A 3 minutes plus of relentlessly exhilarating rock ‘n roll riffs and menacing chugging, as it swells with snarl and fuzz. Both gritty and gripping, we’ve got two noise makers at the very top of their masterful game.

‘Backwaters’ is out with b-side ‘Necromance Is Dead’ on July 1st via Infectious. Also, you can catch them live when they play Longitude Festival, Dublin on July 21st.

Drenge – ‘Necromance Is Dead’

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Sheffield based duo Drenge have supplied us with another boneshaker of a tune today, in the shape of the ‘delightfully’ titled ‘Necromance Is Dead’. 

It is the first slice of new music from the Loveless brothers since their superb debut single, ‘Bloodsports’. Constructed along the same punk-blues-rock formula that made their debut single so good, ‘Necromance Is Dead’ is a visceral, snarling, thrilling and menacing squall of noise. In other Drenge related news, the duo have been announced as support for Miles Kane on his upcoming UK tour but you can catch them closer to home when they play Longitude Festival, Dublin on July 21st.

‘Necromance Is Dead’ is available as a free download below.

Introducing: Drenge

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Drenge are a two-piece rock outfit based in Sheffield, comprised of brothers Rory and Eoin Loveless.

Taking their cue from the White Stripes/Black Keys/Sluts of Trust school of rock ‘n roll, though less downright sleazy than the latter, one batters drums and the other sings and looks after the powerhouse of a guitar riffs. Simple as that; two brothers, guitar and drums? Not so. A blob of grittiness and a clot of high-octane energy, that’s what Drenge are, and hardly anything else. Take the brutally aggressive, raw and muscular nature of latest single, ‘Bloodsports’ and you will get the idea. It sums up the duo quite perfectly, just make sure to turn it up loud. Earlier days but this sibling duo are an exciting prospect. 

Drenge head out on a UK tour with Deap Vally later this month, judging by the choice cuts, it could be one hell of a show.