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]

Continue reading

(Video) Steve Mason – ‘Fire!’

SteveMasonNL

As far as records of the year go, Steve Mason‘s Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time is right up there at the top.

Mason’s second solo effort is a stunning record, shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music and popular culture in general. This brings us nicely to Mason’s latest single, ‘Fire!’, which encapsulates all that’s great about the aforementioned LP in one song. It is filled with genuine heart, soul and honesty – and of course plenty of righteous politicalised anger – as he foments unrest over a deep, powerful bassline and shots of stunning brass. This combined with a blend of psych-folk/trip/hip-hop beats and dub overtones acts as a prefect backdrop for his wonderful ghostly vocal. Simply magnificent. Someone please book Mason for some Irish shows. Thanks. 

‘Fire!’ will be released as a download only on November 4 via Domino. Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time is out now too.

BarryGruff’s Best Albums of 2013 so far……

DSCF9001

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]

Continue reading

Steve Mason – ‘Oh My Lord’

Steve Mason will release his new single, ‘Oh My Lord’ on March 18th through Double Six, it’s the first single to be taken from his forthcoming album Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time, released on the same day.

Comprised of 20, yes 20 songs, the follow up to 2010’s Boys Outside has been shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music as well as popular culture in general. This righteous, undaunted anger is reigned in somewhat on ‘Oh My Lord’ than say, previous taster ‘Fight Them Back‘, but Mason sounds in full voice and fine form.

Personally speaking, Mason’s forthcoming record is one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year, and so far he’s done nothing to dampen the expectation. Roll on March 18th.

Steve Mason – ‘Fight Them Back’

Steve Mason 2012 by-Kevin-Morosky-72dpi-300x200

Some genuinely exciting pre-Christmas news here. Steve Mason has announced he will release his new album entitled Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time next March. Comprised of 20, yes 20 songs, the album’s been shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music as well as popular culture in general. 

To whet your appetite, Mason has made a striking video for lead track ‘Fight Them Back’. It  is, as the title suggests, a rousing call to wake up to what’s going around us, while hanging on a insanely catchy, hard-hitting and stirring chorus. There’s unquestionably a lack of anger or dissent at the injustices all around us in the world, the reasons are to complex to deal with here but Mason has channeled his into a bloody brilliant piece of music. Marvelous stuff, roll on March 11th. 

Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time will be released March 11th 2013 through Double Six.

Django Django – Life’s A Beach + Steve Mason Remix

I’ve been banging on about the brilliance of Django Django for ages now. Their self-titled debut being my favourite album of 2012, I’ll never shirk an excuse to big them up. Part of Django Django’s appeal is their seamless ability to blend genres and sounds from a melting pot of influences into a splendid blend of indie, rockabilly riffs, with an electro groove at its heart.

Their latest single ‘Life’s a Beach’, taken from the aforementioned album, ticks all those boxes; propulsive garage-rock/rockabilly riffs meets an insatiable danceable fever. Django Django have undeniable similarities to The Beta Band, so it is a pleasant surprise to find they enlisted Steve Mason on remix duties. Mason’s rework retains the undeniable groove of the original, adding a slightly dubby feel and drenches it in a hazy fog.

‘Life’s A Beach’ is out November 12th on 10″ vinyl and download.

Download: Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell – Yesterday Dub

Former Beta Band front man Steve Mason has joined forces with respected reggae artist/producer Dennis Bovell for a dub reinterpretation of his stunning debut solo album, Boys Outside, which was released last year.

The album is titled Ghosts Outside and will be available digitally on July 26th and physically from August 2nd. Ahead of the release Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell have kindly decided to give away ‘Yesterday Dub’, as a taste of things to come.

Going by this evidence the record will be a real treat. Mason’s haunting vocals are perfectly suited to a backdrop of stripped back dub beats and triumphant horns.

Stream/download ‘Yesterday Dub’ below and there’s ‘All Come Down’ for those who aren’t familiar with Mason’s wonderful sound.

Download: Steve Mason & Dennis Bovell – Yesterday Dub

 Steve Mason – All Come Down via Double Six

Video: Steve Mason – All Come Down

It is almost a year since Steve Mason released the wonderful Boys Outside album and it remains one of the most frequently played albums in my collection. For those of you who haven’t heard it yet, it comes highly recommended.

The former Beta Band man is to release another single taken from the record, called ‘All Come Down’. It displays perfectly the captivating nature of his music, full of quivering emotion, it demands you pause what you’re doing and give this man your time.

I was extremely disappointed to have missed both his Dublin shows last weekend but hopefully he will be back sooner rather than later.

‘All Come Down’ is out May 2nd on Domino.