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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Sweet Baboo – ‘Motoring Home’


Obviously not content with producing one of 2013’s finest LP’s in Ships, Sweet Baboo is back with a brand new EP, Motorhome Songs, which is out in November. 

Sweet Baboo’s (aka Stephen Black) forthcoming EP is apparently the soundtrack to a fictional road-trip Black made with his family earlier this year and fronted by jaunty new single ‘Motoring Home’. It’s a sweet drifting ditty which only adds to the Welshman’s rep as one of finest purveyors of ‘indie-pop’, one with an unequivocally deft ear for a sparkling melody and a gift for an evocative lyrical turn. ‘Motoring Home’ has an amazingly transportive quality, whisking one away to the open road, nestled in the passenger seat of an old jalopy, head back, window down, cigarette in hand and feet propped up on the dashboard, with the wind blowing through an open window. 

Motorhome Songs is released on November 11 through Moshi Moshi but until then, you can occupy yourself with ‘Motoring Home’, which is available to download for free below. And also, if you haven’t already acquainted yourself with Sweet Baboo’s excellent album Ships, it comes highly recommended. 

Sweet Baboo – ‘C’Mon Let’s Mosh!’


Following on from the release of his brilliant album Ships, Sweet Baboo is to release his next single ‘C’Mon Let’s Mosh!’. 

The album is an absolute joy, filled with some of the most perfectly crafted indie-pop you’re likely to hear all year. Nowhere is this more perfectly demonstrated that on the gorgeous ‘C’mon Let’s Mosh!’. 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. ‘C’mon Let’s Mosh!’ is no different, it’s an upbeat ode to love with that aforementioned bittersweet edge. The North Wales native is an idiosyncratic artist with an ear for a sparkling melody and a gift for an evocative lyrical turn. 

There are plenty of other highlights throughout Ships, an album guaranteed to bring sunshine into the dullest of days. ‘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. Although it may not be enough to plant Sweet Baboo into the public consciousness just yet, it might not be to far far off. 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 records for a long time.

‘C’Mon Let’s Mosh!’ will be released on July 29th and Ships is out now, both through Moshi Moshi. Check ‘C’Mon Let’s Mosh!’ & some other choice cuts below.

Sweet Baboo – ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’

Sweet Baboo

Sweet Baboo is preparing to release his fourth album Ships in April, preceded by the utterly delightful ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’.

Sweet Baboo, real name Stephen Black, is a native of the north Wales countryside. Embracing that rich Welsh tradition for psychedelic folk/pop, he delivers it with style, on a par with fellow countrymen Gruff Rhys and H. Hawkline. The sweetly ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’ captures this asthetic with perfection, opening in a shroud of melancholy before bursting into life with a delightful melody and irresistible swirls of brass. Aside from this idiosyncratic streak, Sweet Baboo’s star quality lies in his evocative and unique voice. 

‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’ is out now & you can check it below. The single will be followed by Ships this April on Moshi Moshi and Sweet Baboo will be hitting the gig trail across the UK too, there’s a pile of live dates over on his website.