BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2012

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So, yeah, this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s end of year list time and every website, blog and magazine are busy compiling them. So not to be left out, here are my favourite 25 albums from 2012. Feel free to leave your few cents worth in the comments section, if you  feel the need that is.

25. Dark Horses – ‘Black Music’

24. The Egg – Something To Do’

23. Attaque – ‘When Light Falls’

22. Stealing Sheep – ‘Into The Diamond Sun’

21. Gaz Coombes Presents – ‘Here Come The Bombs’

20. Session Victim – ‘The Haunted House of House’

19. Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

18. Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’

17. Graham Coxon – ‘A+E’

16. The Futureheads – ‘Rant’

15. Mystery Jets – ‘Radlands’

Radlands saw Mystery Jets rediscover their sparkle following the mediocre Serotonin. Decamping to Texas to record the album, it sees them embrace a whole series of sweet Americana sounds. They haven’t lost sight of what made them such a great band in the first place; a blitz of wonderful indie, quirky eccentricity and a supreme ability to produce perfect pop songs. A thoroughly enjoyable and likeable record.

14. Eugene McGuinness – ‘Invitation To The Voyage’

Eugene McGuinness‘ second album Invitation To The Voyage was one of the more enjoyable of 2012. Nothing startling or groundbreaking but an enjoyable blend of quirky, left-of-centre indie with a glossy pop sheen. With bursts of brass, surf/’60s pop guitar, clever lyrical wordplay and a confident swagger; McGuinness found a perfect balance between catchy pop and exhilarating indie.

13. Cloud Nothings – ‘Attack On Memory’

Attack On Memory is a heavyweight and rather muscular record. A short, sharp shock to the system, a proverbial kick in the bollocks if you like, taking in post-rock, indie, post-punk and pure unadulterated noise. Interspersed with bursts of scuzzy powerful indie we are exposed to a barreling barrage of loud, pounding drums, raw guitars and a Dylan Baldi sounding like a young Jake Burns. It is in no way subtle, a terrific album nonetheless.

12. Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band – Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band

Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.

11. Tennis – ‘Young and Old’

Young & Old is Denver-based husband-and-wife duo, Tennis’, second LP. The album is swathed in soothing ’60s sounds, syrupy melodies and smart, soulful pop songs with captivating, richly melodic purr of singer Alaina Moore’s stunning voice at the fore. There is a very real retro vibe, yet not at one time does it feel old, stale or tired. It is bright, breezy, charming and uncomplicated, most importantly, it is damn fine record.

10. By The Sea – ‘By The Sea’

The banks of the Mersey has given rise to many great bands over the years, the latest to emerge from the production line are  By The Sea. Their self-titled debut album, produced by Bill Ryder Jones, hints at this Scouse heritage but this six-piece are very much their own band, with their own sound. The song titles like ‘Dream Waters’, ‘A Sail Floats and ‘Waltz Away’ set the tone, the album offers an elegant blend of dreamy, psychedelic and pastoral jams, this is music to get lost in. Liam Power’s voice, which has an uncanny resemblance to Shack’s Mick Head proves soothing and stirring as they waft across a hazy canvas of breezy, washed-out sounds.

09.The Heavy – ‘The Glorious Dead’

Wandering a retro path in the modern world can be tricky, there is little room for error. ‘Soul Rock’ is a minefield in itself. The Heavy have proven with two previous albums, while they do wear their influences on their sleeves, they make damn fine records. The Glorious Dead continues this trend. Meshing a clutch of hip hop breakbeats, slices of ’60s R&B, horns, riffs, zombie movie snippets, and soulful vocals into quality soulful, funk rock, of the highest order. What makes it so good? The wonderful execution, and it is oh so much fun, sometimes that really is quite enough.

08. Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’

Melody’s Echo Chamber is Parisian mullti-instrumentalist Melody Prochet. Teaming up with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on production, her self-titled debut pushes her flair for dreamy pop into more experimental, spaced-out zones of hazy psych-pop. The album has Parker’s stamp all over it. Prochet’s light, inviting vocals are cast into a shifting series of settings, with beguiling results. At times everything is covered with a heavy blanket of reverb and fuzz, while others are a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic dream-pop. It is the combination of Parker’s inspired production and Prochet’s evocative voice which strike a perfect balance between pop and the psychedelic. A rather inspired and stunning debut.

07. Conor Mason – ‘Standstill’

Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.

06. Richard Hawley – ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’

The seventh studio album from Richard Hawley saw an interesting change of direction toward hazy psychedelia, something Hawley proves masterful at it. With only one track clocking in under five minutes, the songs are suffused with snarling, meandering guitars solos and Hawley’s distinctive vocals. The title track is a masterpiece telling tales of a man who kills his wife and kids, a hard-up prostitute who ends up in jail and a young man involved in inner city violence respectively. It’s the rockier material here that really stands out, like the excellent ‘Before’ and ‘Down in the Woods’. The latter is a real rocker with a venomous Hawley sounding not unlike Mark Lanegan. There are moments of real beauty here too, one wonders where Hawley will go next but it will certainly be interesting to find out. (Words edited from Johnny Feeney | Because I’m lazy)

05. Miaoux Miaoux – ‘Light of the North’

Light of the North is the debut record proper from 26-year-old Glasgow based producer, Miaoux Miaoux. Fluid and uplifting, these sounds evoke moods a million miles from dreary rain soaked city of its birth as he hops from genre to genre. It is a stunning record which delicately pieces together beats, electronics, synths and acoustic guitars, with his pristine vocals gliding through a heavenly mist of lush harmonies, melodies, beats and electronics. One for fans of Caribou, Hot Chip and Jape. An irresistible debut record, a bright future lies ahead.

04. The 2 Bears – ‘Be Strong’

The 2 Bears debut LP, Be Strong is a scatter shot across the entire scope of electronic music which feels like foraging through a fine record collection. It is a cheery, cheeky and joyous amalgam of sounds and a massive injection of positivity amidst a time of dreariness and uncertainty. It is a worthy ode to the past two decades of dance music, a fine soundtrack to any weekend and most importantly, a bloody excellent dance record.

03. Sam Willis – ‘Winterval’

Winterval is the debut solo album from Sam Willis, one half of London-based Walls. Taking a host of house, techno, minimal and Balearic influences, Willis assimilates these familiar traits into otherworldly electronic music that gracefully hovers in an ambiguous hinterland, between subtly euphoric and vaguely ambient. Chiming notes resonate through every track and the beats are delivered with pin point accuracy. Willis has mixed the warm sounds with a crisp frosty elegance, creating a hypnotic, comforting sound collage. It is no way an exaggeration to say Winterval is one of the most aesthetically complete electronic albums for quite some time.

02. Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’

Where to begin with this one? Lonerism is a simply brilliant album. Their 2010 debut Innerspeaker set the standard for warped retro, yet futurist psychedelia. The follow-up is leaner, more confident as it sprawls into further exploratory psychedelic territories. It kind of goes everywhere while remaining fluid and cohesive throughout. From the rocking stomp of ‘Elephant’, to dazzling epics of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ or Lennon/McCartney-esque ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Lonerism remains cohesive. It is an album which increasingly fascinates with every listen. Give it the time it deserves, it’s guaranteed not to disappoint. Truly stunning!

01. Django Django – ‘Django Django’

While Django Django’s debut album contains undeniable similarities with The Beta Band, they have far from copied or imitated. Part of the appeal is an ability to seamlessly blend genres and sounds from a melting pot of influences into a striking blend of understated indie, with an electro groove at its heart. Anchored by alluring harmonies and an undeniable groove which permeates the very core of this record, this is indie music to dance to. An inspired and wholly irresistible debut, and my album of 2012. Thank you!

Best of 2012: w/ Gary Mackey of The North Sea

The North Sea

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling end of year lists. This time around, I thought I’d shift the focus to the bands and artist’s who’ve played a ‘BarryGruff Presents’ show this year and ask them for their ‘favourite album of 2012’, ‘favourite song of 2012’ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’.

Without further waffle from me, here’s Gary Mackey of The North Sea and his picks from the year that was 2012.

Favourite Album of 2012: Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

My favourite album of the year is Ghost Estates self-titled debut. Expertly crafted songs that perfectly marry electronic sounds with more traditional ones. They’re also an amazing live band that will make you dance. Guaranteed!

Favourite song of 2012: Tame Impala – ‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’

‘Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ by Tame Impala also has a pleasant effect on me. It sounds a lot like John Lennon’s second coming. Stunning.

Favourite Irish Song of 2012: Death in the Sickroom – ‘Tonight’

It’s a bit cruel to pick just one Irish tune but I’d have to say ‘Tonight’ by Death in the Sickroom. They have a sound unlike any other band around at the moment. Really worth seeing live if you get the opportunity. Thoroughly decent chaps, too.

Best of 2012: w/ Colm from Ghost Estates

ghost estates

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling end of year lists. This time around, I thought I’d shift the focus to the bands and artist’s who’ve played a ‘BarryGruff Presents’ show this year and ask them for their ‘favourite album of 2012′, ‘favourite song of 2012′ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’.

Right, that is enough from me, here’s Colm from Ghost Estates and his picks from the year that was 2012.

Favourite Album of 2012: Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’

Favourite album of the year has to be Tame Impala’s second album Lonerisim. It’s a fantastic album, and betters their first one by a mile. As a band they just keep getting better and better. When are they gonna come here to Ireland!! Songs like ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ or ‘It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ are just so ridiculously good. It took me a few listens to get into it, but once your hooked that’s it. Start to finish its just full on madness. So many things going on.Loads of noises to get lost in.


Favourite Song of 2012: Dirty Projectors – ‘The Gun Has No Trigger’

This was a hard one to answer. There has been so many brilliant songs over the last year, but I went for this. Its not a ‘catchy’ tune with a huge chorus or anything like that. It is just real simple song that sticks in your head. Before I heard this song I didn’t know much about Dirty Projectors. Straight away after hearing it, I went and got their new album, ‘Swing Lo Magellan’,which is also a real strong contender for album of the year. I’m in love with this band now as a result. Start to finish it is a winner. It’s so subtle. The intro gets your attention straight away with this really tight drum beat and deep bass. The vocals just start in and your just going to yourself, “Who is this…??”. Dave Longsmith voice gets more and more emotional as he goes on. When all 3 vocals harmonise they just create this huge sound. There is nothing else that sounds like this band at the moment.

Favourite Irish Song of 2012: Sea Pinks – ‘Lake Superior’

I only recently got into this band through a friend. It has only been a few weeks since I got their album Freak Waves. But this song as a result has been on non stop in my gaff. Wake up in the morning and put this tune on and everything is all good. It just sticks in your head. Really buzzy and catchy. I don’t know anyone who could not like this song.There has been many great Irish songs and albums this year. But at the moment this one really sticks out for me.

Best of 2012: w/ Aoife from The Annulments

The Annulments

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling end of year lists. This time around, I thought I’d shift the focus to the bands and artist’s who’ve played a ‘BarryGruff Presents’ show this year and ask them for their ‘favourite album of 2012’, ‘favourite song of 2012’ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’.

Without further ado, here’s Aoife from The Annulments and her picks from the year that was 2012.

Favourite Album of 2012: Nathan Conway and The River Valley Band – ‘Sonny Boy’

This year saw the release of Sonny Boy by Nathan Conway and The River Valley Band. We’ve been big fans since his debut, Run on Diesel with the T-Town Bottlestoppers a couple of years back. Conway has a serious gift for writing witty, salient songs – whether they’re about doing the dirt on your missus in a cheap motel, vampire bats, Jesus, or what’s in the making of a man – they always seem to be put across in the most direct, thought-provoking and fun ways. His singing voice is striking, to say the least – a south-eastern drawl hiding nothing. It’s one of those albums that every time you listen to it, you hear a different lick, a different nuance, a different theme. The River Valley Band are multi-faceted, talented musicians and for the breadth of moods and influences on Sonny Boy, it’s testament to their ability that each song is put across so well. To The Annulments, Nathan is one of the most underrated songwriters in Ireland at the moment – which seems positively criminal – so grab the opportunity to wrap your ears around this album, it’s bloody marvelous!

Favourite song of 2012: Tame Impala – ‘Elephant’

Recently enough a friend said “here, have you heard that Tame Impala song?” Cue the last month of listening to this almost on repeat. What a tune! If John Lennon had to soundtrack an episode of Buck Rogers I’d imagine it would sound a little like this. I believe the lads are from Perth, Australia and their music seems to be the type that could only have come out of permanently sunny climes. Looking forward to hearing more from them in 2013.

Favourite Irish song 0f 2012: Nathan Conway and The River Valley Band – ‘Troublemaker’

Should we have branched out here and thought about a different artist for our favourite song? Probably. But you would be very, very hard pushed to find a better song all year than Troublemaker. This song stopped me dead in my tracks the first time I heard it. I suppose in a weird way, the song asks ‘what would Jesus do?’ and paints him as a regular guy, “a married man too”. Again, Conway’s strength of writing shines through in something that is so simple, yet so direct. I guess a song like this makes you realise how much religion has stripped the humanity out of spiritual figures and when you get a glimpse of that again, it’s pretty stunning.

(Video) Tame Impala – Elephant

Not long now till Tame Impala release their new album Lonerism and things are hotting up nicely with lead single ‘Elephant’.

‘Elephant’ has been with us since late July but with the release date only around the corner, they’ve released a truly psychedelic video to partner the single. It’s a rocking psychedelic juggernaut, bursting with electrifying guitar licks and riffs, combining a glitz of smoothly cosmic vocals with a haze of The Beatles, ’70s psychedelic and glam rock influences.

Tame Impala are easily one of the best guitar bands to emerge in recent years and the new album Lonerism is released on October 5th.

Tame Impala – ‘Elephant’

A few weeks back Tame Impala unveiled ‘Apocalypse Dreams‘, the first track from their forthcoming second LP Lonerism. Now releasing the first single they continue to defy expectations and exemplify why they are the ‘King of Kings’ of modern day psychedelic rock.

‘Elephant’ swaggers through that now so recognizable haze of The Beatles, ’70s psychedelic and glam rock influences. It’s a hard edged musical juggernaut, bursting with electrifying guitar licks and riffs, combining with a glitz of smoothly cosmic vocals to permeate the inner most part of your mind. These guys sure know how to get one excited about a new album, fantastic stuff!

Enjoy ‘Elephant’, it’s not long till October 5th when Lonerism unleashed on the masses.

Mp3: Tame Impala – Elephant  [audio http://awmusic.ca/1/mp3/Tame%20Impala-Elephant.mp3]

Tame Impala – ‘Apocalypse Dreams’

Aussie psychedelic rockers Tame Impala are back! They will follow up to their dazzling 2010 debut Innerspeaker with Lonerism in October.

‘Apocalypse Dreams’ is the first taster of what to expect and it seems that recognizable blend of dazzling Beatles-esque psychedelic-rock is here to stay, but it’s been kicked up a notch, or two. It is a spectacular six minute shimmering spectacle which swirls and bends this way and that, as the vocals wash over an even hazier, more psychedelic sound.

It’s so, so good to have these guys back with us, even if we have to wait till October for the album. ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ would be an ideal companion for some summer sunshine, if it would ever show it’s face that is. Check it out for yourself below.

Oxegen 2011 – Friday – Tame Impala, Shit Robot, The Strokes & Leftfield

 

What a weekend! On paper it was one of the most uninspiring Oxegen lineups for sometime yet it turned out to be a fantastic weekend with some stunning performances, helped in no small way by the sunshine on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday it seemed like a re-run of the usual script, rain and lots of it. Thankfully this wasn’t the case. One of the big talking points was the eerily small crowd on Friday which left many shows deserted making it difficult for bands and punters to build on.

Whatever the case people were there to enjoy themselves. It was hard to know what to expect from House of Pain to be honest. They entertained the crowd buoyed by the appearance of sunshine before inevitably finishing up with ‘Jump Around’, sending punters into a rapturous frenzy of flailing limps and ‘jumping around’.

Next up Aussie psychedelic rockers Tame Impala over at the 2FM Hotpress Academy. No gimmicks just a short but fine set of warm fuzzy psychedelia running through tracks from their stunning debut album, Innerspeaker. They are far more ‘spaced out’ live than on record, memorable renditions of  ‘Solitude Is Bliss’, ‘Desire Be Desire Go’ and ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind’ in particular. It is a shame they were on so early and would be better suited to a different setting, their own headline show would have the potential to be something really special.

Getting ready for Shit Robot in the Electric Ballroom was a bizarre, it was creepy, ghoulish even, to see the place so deserted. The dance arena is normally jammed not matter what. The real shame was more people should have witnessed Shit Robot’s set, the sound, set and show was amazing. He deserved better.

The piece de resistance for the evening was The Strokes. The new album Angles may have received a mixed reception but it proved they are still relevant musical force today. Testament to this was the growing throng assembling at the Vodafone Stage even as the dark clouds descended. We were repaid quickly as The Strokes, in no mood to mess around, launched headlong into a set full of their biggest hits, along with material from their latest album.

Casablancas struts his stuff in a leather jacket and sunglasses (resembling a young Joey Ramone), then it finally dawns on you how great a band The Strokes are as they launch into hit after hit. ‘New York City Cops’, ‘Someday’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Reptilia’ are all stunning and when ‘Last Nite’ kicks in and all hell breaks loose. As they leave the stage it seems as though only minutes have passed since they had begun, which tells its own story. The Strokes return was a massive triumph eclipsing their disastrous show in 2004 and it will take something special to top that.

Amazingly there was more to come, still time to catch Leftfield in Heineken Green Energy tent. Straight from the off it is obvious this was the setting for them (inside, unlike Electric Picnic last year). The bass was simply outrageous, you could feel it rattling and reverberating throughout your whole body. It is no wonder they were once proclaimed ‘loudest live act in the world’. Extraordinary renditions of ‘Afro-Lelt’, ‘Song of Life’ and ‘Storm 3000’ blow the cobwebs off the old Leftism tunes.

Unfortunately that was it, I begrudgingly had to leave before the finish. One day down, Saturday and Sunday had a lot to live up to.

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Oxegen ’11 Preview

This weekend (8th – 10th of July) Oxegen rolls into Punchestown for the festivals annual appearance in Kildare.

Normally what it lacks in class it makes up with quality acts but this year I’m not so sure. Apart from other issues, I feel this is one of the most uninspiring Oxegen lineups for sometime and I don’t know if I can bring myself to shell out the cash for a ticket.

Now that bit is over I’m sure plenty of you have no such dilemma and can’t wait for the festival to kick off. Whether or not I make an appearance is irrelevant and there’s still quite a lot music worth catching over the 3 days (full stage times etc over on State.ie.

Here’s some personal selections for the weekend and feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments below, it is always greatly appreciated.

Friday:

Tame Impala (17:50 2FM Hotpress Academy Stage)

Australian psychedelic rockers Tame Impala’s stunning debut album, Innerspeaker stole many hearts last year. Expect a dazzling dose of warm fuzzy psychedelia brimming with feel good vibes, raw fuzzed up hooks and riffs. This is just the thing to set the weekend in motion.

Tame Impala – Desire Be Desire Go via Tim Bretantrum

The Strokes (21:30, Vodafone Stage)

What to say about The Strokes that hasn’t already been said? Ten years ago they helped rescue guitar music from the doldrums. A decade on, following a lengthy hiatus they returned with Angles, a record which proved the are still relevant musical force today. This should be one of the highlights of the weekend with a set full with old favourites, ‘Last Nite’ & ‘Take it or Leave It’ and new, ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ & ‘Machu Picchu’.

The last time I saw them (2004?) they were awful, Casablancas was a state but hopefully both he and the band have got their house in order.

The Strokes – Machu Picchu via smithblogsatalanta

Leftfield (23:30 Heineken Green Spheres)

Dance pioneers Leftfield (albeit minus Paul Daley) return to our shores for yet another show. These guys revolutionised dance music throughout the 90′s, pushing it to new and daring levels with two seminal albums Leftism and Rhythm & Stealth. Their show at Electric Picnic last year was disappointing with much of the atmosphere being lost in the cold night air.

Hopefully playing in a tent will suit them better along with a bit more from the Rhythm & Stealth era , perhaps the once proclaimed ‘loudest live act in the world’ can win me over again.

Other recommendations: Maverick Sabre (18:00), The Shit Robot Show (20:15), Tiga (21:15 ) – all in Red Bull Electric Ballroom.

Saturday:

Cashier No.9 (15.55 Heineken Green Spheres)

Belfast 5-piece Cashier No.9 have been a mainstay of the Irish music scene for a number of years now. 2011 is fast becoming ‘their year’ with the release of the scintillating Goldstar EP and their debut album, To The Death Of Fun to rave reviews. Gloriously catchy, infectious and shimmering indie ahoy.

 Cashier No.9 – Goldstar via SnipeLondon

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