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Both Bars On: Top 20 Records of 2012

BBO album of the year

Yes, that’s right dear reader: such was the overwhelming amount of top music this year we’ve given our end-of-year list a dose of max enlargement pills and extended it to a mighty top twenty.

Those that didn’t make this engorged run-down and hence reside in our honourable bubbling under category include: Swans – The Seer; Toy – Toy; Monolake – Ghosts; White Manna – White Manna; Easter – Innocence Man; Bass Clef – Reeling Skullways; Umberto – Night Has A Thousand Screams; The Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture; and Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics.

A special mention goes to British Sea Power’s EPs 1-6. Well it wouldn’t be one of our lists without them, would it? If we could have counted these as one album it would have made the top five. Obviously.

So here it is, Merry Listmas. Everybody’s having fun (somewhere else).

20. Eat Light Become Lights – Heavy Electrics

19. Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth

18. White Hills – Frying On This Rock

17. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light

16. Wishmountain – Tesco

15. Drokk – Music Inspired by Mega-City One

14. Mugstar – Axis

13. Fighting Kites – Fighting Kites

12. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales

11. Euros Childs – Summer Special

10. Egyptology – The Skies

The Skies

This analogue symphony had us frothing on about ancient astronauts and the geomancy of Giza back in July. It’s still taking us somewhere weird and wonderful. The best of the seemingly never-ending fascination with old synths and arpeggiators that pervades the world of electronica. Long may this fascination continue.

Orbis (Live):

9. Deerhoof – Breakup Song


All over the shop, but in a good way, Deerhoof’s Breakup Song threw all kinds of idea together to make another off-kilter pop hit. Needs to be played loud.

‘Fête d’Adieu’:

8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!


It came from nowhere, and nowhere on BBO will you find the review this album richly deserves. Yet it does exactly what you want a Godspeed! album to do, and then some. Colossal drones, magisterial builds and releases, and immense noise, all suffused with a politics for those that know.


7. Bill Fay – Life is People


Two astonishing albums at the start of the 1970s and then another one in 2012. The voice is warmer, but even more haunted, and Fay’s conviction still burns through as clearly as it ever has: “I personally need to believe that this world just can’t go on and on and on in the way that it goes.”

‘Be At Peace With Yourself’:

6. Beak > – >>


A marvellous pulsing head throb of analog musings and music from this threesome. Retro-futurism might not be a thing, but this sounds so extra-temporal we can’t help looking at the future through the past (and often vice-versa). If we had a record label of the year award it would probably go to Invada Records as well.

‘Mono’ (Ok, not technically on the album, but it’s a cracker):

5. Fang Island – Major


Like a cheeky-monkey off its bits on riffs. With shit-eating gurns and post-ironic chest bumps all round, Major is always there for the dark days and the light days. Simply…YES!



4. Plank! – Animalism


Owls and pigs. Owls, pigs and fighting ferrets. Animalism  is nothing short of an extraordinary debut of Neu-proggish grooves and looped noodling and funk. Looked into the Owl’s eyes and agree. You now agree.

‘Dying for Pigs’:

‘King Rat I, II, III’:

3. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown and Treaty


Prog, pop, country – Sweet Billy Pilgrim will do you an album containing all of those elements, and live they’ll throw in an a cappella version of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ just to keep you guessing. Crown and Treaty is the sound of a great, genuinely original, band still discovering what they’re capable of.



2. Bob Mould – Silver Age


Ignore those people who tell you this is a ‘return to form’ – the amazing thing about Bob Mould is not that he’s produced an album reminiscent of the best of the Sugar records, but that he’s been writing songs this good since the early 1980s.

‘The Descent’:

‘Star Machine’:

1. Goat – World Music

World Music

The hype realised for once. An album that possesses you. We called it a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground and we stand by these words. Syncretic brilliance. Stunning.

‘Disco Fever’:


Det Som Aldrig Förändras/Diarabi:

A massive thanks to everyone who has supported us, read these ramblings and listened to anything we’ve recommended this year. You probably will never know how much we appreciate it.

Want more recommendations? We’re available on Twitter and Facebook to annoy you further.

jkneale and angrybonbon

[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their tax), ones where there isn’t really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records – actually, we really do. And we think you should too, so if you like any of this and haven’t already bought them, go on! They’ll be cheap by now]

The Blog Sound of 2013: the longlist and BBO’s vote


It’s The Blog Sound Poll time again, the poll of key music tastemakers, and us, that was set up as an alternative to the annual ‘BBC Sound of’ exercise, providing another chance to say who might be big next year [go here for our story on last year’s list]. Organised by Robin Seamer and Andy Von Pip of Breaking More Waves and the Von Pip Express blogs, it involved 49 blogs [listed below] each picking 5 bands. As you might suspect this generated lots of different suggestions, but there is a longlist, and there is a winner – tipped by a quarter of the blogs consulted. You’ll have to wait for the New Year for that.

But for now, here’s the longlist of 15:

AlunaGeorge / Curxes / Chvrches / Daughter / Haim / Laura Mvula / MØ / Palma Violets / Pins / Randolph’s Leap / Rhye / Savages / Seasfire / The Neighbourhood / Tom Odell

The top 5 will be announced in the New Year – will any of ours be in it? Well, no, ours are below. We didn’t even make the top 15 – organisers, I don’t think we’re giving anything away here – which either makes us the alternative to the alternative to the BBC, or a couple of cloth-eared gets. We went for (in no particular order):

Kult Country, ‘Source (Code for Thought)’:

Base Ventura. ‘Side of the Street’:

Tribal Fighters, ‘Tree Fiddy’:

Peggy Sue, ‘He’s A Rebel’:

And Beak> (who angrybonbon tipped at the end of 2009!), ‘Wulfstan II’:

The 49 blogs who voted in the poll are:

A New Band A Day, A Pocket Full Of Seeds, All Noise, Alphabet Bands, Both Bars On, Brapscallions, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Details Of My Life So Far, Don’t Watch Me Dancing, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Eaten By Monsters, Electronic Rumors, Faded Glamour, Folly Of Youth, Flying With Anna, God Is In The TV, Harder Blogger Faster, Howl, In Love Not Limbo, Just Music That I Like, Killing Moon, Kowalskiy, Love Music : Love Life, Mudkiss, Music Broke My Bones, Music Fans Mic, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, My Bands Better Than Your Band, Not Many Experts, Peenko, Real Horrorshow, Scottish Fiction, Skeletory, Song By Toad, Sounds Good To Me Too, Storm’s Brewing, Sweeping The Nation, The Blue Walrus, The Electricity Club, The Mad Mackerel, The Metaphorical Boat, The Music Hoarder, The Recommender, This Must Be Pop, Von Pip Musical Express, 17 Seconds

Go and have a read – they’re all great blogs – and come back in January for the results!

jkneale and angrybonbon

Beak> and Drokk

Two albums (and a rare joint review by us) whose common denominator is the brilliant Geoff Barrow (he of Portishead fame, which you should already know).

Beak>:Beak>> (reviewed by angrybonbon)

Firmly placed in the past-future, Beak>’s second album (Beak>>) takes the sound so wonderfully honed by their first (which garnered an honourable mention in our end of year list in 2009) and tweaks and extends it. Here throbbing analogics (especially on ‘Ladies’ Mile’) seem to take more emphasis, whilst the motorik pulse of bass and driving drums maintain their presence. With distanced and airy vocals akin to Simeon of Silver Apples and a production shorn of high-end studio wizardry, the overall impress seems shot through with natural hallucinogens that sends you, with a sinister curl to your entrenched grin, into a woozy distracted state. Only the bass on ‘Wulfstan II’ and the thrashed guitar finale of ‘Spinning Top’ are there to stir you from the splendid stupor the whole album induces.

It’s brilliant. You’ve read lots of better reviews than that, so just buy it here.


Spinning Top:

Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One (reviewed by jkneale)

Barrow has also been working with fellow Bristolian Ben Salisbury, who composes music for films and TV, on the Drokk project. Those of you who are already Squaxx dek Thargo will know that ‘Drokk!’ is the favourite exclamation of Mega-City One’s most famous lawman, Judge Dredd, from the British comic 2000AD. Appearing in 1977 2000AD, and Dredd in particular, reflected the cynical, aggressive, tone of UK and US popular culture at that time. In a sense if they’d made a 2000AD or Judge Dredd film at about that time, this is what the soundtrack would have sounded like: tense, brooding, or hyperactive in turns. John Carpenter’s film soundtracks of are a useful reference point, particularly Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Escape From New York (1981). It’s an increasingly common reference point these days but it’s clear Barrow and Salisbury not only know their history (they’re old enough to have been through the electro/Carpenter love-in the first time) but are capable of making something new with their vintage synthesizers. Interestingly there’s no mention of Dredd here at all – presumably a copyright issue – but the titles make it clear he’s the hero. Scrotnig – you’d have to be a real grexnix not to like it.

Buy it here



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