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
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.
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.
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.
1. Goat – 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.
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.
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]
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.
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