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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

11183_lpjacket

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!

godspeed

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.

‘Mladic’:

7. Bill Fay – Life is People

billfay.11298alt

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 > – >>

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

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!

‘Asunder’:

‘Sisterly’:

4. Plank! – Animalism

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

sbp

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.

‘Archaeology’:

‘Brugada’:

2. Bob Mould – Silver Age

bobmould

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’:

‘Goatman’:

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]

Fang Island: Major

I can’t think of another album that makes you want to hug complete strangers as you walk down the street on your daily commute. This is not some metaphorical device to open up this review, this actually happened. And, I must add, it was pissing with rain. Of course, I didn’t hug them. That would be both dangerous and a little silly.

On first listen Fang Island’s latest album wasn’t the immediate fix that the last was. On second listen, the above happened, and the shit-eating grin it impressed on my face was enough to make me hit repeat straight away. In some ways, it’s much more of a traditional rock album than the last, but that will never be a problem round these parts.

It’s ultimately all about the guitars: they scream, they riff in huge stark colours, they are tapped and fret wanked until they sound sore, they are sent into a jig, and they rush your adrenalin to pumping and publicly arrestable proportions. The vocals colour most of the tunes with an anthemic melancholy that only adds to the sense of elation. Piano riffs are thrown in the maelstrom and lay out the rock operatic underpinnings in stark relief. You need a ridiculous comparison? It’s the sound of The Polyphonic Spree covering Van Halen or Dan Deacon does The Darkness. There you go, that’s two.

If that’s not enough praise there’s one more thing I love about Major: you can guarantee the red-trouser wearing fucktard hipsters will bloody hate it. Can I get a high five for that?

Buy it here.

Never Understand:

Chompers:

Want more guitars to convince you? Take a look at this lot:

Both Bars On: Top 10 Records of 2010

We used a spreadsheet this year. Yes, a bloody spreadsheet.

It’s still not a perfect representation of what was an excellent year for music or, in fact, what we individually valued, but it will have to do. And at least we arrived at a top ten rather than the fudge of a top four we presented to you, adoring reader(s), this time last year.

Residing in the bubbling under category for 2010 were cracking albums by: The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus, Holy Fuck, Wavves, Silver Mt Zion, The Divine Comedy, To Rococo Rot, Gold Panda, Thomas White, The Phantom Band, and Wooden Shjips.

Which – when we look at it – is a pretty amazing set of also-rans. It was a good year for music, like we said. Here’s a Spotify playlist of (nearly) all the artists we loved from 2010.

And the honourable reissues were:

Nosferatu D2 – We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise. If this had been released this year it would have been in our collective top 20. It’s brilliant.

The Wonder Stuff – Hup (21st Anniversary Edition). More of a remake than a reissue, but still a pile of beautiful bile and hoe-down pop silliness.

And now, in reverse order for the sheer hell of it, here’s our top ten of ’10:

10. Drum Eyes: Gira Gira

Cloaks on! Enormous squelchy head-nodding sounds from DJ Scotch Egg and team. Engaging, mesmerising, sounds ace really really loud.

9. Four Tet: There Is Love In You


Kieran Hebden – one of Putney’s finest exports – leaves the folktronica to one side and steers a rewardingly wobbly path between the tricksy and the tuneful. Consistently rewarding.

8. Mugstar: …Sun, Broken…


Space-rock for the now age. Gloriously large riffage and droned workouts that eat your ears.

7. The European: In a Very Real Sense Now

Deserves a proper review, really, and it might just get one before the end of the year. Simon Break writes tunes your postman could whistle and lyrics than are still making us laugh eight months after we first heard them. Proper pop for the not easily pleased.

6. The National: High Violet

After a good deal of excited waiting we got something like the album we were waiting for. Something of a breakthrough/crossover album, though the production arguably blunted some of the charm. When it worked – particularly on ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ – it made you think there was hope for this big indie band thing after all.

5. Fang Island: Fang Island

A refreshing lack of po-faced sincerity, this record is a joy from start to finish. If you can’t smile to and with this record there’s something wrong with you and the world.

Life Coach – Fang Island

4. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

Scottish pop classicists make a welcome return with their best album for quite some time – perhaps since 1997 – and reduce men of a certain age to snuffling, beaming wrecks.

Baby Lee – Teenage Fanclub

3. I Like Trains – He Who Saw the Deep


Not-so-difficult second album helped out by fan pledges – definitely one of the best ways of getting round the problem of making music pay for itself. Still doing an excellent job at the point on the Venn diagram where songs and post-rock meet, with Guy Bannister’s voice more than holding up against the swelling guitars and drums. Wonderful.

Progress is a Snake – I Like Trains

2. Teeth Of The SeaYour Mercury


An album that re-instates your faith that the musically new is possible after all. Properly disquieting, epic and expansive, TOTS push at barriers you didn’t realise existed until they’re collapsing around your head. We love ’em.

You’re Mercury – Teeth of the Sea

1. No Age – Everything In Between

Abstract interludes, all out DIY two-chorders, angsty beauty and everything in between. A truly staggering achievement of tortured guitars,  noise and harmonies. We both saw them live this year and were left grinning like shit-eating tortoises. Marvellous.

Shed and Transcend – No Age

We hope you enjoyed. Merry Christmas. And see you soon.

Jkneale and angrybonbon

[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones, 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]


Fang Island: Fang Island

Much has been made of the firework soundtrack that opens (and finishes) Fang Island’s eponymous album. The pyrotechnics might serve up an obvious theme for reviewers, but there’s no avoiding the whooshes, aahhhs, woos and overarching sense of euphoria that fills these tracks. Fang Island choreograph their tunes with the spectacular builds and skin tingling rushes that come with such displays. However, they don’t wait until the end of the night to give us the biggest and most extravagant explosions choosing instead to litter them throughout.

Musically they’re an intriguing hybrid of sounds, some of which up are decidedly curious and probably not on their list of influences. When they sing, which is not very often, there’s the close multiple harmonies of something like Fleet Foxes or even Arcade Fire. Otherwise there’s the complex rhythms of a less technical Battles running parallel to the rock opera of The Darkness, the bleeps of Parts & Labor and a sense of friskiness that would occur if The Polyphonic Spree met DragonForce and discussed Boston and Cagney & Lacey.

This is an album that rips a bad mood off your face, shatters it against the nearest hard surface and replaces it with a jubilant grin. I really, really love it. Alexis Petridis doesn’t, which should have you clicking here to buy it.

Illinois

Sideswiper

angrybonbon

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