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Both Bars On: Top 20 Records of 2013

Masters

2013, eh? Not Both Bars On’s favourite year, though the music kept us going. OK, so one of us (the soft southern one) slipped a bit, but we seem to have survived and have reached the end refreshed and ready for another year’s inappropriate email submissions.

So here are our Top 20 Albums of 2013, our fifth end of year list(!). It’s a strange mixture, even to our eyes: electronica, psych, songs with words and (gasp) tunes, slabs of noise, country & western. We point this out not to boast of our eclecticism but to remind you that this is no averaging out of the choices of a vast team of staffers – it’s the list of two blokes whose tastes overlap but who occasionally accuse each other of having cloth ears. Sorry to whisk the curtain away, but this is just what what we like. But we really like it. Hope you like some of it too. Merry Xmas!

In our bubbling under and reissues category we have: Billy Bragg – Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy [30 year reissue]; Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail; Savages – Silence Yourself; The Outer Church/Front&Follow compilation; Fresh Snow- I; The Indelicates – Diseases of England; The National – Trouble Will Find Me; and Chop – Illuminate.

And our top twenty is…

20. Café Kaput – Applied Music Vol​.​1: Science & Nature

Jon Brooks explores analogics with dutiful and masterful attention. Time to cover those textbooks with wallpaper.

19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II  

A lovely record of poppy, hook-filled, lo-fi psychedelia from Ruban Nielson and his Ffunny Ffrends.

18. Emptyset – Recur

An institution of grinding interference. Not for the feint-hearted.

17. Mogwai – Les Revenants

Mogwai’s soundtrack for the French TV series was appropriately chilly, but also a slight departure from their usual style; this track is great, but untypical of the album.

16. Whirling Hall of Knives – Devisions

Whirling and swirling maelstroms of joyfulness. A true ‘experience’ of an album.

15. Way Through – Clapper is Still

Pastoral punk postcards from somewhere a long way from Constable Country. Songs of loss for things we’d forgotten we once had.

14. Vision Fortune – Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune

Tension and repetition. Repetition and tension. Brilliant début.

13. Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – What The Brothers Sang

If you’d told us in January that one of our favourite albums of the year would be a set of covers of Everly Brothers’s songs we would have shown you the door. But they did write great songs and McCarthy and Oldham do them proud.

12. No Age – An Object

Randy Randall and Dean Spunt displayed a more controlled but still experimental sound on this record, which seems handtooled for the listening pleasure of at least one of us. Full album streamable here:

11. Gnod – Presents…Dwellings & Druss

A few fools decried Gnod’s move to solely electronics; at BBO terraces we put out the bunting. These Salford based maestros can do little wrong in our ears.

10. Il Sogno del Marinaio – La Busta Gialla

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Post-punk hero Mike Watt teamed up with Stefano Pilia and Andrea Belfi to write and record this album, and while the songs may have been quickly written and recorded, in the hands of these ace players they sound great.

9. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Fuck-Buttons-Slow-Focus

It might not have had as much wide-screen weirdness as previous outings, but Slow Focus has enough innovation, sweeping gestures and unrepentant noise to pleasure us.

8. The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True

spree

It went awfully quiet there for a while – last proper album The Fragile Army came out in 2007 – but yes, it’s true – the Spree are back! And god we needed them – if you don’t need a shot of pure joy like this, then congratulations, you’ve had a better year than either of us.

7. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In

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The second album from the woman with a sweet voice and a broken heart. It’s not quite as consistently brilliant as the first album, but it’s still better than almost everything else in this list.

6. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

the-haxan-cloak-excavation

An absolute master class in darkness. Incredible nocturnal and necro-electronics. And the most intense and roof-shaking live experience to boot.

5. Superman Revenge Squad Band – There Is Nothing More Frightening Than The Passing Of Time

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A very welcome return for SRS’ Ben Parker – one of the best lyricists of his generation – this time with a ‘big band’, some lovely new songs and re-recordings of old ones. The whole album is here:

4. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

factory-floor-factory-floor

Old-skool has never been so futuristic. Minimal explorations in sweat, mingling with four tons of tarnished glitter. Shut the fuck up and dance.

3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

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Beyond the ridiculously contrived build-up campaign, beyond the usual fanboy gushings and stupendous hype, Boards of Canada managed to produce an album that is pure electronica at its absolute finest. And hats are doffed to any band that will drive hundreds of miles to purchase a rare synth only for it to play a few notes across the whole album.

‘Cold Earth’ (unofficial video):

2. British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy

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The fifth album from the band who have been BBO’s fantasy band-in-residence since before there was a blog was intended to act as a counter to the grim realities of life in 2013, or as Yan put it “a nice game of cards in pleasant company”. It was much more than that, of course, because it also contained its fair share of adventures into the K Hole, and the band were pretty much at the peak of their powers live this year. We salute them.

‘Machineries of Joy’ [Radio Edit]:

1. Teeth Of The Sea – Master

Master

For the second year in a row a Rocket Recording’s product tops our chart. We got very excited when we reviewed it (leading to some wordy twaddle), but we stand by the sentiment we were trying to express. Master is an astounding lesson in genuinely innovative, yet carefully respectful and intelligent, rock music in its broadest definition. Magnificent.

‘Reaper’:

So there you go. As we said, we hope you found something here to enjoy and if not, we apologise for clogging your earholes.

Sometimes we can’t believe this blog is still going when so many have disappeared, but it is and will be for the foreseeable future. And the only reason we continue is because every now and again somebody somewhere says something nice about our wordy nonsense. We really, really appreciate all that continue to support us. Thank you.

Now bog off and buy some or all of the above albums.They 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.

JKneale and angrybonbon

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Blanck Mass: Blanck Mass

This album could be described in fractions: Blanck Mass is Benjamin John Power, half of Fuck Buttons and on first listen sounds like Fuck Buttons minus the beats, hence half of their sound. This should translate into something half as enjoyable, but thankfully it doesn’t.

Many of the tracks on Blanck Mass consist of sumptuous swathes of blissful synths. ‘Sundowner’ is glitter and fuzz and with its soaring melody generates an overwhelming desire to enjoy it at the time specific to its title. ‘Chernobyl’ demands an image gallery of decaying buildings and ruined playgrounds being colonised by an ever rampant nature. The organic and natural is brought to the fore again on ‘Raw Deal’ with its distanced insect chirps, modified bird song and the odd far-off growl.

On ‘Sub Serious’, with its bubbling undertow and forest echoes, this natural pulse borders too close to the territory of New Age ambient meditations. Thankfully the surging enormity of ‘Land Disasters’ and the almighty oceanic depths of ‘What You Know’ arrive to dispel these concerns.

Blanck Mass has many beautiful and lavish moments and only one track that comes close to disappointment. Considering the amount of aural pigswill out there it’s worth seeking out, right? Purchase

Sundowner

Land Disasters:

BBO’s Top Four of 2009

So here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – our top four albums of the year. Produced through complicated Venn diagrams and extended algorithms.

1- Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Sublime. What more can we say?

Rough Steez

Flight Of The Feathered Serpent

2 – Brakes – Touchdown

Another of those bands we love to bits – we both saw them live this year and are still grinning about it.

Why Tell the Truth (When It’s Easier To Lie)

3-  Teeth of the Sea – Orphaned by the Ocean

We’ve been playing this droney, spacey lot all year long and haven’t tired of them yet.

Latin Inches

4 – British Sea Power – Man of Aran

What do you do after producing BBO’s number one record of 2008, Do You Like Rock Music? You work some of your instrumentals (and instrumental versions of other songs) up into the soundtrack for a 1934 documentary about life on the Aran Islands. It’s as atmospheric, evocative and affecting as you’d expect from a band at the peak of their powers, with special help from the London Bulgarian Choir. Glorious.

The South Sound

So, you have a few hours to pick up this little lot as late xmas presents – just imagine all those smiling faces as friends and family open their post-rock, droning, screeching, rocktastic gifts! We recommend Piccadilly Records in the North, Sister Ray in London (though you’ll have to pop into the shop), but any decent independent record shop would do. There are links to Cargo Records sales pages on the Teeth of the Sea review.

Merry xmas and we’ll see you soon!

jkneale and angrybonbon

Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport

Tarot Sport

I take it all back, the kids are alright. It seems they are enthused by the future enough to collect from car-boots and connect bits of tech to give us a soundtrack of what might become. Fuck Button’s Tarot Sport is thus the perfect youthful accompaniment to MoebiusKram.

Before my first encounter with Tarot Sport I was slightly worried. I’d heard phrases and words such as ‘accessible’, ‘mainstream’ and ‘cross-over hit’ bounded about. Understandably, I think, this produced concerns that one our artists of 2008 had watered down their sound. This anxiety was underlined somewhat as I came to realise that the brilliant ranting-cum-speaking-in-tongues that added so much to Street Horrsing had been jettisoned.

And I still miss the indecipherable fuming. However, this album has won me over in three ways. First, there’s a real sense of arrogant independence on show here: for example, not many combos could get away with a 10.32 opener (‘Surf Solar’). Second, with a flick of a switch they have the ability to mesmerise with an utter grandeur and massiveness (for want of a better word). Third, the now seemingly signature fuzzed guitar/organ drone is still apparent and as warming as ever.

Take ‘Olympians’: the sense of space and enlargement on this track is so convincing and hypnotic that it can make you feel both godlike and irrelevant at the same time. If you don’t believe me, just stare at the sky when you listen to it. No, try it.

So give it time (if you have enough). It’s an album of expanse and scale that at first can make you feel a bit lost, a bit insignificant. But then you give up any sense of control or possible importance, and you come to realise that being lost can be a wonderful thing.

The Lisbon Maru

Olympians

Just buy it.

angrybonbon

BBO’s Top Ten of 2008

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[Email subject line] Best of year post

JKneale: Ere, shall we do this?

Angrybonbon [follow up phone call]: Go on then.

And so it came to pass that BBO had what amounted to an AGM to finalise their top ten albums of 2008.  And as the top five pretty much picked themselves it was straightforward affair with only a minor amount of trading of horses at the tail end.

So in order of merit/scrobbling/lounge, tram and washing up listening, here they are:

1. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?

A shoe-in. We blogged about this lot four times this year and saw them three or four times as well. Not as off-the-wall as the first or as polished as the second but we have both played this record to death all year long.

No Lucifer (Efrim Menuck Mix)

2. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Pop, 2008-style, but with added lysergic interludes. Resistance was useless and they seemed to be everywhere.

Weekend Wars

3. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrsing

Pulling off the almost impossible feat of being simultaneously aggressively noisy and soothingly hypnotic, Street Horrsing is probably the most refreshing thing we’ve heard this year. Still haven’t got the first clue what they’re ranting about though.

Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise

4. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive

Well, this could have been higher, but that’s the thing about lists. A storming record that sounds like a band still broadening their horizons while keeping the hooks and the stories about hardcore and drugs.

Stay Positive

5. Micah P Hinson – Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra

Heartbreaking, passionate, intimate and cinematic, Micah’s latest offering had us staring wistfully and weeping gently. Beautiful.

The Fire Came Up To My Knees

6. Julian Cope – Black Sheep

We like the fact that the Arch-Drude manages to piss off as many people as he pleases. His testimony to outsiders and the transgressive had us smiling, grimacing and tutting. Brilliant.

These Things I Know

7. A Silver Mount Zion – 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons

Apparently people are getting fed up with post-rock because it all sounds the same. Not from this lot it doesn’t. Clever people making frighteningly intense but still essentially simply music.

BlindBlindBlind

8. The Black Dog – Radio Scarecrow

Proving there’s still much life in the IDM dog (ahem), Radio Scarecrow mixed beats, harmonies and EVP to forbidding affect.

Flood v3.9

9. Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life

A relatively late entry, and still not properly reviewed here, but my word what a record. Hardcore for people bored of the usual grind; imaginative arrangements (flutes!) and epic songs, but most of all, poppy hooks and frenetic energy.

Son The Father

10. Kontakte – Soundtracks to Lost Road Movies

Track 2 on Soundtracks to Lost Road Movies is entitled ‘Motorik’, so no prizes where this lot are coming from. Yet the result tingles the marrow and journeys you elsewhere.

Ghosts of Electricity

That’s your lot! Though in the bubbling under category for ’08 (i.e. we can’t be arsed to do a top 20 or 30), in no particular order we have:

Eine Kleine Nacht Musik – Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills, Working For a Nuclear Free City – Businessmen & Ghosts, Steeple Remove – Electric Suite, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig!! Lazarus Dig!!!, Secret Machines – Secret Machines, Adem – Takes, The Indelicates – American Demo, Portishead – Third, The Accidental – There Were Wolves.

A couple of re-issues or re-masters:

The Wonder Stuff: Eight Legged Groove Machine 20th Anniversary Edition, Stupids – Peruvian Vacation (and others)

Not a bad year then…

Angrybonbon and JKneale

The Best of BBO Mixtape #1: The First 100 Posts

100 posts since March 2007! Not exactly grafting, clearly, but in between the other stuff we have to do BothBarsOn has brought you a roguish mix of new music and some old rubbish you’d either never heard of or wished you hadn’t. We’ve had a ball and are proud of our nearly 22000 hits – hello Hawaii! – and would like to pass on our secret to anyone who thinks this is tricky:

1, Here’s WordPress. Get yourself a blog.

2. Here are the HypeMachine and Elbows. Publicise it to thousands of music fans.

3. That’s it! Fanzine plus distribution network.

To celebrate: a dozen tracks from bands BBO loves to pieces, with the largest share going to the things we’ve liked for a while.

[mixwit_mixtape wid=”54347f84eb76a1662e618b43f134b7b0″ pid=”a6314f215263a16af98289405363e930″ un=”jkneale” width=”426″ height=”327″ center=”true”]

Mix put together and presented thanks to the brilliant mixwit site – another recommendation!

See you all again soon… thanks!

JKneale and the angrybonbon

Darn those buttons

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I imagine I’m not alone in having my eye drawn to any band that has ‘Fuck’ in their name. So when Fuck Buttons‘ Street Horrrsing came across my radar I had to have a listen. They might not be fans, but once turned up loud (it needs to be) my buttons were pushed as follows:

1) Big slabs of delightful dronage where analogue synths and fuzzed guitars merge? Button pushed.

2) Heavy tribal drums? Button pushed

3) Distorted vocals delivered as practically incomprehensible rants with requisite screaming? Button pushed.

4) Psychedelic and potentially occult ciphers on cover art? Button pushed.

5) Difficultly in placing output due to genre mashing? Button very much pushed.

(Ok, number 3 isn’t normally a button that I find needs attention, but it did here)

It’s difficult to split this album up as it needs to be listened to in its entirety, but I’m loving the following (long/big) tracks:

Sweet Love for Planet Earth

Bright Tomorrow

angrybonbon

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