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Both Bars On: Top Thirty Records of 2016

turkeys-marching-fade-2.jpgWelcome to our eighth best-of-the-year list, and our second as a crack team of four. It’s patently obvious that 2016 has been thoroughly rubbish*, but at least we’ve had plenty of good music to set against the headlines, bowings-out and splittings-up. The compilation of our Top Thirty Records of 2016 was less painful than usual too, the smooth working of one well-oiled machine (we call him Pete). Still, those of you who come back every year will see that despite the neatness of the electoral process the list shows the usual surfeit of eclecticism.

So we invite you to view our shiny baubles, our fresh and seasonal produce. Not a turkey to be seen, apart from the four above. See you in 2017 – at the very least it won’t be 2016. Cheers!

(*although angrybonbon got married to the love of his life, so 2016 wasn’t all bad for everyone. Cheers!)

In the bubbling under category: Apostille: Virile Strain Transmission; The Belbury Poly: New Ways Out;  Bob Mould: Patch the Sky; Weaves: Weaves; Radar Men From The Moon: Subversive II: Splendor of the Wicked; Ben Chatwin: Heat & Entropy; Steve Hauschildt: Strands; Hen Party: Glitter Sweats.

Reissues: Sweet Billy Pilgrim: We Just Did What Happened and No One Came

The Top Thirty:

30. Galcid: Hertz

29. Ogre & Dallas Campbell: Night of the Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Rescore)

28. Peter Baumann: Machines of Desire

27. Mugstar: Magnetic Seasons

26. Factory Floor: 25 25

25. Vanishing Twin: Choose Your Own Adventure

24. Barberos: Barberos

23. Goat: Requiem

22. Opeth: Sorceress

21. John Carpenter:Lost Themes II

20. Go March: Go March

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Add Go March to your list of famous Belgians as this Antwerp band lay out a striking debut of spiky motorik and krautrock.

19. Juan Atkins & Moritz Van Oswald: Transport

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Two of the heavyweights of techno come together as Borderland to produce the deepest beats and phasing loveliness.

18. Yak: Alas Salvation

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Fearsome guitar noises, shouting, tunes. Victorious!

17. Grumbling Fur: FurFour

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Mind-expanding pop music, featuring biblical patriarchs from outer space.

16. The Heartwood Institute: Calder Hall: Atomic Power Station

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Sizzling with radioactivity, the polymath that is The Heartwood Institute delivers a beautiful slice of electro-hauntology.

15. The Pineapple Thief: Your Wilderness

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Somerset’s greatest prog band return to form with King Crimson/Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison along for the ride.

14. Teleman: Brilliant Sanity

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The second collection of slightly wonky but brilliant pop songs from a band who seem to be able to produce them without breaking a sweat.

13. Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits

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San Francisco psych rockers manage what looks like a crossover smash on their first of their two records for 2016.

12. The Mortlake Bookclub: Exquisite Corpse

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The only soundtrack you need for the Folk Horror Revival. Four movements of palimpsest drone that both spooks and moves.

11. Martha: Blisters in the Pit of my Heart

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Reminds you it’s still possible to do quite a lot with the raw materials associated with ‘punk’ & ‘pop’ if you’re as smart and lively as this lot are.

10. worriedaboutsatan: Blank Tape

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Brooding, ambient electronica and hypnotic atmospheric rhythms. Antoher top class album from this duo to follow last years’s Even Temper.

9. Posthuman: Back to Acid

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12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via the excellent atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I’ve said it before, Acid House is the new Dad Music.

8. Warning Light: Life Death Suite EP

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Entrancing clatter and looping tones as a taster for the full album.

7. Teenage Fanclub: Here

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It’s been six years since the last one, but the Fannies shine just as brightly as they ever did.

6. A Year in the Country: The Quietened Bunker

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Nothing quite says 2016 like a compilation album on the theme of abandoned cold war structures and bunkers, because underground is where we’ll all be living soon after the nuclear button gets pressed. Unsettling drone, snatched samples, glitched beats and claustrophobic synths; it’s all here.

5. Meilyr Jones: 2013

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So rich, extravagant, and strange that it sounds like a ‘best of’ album covering several years in an artist’s life; no single track can do it justice but this will do fine here:

4. Voyag3r: Are You Synthetic?

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The perfect SF adventure album. From laser duels on frozen planets to war rockets being dispatched to Ajax, this album oozes class and sophistication whilst not taking itself too seriously. It’s the sound of a band having stupid amounts of fun and tracking ‘Flash Gordon On Ice: the Musical’ whilst they’re doing it. Utterly brilliant.

3. Gnod: Mirror

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Our Salfordian troubadours picked up the guitars (or banjos as they like to call them) once again and proved why they lead the pack when it comes to enveloping sludge, resistant noise and all-consuming terror.

2. Matmos: Ultimate Care II

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Two men, one washing machine and one track. Every sound made from said cleaning device. From intimate glitch to all-out pounding techno. Too see this live, replete with the machine, was to marvel at the wonder and genius that is Matmos. Amazing.

1. Oscillotron: Cataclysm

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The purest and deepest space music. Cosmic kosmische of the highest order. An album that let us take flight and escape the hideousness of this worldly reality, especially as it unfolded this year. Transcendental.

 

So you can do yourself a big end-of-the-year favour and go buy some or all of the above albums. They are available from shops and sites – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their taxes), 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.

Merry Xmas and a happy Newest Year one and all.

angrybonbon, JKneale, matthewpetty & Pete Collins

Both Bars On: Top Twenty Records of 2014

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Compared to 2013, this year has been bloody marvellous. On the music front, when we came to sort this list out we weren’t sure that 2014 had been a ‘vintage’ year. Yet one of the many benefits (amongst the head/beard scratching) of compiling a ‘best of’ is that it makes you reflect on what has been released and the quality of the stuff out there.

We might not have had time (or the cash) to review all the music we wanted to this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re not listening and thinking about music as much as we can, and we continue to be racked with guilt that we don’t write about the things we love.

So here’s our list. It’s been tough this year as our separate nominations didn’t overlap that much. Hence, there’s a degree of arbitrariness to some of the placings. Yet it’s a fine list, chocked full of aural delights and counters those miserable naysayers who claim ‘there’s no good music these days’ (something we’ve heard a lot this year).

We hope it finds you dancing in the streets like the gentleman in the above picture is seen to do.

 

20. Mogwai: Rave Tapes

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Mogwai’s eighth album is full of gems; like several albums on this list it came out early in the year and still sounds astonishing now.

 

19. Luke Abbott: Wysing Forest

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Abstractions in machine agency, but with soul and the capacity to dream.

 

18. Teeth of the Sea: A Field in England: Re-Imagined

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It wouldn’t be the BBO end-of-year list without Teeth of the Sea; their reworking of the amazing Jim Williams / Blanck Mass soundtrack to Ben Wheatley’s civil war freakout was appropriately mind-blasting.

 

17. Ben Frost: Aurora

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Huge,  sublime and downright terrifying at times.

 

16. The Drink: Company

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It only came out at the start of the month, but it certainly grabbed our attention – as it did everyone else’s – with its tricksy-but-irresistable pop songs.

 

15. Goat: Commune

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More instantly gratifying spiritual psyche fusion from the Swedish masked ones. We just hope the New Ageisms start to wane. Or we might have missed the irony. We’re not sure.

 

14. Peggy Sue: Choir of Echoes

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A beautiful, and beautifully atmospheric, set of songs on this third album from Peggy Sue; two superlative voices, fine playing, songs of loss and desire.

 

13. Wizards Tell Lies: The Maddening Machine

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Horror post-rock brilliance. There’s chaos magick rituals afoot here, we’re sure of it. And slightly scared of it.

 

12. Benjamin Shaw: Goodbye, Cagoule World

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More twisted tales of misanthropy and hatred from songwriter Benjamin Shaw, with glimpses of sly wit and some actually rather beautiful arrangements.

 

11. Node: Node 2

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Super groups are often problematic things, but when this bunch of mega-producers gathered and synced their modules, something incredible was birthed.

 

10. Perc: The Power and the Glory

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Noise album of the year; gurning album of the year. Techno invented again.

 

9. Cuz: Tamatebako

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The mighty Mike Watt teams up with the Go! Team’s Sam Dook and a varied crew of helpers for an album full of twists and turns, unexpected changes of direction and lots and lots of fun.

 

8. AK/DK: Synths + Drums + Noise + Space

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Punk-rock-electro with bite, a gnarl, a sneer and a warm embrace. AK/DK injected energy into our booties, and made us gyrate with reckless abandon.

 

7. EMA: The Future’s Void

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EMA’s follow up to Past Life Martyred Saints gave us a slew of concepts informed by William Gibson’s first novel – amongst other things; lots going on behind that Oculus Rift – and a whole load of great noises.

 

6. The Advisory Circle: From Out Here

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A testament to the fact that end-of-year-lists are often published too early and hence would’ve missed this, Jon Brook’s incredible control of voltages and attuned minimalism has been rarely out of our ears since its release.

 

5. The New Mendicants: Into The Lime

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Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Joe Pernice make an album with the all harmonies and glorious hooks you could hope for.

 

4. Trojan Horse: World Turned Upside Down

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With this fully rounded offering it seems World Turned Upside Down has finally opened doors for the Salford boys. Ambitious as their facial hair, this album moved across genres, sounds and attitudes with bewildering speed and dexterity.

 

3. Plank: Hivemind

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Intricate and intimate, majestic and magnificent, funky and fantastic, Plank’s ode to insect life crawled its way round our consciousness on many glorious occasions this year.

 

2. Grumbling Fur: Preternaturals

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If we’d be on the ball (ha ha ha) last year’s Glynnaestra would have been in 2013’s Top 20. Grumbling Fur’s third album is a strangely euphoric slice of  wyrd suburban pop, as the single ‘All The Rays’ makes very clear:

 

1. East India Youth: Total Strife Forever

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Passages of electronic noise – by turns exhilarating, melancholic, furious – interspersed with proper pop songs. We both loved this. And great live, too.

 

In our bubbling under category this year: Dead Sea Apes High Evolutionary; Warning Light XXXI; Fennesz Bécs; Bob Mould Beauty & Ruin; The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams.

Now, please as to be so kind to stop reading our words and go 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.

Rodney and Del Boy

 

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

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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

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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!

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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

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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 > – >>

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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]

Goat: World Music

So what’s the point in reviewing an album that’s been released for ages and has lauded critical praise from some of the best-taste blogs and writers out there? Well, it’s because we love it so much that we still feel the need to shower it with more superlatives and because we don’t really (or often) give a monkey’s scrotum that we’re late and not first to review (if the latter ever happens here it’s due to sheer luck rather than intention, but we’ve stated this before).

What makes us keep coming back to Goat’s World Music again and again is, in part, due to its nigh on perfect mix of mystery and pop, recognizable flow and esoteric depth. Simply put, it just warrants further investigation with every listen. It’s a beguiling heady brew of influences and antecedents filtered through a fug of psychedelic and funked miasma that reaffirms its appeal again and again.

With wah-wahs screaming and bongos bashing World Music is a seething singular global vision shot through with Arabic lilts, West Coast fractals, folkish interludes and Disco-funk dynamics. Amounting to a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground, it hybridizes the global peculiar without ever losing its (third) eye and (second) sight on the here and now. With each outing it gives out more and more sweaty abandon and joy.

We bloody love it and one of us was lucky to see them live. JKneale writes:

Goat at the Lexington – appearing as the exotic filling in a Gnod/Teeth Of The Sea psyche sandwich – felt not so much like an event and more like a happening. They have a perfect grasp of stagecraft, so that when they appeared out of the darkness – all but the bongo player wearing masks and extraordinary outfits – it didn’t feel like a daft stunt. The singer-dancers whirled around on the tiny stage while the man on the bongos stared fixedly into the crowd; the other musicians shifted from genre to genre with supernatural facility. The place was packed, the usual faces complemented by non-scene types come to see what the fuss was about. People danced, as I’d hoped they would, and there were delighted grins everywhere you looked. Madchester with extra magick.

A gig to remember, a sublime mix of the perfectly pop and the deeply strange – come back soon, Goat.

Buy World Music here.

‘Run To Your Mama (Pinkunoizu Remix)’:

‘Goatlord Live’ (very flashing images contained herein):

‘Goathead’:

‘Let It Bleed’:

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