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Both Bars On: Top Twenty Records of 2014

lwbbo

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

mrt

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

wysing

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

 

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

totsafie

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

aurora

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

commune

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

pscoe

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

maddening

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

node 2

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

hivemind

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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Both Bars On: Top 10 Records of 2011

It seems that the real cool kids on the blog don’t do end of year lists. Well we like them and hope that those miserable sods slip in their paper shoes and find other people’s dirty hankies in their bobble hats.

Those artists who will be sobbing into their pillows tonight because they didn’t quite make it onto our list include blistering aural adventures by: Wooden Shjips, Cave, Dead Skeletons, Eat Lights Become Lights, The Field, Moon Duo, Blanck Mass, Hills, Benjamin Shaw (sorry, Jamie), Gruff Rhys, Dels, White Denim, King Creosote & John Hopkins (robbed!), and Mike Watt.

So let’s get down to it boppers. In now traditional reverse order:

10. The Indelicates: David Koresh Superstar

How do you follow two great albums of bile and wit and proper pop songs? You make a concept album about the Waco siege, that’s what. Thoughtful and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, the scope of this record – the research and understanding – made most of the year’s records seem pretty unambitious. jkneale treasures his lyric booklet.

Indelicates – ‘I Am Koresh’:

9. Parts & Labor: Constant Future

By the time this list is published Parts & Labor will have done their penultimate show before going on an ‘extended hiatus’. On the strength of Constant Future this ‘break’ should and must be stupidly short. Rock n’ roll needs forward thinking bands like Parts & Labor. We will miss them.

Parts & Labor – ‘Echo Chamber’:

8. Jonny: Jonny

Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub joins forces with Gorky’s Euros Childs for thirteen songs of slightly off-kilter pop and gorgeous harmonies. “Could be in Mexico, could be Japan, could be in Fishguard with another man”. Sunshine on a rainy day, and jkneale’s most-listened to this year.

Jonny – ‘Circling The Sun’:

7. GNOD: INGNODWETRUST

Two songs equalling two assaults on all that is holy and sacred. A lesson in sonic desecration and sense fucking. GNOD can and will save us all.

GNOD – ‘Vatican’:

6. Pete and the Pirates: One Thousand Pictures

A dark horse this one. It’s here because of two killer singles heard on the radio and loved immediately – you know, like it’s still 1986 or something. Wriggling with earworms; jkneale has played this to death.

Pete and the Pirates – ‘Half Moon Street’:

5. The Advisory Circle: As The Crow Flies

The pinnacle of all that is deemed hauntological. Electronica that makes you misty eyed for all the things you thought you’d forgotten and thought that bored you in the first place. Remarkable.

The Advisory Circle – ‘Modern Through Movement’:

The Advisory Circle – ‘Learning Owl Reappears’:

4. EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints

This is on a lot of lists this year but that’s only right. BBO is old and grumpy enough to know hype when it sees it, and you could be forgiven for fearing a bit of that with EMA, but this is such a strong record. One of the live performances of the year, too (for both of us).

EMA – ‘Endless Nameless’:

EMA – ‘Angelo’:

3. Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Are you over post-rock (or ‘hipster jazz’ as Jamie Audio Antihero has it)? Don’t let any of that nonsense stop you from listening to one of Mogwai’s best albums for some time. One of us saw them twice this year and is still twitching.

Mogwai – ‘Music For A Forgotten Future’:

Mogwai – ‘Mexican Grand Prix’:

2. White Hills: H-P1

Guttural glitter soaked sleaze, experimental guitar spanking, wheeling circling solos and pummelling interference: White Hills took what can be nominally called space rock and made it as mesmerising, hypnotic and intergalactic as you’d always it hoped it could be.

White Hills – H-p1 (Live at SXSW 2011):

White Hills – ‘The Condition of Nothing’:

1. British Sea Power: Valhalla Dancehall

At #1, the band who are pretty much guaranteed a place in our end of year lists every time they issue an album (see the 2009 and 2008 lists). This came out so long ago that you might have forgotten what a blast it is and how much we need bands like British Sea Power right now. It’s them or the book burning rats.

British Sea Power – ‘Who’s In Control?’ live at Westminster Reference Library:

British Sea Power – ‘Mongk II’:

We hope you like our likes and thanks to anyone who has read our mutterings this year.

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]

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