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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

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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

 

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Plank: Hivemind

Hivemind

Plank!’s début album Animalism has never left my portable music-playing device since its release in 2012. Considering the turnover on that machine, this is testament to its greatness and staying power. The follow up by Plank (the exclamation mark has been dropped; wither exclamation mark), Hivemind has been clocking up some serious ear action as well (420mins according to LastFM), and I doubt it will leave its mobile digital home for some time.

Dave Rowe’s now signature looping guitars are a welcome greeting on the stalking and swooping opener ‘Grasshopper From Mars’. The single ‘Aphedelity’ stretches its antennae skilfully into space-disco and funk, and then knowingly strokes Gilmour’s guitars with its feelers. One of the many album highlights ‘Dark Web’, lures you into a sense of serene security, before sharpened mandibles bite and ensnare (in something akin to an antlion larvae trap).

The second half of the album is more airy in its moods. Seemingly morphing into one continuous track, it charts the graceful and the delicate, especially on the almost hauntological ‘Waterboatman’. Finally ‘Khepri’ appears, containing an astounding guitar/bass exploding run that is proving one my musical highlights of the year thus far. Indeed, on many re-listens I’ve found myself desperately urging the track to get to that moment so I can hear it again. It’s stupidly uplifting, beautiful and majestic and deliberately, one wonders, short in its lifespan.

So let us not discuss whether or not this is Prog, nu-Kraut or anything similar. Such bloated baggage would no doubt get in the way of the realisation that this is an incredible album of the finest instrumentalism. Buy it here.

Dark Web:

Khepri:

 

 

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

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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

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]

Plank! Animalism

This has to be my most highly anticipated album of 2012 and my word it doesn’t disappoint. In its incredible and consummate coordination of avant-rock elements, Animalism is one of those triumphant debut albums that, whilst looking back, regenerates and advances.

With a serrating riff, and timely rises and falls, ‘Dying for Pigs’ is a blast of an opener. ‘King Rat’ (a nod to Mieville perhaps? We certainly hope so) begins with deep space drifting and unfolds onto a hand-clapped driving funk before the melody adds and recoils back to that sense of space still fresh in the memory. Live favourite, and Plank!’s almost signature tune, ‘La Luna’ has had a slight makeover with synths that trance and a fuller sound. Yet that bass line is still there and the melody is one that shapes a sense of joy every time you encounter it. ‘Pig Sick’ is all arpeggios and shifting rhythms, whilst introducing another moniker Plank! trick of looped guitar lines.

‘Alpha Dog’ brings the tempo down and shifts the mood. It’s likely to be the track that most pay least attention to, but it shouldn’t be so for downbeat and subtle beauty can be found therein. ‘Self Harm’ forcefully underlines the (by now overriding) message that there is splendour in complexity. ‘Iguana Farm’ seems to be swirling flute (oh, we hope so) and acts as the perfect preface to the final track and becoming epic ‘Moolicks’ which somehow bizarrely echoes ‘Pretty Vacant’, ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘War Pigs’ before winding its way out into a hazy, disorientating and psyched ending of guitars, harmonics and saxophone (an instrument I have never been able to get on with, but here it works and anyway I’m beyond caring by this point).

I’m tempted to use the following analogy to sum up this album: Animalism is the sound of Dave Brock and Michael Rother arguing over some logarithms, whilst Geezer Butler and Rick Wakeman tackle some algebraic geometry. I don’t want to, but I just did (bugger). What I will say is that any band taking on something even remotely nu-Kraut will be looking to Animalism for the template for many years to come. Outstanding stuff.

It’s out on the 18th of July. Pre-order it from the The Akoustik Anarkhy Shop soon. Big thanks to Ed Troup for the promo.

Self Harm:

La Luna [Boxed In Remix}

 

Album trailer…WITH FIGHTING FERRETS!!

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