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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

C_Rose

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

aah010

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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Teeth Of The Sea: Master

MASTER

We were privileged and honoured to be sent this album ahead of its release on 7th of October on Rocket Recordings. We’ve been kneeling for the MASTER for over four weeks now. Here’s our gushings…

Moments of utter jaw-dropping majesty abound on this album. Such instances of breath-taking scale come early on – around four and half minutes into opening track ‘Reaper’ to be almost precise. And from there, the expansive-cum-cosmic is heralded midway through the brilliant ‘Black Strategy’ or again in the swirling phantasms of ‘Siren Spectre’.

From such a description you might think this is an album all about ascension and transcendence, especially given the Christ like figure that centres the artwork:  with all-too-human innards on show, the heavenwards body takes leave of the earthly and the finite. Yet repeatedly this album has a claustrophobia bounded by the skin and the labyrinthine city that is firmly (under)grounded and bound to the earth: the visceral gonzoid noise-filth of ‘All Human Is Error’ being one example of this, or the paranoic poetry of ‘Put Me On Your Shoulders So I Can See The Rats’ being another. Master is composed as much by bodily discharge as heavenly effluvia.

The intriguing and beautifully schizoid nature of Master is again made evident on ‘Pleiades Underground/ Inexorable Master’. Seemingly a travelogue through the underworld and vast caverns of belittling grandeur, all sense of serene drifting and tranquil magnificence is disrupted and humiliated before a hellish vision given shape by a bastard-Beelzebub colossal riff. In the worlds of Teeth of the Sea, everything that seems perfected and at peace is actually diseased and conflicted.

And then there’s final track ‘Responder’. Pensive throbs, cardiogrammatic twitches, skin scorching static and abbreviated riffs meet and mingle with guitar melodies taking flight, the horns of avenging Angelic hordes and a purposive pomp-stomp that hints at a coming redemption. Perhaps here we will see the resolution and synthesis of the beautiful contradictions that shape Master? Perhaps this atonement “will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (1 Corinthians 15:52)?

Fat fucking chance! Teeth of the Sea are far too bloody canny to bring about a cosy synthesis and they’re far too shrewd to deliver redemption. And, of course, therein lies Teeth of the Sea’s magnificence and power.

This is an album simultaneously transcendental and primeval in its intent, scope and achievements. This is Teeth of the Sea’s masterpiece.

You can pre-order Master here.

‘Black Strategy’:

Here’s ‘Reaper’ live at this year’s Roadburn festival:

And a bloody scary preview vid:

And ‘Black Strategy’ live at Café OTO in March 2013:

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’:

Gnod: INGNODWETRUST

Gnod’s 2010 collaboration with White Hills (Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II) was and remains a brilliant voyage through space rock, psyche and krautcore. However, with INGNODWETRUST, Gnod have delivered an album that deviates from these well trodden paths into something utterly enthralling and extraordinary.

Consisting of only two tracks, clocking in at 20:04 and 13:14 and taking up one side of this vinyl only release each, you might think you’re being short-changed, but how wrong you’d be. Side A, ‘Tony’s First Communion’, presents a mesmerising throb of bass and drums, swirling guitars and incantations that can only be a soundtrack of cathartic resistance to memories of the ritual indicated by its title.

Yet it’s on Side B’s ‘Vatican’ where Gnod have really delivered something very special: a heretical thomp of distorted drums and eschatological noise that shifts six minutes in – after a breakdown of demonic voices and hellish organs – to the sound of all that is apocalyptic. I’ve been living with this track for a few weeks now and it’s still as disturbing a listen as when I first encountered it. The sound of The Tribulation and no mistake.

Get overcome by the power of our Lord Gnod Almighty here.

Vatican (not uploaded by the band so of dubious legitimacy I suppose):

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