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Both Bars On: Top Thirty Records of 2015

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2015. Our seventh end of year list, this time augmented by our two new writers, Matt and Pete. Which means double the confusion and argument, though actually our choices overlapped more than usual. Sort of. Anyway, you don’t need to know about the infighting, gerrymandering and filibustering that went on behind the scenes – someday it will make a great film but now you just want to know about the List, right?

This year it’s our top thirty records, to fit in all the choices of the four of us. It’s an eclectic mix, though it has the signature BBO elements you have come to know and love – well, OK, know and shake your head over while muttering “you boys”. In a disappointed way. But it’s very definitely us – the new, improved, BBO us.

Feast your mince pies on this little lot.

In the bubbling under category: Downtown Boys: Full Communism; King Khan and BBQ Show: Bad News Boys; Dead Sea Apes: Spectral Domain; Thomas Brinkmann: What You Hear (Is What You Hear).

Reissues: British Sea Power: Decline of British Sea Power; Super Furry Animals: Mwng

30. HOX: Duke of York

29. White Hills: Walks For Motorists

28. Het Droste Effect: Soar

27. Container: LP

26. Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled

25. GNOD: Infinity Machines

24. Tim Bowness: Stupid Things That Mean The World

23. Girl Band: Holding Hands With Jamie

22. Diebenkorn: Magnox

21. Bad Guys: Bad Guynaecology

20. Pega Monstro: Alfarroba 

pega monstro

Distortion, zippy tunes and reflective scuzzy ambience from Lisbon’s Julia and Maria Reis.

19. KoMaRa: KoMoRa

20 Komara

Industrial drumming, dark riffs and atmospheric noises; it is truly, in the bands own words, a “dark, deviant and explicit detective story”.

18.  Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell

19 Sufjan Stevens

Heartbreaking, immmensely affecting songwriting, bringing beauty out of sorrow.

17. Outblinker: Pink/Blue

18 Outblinker

Menacing but ecstatic, juddering but groovy, starting small but ending huge, you could dance to it, but you wouldn’t in public.

16. Evan Caminiti: Meridien

17 evan caminiti

Drones, crackling static, dark pulses and minimal percussive elements – a horror soundtrack for a post apocalyptic landscape.

15. Sauna Youth: Distractions

16 Sauna Youth

As we said, “Short sharp post-punk pop songs, propelled by insistent no wave guitars”, and more besides.

14. Orlando & Tomaga: Play Time: Music for Video Games

15 Orlando _ Tomaga

Out in the space forest, the neon frogs are looking for romance to a bossanova beat, before boarding the interstellar cruise – but the slomo robo crew are still marching over the tarmac, nodding and calling to themselves as they come.

13. Ultimate Painting: Green Lanes

14 Ultimate Painting

On very heavy rotation at the London office this year, this is guitar music full of pop hooks and irresistible harmonies.

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

12 Godspeed

Decried by some, celebrated herein, this album rekindled our love of the Montreal titans (and was semi-religious performed live).

11. British Sea Power: Sea of Brass

11 BSP

Performed by BSP and a full brass band, these songs become something completely different, capturing something of the live spectacle.

10. Heroin in Tahiti: Sun and Violence

10 Heroin in Tahiti

Well this came from seemingly nowhere, but was a stunning tour-de-force that left us partly uplifted and partly disturbed.

9. Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy 

titus

A rock opera about manic depression and um I don’t know in five acts, this is also a collection of exactly the kind of rabble-rousing songs you were hoping for from one of the smartest and most interesting guitar bands in America.

8. Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Steven_Wilson_Hand_Cannot_Erase_cover

A huge brooding slab of a concept album, about a woman who chooses to disconnect from society in a big city and whose disappearance goes unnoticed. Wilson’s output is getting better and better with each album.

7. Parastatic: Recall Fade Return

Parastatic

Reverby twangy echoey tuney goodness, with a beat that cries out to be drummed on the steering wheel over the Pennines.

6. Adderall Canyonly: Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains

canyonly

Adderall Canyonly has practically owned 2015. Stupidly prolific, it was between this and Museum of Fire as a pick for our list. Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains reveals an almost sickening level of talent.

 

5. Du Blonde: Welcome Back to Milk

du-blonde

Power ballads, anger, music-hall silliness, tenderness – Beth Jeans Houghton’s incredible voice made it all sound so natural. An unexpected best of the year for one of us.

4. Zombi: Shape Shift

Zombi-ShapeShift

Living fully up to the hyped expectations, Shape Shift kept the funked horror and progressive rhythms. They’ve never sounded tighter and more exciting. And that last track, ‘Siberia II’…Oh. My/Our. Word!

3. John Carpenter: Lost Themes

John-Carpenter-Lost-Themes

The master returns. There was much excitement from at least half of BBO when John Carpenter’s first ever non-soundtrack album was released, and the lack of a film to tie these songs to doesn’t detract from Carpenter’s ability to terrify and amaze us in equal measures with his signature horror sounds. A simply sublime album.

2. Ubre Blanca: The Sadist

ubre-blanca-the-sadist

Horror theme this year? You betcha phantasmagoric bits there is! This Glaswegian duo simply blew us away with their Occult rock and spooked atmospheres. Incredible release and no mistake.

1. Teeth of the Sea: Highly Deadly Black Tarantula

TOTS

They did it in 2013 with Master and they’ve taken our highly prized top spot again. With HDBT, Teeth of the Sea retained something of their former selves but evolved into something more cerebral, yet guttural, sweaty and appealingly disfigured. As all truly great albums do, it just gets better and better with every listen. Brilliant. Really and actually, very brilliant.

 

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 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!

godspeed

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 > – >>

Beak

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

Major

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

Animalism

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

sbp

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]

White Hills: Frying On This Rock

White Hills’ new album is a more aggressive beast than the last one, H-p1, reviewed here, which ended up being our second-favourite record released last year. There are still open, blissed-out electronic stretches, but they’re in the middle of songs like ‘Pads of Light’, bookended by enormous slabs of noise, or strung together by the insistent tattoo of drums on ‘I Write A Thousand Letters (Pulp On Bone)’. In other words there’s nothing quite like ‘A Need To Know’ or ‘Hand In Hand’, but that’s fine.

What Frying On This Rock has is pounding guitars/bass/drums, with washes of electronic sound and suitably fried vocals. If anything it’s even more unhinged than H-p1. The aptly-named ‘Robot Stomp’ is a good example: one note, more-or-less, repeated for nearly twelve minutes, locked in a lurching metallic groove that turns into a full-on wig-out. I was lucky enough to see White Hills play at the Lexington and this was the one that had the faithful going head-banging crazy down the front. I have to say I have not been deafened like that for years – astonishingly loud.

In contrast ‘Song of Everything’ sounds like pop music – admittedly pop music made by Lemmy-era Hawkwind (which is a good thing). See what you think.

White Hills – ‘Song Of Everything’

White Hills are a force of nature – a pretty messed-up nature, but equally hard to argue with – and they appear to be very much in their stride right now. Go out and buy this. Available from all good retailers , and probably some pretty lousy ones too.

JKneale

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]

White Hills: H-P1

Dear Sir/Madam. Please welcome your new Masters of the Universe, White Hills.

It might be that the force of our Hawk Lords is strong in this one but there is so much more to H-P1 than another trotting out of the Acid Space Rock formula. White Hills deserve this elevated status through a palpable striving for something different. ‘Movement’, for example, is the sound of a reverbed guitar being repeatedly smacked into submission and is a brave gesture for an album’s second track. Then there’s the ambience of ‘I Need to Know’ that segues into the sinister deep space noises of ‘Hand in Hand’, or the heavy tribal drums with crafted feedback of ‘Monument’. Elsewhere, White Hills add a sparkle of glam and sleaze to their space-rock – ‘Upon Arrival’ being the main case point.

White Hills know when to knock out a few gargantuan riffs and layer the guitars for maximum force – ‘The Condition of Nothing’ kicks things off in such a vain – and when to transform tension into pleasure through repetition. The most ear-grabbing tune is ‘Paradise’ – twelve minutes of intergalactic travel punctuated by the hiss of narrowly avoided space debris as you float in artificial amniotic gunk in a state of suspended animation (Look I like getting carried away with my space themes, ok?)

This is an album that shimmers and shines with ideas and class from start to finish. Bathe in its glorious light here.

Paradise

The Condition of Nothing:

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