Guest Post: Johnny Feeney on 3 Albums of 2012

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The ever reliable Johnny Feeney returns with another guest post, this time around he’s sharing three of his favourite albums of 2012 (one’s mainly missed or overlooked on here). Anyway, take it away Johnny.

Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim

In Lonerism, Tame Impala may have released the finest psychedelic rock album of the year, but this album gives it a good run for its money. Upon listening to this, it’s not surprising to learn that Tame Impala members form the core of Pond – frontman Kevin Parker, taking a back seat on this project, playing drums and handling production duties, Jay Watson and Nick Albrook writing the majority of the songs and sharing lead vocals throughout. Joseph Ryan (Mink Mussel Creek) also pitches in with lead vocals and song writing.

Moments of genuine brilliance are frequent throughout from the jangling, opening guitar lines of ‘Fantastic Explosion of Time’ to the glam funk of ‘Elegant Design’ to the space rock of ‘Sun and Sea and You’ to the mind-blowing, slow burner ‘Eye Pattern Blindness’. Clocking in at over 54 minutes, it feels a touch overlong and could probably have been reined in for the greater good but that’s only a small criticism. A fantastic album in its own right.

TOY – TOY

The debut album from London five-piece TOY takes a bit of listening before you get under its many layers but when you do it’s a real joy. Comparisons with fellow countrymen, The Horrors, are inevitable as they both have a very similar sound. With almost ever-present motorik beats propelling the songs forward, spacey guitars weaving and meshing, the occasional electronic flourish, and singer Tom Dougall’s low-toned vocals, this is an album to get well and truly lost in.

There are some gems in here. ‘Dead & Gone’ is a psychedelic rock treat. ‘Heart Skips A Beat’, an almost pop song, shows the band’s tender side. The menacing instrumental ‘Drifting Deeper’ is an album highlight. The standout track, however, is album closer ‘Kopter’ – an epic, relentless, pulsating beast of a song, ten minutes of unbridled excellence. An assured debut with hopefully a lot more to come from these guys.

Rival Sons – Head Down

This third album from the California rockers sees them continue to wear their Led Zeppelin influence on their sleeves. Pounding drums and powerful riffs abound. Vocalist Jay Buchanan has the Robert Plant wail down. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, it’s just an awful lot of fun. Cracking, opening track Keep on Swinging kicks off proceedings with intent and there’s very little let off after that.

Primarily a blues-rock album, the band also dip in to soulful territory with the delightful Jordan. The sleazy ‘Run From Rock’ is a blues-rock treat with its sliding guitars. The amusing ‘All the Way’ tells the story of a young child learning to play the guitar to pick up girls and live the rock’n’roll dream (‘I couldn’t get the chicks, ‘til I picked up a guitar and learned a couple licks’). A really solid rock album.

BarryGruff’s Irish Albums of the Year 2012

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Pretty self explanatory this one. There’s been a lot of great music released in Ireland over the past 12 months & here’s ten Irish albums I’ve enjoyed the most in 2012. You can also check out the ‘Albums of 2012‘ & ‘Irish Songs of 2012‘ if you want.

10. The Expert – ‘Neckbreakers’

Not strictly an album, more of a beat tape as it happens but who makes theses rules? Over seven glorious cuts of jazzy instrumentals The Expert takes us on a head nodding journey from start to finish. Having produced beats for over fifteen years, mainly with his band MJEX, it certainly shows. A worthy addition to any record collection.

09 Imploded View – ‘Picnics With Pylons’

Picnics With Pylons is the debut album from Longford based producer Imploded View (aka Jerome McCormick). Continuing with his forte for atmospheric downtempo electronic music, his debut rarely if ever, emerges from first gear. Preferring to meander through a vast and cloudy world of extremely chilled ambient sounds, an air of calmness permeates the entire record. McCormick is certainly comfortable in this skin, he seems at peace, a feeling transposed to the listener as the airy productions wash over you, allowing time for delicate detail, added emotional depth and mood and thought provoking atmospherics. An assured and composed debut.

08 The P Affection – ‘Cakes For Occasions’

The P Affection’s debut was a scatter-shot of indie-pop, rock, ska, and folk, a very good one it must be said. While staying true to the influences of that record, with Cakes For Occasions, The P Affection have grown as a band and refined their sound. It’s a pretty irresistible and varied selection of power-pop and harder edge indie-rock coated in a mix of humorous and heartfelt lyrics. The P Affection continue to improve in all that they do, it’s going to be exciting to see where to next.

07 House of Dolls – ‘House of Dolls’

Taking their cue from the likes of The Chameleons, The Verve, Jesus & Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; there is no messing around with House of Dolls. Equally adept in the psych-rock/shoegaze department or rip-roaring  dirty rocking guitar riffs. It is here where the albums persona lies, flipping seamlessly between the two styles, on the one hand the fired up brutish rock sounds and on the other, the more measured and steady but no less captivating psych-rock sounds. A very good album, one deserving of much greater exposure.

06  Our Krypton Son – ‘Our Krypton Son’

Our Krypton Son is Derry man Chris McConaghy, who on gathered close musician friends together to create the band in early 2010, they have taken time to produce their self-titled debut. It is a warm collection of alt-rock/folk songs, imbued with an eerie sense of melancholy and an autumnal feel. McConaghy proves himself an excellent songwriter and his voice is possess a real richness and warmth. Our Krypton Son is a solid debut with so much to like but, having seen them live, there is even more to come.

05 Knoxville Morning – ‘Knoxville Morning’

A trip across the US left Ciaran Dwyer of Band On An Island with a collection of songs and stories, of a distinctly different variety to those of BOAI, and so Knoxville Morning was born. Under this new alias, with Dwyer at the helm, he is joined by fellow BOAI members and The Mighty Stef, Gavin Elsted (We Are Losers), Brian Gallagher (Humanzi), Stephen Fahey (Super Extra Bonus Party) and Claire Prendergast. The record is a sweet blend of folk, country and Americana, and while it wears it’s US influences on it’s sleeve, Ciaran’s intuitive storytelling remains a linchpin that holds everything together. It maybe shouldn’t work, but it does, and remarkably well too, which is a credit to Dwyer and all involved.

04 Lethal Dialect – LD 50 Part II

LD 50 Part II is the second record from Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect and it is extremely impressive. Composed, confident and intelligent, there is no bullshit bravado here, just great rap tunes. LD’s greatest asset is his voice, spitting salient bars above beats and samples, he utilises every breath to paint an all too realistic depiction of life in Dublin. Delving into a whole raft of topics and issues others tend to refrain from, he’s cool, calm, sometimes agitated and angry but always passionate. A refreshing and thought-provoking new voice, not only for Irish hip-hop but Irish music in general.

03 Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

Prior to this release, Ghost Estates had already carved out quite a name for themselves, their debut album goes someways to realising their potential. With three songwriters in the band, stylistically it’s diverse, taking in a mix of new wavey sounds, reach for the sky guitar anthems and straight up indie rock. This amalgam has seen them arrive at their own distinct sound of hazy electronica edged indie which send a shiver down the spine. It is said two heads are better than one, well, judging by Ghost Estates’ debut, three are certainly better than two. Easily one of the best Irish indie album for some time.

02 Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band – ‘Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band’

Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.

01 Conor Mason – ‘Standstill’

Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.

BarryGruff’s Irish Songs of 2012 (Mixtape)

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2012 has been another impressive year for Irish releases, leaving us with a hell of a lot of great albums, EPs and songs to enjoy. For such a small place it can be surprising, the sheer quantity and quality of stuff in Ireland. On the surface at least, Irish music appears alive, well and more diverse and vibrant than ever.

In an attempt to do the year some justice (some, I said), I decided to cobble together some of my favorites from throughout the year into a mixtape/compilation. Please excuse the odd mistake, my laptop has not been kind to me the past week. Without further ado, here’s my favourite ‘Irish Songs of 2012′.  The tracklisting is after the jump.

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The Egg – ‘Something To Do’

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There are quite a few records I spent a lot of time listening to during the year which never made it on to the blog. One such case is that  of Something To Do from Oxford 4-piece The Egg.

The Egg, have been around the block, since the early ’90s in fact. Time has been good to them as they found their niche of ‘the indie-to-dance-to’ and vice versa. Bringing together elements of electro-house/pop, britpop and indie, Something To Do, is upbeat and fun.  Aided and abetted by alluring vocals, dancey beats and deep basslines, it forms an overwhelming sense of groove all of its own. It is jammed with so many ridiculously seductive tunes (see ‘Over There (Bingo)’, ‘A Bit’ & ‘Something to Do’ below). so much so that it is quite baffling how this flew pretty much under the radar.

Perhaps this kind of thing isn’t really in vogue at the moment? How and ever, if you’re looking for something fun and dancey to see you through the holidays, Something To Do is just the ticket.

(Video) Toy – ‘Make It Mine’

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As far as debut albums go, they don’t get much better than Toy‘s self-titled. If it weren’t for the fact we only crossed paths in recent weeks, I would no doubt have been raving about all year.

Toy is an epic, droning and hypnotic wonder of psychedelic rock.  They’ve unlocked something special as they chug toward the most psychedelic outposts of their minds, embracing a kaleidoscopic of wonderful ideas, with roaring riffs, epic choruses, glorious melody sneaking through a vitriolic murky cloud along the way.

Toy’s latest single taken from the aforementioned album, ‘Make It Mine’, demonstrates this prudence for scintillating psych rock. A late taster from what is a strong, self-assured and thrilling debut. There are certainly similarities with (their mates) The Horrors but I’ll leave you with a closing thought, it took The Horrors two albums to get to this level. 

Check out ‘Make It Mine’, ‘Reasons Why’ and ‘Kopter’ below, of which the latter’s spiraling momentum is simply spectacular! Stunning all round. 

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Steve Mason – ‘Fight Them Back’

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Some genuinely exciting pre-Christmas news here. Steve Mason has announced he will release his new album entitled Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time next March. Comprised of 20, yes 20 songs, the album’s been shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music as well as popular culture in general. 

To whet your appetite, Mason has made a striking video for lead track ‘Fight Them Back’. It  is, as the title suggests, a rousing call to wake up to what’s going around us, while hanging on a insanely catchy, hard-hitting and stirring chorus. There’s unquestionably a lack of anger or dissent at the injustices all around us in the world, the reasons are to complex to deal with here but Mason has channeled his into a bloody brilliant piece of music. Marvelous stuff, roll on March 11th. 

Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time will be released March 11th 2013 through Double Six.

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Blood Red Shoes – ‘Black Distractions’

Blood Red Shoes have announced they’ll be kicking off 2013 with a brand new three-track EP, Water, the duo recorded with producer John Congleton after their final show of their latest US tour.

Thankfully we don’t have too long to wait, January 2st in fact, but Laura-Mary Carter and Steve Ansell have shared the first track from the forthcoming EP, ‘Black Distractions’. It  finds them in a decidedly rockier mood, it is a straight up rock tune revolving round a killer rocky riff. This is probably the most out-and-out ‘rock’ they sounded which is saying something.

You can download ‘Black Distractions’ below, for free. Water will be released on January 21st 2013 via V2

Jezz At Home – ‘Mad’

Jezz at Home

Jezz At Home are a French duo (from Lyon, I think) who’s musical passions arise from two separate schools, Techno on one side and hip-hop on the other. The result of this union is one where styles are mixed and influences insidiously blend together.

Having worked together for some time, the union has borne a child, well an EP actually. Title track ‘Mad’ reflects the plurality of the duo’s background as jazzy hip hop and snappy beats are met with a dash of dub reggae. It is a downright infectious near eight minutes of slick feelgood sounds.

Jezz At Home’s Mad EP is out now through Swarm Prod. You can stream ‘Mad’ and ‘Armless Guitar’ below, and you’ll get the idea.

(Video) Only Real – ‘Backseat Kissers’

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Only Real (20-year-old Niall Galvin) has proven to quite the man for a tune, to say the least. Be it the über infectious ‘Cadillac Girl’ from earlier this year or his latest single ‘Backseat Kissers’.

‘Backseat Kissers’ is a woozy, dreamy cut, filled with all echoey vocals, lounging guitars with a real head nodding groove. If you have ever wondered what a love in between Jamie T and King Krule might sound like, probably not but this is it. The young man from West London has nailed it again but surely it’s not always sunny in west London as his new video suggests?

‘Backseat Kissers’ is out January 28th 2013 through ASL & if you’re in London this weekend, he makes his live debut at this.

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2012

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So, yeah, this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s end of year list time and every website, blog and magazine are busy compiling them. So not to be left out, here are my favourite 25 albums from 2012. Feel free to leave your few cents worth in the comments section, if you  feel the need that is.

25. Dark Horses – ‘Black Music’

24. The Egg – Something To Do’

23. Attaque – ‘When Light Falls’

22. Stealing Sheep – ‘Into The Diamond Sun’

21. Gaz Coombes Presents – ‘Here Come The Bombs’

20. Session Victim – ‘The Haunted House of House’

19. Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’

18. Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’

17. Graham Coxon – ‘A+E’

16. The Futureheads – ‘Rant’

15. Mystery Jets – ‘Radlands’

Radlands saw Mystery Jets rediscover their sparkle following the mediocre Serotonin. Decamping to Texas to record the album, it sees them embrace a whole series of sweet Americana sounds. They haven’t lost sight of what made them such a great band in the first place; a blitz of wonderful indie, quirky eccentricity and a supreme ability to produce perfect pop songs. A thoroughly enjoyable and likeable record.

14. Eugene McGuinness – ‘Invitation To The Voyage’

Eugene McGuinness‘ second album Invitation To The Voyage was one of the more enjoyable of 2012. Nothing startling or groundbreaking but an enjoyable blend of quirky, left-of-centre indie with a glossy pop sheen. With bursts of brass, surf/’60s pop guitar, clever lyrical wordplay and a confident swagger; McGuinness found a perfect balance between catchy pop and exhilarating indie.

13. Cloud Nothings – ‘Attack On Memory’

Attack On Memory is a heavyweight and rather muscular record. A short, sharp shock to the system, a proverbial kick in the bollocks if you like, taking in post-rock, indie, post-punk and pure unadulterated noise. Interspersed with bursts of scuzzy powerful indie we are exposed to a barreling barrage of loud, pounding drums, raw guitars and a Dylan Baldi sounding like a young Jake Burns. It is in no way subtle, a terrific album nonetheless.

12. Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band – Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band

Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.

11. Tennis – ‘Young and Old’

Young & Old is Denver-based husband-and-wife duo, Tennis’, second LP. The album is swathed in soothing ’60s sounds, syrupy melodies and smart, soulful pop songs with captivating, richly melodic purr of singer Alaina Moore’s stunning voice at the fore. There is a very real retro vibe, yet not at one time does it feel old, stale or tired. It is bright, breezy, charming and uncomplicated, most importantly, it is damn fine record.

10. By The Sea – ‘By The Sea’

The banks of the Mersey has given rise to many great bands over the years, the latest to emerge from the production line are  By The Sea. Their self-titled debut album, produced by Bill Ryder Jones, hints at this Scouse heritage but this six-piece are very much their own band, with their own sound. The song titles like ‘Dream Waters’, ‘A Sail Floats and ‘Waltz Away’ set the tone, the album offers an elegant blend of dreamy, psychedelic and pastoral jams, this is music to get lost in. Liam Power’s voice, which has an uncanny resemblance to Shack’s Mick Head proves soothing and stirring as they waft across a hazy canvas of breezy, washed-out sounds.

09.The Heavy – ‘The Glorious Dead’

Wandering a retro path in the modern world can be tricky, there is little room for error. ‘Soul Rock’ is a minefield in itself. The Heavy have proven with two previous albums, while they do wear their influences on their sleeves, they make damn fine records. The Glorious Dead continues this trend. Meshing a clutch of hip hop breakbeats, slices of ’60s R&B, horns, riffs, zombie movie snippets, and soulful vocals into quality soulful, funk rock, of the highest order. What makes it so good? The wonderful execution, and it is oh so much fun, sometimes that really is quite enough.

08. Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’

Melody’s Echo Chamber is Parisian mullti-instrumentalist Melody Prochet. Teaming up with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on production, her self-titled debut pushes her flair for dreamy pop into more experimental, spaced-out zones of hazy psych-pop. The album has Parker’s stamp all over it. Prochet’s light, inviting vocals are cast into a shifting series of settings, with beguiling results. At times everything is covered with a heavy blanket of reverb and fuzz, while others are a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic dream-pop. It is the combination of Parker’s inspired production and Prochet’s evocative voice which strike a perfect balance between pop and the psychedelic. A rather inspired and stunning debut.

07. Conor Mason – ‘Standstill’

Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.

06. Richard Hawley – ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’

The seventh studio album from Richard Hawley saw an interesting change of direction toward hazy psychedelia, something Hawley proves masterful at it. With only one track clocking in under five minutes, the songs are suffused with snarling, meandering guitars solos and Hawley’s distinctive vocals. The title track is a masterpiece telling tales of a man who kills his wife and kids, a hard-up prostitute who ends up in jail and a young man involved in inner city violence respectively. It’s the rockier material here that really stands out, like the excellent ‘Before’ and ‘Down in the Woods’. The latter is a real rocker with a venomous Hawley sounding not unlike Mark Lanegan. There are moments of real beauty here too, one wonders where Hawley will go next but it will certainly be interesting to find out. (Words edited from Johnny Feeney | Because I’m lazy)

05. Miaoux Miaoux – ‘Light of the North’

Light of the North is the debut record proper from 26-year-old Glasgow based producer, Miaoux Miaoux. Fluid and uplifting, these sounds evoke moods a million miles from dreary rain soaked city of its birth as he hops from genre to genre. It is a stunning record which delicately pieces together beats, electronics, synths and acoustic guitars, with his pristine vocals gliding through a heavenly mist of lush harmonies, melodies, beats and electronics. One for fans of Caribou, Hot Chip and Jape. An irresistible debut record, a bright future lies ahead.

04. The 2 Bears – ‘Be Strong’

The 2 Bears debut LP, Be Strong is a scatter shot across the entire scope of electronic music which feels like foraging through a fine record collection. It is a cheery, cheeky and joyous amalgam of sounds and a massive injection of positivity amidst a time of dreariness and uncertainty. It is a worthy ode to the past two decades of dance music, a fine soundtrack to any weekend and most importantly, a bloody excellent dance record.

03. Sam Willis – ‘Winterval’

Winterval is the debut solo album from Sam Willis, one half of London-based Walls. Taking a host of house, techno, minimal and Balearic influences, Willis assimilates these familiar traits into otherworldly electronic music that gracefully hovers in an ambiguous hinterland, between subtly euphoric and vaguely ambient. Chiming notes resonate through every track and the beats are delivered with pin point accuracy. Willis has mixed the warm sounds with a crisp frosty elegance, creating a hypnotic, comforting sound collage. It is no way an exaggeration to say Winterval is one of the most aesthetically complete electronic albums for quite some time.

02. Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’

Where to begin with this one? Lonerism is a simply brilliant album. Their 2010 debut Innerspeaker set the standard for warped retro, yet futurist psychedelia. The follow-up is leaner, more confident as it sprawls into further exploratory psychedelic territories. It kind of goes everywhere while remaining fluid and cohesive throughout. From the rocking stomp of ‘Elephant’, to dazzling epics of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ or Lennon/McCartney-esque ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Lonerism remains cohesive. It is an album which increasingly fascinates with every listen. Give it the time it deserves, it’s guaranteed not to disappoint. Truly stunning!

01. Django Django – ‘Django Django’

While Django Django’s debut album contains undeniable similarities with The Beta Band, they have far from copied or imitated. Part of the appeal is an ability to seamlessly blend genres and sounds from a melting pot of influences into a striking blend of understated indie, with an electro groove at its heart. Anchored by alluring harmonies and an undeniable groove which permeates the very core of this record, this is indie music to dance to. An inspired and wholly irresistible debut, and my album of 2012. Thank you!