BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2013

BarryGruff Albums of the year 2013

It’s that time of year once again when every music blog, website and magazine busy themselves with list making activities, and this blog is no different. Due to other commitments this year, especially the second half, it was rather difficult to keep on top of album reviews for the blog. Saying that, I reckon I’ve listened to as many records as any other year without finding the opportunity to share my thoughts on many of them.

Without further ado, here’s the BarryGruff ‘Albums of the Year’ for 2013.

25. Crystal Stilts – ‘Nature Noir’

24. Appelscal – ‘Dreaming In Key’

23. Trwbador – ‘Trwbador’

22. Mr. Huw – ‘Cariad Affaich’

21. King Krule – ‘6 Feet Beneath the Moon’

20. Channel Swimmer – ‘Alphabet’

19. Valeria June – ‘Pushin’ Against A Stone’

18. Veronica Falls – ‘Waiting for Something to Happen’

17. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’

16. Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’

15. Marika Hackman – ‘That Iron Taste’

A collection potent songs of enigmatic beauty, That Iron Taste is a gorgeous and charmed introduction to the delectable talents of Marika Hackman. It is done so with a striking vocal delivery, sounding both wise and beautiful, imbued with a telling level of touching emotion. She channels something beautifully rich and dramatic in telling these rather dark poetic stories. Absolutely no substandard happy-clappy folk pop nonsense on show here, on the contrary, her debut (mini) album is quite frankly a haunting, numinous experience.

[Stream on Spotify]

14. The Pictish Trail – ‘Secret Soundz, Volume 2′

Most likely the greatest album to be recorded solely in a caravan, Secret Soundz, Volume 2, is the second LP from The Pictish Trail, the alter ego of Scottish musician Johnny Lynch. Throughout the LP, he’s in a contemplative, often melancholic mood, concerned with life’s ups and downs. In contrast, musically Secret Sounds is rather chipper, spurred on by a glorious melange of oddball sounds, sparks of frazzled electronics and instrumental breaks. A magnificent record; warm, inviting and full of charming quirks from an exceptional talent.

13. Biggles Flys Again – ‘Remember Saturday’

Ireland produces plenty of great bands but where it falls short, of say our Welsh neighbors, is when it comes to indie bands of the weird and wonderful variety. In Biggles Flys Again, the moniker of Conor Deasy, we’ve got a domestic talent flying that flag. Biggles’ debut album Remember Saturday displays real talent for 3 minute pop gems. It is brimming with enchanting and whimsical good old fashioned pop songs, filled with sinuous melodies and organic arrangement. This is pop in the old fashioned sense, played by a band, and with an assured sense of style.

[Stream on Spotify]

12. Akala – ‘The Thieves Banquet’

Since the release of his debut in 2006, Akala has proven himself as one of the most articulate, intelligent and talented MC’s around, a trend continued on his fourth LP. A potent wave of righteous fury crashes through The Thieves Banquet. The world is beset by many problems, varied and plentiful they may be but Akala manages to take plenty of them head on. He remains passionate, focused and sharp when tackling everything from a sense of powerlessness to change things, to berating imperialism,  slavery, capitalists, 3rd world dictators and the clergy. A very fine record indeed.

[Stream on Spotify]

11. Siriusmo – ‘Enthusiast’

The second album from Berlin based producer Siriusmo is, much like his debut, rampantly eclectic and enormously fun. On Enthusiast he manages to squeeze a multitude of influences and genres into 13 tracks, including disco, house, jazz, and hip hop, to name but a few. It is a somewhat more coherent and cohesive album to the last, but there’s still plenty playful touches which makes for a fun and wholly entertaining record.

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[Stream on Spotify]

10. Curly Castro – ‘Fidel’

Raised in Brooklyn but residing in Philadelphia, Curly Castro’s music and lyrics explores a whole array of topics and themes; ranging from Black Nationalism, civil rights, racial issues, drugs, crime and autobiographical tales from his younger days, chronicling his journey to adulthood. Castro has plenty to say, but its not just what he’s saying, its the way he says it. Speaking with authority, an authority that makes you pay attention, his vision is delivered clearly and concisely, without ever sounding preachy or pretentious. His gruff vocal and impassioned delivery ensures added lyrical depth and musically, it doesn’t miss a beat and the production is top notch.

[Stream on Bandcamp]

09. Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart’

Ex-Coral man, Bill Ryder-Jones utilises his talent for arrangement, looking inwards to pen a gripping album of pensive ballads and hushed pop songs. Each autobiographical tale builds with subtlety and restraint, forging touching slices of melancholy with wistful heart swelling melodies, delivered in a hushed, semi-spoken voice. Always one for shying away from the limelight, it is predictably melancholy and unassuming. A highly accomplished and deeply affecting debut which should establish Ryder-Jones as a serious solo artist in his own right.

[Stream on Spotify]

08. Fidlar – ‘Fidlar’

The self-titled debut from L.A. punk-rockers Fidlar amounts to a two fingered fuck you of youthful anger at the world. Set to a furiously relentless backdrop of garage punk with plenty of scuzzy riffs, melodies and hooks – it’s about being young, broke, drunk, doing drugs, partying and not giving too much of a fuck about what happens next. The theme across 16 sublime track is more or less ‘we’re gonna take all the drugs, drink all the booze and have a fuckin’ good time’. It’s so much fun and let’s be honest, surely that should be enough, right? A mightily impressive record.

[Stream on Spotify]

07. Jagwar Ma – ‘Howlin’

The Australian trio’s vision of early-90s indie dance is overwhelmingly uplifting, calming, optimistic and carefree. ‘Howlin’ amounts to a heady swirl of baggy beats and syrupy sweet melodies, more often than not sounding like a perverse marriage of The Beach Boys and ‘Screamadelica’. It probably shouldn’t work but it does, and in doing so, Jagwar Ma have delivered one of the marvels of 2013.

[Stream on Spotify]

06. Sweet Baboo – ‘Ships’

Touted as a concept album about the sea, and yes, there are plenty of sea related moments but the songs are mainly concerned with love and relationships, usually with a bittersweet edge. Ships is a wry take on lost love and heartbreak, sliding from darkly funny to piercingly tender, this is one of the most perfectly crafted indie-pop you’re likely of the year. There are so many high points, delightful melodies and irresistible swirls of brass. The North Wales native is an idiosyncratic artist with an ear for a sparkling melody and a gift for an evocative lyrical turn.

[Stream on Spotify]

05. Cian Ciaran – ‘They Are Nothing Without Us’

Cian Ciaran‘s debut last year, Outside In, was indebted to grandiose orchestral pop of the ’60s / ’70s, in contrast, the Super Furries man’s latest is spiky, angry but with shades of sweetness and sparkling ability for a pop song sewn throughout. This combination, with a dash of idiosyncratic Super Furry sparkle, makes the whole thing even more palatable. Where musically it opens with a rattling and rumbling fury before melting into psychedelic space territory as it progresses, lyrically, Ciaran is filled with anger throughout. One of his finest records to date & up there with SFA at their very best.

[Stream on Spotify]

04. Drenge – ‘Drenge’

The debut album from sibling duo of brothers Eoin (guitar, vocals) and Rory (drums) Loveless, is one of exhilarating punk-rock fury. Simply put, this record is a frenetic blitz of untamed rock ‘n roll, swathed in splashy cymbals and heavily distorted grungy guitar riffs. There’s a quite menacing threat to it all, gradually unwinding the coiled up aggression and fury thoughout. A spectacular debut record, as impressive as any band could hope for.

[Stream on Spotify]

03. Girls  Names – ‘The New Life’

Belfast’s Girls Names second album vastly surpassed all expectations, providing us with the best domestic record of the year. The New Life has a moody and dark disposition, as it unfolds with a sense of forbidding beauty, before spiraling headlong towards post-punk’s dreamier regions. This is winding, and at times faintly chugging motorik post-punk, with some sparkly Bunnymen-esque beauty thrown in for good measure, all draped in Cully’s spectral baritone. Stunning stuff.

[Stream on Spotify]

02. Czarface – ‘Czarface’

Inspectah Deck, 7L & Esoteric came together as ‘Czarface’, taking ’90s East Coast Hip Hop as a blueprint and run it through the gauntlet, bringing it right up to date. This is hip hop that makes you bop, with beats that have more bounce than Zebedee. 7L’s production excels as he stitches together bits of dialogue to create a dark, aggressive and sinister subterranean-minded world that suits the two emcees to perfection. Lyrically it is filled with complex rhymes and similes, as Esoteric and Deck deliver verse after verse as a verbal art form. Add to this a pretty stellar supporting cast including Ghostface Killah, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson & Premier, and you’ve got one great record.

[Stream on Spotify]

01. Steve Mason – ‘Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time’

Where to begin? If his last LP Boys Outside was an insight to his personal struggles, Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time is an all encompassing album sliding from the personal to the political, combining both anger and beauty. Musically it’s equally ambitious, a blend of psych-folk/trip/hip-hop beats and dub overtones are the prefect soundtrack to his wonderful ghostly vocal. This is a record filled with genuine heart, soul and honesty – and plenty of righteous politicalised anger. It is rather difficult to do this album justice with a few meager words, we could be here all day listing superlatives, but if this isn’t Mason’s career defining masterpiece, it’s certainly bloody close. In short, it’s a work of inspired genius.

[Stream on Spotify]

3 Comments BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2013

  1. Pingback: End of year final roundup, of sorts | BarryGruff

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