JOHNNY FEENEY’S ALBUMS OF 2017

albums of 2017

Aside from compiling my own end of year lists, I really do enjoy checking out other people’s take on the past 12 months and none more so than Mr. Johnny Feeney.

A reliably insightful musical sage, Johnny’s guest appearances are always interesting and add an extra flavour to the blog and I look forward to reading – of which, surely I’m not alone?

A massive thanks to Johnny for taking time out to compile this list, and on that note, I’ll leave you with his Mr. Feeney’s favourite records of 2017.

10. Grandaddy – Last Place

Previously split up in 2006, Grandaddy’s first album in eleven years saw the ever-eccentric, cult Californians return with a bang with their trademark, electronica-tinged alt-rock. The familiar sounds of Jason Lytle’s distinctive, melancholic vocals, chugging guitars and synth flourishes are all present and correct on a wonderful comeback album that was well worth the wait.

09. Fangclub – Fangclub

Dublin rockers, Fangclub, have been tearing up stages around the country and further afield for a while now and, thankfully, their self-titled debut album delivers on the promise of their raucous live shows. In a classic guitar/bass/drums set up, the trio display a keen ear for an infectious hook and make a thunderous racket not dissimilar to Nirvana. If you like it loud then look no further.

08. Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

The London four-piece’s sophomore album sees a fine follow up to 2015’s commercially successful, Mercury-nominated My Love Is Cool. The adaptability of vocalist Elise Rowell means the group are equally comfortable on the melodic, anthemic indie-rock side of things (‘Beautifully Unconventional’) as they are on the heavier material (‘Yuk Foo’) and anything in between. It’s this broad range that makes Wolf Alice such an interesting proposition.

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BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2017

Albums of the year 2017 graphics

Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, compiling an annual list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.

There was lots of great music in 2017 (as with every year) but here are my 20 favourite records from the year. Also, I’m hoping the festive period will provide time to catch up on some records I’ve missed throughout the year, so feel free to recommend some listening material.

Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2017:

20. Czarface – ‘First Weapon Drawn’

For album number four, Czarface (Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and 7L) teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a soundtrack to an actual hardcopy comic of the same name. The previous installments have featured rapping from Esoteric, Inspectah Deck and other guests, however, on this occasion it’s just the superbly evocative instrumentation, with narration tacked on throughout. In fact, 7L’s production is some of strongest found throughout all the releases. Not quite at the level of albums 1 – 3, it provides an excellent little stop gap while we await a new album proper.

[Stream on Spotify]

19. Nouveaunoise – ‘Nouveaunoise’

Galway duo Nouveaunoise – Conor Gaffney & Niall Conway – had earned themselves a rep for finely crafted electronic productions, intricately weaving crackling samples, jazz-sampling percussion and warm melodies and crisp beats a la Four Tet or Boards of Canada. The pair released their debut back in 2010 and their self-titled follow-up sees them continue to shine when it comes to elegant, lush and intricately produced pristine electronica. Eight years is a long time but it was worth the wait!

[Stream on Spotify]

18. The Courtneys – ‘The Courtneys II’

With their 2013 debut, The Courtneys peddled lo-fi fuzzy slacker garage-pop with the ’90s casting a pretty long shadow and for the follow-up, the Vancouver trio have repeated the trick. Endearingly ramshackle, the dreamy vocals and laid-back sunkissed vibes are pumped with fuzzed-up distorted guitars, sweet licks and heavy, driving bass lines. Rarely has ramshackle indie been so appealing and so pretty damn irresistible. This is the sound of long, hot summers.

[Stream on Spotify]

17. Girlpool – ‘Powerplant’

Girlpool’s sound gets bigger on their second LP, beefed up with addition of a drummer crafting that classic alt-rock loud-quiet-loudness throughout but Girlpool know where their true power lies: Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad’s voices still sit front and centre. The unsettling magic that exists between makes them Girlpool distinct, lending their patented fragility and vulnerability. Powerplant is sparse and explores the energy and shape of contrariety and emptiness.

[Stream on Spotify]

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SALES Share Single ‘Ivy’, Ahead of Debut LP on April 20th

Over the past 18 months or so Florida duo SALES, have repeatedly proven themselves to be a reliable and plentiful source of catchy, melodic and pleasantly chill dream-pop.

Now, with their long-awaited debut LP almost upon us, Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih have shared new single ‘Ivy’. It is a pensive, slinky, free-flowing meander with a mildly distorted drumbeat and repeated guitar riff, undulating around Morgan’s gentle, gauzy and alluring vocals. It all softly splashes, swirls together, working perfectly with their pre-existing penchant for mellow guitar, bedroom pop. The pair couldn’t have created a more endearing tracking, it is simply wonderful. Not only that but it showcases everything that makes SALES such a wonderful band and exciting proposition, and why if you’re not already looking forward to the release of their debut album on April 20th, you probably should be.

SALES’ self-titled debut is out on April 20th but till then, you can check out the marvelous ‘Ivy’ below:

SALES’ have a whole host of live dates lined-up across North America, you can check the full list here.

 

Tuff Love – ‘Resort’

 

TuffLove_Resort

Glaswegian scuzz-pop aficionados Tuff Love, have already graced us with a terrific trilogy of EPs in recent times. Those EPs – 2014’s ‘Junk’, and last year’s ‘Dross’ and ‘Dregs’ – marked them as one of the most exciting new bands around, all dazzling, fuzzy indie pop with sugar-sweet melodies and crunching choruses and shoegazey guitars galore.

This promise has been condensed into a single release, Resort. Ordered chronologically and marking the culmination of their hard work, it tells the Tuff Love story so far. Perhaps surprisingly, Resort sits together decidedly well as a ‘record’ in itself, especially considering the fragmented time in which they were recorded and originally released. Tuff Love strike a perfect balance between these contrasting ingredients of their sound. In all of three-and-a-half minutes, opener ‘Sweet Discontent’ outlines exactly what Tuff Love are all about. A racing melody is underpinned by a tattered grunge-echoing riff and a coarse, churning rhythm, and Julie Eisenstein’s dreamy, almost listlessness vocals, which exudes a sense of rage, sorrow and unhappiness. Raw yet dainty, blissfully rambunctious guitar-pop anthems, channeled through a haze of lo-fi recordings, is what they excel at. Of which any number of tracks from Resort will testify too; ‘Crocodile’, ‘Slammer’ or ‘Flamingo’, take your pick!

It’s not clear how far along Eisenstein and Bear are with a debut album proper, but Resort sits together rather nicely indeed. Not only does it allow us to draw a line under these excellent early EPs, it reminds us how good Tuff Love and you get the feeling they are destined for big things.

Resort is out now through Lost Map Records (buy or stream now).

BarryGruff Albums of the Year (2015)

BGs Albums of the year 2015So it is that time of year again, lists, lists and more lists. Well, not be out done, here are my 41 (yes 41, and yes it’s a weird number) albums of 2015.

It has been such a good year for new albums, probably the best since I started the blog back in 2010. So much so that there is very little difference between the top 5, top 10, top 15 and so on. So without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2015:

There is also a Spotify playlist of the Top 20 albums, to save you time and hassle (it’s here).

41. Only Real – Jerk At The End of the Line’

40. Rozi Plain – ‘Friend’

39. Wildling – ‘Molecules To Moon’

38. The School – ‘Wasting Away And Wondering’

37. Sweet Baboo – ‘Boombox Ballads’

36. The Stammer – ‘Days In Between’

35. SexWitch – Sex Witch’

34. Faith Healer – ‘Cosmic Troubles’

33. Girl Band – ‘Holding Hands With Jamie’

32. Joanna Gruesome – ‘Peanut Butter’

31. Fort Romeau – ‘Insides

30. Soft Serve – ‘S/t’

29. Applescal – ‘For’

28. Zefur Wolves – ‘Zefur Wolves’

27. Hot Chip – ‘Why Make Sense?’

26. Drenge – ‘Undertow’

25. The Charlatans – ‘Modern Nature’

24. Gaz Coombes – ‘Matador’

23. Bill Ryder-Jones – ‘West Kirby County Primary’

22. Drinks – ‘Hermits on Holiday’

21. The Expert – Dynamic Drift

20. Boxed In – ‘Boxed In’

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Guest Post: Justin Beats Talks ‘Jamie XX – In Colour’

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Every now and then I like to share my soapbox with other voices aside from my own, I’m nice like that. On this occasion it’s the turn of my good mate and fellow emigrant to Vancouver, Justin Beats, take a turn at the helm.

A craft beer, pastie and fast-food safari enthusiast, Beats also knows what’s what when it comes to music – sure it’s in his name (I’m here all week!). Well, that’s my cue to leave if there ever was one but before that, I’d like to thank Justin for taking the time to write this up. Now then, I’ll leave you in his capable hands as he talks up Jamie XX’s new record, In Colour. 

Jamie XX – In Colour

London’s Jamie Smith of XX fame, known for his solo work as ‘Jamie XX’, has deservedly carved out a name for himself. Back in 2011 his remix of Gil Scott Heron’s; ‘I’m New Here’ gained him plaudits and he has produced tracks for the likes of Alicia Keys and remixed for Radiohead and Florence & The Machine amongst others. His fan base eagerly awaited new output.

In Colour, released last month, marks his first LP offering. Essentially a house record, it is a beat driven collection of tracks with stylish future garage and deep house undertones. From the initial track ‘Gosh’, Smith establishes a penetrating baseline cut alongside choppy synth that wouldn’t seem out of place at a basement club in Croydon. Smith instead graduates his sound, as he does so effectively time again here, steadily drawing out layers of melody and well placed samples. Elements of his XX stylings are not lost; guitar loops echo throughout the steel-drum driven track ‘Obvs’, one that reminded me to revisit Skream’s first record. Stand out track ‘Loud Places’, has band mate Romy providing vocals; expect this synth drenched, 5am hand raiser to garner radio play. ‘Stranger In A Room’ however, feels so XX it could belong on their last LP, an overstatement of a track.

This record really excels in the tracks where Smith layers his brand of house and sampling to climactic ends. ‘Hold Tight’s fuzzy electronica sonically wavers so generously you may feel nauseas, in a good way! ‘The Rest is Noise’ builds around an irresistible thumping beat but is set against a tapestry of synth, and pauses for piano tinkering which evokes warm memories of mid nineties Robert Miles.

As a first full length release, Smith triumphs here. Consider this a soundtrack to your hazy 2015 summer evenings.

Listen on Spotify.

Guest Post: Johnny Feeney Picks 3 Albums (Father John Misty, Menace Beach & Viet Cong)

Menace-Beach-Ratworld

The eminently knowledgeable musical savvy Johnny Feeney, returns to share with us, some albums which have caught his eye, or ear to be more precise. Always insightful and interesting, his posts definitely add an extra flavour the blog and I for one look forward to reading them – of which I’m surely not alone? Without further a due, here are three albums that have been taking his fancy of late. Thanks as ever to Johnny for taking the time to share his thoughts and with that, I’ll leave you in his very capable hands.

Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’

The second album from former Fleet Foxes drummer J Tillman is a dazzling roller-coaster ride of emotions. This is wonderfully produced and musically uplifting folk/Americana, while Tillman’s cutting lyrics have the ability to consistently knock you to the floor. The gorgeous opening title track is a case in point – swooning layers of acoustic guitars, luscious strings and pianos are accompanied by declarations of love and visions of impending doom (“Everything is doomed, and nothing will be spared, but I love you, honeybear”).

Tillman effortlessly switches moods throughout. There are some genuine moments of humour on here such as on ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Thirsty Crow’ (“my baby … blackens pages like a Russian romantic, gets down more often than a blow-up doll”). The standout moments come towards the end of the album. ‘Bored in the USA’s withering commentary on modern America is played out over a beautifully delicate piano and, midway through, ironic canned laughter. The spellbinding ‘Holy Shit’ tackles organised religion amongst other things before its last verse closes euphorically on a wave of glorious strings. Stunning.

Menace Beach – ‘Ratworld’

Leeds indie-rockers Menace Beach certainly wear their influences on their sleeves on their debut album. Opener ‘Come On Give Up’ and ‘Elastic’ channel ’90s grunge in a revivalist manner similar to Yuck a few years back. Elsewhere ‘Blue Eye’ evokes the shoegaze of The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. Fuzzy guitars and occasional earbleeding squalls of feedback abound as Ryan Needham and Liza Violet switch vocal duties throughout. Violet’s breathy, dreamy vocals, especially, rescue some of the tunes out of their murk.

The band have a clear ear for melody and album highlights include ‘Tennis Court’ which starts out as dream-pop before exploding into a filthier sound. The standout ‘Tastes Like Medicine’ is a more straight-up indie-rock affair with the extremely infectious chorus having a tendency to lodge in your head for days. With 12 tracks coming in at just over half an hour there’s no hanging around and the album’s the better for it. Although there’s nothing startlingly original on here, this is a highly promising debut nonetheless.

Viet Cong – ‘Viet Cong’

The self-titled debut album from Canadian post-punk four-piece Viet Cong, is certainly not one for the faint of heart. If Fuck Buttons were to make a guitar album it’d probably sound like this. The music is hypnotic, repetitive and bleak but absolutely compelling. Stuttering, industrial beats and mazing guitars come to the fore with lead singer Matt Flegel’s vocals way down and difficult to decipher. The unsettling, captivating ‘March of Progress’ opens with clangouring beats in a constant loop before it slowly moves into psychedelic territory with sinister Eastern strings.

The album’s most accessible songs, the brooding ‘Continental Shelf’ and the energetic ‘Silhouettes’, provide an almost welcome relief. This is brief respite before the aptly-named album closer ‘Death’ launches into its epic 11 minute journey – a relentless, bruising and punishing ride that will leave the listener exhausted and battered into submission. One could imagine going catatonic at their live shows. This definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes. Turn it up loud.