Gruff Rhys – ‘No Profit In Pain’

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Hot on the heels of his wonderful new album Babelsberg, Gruff Rhys has shared a new song, ‘No Profit in Pain’.

The track was written for the National Theatre Wales’ NHS70 festival, which is celebrating the National Health Service’s 70th birthday, and all proceeds will go to NHS charities in Wales. It is an ode to the National Health Service on its 70th birthday, defiantly focused on the battle to keep the service in public ownership amid encroaching privatisation – a death knell for the NHS – as profiteers and privateers circle hoping for a vultures picnic. While lyrically defiant, musically is a beautiful, reflective, hazy and whimsical affair, brought to you through the psychedelic eyes of Cardiff’s most innovative musical sons. Bobbing along with soft drums, sparkling synths, rich production and his soothing vocals, it is a rather beautiful and heartfelt ode to the NHS and nod of respect to its staff, for what they do on a daily basis.

Check ‘No Profit in Pain’ below. Buy here: http://bit.ly/NoProfitInPain

Gruff will bring his tour to Ireland this December with the following shows:

Sat December 01 2018 – CORK St Lukes
Sun December 02 2018 – GALWAY Roisin Dubh
Mon December 03 2018 – DUBLIN Button Factory

Introducing: The Earth

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It’s been stressed many times before but there is no harm in reiterating; Super Furry Animals are an exceptionally talented bunch. Surely then with no new SFA records since 2009’s Dark Days/Light Years, and the band’s ongoing indefinite hiatus status, fans have much reason to be glum? Every cloud.

That silver lining are the numerous impeccable side-projects this time has facilitated. Gruff Rhys’s solo exploits are well documented but the rest of the Furries have been no less busy or creative. Cian Ciarán has two sublime solo LPs to his name, Outside In and They Are Nothing Without Us, and is working on a new project Zefur Wolves. Guto Pryce meanwhile, teamed up with Lindsay Leven for side-project Gulp, delivering a bewitching debut LP, Season Sun. That, in a roundabout way, brings us to The Earth.

The Earth is Super Furries’ Dafydd Ieuan’s soul-rock side-project with Dionne Bennett, Tristan Marley and Mark Roberts (Catatonia). To date they have released an LP, Keltic Voodoo Boogaloo & two EPs, Baby Bones & Liberty Rd. (and possibly more) – all containing the key ingredients of real soul, power and passion, and a groove and coolness. ‘Baby Bones’ is pretty typical. It slowly chugs along, gradually swelling, and gets bigger and more impassioned to envelope everything in its path as Bennett’s powerful, impassioned and oh so soulful vocals rise through the clamour to soar emphatically. That’s the thing really, musically it is exceptional but nothing can steal the limelight from Bennett’s vocal, everything else seems secondary. New single ‘Married 2 Me’ where singer Dionne Bennett luscious vocals duets with Gruff Rhys’ delicious tones, it clicks perfectly to a waltzing-synth-pop backdrop. Magnificent, simple as that.

There are a couple of choice cuts to get you started below. You can stream them & more here.

BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2014

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So, it’s that time of year again, yeah, it’s favourite albums of the year time. Loads of great music this year, some old faces and plenty of new ones too but for those of you who care, here are my 25 albums of 2014. Enjoy!

25. Second Storey – ‘Double Divide’

24. Beach Day – ‘Native Echoes’

23. Globelamp – ‘Star Dust’

22. Sex Hands – ‘Pleh’

21. The #1s – ‘The #1s’

20. Attaque – ‘ON LY YOU’

19. Shit Robot – ‘We Got Love’

18. Mowbird – ‘Islander’

17. Oh Boland/Me & My Dog – ‘Delphi’

16. Jamie T – ‘Carry on the Grudge’

15. Pharoahe Monch – ‘PTSD’

Following on from his 2011’s W.A.R, comes fourth solo LP, PTSD (aka Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a loose-concept album which sees Pharoahe Monch speaking as a weary independent warrior against the industry machine and dealing with the struggle of the black male experience in America. It’s dense, raw and sometimes painfully raw, as he relives harrowing memories of his struggle with addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s all draped with his familiar top-notch storytelling, cavernous vocabulary, thought-provoking rhymes, precise delivery and thought-provoking metaphors, placing him right up top of the current hip-hop pile.

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Gruff Rhys – ‘Set Fire to the Stars’

Gruff Rhys‘ latest album American Interior has quite rightly been met by rave reviews and lavish praise. An astonishingly brilliant LP that among other things, displays how captivating a storyteller Rhys is, who wistfully spins wonderful narratives of being carried through new worlds and visions, and only adds to the particular idiosyncratic charm that this Welshman personifies.

As if Mr. Rhys hadn’t enough on his plate with ‘American Interior’ duties, he’s also penned the soundtrack for biopic, ‘Set Fire To The Stars’, about the life and work of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. In doing so he joined forces with drummer Chris Walmsley, Jim Barr who is the double bass player with Portishead, Osian Gwynedd (formerly of Big Leaves and Sybridion) on piano and Gruff Ab Arwel from Y Niwl who arranged the strings, to form a jazz band. The title track is a characteristically beguiling and lavish composition, that’s climactic moments occur when immaculate strings and exuberant brass combine to pierce the dark yet immersive, smoky, café-acclimatised vibe. All the while an ever assured Gruff Rhys’ utterances ring through with a recognizable assured and serene coolness. Never one to keep us waiting too long for something new and interesting is he? Thankfully not.

You can check out ‘Set Fire To The Stars’ and there’s more on the whole thing here too.

Half Time Reflections: Albums Of The Year So Far (2014)

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With over half the year already passed, it is ripe time for some half-time reflection on the many albums that have preoccupying my attention so far in 2014. As it is well overdue there is no need to waste and more time, here they are, in all their glory!

Sleaford Mods – ‘Divide & Exit’

Lo-fi English punk duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn are Sleaford Mods, who’ve been grunting through gritted teeth since ’08. With their new album, Divide & Exit, they deliver a clever, often funny, foul mouthed and angry record, overloaded with attitude as their gripes and grievances with modern Britain (and beyond) are vehemently aired. Chief rabble-rouser, Williamson is both scathing and sardonic, who airs his many gripes and grievances, with a combination of vitriolic anger and acerbic wit. An extremely clever wordsmith, his righteous and infectious rantings are as quotable as Half Man Half Biscuit. You could argue forever as to what line in the gold-standard song is the greatest. This extremely clever wordplay is strewn among grimey beats and wiry post-punk guitars from Fearn. While owing as much to hip-hop and grime as to post-punk, and could be seen to be the the modern inheritors of the brilliance of Mark E Smith, The Streets, Shaun Ryder and HMHB. While there are traces of those artists here, there is, and never has been anything quite like Sleaford Mods. Top fucking class.

The Horrors – ‘Luminous’

On their fourth LP, The Horrors continue to refine sophisticated and colourful sound. The synthesisers are more to the fore, and a noticeably greater influence from electronic and dance music but without ever quite adapting dance-music tempos. The darkness which marks much of their previous work seems to have abated, except for Faris Badwan recoginzable brooding croon, replaced by a late ’80s tingle of euphoria, mellow synth sounds and a bouncy back-beats to create pulsating, danceable psychedelia. The Horrors are light years ahead of anyone else of the ‘indie guitar music’ canon. Tune in, drift away in this bliss of colourful groove.

Gruff Rhys – ‘American Interior’

After concept albums about a wealthy Italian Trotskyite, an eccentric car designer, and a movie in search of lost Welsh tribes in Argentina, nothing should surprise us when it comes to Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys. His fourth solo album is inspired by a recent discovery that he’s a descendent of John Evans, an 18th-century explorer, who mapped the Missouri river in a vain search for a mythical, Welsh-speaking American tribe. Concept aside, this record shares certain similarities with his previous work, cooking up lush pop songs with more immersive and introspective fare, beautiful orchestral moments and even a couple of more surreal, out-there moments. From the title track, the mournfully mesmerising ‘American Interior’ and it’s expansive, slightly melancholic rock with an infectious melody at its heart, to the rumbling rockabilly of ‘100 Unread Messages’ on synth-splashed carnival tune ‘The Whether (Or Not)’ we’re treated to exemplary spectrum of his talents. American Interior reminds us how captivating a storyteller Rhys is, who wistfully spins wonderful narratives of being carried through new worlds and visions, and only adds to the particular idiosyncratic charm that this Welshman personifies.

Malachai – ‘Beyond Ugly’

Malachai‘s latest effort, Beyond Ugly serves as a closing chapter to the Bristol duo’s ‘Ugly’ triptych, an unplanned trilogy of albums and pre-dated by the excellent Ugly Side of Love (2010) and Return to the Ugly Side (2011). Beyond Ugly is enjoyable as a standalone record if you’re unfamiliar with the previous two. It’s an imaginative journey through controlled chaos which seamlessly flits between trip-hop, hip-hop, acoustic folk, ’60s psychedelia, dance-funk and XTRMNTR era Primal Scream doses of aggressive political anger within the same breath. Expect to witness lavish sonic mayhem and delicate, thought-provoking moments on love, loss, life, politics and society. Vacuous it isn’t, there’s quite a bit of substance behind the aural salvo. A fitting conclusion to this unlikely of trilogies, saying that, hopefully it isn’t the last we’ve heard from Malachai.

Coves – ‘Soft Friday’

There are plenty of bands of Coves‘ ilk about at the moment – boy-girl duo, spectral vocals, ’60s psychedelic influences, dreamy synths – but they are in a class of their own and their debut, Soft Friday, casts a chilling spell. Swirling psychedelia is met with sweeping grandeur, as Wood’s mellifluous cooing floats above as driving riffs mingle with propulsive electro beats, drones and flickers of electronics, in a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic and glacial atmospherics. Soft Friday is a fine debut. Atmospheric, distinctive and very enjoyable, and a worthy inclusion in any record collection.

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