Best of 2012: w/ Nathan Conway of Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling end of year lists. This time around, I thought I’d shift the focus to the bands and artist’s who’ve played a ‘BarryGruff Presents’ show this year and ask them for their ‘favourite album of 2012’, ‘favourite song of 2012’ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’.

Without further ado, here’s Nathan Conway of Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band, and his picks from the year that was 2012.

Favourite Album of 2012: Angel Olsen – ‘Half Way Home’

Bob Dylan’s voice, phrasing and delivery peaked on Tempest this year but his band were so full of tired moves that they killed off the atmosphere. And so, apart from my own Sonny Boy record, this year I find only one album worth attention. Half Way Home by Angel Olsen, her first full album. Last year when I heard her song ‘If it’s alive, it will’, I wrote to her record company to try and get her to sing on a song I was recording. I was turned down in favour of her going on tour with Will Oldham. To this day I can’t imagine why? I’ve no chance now.

I had first thought there was something French about her songs and later that she wouldn’t be out of place in Os Mutantes. It could be that the music here doesn’t conform. It has an international sound. Although she’s got a lot of style, her songs are unaffected by it. It’s all very natural. There’s a real patient, calm, learned hand in getting the sound settled for this record too. Its got the type of hofner bass sound that I love the most and shes the best singer around.

Favourite song of 2012: Django Django – ‘Storm’

My sister put me onto Django Django. I’m not gone on them. Everything I heard when I checked them out was this very contrived 80’s thing, but their song, ‘Storm’, is a cracker. Although they appear to be carefully cultivating the image of the nerd, there’s a rawness to the sound and a laziness to the lyric of this one that frees it up from all that and sets it apart from their other work. For a moment here they become a more dangerous breed of nerd like that French writer Michel Houellebecq. I would imagine this was a throwaway song that came to life in the recording because everything hinges on the rattley sound achieved here.

Favourite Irish song of 2012: The Brand New Switcheroo – ‘Diane’

Music in Ireland seems to be sinking ever further into the quagmire. The music makers are all still there alright, their voices drowned in the ceaseless tide of shite bands. Now and again I get lucky and hear something outside of the classical oeuvre that restores my faith and joy in music.

The Brand New Switcheroo are brothers and they are both really good writers. Because of the close tone of voice, brothers and sisters can’t be beat for harmony singing. So far as I know this song, ‘Diane’, hasn’t been recorded, so this rough you-tube thing is the best example I can find. It sounds simple but to whittle a song down to this kind of simplicity and clarity takes a lot of ability and confidence in ones work. There’s a ‘walking on the sand’ image here that pervades in the lyric and the whole song has a whoozy wash and eddy thing going on.

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