BarryGruff’s Albums of the Year 2014

BG2014

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

Jimmy Glass Carlisle Albums 2014

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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Pharoahe Monch – ‘Bad Motherfucker’

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There is no doubting Pharoahe Monch is master of his craft. His ability as an MC is without question and he never fails to deliver incredibly when he picks up a microphone. To keep it simple – he’s one of the best in the business.

Today sees the release of Monch’s new album, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It’s the successor to the brilliant W.A.R (We Are Renegades), a personal favourite from recent years, yet news of the new record remained elusive till this week (How? Who the fuck knows?). The new record sees Pharoahe Monch re-emerge with a new concept project, with him speaking as a weary independent warrior against the industry machine and dealing with the struggle of the black male experience in America. Going by ‘Bad Motherfucker’ he’s re-entered the fray with his familiar top-notch storytelling, cavernous vocabulary, thought-provoking rhymes, precise delivery and thought-provoking metaphors too. These attributes appear undiminished as he ferociously delivers rhymes to position himself clearly at odds with the current state of Hip Hop.

A gentle reminder in case like me, this news has managed to slip you by. Check out ‘Bad Motherfucker’ below and PTSD is out now.

Albums, Albums, Albums: Pharoahe Monch & PJ Harvey

The sceál of 2011 so far has been one of ‘so much great music, so little time’. Managing to listen to so much music can be a daunting task not to mention writing about it. Here’s a quick round-up of albums I have been listening to a lot.

Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R (We Are Renegades)

Pharoahe Monch‘s latest offering is quite simply one of the finest hip-hop records of the past few years, let alone 2011. W.A.R (We Are Renegades) has everything; great rhymes, wordplay and head-nodding beats while lyrically it’s hard-hitting, intelligent and insightful, providing a scathing attack on the industry and society. This is hip-hop with something to say, a welcome relief from the hordes of bling obsessed industry spun celebrity pretenders.

Like his wordplay this one flows effortlessly slinking between the heavy gospel feel of  ‘Let My People Go’, old school vibes of ‘Hitman’ and ‘Clap’ and the fiery anger of  ‘W.A.R’ and ‘Calculated Amalgamation’. If one line could sum up an album it would be from the later, “No justice, no peace, no settle / We are renegades, fuck your gold medal.”

This is the work of a master, no doubt about, this is a going to be classic.

Pharoahe Monch – Clap  (One Day) Ft. Showtyme And DJ Boogie Blind via brooklynvegan

Pharoahe Monch – Evolve via viciosdelaslilas

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

I must admit having consistently ignored and disregarded her output over the years, I am not best placed to write about PJ Harvey. But here I am, prepared to admit how wrong I was and heap praise on her latest album, Let England Shake.

It’s an enthralling collection of brooding and dramatic gothic scores exploring Englishness, perils of colonialism and the ravages of war. While there’s obviously a message here it is not preachy, preferring to explore rather than lecture on these themes of war, death and loss. All of which resonate today.

It’s an album which is both tragic and beautiful, rife with dark and horrific imagery of blood spilt battlefields. It is also one which needs to be listened to in full to be appreciated (that said ‘Let England Shake’, ‘The Last Living Rose’ and ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ where the ones which sucked me in).

Let England Shake is a creative, emotional and fearless record which is an obvious contender for album of the year.

PJ Harvey – The Words That Maketh Murder via VagrantRecords

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