Here are a list of my most listened and loved records of 2016 so far with Spotify playlists for overall and Irish albums of the year. Anderson Paak’s soulful album has been on constant, while Bowie left us a legendary parting gift, Bibio turned in a career best work, Kendrick dropped an outtakes album that is better than most regular albums, Radiohead returned with a personal album, Chance the Rapper continues to take over, Christine & The Queens stole our hearts, Rusangano Family made the best Irish rap album in quite a while, Blood Orange made a sprawling album of guest-filled tunes made for repeat, Beyoncé, James Blake aand Radiohead dropped albums at short notice, Kaytranada kept up on his promise and Skepta made a great grime album.
I would love to hear what records moved you so far this year, leave a comment below.
Bibio‘s newest album is the man at his most expressive.
Since his 2009 breakout album Ambivalence Avenue, a record that came across like an English musician trying to recreate the magic of Dilla’s Donuts with whatever he had to hand, Steven Wilkinson’s music has been eclectic, disparate yet not without recommendation. Stephen Wilkinson has the ability to conjure his own style that is always a pleasant experience.
A Mineral Love, his fifth album – is his most complete work since that critically-acclaimed LP, due largely to featuring his most affecting songs.
A stated celebration of “the sacred and precious struggles of human insecurities through many windows of familiar musical forms,” A Mineral Love has a record collector’s ear to it drawing from back-of-the-crate inspirations in funk, lo-fi folk, electro and pop and everything in between. All of this is done without the use of samples, yet Wilkinson makes it sound you’re discovering some old track on 45 anew, as is his gift.
Wilkinson states the record is about his love of the craft of making music of different styles. He craves variety and the album works in a cohesive mixtape form in a varied palette that include fragile smudged funk, bright soundscapes, kaleidoscopic acoustics and pastoral song-writing with a beat producer’s ear.
Across all of it, the general theme of haze, hope and dreamy atmosphere persists, threading these disparate sounds together.
Guests include Oliver St. Louis brings singer soul to ‘Why So Serious’, producer Wax Stag imprints his unique synth style on ‘Gasoline & Mirrors’ and Gotye pops up to remind you of.. oh you know.. on ‘The Way We Talk’.
What also shines through is an expression of heartfelt emotion that is new to Bibio’s music. Whether it’s the nostalgic quietude of ‘Petals’, the prog-funk of ‘Town & Country’ or the expressive closer ‘Light In The Sky’, A Mineral Love frequently reaches new heights.
As happens with artists and fans, we drifted apart a bit but I always found something to like on each successive album. Recently, that relationship has been renewed with the brilliant lilting song ‘Petals’, which I found out today opens his new record, his seventh, A Mineral Love, out on Warp on April Fool’s Day.
‘Feeling’ is the flipside of that quiet contemplative side, his daft smudged funk side. It’s brilliant.
Expanding on the making of A Mineral Love:
“This album celebrates the sacred and precious struggles of human insecurities through many windows of familiar musical forms. It’s also a celebration of my love of the craft of record making, drawing influences from many sources across all decades from the late sixties to the present. All these referential forms have a twist, some are more full on cocktails.
The album as a whole is an unashamed expression of my fondness of, and need for, variety. The juxtapositions between tracks are well considered and I’m comfortable with them – this is how I enjoy music. This is not a purist record, it is not trying to authentically recreate a specific time or genre but rather use familiar forms as a common language to communicate new ideas and new messages. I want to sing about struggle and tragedy with warmth, sympathy and respect. I want sadness to have bittersweet hope.
The whole album was made from scratch with no samples from other records. I partly want it to sound like sampled records but by crafting every single detail myself and colouring it to have familiar textures that resonates people’s forgotten memories. I enjoy the challenge of writing songs that reference the unique qualities and colours of music from different eras. It’s all guesswork though, I have no real reliable knowledge of why certain records sound the way they do, I taught myself how to play instruments, write music and produce. This album is my personal, filtered take on those forms and qualities. Some tracks are influenced by records I listen to often and some from ghosts of memories of things I heard while growing up, like 70s/80s American TV themes or 90s dance. Sometimes a filtered and tinted memory of a period is a more exciting source of inspiration than close study and mimicry.
I feel this album is built more from those memories and an exposure to music of many styles rather than close analytical study of any particular one. I think that’s why it all sounds like me, regardless of the deliberate references and nods to artists and records of the past. It is after all just a view through my stained-glass telescope.”
A Mineral Love Tracklist
02. A Mineral Love
04. Town & Country
06. The Way You Talk (Featuring Gotye)
07. With The Thought Of Us
08. Why So Serious? (Featuring Olivier St. Louis)
09. C’est La Vie
10. Wren Tails
11. Gasoline & Mirrors (Featuring Wax Stag)
12. Saint Thomas
13. Light Up The Sky
It’s been a busy November for me so far. Between Iceland Airwaves for a week, a trip to Belfast last weekend and a lot of catching up, there’s been less time to do everything I wanted to do on the site. So with that in mind, here are some songs I’ve been digging recently over the last two weeks taking in Santigold, Rustie, Bibio, Saint Sister, I Have A Tribe, FaltyDL, Reykjavíkurdætur, New Order and more.
For the followup to last year’s Silver Wilkinson album, Bibio will release a new 12″ EP called The Green and it appears to be aimed towards people like me who inexplicably have not really given that album a proper listen yet.
‘Dye The Water Green’ is the second song on the album and it forms the basis for this companion six-track EP (some background info below). The song has a serene hazy beauty too it (and a moving coda), especially when set to some Boards Of Canada-esque pastoral visuals.
A1. Dye The Water Green
A3. Down To The Sound
A4. Carbon Wulf
B1. A Thousand Syllables
B2. The Spinney View Of Hinkley Point
‘Dinghy’ is an old track I recorded with Richard Roberts (now one half of Letherette) around 2006. We used to work in an old Victorian pub back in those times, and it was a regular thing that we’d stay behind for a lock-in after hours. It became the norm that we’d take in our guitars before starting work in the evening and then jam together after we kicked all the customers out. Around that time we recorded a lot of stuff together, some in the pub, some in the garden, some by a stream in the woods, some at home. A lot of it was done in a super lo-fi fashion with very old cassette recorders and cheap mics. This track was recorded in one take, straight to cassette. It was a time where we played together so much that our sense of rhythm was totally locked, in this track we seemed to respond to each other’s timing really naturally. I’ve always loved this track, it brings back strong memories and is a real daydream track for me. This EP seemed like the perfect home for it as it ties in so well with the murky vignetted sound of ‘Dye The Water Green’.
‘The Spinney View of Hinkley Point.’ is the first track I’ve released with live drums, as opposed to sampled and chopped on an MPC. I recorded the drums, guitar and bass parts in my friend’s shed in rural Somerset (the same shed where the live trio session videos were filmed).
‘Carbon Wulf’ is of course a reprise of the album track ‘Wulf’. This was just a straight, one-take improvisation on baritone guitar and a reverb pedal. I crushed the hell out of it with an analogue limiter which gave it this uneven fire-damaged sound.
The other tracks were written some years ago, I rediscovered them while going through my archives and, again, heard them with fresh ears. I decided to revamp them, re-recording the vocal parts and adding more instruments.
This weekly post features a playlist of the best new music debuted in the last seven days or so (two weeks this time around due to my break). I’ve trawled through streams and reams of new music and these tracks have made the biggest impression.
This week’s playlist includes new tracks from Fryars, Maya Jane Coles, Drake, Shigeto, London Grammar, Jake Hart, Joe Goddard, Volcano Choir and more. (more…)
A roundup of 15 tracks featured on and off the blog that have been getting the new music veins pumping in the last seven days. Some of them have already featured in the New Music section and others are new tracks from previously-featured artists Empress Of, REID, Ifan Dafydd, Bibio, Wise Blood, Tropics, Koreless and Nancy Elizabeth. This may become a regular thing if people are into it. Easy listening: (more…)
For his new album Silver Wilkinson, Stephen Wilkinson aka Bibio sounds like he’s heading in a more conventional place if first single ‘À tout à l’heure’ is a hint. Perhaps it was due to the restrictions he placed on himself this time around as he explains in an extensive note on the album, “to focus more on an organic and live sound and to record more guitar and other live instrumentation.” While it didn’t quite work out like that, the desire to switch things up led to the recording of ‘À tout à l’heure’, a warm sunkissed track.
It started out in my garden on a gorgeous sunny day when it felt morally wrong to be hidden away indoors. I still had the urge to make music so I limited myself to a few bits of gear and set up in my garden: a 12 string guitar, an MPC sampler, a microphone and a cassette recorder. I drummed on objects in the garden, like a plastic watering can and ‘snipped’ garden shears for percussion parts. The guitar part was something I had been developing over some time in my head but it was this change of environment that led to recording the backbone of this song, which I then continued to build upon in my studio later. When I listen to the intro of that track now, I still hear the sunshine and the garden in it because for me it’s like a photograph of that moment. No doubt the sunny outdoors inspired the lyrics too.
I wrote about this tune last week describing it as a summer jam which should wake everyone up in the morning. It’s now got a suitably ’80s TV show video to go with it. Bibio plays an electronic set on Friday night in the Button Factory.