It has come to that time of year where we pick out the highlights of the last twelve months and while I’ve run over music blogs in the past, this one is different because it is all artists who are from or produce their work in our humble hamlet of Barnsley. It’s a very fine mixture with everything from Folk, to Death Metal, psychedelic Indie to Sludge; and here they are from numbers 20 to 1.
#20 CRY – GROWING OLD DISGRACEFULLY
While not normally the kind of music I listen to, I can detect the influences underneath that hard-rock exterior. The Clash, Wildhearts and even bands like Motley Crue show their colours in Cry’s DNA. Having original formed in 1985, they had a good three years before calling it a day. They recently reformed and though they might sound somewhat vintage, the audience for that music is definitely still there… their videos get lots of plays on youtube and their songs have been picked up by various rock radio stations around the world. A Year And A Day is my choice cut from the album.
#19 THE SILENT GESTURES – RIDE
The Silent Gestures are relatively new but the support slots they have had with more prominant local indie bands have put them in good stead. They have gained confidence in their live performances and their song writing is assured. If the four songs they have releaseds during 2012 are anything to go buy, next year’s going to be brilliant for these guys. Ride is easily my favourite track and a definite standout from their great live shows. A nice groove and a perfect summer indie anthem.
*As this article is being published Silent Gestures have changed their names to Yellow Elevators*
#18 GOLDSOUL – KILL ALL LOVE SONGS
With a brilliant EP released in 2011 and their first full length due out in 2013, this year we saw just one release from Goldsoul in the form of the limited edition vinyl release of Kill All Love Songs to coinside with Record Store Day. Nice big reverb-heavy BRMC riffs, snarling attitude aplenty and a sexy red video to boot.
#17 KATE RUSBY – 20
2012 saw Barnsley’s folk queen celebrate 20 years in the industry. To celebrate she released an album of new interpretations of tracks taken from albums throughout her career. While not as good as the albums the originals to these songs were plucked from, it’s not often you can say you’ve dueted with Paul Weller and it is that track, along with the other collaborations here with Eddi Reader, Radiohead’s Phil Selway, Richard Thompson and Barnsley’s very own Dave Burland that add the most light and texture. A real landmark for one of the UK’s best and most inspirational folk singers.
#16 CHRIS HAIGH – EPIC EMOTIONAL PIANO
Chris Haigh released his 12th album this year. The titles of his albums and the tracks state the obvious but there is a valid reason for this. Chris composes and produces albums of instrumental music that is then licenced out to film production companies. Listening to Epic Emotional Piano does it’s job perfectly. It is epic, emotional is the soundtrack to another world. I can hear lots of Hans Zimmer in there and Debussey and I love it. Check him out. Much of his work has been used in international high profile trailers, featurettes and TV spots; most recently in promotional films for In Time, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Contraband and now the new adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s (The Twilight Saga) novel The Host. TV Spots have included Top Gear, X-Factor Australia and an LA Laker’s advert.
#15 THE BAR-STEWARD SONS OF VAL DOONICAN – EY UP! LET’S GO!
Vocalist Scott had been in a number of folk and rock bands prior to discovering he was the long-lost love child of Irish crooner Val Doonican. He has since found three other illigimate siblings (although one turned out not to be) and has formed a band in tribute to their lineage. 2012 saw them release their fifth studio album Ey Up! Let’s Go! and gain even more notatriaty after being invited by The Levellers to play their Beautiful Days Festival this summer. They have also supported and played for The Levellers, Eliza Carthy, Ade Edmunson, Martin Carthy & Norma Waterson, Roy Wood, Gomez, Bay City Rollers and also Ian Dury’s famous backing band, the Block Heads.
Their brand of comedy folk and Barnsley themed parodies of famous songs go down a storm in pub, club or field.
#14 CRYWANK – NARCISSIST ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
Based in both Barnsley and Manchester, James Clayton is Crywank and Narcissist… is his second . It is also the best yet. James is the aborted lovechild of Morrissey and Nick Drake. In his songs he sounds like he has been stabbed in the heart and kicked in the balls but still writes catchy as hell hooks, each songs clumsily wrapped up into perfect ninety second clips. James has an amazing ability to roll an incredible amount of words off his tongue, just like James Dean Bradfield used to do in the good old days.
I imagine that much of the lyrical content is based somewhat in truth – but despite that there is a knowing tongue in cheek throughout and that helps Crywank to stay totally sincere and thoroughly likable.
I Care Not For Your Clubnights has the lyrical height of rhyming ‘friends’ and bell-end’ and a genuine highlight is Nostril Tampon in which James beats himself up for not being man enough for his mother ‘who only wanted girls.’
#13 MARK JACKSON’S CRIMINAL WASTE OF TALENT – WHAT’S THE SITUATION EP
A prominent player on South Yorkshire’s live music scene in the late 80s with his band Mark Jackson’s Exceedingly Good Cakes, in the last year he has resurfaced from his musical slumber with guitarist Steve Dalton in tow. This four track EP is brilliant. Dumped By Text is a story about a fifty year old’s fumblings with fanny and facebook, both unsuccessfully, aloft a barrage of brilliant jangly guitars. Real Men Have a Shed is the crowd pleaser it always was but the real gem here is There’s Always a Queue at Greggs – bleak, honest and right on key for our times. A must for fans of Cooper Clarke, Half Man Half Biscuit or even Ian Dury.
#12 ISOLATE – BITTER TURN EP
I was contacted by this band in the summer and straight off I was impressed by them. You’ll know vocalist Nicky from her previous band The Delicateers. Here she is teamed up with musician Danny Carnage (of Digicore).
It’s wonderful to have such a good electronic act in Barnsley, even if they are yet, relatively unknown. Hopefully, not for long. They released two EPs in 2012. The Isolate EP was very experimental but for me, Bitter Turn was the most immediate. A wonderful mix of Trent Reznor’s How To Destroy Angels project and Massive Attack. Go check them out if you’re into your dark electronica.
#11 KATRIONA GILMORE & JAMIE ROBERTS – THE INNOCENT LEFT
Yet another Barnsley folk act making waves on the international circuit. Jamie is an absolutely amazing guitarist, totally killing it – incorporating all kinds of tapping and percussive beats into his acoustic oeuvre and Katriona is not only an incredible fiddle player but also the owner of a bloody stunning earthy voice.
They will be the future of folk music in the UK – the proof in the pudding is that she is now a permanent member of the prestigious Albion Band.
I’m relatively new to this pair and I can’t wait to hear more of them in the future but for now, this third full length album, The Innocent Left is as good as you’re going to get.
#10 MAJORITY VOTE – PLAYTIME’S OVER EP
One of the first bands I discovered on moving back to Barnsley a year ago. They gigged relentlessly, constantly come up with new ideas, brilliant personalities, a fine mix of early 90s grunge and 70s new wave such as The Runaways and Blondie and most of all for myself… they reminded me of when I was their age and struck a real chord with me. Majority Vote is the band I wanted to be in when I was 18 and their song Clarity is the one I wanted dearly to write.
Unfortunately that original line-up is no longer. However, those remaining are working on new material with a new member and the former members are also working on new projects and I deinitely can’t wait to hear them.
#9 COCEAN – TELL TALL STORIES
One of two bands in my top ten that have since split. Cocean comprised of Jason Sanderson (ex-Errander, Rolo Tomassi producer), Jamie Silver (ex-Errander/PSP and Explorers Society), Ross Hooley (The Surrogates), Joe Thorpe (ex-Rolo Tomassi) and Matt Anstess.
They were scene favourites and not too disimilar to Black Lamps. Epic, soaring, beautiful and atmospheric are all words that have been used time and time again to describe their sound both live and on this, their final released Tell Tall Stories.
The good news is that all members’ current musical projects are just as mind-blowing as this.
#8 THE BLACK LAMPS/IMOKO SET – STEREOMATIC SPLIT EP
Two of Barnsley’s finest come together on this four track split EP. Imoko Set’s The Hazard of Motion is beautiful girl/boy harmonies and brings to mind underrated indie gems such as Salad and The Delgados. While The Black Lamps’ Scissors Paper Stones is haunting Explosions in the Sky-like guitar and there’s more than a hint of Stephen Morris in the drums. If you want to show folk just how good Barnsley is, give them Stereomatic.
#7 CAVORTS – TIMES TOLD
After Lee Storror left G.U. Medicine in 2012, the remaining four members instantly became an altogether heavier and much raw kind of beast. With Ryan Senior now on vocals, a rebranding was needed and CAVORTS! was born.
Their debut gig saw them support Therapy? and Skindred and this autumn saw them onboard one of the season’s biggest metal tours in the UK, playing the same stages with The Defiled, Alestorm and Dragonforce.
Now sharing a Canadian distro deal with Cancer Bats and Architects, kinds words from the music press and their ongoing partnership with Jagermeister; with their ball-busting debut EP, Cavorts are more than able to make a dent on the international scene in 2013. Reminding me a little of the amazing Kvelertak, here is Times Told EP.
#6 REDMIST DESTRUCTION – NOBILITY IN DEATH
Bringing anger and brutal energy back to a scene that had long since become know as much for high-tops and image as it had the music; Barnsley’s RedMist Destruction were named last year as ‘one to watch’ on the internation Thrash Metal scene by Terrorizer magazine. 2012 saw them release their debut album, support Evile and even play Hammerfest. They’re gaining quite a reputation for their head-crushing live shows and none of that is lost on this debut album – eleven anthemic tracks of pummelling riffs and a dire need for anger management.
#5 KATHRYN ROBERTS & SEAN LAKEMAND – HIDDEN PEOPLE
Before I moved back to Barnsley, I was living in Hertfordshire for six years and it was there I found my love for folk music and that I also discovered Barnsley’s Kathryn Roberts. Original a duo with Kate Rusby in the early 90s, they later formed the first incarnation of Equation with the three Lakeman brothers.
Each of the members moved on and Equation did too but she and Sean formed their duo and over the past decade have gone from strength to strength becoming one of the most loved acts on the UK scene.
At last years Folk By the Oak festival I had the pleasure of hearing them perform this track from their current album and I instantly fell in love with this song about heartache and miner’s strikes.
The album is English folk, Scandinavian melodies, scents of Fleetwood Mac and one of the most beautiful voices in British music.
#4 TOBA CALDERA – GRACE EP
I discovered Toba Caldera while I was trawling bandcamp for Doom Metal bands, and while they are definitely not metal, they are very dark and very heavy. Sounding like a ungodly mix of Jesus and Mary Chain and Black Sabbath, their bass-heavy, reverb drench psychdelia and duel vocals stand Toba far ahead of the majority of Barnsley’s other indie bands.
While they might have only released one song this year (backed by a Black Lamps remix), this one song alone is better than most other 2012 releases and is a good sign of what is to come in 2013. Give this a whirl – if you like The Doors’ When the Music’s Over or The Stooges’ We Will Fall, you need this in your collection.
#3 GARFORTH & MYERS – GARFORTH & MYERS
On the face of it you have Rory Garforth and Adam Myers, both writers, vocalists and guitars. However, often – as they do here and in their live incarnation – they collaborate with numerous guest musicians including Dave Formula (Magazine), Emma Johnson (Imoko Set) and Keith Angel and Andy Seward – famous for their work with Kate Rusby, Joe Boden and Martin Simpson.
This year they released their debut self-titled album which followed on from their Bonfires EP. The result is a beautiful fusion of contemporary folk with light 60s psychedelic flourishes a la Nick Drake. The songs are calm and atmospheric and yet plentiful in their many harmonies, layers and textures. Garforth & Myers are most definitely cemented their place amongst Barnsley’s folk royalty. I cannot recommend this album enough.
#2 MYNAS – BLISS/TARRAGONA/PATTERN
Mynas could well be the finest band in Barnsley. They can do no wrong. Following a recent line-up change which brought in fulltime lead vocalist Sarah Evans and now most recently a violinist, Mynas are not your regular indie band. Incorporating elements of the best 80s indie, latin pop, soul, funk and 60’s girl groups, the group have crafted some of the finest quality pop songs in Yorkshire. Each band member played to the highest standard, lyrically intelligent and impressive. Think Manic’s Design For Life, think early Everything But the Girl or Belle and Sebastian, think early 90s Pulp and you won’t go too far wrong.
This November Mynas released a three track EP as a taster for their forthcoming album and it is three tracks of lush, well produced guitar pop.
#1 RECORD OF THE YEAR
TRUDGER – MOTIONLESS IN DIRT EP
Progressive Sludge Metal from Barnsley, epic, doom laden, hint of hardcore; when this record was released via their facebook page back in the summer, Barnsley’s metal community were left with their gobs wide open and their jaws on the flaw. technically flawless, brilliant production and brutally played.
Even more impressive were that the band had only been together a matter of months – this sounded like the worked of a band of scene veterans and not a group of young Barnsley lads. Some of the members were previously in another impressive band Debts back in 2010 but only got so far as releasing a demo.
Needless to say, they have recently signed a deal with Manchester’s Church of Fuck and big things are expected in 2013.