With it being Dydd Gwyl Dewi (St David’s Day), I would like to share with you some of my favourite albums which have come out of Wales.
Welsh music is thriving right now. There are countless artists from different genres and different backgrounds doing their thing both in the Welsh language and in English. Quite frankly there are too many to name at once, so I’ve had to make the very difficult choice of choosing just six.
But don’t let me hold you back. Delve deep into this gold mine of great music. From fathers of Welsh rock Geraint Jarman and Meic Stevens, to 80s punk-rockers Datblygu and Yr Anrhefn, right the way through the wave of 90s acts and into current musicians such as Boy Azooga and Gwenno. Thanks to Carmarthenshire native John Cale, you even have us to thank for one quarter of The Velvet Underground.
That’s a lot to take in at once though. So in the meantime, try out these six stellar albums to get a taste for what Wales can offer.
Radiator (1997) – Super Furry Animals
While Britpop was raging in the mid-90s, Wales was having its own music movement. Heading that, alongside Stereophonics and the Manic Street Preachers, were alternative rockers SFA. Having released nine albums so far, their catalogue is extremely eclectic, but second entry Radiator is my go-to. Fusing catchy hooks with psychedelic riffs and Gruff Rhys’ unique vocals, it is a raw, electric masterpiece that has aged remarkably well. A personal highlight is ‘Hermann Loves Pauline’, inspired by Gruff Rhys flicking through the biographies of famous people while in service stations.
If you catch the Furry bug, then do check out equally impressive debut album Fuzzy Logic, pop-rock gem Hey Venus! and Welsh language classic Mwng, alongside pretty much anything else they’ve released.
You may also like: Gruff Rhys, Acid Casuals, Ffa Coffi Pawb
Barafundle (1997) – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
The Gorky’s were part of the same 90s movement as SFA, but perhaps a more apt comparison would be to call them Wales’ equivalent to The Beatles. High praise indeed, but they are absolutely essential listening for any potential Welsh music fan. Barafundle is their first album, named after a beach in Pembrokeshire, and something about it carries this tranquil essence of the seaside. It is incredibly melodic, carrying a sort of happy-sad tone which provides you with endless warmth and comfort. Perfect listening for a hangover or a melancholic mood swing.
You may also like: Euros Childs, El Goodo, Zabrinski
Mug Museum (2013) – Cate le Bon
Like John Cale and Gorky’s, Cate le Bon hails from Carmarthenshire, a breeding ground for talent it seems. After heading south and conquering Cardiff she fled to LA to record third album Mug Museum. The result was a delightfully idiosyncratic piece of folk rock. With stripped back, layered instrumentals accompanying her hauntingly beautiful voice, Mug Museum is a really charming album. Le Bon described the record as a reaction to her grandmother’s death, while the title was coined by a roommate noting the number of empty mugs in her bedroom. That in itself is a perfect reflection of her ability to be at once trivial on the surface and packing in depth below.
You may also like: Sweet Baboo, H. Hawkline, DRINKS
Y Dydd Olaf (2015) – Gwenno
Gwenno stands right at the front of the current Welsh music scene. She was born in Cardiff to a Welsh speaking mother and a Cornish speaking father, both of whom clearly influenced her, having made two albums – one in each language. Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day) was her debut album, after previously being a member of The Pipettes. A synth-heavy record of dreamy electropop, its first two tracks are called ‘Chwyldro’ (Revolution) and ‘Patriarchaeth’ (Patriarchy), an immediate signal of the weighty subjects she likes to tackle with her music. However, those subjects are woven deep into the kind of gentle psychedelia Wales seems to thrive in. Soothing, ethereal and stooped in sci-fi, Y Dydd Olaf is a spacey triumph from a unique talent.
You may also like: Pasta Hull, 9bach, Adwaith
Serol Serol (2018) – Serol Serol
Another example of Welsh artists looking beyond the stars for inspiration, Serol Serol translates to ‘Stellar Stellar’, and the two cousins from Conwy who form the band, Mali Sion and Leusa Rhys, describe their genre as space-pop. It only takes a few minutes to appreciate how perfectly that describes their sound. It has a peaceful, drifting quality to it, as if the sounds themselves are floating freely just above the atmosphere. Having only started in 2017 and releasing their debut, self-titled album last year, Serol Serol are easily one of the most exciting things in Welsh music right now. Second track on the record, ‘Cadwyni’ (Chains), is absolutely magnificent.
You may also like: HMS Morris, Gulp, Omaloma
1, 2, Kung Fu! (2018) – Boy Azooga
Another debut album from last year, Boy Azooga have burst onto the scene as the current Welsh band most likely to break into wider British circles. Bringing together a multitude of styles and influences under the general guise of indie-rock, this album is a searingly original piece of work. From simple hooks to incredible spiralling instrumentals, frontman and founder Davey Newington (previously of Houdini Dax who, fun fact, played at my brother’s wedding) has an amazing ability to break the rules of song structure and take tracks down paths you’d never suspect. There are some stunning songs on this record; namely ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’, ‘Waitin’ and, my goodness, it’s worth it alone for the bass guitar on the superb ‘Taxi to Your Head’.
You may also like: Houdini Dax, Mellt, Pretty Vicious
Image credit: Wiki Commons