25 Albums From This Year That I Really Liked

And so, the year ended with an unsatisfying pop in retail, as sales diminish and people return crap, at least there were some decent albums out this year though, right?  Today, we’re going to talk about some of my favourite albums from this year – there are some well-known bands, there are some lesser known bands but one fact Is clear, in my opinion, they all deserve a mention. Most people number their albums of the year, but not me, I’m going to give you a list of albums that I thought were great this year, then I’ll drop a few lines and you can take it from there.

If I don’t mention an album you think needs to be on here, It’s because I didn’t listen to it (Run The Jewels) or didn’t like it (Swans – Sorry, I just can’t get into them!), so please don’t hate me.

Remember this is just an opinion of someone in front of a computer that you don’t know – enjoy whatever you want.

Grouper – Ruins

As delicate and subtle as ever Grouper’s Ruins is a serene album that begs to be listened to with over-ear headphones so you can be fully immersed in the depth of this ambiance. This album also saw an increase in vocal presence, with some vulnerable heart-broken lyrics.

Dean Blunt – Black Metal

Can I just say that Black Metal misled me with it’s title. Expecting heavy and furious, I was thrown off balance when I heard well-paced and melancholic. Another singer-songwriter album that strikes at the heart-strings with a spanner and lets it ring into something painful to your feels.

Handsome eric – nah i’m good

An underground that I found while skulking through 4chan. Handsome eric is the self-loathing genius, Stephen O’Dowd, and I think it’s a shame that more people have not picked up on this lofi pop album that can touch you in ways that are dreadfully close to the heart – nah I’m good is a relatable mess of an album that I loved.

Megadudes – Postcards From The Past

The Megadudes and their album Postcards From The Past had been circling my interests for awhile and to finally hear it in full was an absolute delight. Lots of accessible pop-rock anthems that are fun to listen to and even better to mash your head around to, do check this bad boy out.

USA Out Of Vietnam – Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes

I loved every second of this Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes – it felt like an incredibly adventurous debut that took no prisoners and just wanted to waltz around in its knickers, so you know what this band is all about. There’s lots of post-rock, post-metal and even some sludge influences in here to keep everyone on their toes – A really rewarding album.

Imogen Heap – Sparks

Sparks is a Beautiful and organic release from the queen of pop (in my opinion) Imogen Heap. Her latest album, Sparks, was in the works for some time, due to the concept of her collecting these samples from her fans of everyday objects and using them in her songs and then releasing them every three months! A long-winded, but ultimately worth it release.

FKA Twigs – LP1

Banging debut album that showcases what can be done with real experimentation, proper talent and an eye for detail. FKA Twigs’ LP1, was most likely one of the best releases of it’s year as it reveled in it’s own sultry and vulnerable source material. If you like trip-hop, or R&B or music, give this music a good, hard, listen.

Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Too Bright felt like a very retro sounding album that completely avoided some of the pointless clichés of retro sounding bands and instead took on a very powerful release with some killer, infectious tunes. ‘No Family is safe, when I sashay, OOM!’ This is some brilliantly done and moving singer-songwriter.

Moonlit Sailor – We Come From Exploding Stars

We Come From Exploding Stars is an album of uplifting post-rock that, despite sounding very typically post-rock, still manages to sound blissful and sublime with its stunning guitar tones and invigorating melodies. Worth every second of a listen, especially if you like your day to sound that little bit more epic.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Catch it if you can neo-jazz with elements of rap that just flattened me the first time I heard it. Although I did want more songs like Never Catch Me and Dead Man’s Tetris, it was still a solid and fun listen. So grab some hooch, some headphones and let the jazz vibes rain down.

St Vincent – St Vincent

This self-titled release is a brilliant poppy double-blade that mixes some glorious pop songs with some rather angular and threatening guitar play. That and it’s always a delight to hear St Vincent mastermind, Anne Clark, rattle off some hard-hitting lyrics as well as solos.

Old Man Gloom – The Ape Of God

Old Man Gloom sound nastier than ever on their two part album, The Ape Of God. Not only are they frighteningly on form with this most recent release, but they’ve also expanded on this form and have shown no fear in putting out some more ambitious material.

Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

A cute album that was over before it had even begun. Zentropy plays with relatable themes of innocence and coming of age that are often overlooked in a world of super-edgy bands that are all fighting to be as loud as each other. Zentropy is modest, clever and dreary – Come one, come all and be dreary!

EMA – The Future’s Void

I didn’t really get along with EMA’s first album, but The Future’s Void really clicked with me with it’s bold and powerful arrangements of electronica and industrial. Overall, I think this album felt threatening and demanding, which is tip top.

Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Wasn’t sure if this album was going to make it to the list after my first listen, but after a few repeat listens, My Favourite Faded Fantasy stuck me right in the heart. Damien still has his flare for showmanship, but personally, I still prefer the quieter moments of self-loathing on this album. Please take him back Lisa! He’s so sorry.

Britney – Britney

Another release that flew under the radar, could it have been because it was too girthy for the world? Or was it because it was only about ten minutes long? Who knows. This album is vicious, mean and will probably make you hate it in all the right ways.

Kerretta – Pirohia

Pirohia, houses some intense post-rock that soundtracked a lot of my visits to the gym back in August. Needless to say, it was hard to keep up with this album at times, but it remains a powerful release that is as strong as it is subtle (at points).

Aphex Twin – Syro

Long time no see Richard, oh, you’ve made some new tunes? They’re pretty good, yeah. Infinitely more grounded than a lot of the earlier work, Syro stays on its feet and manages to still have some of the better sounding techo/IDM tracks of the year on it.

Milo – A Toothpaste Suburb

I’ve previously enjoyed Milo’s previous work and this may not top I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here, but A Toothpaste Suburb is a delightful listen that still manages to create some simple and elegant atmospheres for him and his featuring artists to rap over.

Calf  – Bastards anatomy use a unicorn go to apathy

Just listen and see what you think – it’s all rather loud and abrasive, but it’s cool.

Dopebody – Lifer

Kickass, psychedelic, trashy rock music that surprised everyone with the calms that they can produce in the middle of a storm of distortion and violence. Lifer surprised me, but that could be because I’d never given any of their previous releases a listen, it’s on my list of things to do though… I swear.

Tricky – Adrian Thaws

If you’re feeling rather naughty, chuck this album on and enjoy some engrossing trip-hop from one of the very best of. It might lack the sauciness and pacing of Massive Attack, but Adrian Thaws is worth every single second of smoke and lust atmosphere that it breathes into your lungs.

Daisy Victoria – Nobody Dies

After having released two EPs this year, I had to decide which one I preferred and it turned out to be the more ambitious and electronic release, Nobody Dies. After initially enjoying the rawness of the first EP, Heart Full Of Beef, more, I eventually got more turned on to the mixture of elements in Nobody Dies. Stellar singer-songwriter with a wonderful command of her instrumentation, check out Daisy Victoria.

Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear

A vessel for my belief of pop not being dead, but rather, just having a little kip whilst some truely great artists emerge, one by one. Sia’s 1000 Forms Of Fear is bold and enchanting pop album that I’m more than happy to hear on the radio/at work numerous times. The revival of triumphant pop music that no is afraid of liking.

Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

Brilliant and textured music from two big names that create something that sounds dark, while still mixing in some rather bright sounding synth work and beats. An interesting release, if a little short.

FINISH

Those are probably my favourite albums of the year, I’m sure I’ve probably missed a few off that you like, so, why don’t you tell me what yours are?

Until then, I’ll see you on the other side.

New Music Review – Sound Awakener – hidden

a3943003108_10Artist: Sound Awakener
EP: hidden
Genre: Noise, experimental 
Social-media: Facebook/Bandcamp/Soundcloud

Listen:

And:

Sound Awakener is the instrumental solo project of Nhung Nguyen from Hanoi, Vietnam. She began learning the piano back in 2002 and since 2007 has been developing her own personal composition and improvisation techniques. At the end of November, she put out a short EP titled, hidden, which from the beginning, feels much darker and experimental than her previous album, Five Chapters. Most of her work is incredibly experimental, noisy and jagged and hidden follows this trend in true experimental fashion, but to get a true understanding of this music, you have to give it a deep and patient listen.

hidden is a lot more difficult than Five Chapters to get into but that’s mostly owing to the concept behind it: ‘The EP focus largely and extensively on using intended, “unwanted” and “disturbing” elements, which is easily misunderstood as production flaws, especially clicks, buzzing/hiss and distortion.’ Whilst I do think that this is an admirable concept, I personally find it incredibly difficult to listen to for long periods of time.

The ferocious first track, around, is this harsh rampage of industrial sounds becoming more and more distorted, until it eventually fades away into this soft(er) soundscape. Even when the calmer moments come, they’re still relentless in their flat and still, surprisingly hard-hitting sounds – it fails to give you a break.

Sound Awakener’s title track on this album, hidden, feels like the soundtrack to a very strange day, where you feel permanently disconnected from the reality that you’re expected to live. I mean, there’s no semblance of melody or anything musical here, but if you close your eyes, it sounds like the people you hear going about their day’s every single day. You could even say that it feels like a track for hypnosis, or immersion – everything is so heavy here.

The final track, diary, also takes this strange route of insane noises and builds around this, with increasing industrial samples that dabble around for a long time. That long time becomes incredibly grating after about seven minutes, but I can’t help but feel like this might be the intention – it feels like those moments where every little bad thing that happens to you, just makes things increasingly worse until you eventually snap. Except there’s no snap here.

Final Notes:

I’m not sure I understand hidden and that makes me feel awful, but it’s an incredibly difficult album to listen to without wanting to take a break every so often. It could be because I’m not really into noise, but this album is much more difficult to listen to that Sound Awakener’s previous release and since the previous album was already, pretty inaccessible, it just seems to be getting too obscure for me. If you enjoy noise and some industrial elements, I’d recommend this listen for you, but for me, not so much.

Debut ‘Death Engine’ Record Out Next Year

French noisers release debut album on March 2nd

Death Engine are a French noise/hardcore band that are set to release their debut full length, Mud, on March 2nd next year. These guys released an EP, Amen, last year, which sounded incredibly horrific and sludgey , so I’m expecting good things from this album. Hopefully, there’ll be some concepts expanded on – even Amen was quite ambitious and large sounding.

To keep the fans at bay until release, they’ve released a video for a song off of Mud called, Still. Listen and watch above. It’s also available to stream through their Bandcamp.

I recommend you keep an eye on Death Engine if you’re into noise, crust-punk, sludge, or anything remotely heavy, they’ve got a lot to offer us and I’m looking forward to a full release next year. Stay tuned in, with the following social-medias:

Bandcamp
Facebook
Official Site

New Music Review – We All Die! What A Circus! – Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back

a1985838075_10Artist: We All Die! What A Circus!
Album: Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back
Genre: Post-rock, ambient
Social-media: Facebook/Soundcloud/Bandcamp

Listen:

And:

We All Die! What A Circus!, is the ambient, musical project of one João Guimarães from Portugal that started last year and has recently (September) put out his debut full length LP, Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back. Guimarães makes mostly ambient, post-rock, drone music that I’ve been finding incredibly immersive because of some fantastic work with pacing, texture and atmosphere.

To be honest, I think it’s rather difficult to talk to in depth about this album without someone actually listening to it. It’s described as “something timeless and endless in every proportion and every direction distinctive-ambient sound can travel”, it could just be me, but it sounds like something very personal to Guimarães and I can respect that this is why he’s still put this out there and for a name your price, price.

That being said, I’ll give talking about this a damn good go!

Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back, is a deeply atmospheric release that would work perfectly as a soundtrack to some post-apocalyptic movie with its minor sounding tunes that focus heavily on guitar and background noise to keep up a sinister vibe. That being said, the album is made up entirely of these darkly sounding soundscapes with splashes of guitar, great guitar mind you, and it can get somewhat repetitive.

I think the album could have really immersed me if there was more variety to listen to, some richer, less dry sounding synths . I think the only tracks that seemed to stick out, with their interesting sounds, were Ancient Blood, the ghost star interludes and And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak. Ancient Blood has these flutes (?) being played, some choral spots and even some baby crying at the end – it all blends scarily well together during the outro and is a genuinely creepy track that set my expectations up for some more experimental uses of sampling.

While I do think some of the effects are used in moderation, I also can’t help but notice a certain type of delay that doesn’t compliment the style of these tunes a few times. You’ll hear it on: We Saw Our Blood Turn Into Dust, From India To Gaza II, Our Dust Turned Into This and Through This Empty Canvas We Almost Found The Light. It’s this delay that sparkles, if you hear it, you’ll know what I mean, and I think for this general mood of loneliness and isolation that I’m getting with Until The Cosmos Takes Me Back, I think it needs to be toned down.

Otherwise, the album isn’t overly produced; it sounds airy and makes use of reverb carefully, without me thinking of an empty cave every time I hear the tracks.  I think the track And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak, makes careful use of effects – it’s also the first and only time I can recall where distortion is used on anything, which makes it somewhat more effective. There are also some rather squeaky sounding guitars near the end which are pleasant. Which goes for the same on a lot of these tracks, everything feels very easy to listen to, nothing scares you off or is abrasive, everything is just nice and accessible to listen to.

Final Notes:

An immersive listen that will ensure a few listens, if only so you can catch everything that’s going on in this album. However, it can run rather dry and long with some of the longer tracks that seem to gather dust over the synths quicker than an abandoned house. Still, worth your time for the guitar, the lovely textures and the very post-rock track, And Only Then We Accepted Death As An Oak.

New Music Review – nnord – Funeral

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Band: nnord
Song: Funeral
Genre: Ambient, drone, soundscape
Social Media: Facebook/Bandcamp

Listen:

nnord are a French ambient project that I have talked about previously (see here) and back in June they put out their debut LP, Orbital. This release was incredibly atmospheric and moody; it had a lot of good and interesting sounds on it that kept me listening through some of the more challenging minutes. Now, a few months later, a new song has been released, which more of a collection of songs all is rolled into one titled Funeral.

This release clocks in at just over 20 minutes, it’s has five parts and it follows similar ground to that of Orbital. However, this time around, everything feels much more minimal and much more drone bits going on. You could even say that the album art is as descriptive of this release, as my words can be; it’s monotone. Throw away any thoughts of colour and happiness, this song is dreary.

Funeral is best suited to funerals, the synths and sounds here are all hugely low and have various drones and other bits of feedback going on. There’s also some percussion in the background during, what I assume is, the first half. The subtle touches on the percussion are nice, but I think a lot more may have been needed to just chunk this release out some more. As it is now, everything feels too minimalistic and the songs need some more depth to their sounds.

As it continues evolving, you can hear some organs (?) which I think are probably the most interesting sounds on this song, that and the clean keys at the halfway mark. To me, it feels a shame that there isn’t more here to listen to, the touches here and there don’t really interest me and if it feels like a longer version of the songs I didn’t enjoy off of Orbital. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel like there’s a decent enough pay off to justify the length of this song.

But that’s drone and it is possible I do just not understand, but right now, this release isn’t capturing me.

Final Comments:

There is some good content in here, but I just think it could be cut down so much. Right now, it just feels like just a bit too much foreplay with some uninteresting synths and some occasional percussion. I know nnord are capable of so much more than this.