Yes, it is that time of the year when music lovers across the globe lay down their obligatory favourite albums of the year and I am no exception to the rule. If anything, I would regard sharing any of my favourite musical moments and happening upon another person who discovers something that they love to be a success. So for sake of sharing all things quality music, here goes!
Bjork – Vulnicura
As far as break up records go, you won’t feel a much more of a sucker punch. It hits really hard. Written almost, like a diary, with liner notes for the lyrics also detailing a time line. A very open, deeply personal record that Bjork herself has struggled to present live.
I am a massive fan of Bjork, aside from her outlandish vocals, what attracts me to her music is how she continuously presents music that pushes the boundaries of technology whilst being completely, unmistakably human. This album is no exception to the rule, a contrast of string arrangements and electronic beats and phenomenal production courtesy of contributions from The Haxan Cloak and Arca and of course, Bjork’s iconic vocals carrying through a dialogue of healing and thoughts relating around the end of a relationship. A phenomenal record.
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Wilson has achieved ubiquity in the Prog Scene and my opinion, deservedly so, the guy’s work ethic is second to none. This year, we were graced with his fourth solo album that offers an eclectic palette of sounds, some nostalgic of the 70’s, some new, but the most impressive aspect of this record is the concept.
Inspired by the documentary ‘Dreams of a life’, inspired by the death of Joyce Carol Vincent, a young woman who died in her apartment in London. The tragic story that provides a very identifiable pathos that if you want to isolate yourself completely from everyone, you move into the middle of the city. Alienation, loneliness, disconnection, regret. There are people out there who just can’t help but be overwhelmed by these feelings when trying to find their place in the world. I think that that is something all of us to an extent can feel at times. Wilson captures the human condition on this album very accurately (something lacking in a lot of modern progressive rock music) and especially alludes to the impact of social media. It’s an enthralling record with a multitude of pertinent discussion points. The deluxe edition is gorgeous addition to the musical presentation. I was lucky to witness this album performed live both in Cardiff, then the Royal Albert Hall with what I would consider one of the best performing live bands around at the moment. If that isn’t enough, Jess Cope’s video for Routine is a tear-breaker.
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
So two records in, and it’s all a bit heavy going. Here is questionably a guilty pleasure. This record is full of lovesick, silly and endearing songs from Nashville. I love it! The 36 piece band arrangements are simply awesome and I really like Prass’ vocals. It’s an album that with ease, puts one big smile on my face!
Laura Marling – Short Movie
A 21st century answer to Joni Mitchell. Thank God! ‘Once I was an Eagle’ is one of my favourite records this side of the century and Marling delivers a record this year that is similarly introspective yet offers a different slant, including some elements of punk and blues to her known folk identity. ‘Short Movie’ is half a thought, a running stream of consciousness that asks questions about living miles away from home, unassured convictions about love and romance, and identity and not necessarily providing any answers. Without a doubt, a great record for those of us in their twenties, figuring out exactly who the hell we are. This album came for me at the right time. It is through and through intriguing, shifting between beautiful self reflection and a playful attitude with a atmospheric backdrop of West Coast America.
Mew – +-
Danish space dream pop rock band have delivered their first record in six years and it is outlandish, catchy and downright awesome. Opening with one heck of an anthem, ‘Satellites’, which I have not stopped listening to all year.
Beach House – Depression Cherry
I discovered the duo this year and have been very hooked on them, including this year’s very melancholic yet pretty album, ‘Depression Cherry’. Full of whirly, atmospheric synths and guitars.
The Aristocrats – Tres Caballeros
The instrumental trio output have delivered their third album and it’s as audacious as ever. Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnemann, Bryan Beller…what more need be said?
Eva Cassidy – Nightbird
As far as posthumous records go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Marking the 20th century of her Blues Alley street performance, and it is a sublime live album. Cassidy had the voice of an angel, one of a kind and you know that for definite when listening through the 32 tracks of this live album.