This year was packed with good music, new and old. So let’s see what ended up on my stereo this year.
My latest addition was “The God Within” by Othon. This is one of the rare albums that doesn’t really work in the background. You just have to sit down and emerge yourself in the music. However, if you know his previous works, you will be surprised: Gone is the experimental pop music with vocals by artists like Marc Almond or Ernesto Tomasini. Though there was always something “classical” about his music, I never expected a man and his piano only (though there are some ambient sounds in the background here and there). The compositions are beautiful, meditative and haunting pieces and that makes the album so strong and beautiful. But listen for yourself:
A different kind of piano music came from Amanda Palmer. For “There Will Be No Intermissions” the self-styled “punk piano player” wrote a couple of personal ballads where she hits the key with a hard edge and worked together with a lot of guest musicians.
The album that haunted me the most this year was probably “Everywhere, an Empty Bliss” by The Caretaker. He works with manipulated samples of ballroom music from the 1930 to explore memory and memory loss. After completing his six part cycle “Everywhere at the End of Time” about dementia and Alzheimers he explored the same themes in a more condensed form.
The Caretaker reminded me of Robert Ashley‘s work “Automatic Writing” from 1979 where he explores Tourette’s syndrome musically. Though he has a more traditional approach to writing music, you cannot deny certain similarities.
Another beautiful album is the Soundtrack to the movie “Far from the Apple Tree” by Rose McDowall and Shawn Pinchbeck. Though I haven’t seen the movie, the music is a collection of haunting songs accompanied by guitars and sound effects.
Similar haunting melodies you will find on actress Maria Monti’s album “Il Bestiario” that was already released in 1974.
Another singing actress is Emmanuelle Seigner who teamed up with musicians from The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Limiñanas to from L’Épée. Their debut album “Diabolique” is a cool brew of groovy rock and French chansons.
If you like rock music, you might enjoy the latest album by the Swans. “Leaving Meaning” sees the group developing further with many guest musicians that help create various soundscapes, always changing, dissolving and assembling.
Here I can also recommend the album “Offenbarung und Untergang” that Swan’s singer Michael Gira recorded with Étant Donnés. Together they interpret a poem by Austrian poet Georg Trakl and perfectly capture the darkness of the lyrics musically.
If you like your rock more extreme, I can recommend Sunn O))). When I saw them live this year, their experimental doom metal was so loud that the whole room was vibrating and my whole body with it. Their “Life Metal” album captures the sound of that concert very will – especially when you buy it on vinyl to get the full scope of the recorded frequencies.
Somewhat experimental rock music is featured on “Metaprogramação” by Brazilian band Deafkids. They fuse metal, industrial and alternative rock to their own unique sound.
Land of Kush made great album mixing oriental music with jazz, pop, folk and experimental sounds. For me, the album works more as a whole, but here is one of the tracks so you can see what it sounds like.
To not make this piece too long, here are further jazz and folk artists I liked to listen to this year: Turkish singer and songwriter Gaye Su Akyol, Gabonese musician Pierre Akendengué (especially his album “Nandipo”), the 1960’s and 70’s albums by Jazz legend The Art Ensemble of Chicago (especially “Fanfare for the Warriors”), the ritual music of the “Themes” albums by Psychic TV and last but not least the Colombian band Yaki Kandru who play with Native American instruments. Sadly I only own a live album and have never ever seen any of their studio albums somewhere. But listen how amazing they sound:
As far as searching for records goes: This year I finally found an affordable copy of “The Faust Tapes” by Faust, which, for me, is the best album of the krautrockers. Another interesting collection of sounds, bits and pieces was “Eskimo Deconstructed” by The Residents. They literately blew their classic “Eskimo” to pieces and put it back together to something new. Another interesting project was Nurse With Wound‘s collaboration with The James Worse Public Address Method. On “The Vursiflenze Mismantler” they experiment with all kinds of vocal sounds and strange poems in a fantasy language that very much sounds like English but is not understandable at all. Another linguistic experiment is “Play Wooden Child” by the Nodding God who sing in Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.
Another interesting sound experiment is “Hunters in the Snow” by Anemone Tube featuring Jarl and Monocube, a contemplation of Pieter Bruegel’s “Series of the Seasons”.
Here are some pop records that I liked to listen to in 2019: “More Than a Feeling” by former fun punk band Die Goldenen Zitronen is a pop meditation on building walls. Already released in 1985, Λένα Πλάτωνος album “Γκάλοπ” is probably one of the best synth pop albums of the decade and still works very will today. Lana Del Rey has shown on “Norman Fucking Rockwell” that she really is a gifted songwriter. Last but not least Anni Hogan teamed up with a different singers to record her first pop record since – probably – the 1980’s.
So, now I put on some music and prepare some food for tonight’s party. I wish you all the best for 2020.
Oh, if you haven’t seen it, I also released a new album with my project mockART. Here is another track from Country Songs: