vrijdag 1 januari 2016

Wo.'s 2015 Top 10 albums

Another year over and the fourth of this blog. Time for another end of year overview of what I think to be exceptionally good in music released in 2015.

The record of the year as far as I'm concerned is quite easy. Not one record was played as much as 'This Is All Yours' by Alt-J. After buying a new LP for the first time since 1988, followed by several others, I played the record for months on end in the late evenings, those quiet moments that lend themselves for listening to music leaving all else behind. There's one minor obstacle: the Alt-J album was released in 2014, so doesn't qualify.

Two other noteworthy facts can be mentioned also. The artist that blew me away with her record was Sophie Hunger with 'Supermoon'. So good, intelligent, delicate. The artist that surprised me most was Patrick Watson. I had heard nothing in his music before and then comes up with a beautiful album 'Love Songs For Robots'. What I started to realise in 2015 is that 'Love When You Don't Want It', The LE's 2014 single release, finally released on album in 2015, is one of the best songs of the decade so far.

And then there are a few unsigned artists I got introduced to somehow and reviewed this year. Death Goldbloom, Natalie Ramsay, Hymalayan, Morgan Macaskey and Bongley Dead, who all have these beautiful works out there that not enough people notice. Time to change that people. Go to their Bandcamp or Soundcloud websites and familiarise yourself with them. They are more than worth it.

Two re-releases really stand out. The first one is the last album released by Led Zeppelin as a band. 'In Through The Out Door' really, really surprised me how good it is. I never realised that until 2015. The other one is the superb 6 cd box of 'The Velvet Underground'. One of the best albums ever made gets the totally royal treatment her.

Every year there are a few songs that really stand out. One of them, from an album that did not make it to the short list, is 'Giants' by Django Django. What a fantastic song! Everything I like by that band and then this just a little bit more is added.

2015 for me was a return to vinyl. If anything it is a listening experience and gives value to the music I own. I noticed two things: when I decide to buy an album, it automatically becomes special; and, loud albums don't work for me (anymore) on vinyl. When I put one on it is at a time to wind down and there's music to go with that.

In 2015 I was sent this Christmas single by Morgan Mecaskey. An all pre-conceptions blowing experience as for the first time ever a Christmas song just blew me away. 'Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus' is everything that I do not expect from a song with a title like that. Heavy stuff.

Whatever else 2015 was and only time will tell where we are heading towards, musically it was quite alright. A few albums were added to my collection that will be played for years. There may be no revolutions going on musically, some artist reach for peaks and get there. Let's take a closer look.

I started with a longlist of 35 records. EPs were excluded, so everything with more than 4 songs on it qualified. The slow process of working down towards 10 started. Albums were listened to again. Names crossed out. This is what I ended up with. It was fairly easy to come to the last 13 albums. I allow myself a trick here, which I'll explain later on. The very last albums to go were 'Macrocosm Microcosm' by Pauw because it is just a little to uniform in sound to make the best 10, as 'A Funny Sunrise' by Palio Superspeed Donkey is pure fun, but needs one extra layer, that this band will reach with experience. I wasn't sure (yet?) about 'Ham', so I crossed it out. 'The LVE' came very close, but only just did not make it. That left one album.....The unlucky band is Half Moon Run with their latest album 'Sun Leads Me On'. Perhaps if it had been listened to a few weeks earlier ....?

So there we are, time to own up.

10. Demo 4. Bongley Dead

Technically not an album but a collection of demos. This Italian band works part time on its songs, that all are of an exceptional high level and the more so if I take into consideration that making music is more or less a hobby of the three members. Lovers of punky rock better check this out. If you like to know more about Bongley Dead, there is also an interview with the band on this blog.


9. Lay Low. Lou Doillon
The acting and singing half sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg returns after three years with a beautiful album that she made and recorded with the Canadian artist, Taylor Kirk, of Timbre Timber. Serious yet playful, beautiful like a rose. Stem and all.


8. Vessels. Rah Rah
This Canadian band was unknown to me until some months ago. There up-beat pop reminds me of The New Pornographers in a light kind of way. Several of the songs are so much fun. When it all ends with a song that sounds like it is floating in space, I just knew I was listening to a winner.


7. 1974. Mountaineer
Last year Maggie Brown was the highest scoring Dutch band. This year its lead singer Marcel Hulst wins again with his solo album under a different name. A collection of beautiful songs can be found on 1974, songs that show what a great talent Marcel Hulst is. It is about time the rest of country (and beyond) recognizes the same.


6.a. The Monsanto Years. Neil Young
6.b. The Blue Note Cafe. Neil Young
It's been years since Neil Young came close to this position. Not that all of his albums of the past 20 or so years were bad, some of them really were, but I just had enough Neil Young records it seemed. Until this year. The Monsanto Years is a fantastic new album and the songs caught on the live album outstanding. A double dose it is.


5. Chasing Yesterday. Noel Gallagher's High Flyin' Birds
Not since 1995 has Noel Gallagher produced such a fine album. Perhaps because he stopped doing what all artists inevitably do, chase yesterdays? Letting in some Pink Floyd spacey stuff and Brian Ferry suaveness has done him a world of good. There's not a single weak song on Chasing Yesterdays and couple of ultimate winners on top of that. Great fun.


4. Drones. Muse
The über Museness Drones is. An album like a sledgehammer, with one difference that I don't mind being hit by this particular one. Drones holds all that makes Muse a great band. There's only one complaint. I wasn't able to score concert tickets. That little thingy just kept turning around without ever getting nearer to a sale.


3. Love Songs For Robots. Patrick Watson
Perhaps the most surprising act on this list is Patrick Watson. The Canadian never did anything with me on his previous albums. Or I did not hear nor got it. On 'Love Songs For Robots' he touches all the right stuff. Majestic, superb, heavy stuff that is going on. My attention does not waver for a moment when I'm playing this album. Extremely well done.


2. If I Should Go Before You. City and Colour
Yet another Canadian. Another extremely serious album with songs so beautiful or impressive that it comes close to being a monument. It seems like my story for 2015 music wise. Subdued music, out to impress, dressed in black, music to pay attention to. Music to buy on vinyl and truly enjoy. Music that is worth something extra.


1.b. Uut De Bron. Broeder Dieleman
Talking about monuments. Zeeuws-Vlaanderen born artist Tonnie Dieleman erected a musical (?) monument for his home turf. In this piece of work Dieleman does the impossible: to create a fantastic piece of music on the basis of sounds, drones, spoken word, extremely difficult music and his own singing. Submission is the word here. If, as a listener, you don't submerge and let it all wash over and into you, you're without a chance and miss a total masterpiece.


Because this piece of work is so different from all that I usually enjoy and is something that I will only sporadically come back to I chose to honor it with all I can offer, except that this is the album I played most this year:

1.a. Supermoon. Sophie Hunger
 Sophie, full of grace, has made a mysterious, beautiful, intriguing, weird, super, mystifying, outrageous, fun, great, lovely album that I enjoy listening to so much. It sort of has it all, even Eric Cantona in an Alain Delon "singing" role. Listening to 'Supermoon' is a fulfilling experience, with so many different tastes and flavors that it is easy to play again and again. An album on one line with 'This Is All Yours' that other album I played so much in 2015. Sophie Hunger is one of the most special artists around and extremely original. World open your ears!



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