Oh hey! It’s that time of year again. Time for me to wax poetic about my favorite tunage that came out in the last twelve months. Time to yap about the purchases I’d made, the stuff I listened to in various parts of my universe. Time to talk about things personal, creative, and so on. I figure I’d split it up this time out, over the course of a few weeks, and give you the usual year-end Best-of Lists at the end of it.
It’s been quite a year of change, folks. Some awesome, some good, some not so good, some mindbogglingly craptastic. It’s been…interesting, to say the least. But musically, there were a lot of really strong albums that came out that I’m sure will stay in my rotation for some time to come. Here’s a quick overview of stuff that came out in the first quarter!
David Bowie, ★. Released 8 January. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a slow-burn Bowie fan. It took me a long time to appreciate his music, and I’m quite sure it’s due to the Commercial Radio Disease. You know the one — stations play the same five core songs to the point of torture so the passive listener doesn’t really want to invest in checking out the deeper cuts. It took me until 1997’s Earthling to actually pay attention to his music more. January’s Blackstar was a wonderful final release from him. He knew instinctively that this was his last album, and he wasn’t about to go away without a curtain call. It’s disturbing, fascinating, brilliant, and touching all at the same time.
Shearwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow. Released 22 January. Shearwater is a band you don’t hear on the radio; they’re a band you hear about via word of mouth and the music blogs and magazines. I first heard of them via listening to a streaming of 2012’s Animal Joy. They’ve got a unique indie rock sound that’s hard to pin down, their singer doesn’t really sound like anyone else, and their music is a bit hard to describe. But that doesn’t matter, because they’re just that good. Jet Plane and Oxbow got a hell of a lot of play for me this year, both as background music during my Day Job and during my evening writing sessions.
Massive Attack, Ritual Spirit EP. Released 29 January. I’ve loved everything Massive Attack has done since I first heard “Teardrop” in 1998, and this quick release was worth waiting for. Tricky is back in the fold once more on a devastatingly dark track — the kind they do exceptionally well. Another release that got heavy play during my writing sessions.
The 1975, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. Released 26 February. The kind-of-creepy album title aside, I was completely floored by their follow-up to their poppy debut. The album originally reminded me of Primal Scream in their Rocks period — heavy on the Stonesy rock and British flavor — but it really grew on me. “Somebody Else” was consistently one of those songs I’d hear on the radio and think ooh, I like this….who is it? …and be pleasantly surprised when I remembered, and that I already owned it.
Yuck, Stranger Things. Released 26 February. When this band released their debut album in 2011, they had a different singer and sounded like an even messier Dinosaur Jr. Now they’ve turned their fuzz down some and sound a hell of a lot like Superdrag at their indiepoppiest, and I have no qualms about that at all. This is a lovely album worth checking out.
School of Seven Bells, SVIIB. Released 26 February. It’s touching that when guitarist/keyboardist Ben Curtis passed away in 2013, the rest of the band felt it necessary to finish off the album they’d been working on, and it’s a beautiful piece of work full of positive energy. Yet another album on writing session heavy rotation.
Paper Lights, Great Escapes. Released 15 March. I’ve been big on DIY this year, for obvious reasons. I first heard of Paper Lights via NoiseTrade in 2013, where the band had uploaded one of its EPs. I’d ended up on their mailing list, and was pleased to find out they had a new album out this year. It’s a wonderful album of relaxing dreampop.
Hooverphonic, In Wonderland. Released 18 March. I will always buy a Hooverphonic album, regardless. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands ever since I first heard “2Wicky” in the back room at HMV all those years ago. They’ve gone through numerous lead singers since then (the new album features multiple vocalists this time out), but they’ve always written great pop tunes that balance perfectly between alternative rock and synthetic pop.
Bwana, Capsule’s Pride EP. Released 25 March. I don’t think I’ve ever chosen an super-underground release as one of my favorite albums of the year, but this is definitely on that list. [One needs to get a Tor browser and go to a specific website in order to download it, as it’s not available for sale or downloadable anywhere else. That’s how underground it is.] A brilliant mashup of jittery techno and soundbites from the movie and soundtrack of the classic anime movie AKIRA, it not only got me through numerous writing sessions, but also through multiple plane rides!
Stay tuned for the next installment, Q2 releases!