My computer was out of commission for the past few weeks and I ended up having to reinstall the o/s; fortunately all of my files are intact, but I still need to reset my photoshop preferences before I can make any posts with photos so I thought I'd post something that didn't require them. Already 2008 is very busy and I'm having my doubts that I will be able to post much at all here this year as I'm focusing on my work, studying, gaining my British citizenship, and buying a house -- which doesn't seem to leave much time for anything else. The posts that I most want to get up here, mainly for archival purposes, are of my trip through Italy with my Dad last year.
As I mentioned to a friend recently 2007 was the first year that I kept close track of what I listened to and ironically it's the first year that I haven't felt like posting a "best of" list by the end. I think what I dislike about these lists is that I feel like I have to justify what I've enjoyed, which is often difficult to put into words for me. Still, I guess it would be a shame for all that meticulous recording to go to waste and after a few friends asking me to post it, here it is (in no particular order except for the albums I enjoyed the most are nearer to the top):
Live show of the year: Philip Glass' Music In 12 Parts. There still isn't a day that I don't think about how incredible it was.
2008 is set to be an amazing year for live shows as I have tickets to see MY BLOODY VALENTINE and PORTISHEAD! I still can't believe it.
Countries of the year: Sweden and Germany, so much exciting fresh stuff coming from these two countries at the moment.
Labels of the year: Häpna, Kompakt, Hyperdub, Hidden Shoal, Infraction, Lidar Productions (okay, so they've only released two albums so far, but they're both stunners.. keep your eye on this one).
Albums of the year:
Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
Life-affirming cacophony is the first thing that springs to mind when I listen to Beirut's Balkan and Gallic-inspired music. It is this kind of spontaneous, immediate eruption of life that mainland Europeans do so well; late at night when the bars are supposedly closed except to the locals and a few wanderers and the instruments come out and jamming sessions occur with singing, dancing, and drinks on the house until dawn. I've been lucky enough to experience these on several occasions and there's not much that is more exhilarating and joyous. Beirut captures this feeling well.
Listen to if you like Jens Lekman, Yann Tiersen, Animal Collective, The Divine Comedy, The Arcade Fire, Jacques Brel, Balkan orchestras.
Watch the video for Nantes.
& The very amusing video for Elephant Gun from Lon Gisland EP. "Mustachioed debauchery set to a ukulele-accordion waltz."
More videos here.
Eric Malmberg - Verklighet & Beat
When I first heard this album I thought, "What the hell is this? A disco set in a funeral parlor?"
It actually turned out to be a stunningly beautiful and original production by the Swedish hammond organist, using the organ to create a very unique offering of, well, danceable organ music. Malmberg layers the aforementioned organ with swelling strings, synths, bells, guitar, vocal samples, tambourine, pocket trumpet (not a euphemism), drums, maracas, bass, key fiddle, castanets, trombone, cornet, and cello. I can't compare this album to anything I've ever heard before.
Download: Till minne av Lilly Lindström
Hans Appelqvist - Sifantin Och Mörkret
Swedish. Completely bonkers, in the best possible way. If there's any proof that living so close to the arctic circle turns people a bit cuckoo, this is it (sorry Kim. ;) There's a feeling of being lost in the northern wilderness about this album with its field recordings of bird sounds and wolf snarls, but humans are never too far away with distant chanting and children playing. Hans' voice serves as your guide and companion through this strange and playful journey.
Listen to if you like Múm, Jens Lekman.
Watch the video for: Tänk Att Himlens Alla Stjärnor
Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum
I love these guys intensely. Almost enough to have their babies, even if they'd turn out looking like a breed of Pennsylvanian backwater yetis. (Actually, they're much less hairy than I expected.) Maybe it's because I was raised on The Residents that for me the weirder the better and BMSR certainly help feed that hunger. They have some fantastic synthy childhood nostalgia tracks such as Lollipopsichord and Rollerdisco to the psychedelic riff and maraca-laden swirls of Melt Me. This is a tremendously enjoyable album.
Listen to if you like Boards of Canada, M83, and Air.
Download: Jump Into My Mouth and Breathe / Melt Me / Rollerdisco
Just who are BMSR? This video will tell you nothing, but it is entertaining: Meet Black Moth Super Rainbow
Geiom - Island Noise / Zalim Maar Daala
Island Noise is a great, unique dubstep album; definitely worth checking out if you like the genre. Read an interesting interview with Geiom on Blackdown's blog and he seems to have a wide range of tastes as he cites Björk, Joao Gilberto, Plaid, Sun Ra, Ennio Morricone, Joy Division, etc. as influences. Blackdown calls his latest track Oasis, "Like a dark dubbed out refix of Cinematic Orchestra." While Island Noise is good, I get the feeling that something quite special like a full-length album in the vein of the Zalim Maar Daala 12" may come from this artist in the future. I'm keeping my eye on him.
Now what I really want to tell you about is the fantastic Geiom feat. Khalid - Zalim Maar Daala, which is one of my favorite tracks of the year and why this artist is so high up on my list:
"My girlfriend was organising a charity dinner after the Pakistan earthquake and we wanted some live music for it. I found Khalid in the process. He’s a big fan of Mohammed Rahfi, one of the singers I grew up listening to. He had some songs written for him in Pakistan some years back – it seems that you can pay for someone to write the lyrics and melodies for you. He had recorded them in a studio out there with session players – the recordings were cool but ruined by cheesy drum machine and home keyboard sounds. So I chose one and got him to sing it over a dubstep tempo drum pattern I had put together. Then I built the music around the vocal – the tabla and sitar parts are programmed, I played the harmonium live and then edited it and did the same with the flute sections provided by my friend Dorian. - Geoim
Download: Zalim Maar Daala
Listen to Hydropine (youtube).
Slow Dancing Society - The Slow and Steady Winter
Not much good comes from my birth city of Spokane, Washington. Every once in awhile, against all odds, it will randomly produce a gem of talent such as David Lynch, Sherman Alexie, Bing Crosby, the creators of Myst, and even Penny Arcade. David Lynch based the look of Blue Velvet on his experience growing up there which is about all you need to know. Now there is another to add to the modest list: Slow Dancing Society. The title is befitting of the music, it mostly consists of slow guitar-driven drone soundscapes. If there is one thing that Spokane is reliable for it is white winters and whenever I listen to this album I imagine myself sitting in my mother's house watching the snow fall quietly on the pine trees outside. This is a perfect album for reflecting, falling asleep to.
Listen to if you like Brian Eno, David Sylvian.
Julianna Barwick - Sanguine
Julianna says her beautiful layered vocal loop songs were inspired by growing up listening to choirs in her father's church and she would often practice singing there alone, her voice echoing in the empty space. It is obvious she has amazing talent with her voice and her compositions consist mainly of her high ethereal notes, looped and treated in such a way to sound like many singing in unison. This gorgeous debut album is all too brief, but at least it leaves me wanting more from Julianna.
Listen to if you like Panda Bear, Björk's Medulla, Grouper, Fursaxa, Camille.
Download: Dancing With Friends
Watch a short video of Julianna performing live
Port-Royal - Afraid to Dance
I would say this second album from the Italian post-rock band was one of my most listened to of the year. So much so that when I hear the opening notes of Bahnhof Zoo at the start I am flooded with memories. I have to admit that most post-rock bands all sound a bit too much alike to hold my interest or return to for repeat listens, but Port-Royal are distinctive in their mixing of traditional post-rock sounds with electronic beats, creating something that (contrary to the title) is actually danceable in places. This is simply a great album and it continues to sound fresh with every listen. If I were actually doing this list in strict order of preference it would be second.
Listen to if you like Seefeel, Tangerine Dream, Ulrich Schnauss, M83, Herrmann & Kleine, Manual.
Read an interview with Port-Royal on thesilentballet.com
Sally Shapiro - Disco Romance
Some people may wonder what the point is in reinventing Italo Disco, but the Swedish duo Sally Shapiro and Johan Agebjörn execute it so skillfully and with such sweet playfulness and introspective emotion that suddenly it makes perfect sense. This an extremely fun album and just about as perfect as pop can get.
Watch the video for her latest song Jackie, Jackie (Spend This Winter With Me).
Pjusk - Sart
A superb ambient album from this Norwegian duo on Taylor Deupree’s label 12k. This is spacious music which evokes images of moss and lichen covered tundra extending as far as the eye can see. Tracks such as Dempet would slot seamlessly into Biosphere's Substrata.
Listen to if you like Biosphere, Deaf Center, Shuttle 358, Rapoon, Autechre's Amber.
Adam Pacione - From Stills to Motion
One of the most beautiful dreamy drone albums you're likely to hear. Highly recommended.
Listen to if you like Fennesz, Brian Eno, William Basinski, Stars of the Lid.
Bosques de mi Mente - Trenes de Juguete / LO-FI
We've been treated to not one, but two full-length albums by the Spanish artist Bosques de mi Mente (Forests of my Mind) last year. Each are nostalgic piano post-rock treats with field recordings of people conversing, thunder storms, waves, whales, tv programs, footsteps, birds, traffic, toy trains and more interspersed. They are home-produced to a very high standard and were released under the Creative Commons license so they are available to download for free here. Please help get the word out about this artist, he deserves far more attention for his considerable talent. If there is enough interest he says he will print limited editions of the albums to sell so if you are interested leave a comment on his website!
Listen to if you like Yann Tiersen, Hammock, Port-Royal, Library Tapes, Eluvium, Max Richter.
The World on Higher Downs - Land Patterns
I would go so far to say that this is one of the most beautiful albums I've ever heard, each song is bursting at the seams with pure prettiness. It consists of warm intricate ambient beats with electric guitar, xylophone, violin, and more surprises weaved in. It may not be the most original album of the year, but it doesn't disappoint and only seems to get better with repeat listens. This is off Tokyo's Plop label and it slots in nicely with the rest of their releases.
Listen to if you like: Stars of the Lid, Eluvium, Marsen Jules, Hammock, Labradford, Steve Reich.
Download: Her Static Will
Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline
SotL have created another remarkable ambient drone album utilizing violins, cello, horns, and piano; reaffirming that they are masters at what they do. One of my biggest regrets of the past year was missing SotL perform at The Luminaire which I couldn't attend due to family obligations, but I see that they're coming back to London in May to perform in a church (which sounds even cooler than the Luminaire!) so I may have a chance yet.
Studio - Yearbook 1 / West Coast
From Sweden (getting used to hearing that yet?) comes what I believe to be one of the best pop groups of recent years, Studio. They've released two superbly crafted albums in the past two years and I'm not even sure how to go about describing them; they manage to sound both incredibly original and yet familiar with hints of new wave. No reviews I've read of them have been able to accurately sum them up either (Studio describe themselves as experimental/afro-beat/pop which is equally vague), so my only suggestion is to listen to it for yourselves. Yearbook 2 is due out in 2008 so get your paws on it if you can when it's released. Two of my favorite albums, highly recommended.
Watch the beautiful promotional video for West Coast
Burial - Untrue
I already wrote what I think of Burial here, when the album was first released. Not much has changed since then except Untrue has surpassed his debut album for me now; it has lost none of its charm in repeated plays, in fact quite the opposite. Also since the release his fame has been growing after being featured in national newspapers, magazines, and mainstream radio shows all over the UK. It appears he's going to be pretty big, whether he wants the attention or not. There's a few great remixes out there now which are also worth checking out.
Download: Bloc Party - Where is Home? (Burial Remix) (from Flux-Vinyl)
Ital Tek - Deep Pools / Blood Line
This promising young dubstep / breakcore artist from Brighton released two stunning 12" EP's last year and if he continues releasing tracks of this quality he may just become one of my favorite electronic artists of all time. A few of his tracks almost make me love him as much as Burial. He has an album coming out soon on Planet Mu called Cyclical. Definitely one to watch.
Download: Deep Pools
Pole - Steingarten
I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Pole's earlier work, it was interesting but not something that I went back to for repeated listens. This album changed that and was one of my most listened to last year. These are are fairly minimal, simple compositions, but they still manage to remain engaging and original. It's really their simplicity that hooks me and sticks in my mind long after they've stopped playing. I've seen this album described as "souless" and I couldn't disagree more; there's human warmth here, a melding of man and machine to create something quite different (a Borg who's rediscovered emotion? Oh sorry, my geek roots are showing). With this Pole has proven himself to be one of the most innovative electronic artists coming out of Berlin today.
Download: Warum / Achterbahn (Shackleton Remix)
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
I don't think I need to say too much about Noah Lennox of Animal Collective's solo project, Panda Bear. It's been on so many best of lists this year that it's all been said before. When I first listened to it I knew it was something special and I liked it, but I didn't really get into it until I saw this live video of Noah performing in a noisy venue, completely wrapped up in his own world almost as if he were the only one in the room, which has endeared him to me even more. Quite simply a happy, beautiful album. I enjoyed just laying in the grass in my back yard in the sun, taking it in.
Watch the video for Bros
Hauschka - Room to Expand
I adore this album of original prepared piano ("clamping wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings; preparing the hammers with aluminium paper or rough films; placing crown corks on the strings, weaving guitar strings around the piano's guts, or pasting them down with gaffa tape") compositions by Volker Bertelmann. Occasionally in addition to the piano he includes woodwind instruments, percussion, violin and horns - all delicately applied. It is always uplifting every time I listen to it, even the slower almost sad songs such as One Wish still leave me feeling content. A perfect album in my view.
Listen to if you like Max Richter, Goldmund, Sylvain Chauveau, Yann Tiersen, Harold Budd, Wes Willenbring.
Skull Disco - Soundboy Punishments
Based out of London Skull Disco produces some of the most original and innovative electronic music coming out of this city today. Soundboy Punishments is a double CD of dubstep tracks by Appleblim and Shackleton with Middle Eastern and African influences, it also includes an 18-minute mix by Ricardo Villalobos and a track by Gatekeeper. This music is dark, beautiful, and bass-heavy.
Watch a video of Shackleton performing live.
Pantha du Prince - This Bliss
This is the album that got me excited about techno again at the start of the year. With its chimes, bells, percussion and the mournful strings of Saturn Strobe I had never heard anything quite like this before. Another great talent from Germany and deserving of more attention.
Listen to if you like Gui Boratto, Alex Smoke, Ellen Allien, Paul Kalkbrenner.
Download: Saturn Strobe
M.I.A. - Kala
Epilepsy-inducing website and all, nobody does it like M.I.A. I don't care what anyone says, I love this girl. Kala hasn't topped Arular for me though, that one holds a special place in my heart.
Watch the videos for Paper Planes, Jimmy, Boyz, Bird Flu and others.
Thomas Fehlmann - Honigpumpe
There's the quiet, skilled confidence of a master craftsman behind this album. Fehlmann has been doing this for 20 years after all and it shows in his music. This is a warm, foamy, crackly techno album, layered and lush. I wouldn't expect anything less from the former Orb member.
Damiak - Micalavera
From the Mexico City born Abe Dichi, otherwise known as Damiak, comes this lovely electronica album brilliantly mixed with piano, accordion, strings, and guitar. From the delicate and gentle Iridescent Wings to the upbeat Mira Arriba this album is diverse and creative, definitely deserving of more attention.
Download: Mira Arriba
Nest - Nest
If you're a fan of Deaf Center and wondered what they've been up to lately, this will help answer the question. Nest is Otto Totland of DC and Huw Roberts, of net label Serein and holds the same production values we've come to expect from Deaf Center, except this time it is piano-oriented. From the Serein website: "Alongside their favoured instrument can be variously heard the plucked strings of the Welsh harp, violins, woodwind instruments, field recordings, percussion and a heady dose of mind wobbling effects. From the time Nest began writing together, one purpose was clear; to produce beautiful music free of pretense, and they do it exceptionally well."
The album is available to download for free on the link above.
Le Chat Blanc Orchestra - Théories Sur La Danse
A quiet and hypnotic ambient/drone album by the artists behind Below the Sea and Destroyalldreamers.
Listen to if you like Stars of the Lid.
Underworld - Oblivion With Bells
Underworld are back on form with this album. Really, I dont think there is much more to say except, "hooray!"
Stand out tracks for me: Beautiful Burnout, Glam Bucket.
Listen to Beautiful Burnout (youtube).
Ulrich Schnauss - Goodbye
I'm not getting the Schnauss hate that I've heard about, it strikes me as snobbery; maybe because his songs turn up on so many "Ambient Chillout" compilation albums. There's some wonderful tracks on here that will always remind me of 2007, from the Cocteau Twins-eqsue Never Be the Same to the magnificent wall of layered sound that is Medusa, which is nearly as satisfying as any My Bloody Valentine track for me. This album has a lot of memories attached to it.
Battles - Mirrored
Even people I know who never listen to music like this can't help wanting to jump up and down while listening to Atlas. I sent that track to several friends over the the year just to see what they thought of it, one being my friend in Sweden who I really did not expect to like it and when I asked him he said he and his sister were playing it full blast, dancing around the room. That is the infectious nature of Battles, which straddles the line between enjoyable and obnoxious and somehow staying on the side of the former. Even Macsen likes them.
Watch a video of Battles performing Atlas on Later! With Jools Holland.
Spokane - Little Hours
The name Spokane caught my attention for obvious reasons and I searched for information on them wondering if they were from the city, but it turns out they are from Richmond, Virginia. What really caught my interest on first listen was how remarkably similar Courtney Bowles' voice sounds to my step-mother, Gael. So much so that it took me instantly back to laying on the sofa listening to her and my dad record their music, her voice echoing against the attic rafters. I've always compared Gael's voice to Liz Fraser's so the comparison holds true to Courtney as well, except in a more quiet, hushed way.
"While in the midst of crafting the 11 tracks that make up the group's newest effort, "Little Hours," Spokane's mastermind Rick Alverson was also toiling away at a lofty project that left him and his band members physically and mentally exhausted for one year – building a 19th-century replica federal house, that he and his two other band members built from the ground up.
After becoming intrigued by an original, dilapidated federal home located a few blocks from his and Spokane co-vocalist/drummer Courtney Bowles' Church Hill residence, Alverson began his project. The goal? Building a livable replica next door, to the same specs of the original gutted shell down the street...
... While Spokane is essentially a three-piece group, consisting of Alverson, his longtime girlfriend Bowles and friend Bobby Donne, Alverson handles the majority of the songwriting on his own. Using piano and strings to create eerie melodies and singing in whispered, breathy vocals, Spokane's wistfully-delicate music is part of a genre that Alverson said is best left out of the noisy, crowded bar venues." - Richmond.com
Watch the lovely and simple video for my favorite track, Thankless Marriage.
Worth a listen:
These albums are by no means least, I just don't have anything personal to say about them. All are worth listening to.
Ölvis - Bravado (Kind of an Icelandic Benoît Pioulard. In space.)
The Balustrade Ensemble - Capsules (Described as "lavish steampunk sounds" and I think that is pretty accurate.)
Gui Boratto - Chromophobia (One of the best techno albums of the year, without a doubt.)
Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (Swedish again. Listen to if you like The Divine Comedy, Scott Walker, Hans Appelqvist.)
Bjørn Torske - Feil Knapp (Hugely enjoyable and uplifting dub/dance music from Norway.)
Talvekoidik - Silent Reflections (German techno/ambient with Scandinavian, Baltic, Arabic and African influences. Unique and upbeat.)
Antiguo Autómata Mexicano - Kraut Slut (Minimal crackly techno/ambient from Mexico.)
L. Pierre - Dip (Lovely ambient album, one of the best of the year.)
Northern - Drawn (Another excellent ambient album.)
Murcof - Cosmos (Simply incredible, but what else would you expect from Murcof?)
Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (Fantastic and uplifting.)
Air - Pocket Symphony (I saw them perform live this year, it was enjoyable if a bit predictable.)
Deadbeat - Journeyman's Annual (mmm, tasty dub. "the African variations of Gimme A Little Dub manage to sound like Shackleton having it out with Muslimgauze on a particularly balmy evening." - Boomkat.com)
Fursaxa - Alone in the Dark Wood (Weird and wonderful. Listen to if you like Grouper, Julianna Barwick.)
Marissa Nadler - Songs iii: Bird on the Water
Apparat - Walls (A bit hit and miss, but Arcadia is excellent and makes up for it.)
Bass Clef - Opera e.p.
Stephanie Dosen - A Lily For the Spectre (Hints of Liz Fraser and the new female vocalist on the next Massive Attack album.)
Jasper TX - In A Cool Monsoon / A Darkness
Martyn - Velvet Twenty Four (Excellent dubstep tracks.)
The Field - From Here We Go Sublime (I'm sure you've all heard of this one, if not then get on board!)
Victor Bermon - Arriving at Night
Benoît Pioulard - Fir (More inspiring original songs from Pioulard, I always look forward to new material from him.)
Deerhunter - Cryptograms
The Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur
Tetsu Inoue - Inland (As excellent as one would expect.)
Múm - Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy (Quirkier than their previous releases, quite unique.)
Krill.minima - Urlaub Auf Balkonien (More from Marsen Jules, available to download for free on the link.)
Library Tapes - Hostluft
Origamibiro - Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks (Absolutely beautiful guitar ambient and also great cd artwork. Listen to if you like Marsen Jules, Arrial, James Blackshaw.)
Wes Willenbring - Somewhere Someone Else (Gorgeous piano music, listen to if you like Max Richter.)
Montag - Going Places
Worrytrain - Fog Dance, My Moth Kingdom (Epic piano/electric guitar/violin pieces.)
Bacanal Intruder - Lulo
Tim Hecker - Norberg (I don't think anything needs to be said except <3.)
Swayzak - Some Other Country
Venetian Snares - My Downfall (Original Soundtrack) (More like his Rossz Csillag Alatt Született album, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.)
Fennesz & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Cendre (Perfect, highly recommended album.)
Rafael Anton Irisarri - Daydreaming (Promising ambient debut.)
Opitope - Hau
Mark Templeton - Standing on a Hummingbird (Minimal ambient with banjo, guitar and accordion. Listen to if you like Fennesz.)
Taken By Trees - Open Field (Great solo album by the former singer of The Concretes. Watch the video for Lost and Found.)
Last Days - These Places Are Now Ruins
Jim Cole & Spectral Voices - Innertones (Beautiful harmonic overtone singing - thanks to asphalteden for this one!)
Iambic2 - Under These Stars, We'll Sleep Again (Lovely and available to download for free from the link.)
Takagi Masakatsu - Private ~ Public
Porn Sword Tobacco - New Exclusive Olympic Heights
Part Timer - Blue (Warm glitchy ambient with strings, acoustic guitar, and birdsong - really pretty.)
Rapoon - Time Frost (Arctic inspired Rapoon! Thanks goes to asphalteden for getting me into Rapoon in the first place.)
M83 - Digital Shades Vol. 1
Harold Budd - Perhaps
Ólafur Arnalds - Eulogy For Evolution
Marsen Jules - Golden (This time he mixes it up with warm guitar, soft and gentle.)
Zbigniew Preisner - Silence Night and Dreams (I saw this performed live, unforgettable!)
Róisín Murphy - Overpowered (I can't get enough of Primitive (live video), one of the sexiest songs of the year.)
Port-Royal - Honved EP
Sylvain Chauveau - Nuage
Proem - A Permanent Solution (Another excellent release from Proem, flows very well from start to finish.)
Boxcutter - Glyphic (More dubstep goodness.)
Amiina - Kurr
Eluvium - Copia (Magical piano pieces.)
Eluvium - Indecipherable Text
Eluvium / Jesu Split LP (Really worth tracking down, if you can.)
Need More Sources - Shed
Abandoned Toys - The Witch's Garden
El Fog - Reverberate Slowly (Minimal glitch ambient from Berlin. Gorgeous.)
Sawako - Madoromi
Colleen - Les Ondes Silencieuses
Sigur Rós - Hvarf/Heim
Röyksopp - Back to Mine (Röyksopp share some of their favorite Italo Disco tracks from yesteryear.)
Tape & Minamo - Birds of a Feather
Feist - The Reminder (I listened to this a lot when it first came out, but then it suffered from overexposure for me. Not in a "it's popular now so I don't like it" way, but I couldn't get a break as it was playing on tv/in shops/radio everywhere I went. I will revisit this album again when it's calmed down a bit.)
Yoshihiro Hanno - Lido
Temjiin - Diamond Scattered Jet Black Curtain
Daisuke Miyatani - Diario
Destroyalldreamers - Wish I Was All Flames (I'll let you guess what genre of music this is, judging by the name and title. That said, it's pretty good for what it is.)
Aaron Almond + Machinefabriek - Cello Recycling-Cello Drowning
Bola - Kroungrine
Epic45 - May Your Heart Be the Map
DJ Day - The Day Before
James Blackshaw - The Cloud of Unknowing (Richly layered guitar pieces, very pretty.)
Jamie Woon - Wayfaring Stranger (Burial Mix)
Hrsta - Ghosts Will Come and Kiss Our Eyes
Jessica Bailiff - Old Things (I can never tire of Jessica's voice mixed with shoegaze elements, I highly recommend her music.)
Seefeel - Quique (Redux Edition)
Brian Grainger - Eight Thousander (Ambient drone (kind of) from Milieu.)
Guitar - Dealin With Signal and Noise
Helios - Ayres
Ellis Island Sound - The Good Seed
Goldmund - Two Point Discrimination
Commix - Call to Mind (Superb drum & bass from Cambridge of all places.)
Ateleia - Formal Sleep (More worthwhile drone/glitch ambient, as the title suggests it is great for falling asleep to. Bridget Riley is particularly Eno-esque.)
Ateleia - Nightly e.p.
Manual - Lost Days, Open Skies and Streaming Tides
Radiohead - In Rainbows (Good, no surprises.)
Off the Sky - The Geist Cycles
Skallander - Skallander
Björk - Volta (I had a hard time getting into this album for some reason, I think there was too many releases this year that seemed more exciting to me. I enjoy some songs on it, but I think I will have to revisit it again at a later date.)
Boy Is Fiction - Boy Is Fiction
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Low - Drums and Guns
Tracey Thorn - Out of the Woods (Great solo pop album from the ex-Everything But the Girl singer.)
Chris Garneau - Music For Tourists
The White Lodge - Twilight Vision
Rolan Vega - Documentary
Grouper - Cover the Windows and the Walls (Vocal loop drone. Listen to if you like Julianna Barwick, Fursaxa.)
Gowns - Red State
I've had a taste and I want more:
Christine Clements is a dubstep / breakbeat artist from California and the first American and woman to sign up to London's Hotflush Recordings. She doesn't have a full length album out yet, but there's a good amount of her material out there and I like what I hear. It's dubstep with a softer touch.
Download her mix for Mary Anne Hobbs' BBC1 radio show here.
For people outside of the UK, Mary Anne Hobbs' program is just about the only new music show worth listening to on British radio. She has some online competition though as Rob Booth's Electronic Explorations show is quality listening with some excellent guest DJ's such as Vaccine, Boxcutter, and Milanese.
I like to describe Cloetta Paris as Sally Shapiro's little sister (also Swedish of course). She makes wonderfully sweet danceable Italo Disco pop songs, I'm hoping for a full length album soon.
Download: I Miss You Someone
Best Non-2007 Discoveries -
Dollboy - Casual Nudism
The closest I can get to describing Dollboy is they're like BoC in a music box in parts. Although really I think they are something entirely distinctive and original and are very rewarding on repeat listens. Their previous album Plans for a Modern City is just as wonderful. They have taken a slot along with my highest regarded artists and I am eagerly awaiting more material from them. Highly recommended!
Here is a description from Smallfish records which sums Dollboy up well:
"This new album on Robin Isan's Arable label is just about as beautiful as you would imagine it to be. A gentle, melodic and delightfully organic selection of Electronica-based tracks that mix it up with guitars and music box sounds to create a Summery, happy and mellow vibe. Truly there are some fairytale moments here and you can spot the occasional moment where the sounds crossover with Tunng, mainly due to the vocal elements which lend a Folky sound. Produced to an incredibly high standard the tracks are sure to lodge themselves in your head simply by being really quite lovely. A recommended album and no mistake. Props to Dollboy for this one."
Download: Casual Nudism
Camille - Le Fil
interimlover introduced me to Camille's music at the start of the year and she quickly rose to the top of my Last.fm artists list. Camille uses her layered voice samples to construct fantastic songs that range wildly from jazz to African-chant inspired, all strung together by a single droning note that continues from the beginning of the album to the end (le fil means "the thread"). Once you become familiar with the album this note is reassuring, always there in the background supporting each song and leading it into the next. The best description I've heard of this drone and how it affects the flow of the album: "It’s not really a narrative as much as it is a series of blocks laid on top of each other until the weight becomes unbearable for the subject of our study, and she breaks down, if only briefly, before putting herself back together again. The drone connects them, serving little purpose but to be the transition between these thoughts, but still giving it the feel of a stream of consciousness, rather than pieces of consciousness."
Her talent doesn't stop at singing, her lyrics are equally brilliant and often very witty. From the heartbreaking Pour Que L'amour Me Quitte [Some pray for their love not to leave them. Waking up in the white hospital walls, I prayed that love would leave me once and for all.], the touching Ta Douleur (about taking someone's physical pain for herself), to clever rhymes in Vous [ Là-bas en Angleterre / ils se disent tous "you", c'est plus clair, de Toto, Tony Blair, à Lizarazu.] Highly recommended album and keep your eyes out for her third album Music Hole due out this year.
Listen to if you like Björk's Medulla, Laurie Anderson, Julianna Barwick, Nouvelle Vague (only because she is also the singer in that band, but the album doesn't have much in common with them beyond that).
Download: Pâle Septembre
Watch the excellent video for Ta Douleur.
Hannu - Worms In My Piano
As icy and shimmering as the Finnish landscape in winter, this album captures the feeling of its birthplace well. One of the loveliest ambient albums I've ever heard.
Listen to if you like Deaf Center, Nest, Dollboy, Colleen, Helios, Marsen Jules.
Rena Jones - Driftwood
Rena is a cellist and violinist who has artfully mixed them up with electronic beats and soulful clarinet (a much under-used instrument in my opinion) to create something quite special. I don't know why this album isn't better known.
Read an interview with Rena Jones on Ambient Visions.
Cortney Tidwell - Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up
This is another overlooked gem from the Nashville songstress (also implementing clarinet on the gorgeous Society collaboration with Lambchop's William Tyler - bonus points.) Truly an unmissable album.
Listen to if you like Innocence Mission, Liz Fraser, Björk, Nina Nastasia, Mazzy Star, Cat Power.
Listen to the Ewan Pearson remix of Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up on snej's excellent techno mix.
Alex Smoke - Paradolia
Thanks goes to my friend Eduardas for first introducing me to Alex Smoke at the start of 2007. This album has had a lot of play for me since then and rapidly became one of my favorite techno albums of all time.
Download: Something's Gone
Photophob - Still Warm
I know that as soon as someone writes "I had this strange dream.." is when most people stop reading so I'll keep this short. I'm not religious at all and yet I listened to this album a lot at the start of the year and I'm not sure if it was in connection to the religious references in it or if it was mere coincidence, but I began having vivid religion-themed dreams. The one that I remember the most clearly was of watching a congregation of bishops giving a sermon in a lake and then being sucked up into the sky in streaks of light (I would go into more detail, but I don't want to bore you). I always thought it would make a fantastic video for the song linked below. This seems to be a mostly overlooked album which is unfortunate because it's some of the most pleasing electronica I've heard.
Download: Because We Like the Rosary
Scott Solter - One River
I have to thank and agree with asphalteden on this one. Truly one of the best ambient albums in existence, highly recommended.
Orla Wren - Butterfly Wings Make
Ambient / minimal techno as delicate as a butterfly wing.
Scarling - So Long, Scarecrow
Thanks to snej for introducing me to Scarling, although I can't give all credit or else someone would be upset with me. ;)
Kim Färnlund says: Oooh! I saw you listened to Scarling! :)
Naomi Morlan says: yea, a friend recommended Scarling and I love them.. I thought you might be familiar with them with the JoJ connection! :)
Kim Färnlund says: Yes... I told you about scarling before too :P
Naomi Morlan says: oh did you? (blush)
Naomi Morlan says: sorry, bad memory!
Kim Färnlund says: Yeah.. Oh well, I'll just take it as you don't like reading all my texts :P
Naomi Morlan says: aww, I do! I was probably being a space cadet ;)
Kim Färnlund says: It's ok hon ;)
Kim Färnlund says: Was just kidding ^^
Kim Färnlund says: But yes, Jessica was the singer in Jack Off Jill and then when they split up became the singer in Scarling ;)
Naomi Morlan says: yes, I gathered that much :P
Most anticipated albums of 2008:
Bersarin Quartett - Bersarin Quartett
I'm pretty much obsessed with this album already.
Listen to if you like Boards of Canada, Deaf Center, Venetian Snares' filmic works, Marsen Jules, Murcof, Biosphere, Stars of the Lid, Autechre.
Download: St. Petersburg
Naomi: so I go to Boomkat.com looking for an album by the Bersarin Quartett and it says
Did you mean:
THE VULVA STRING QUARTETT
Tone - Small Arm of Sea
A quirky debut electronic album by the Danish musician, Sofie Nielsen. This is under the creative commons license and available to download for free from the link above, or if you buy the cd you are in for an audiovisual treat:
"The album that Tone releases is no ordinary record. First and foremost because of the fact that it is not only a conventional audio-release, but rather a so-called "audiovisual record" consisting of both a dvd and a cd or vinyl in the same box. This gives the listener two choices in experiencing the album: The conventional way through a cd player or the new and enhanced way, on tv via the dvd, an audiovisual experience, in which the music is accompanied by abstract and compelling music videos made by Tone herself in collaboration with video artist Kristian Ravn-Ellestad. A collaboration of sound and video also to be experienced when Tone performs live."
Listen to if you like CocoRosie.
Camille - Music Hole
Not a lot of information out about this album yet except that it will be primarily in English and is set to be released in March.
"After 2 years of touring & an introspective album, I got a lot of energy, I wanted to dance, to make a party album with a lot of rhythm. I collaborated with Barbatuques, a Brazilian percussion band." - Camille
Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
Nevermind that our dear Alison looks like an Olsen twin on the cover, this is a lovely album which has more in common with their debut Felt Mountain than the last two offerings. When making Black Cherry Alison said they changed their style drastically to something more danceable and upbeat because they were jealous of watching other bands getting to stomp around and have fun on stage while they were so sedate. It seems that perhaps they're all partied out now and this is the rehab album. I can't say yet whether I enjoy it more than their previous works, but along with the familiar Goldfrapp sound there's some delicious hints of Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, and the strongly Serge Gainsbourg influenced Cologne Cerrone Houdini which keeps me happy.
Download: Cologne Cerrone Houdini
My Bloody Valentine, Portishead, Ladytron, and Massive Attack are all releasing new albums this year, or at the very least working on them. Ladytron left for Paris in October to start recording their next album. MBV I'm most excited about, this is looking like another great year for music.
Whew! I can't believe how much music you digested last year! I can't compete against this onslaught. ;) I am in the process of procuring The World on Higher Downs as I type ... that track is terrific. I have my work cut out for me, as I listen to the rest!
I was a bit shocked at how much I had listened to when I started to tally everything up and this is only the good stuff, sadly there was a lot of bad stuff too. There's several artists that I need to check out on your list as well; I'm especially curious about Michael Cashmore, but really everything sounds promising.
I hope you enjoy the rest of The World on Higher Downs.. I think you will. :)
I knew we had Brian Eno/Robert Fripp in common (Swastika Girls!)
I am familiar with Modeselektor, love him.. haven't checked recently if he has anything new out though. I haven't heard of Andrew Peckler, I just looked him up and the descriptions sounds promising, thanks for the recommendation. :)
yes, the Radiohead was a little underwhelming.. perfectly decent, but nothing too exciting for me. I felt the same way about the Air/Björk albums. I would love them to do something unexpected.
but it is rather hard on my wallet.
Tell me about it! I have to space out my purchasing lest I bankrupt myself in one go.
The Philip Glass concert was pretty epic, I can understand why he doesn't perform that piece often. I would love to see him perform some of his film and piano scores someday.
Wow. There's so many good things in this post I don't know where to begin. All I can say, in this final hour of the day, is I will definitely be checking out some of these artists tomorrow (probably starting with Black Moth Super Rainbow - just because of the name.)
But Germany /Sweden, yes! Agreed. The Field stood out on kompakt–what a fine label.
Listening to Black Moth Super Rainbow before bed might give you some crazy dreams. :)
The Field was definitely a fresh surprise, I'm curious to hear what he will come out with in the future. Speaking of German labels, I want to hear new material from Ellen Allien!
Right! I've heard a bit of Ellen but I like what I hear...
Also re: shoal recordings... how on earth did you uncover this one?? (That's my hometown and while I do know some rather obscure electronic artists performing there i've not heard of this particular label before.)
I couldn't start to say where I found it, I have so many music blogs that I read that it's hard to keep track of! cool that it's your hometown, there's some great artists on that label, my favourites listed above (Wes Willenbring and Slow Dancing Society). I haven't even listened to all the artists yet so hopefully there's some more good discoveries to be had. :)
Haha - I know how you feel, I still have a folder filled with albums to listen to and it seems like half my favorite artists are releasing new albums this year, plus recommendations from friends. Oh well, I guess as far as addictions go it could be worse. ;)
Oh my :p Sooo many new things to check out :D Thanks for sharing !
(i'm so disconnected i had no idea there was a new Goldfrapp.. as i also learned today that there was a new Autechre
by the other hand, i didn't know there was a "Schnauss hate", so i guess it has advantages :p)
My pleasure! I heard about the Autechre, but then forgot about it - I just checked it out today and I got kind of bored about 3 songs in. :( Maybe I'll try listening another day..
hehe I was surprised when I heard about the Schnauss hate myself, I don't get what their problem is!
What a list... I'm out of breath simply from reading through it. Thanks again for taking the time to share what you find interesting. I only wish I could listen to Nomi FM throughout the day.
I can't remember if I mentioned it before, but Forest (of Musical Starstreams fame) continues to spin the good stuff at www.radioioambient.com. He is my default choice whenever I need a break from being my own DJ. Sometimes it's nice to be chauffeured down the audio highway. :)
You can listen to Nomi FM if you have a Last.fm account: http://www.last.fm/user/naomijade :) You might be able to listen without an account too, I'm not sure as I haven't tried.
Thank you so much for the link, I'm always on the lookout for new music! :)