It’s been another great year for music; my kind of music at least. Several bands in the 3rd and even 4th decade of their careers have released albums which, for younger bands, may have been considered as watershed albums. In addition quite a few of those bands I follow who are still, for all intents and purposes, independent artists have also released albums which have raised the bar on their previous releases. It’s made it extremely difficult to whittle the list down to a mere 10, I could easily have extended it to 20 or even 30, but where would be the fun in that?
I’ve had to depend on recorded material for my entertainment these last 12 months as not many artists make the journey to East Africa on their tours, not even the ‘big’ ones! Normally I’d be able to comment on the live experience of the material for many of the albums in my list however this year it’s based purely on the recorded material. Not such a bad thing I suppose, it allows me to concentrate on the production as well as the songwriting in its purest form, but it also means that at least one album in the final list has suffered as a result of this ‘clinical’ review.
As a result of my time spent on the Facebook group Thursday Night Is Music Night over the last few months the shortlist grew longer as the year drew to a close and several albums I had firmly in my top ten for the year at their time of release found themselves adrift as I started making my list…
Before I get into what finally made my list, here’s what I’ve chosen to drop:
Panic Room – Skin. An overall impressive album with some great songs but, in my opinion, it lacks the vision and grandeur of its predecessor, Satellite.
Mostly Autumn – The Ghost Moon Orchestra. An excellent showcase for Olivia Sparnenn with some great tracks but too much ‘colour by numbers’ to crack into the top albums.
The Producers – Made in Basing Street. Excellent writing, excellent production but overall it struggles for any one track which is ear worm material.
Soundgarden – King Animal. A welcome return for one of my favourite bands of the 90s, but too… clinical(?) in execution, I’d hoped for a return to BadMotorFinger and the halcyon days.
Muse – The 2nd Law. I love this, it’s there most consistent release in years but just not quite good enough when compared to the top ten.
Shadow of the Sun – Monument. An excellent collection of songs which I’ve watched grow from Dylan’s Soundcloud demos to a polished release. There are some belters, notably Halo and Who Cares? but as a whole the album needs something ‘more’?
Threshold – March of Progress. I haven’t given this enough listens to fully appreciate it, but I keep coming back to it which, in itself, justifies a mention in this list.
Kompendium – Beneath the Waves. A brave and bold project from Magenta’s Rob Reed this is, as intended, reminiscent of those concept albums of the 70s and 80s. Not only with the music; the packaging is something to behold. Unfortunately, despite astounding tracks like The Storm and superb performances from all involved, there are elements of this which grate and cause me to want to skip ‘bits’.
Kamelot – Silverthorn. I’ve never paid Kamelot their due despite having most if their back catalogue. I love this album when I listen to it, but struggle to remember any hooks when I’m not. Perhaps it will grow on me over the coming months and rise above the noise of everything else I’ve listened to this year?
The Reasoning – Adventures in Neverland. Written and completed during a difficult period for the band this album bodes well for the pared back version of the band we now see. My impression is that there’s a disconnect between the musical style and the vocal stylings of Rachel Cohen at the moment. I can’t define it, but the two don’t sit well for me on this release.
Each of these have songs, and in some cases the entire album, which are very strong, but when it came down to it they didn’t hold my attention to the same extent as those which follow…