Archive for the ‘Best Of…’ Category

Top Albums of 2006

Posted: April 28, 2011 in Best Of...

Another retrospective article, written away back in December 2006.  Reading through this again, there’s quite an eclectic mix and I must have listened to a shed-load of records, especially since starting my original blog in July of the same year.  It was an interesting journey while it lasted and I hope that I’ve learned from my mistakes back then, to make this blog all the better.  Plenty of these choices still get regular airplay round these parts, but for some others I’ll be looking forward to delving in again. Apologies for the slightly skewed arrangement for this article, but it was copied and pasted from an old blogger site and is proving to be tricky to reproduce properly on wordpress.

19.  Jóhann Jóhannsson | “IBM 1401, A User’s Manual” (4AD)

This probably deserves to be placed higher on this list, but it was an extremely late entry. It is a beautiful symphony constructed around the sounds of an ancient IBM computer. For the full story read this, closing track “The Sun’s Gone Dim and The Sky’s Gone Black” is one of the most wonderful compositions of 2006. (Learn)

18. Rodrigo Y Gabriela | Self-Titled (Rubyworks)

Although it doesn’t quite match the live experience, this second album from the Mexican duo of duelling guitarists easily portrays their near flawless playing ability. As well as their own compositions, the now Dublin based team completely rework the likes of “Stairway To Heaven” with some incredible guitar playing, into a more Mexican flavour. Metallica’s “Orion” also receives the same treatment and this album is one of the most unexpected triumphs of 2006. They also excel with their own compositions, such as the spell-binding “Tamacun(Learn)

17. Charalambides | “ A Vintage Burden” (Kranky)

This one is definitely a grower, I didn’t really do much for me after the first 5 or 6 listens. But much like the music contained here, things slowly started to unravel and this duo serve up some inspired moments, especially during the longest tracks, such as “Black Bed Blues”. This album features some of the nicest acoustic guitar arrangements I have heard in a long time and there are some excellent breathy vocals courtesy of Christina Carter. (Learn)

16. A Lily | “Wake: Sleep” (Dynamophone)

This album, from Yndi Halda guitarist James Vella, chimes like a toy box and features some truly gorgeous moments, such as the outstanding, “I Am To You”, it ends with the 34 minute long track, “The Shipwreck”. Pure blissful ambience. (Learn)

15. The White Birch | “ Come Up For Air” (Rune Grammofon 

Another release that came from nowhere, but got some major airplay. These Norwegians have a knack of producing icy cool and excellently crafted understated rock. Imagine Sigur Ros married with Arab Strap, and you be getting some of the picture. There is some confusion as to when this came out, my copy states 2006, so I’m only to happy to include this. (Learn)

14. Last Days | “Sea” (n5md)

A very calm, reflective composition from n5md artist, Last Days, paying homage to his influences (Sigur Ros, Jasper Tx, Port-Royal, Pluto). There are some gorgeous piano arrangements such as “Two Steps Back“, mixed with the ambient rock of “Your Birds). It is the perfect marriage of instrumentation and digital manipulation. Towards the end of the album, the 7 minute long “Fear” brings the album to a triumphant close. Loosely based around a narrative, this release conveys just about every emotion possible. (Learn)

13. Yndi Halda | “Enjoy Eternal Bliss” (Big Scary Monsters/ Burnt Toast Vinyl)

Technically, this came out in 2005 as a limited edition, handmade self-release. In 2006, it was given the full record label treatment, a new composition was added and the now 4 track ep was repackaged. It shows this young band well on their way to fulfilling their enormous potential. “Illuminate My Heart, My Darling” is a particular highlight, but the three other tracks are excellent too. Expect them to be in the Post-Rock Premiership sooner rather than later.  British music is in good hands. (Learn)

12. Strap The Button | “Going to Jib Choons (Choons for Going to Jib Like Innit)” (Good Name For A Race Horse)

The album title may not make much sense, but the music contained on the CD certainly does. A staggering mixture of post-rock, psychedelia and krautrock from these Welsh youngsters, who really do employ the everything but the kitchen sink ethic. Yet another multi-talented young British group, yet the Arctic Monkeys get all the plaudits. (Download)

11. Tool |“10,000 Days

I’m a sucker for really heavy music, and always have been. Music doesn’t get any heavier than this effort from the enigmatic Tool. Crushing guitars, crashing drums, stunning arrangements and, of course, Maynard James Keenan’s ghostly vocals. The most important band in heavy rock right now. Classic Rock Magazine reckons this release has redefined the boundaries of rock, who am I to argue. (Learn)

10. Sunn)))0 & Boris | “Altar” (Southern Lord)

I don’t own any output from these two bands drone-rockers Sunn)))0 and Japanese doom merchants Boris, but it’s going to change, because this is an utterly stunning collaboration. It contains possibly the most beautiful track this year, the gorgeous “Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep”). Oh, and it also features a guest appearance from Soundgarden axe-grinder, Kim Thiayl. Never a bad thing!. Everything about this album oozes with class, from the eerie press shoots, right down to the fact that it was released on Halloween. (Learn)

9. Helios | “Eingya” (Type)

This album has appeared in numerous top 5’s on this, while it will be on many more dotted around the music world. Keith Keniff’s music has constantly evolved; blending expertly played live instruments with serene digital programming. “Eingya” is his best work to date featuring the shimmering “Bless This Morning Year. If there was any justice in the world, every home would have this album. Also, the best album cover of the year. (Learn)

8. Phon°noir | “Putting Holes Into October Skies” (Quartermass)

An intriguing blend of innovative programming, melancholic guitars and under-stated vocals. Germany’s phon°noir work stands out as the best in D.I.Y electronica in 2006. Each listen you will find something new to love, especially in its production subtleties. A perfect headphone experience, “Putting Holes…” is the best lo-fi electronic release since Khonnor’s “Handwriting” in 2004. (Learn)

7. The Gentleman Losers | Self-Titled (City Centre Offices)

I have to admit to knowing nothing about this Scandinavian (where else?) duo. A stellar recommendation from Almostcool, this is one of the most delightful electronica releases in the last 5 years, let alone 2006. It’s a beautiful mix of dark Americana, Boards of Canada beats, hazy synths and chiming glockenspiel. (Learn)

6. The Ascent of Everest | “How Lonely Sits the City” (Angel or Airbag Collective)

I have decided to neglect the fact that this took 3 months to arrive, after I ordered it, because this album is the perfect tonic for those lovesick Godspeed You Black Emperor fans, which are waiting patiently for their return. But, don’t be taken in by lazy comparisons, “How Lonely…”stands proudly and deservedly in this list. (Learn)

5. Grails | “Black Tar Prophecies Volumes 1, 2 & 3” (Important)

Right from the outset this album demands your attention and refuses to let go. There are some real monolithic guitars on this record and some almost tribal drumming. “Belgian Wake Up Drill” and “Stray Dog” show a band breathing new life into the tired post-rock movement. This isn’t even supposed to be an album as such, but a collection of vinyl tracks. The next album is due out in 2007 and I, for one, cannot wait to see the results. (Learn)

4. A Hawk and a Hacksaw |  “The Way The Wind Blows” (Leaf)

At one point, I thought this was going to be my number 1 album of 2006. Its impact has lessened slightly (possibly because I listened to it so much!). Where as Beirut’s “Gulag Orkestar” was good, AHAH’s effort is more authentic sounding featuring true traditional Roman Folk music and fusing it with more contemporary instrumentation. Jeremy Barnes really travels to the heart and soul of such traditional sounds, even roping in a Romanian orchestra. An absolute gem of an album. (Learn)

3. Mogwai | “Mr Beast” (Rock Action)

The mighty ‘gwai have managed to cram 10 years worth of experience into this album. It features their trademark thunder “Glasgow Mega-Snake”, “We’re No Here”, “Folk Death ‘95”). But tracks such as “Friend of the Night” and the haunting “I Chose Horses”, show Mogwai to be a step ahead of a genre they moulded all those years ago. (Learn)

2.Thom Yorke |  “The Eraser” (XL)

Let’s face it, Thom Yorke was always going to be placed high on my list, but that shouldn’t take anything away from “The Eraser”, as it has some truly sublime moments. From the insanely catchy “Harrowdown Hill” to the brooding “And It Rained All Night”. I felt this was unfairly criticised in some circles, maybe it suffers a little from a lack of guitar. But for one man and his laptop, this album is superb. In the current climate, it’s lyrically important; musically it shows Yorke at the top of his game. It also serves to fill a gaping hole left by Radiohead’s 4 years of recorded absence. (Learn)

1. Mono & World’s End Girlfriend | “Palmless Prayer/ Mass Muder Refrain” (Temporary Residence)

There is also slight confusion as to when this album was actually released. My copy states 2006, but this album would be fit to grace any end of year list, no matter the year. In fact, this album SHOULD be at the top of every list. It’s an epic, grandiose, magnificent piece of work from two of Japan’s best known set of musicians. World’s End Girlfriend adds breathtaking string arrangements to Mono’s expansive instrumental sound over the 5 long tracks, full of lush melodies and subtle production touches. The last segment (Part 5) is easily the most heart-breaking series of crescendos ever put on record. Stunning. (Learn)


Top Albums of 2009

Posted: March 27, 2011 in Best Of...

No that’s not a mistake there in the heading! While I have compiled my top albums of 2010, I have yet to formulate my thoughts on these magnificent records, though I’m hoping to write an article soon concerning this matter (yes almost a third of the way through 2011!).  For now, lets take a retrospective look back at my picks for 2009.  It’s interesting to note how my tastes have altered over the last 18 months or so.  Perhaps there may be something that’ll interest you! 2008’s picks to follow next… naturally……..

1. ‘The Weirding’ | Astra ( Rise Above Records)

Prog is well and truly back and Astra are arguably the ‘proggest’ of them all, most tracks last much longer than 10 minutes, the instrumentation is impeccable too. Imagine early King Crimson fronted by Ozzy. A fantastic record that gets better with each spin. (Learn)



2. The Safety of The North | Last Days (n5MD)

Seems this was released a long-time ago, but it was actually issued at the start of 2009. ambitious, adventurous, expansive and emotionally wrought, this is Graham Richardson’s finest work to date. (Learn)



3. Hymn To The Immortal Wind | Mono (Temporary Residence)

Where this Japanese collective take instrumental music to extremes. Crescendo’s after crescedno’s, crashing symphonic peaks ‘Hymn…’ is ridiculously over-blown and epic, but all the better for it.  The Lionel Messi of the Post-Rock world as a friend once so aptly put. (Learn)



4. Cradlesongs | Sleeping Me (Hidden Shoal Recordings)

The big brother to the ‘Lamenter Ep’, Sleeping Me marries the grandeur of post-rock with the slow-motion stasis of Stars of the Lid. Chock full of gorgeous melodies, Clayton McEvoy might be a new name in the field but proves himself as one of the top guitar experimentalists. (Learn)



5. Kappe | Svarte Greiner (Type Records)

Utterly terrifying drone/horrorscapes created entirely by acoustic instrumentation — enough said. Erik Skovdin is the master of the macabre, someone please commission this guy for a movie soundtrack.  Even more sinister than Skovdin’s creepy ‘Man, Bird, Dress’ record, which was also released in 2009 (Learn)



6. Collected Recordings | Gareth Dickson (Drifting Falling)
An over-looked gem of a record where Labradford meets Nick Drake in one of the most dream-like of recordings in 2009. Glasgow-based Dickson is a master craftsman and his songs are simply sublime. (Learn)




7. Some Ambulance | Talvihorros (Benbecula)
More gorgeous sounds, this time invoking the spirit of composer Steve Reich. This record is a highly accomplished piece of work that found its way to me rather unexpectedly and proceeded to knock me sideways.  I have a review of this record from the time that I’m hoping to post for the From The Vaults section. (Learn)



8. Choral | Mountains (Thrill Jockey)
You can’t really have a best of 2009 without ‘Choral’. The hype surrounding this record was horribly off-putting, but the seductive shimmering acoustics and invigorating, glacial droning ambience was anything but. (Learn)




9. Performing Parades | Efterklang (Leaf Label)
Efterklang’s grandiose swan song with Leaf and what a way to sign off. Hire the biggest orchestra imaginable and the proceed to recreate your most famous record in pure theatrical style. Efterklang are possibly the best live band I’ve ever witnessed and this is a fitting document to their joyous, exuberant sound. Watch them explode in 2010, with their forthcoming 4AD-backed new album. (Learn)



10. Soundcheck to a Hidden Movie | HC-B (Hidden Shoal Recordings)
Hugely impressive and a shot in the arm to a stagnant Post-Rock scene. This Italian troupe are vastly under-rated. ‘Soundcheck..’ engages in brass, string and rock instrumentation to devastating effect. Shades of King Crimson, Krautrock and GYBE! too, but this is definitely HC-B’s own work. (Learn)



The Best of the Rest

11. Sleeping Pills | Pillowdiver (12k)
12. The Heritage | Her Name Is Calla (Denovali)
13. The Bending Of Light | Anduin & Jasper TX (SMTG Limited)
14. The Fourth Level Of Comprehension | Porzellan (Hibernate)
15. Give It Up | Zelienople (Type)
16. Cheat The Gallows | Bigelf (Powerage)
17. Grammatics | Grammatics (Dance To The Radio)
18. A Theme For The Moon | Lugi Rubino (Prikosnovénie)
19. When We Parted My Heart Wanted to Die | Leyland Kirby (History Always Favours The Winners)
20. Looming Ep | Gargle (Clincal Archives)
21. Hypersona | 36 (3six Recordings)
22. Navigare | Simon Scott (Miasmah)
23. Degrees & Integers | Konntinent (Symbolic Interaction)
24. I Could Not Love You More | Rameses III (Type)
25. Mystery Ep | BLK JKS (Secretly Canadian)
26. Solo Andata | Solo Andata (12K)
27. Remember | Yair Yona (Self-Released)
28. An Avalanche of Swollen Tongues | Stray Ghost (Dead Pilot Records)
29. Riceboy Sleeps | Jónsi & Alex (Parlophone)
30. Daydreaming | Rafael Anton Irisarri (Miasmah)
31. White Bird Release | Pan•American (Kranky)
32. L’Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu | Kreng (Miasmah)
33. By The Throat | Ben Frost (Bedroom Community)
34. The Glass Bead Game | James Blackshaw (Young God Records)
35. Drones Between Homes | Ekca Liena (Under The Spire)
36. I Think We’ve Lost | Zerova (Herb Recordings)
37. Fires | Le Lendemain (Home Normal)
38. Grass Wounds | Aaron Martin (Under The Spire)
39. Eras | Apse (Equation Records)
40. Beak> | Beak> (Invada)
41. Blank Grey Canvas Sky | Peter Broderick & Machinefabriek (Fang Bomb)
42. Nemcatacoa | Elm (Digitalis)
43. Suite(s) | Ex-Libras (Wirebird Recordings)
44. Descending | Gargamel (Transubstans Records)
45. Sen Zimnej Noci | Strom Noir (Hibernate)
46. Dual Box | Slow (Resting Bell)
47. Aurora | Litmus (Rise Above Records]
48. Northerner | Simon James French (Hibernate)
49. Each Paradise Is A Lost Paradise | Stray Ghost (Hidden Shoal Recordings
50. Child of the Future | Motorpsycho (Rune Grammofon)